This is a guest post by Andre de Graaf, Architectural Director of Isthmus, who is travelling the Netherlands. The post originally appeared on the Isthmus Blog.

We all know the Dutch do the bike priority thing really well, but they are not resting on their laurels as they continue to reprocess existing infrastructure for more equitable multi-mode travel. Take the following local street for example. Until a few years ago these streets simply had a single carriageway in each direction (cyclist simply shared the road) as they might do in similar situation in NZ.

Less than 18 months ago the street looked like this.
Less than 18 months ago the street looked like this.

In the last few years all the local streets have/are being converted – with only PAINT making the the difference – no widening or re-curbing has occurred.  The above shot I located on google street view in the same place as I was yesterday where I took the shot below.

Same street, same place – now re-prioritised with central carriageway and cycle lanes to either side.
Same street, same place – now re-prioritised with central carriageway and cycle lanes to either side.

The street is now essentially a widish single carriageway for cars in both directions that pinch from the cycle lane (between cyclists) on either side as they pass one another. This all requires a sense of sharing the road no matter what transport device you are on or in.  This of course helps to keep vehicle speeds in check as they are continually slowing to intersperse with cyclists.  The mental shift in drivers is a big factor to consider in less cycle friendly countries but overall its these initiatives, that in my view, lead to driver behaviour/expectation changing. All local streets are currently getting this makeover and one has to wonder about the potential in Auckland or Wellington, where it is possible to re-prioritise so much road space with just paint and texture – easy wins that can transform neighbourhoods.

Another shot from a few days earlier in a neighbouring town

I will do some more careful recording of actual dimensions, but the other thing to note is that the carriageways (kerb to kerb) are no wider than our typical local street condition at between 6 – 8m.  The reality is that cars and cyclist share the road in much the same way (whether the cycle lines are there or not) – BUT the difference is that it signals to a driver that they don’t have carte blanche, that cyclists have just as much right to be on the street, and visually helps scale the road width to mitigate excessive speed.

Once you enter the town centres the priority changes further in favour of cyclists where cars are effectively “guests” in the street.

The sign on the road translated reads: Cycle Street – Cars as Guests

Even the really small streets still signal that cyclists are to be accommodated with dotted lines.

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The interesting thing is that when I am on the bike my intuitive reaction is to pull over and let cars through (I don’t though), but cyclists in Holland would not dream of doing this AND importantly drivers do not expect that – they seem very happy to wait until it is safe to overtake.

The other interesting bit of info’ on bicycles is that they have now become so popular and the issue of bike storage so problematic that all rail stations (other than really small ones) are constructing underground storage facilities.  This recently constructed one is in Beverwijk. They are security controlled and aim to remove the visual blight of excessive bicycles everywhere at town centres/rail stations (these are always proximate).  Where these facilities have been constructed you now get fined if you park your bike above ground. Storage is free.



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The storage facility is financed and constructed by the NS (Netherlands Railways) and then leased back to the local community boards. The storage racks are double decker.  For the top level storage, the channel slides out and lowers to the ground at an angle – pop your bike on and through clever weight distribution its easy to lift up and slide back in.

What an enviable problem to have – accommodating excessive amounts of bicycles in our cities!

BTW – Part of why cycling numbers continue to increase so much is the popularity of e-bikes. The reality is with an e-bike people cycle more frequently and for longer.  I have observed in three large cycle shops now that effectively half of all display space is given over to an extensive range of e-bikes.  My dad’s newspaper subscription features daily full page bicycle sales promotions (as summer begins), 80% of which are all e-bikes.

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  1. Cycling in Amersfoort last week, with my children, I suggested red path is right of way, everything else was give way or shared and shark teeth give way.
    But this one also worked,
    Here they didn’t continue the red (which is why we noticed it); the give way sign with elephant feet plus other white markings was respected by motorist. Also note the raised is very shallow and has no effect on motor vehicle speed when crossing it.

  2. I like the way they have parking that does not obstruct the road, we are on a 70kph road and it would be a lot safer to ride on if we had the same, cars will be parked all day on the median strip that is the only safe place to ride. No cycle way on the main road even though it’s the Nelson to Christchurch main highway through Hope with 2 schools in the area and no pedestrian crossings or safety islands, it just shows the priority transport has over peoples lives.

    1. E-bikes don’t only remove the hills, they also reduce head-winds.
      And they enable you to cycle to work without arriving all sweaty!

    2. It also tackles the longer distance trips. Many towns in The Netherlands are only 10-20km apart; a bit of a stretch for many people to ride, but easy on an e-bike. It also allows older people to continue riding if their health/fitness starts to fail.

  3. The dotted cycle lanes are what are referred to as ‘advisory cycle lanes’ As I understand it, they pretty much serve to show where to ride. Motor vehicles are free to use the space when there are no cyclist there. Is there any chance the author can provide locations to go with the photos?

  4. Marylebone station has a great double layer bike storage unit.

    If you’re a season traveller on the train line you get a free rack space. It’s brilliant.

    And yes. Paint. AC and AT take note..

      1. Sadly no (although I could have sworn I spotted David H at the Assen train station on my way to Groningen yesterday…). My schedule has been somewhat sporadic, so I have grabbed travel days and meetings as I’ve been able to (the beauty of a Eurail pass!). I’ve had some very good hosts in places help to point things out to me though (and I also read up on many of David’s and Mark’s posts before visiting each city to help me know what to look out for).

  5. “The reality is with an e-bike people cycle more frequently and for longer.” – exactly my experience of an ebike.

    I am hearing less and less the ridiculous “it’s cheating” line about ebikes (my reply is always “only if you think it’s a sport”) which is great. For me, I may do half the effort but I cycle three times as much and enjoy it 10x as much.

    There are just so many lessons to be learned from the Netherlands. It is annoying that there is still debate about the best way to provide for cycling when we have the best example right there.

    1. My wife has a recumbent I have electrified that is so comfortable to ride I can’t understand why there are so few in this country I have a standard E-Bike but it’s my wife’s I pinch given a chance, people just need to ride an E-Bike and they would be converted, We are 77 and I can easily ride 30+ km and have no acres or pains and get some good exercise it’s just a pity the cycle trails they are putting in don’t have the sort of surfaces I see in Australia and the US.

      This gave me a surprise going to Brightwater on the new Tasman great taste trial at 4 min into the video. no need to bother with the rest it’s just my wife’s new bike I electrified.

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