Friday, 10 July 2015

We're Gonna Need A Bigger Road!

Just recently lots of cycle lanes have been popping up near to where I live. We seem to have a lot more cyclists in the area of late, which is doubtless due to living by the Olympic cycling route. Anyway, the reason for my sudden interest is that I am currently in the Netherlands - home of much cycling and bikes that you peddle backwards to stop. I have observed a couple of issues...

Firstly, their roads are VERY much wider than ours. They have more than enough space to have sensible sized footpaths, cycle paths and roads. Some even have space for trams. Our roads are typically very narrow. Far too narrow to accommodate all these things safely. We're told that the Dutch system is being implemented where I live, but it isn't really because we don't have the space to do it properly.

Our local highways department has narrowed already narrow roads and halved the width of footpaths in order to install cycle lanes. It's just plain crazy and pretty dangerous for all users, I fear.

My second observation, as both a pedestrian and a motorist in Holland, is how terrifying it is to get around here. As a driver wanting to cross a road, you have to cross a wide footpath and then wide a cycle lane (sometimes with bikes coming at you in two directions). If you're turning left, you also have to get across a lane or two of cars. The bikes whiz along at pretty high speed, in great numbers and have the right of way. It's a very hairy experience trying to cross roads here as a result - and they have clear rules that seem to be obeyed pretty thoroughly. Worse still is that mopeds seem to be able to use the roads and the cycle lanes, appearing out of nowhere as you slowly try to negotiate your away across all these lanes. As a pedestrian, it's just as bad. You stray into the cycle lane and you will be obliterated. Crossing at junctions is a nightmare as bikes come at you from all directions. Heaven knows how you get out of your front gate if you have a footpath and well-used cycle lane in front of your home.

I can't see how any of this is safe. The reality is the Dutch system is hellish to navigate and requires huge amounts of space - that we don't have - at least not near where I live. Perhaps you get used to it? I really don't know. All I do know is that I've never been so stressed walking or driving anywhere before.

I can see the advantages of cycling as a healthy and eco-friendly alternative to driving, but I'm really not convinced that 'following the Dutch system' on our tiny roads is the answer. I'm not convinced it's the answer to cycling in the Netherlands either for that matter.

I'm not anti-cycling or anything, I'm just pro no one getting hurt.

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