Tuesday 22 September 2020

A couple of road changes in Eindhoven - Part Two

 A few weeks ago I wrote about changes to a street in the centre of Eindhoven, where a lane for private motor traffic had been removed to create greenery and more space for people walking and cycling and vowed to post again about changes to a main road leading out of the city.

Eindhoven suffered heavy damage in the Second World War from air raids with large parts of the city destroyed, with the city planners then destroying even more of it later on. It has a very 1960s feel to some parts of it, especially the area around the train station with brutalist architecture and people walking and cycling often having to do so via long underpasses beneath main roads and railway lines. 

To the north of the city centre in the district of Woensel Zuid the old buildings and roads that remained after the war were swept away for new housing estates and very wide roads, such as Veldmaarschalk Montgomerylaan (the translation of which is Field Marshall Montgomery Avenue, named after the British army officer who led the operation to liberate Eindhoven), which is the road I used as I left the city to cycle to Den Bosch back in 2016

Veldmaarschalk Montgomerylaan in 2016. It had a very dated look, with a tiled cycle track that was barely distinguishable from the footway alongside and an odd hedge in the centre as the dividing line between the northbound cycle track and southbound track

The same spot in 2020 with a modern upgrade. The cycleway now has smooth asphalt and has centre markings, meaning the full width of the track can be used. The footway has also been repaved and is much brighter, with forgiving kerbs at the edge of the cycle track.

Slightly further north along the same road in 2016

The same location in 2020. The tree in the middle of the cycle track has been cut down to allow a bidirectional cycle track with no barrier, but many new trees have been planted between the cycle track and the road, which will grow to provide shelter from rain, sun and also from the noise of the roadway alongside.

However, this was not just an upgrade of the cycle track, this was a major transformation of a road built in the second half of the 20th Century from one designed to carry a large amount of private motor vehicles into the city centre, into one which instead prioritises public transport. 

This is the southbound carriageway of the road taken from Google streetview a decade ago. It shows the post war layout that had been here for decades; a very wide road with multiple lanes for motor traffic in both directions and a very wide central reservation between them 

The same spot on the most recent streetview capture. What was the southbound carriageway has now been reconfigured to carry traffic in both directions. Along most of this road motor traffic now just has a single lane in each direction; it is only at the junctions that additional lanes appear for motor traffic to turn off the road 

This was the northbound carriageway a decade ago, a minimum of two lanes for motor traffic at all times, gaining up to five lanes at the junctions, now motor traffic just has a single lane on the other side of the central reservation

The same location as above in 2020. What was the northbound carriageway is now a dedicated bus only expressway, giving buses a clear route into the city centre and no longer being delayed by motor traffic, along with the added bonus of an upgraded cycleway alongside

The new bus expressway only allows buses to use it, so unlike in London there is no sharing with taxi's or motorbikes (who use the adjacent roadway) or bicycles (who have a dedicated cycleway alongside) so the bus drivers can drive here with no interactions with other traffic or any delays. Although of course this bus expressway can also be used by emergency services giving them a clear route to quickly attended any incidents and improving response times. Here is a video of the bus expressway in use:

There are regular crossing points for people walking and cycling and these are placed on the desire lines, usually alongside the bus stops, which are also located next to junctions giving pedestrians who have either alighted or are going to catch a bus a crossing right alongside the bus stop, and people cycling east to west across the road, or turning off the cycleway to turn left, a crossing where they need it to be. 

One thing I noticed is that these crossings were quite often default green but when a bus approached they always remained red and an audio warning sounded, along with a flashing bus icon to warn people not to cross. This results in buses not being delayed at crossings and reduces the possibility of a collision between a bus and anyone walking or cycling 

At each bus stop there was always plenty of cycle parking, allowing people to cycle to the bus stop to catch the bus, and then cycle home afterwards when they return

Back in 2016 as I cycled along here the road expanded out to four lanes as it approached the ring road 

Now, it is just a two lane bus expressway with new trees between the upgraded cycle track and the bus lanes

Although I didn't notice this as I cycled through here last month, the ring road has also been buried in an underpass under the road, with additional bidirectional cycle tracks created on all sides of the junction. The image below shows the changes from Google Earth satellite imagery (with the new layout still not fully complete)

Once again I couldn't help notice as I approached the junctions that the buses always seemed to have a green light as they approached, with all cars and cycles receiving a red light. The new layout really does put people on public transport first and creates a fast bus expressway that is not being delayed on its journey in any way, except when passengers board or alight.

This new layout continued all the way up Veldmaarschalk Montgomerylaan for another two miles, giving me a comfortable safe cycle route alongside the buses which sped past me every few minutes. I then came to a road named Winston Churchilllaan (I told you these were post war roads!). Once again the same layout continued along here east out through the suburbs, with a check of google streetview showing that the same upgrade had been implemented; a wide multi lane dual carriageway for motor traffic replaced by a bus expressway with just a single lane for motors 

The same road two decades apart from streetview; a dual carriageway with cycleways either side to a single lane for motor traffic, a bus only road, along with upgraded cycle tracks

After another couple of miles the residential buidings alongisde gave way to fields as I exited Eindhoven but the bus expressway continued (although the bus lanes split and crossed over here to run either side of the road). Again I was surprised to check goggle streetview to see that what was a rural dual carriageway had also been reconfigured and reduced to a single lane to allow a fast bus route from Eindhoven out to neighbouring towns. 

Google Earth satellite imagary shows the road leading east out of Eindhoven through fields to the town of Nuenen in 2009, a dual carriageway with cycle paths either side of it 

The same road a decade later. There is now just a single lane for motor traffic in either direction. Separate from that road are bus lanes either side, allowing buses to get from Nuenen directly to the centre of Eindhoven without any delays. The cycle tracks either side have also been upgraded and widened - now with red asphalt and centre markings to show they are both bidirectional

As I cycled between Eindhoven and Nuenen I did so behind a family; a mum with her young daughter of primary school age alongside and her not much older son up ahead of them, safely cycling alongside a rural main road in perfect safety 

I cycled behind them for a couple of miles; obviously I don't where they had been cycling from but assuming they were cycling from the centre of Eindhoven to Nuenen then they would have cycled just over seven kilometres or nearly five miles, which is perfectly normal for Dutch families. Now nobody is forcing them to do this of course but the safe and direct cycleway gives them this option. They could have taken the bus, which probably would have been quicker and would have not been delayed at any junction or by any other motor traffic due to the new fast expressway. They would have used an OV-chipkaart for this journey, which is a travel card that allows entry onto any bus, tram or train in the entire country. It also allows access to underground bike parking facilities at train stations and use of the OV-fiets bicycle hire

Eindhoven has a population of roughly 220,000 so about the same as a British city such as Reading, Luton or Wolverhampton.  Imagine a mother and her two young children making a journey to and from a town five miles away from those cities. The bus would be expensive, have an irregular timetable and almost certainly held up by other motor traffic. I can't envisage any of these cities getting rid of a dual carriageway anytime soon! As for a family like this cycling on a main A road or dual carriageway in the UK? Well, it might be legal but it would almost certainly not happen as it would be incredibly dangerous thing to do with no separate cycling infrastructure and motor traffic moving at very high speeds. The default option in the UK would be to drive, with little incentive to use any alternative mode of transport.

Whilst I mostly concentrate on writing about Dutch cycling schemes on here it is worth remembering that the Dutch are also vastly improving their bus, metro and train services, whilst also improving cycling and walking conditions. Many councils have declared a climate emergency but I don't see any reallocating space on their roads like the Dutch are to help achieve this. 

Monday 31 August 2020

A couple of road upgrades in Eindhoven - Part one

 Every year when I visit the Netherlands I encounter changes to their road layouts and often remain surprised at how they change and upgrade their roads constantly. This year it happened within seconds of arriving, as the ferry terminal has been completely reconfigured with the previous road removed and replaced with a cycle track that now leads directly into the ferry terminal. I also wrote a thread on twitter about some of the many changes to the road layouts in Amsterdam I saw this year, compared to only last year. I have visited Eindhoven just once before, back in 2016 (only a few days after the UK voted to leave the European Union). I knew that there was bound to be changes to some of the road layouts in the city in that time and so will document two of them I encountered here. 

Eindhoven has a rare layout for a Dutch city but something which is very common for a UK city - a one way system surrounding the city centre for motor traffic

The one way system for cars that surrounds the city centre of Eindhoven. Within this ring are mostly pedestrianised or cycling and walking only streets. Mostly shops to the north and many bars and restaurants with outdoor seating to the centre and south. There are also a few busy east / west routes through here for people cycling but driving is largely not possible, or for access only

When I visited Eindhoven four years ago the section of road to the east of the city centre that formed this ring had two lanes for motor traffic in one direction with a contraflow bus lane in the opposite direction, then uni-directional cycle tracks (or in a few places painted cycle lanes) on both sides of the road, allowing cycling in both directions anywhere on the ring road. 

The eastern section of the inner ring road in Eindhoven in 2016. A contraflow bus lane and two lanes for motor traffic in one direction, with pavements and cycle tracks on both sides 

The local authorities took the decision to improve this road, not by removing the one way system, but by keeping it but removing one lane of motor traffic to create more space for people walking and cycling. 

The same location as the photo above, four years later. By removing a lane for motor traffic it has allowed space for a wide bidirectional cycle track with greenery and cycle parking on both sides of it

The new road layout is brilliant, the greenery between the cycle track and bus lane is lovely

The greenery also breaks up at regular intervals for cycle parking, which is plentiful 

The new cycle track is very smooth, with drainage located along the kerbs at the side of the track 

Although I had no idea back in 2016 that these changes would occur I took quite a few photos of this road from the cycle track so can manage a few before and after comparisons but google streetview does a good job of showing how much road space has been taken here 


The same location in 2020. By removing a vehicle lane and one of the cycle tracks there is room for a wide bidirectional cycle track and greenery along both sides of the road to shield people walking and cycling from the noise of motor traffic. 


Plenty of new trees and plants have been added

It's difficult to work out exactly what space has been taken from where and reallocated as the entire road has been reconstructed from building to building. The footway, cycle tracks and roadway have all been dug up, all the trees that were there have been cut down and even the drainage has been moved so the only real reference point to compare the two are the buildings alongside the road. 



In the photos below the manhole cover at the edge of the cycle track is the only marker to show the footway space stays roughly the same, trees have replaced the cycle track, the new cycle track is where the bus lane was and more trees where the roadway was. I assume part of the old cycle track on the other side has become roadway but it is difficult to tell 

One of the few photos I took whilst cycling on the other side of the road back in 2016

The cycle track here has been replaced by trees and greenery. 

and in some places there was only a painted cycle lane meaning anyone overtaking had to use the lane for motor traffic, but now they have a wide bidirectional cycle track on the other side instead 

In some areas the footway has been increased 

The new bidirectional cycle track is very wide 



The lorry driver here decided to change his route and so turned round and drove up the cycle track. He's not supposed to do that of course, but it does help illustrate just how wide the new cycle track is 

I remember stopping to take the photo below back in 2016 as I thought it was a good example of a continuous footway and continuous cycle track passing the vehicle entrance to a service area of an office complex 

It still is a continous footway and cycle track passing it, just that now it is a bidirectional cycle track. 

That border between the cycle track and roadway normally filled with greenery or cycle stands also acts here as space for the driver to stop and wait for any passing cyclists before crossing the cycle track to gain entrance to the service area, as happened shortly after I took this photograph

There are some improvements to the busy cycle routes running east / west across here too. Previously Ten Hagestraat had a poorly marked "cycle area" as it exited the shared pedestrian and cycle zone, which has now been removed 



Replaced with a bidirectional cycle track on the opposite side of the road 

This continues along Kanaalstraat, which is a very busy route for people cycling east out of Eindhoven. Previously this road had a narrow painted cycle lane on either side, with not enough room to even cycle two abreast 

The entire roadway has now been shifted to the right, with the cycle lanes and an approach slip road to car parking removed. That has allowed space for the wide bidirectional cycle track on the other side of the road, with greenery alongside 

I didn't manage to get a "before" photo of the other side back in 2016 but the improvement is clear I think! 

This has been a really wonderful upgrade to the city centre but the changes are only halfway complete. The western section of the ring road (northbound for cars) has not yet been altered and remains exactly the same as it was in 2016. It's only when you cycle here that you truly can appreciate what a great upgrade this is. The old layout with three remaining lanes is noisy, with too much motor traffic, often quite close to you. The cycle track is narrow so whilst you can cycle two abreast that does not leave much room for others to overtake

and with a narrow footway there are places where pedestrians are forced to step out into the cycle track 

I look forward to returning to Eindhoven again one day to see this project omplete. Next week I will write about a different upgrade I encountered to a main road heading out of the city. For now here is a five minute long video of me cycling the entire length of the new layout, from North to South. This was filmed on a Monday evening with schools and universities closed and many people still working from home so was very quiet. It was much busier the night before on Sunday as people made their way home from bars and restaurants in the City Centre:

Note: I have added a donate button to the top right of this blog, as I have recently been made redundant. Whilst there is of course absolutely no obligation to do so, if you do enjoy my videos on twitter or rare posts on here then any donation would be greatly received and will be used to fund this 2020 trip to the Netherlands  

Sunday 2 February 2020

Cycling between cities in the Netherlands part 23: Amersfoort to Amsterdam via Hilversum

I'd enjoyed my time in Amersfoort, it has a lovely almost car free city centre, filled with narrow streets leading to large squares. Beyond the city centre it is dominated by 1970s housing which may not always be the prettiest but it does have a huge network of cycle tracks, roundabouts and bicycle streets, making it safe and easy for people of all ages to cycle anywhere. I hope to come back one day.

I crossed over the road outside my hotel onto a bidirectional cycle track running along the other side of the road, and then crossed a road to turn right onto another bidirectional cycle track. Almost immediately I came to a large supermarket so stopped to pick up some supplies for the day, and briefly causing mild panic for myself by leaving my bike keys at the checkout. After attempting to thank some fellow customers in Dutch for helping to  retrieve my keys I cycled away from the supermarket on a cycle track alongside the road and then continued directly on as the road ended, cycling up and over a bridge that went over a road underneath, and then down the other side again. At the end I turned left at a roundabout onto a cycle lane on a road and then soon turned off onto a cycling bridge over a waterway. At the end of the residential street this lead me onto, I turned left at a roundabout via a bidirectional cycle track which then lead me under the N199 road, and then right onto a cycle track running alongside the road

I cycled under the A1 motorway and then almost immediately turned left into a narrow lane signposted as a through route for bicycles only. This went through fields, where the smell of manure was very strong, and then past where a barrier should have been to keep out motor traffic, but had been removed.

I soon came to the end of this lane and then turned left onto a road where I met the A1 motorway again, although I turned right just before it to run on a very wide cycle track alongside the motorway, over the river Eem.

As I cycled over here I couldn't help but think how well engineered this cycle only bridge was, just as good as the motorway alongside. Of course this is nothing exceptional to the Dutch who do build cycle routes to the same quality as the roads alongside, but I guess I'm used to the UK where cycle routes are often bolted on at the end of a project, perhaps with a couple of shared footway signs, if you're lucky. The cycle track bent round and the swung down to a crossing of the exit and entry slip roads to and from the motorway. I then cycled along a road which quickly bent to the right away from the motorway as painted cycle lanes appeared. After a short while I turned left onto another country lane, signposted as a route for bicycles or tractors only, and cycled along here through fields for the next couple of kilometres

At the end of this lane there was a cycle crossing over a main road to a service road running alongside, which took me under the motorway again and then became a cycle track round the corner, which lead to a couple of parallel "horse and bike" crossings

I was briefly on a service road alongside the main road leading from Baarn to Hilversum, but this then quickly became a cycle track. I cycled along here for the next couple of miles, a pleasant route mostly setback a fair distance from the road, and mainly through woodland. I briefly rested and ate alongside a lake before I entered Hilversum. The bidirectional cycle track became unidirectional, and so I was directed onto a tiled cycle track on the opposite side of the road. This continued on through the suburbs, until I turned off onto a block paved residential street which lead directly to a cycle track passing underneath Hilversum station

From the station I cycled around the ring road which circled the centre of the city - one way for motor traffic but with cycle tracks in both directions. Originally I had planned to spend a little time in the city and explore it on foot but, perhaps unfairly, I decided there was little for me to see in Hilversum and carried on, heading west out of the city via a cycle track alongside a main road. This continued on to the edge of the city where I crossed over and cycled south alongside another road, turned right to bypass a roundabout and then continued on to cross over the road shortly after another roundabout.

I was now cycling on a bidirectional cycle track alongside the N201 road heading west away from Hilversum and just happened to be cycling behind three young women, cycling three abreast at a relaxed pace as they all chatted to each other. Occasionally they would have to break that formation, such as when overtaking this man on his mobility scooter, but on the whole they cycled three abreast in a relaxed manner in front of me for the next 15 minutes, way out of Hilversum deep into the countryside whilst motor traffic zoomed past at a high speed on the road alongside
This isn't a particularly unusual sight for the Netherlands, often when I'm cycling in rural areas miles from a town or city I see groups of people cycling in their normal, everyday clothes and I often wonder where are these people going? My question was answered after a long cycle as the three girls all stopped to lean their bikes up against a tree, alongside many other parked bicycles alongside the cycle track

This was a local beach, if you can all a long section of grass by a lake that, and there were a lot of people swimming in the water, or sunbathing alongside and most had clearly cycled from miles away to get here. I sat on the grass myself for around 30 minutes for some food and rest, and as I did so a group of four teenage boys all stopped on their bikes alongside me. I was expecting to hear them speak Dutch but they all started to speak English to each other in British accents. I then noticed one of them had a "International school Hilversum" jersey on; these were all British children living and going to school in the Netherlands. Almost certainly they would have just cycled the six miles from their school along the same road I had just used, probably cycling four abreast most of the way. Would they have done this if they were still living back in the UK, on a typical British A road mixing with vehicles travelling at 60mph or more? I doubt it. 

I continued on along the same cycle track alongside the N201, bypassing a turbo roundabout altogether, and then crossing the Vecht river. At a set of traffic lights I turned right and briefly cycled along the road into the village of Vreeland and then very quickly turned left into a narrow lane signposted for cycles only, meaning I was only in Vreeland for about ten seconds. I cycled along here for about the next mile through the polders

with the road filtered halfway along. I then came to the Amsterdam-Rhine canal and turned right to cycle alongside itI had last cycled alongside the canal back in 2015, cycling from Utrecht to Amsterdam, however back then I was on the other side, using a bicycle priority road. Along this side of the canal I just had a narrow bidirectional cycle track. After cycling along here for a few miles I came to the reason I had purposefully diverted this way - the Nigtevecht cycle bridge

This had opened the previous summer and I had followed its construction with interest, and also read about it on Mark Wagenbuur's blog. It certainly was very impressive up close as it towered high above me. I cycled over it to the other side of the canal 
and then cycled back again, behind two kids cycling home from school who seemed amused I was taking pictures - for them this was just a bridge to get home and nothing out of the ordinary whatsoever 

The view from the top of the Nigtevecht Bridge 
Once back over the otter side again I continued along the canal for another couple of miles until I reached the village of Driemond where the path came to an end and I was directed onto the road through the village. As I did so a whole class of schoolchildren passed me in the opposite direction and I was surprised to see they were all wearing helmets and high viz for some silly reason; probably none of them had done so on the cycle into school that day! I then met the N236 road and cycled alongside it on a bidirectional cycle track until I reached Gaasperpark a short distance on. I then cycled through the woodland on some narrow twisting paths and then through parkland on some very wide straight paths.

I cycled under the A9 motorway and then up and over a gigantic tunnel under construction. This is a huge project where the motorway is being buried underground to make the surrounding environment more pleasant for residents living alongside by eliminating the noise of the traffic. The space above the tunnel, as well as the former motorway alongside, will eventually become a public park

The A9 motorway running along the left and the roof of the new tunnel it will run in alongside 
I cycled back down the temporary cycle track above the tunnel and then cycled through Bijlmer for the next few miles on direct and wide cycle tracks, all separated from the road network.

I then cycled alongside the canal on a very wide path which came to an end at the base of skyscrapers and became a cycle track leading me directly through the business district and into the Centre of Amsterdam 

Distance: Approx 55km / 35 miles
Time: approx six-and-a-half hours
Map of the route
Photos taken: 635
Gallery: 80 photos here

An analysis of this trip by Jitensha Oni:

Previous Posts in this series:

Part 1 - Hook of Holland to Rotterdam / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 2 - Rotterdam to Gouda via Delft / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 3 - Gouda to Utrecht / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 4 - Utrecht to Amsterdam / Photo Gallery of this journey
Part 5 - Amsterdam to Hook of Holland via The Hague / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 6 - Hook of Holland to Breda / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 7 - Breda to Eindhoven via Tilburg / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 8: Eindhoven to 's-Hertogenbosch / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 9: 's-Hertogenbosch to Nijmegen / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 10: Nijmegen to Utrecht / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 11: Hook of Holland to Gouda a via Delft and Zoetermeer / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 12: Gouda to Utrecht, via a different route Photo gallery of this journey
Part 13: Utrecht to Nijmegen via Veenendaal, Ede and Arnhem / Photo gallery of this journey
Part 14: Hook of Holland to Leiden / Photo gallery of this journey