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.
By Brad (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 11:26:40
We have one of these at King & Macklin.
By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:59:38 in reply to Comment 102492
According to Google street view, King and Macklin is a good example that is almost up to Dutch standards. The only thing that is missing is the concrete protective island.
Right now, at King and Macklin, the area between the bus lane and the cycle lane is protected with nothing more than paint. Which is really no protection at all. Bus passengers waiting there are exposed to car drivers going right by them at high speeds. Scary!
I strongly suspect that, in reality, bus passengers wait on the sidewalk. Since zero extra sidewalk space was provided for a waiting area, this creates conflicts with pedestrians using the sidewalk for transportation. Particularly if people are using baby carriages or wheelchairs.
Another source of conflict arises when the bus arrives. Passengers will then be impatient to cross the cycle lane en masse, creating conflict with cyclists.
A proper Dutch style protective island removes all these conflicts. Passengers have a safe place to wait for the bus, so that they do not obstruct the sidewalk. Passengers cross the cycle lane when they arrive, not when the bus arrives, so they have plenty of time to wait for a break in cycle traffic.
No conflict, no stress! That's Dutch design!
Comment edited by KevinLove on 2014-06-16 13:00:33
By Brad (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 16:16:56 in reply to Comment 102511
It actually is a raised curb. It has to be a minimum height for the buses. Waiting for the bus here is no more dangerous than any other stop featuring only a curb to separate traffic.
I'm speaking purely of the stop design here. The bike lanes are another story.
By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 16, 2014 at 16:40:30 in reply to Comment 102525
To me the only failing of the King at Macklin design itself is that there isn't a clear indicator to pedestrians to avoid standing in the bike lane. Also, while it includes the full 3 "zones" (pedestrians, cyclists, and bus-waiting) bus-waiting strip is a bit narrow so it's no surprise that they end up ambling into the bike lane.
That and the fact that this kind of consideration for pedestrians is only shown in pedestrian/cyclist interactions instead of pedestrian/car interactions.
By Brad (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2014 at 11:47:31 in reply to Comment 102526
They tried. There's zebra crossing lines across the bike lane where the bus doors line up. They could put up signs, but why bother? There's enough bike traffic there that it becomes obvious what each area is for. There are signs for cyclists to yield to pedestrians which is appropriate.
By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 17:35:04 in reply to Comment 102526
I certainly do not blame waiting passengers for wanting to stay well away from high-speed car traffic. Particularly when there is no concrete safety island to wait on. When it comes to safety protection, I'll take concrete over paint every day.
The problem is that conflict is designed in to this infrastructure. The whole point of Sustainable Safety is that the infrastructure is designed to engineer out conflict.
If I was really a transportation geek I would get my tape measure tomorrow morning during rush and go to King and Macklin and measure the width of the safety island and take a count of where passengers were waiting.
By Core-B (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 11:33:14
Impressive indeed. Shows what can be done if the will (and money) exists.
By kevinlove (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:28:10 in reply to Comment 102496
Like all cycling infrastructure, these protective islands are very cheap to build.
The total annual cost in The Netherlands of construction and maintenance of all their excellent cycle infrastructure is a not-so-whopping 30 euros per person. About $50 in Canadian currency. Dirt cheap.
The entire City of Hamilton could be transformed with Dutch style infrastructure constructed to the design engineering standards of the CROW Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic for a fraction of what was spent on the Red Hill Expressway.
Not only is cycling infrastructure cheap, but it pays for itself in reduced health-care spending. What a great bargain for the taxpayers!
By H1 (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:24:07 in reply to Comment 102496
and the space. if you try this in a "city" you have to tear down someone's home or business. both videos as in the burbs. and according to this site the burbs are not part of the city.
By DissenterOfThings (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:45:52 in reply to Comment 102500
Or you could give up some of the roadway devoted to automobile traffic.
By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:38:28 in reply to Comment 102500
both videos as in the burbs.
Incorrect, the same bus/tram separation exists, even smack in the middle of big cities like Utrecht or Amsterdam. The infrastructure is standardized across all of NL. Simply awesome, I could barely tell the difference between rural and city cycling, it was all comfortable. Just way more people in the bike lane with you in the city.
By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 13:05:25 in reply to Comment 102504
"The infrastructure is standardized across all of NL."
This is an extremely important point. There are national standards for infrastructure, so everyone knows exactly what to expect everywhere. This is an important part of the Dutch Sustainable Safety program.
It also allows best practices to be deployed across the country. Nobody reinvents the wheel. They use the best engineering design every time.
By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:33:17 in reply to Comment 102500
Yes, it was such a pity about the number of homes and businesses that had to be torn down at King and Macklin.
Oh wait... that number would be zero.
By calder12 (registered) - website | Posted June 16, 2014 at 11:54:58
My question when it comes to the call for increased infrastructure for cyclists is the weather. I'm certainly not against the ideas forwarded, and those bus stops are an excellent idea, but the situation in Hamilton is that cycling is really only a viable option for around 50% of the year for the majority of people. So how much money do we spend, and how much congestion does lost car lanes create for the benefit of better cycling for half a year or less?
Imagine those bus stops on King, Main or worse a two way street like Queenston. You're going to lose minimum one lane of traffic, likely two all year round. Traffic in this city is already bad and not getting better by the recent decisions put in place. Things like that horrendous bus lane down town, the decision years ago to add more street parking down town at the cost of car lanes.
Don't get me wrong, I am all for greener transportation and a healthier population, but we have to be careful not to make the city a disaster (more of a disaster) to operate cars and trucks in, we can't afford to hurt businesses or make the city a less attractive destination for people. There has to be a balance, that's something that I think gets overlooked regularly when looking at things like this and anyone that brings it up gets labelled a villain for somehow being against green transportation or safe cycling.
By arienc (registered) | Posted June 17, 2014 at 11:38:05 in reply to Comment 102498
It's also important to recognize that for much of the year car transport is also not a viable option, without spending gobs of money (Hamilton budgeted about $21 million/year) making it work.
By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:53:48 in reply to Comment 102498
but the situation in Hamilton is that cycling is really only a viable option for around 50%
This is precisely because the city doesn't have enough infrastructure and doesn't maintain it. There are lots of people in Toronto who cycle year round, and Toronto also doesn't have really great infrastructure or great winter maintenance of what it does have - and yet people put their coats and scarves on and ride their bikes. Despite the lack of infrastructure, 'the majority of people' rode for around 75% of the year in a really hard winter. People will ride their bikes in the winter, but you need good infrastructure that is maintained with a priority towards cyclists (i.e. you can't store plowed snow in the bike lane). Also, there is a higher bar for safety in the winter - 1m bike lanes or shared lanes are a lot less fun when you are trying to avoid ice patches. Separated lanes are way better.
Traffic in this city is already bad and not getting better by the recent decisions put in place.
Wait, what? You do realize that Hamilton has a nickname of 'the 20-minute city', right? Its actually just as fast to drive through the downtown from end to end as it is to drive around on the QEW - there is no city with actual traffic issues where that is possible. You can't seriously say that Hamilton has bad traffic. Maybe its bad in the sense that when you do interact with other cars they are speeding down Main St. and it is difficult to change lanes across a 4-lane highway..but that is not 'bad traffic'.
There has to be a balance, that's something that I think gets overlooked regularly when looking at things like this and anyone that brings it up gets labelled a villain for somehow being against green transportation or safe cycling.
This happens because what you are calling 'balanced' is in fact arguing against a balanced approach, which would consider all modes of transportation to be important. An approach to road design that accommodates automobile safety but doesn't incorporate safety for cyclists and transit users intermingled is by definition unbalanced. Articles like this are in fact calling for more balanced road design that no longer caters to fast vehicle traffic at the expense of all other modes of transportation and at the expense of local land use.
Also, if you had suggested pre-1920s that all roads be covered in asphalt, people might have said 'Now, we need to be realistic about the cost and maybe it isn't affordable to make every road better for cars and horses' and yet here we are. Why not for bikes?
Comment edited by AnjoMan on 2014-06-16 12:57:32
By calder12 (registered) - website | Posted June 16, 2014 at 21:14:05 in reply to Comment 102509
And this is exactly the type of attacking offensive behaviour I was alluding to. Let's get a couple of things straight. 1. I never said this, or any bike infrastructure was bad. I said we need to think it through and all the implications first. 2. I never said what we have now is balanced, it's far from it, but I don't want to see a big bandwagon jumping effort and have the balance swing the other way either. Like it or not most of the traffic in cities our size is car/truck traffic and our businesses are supplied by trucks.
You can call us the 20 minute city but I guarantee that doesn't apply at rush hours and it sure as hell doesn't apply on Barton, or King down town where it's been reduced to two lanes. It applies on King and Main where they're multiple lanes in each direction. Our two lane streets are awful traffic and down town is an absolute joke since the bandwagon forced giving the 5% of the traffic that the HSR represents 33% of the lanes. THIS is exactly the type of thing I'm against rushing into, ask the down town businesses what they think of it, most of them have flyers in their windows against that stupid lane.
If you'd take a second and realize that just because I'm not jumping up and down screaming that this should happen NOW doesn't mean I'm against it. Pick your battles and make sure those you choose to battle are actually the opposition, attacking someone for having slightly different viewpoints makes you look foolish.
I also am going to stand by my opinion that the vast majority of cycle traffic in this city is only ever going to be for 50% of the year, there are a certain number of "die hards" that will cycle year round, they are a small minority of cyclists though. Toronto has more cyclists and more year round riders simply because that city is a nightmare to drive in, I know people that won't go there because of it, that is precisely what I don't want Hamilton to become.
Comment edited by calder12 on 2014-06-16 21:17:07
By moylek (registered) - website | Posted June 17, 2014 at 15:19:10 in reply to Comment 102533
I also am going to stand by my opinion that the vast majority of cycle traffic in this city is only ever going to be for 50% of the year, there are a certain number of "die hards" that will cycle year round, they are a small minority of cyclists though.
50% of the year? So, April to September? What's wrong with March, October, and November? All one needs is a pair of gloves and a scarf. Even the three potentially snowy months of the year are perfectly fine of cycling most of the time for distances of a few kms.
I admit that riding a sport bike, as most people do, makes winter cycling more complicated than it needs to be - but fortunately traditional city bikes with enclosed chains and upright posture are becoming easier to get find.
Comment edited by moylek on 2014-06-17 15:20:19
By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted June 17, 2014 at 08:15:30 in reply to Comment 102533
I'm not attacking you. I'm not suggesting you are anti-bike. I'm just pointing out that the claims you make are not universally accepted. You can continue to claim that Hamilton has a congestion problem, that cyclists generally only ride 50% of the year and that somehow having infrastructure that is actually safe for all modes is unbalanced, but you have to be ready for the fact that people will disagree with those claims.
What you are calling 'attacking, offensive behaviour' is nothing more than disagreement with your point of view.
I would also like to say that Toronto does not have more bikers because 'its a nightmare to drive' here. The simple fact is that cycling is cheaper and more fun than driving, and there literally is no way that any city could accommodate the number of people commuting in Toronto if they all drove. There is so much in Toronto that people want to be there even though it is impossible for them to drive there.
Cities are by definition dense and crowded. What you want for Hamilton (not to be a 'nightmare for driving') is essentially that it not really become as dense and thriving of an urban place as it needs to be in order to succeed. I know people who won't go to Toronto because its a pain to drive, but I also know that the reason they think this way is because they drive there every time, and because they can't imagine a different lifestyle from their own. Its their own limited viewpoint, not a problem with the city, that keeps them away. Are we to design our cities to placate those who are unwilling to imagine what it would be like to live in the city?
By calder12 (registered) - website | Posted June 17, 2014 at 08:27:43 in reply to Comment 102538
Well, I apologize then it certainly seemed like you were taking offence, but you're still under the impression that I'm saying anything is balanced at the moment.
I do disagree that we'll magically have lots of cyclists year round too with the addition of these lanes. I live on Main Street near down town, do you know how many cyclists I saw this winter? None. Not one single cyclist once the snow started falling, now I am sure there were some but if I can live on the street and not see any that would say to me that there aren't that many. Cycling in the snow and sub zero temperatures may be more fun for some, I'm going to go out on a limb again and suggest those people are still in the minority of cyclists.
I am not suggesting that we not do something, quite the contrary. I am all for the bus lanes on Hunter, although they need work they're a good start. I'm all for making the streets safer for cyclists AND drivers since uneducated and dangerous cyclists cause accidents too. But I am not for making a city, that by your own claims, has decent traffic flow for the majority (and you're right I should have mentioned the specific issues and not generalised the whole city as bad) and ruin it. How would lanes like this work on Barton St. (or second most populated bus route) or Queenston Rd.? These are streets where even during slow times we can't afford to lose entire car/truck/bus lanes and during rush hour it would be a disaster.
The places these special lanes would make the most sense are the places where putting them in would do the most damage to traffic flow overall. There are all kinds of places we could do it without impeding traffic but then those places wouldn't make enough difference since they're not heavily travelled.
Hamilton is not the Netherlands, we're more populated and just going by the video alone showing those spots built entirely different. You'd have to either take car lanes or take buildings to make these lanes happen in 80% of the city. Which makes sense to you?
By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted June 17, 2014 at 08:54:36 in reply to Comment 102540
You'd have to either take car lanes or take buildings to make these lanes happen in 80% of the city. Which makes sense to you?
Taking car lanes makes sense to me, especially on streets left one way. A 747 could make an emergency landing on almost any arterial in Hamilton. The jetliner would even obey traffic as it would most likely get all the green lights :)
Kidding aside, council did say recently it was a good idea to reduce maintenance by painting bike shares and lanes over some of the surplus lanes left over from the industrial halcyon days.
By calder12 (registered) - website | Posted June 17, 2014 at 09:10:16 in reply to Comment 102543
I fully agree on the one way roads there is a lot of space we can use, it's those routes like Queenston or Barton, that are major bus routes, that I think we'll have issues.
By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 23:41:50 in reply to Comment 102533
"...the bandwagon forced giving the 5% of the traffic that the HSR represents 33% of the lanes."
Calder12 appears to be unaware that the single bus lane carries more people than all the car lanes on King Street- combined!
By calder12 (registered) - website | Posted June 17, 2014 at 08:19:30 in reply to Comment 102537
Comment edited by calder12 on 2014-06-17 08:30:16
By DissenterOfThings (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:50:14 in reply to Comment 102498
There has to be a balance, that's something that I think gets overlooked regularly when looking at things like this and anyone that brings it up gets labelled a villain for somehow being against green transportation or safe cycling.
Of course there has to be a balance, but the scales are basically lying on the ground and weighted down by elephants in favour of cars. This concept just evens things out.
By calder12 (registered) - website | Posted June 16, 2014 at 21:15:09 in reply to Comment 102508
Yes, I fully agree. I wasn't suggesting it's balanced now, I just don't want us throwing the balance in the other direction for traffic that is really only in use 50% of the year. That's all. I'm all for evening it out and making our streets safer for cyclists.
By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:27:56 in reply to Comment 102498
If you clear them, they will ride.
Another example close to home.
Ottawa’s segregated bike lanes are maintained throughout the year. The bike lanes are plowed to the same bare pavement standard as car lanes, says Jocelyn Turner, Ottawa’s media relations officer. The city uses a mechanical sweeping broom, plow and snow blower to clear snow. After that a liquid anti-icing spray is applied to the bike lanes to minimize the use of environmentally-unfriendly roadway rock salt.
By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:04:24 in reply to Comment 102498
Absolutely. Everybody knows the Netherlands are a tropical paradise where it never ever snows or rains or has any other inclement weather.
And as for the bus lane - you know the bus lane is a dry-run for the LRT right? LRT will close two lanes on King. And you may note that King is only two lanes wide in the International Village. That means zero car lanes there. That's actually the plan.
Hamilton's 1-way grid was built at the height of the steel boom when there was far more traffic in this city. If you actually compare the number of cars per-lane to every other city in the province, Hamilton's main lanes are completely underused. And that's expensive. It costs a lot of money to maintain those roads. A lot a lot. Like, "hundred million dollar deficit in road maintenance" a lot. And bike lanes are cheaper to maintain than roads because they don't wear out as fast.
By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:47:52 in reply to Comment 102499
There seem to be people cycling in the snow in this video:
And after a whopping 45 cm of snow Copenhagen seemed to be able to keep the bike lanes clear.
In short, snow is not a big deal if we are prepared for it.
By H1 (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 14:04:22
"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." The fastest, easiest and safest way from point A to B is by car!
By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 14:18:34 in reply to Comment 102516
Dutch cities used to be like that. Here are some beautiful before and after videos.
Right now, Hamilton is disturbingly like the "before" photos. They changed. We can too.
By H1 (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 14:45:05
Average wage in the Netherlands is $28CAD. Tax rates are 37% to 52% Sales tax is 21% Hamilton can't afford the taxation to accomplish this. Also I don't know anyone who makes $28.00 and hour! Gas costs 2.58/l .At those rates they all ride bikes because they can't afford to drive!
By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 15:10:22 in reply to Comment 102520
The entire construction and maintenance costs of cycle infrastructure throughout The Netherlands is 30 euros per person per year. About $50 Canadian. Transforming the entire City of Hamilton - every street, every intersection, everywhere - with proper Dutch infrastructure constructed to the CROW design engineering standard would cost a fraction of the cost of building the Red Hill Expressway.
And it would then pay for itself with reduced health care spending.
Residential neighbourhoods can be transformed with nothing more difficult than steel security bollards to eliminate cut-through car driving. That's a cheap and effective way of keeping dangerous cars away from people, particularly children. That is one of the key reasons why UNICEF has determined The Netherlands to be the best country in the world to raise a child.
Comment edited by KevinLove on 2014-06-16 15:15:36
By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 19:23:55
Shocking that Copenhagen has enjoyed success in cycling rates despite having their own manual that is not the CROW...
There are great lessons in there as well. My point is that there are things to be learned and applied from all manner of resources. Being a zealot for one design manual and one only makes you narrow minded in a way.
(This is a quibble btw. I agree with the basic argument presented by the author.) (Also the author really ought to go see Main at Macklin. Its quite good.)
By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 21:14:24 in reply to Comment 102530
With an 18% national cycle mode share, Denmark is second only to The Netherlands at 27%. Second best would, of course, be a huge improvement over what we have now in Hamilton. And who can fail to be impressed by the adorable "Cycle Chic" photos from Copenhagen.
And yet, those Cycle Chic photos do give a hint of why Denmark is second best. Where are the elderly people? Where are the children?
The answer to these questions is that Danish infrastructure is very good, but the Danes have too many unprotected and narrow bike lanes. Further details are here:
But really, watching #1 criticize #2 just shows how far behind Hamilton is.
The only real advantage to being 40 years behind is that we have no barriers to adopting the best design engineering standard. The Dutch CROW standard that gives protection to all people, from 8-80 years old, so that everyone feels safe cycling to all destinations from A to B in Hamilton. Then we will have children going to school like this
Comment edited by KevinLove on 2014-06-16 21:37:41
By jason (registered) | Posted June 16, 2014 at 21:41:02
Great piece with yet another simple way we could balance our transportation options. Hamiltonians are famous for always finding a reason to say no to anything but the drab status quo, but perhaps we'll luck out in this falls' election and see some new blood with ideas beyond 1970.
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