Go ride your bike!

No one loves cycling more than the Dutch. Imagine how great – and healthy – it would be if more people would get out of their cars and on their bicycles? In Nijmegen, they already know how to get this done: it is home to the first fast cycle route in the Netherlands. It was developed by, among others, Sjors van Duren who, together with Heijmans developer Anna Claus, is looking at ways to stimulate cycling.

September 5, 2018

At the Van der Valk hotel in Lent, near Nijmegen, red-faced Sjors van Duren gets off his bicycle. It is extremely hot and he needs a minute to catch his breath. The advisor at Royal HasKoningDHV previously worked as a process manager fast cycle routes at the municipality of Gelderland. ‘His’ fast cycle route, the RijnWaalpad, starts at the hotel terrace. Cyclists exit the Waalbrug, pass a roundabout with priority and can then head straight for Arnhem. Perfect for a targeted cyclist, such as Sjors.

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Sjors van Duren and Anna Claus cycling in Nijmegen.

Freedom

“I ride my bicycle all over the city”, Sjors says. “For longer journeys, I will cycle to the station and take the train. When I am on my bicycle, I run into people, I feel really free and part of the city. I felt so happy when I got on my bicycle again after a road trip through the United States. To see people on the streets again instead of cars!”

Sitting next to him is Anna Claus, cycling expert at Heijmans. In her hometown of Amsterdam, she and her bicycle are also attached at the hip. “My bicycle is really the ideal means of transport to get around in the city, she says. “I have invested in a nice, sound bicycle. I am proud of it and ride it across the whole city.”

Growth potential

Sjors and Anna belong to the 84 percent of Dutch people who love cycling. To throw some more figures into the mix: on average a Dutchman cycles about 880 kilometres per year. Our country is home to approximately 35 thousand kilometres of bicycle paths. A quarter of all Dutch people cycles to work. The growth potential is enormous: sixty percent of the Dutch population works less than fifteen kilometres from home.

“That is a skid and a pull up when you ride an electric bicycle”, Anna says. “The e-bike is an excellent means to get to work quickly and in relaxed manner, without ending up all sweaty for your first meeting.” Nevertheless, 35 percent is discouraged from cycling to work. Bad bicycle paths, too many traffic lights and the risk of an accident are the key show stoppers.

Bicycle city

There has to be another way, is what the Fietserbond (cyclists’ association) thought. This is how the idea for the ‘fast cycle route’ came about and the RijnWaalpad was born in 2015. A bicycle path that allows you to continue riding, without being hindered by traffic lights, poor asphalt or unsafe situations. Many other fast cycle routes followed the RijnWaalpad. It was thanks to the fast cycle route that Nijmegen was named ‘Fietsstad (Bicycle city) 2016’.

“The RijnWaalpad generated a great number of new cyclists in the region”, Sjors explains. “We also carried out some research among the users: twenty percent of those interviewed had purchased an e-bike because of the fast cycle route and from then on left their car at home. Purely because we put the cyclist at the heart of the design.”

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Car is guest

It is noticeable in different places in the Netherlands. Anna has noticed that even in the ever so busy Amsterdam, the municipality is creating ‘bicycle streets’ where cars are ‘guests’. Cyclists are getting priority at busy crossroads and comfortable bicycle routes are being developed around the city centre. If it is up to Heijmans, there are many more options to stimulate cycling. Heijmans even created a strategy for it: Go-Light Avenue.

Safer, faster, more fun

“Heijmans enjoys thinking along with municipalities and provinces about how we can make cycling safer, faster and more fun, in order to get more people on their bicycles, Anne says. “Go-Light Avenue is based on four principles, enhancing safety and increasing speed are the framework conditions. By the way, increasing speed does not mean cycling fast, but mostly that you are able to cycle comfortably and without any obstructions.

Want to see more cycling innovations?

Go-Light Avenue offers various innovative solutions to improve both the existing and new bicycle infrastructure. Take Bikescout as an example: this detection system alerts drivers to oncoming cyclists via flashing led lights embedded in the road surface. Another solution is Glowstud, active solar-powered road marking, which uses glow in the dark elements to make the direction of the bicycle path more visible.

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“The third principle is experience, as cycling should be fun”, Anna says. “A good example is the Van Gogh-Roosegaarde bicycle path in Nuenen. And the fourth is cooperation. For instance, Heijmans is working with ForenZo, an organisation that stimulates cycling to work through employers. And, of course, cooperating with municipalities and provinces. If we sit down at the table on time and there is room in the tenders for it, we can apply beautiful innovations.”

Ban the e-bike?

Compared to other countries, the Netherlands is already an ideal cycling country, which we find no more than usual. However, we are also facing some challenges. Such as the rise of the e-bike. In 2017, for the first time ever, there were more fatal traffic accidents due to cycling than due to driving. This increase is partly a result of senior citizens riding electric bikes. Still, Sjors believes this is no reason to ban the e-bike, on the contrary.

“The electric bicycle has been the reason for many seniors to start riding their bicycles again. They have so much more freedom to move around than before, he adds. “So, let’s make sure they can do so safely. Not by making them wear a helmet, because that will make everyone get off their bikes again. Together with Royal HaskoningDHV we are working on ‘forgiving’ roads. No raised, but slanted edges and solid road marking. So that a steering error will not immediately make you fall.”

Futureproof

Both Sjors and Anna are committed to making cycling in the Netherlands an even bigger success. “Cycling is optimum use of energy”, Anna says. Sjors adds: “Driving a car will cost you thirty cents per kilometre. Riding a bicycle will cost you one cent and generates health gains. Society profits from this! In the end, sustainable transportation – the bicycle – is helping us build cities that are so much more pleasant to live in and that are far more futureproof than car-dependent cities. That is something we must keep working on.”