Bicycle-Friendly Dutch Intersection Design

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 26, 2012

After more than three decades of experience building continuous cycling networks, the Netherlands are way ahead of North America in terms of how to design cycle paths.

This is especially true when considering the Dutch standard for cycle paths at intersections:

This setup significantly reduces the surprise element for drivers coming into contact with cyclists, and doesn't require any more space than a standard intersection.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By grahamm (registered) | Posted April 26, 2012 at 23:09:06

Now that would be progressive. I'd love to see that in Hamilton. I'd ride to wherever it was installed just to try it out. So much more 'jumping in with both feet' than a single bike box.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted April 26, 2012 at 23:20:18


I suppose a potential risk is cyclists who choose to try and follow a straighter path, around the left side of the island, rather than jogging to the right to cross. But if the bike lanes are separated from auto traffic by curbs, even just near the corner, that problem would be minimized or even eliminated (is that the way the Dutch build them?)

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By Sara Mayo (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2012 at 00:04:21

Great video. It actually looks like the city of Hamilton is taking some inspiration from this kind of intersection for the Longwood redesign, specifically at the sketches they had of the Longwood/Main intersection. It won't be half as nice due to a dozen other constraints and decisions, but I did email the Longwood project people the link to this video to make sure they look at it, and beef up their design for that intersection with this video in mind.

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By lakeside (registered) | Posted April 27, 2012 at 00:15:59

I could be missing something here but as much as this scheme improves turning safety for right-turning cyclists it seems to introduce a new complication for those who are simply continuing straight through the intersection.

I should probably know better than to question the Dutch on this kind of thing but it seems as though THROUGH cyclists would have to either take a more serpentine course or leave the bike lane and join the motorized traffic stream.

The new curb seems to be placed in the path of straight-ahead bicycle traffic. It almost seems like the _bicycle_ traffic is being calmed. I`d be concerned that motorists might actually take that more highly structured (and actually larger radius) corner faster, and perhaps with less care (since everything seems to have been worked out).

This plan is almost anti-Woonerf in that way.

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By wdr (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2012 at 10:42:17 in reply to Comment 76274

As someone who grew up in the Netherlands biking to school, work, and everything - these set-ups work very well. The bicycle is very nimble the slight change in direction is not an obstacle nor does it make the cyclist slow down. All cyclist follow the path and because it is so clearly marked by colour, separation, and perhaps even dedicated traffic signals cars respect the cyclist.

I understand that it might look like the curb is in the path of the bicycle traffic. In reality, however, the cyclist does not experience this as an obstacle or traffic calming measure.

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By lakeside (registered) | Posted April 27, 2012 at 14:26:12 in reply to Comment 76284

I could see that working if everybody behaves.

Dutch riders must have better passing/lane discipline, possibly derived from experience. (And no sidewalk-riding renegades; I haven't seen an article yet on how enforcement is handled there. You get the impression it's somehow not really a problem.)

My other concern was about complicating pedestrian movements but the video also proposes moving the stop line back and inserting pedestrian zebra crossings between that line and the bike zone.

They've obviously put a lot of study into this system. It's so far advanced from where _we_ are now that I'm having trouble digesting it.

It seems that excruciatingly careful synchronization of the signal phases would make or break the success of this design, but then we have some awfully complex schemes in effect here already. I presume our traffic planners could work out the details, if only they could be willing, and empowered, to do so.

Would we have endure a dozen reconstruction and reeducation phases to move to this system, or could we just skip all the in-between steps and adopt this best practice in one fell swoop?

What's that feeling when you finally get something and you're in full support of it but then realize it probably won't happen because others are unwilling go through the same thought process?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 27, 2012 at 09:59:37

I'm picturing this at king and dundurn... dreams!

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 27, 2012 at 13:34:00

... so it's basically a second sidewalk/crosswalk. I mean look at it - topologically it's identical to a sidewalk, the only exception being that the cyclist must always travel on the right-hand side of the street (meaning that turning left requires two lights).

So we're back to riding on the sidewalk, just that it's a dedicated sidewalk for cyclists. The real difference is that this is a cycling-intensive country so drivers are used to looking in that direction for cyclists.

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By simonge (registered) | Posted April 29, 2012 at 23:52:06

This looks brilliant! I wonder how it would impact snow removal though with the extra curbs? Would the city require any extra equipment?

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