Inspired by a recent post from the Alternative Department for Transport about cycle tracks crossing minor junctions, I spent some of my time wandering and cycling round Amsterdam last week examining the kinds of arrangements of cycle tracks at junctions of various types and sizes.
Starting with smaller junctions, here’s what looks to be a rather old cycle track (judging by the undistinguished grey paving, which is no longer favoured) alongside a major road, crossing a minor side street.
The important elements here are the extensive pavement continuity and the steep ramps on both sides of the pavement/cycle track. It’s quite clear to any driver moving through this area that they should do so with caution.
Below, another older cycle track, across a minor road to the right, again with ramps and pavement continuity. Ignore the white car; it is parked, slightly illegally.
In this case there is actually no entry for vehicles into this residential side road (indicated by the circular sign at upper right), so conflicts for vehicles turning across the track don’t exist. Drivers will only be arriving from the right. Indeed, it’s very common for Dutch residential streets to have one-way restrictions like this; it cuts out through-traffic, as well as having the secondary benefit of eliminating many turning conflicts across cycle tracks and pavements.
A more recent example, in a new development in south Amsterdam. The track is smoother.
Nearby, this example involves a track crossing a one-way minor road. In this case only entry by vehicles is possible, not exit.
Another side road with vehicles turning in off the main road, into a residential cul-de-sac.
The cycle track is set back, after a raised ramp and large paved area.
Here’s a cycle track in the centre of Amsterdam, running alongside a one-way street, and crossing a side road, into which the van is waiting to turn.
In the example below, a cycle track has continuity in a situation in which drivers are forced to turn right across it.
Interestingly this cycle track is created just in advance of the junction; it’s a cycle lane alongside a vehicle lane beforehand. The movements are deliberately separated. The zebra crossing and the ramps, along with the sharp turn, serve to keep vehicle speeds low.
This cycle track crosses a larger side road, with priority –
Not all junctions are minor, of course. Where turning traffic might be more substantial in volume, cycle track crossings become signalised.
With these types of junctions, turning conflicts are almost completely eliminated, as the straight-on movements of bicycles are separated in time from the right-turn movements of the vehicles, as in this example –
The light sequence coincides with a green crossing for pedestrians.
While you may have to wait for a green signal, you do have the benefit of a ‘free’ right turn (or, equivalently in this country, a left turn) at any time. I also came across induction loops placed in the cycle tracks; these are triggered by bicycles, and give you a green signal instantly, depending on traffic volume.
It’s smooth, easy and simple. So often I caught myself instinctively looking back over my left shoulder for a UK-style ‘life preserver’ safety check, which simply wasn’t necessary.
An article published yesterday by David Arditti about the London Assembly Transport Committee on cycling safety (worth reading in its own right) contains an interesting fact, as reported by Rachel Aldred – namely that there were only four right-hook (the equivalent of our left-hook) cycling deaths in the entirety of the Netherlands last year, despite their vastly higher cycling rate.
I don’t know how many of the cycling deaths in the UK last year involved left hooks, but I can immediately think of five in just London alone; Paula Jurek, Paul McGreal, Daniel Cox, and the two deaths at Bow Roundabout, Brian Dorling and Svitlana Tereschenko. This leads me to suspect that a substantial proportion of UK cycling deaths involve left hooks, certainly far outstripping the mere four recorded in the Netherlands last year.
This is important, because we are consistently told that separation is unsafe, especially at junctions. This may be true of the way off-carriageway provision is currently designed and implemented in Great Britain, where priorities are often unclear, and cyclists often have to cross roads while yielding and looking in several directions. Indeed, the latest Department for Transport guidance on Shared Use Routes for Pedestrians and Cyclists [pdf] contains this picture of a particularly hopeless two-way pavement cycling route which is almost inviting a collision.
However, it is certainly not true of the way the Dutch separate cyclists at junctions. I hope the pictures of Amsterdam in this post have illustrated that there is a way of treating junctions correctly, to allow cyclists to progress through them safely, without abandoning them like the current British fetish for ‘shared use pavements’ seems to do, as shown in the picture above, which continue, sadly, to be the only official way of accommodating cyclists’ movements away from the carriageway.
With Dutch design, motor vehicle turning movements are often eliminated altogether, but where they are not, the design is clear, vehicle speeds are kept low, and at junctions where turning movements are greater in number, the movements of bicycle and motor traffic are kept separated in time. Dutch cyclists are very often safe at junctions because of separation, not in spite of it.