Archive | Netherlands Trip

Segmenting the Pavement

These two pictures, besides demonstrating my incompetence at photo composition, show an approach sometimes used in the Netherlands. This is a street in Utrecht.

The non-auto portion of the pavement is broken up into three zones. A bike lane is closest to the auto lanes. And the sidewalk of course is against the buildings.

What’s interesting here is the middle segment. It feels a lot like sidewalk, but it is also available for use as a loading zone. Utility poles and street furniture can also go in this zone.

www.flickr.com

Segmenting the Pavement portlandtransport’s Segmenting the Pavement photoset

These two pictures, besides demonstrating my incompetence at photo composition, show an approach sometimes used in the Netherlands. This is a street in Utrecht.

The non-auto portion of the pavement is broken up into three zones. A bike lane is closest to the auto lanes. And the sidewalk of course is against the buildings.

What’s interesting here is the middle segment. It feels a lot like sidewalk, but it is also available for use as a loading zone. Utility poles and street furniture can also go in this zone.

Frankly, it feels a little strange to me, but it’s a pragmatic solution to make the street workable for all its functions, and proof that the Dutch deliver workable bike lanes in a variety of environments. Of course, it also requires a lot of available right-of-way.

And yes, that’s the Portland delegation milling around. Kind of like herding cats.

A Variety of Streetcar (Tram) Streets in Amsterdam

A few days ago I shared a photo of a local shopping street served by trams here in Amsterdam. I’ve compiled a set of photos of trams running on different types of streets and the variety of design treatments used. Different solutions seem to work well for different needs.

www.flickr.com

Streetcar Streets in Amsterdam portlandtransport’s Streetcar Streets in Amsterdam photoset

A few days ago I shared a photo of a local shopping street served by trams here in Amsterdam. I’ve compiled a set of photos of trams running on different types of streets and the variety of design treatments used. Different solutions seem to work well for different needs.

Local Shopping Street
– Peds own the outside of the street, but there are no curbs
– Bikes, cars, trams share the center

Interestingly, trams run a single track, breaking out to two tracks at the platforms (I’ve seen up to four trams – two in each direction – in the platform area!).

Minor Traffic Street
– Cars and trams share the center
– Bikes get a striped lane on the outside

This is similar to the arrangement being suggested in Portland if the Streetcar crosses the Broadway Bridge to run on Broadway and Weidler. Perhaps 10th and 11th should have been designed this way.

Major Traffic Street
– Dedicated right-of-way in center of street
– Bikes and peds share the split-level sidewalk with bikes on the inside (in the picture, one of the peds is actually walking in the bike lane).

This might be an interesting approach to MLK/Grand if we could get agreement to remove auto lanes (I’m not sure the East Side – or ODOT – is ready for that discussion).

As a bonus, I’ve included a picture (click on the Flickr link) of a grass track where the tram runs outside of the street right-of-way. We’ve seen this in Prague as well and have been teasing the Streetcar staff about looking for opportunities to do this in Portland.

Finally, on a Bike in the Netherlands

One of the ironies of our busy agenda here in Amsterdam is that we’re spending so much time going to meetings and criss-crossing the country on the national railway that we have not had time to get on a bike and ride.

That got fixed today when we visited Apeldoorn and Grongingen.

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On a bike in the Netherlands portlandtransport’s On a bike in the Netherlands photoset

One of the ironies of our busy agenda here in Amsterdam is that we’re spending so much time going to meetings and criss-crossing the country on the national railway that we have not had time to get on a bike and ride.

That got fixed today when we visited Apeldoorn and Grongingen.

Apeldoorn is a bedroom community in the center of the country with good access to the rail network. It has about 150,000 population and is working hard to sustain its livability as it grows. The motto of its transportation department is “Milieu, Mobiliteit en Openbare ruimte” (Environment, Mobility and Public Spaces).

Their strategy for maintaining livability includes:

1) Creating a car-free center during much of the day
2) Implementing 30kph zones for much of the city
3) Providing an excellent bicycle network
4) Bus lines within 600 meter of anywhere in the city (there is no tram)
5) Upgrading capacity on the ring road around the city, and requiring cars moving from one quadrant of the city to another to use the ring road.
6) Providing parking at 5 points on the periphery of the car free zone (park and walk)

So complete access to all parts of the city by car is preserved, but other modes clearly get priority in the densest parts of the city.

I was able to tour the core area by bike (a one-speed model with coaster brakes). Since I am not yet skilled at taking photos while riding, I don’t have a lot to show. The odd bike rack has a fold down flap that keeps the rain off your saddle! Our host, Wim Mulder is in the red jacket.

Groningen is a similar story at a larger scale. It’s a university town of about 180,000 (think Eugene on steriods) that has also closed its center to cars. Here’s a presentation on Groningen from the Car Free Cities Conference.

We were able to tour on bike for about two hours (in heavy rain). Some of the notable things we saw:

– An IKEA store near the center of the city (a departure from IKEA’s usual strategy) easily accessible by bike
– A rotary that gives priority to bikes
– A drawbridge with a flying bypass span that allows peds and bikes to cross even when the draw span is up

My impressions actually riding under the circumstances:

– astonishment at how often the bike has the right-of-way
– a great respect for the amount of skill required to ride in this environment

Even at 9 mph or so, the sheer volume of bikes around you requires that you understand who has priority and ride with great awareness.

A particularly tricky maneauver is a signal phase in which cars are held and bikes get a green in all four directions. So as you exit the intersection you have to be careful of bicycle cross-traffic!

Children go through annual bicycle training weeks at school, not unlike our Driver’s Ed. Young children are usually seen accompanied by a parent who will keep a steadying hand on the child’s shoulder while riding to guide them.

Again, a strong conclusion is that it’s about culture as much as infrastructure!

Lessons from the Netherlands: Speed Kills

One of the fascinating things about cycling here in Amsterdam and the rest of the country is that they have this incredible volume of cycling yet very low accident counts compared to our country.

The planners believe there are several factors involved (wearing helmets is not one of them – nobody does for city riding). I’ll discuss other factors in future posts, but today’s topic is speed.

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30 kph zones portlandtransport’s 30 kph zones photoset

One of the fascinating things about cycling here in Amsterdam and the rest of the country is that they have this incredible volume of cycling yet very low accident counts compared to our country.

The planners believe there are several factors involved (wearing helmets is not one of them – nobody does for city riding). I’ll discuss other factors in future posts, but today’s topic is speed.

A primary safety tool has been the establishment of 30 kilometer-per-hour zones (30 kph) for cars. That’s about 18 miles-per-hour. You can pretty much figure that in an environment where bikes are expected to share a lane with cars, the speed will be no higher than 30 kph.

This is important, because at 30 kph, the chances of surviving a bike/car collision (ditto ped/car collisions) are MUCH better than at 25 or 30 mph, the U.S. norm for neighborhood streets. Also, at the lower speed drivers, bikes and peds have more reaction time to avoid a collision.

These zones are so prevalent in city centers that they are often not even signed with a number (I had to hunt for one for a photo). More often there is a physical or visual transition like the slight ramp shown here. The space is very well delineated by bollards or differing paving.

I find this very interesting compared to my experience as a neighborhood transportation chair in Portland. Neighbors would often complain to me that a street was too fast to be safe. PDOT would come out and do speed checks and report that it was fine. But this missed two points:

1) 25 mph is NOT safe enough. 18 mph would be MUCH safer.
2) Traffic operations folks look for the 85 percentile speed. That means they say the street is OK when 15% of the folks are going over the limit.

Couple this with the fact that the police won’t ticket you unless you’re going at least 10 mph over the limit, and no wonder parents don’t think streets are safe for their kids.

I have been told (perhaps some reader can confirm this) that the City except in specific circumstances is prohibited from marking streets for lower than 25 mph by state law.

Maybe it’s time to lobby Salem for some changes in that law!

Postcard from Amsterdam

A short break from writing about policy to talk about our experience here in Amsterdam. I couldn’t resist taking this photo for Commissioner Dan Saltzman. It’s the perfect urban development – transportable, green-roof, residential – do you think we can get it LEED certified?

It’s actually just a block from our Amsterdam HQ. Portland Transport (myself and my partner Staci) are sharing an apartment for the week with the BTA delegation. The apartment is in the middle of the canal belt and I can’t imagine a better location. It’s a vibrant urban location with great access to transit, restaurants and culture. And just a brisk walk or quick tram ride to the central railway station to facilitate our visits to other cities.

The only downside I can think of is that the staircases in the apartment (it’s on three floors) are so steep they are more like stepladders than stairs. I can testify the BTA Exec. Dir. Evan Manvel makes a resounding thump when he falls down a flight of stairs (no worries, he’s uninjured).

Back to policy later today…