This is another post about my recent trip to the Netherlands. The Netherlands has a standard road classification system with ideally three types of roads: flow roads (motorways), distribution roads (arterials), and local roads (residential roads). This system does not recognise roads with the dual functions of through traffic and destination traffic. For example, main streets with a bunch of traffic being funneled through them don’t fit into this framework.

While this classification system works easily with new towns such as Houten, there are challenges with universally applying it across all cities. In Delft they have come up with a fourth road category called a “Wijkontsluitingsweg” or “Roads for living and driving”.

The roads for living and driving were developed because of Delft’s historic street pattern and city structure and competing claims to land use along key traffic circulation routes. This road types resolves the movement-place challenge by establishing key street design objectives of traffic safety, and reduction of noise and air pollution.

Delft’s traffic circulation is enabled by a ring road 4kms wide and one major north-south distributor road. Traffic across Delft follows arterials and wijkontsluitingsweg. These routes work like a grid structure, connecting local neighbourhoods to the big arterials and motorways. The arterials and wijkontsluitingsweg often deviate, directing traffic away from important places. For example, Buitenwatersloot, the main road into the town centre was cut off to car traffic. The traffic was rerouted to an arterial.

In order to address the dual functional requirement of these routes, the wijkontsluitingsweg concept includes the following features: design speed of 40kph, pedestrian safety elements, protected cyclepaths, and roundabouts (not traffic lights). Like many Dutch cities, Delft is removing traffic signals to improve traffic flow and efficiency.

Here are some photos and details of the design of the Ruys de Beerenbrouckstraat. Along the corridor there is special mountable median. This channelises traffic but it is easy enough for cars to turn across. Car parks are set between trees in narrow 2.0m parking bays.

The sideroads have a continuous raised footpath and cycle path which is a standard treatment across Delft. The ramp profile ensures that cars turn at the desired speed. Drivers turning off the road give way to the through-moving pedestrians and cyclists. This is a fundamental road rule, and something that is very intuitive.

Where there is a lot of turning traffic at the supermarket, the sideroad (or entrance) has a different design. The bike path and crosswalk are pulled away from the street which simplifies the crossing for the drivers. Drivers first look for a gap in traffic and turn, and second, look for people walking and on bikes and cross again. 

Here’s another look at the residential section. The lanes are 2.65m wide. This keeps vehicle speeds down to the target speed of 40kph. The central median space and ribbon of pavers along the edge allows room for the infrequent buses (2 per hour) and large vehicles. Large vehicle side mirrors overlap these buffers but the travel lane remains tight to slow them as well. Both the cyclepath and footpath are 2.0m, There is a buffer between the parked cars and cycleway of a little less than 600mm.

And here’s a look at a new pedestrian crossing. Before the crossing the asphalt turns to pavers, The carriageway widens a bit to fit in a pedestrian island. The whole crossing is raised slightly, The lane is then funneled into a very narrow channel, about 2.8m wide. People walking can cross with ease since cars are moving slowly and they have such a small crossing distance. People cross in two simple stages. The median is wide enough to fit cyclists who also share the island (or people with prams). Cyclists crossing have to give way to cars and pedestrians. Note the space for cyclists to pause between the cycleway and traffic lane.

There is very little traffic in these photos because the end of the street is closed during construction around the new rail station. This street typically carries about 5,000 cars a day. I think the design approach and details of this particular wijkontsluitingsweg is useful reference in Auckland.

Because traffic is so high in places like the isthmus, many streets have become de facto arterials. Designs like this might be able to serve those in-between streets that now are traffic sewers running through residential areas. I initially thought of streets like Valley-Walters Road in Mt Eden, Fowlds Avenue in Sandringham and Lake Road in Northcote. Some lessons could also be applied to the long 1970’s suburban collectors that are the spines (and barriers) in many neighbourhoods in the south.

Any design will require adaptation to meet our context, in particular the ubiquity driveways. Besides the specific design treatment, I think we can borrow these lessons:

  • Proactively reduce the size of roadway space. Cars are small in comparison to the space they are given in Auckland.
  • Road design should communicate street function. If you are turning off an arterial (or something like a wijkontsluitingsweg) the roadway characteristics should reinforce the change using ramps and a raised cyclepath/footpath.
  • Pedestrians crossings need to be designed better (see above), Proper designs would be more expensive than plonking an island and some buildouts in the street, but much less expensive than signals.
  • Keep the kerbside parking, but put it in bays and in-between trees. Providing kerbside parking removes the demand for off street parking (and the associated kerb cuts and driveways). The trees and bays keep the roadway narrow even if everyone drives off to work for the day.
  • Trees everywhere, and right up to the intersections. You can see above that proper street trees do not obstruct visibility anymore than a light pole. Trees help to enclose the roadway slowing traffic and improving the look and feel of the street.
  • Make the street efficient, but tolerate delay. Will cars turning off the street slow traffic? Yep. Will buses stopping in the lane slow traffic? “Who cares”, as the planner in Delft says.
  • Roadway design should reinforce the habit of turning traffic giving way to through moving traffic. I know there are legal issues, but we need to get over it. No one knows the road rules. It’s time to design streets where roadway geometry enforces this desired behaviour.

That’s it, and I didn’t even mention speed limits. Here’s a video of the corridor.

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  1. Great post thanks. I wonder if NZ can implement this sort of stuff quicker than the Netherlands have, given they have developed and tested it for a few decades. Law changes perhaps coming up will be a good kick starter. I think their reddish cycleways are much prettier than the bright green we use & is especially good when continuous.

    1. There used to be a time in Auckland when all the footpaths were red gravel – for years! Are they not that way any more?

  2. I particularly like the entrance to the supermarket- here we have too many drivers focusing on making the gap in traffic and consequently fly across footpath without considering others.

  3. Another lovely post, thanks. “Make the street efficient, but tolerate delay.” Yes, I agree. Our options for road layout on finite land are more varied if we don’t have to be putting in median turning lanes.

    De facto arterials and traffic sewers are a number one problem disfiguring our city and making it less liveable. Posts like this one show a choice we have for moving forward.

    1. Totally agree re tolerating delay, and reinforcing through design that straight through walkers and people on bikes have priority. I love how the design above gives a sense of barrier between lanes without having our ridiculous flush medians which are designed precisely to avoid delay and in so doing suck up so much roadspace that could be used better. and as for the side street treatments, i’ve come to think doing something like this, reinforced by law change, could be the most important improvement for biking and walking we could do in NZ.

      1. Yes. Perhaps AT have to pick their battles with a softly softly approach. But I would think where road reallocation to active modes is required, the first place I’d take it from would be the flush medians. Instead are they focusing on taking the parking first? If I’m right, it shows that they’re too focused on maximising the volume flow rate. Perhaps someone can show me where removal of the medians created huge outcry, but am I right in thinking the bigger resistance is to removal of parking?

        1. AT took the flush median away on May road Mt Roskill recently to add bus lanes. Although they probably didn’t have much choice.

        2. Thanks, and I’m sure there are others too.

          Looking at the Pt Chev to Westmere Cycleway, it is possible to keep most of the 12 pohutukawa trees on Pt Chev Rd, keep most of the parking AND have the cycleway, if the median strips for turning are removed.

          For the life of me I cannot understand why AT feels the necessity to keep those median strips – at the expense of the trees! We have both a motorway and a major arterial road (Great North Rd) to take you past Pt Chev. Our local main road should be able to be retired to just placemaking and local access.

          It’s this imperative to move the traffic through that is stopping us from having a liveable city as the Dutch can manage.

        3. The AT argument for keeping the flush medians is that it improves capacity and safety…. i.e. having drivers sitting in the general lane wanting to turn right would be, in many instances, be holding up lots of traffic, and make things unsafe, especially on busier roads with only one lane each direction.

          That kind of argument may be true in a rural road, where you travel 80-100 km/h and dont want to suddenly have a stopped right turner in your way. Its crazy we insist for this to be the same for private driveways on our urban roads…

          Oh, AND some of the locals also tend to get angry when flush medians get removed. On Franklin Road, this was proposed, and boy did they push back, despite studies showing it was used relatively little except at the supermarket…

        4. +1 to the sentiments above. Where a road is expected to accommodate lot’s of right turning vehicles and high throughput volumes and speeds (Constellation Drive) a flush median is a really useful tool. Where you want high throughput and no or very limited accommodation of right turns a solid median seems appropriate. Where you want to allow vehicle throughput and right turns but also want to reduce traffic speed, this seems like a good solution.

        5. And are those the big trees that have gone? I keep meaning to go and have a look at the carnage but flu has kept me away…

        6. That slip lane will go, but the tree in the image will stay. Some trees in the main shopping centre drag have been removed though.

        7. Removal of flush medians make so much sense. The greater visual separation they give only encourages cars to drive faster, making it more difficult for traffic from side roads to merge. It increases danger to cyclists and discourages others from becoming cyclists. It probably doesn’t even improve flow, because of bigger gaps between faster cars.

          On all but busiest roads you could still creating turning bays just where needed simply by narrowing the vehicle lanes on either side (they are generally much wider than truck width). That would visually encourage a little more caution through those intersections.

          I’ve suggested this a couple of times to the council bike team and they say they are slowly chipping away at the people who still think flush medians are a safety measure – even though head-ons aren’t really a thing in the city.

  4. “Proactively reduce the size of roadway space. Cars are small in comparison to the space they are given in Auckland.”

    And minimise the massive default turning radius. If a truck impedes traffic whilst making a turn – so be it. Stop designing for the exceptions!

  5. Wijkontsluitingsweg – my new favourite word. I think I shall have it made up in a stencil and put it on a T-Shirt, and wear it next time I cycle down Island Bay Cycleway…

    Quite seriously, I think we should sack all the people at NZTA and replace them with trained road planners from the Netherlands.

    1. Not sure what NZTA has to do with Island Bay or any of the streets in Auckland where this type of treatment might apply?

  6. I think you touch on the issue of driveways, but don’t quite address it.
    The big difference between most parts of NZ and Europe is that so many houses have driveways in NZ, which is an enormous problem for trying to fit cycleways in. I think that the Island Bay cycleway has basically failed for this reason. To make sure that there’s sufficient visibility for drivers to pull out you basically need to eliminate all on-street parking. Or, you could remove all driveways. But either way you’re messing with what people feel they’re entitled to.
    Anyway suggesting a Dutch solution for the NZ reality (except in new build areas) is not going to get us very far…

    1. Driveways do make it tricky, I agree. Where would you put the cycleways to avoid the problem, Flash?

      Is it easier just to have a good car rental scheme at the edge of each suburb and turn all the access roads into cycleways? No problem with driveways then. Or parking. Or traffic holding up the buses.

      1. It’s a good question, Heidi. If it were up to me I’d get rid of driveways on the side of the road where there are cycleways!

        I accept that there are driveways in the Netherlands, but the NZ problem is different. It’s where you’ve got a driveway every 20 or 30m. You basically can’t have safe street parking if you’re going to have driveways and you can’t have safe driveways if you’re going to have streetparking…

        If you can’t build a cycleway safely on a street you probably need to be looking at buying up land from homeowners and forming a new path.

        1. Yes. To illustrate your point, I’ve just worked out that on my side of my street there are 25 driveways in 300 m. That’s one every 12m. Five of them are double driveways. What annoys me is new subdivisions that could be designed to minimise the driveways are allowed instead to use almost the whole frontage as driveway. Two sections a few doors down were subdivided into 4 a few years ago – a condition of consent could have been having one communal driveway with turn around and good sight lines. Instead the two sites now have two single driveways and two double driveways, leaving very little footpath past the development that isn’t also a driveway.

          This is an example of where safe walking and cycling has been given no priority in the planning system.

          Buying up land for cycleways is the sort of thing Auckland needs to be doing, and I discovered another reason for doing so a few days ago. I plotted the areas within a 4 minutes walk of each “kick-a-ball” type grassy area in Pt Chevalier. Some areas – notably where the UP allows higher density living – are not well served. Yet in a few cases, the problem was the long blocks – the circuitous walk to get to the park was the problem. A simple alley way between roads would provide many more future apartments with easy access to a park. These alley ways could, and should, also serve as part of the cycle network.

    2. Driveways aren’t the problem, and they are not exactly unkown in Europe. Drivers there just expect people to be on the footpath or, in Holland, on the cycleway, so they don’t just blat out without looking.

      Not allowing kids to cycle on footpaths here because of drivers’ sense of entitlement shows muddled thinking. Currently no-one, apart from the odd runner or dog-walker uses footpaths in the suburbs so drivers get used to just flying out. Make it very clear footpaths are for cyclists – kids going to school – and that anyone on the footpath has right of way – and prosecute transgressions – then drivers can and will change their attitudes.

      Everyone used to think it was their right to smoke anywhere. Danish drivers were scandalised when they proposed the car-free zone was proposed in Stockholm just a couple of decades back. They said it was against Scandinavian culture. Attitudes can be changed.

      1. Yes driver entitlement is indeed the biggest problem. Where I am, the children have re-established ownership of the footpaths to some extent – with netball hoop, verge trees they climb, ripsticks, scooters, bikes and general constant presence. But it’s been a nerve-wracking journey at times, for the parents, because although the residents have been educated, there are frequent visitors with no clue. Speed, random manouevres up over the footpath, parking on yellow dashed lines, there’s no limit to what drivers seem to think is ok. And of course as soon as the kids go into the rest of the suburb, they have to adjust their mindset considerably.

        I know that people tend to say that things are worse now than they used to be, but I think that is true of driver attitude. Driving along Meola Rd 18 years ago, people would actually slow down to the required slow crawl that’s necessary when you’re less than a foot from both the on coming traffic and the parked cars. Now, the traffic speeds through there despite the narrow lane and the soccer kids getting out of cars and crossing everywhere. Speed in tight places, and the resulting danger, has become normal.

  7. The key issue is road function. Delft has filled the gap between Arterial and Local with what we would call Collector (a rather dull word in comparison). What is important to notice is what a Collector (especially in a mainly residential area) should look like, and how people should expect to behave in it. 40 km/h. Wait till the bus goes. Let people turn. Wait for the peds and bikes to go first. You’ll still get where you’re going.

  8. It’s really apparent in these photos how little of the space between property boundaries is given to vehicle lanes. It makes it obvious how you need to apportion space to achieve ‘multi-modal tranport’ (shudder).

    Love Holland, or The Netherlands if you insist. Been there several timers and I’m in awe of how they organise and deliver quality of life. Relative took me somewhere in the car in the middle of Rotterdam. I thought it would be a nightmare but, because there were thousands of people on the footpaths, thousands on bicycles and thousands on trams, the roads were free-flowing and everyone was getting where they wanted to go most efficiently. People didn’t avoid cars because of congestion, it’s just that other transport works better – and probably because parking is the constraint.

  9. How to pronounce Wijkontsluitingsweg:
    wijk – wake
    ont – ont
    sluit – slout
    ings – ings
    weg – weghghghghghg – need spit for this bit

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