The highly successful Dutch approach to safety is based on designing and engineering conflict out of the street.
By Kevin Love
Published June 16, 2014
The Netherlands is famous for getting transportation right. The bicycle mode share is 27 percent for all trips in the country as a whole, including rural areas. For Central Amsterdam, this rises to 70 percent. Most importantly, The Netherlands has the safest roads in the world.
It is absolutely necessary to get all the details right in order to consistently achieve safety for all street users, and to ensure that walking, cycling or public transit are the fastest, easiest and most convenient ways of getting from A to B for wherever people are going.
One of the most important details is in preventing conflict between busses and people cycling. As we saw in part I of this series, elimination of conflict is a critical part of the Dutch concept of Sustainable Safety.
This is safety that is engineered into the transportation infrastructure to mistake-proof it against human error.
Right now in Hamilton, our current bus stop design spectacularly fails to achieve these goals. Instead, people in Hamilton are quite familiar with dangerous conflict being engineered into bus stop design.
At its worst, this conflict manifests itself in buses passing people cycling, and then the bus pulling over and blocking the bike lane. This requires people riding behind to come to a stop, often quite an abrupt stop.
To pass the stopped bus legally often involves dangerous and stressful conflict with car drivers who are also passing the bus.
It should be no surprise that many people are unwilling to undertake this dangerous and stressful conflict, and instead cycle on the sidewalk to pass the bus. This, of course, creates conflict with pedestrians, many of whom have just got off the bus.
What a dangerous, stressful and inconvenient mess!
This stress and conflict has been successfully eliminated by Dutch bus stop design. This bus stop design prevents conflicts between the bus and people cycling. It also prevents conflicts between cyclists and passengers getting on and off the bus.
The key feature of this design is a pedestrian island between the bus lane and the cycle lane. Ideally, this island should be at least two metres wide, but narrower ones can be effective if there are only a few bus passengers.
This island eliminates conflict between bus and cycle traffic by providing a safe and convenient bus stop bypass for cyclists. The island also eliminates conflict between bus passengers and cyclists by providing a safe and convenient place for passengers to wait for the bus.
In the same way, disembarking passengers are not unsafely dumped directly in the bike lane. Instead, they can safely wait on the island for a break in cycle traffic before they cross the bike lane.
Here are two videos that show examples of bus stop bypasses. Note in the first video how the implementation of this safety infrastructure dates back to 1953!
A key point from the second video is that the 10 examples were not cherry-picked. They were simply the 10 examples closest to where the author lives. Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, cycle infrastructure has to be uniformly effective everywhere.
Until the 1970s, Dutch cities were as car-dominated and hostile for people as Hamilton is today. Then they changed. Starting in the 1970s, there was a second transport revolution in The Netherlands that returned the city to its people.
The same improvements that Dutch cities have done can also be done in Hamilton to build a city for people, not cars. They changed. We can too.
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