A view from the cycle path)
We’ve run cycling infrastructure study tours in this area for well over a decade. The tours are based in Assen where we live with (for three day tours) a day in Groningen which is just 30 km to the North. People always want to see Groningen because Groningen famously has the higher cycling modal share of any city in the world. It’s certainly worth seeing, but Groningen’s high modal share is largely due to demographic factors (a huge student population). The cycling infrastructure in Groningen simply is not as developed as in Assen and on the study tours we’ve always used Groningen to illustrate problems that this causes.
I’ve covered a few times in the past how things didn’t quite measure up in Groningen, and this is another of those blog posts, focusing this time on two newly built pieces of infrastructure which are not what they could have been.
A street which has been redesigned
For many years, one of the least pleasant roads to cycle along in Groningen has been Gedempte Zuiderdiep, especially in an Easterly direction. This road has a very strange layout, where the central “road” section is reserved for buses only while the part which looks like a cycle-path is actually for private cars as well.
Gedempte Zuiderdiep this afternoon. The car was going very slowly behind a cyclist, but this meant everyone had to go very slowly because “none shall pass”.
Good drivers on Gedempte Zuiderdiep just get in the way. They catch up with a slow cyclist who they can’t easily overtake and stay behind them, but this means the entire “cycle-path” is blocked so that everyone has to travel at the speed of the slowest cyclist. That’s no way to make cycling convenient and attractive. Bad drivers toot and rev their engines and make close passes which is no way to make cycling safe and attractive.
The layout also places cyclists in the door zone of parked cars. It’s simply not a good layout for anyone except bus drivers, who have the only smooth asphalt that any more of transport has: a lane all to themselves which they hardly use at all.
Now you might think that this obviously not very good design might be the subject of “a street which has been redesigned”, but it’s not. Instead, Groningen has instead copied this design elsewhere.
The newly rebuilt streets, A-Weg and Westerhaven, have a few changes, which are for the worst.
- This time the car parking is on the opposite side of the cycle-path which does slightly reduce the likelihood of dooring but only at the expense of drivers having to look all the way through their cars (or vans which can’t be seen through) to decide when to pull out, rather than only over their shoulder.
- The surface is again tiled, but even though it’s new it’s already even more bumpy than the old layout in Gedempte Zuiderdiep.
- There is no allowance for how actual bicycles go through corners. Ninety degree turns on the spot are required.
- Pedestrian crossings have been eliminated