Next to Denmark and its capital Copenhagen, Holland is the other international poster-child for best-practice cycling infrastructure and participation. In Holland, 27% of all trips are made by bike. While the local culture and history is favorable for cycling in these countries, they still demonstrate the possibilities for modern transport solutions in our left-in-the-dark New World countries.
Holland is generous in sharing its experience of cycling infrastructure and integration and supported a study tour of Australian ‘influentials’ in September who visited cities and regions in The Netherlands, including the Arnhem-Nijmegen City Region in the east of the country, bordering Germany. This is also the home of Sjors van Duren, a project manager involved in many of the cycling infrastructure projects for the region. He is also part of the Dutch Cycling Embassy, a collection of experts who facilitate knowledge transfer.
The dedicated cycling route connects Arnhem and Nijmegen and has its own branding
Lighting and wayfinding system for the Rijnwaalpad route is consistent with the branding
I met Sjors in Adelaide in May during the Velo-City Global conference in Adelaide. Sjors presented on the ‘futuristic’ cycle infrastructure projects from his region and commented on the role of cycling in society, “I think that having a sense of place helps building communities and social cohesion” says Sjors. “Cycling does fit very well within those goals. This in contradiction to approaching cycling as ‘just’ a mode of transportation.”
The Australian Road Report
Curious about his impression of Australian cycling infrastructure, I followed up with Sjors once he returned home to understand where Australia is going right… and wrong. Sjors travelled 5,500km through Australia, visiting cities and regional areas in South Australia, New South Wales, and Queenland during his visit and he shares with us his observations of Australian roads.
Roundabouts provide very convenient ‘desire lines’ for cars going straight ahead
You don’t have to slow down as a car driver. (Dangerous). Roundabouts in the Netherlands are designed so that ANY car has to slow down passing the roundabout, reducing speeds and reducing the impact of crashes. Additionally, it provides more opportunities for NMT (Non Motorized Transport) to cross the roundabout. In the center of Byron Bay I noticed that pedestrian were asked to cross in groups. It is a very dense and very pedestrian-heavy environment, but still, priority for cars.
Speed limits are very high in urban environments
60km/h feels very fast, even in a car, let alone when walking or cycling through urban environment. Same goes for 40km/h on small side streets.
Contrast: Urban Dutsch street lending itself to low speed travel, the red tarmac means cyclist have priority
Recent urban planning projects discourage the utilitarian use of bicycles
Large suburban shopping malls are being developed. Best (or worst) example of this is the new shopping centre in Emerald; it has made the former Main Street feel ‘dead’. It is out of the city, with no (Cycling) facilities to go there.
Poorly connectability of highways
Recent construction of highways in urban environments which were poorly attached to the existing network, thereby providing limited improvements in travel times. An example are the road tunnels in Brisbane & Sydney.
Contrast: New Rijnwaalpaad Arnhem-Nijmegen cycle route integrates different mods of transport
Brisbane cycling infrastrure – The good and the bad
I loved the cycle way alongside the Brisbane river. One of the best examples of cycling infrastructure I’ve seen in the world! But that same cycle way isn’t connected to a coherent cycling network, which prevents non-lycra people from utilitarian cycling to/from the city. The units which were built in Queensland to prevent cars from entering cycle paths (yellow steel bars which curve towards each other) are very dangerous and encourage head-on collisions.
Converting Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s super-highways
The road lay-out in Brisbane was very, very spatious! There is a lot of room available to do a ‘road diet’ and implement separated cycling lanes. Many roads with a speed limit of 60km/h look like they’re designed for 8okm/h or higher (which encourages speeding). Applying a road diet increases traffic safety, for cars and bikes, and decreases the barrier function of a (main) road. It might even create space to provide (green) public spaces.
Contrast: Cycle transport is a worthwhile inventment
Foster public spaces in Australia
I noticed that when cycling from the Adelaide CBD towards the ocean, the public space in Australia is very well kept. This is a main advantage and difference from the US., and very important for the (perceived) feeling of safety for cyclists.
If you have visited and ridden in Europe, there are still cars. Motor vehicles play an import transportation role, but when cycling is a convenient option, along with public transport or other mobility solutions, it reduces congestion and makes cities and regions more livable. Intelligent cycling infrastructure is not the burden that politicians, decision makers, tabloids, and shock-jocks think it is.
BNA wishes to thank Sjors van Duren for his time and insight.
Credits: Image 1 altelier LEK, Images 4 – 5 courtesy of Sjors van Duren