Getting side roads right

A bit of a picture post this one. Below are twenty photographs of cycleways crossing side roads, all from my week in the Netherlands earlier this month. In order, they are in Delft, Gouda, Den Bosch, Nijmegen, Arnhem and Amsterdam. They are from a mix of suburban, city centre and rural locations.

They’re a mix of bi-directional and uni-directional cycleways, and some form part of raised humps, while others are flush with the road surface. But beyond that, they are all very similar.

Firstly, although it might not be clear from the photographs, all the side roads being crossed will have limited flows of motor traffic. They all run across access roads; roads that are carefully designed to only allow motor traffic for access purposes. These are not roads that people will be turning into to drive off somewhere else – they will be accessing properties on that road, or just off it. In some cases the roads are either exit-only (as in the last example) or entrance-only – all part of this system of limiting the amount of motor traffic on these kinds of streets. This is important, because it limits the number of interactions anyone using these cycleways will have with motor traffic.

Secondly, all these cycleway crossings are designed in precisely the same way. All are composed of uniform red asphalt, with absolutely no markings or ‘breaks’ across the cycleway as it passes the side road. There is absolutely clear visual continuity, and this goes for the footways that in some examples run in parallel across the side roads. This is important because it shows precisely who has right of way at these junctions, with absolutely no ambiguity.

Unfortunately this is something we aren’t quite getting right in the UK. Here are some side road examples from Mini Holland schemes in London – in Waltham Forest and in Enfield.

To be clear, these all look like very promising cycling schemes. But they are being let down by this minor technical detail. Namely, those kerbs across the cycleway where it meets the road, and the changes in colour, simply shouldn’t be there.

They suggest that the cycleway is temporarily ‘intruding’ on the road, instead of clearly continuing across it, and to that extent they introduce an element of dangerous ambiguity. Drivers might assume that because the cycleway ‘stops’ at the road (it changes colour, and has a line across it) they have priority, while, at the same time, someone cycling might be assuming the exact opposite, that they have priority. That’s a recipe for collisions.

Of course if we want people cycling to give way, instead of having priority, then that should be made clear too. This is more appropriate on faster and busier junctions, typically on roundabouts in rural areas in the Netherlands.

But either way, we need to make it absolutely clear who has priority. In urban areas, crossing minor side roads, that absolutely means cycleways shouldn’t have breaks or interruptions in them, at precisely the point we need to make priority clear.

Let’s get this right, so those promising schemes work for everyone.

This entry was posted in Infrastructure, Mini Holland, Priority, Subjective safety, Sustainable Safety, The Netherlands. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Getting side roads right

  1. Clive Durdle says:

    Couple of the Dutch pictures look a bit iffy for pedestrians! This isn’t ‘minor’! Does UK have a law we must get this wrong, classic is the crossover to those metal box storage zones that I think used to be called front gardens

  2. David says:

    Another thing, why do the pavements/cycle tracks always have to dip down to road level, why can’t we have some sloped curbs for cars like those in photos 17 and 19,,

  3. Kelly S says:

    They *are* making it clear who has priority.
    Unfortunately, it’s not people on bicycles.

  4. canamsteve says:

    Nice to see there is a “reserve” between the travel lane and cycle lanes, so that turning traffic can make the turn without worrying about an obstructing another car, or – more likely – shooting across the cycle lane (hitting a cyclist for fear of being hit by another car). That’s often what it comes down to “”I squeezed into the cyclist and killed/injured him/her as I didn’t want to bend my fender on an oncoming car/truck”. Not – “I should have waited”

    • andreengels says:

      Interesting… I had always considered this mostly to be about cars going in the other direction, coming from the side street. They can this way first check for an opportunity to cross the cycleway, cross it, and only then worry about the motor vehicle road. Having those two at the same time is not only cumbersome, but also error prone (Ah, there is a gap between the cars that’s large enough for me to get in… wait… now… oops, cyclist…)

  5. Tim says:

    “absolutely clear visual continuity” along the cycleway. So important. I know you’ve already seen this one in Manchester, where the continuity is broken, not by the kerb line, but by the double-yellows:,-2.2233842,3a,26.2y,6.73h,84.01t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sRdvm9DPCMl10WN7dF_buOw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    Combined with the fact that British drivers aren’t in the habit of turning then giving way, I find it less clear and more dangerous to use than nearby examples where the cycle path continues straight across the junction (outside the give-way lines).,-2.2245847,3a,28.8y,352.82h,82.15t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1suabdyCCeMz9S2l-QTspYSw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    • David says:

      British driver’s aren’t in the habit of giving way in the second example either resulting in common left hooks and as a cyclist you have a better chance of and more time to respond to a driver not giving when it’s set back as in the first example, however it just looks a mess with poor visual continuity of the track. It should be designed to be obvious without needing give way markings.

      • Jitensha Oni says:

        Don’t most of the Dutch examples given have give way markings where the side road is 2-way, only dispensing with them for one way? But why the latter (see e.g the 5th from bottom picture)? Is this apparently implied priority written into Dutch law?

        • andreengels says:

          It might well be. The cycleway is still considered part of the road, and one of our (Dutch) traffic rules is ‘straight on on the same road has priority’, that is ‘traffic going straight on has priority over traffic on the same road turning left or right’. So from the direction of the road, if there is not a crossing but just a side road, priority is indeed implied by law.

          • jeldering says:

            I think there are actually two traffic rules that apply here. First the rule that Andre refers to. As far as I’m aware this rule does not exist in the UK. As a side note: this rule applies to all traffic, including pedestrians. (See article 18.1. There is a translation mistake in the English version that says “give way to drivers and riders” instead of “traffic” I just reported this.)
            Secondly, there is article 54 that says that drivers have to yield to all traffic when turning on/off the road at an entry/exit. Now this rule applies more generally than at entries/exits to private properties. Also when a side road has a special construction like the pavement being continuous, elevated across it, then the rule applies. This is the case in most pictures above. On some examples are mentioned and also the fact that there is no explicit description in the law anymore of what is an “entry/exit construction”.

          • andreengels says:

            As I realized afterward, even if one does consider the cyclepath to be a separate road, the priority still works: When no priority is specified at a crossing, traffic coming from the right (beware that the Netherlands drive & ride on the right) has priority. So provided the cycletrack is one-way, any traffic coming from the direction of the road has to give way on account of that rule as well.

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  7. All these pictures are, understandably, taken from a cyclist’s eye view. However, I think what we are most interested in here is how these junctions appear from a driver’s viewpoint. Is the priority clear from that angle? This isn’t a criticism, just an observation.

  8. neil says:

    One question – why use the clumsy terms uni and bi-directional when surely one-way and two-way would be much better and sufficiently clear? Not just having a go at you – lots of people do this but I can’t see why…

  9. Jim Moore says:

    IMO important to get the micro detail right as well ie the sharks or dragons teeth. I know I’m not alone in having relied on these for final confirmation of my RoW or a need for self-preservation during the few weeks spent cycling in the NL, especiallly as I never really got fully used to knowing which way to look for oncoming motor vehicles.

    Thanks for making the time to take all these pictures and for writing about them. Very useful to see multiple good examples in one blogpost for possible future reference.

  10. Ethan says:

    In the picture with the Esso station, there doesn’t seem to be any pedestrian path on either side of the road. Is this common?

    • jeldering says:

      Outside city limits and in other parts where there is very little pedestrian traffic, indeed it is fairly common that pavements are missing. In these cases pedestrians are expected to make use of the cycle paths.

      • pm says:

        There’s presumably now an assumption that for any sort of long distance, people who here (in UK) might walk, would simply cycle instead, so you no longer need dedicated footpaths for those routes.

        In a situation where cycling is generally safe, you’d need some special reason to walk such a journey, so all the space can be used for a cycle path.

        Which I guess is a way in which a cycle-culture can be self-reinforcing.

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