People can often have a hard time understanding how the Dutch can make cycling more attractive and more convenient than driving, and I can understand why this sounds like impossible unless you’ve seen it for yourself.
This New Year, again we were in Zuid Holland visiting family and friends, and this gave me the opportunity to see a specific example of how the principles of Sustainable Safety can promote cycling as a transport option.
As we were travelling by car out of a residential area along a local distributor road after visiting my brother in-law, we passed a guy on a bicycle (on the fietspad of course). A few minutes later when we were out of the area and on the main through road loading off towards the motorway, who did we pass? Yes, the same guy on the bicycle (again on the fietspad). Damn cyclists, taking short cuts! Let’s look at how he accomplished this magical feat.
Here’s a diagram of the lay of the land.
Ah ha! There we go, can you see it, yes, Mr Bicycle had a sneaky short cut. Hmmm, how come the distributor road doesn’t join the through road at that point like the cycleway does? That seems a little unfair.
The answer is due to the principles of Sustainable Safety which among other things say that you should minimise conflict. Conflict occurs when you have different flows of vehicles coming together, aka, at junctions. So the easiest way to minimise conflict is to minimise the number of junctions. Since through roads have the most traffic and the highest vehicle speeds, it makes sense to minimise the junctions on them, and as such the residential area is joined to the through road only at a single location (which happens to be a roundabout since they are statistically the safest junction type).
Obviously this is great for safety and doesn’t effect the motorist that much, yes he has to go a little further along the slow distributor road, but in return he gets an easy exit onto the through road via the roundabout rather than having to try to pull out onto a fast moving road. To do the same for pedestrians and cyclists doesn’t make any sense since there’s no safety issue with junctions that don’t involve motor vehicles and so leaves the cyclist with a nice short cut that allows them to get to the main road faster than the car driver.
This is just one example of how with the right planning and thought, cycling can be made fast and convenient while also making motor transport safer and easier.