This post is part of a series, starting at “So what would you do here?”, on making cycling an attractive mode of transport in rural Britain.
The Dutch model of making cycling attractive and popular is known for the policy of providing high quality dedicated cycle tracks alongside roads. What, all roads? Yes. Pretty much all roads.
But the crucial detail is that the Dutch make a clear distinction between roads, country lanes, and town streets. The roads — equivalent to Britain’s ‘A’ roads and some ‘B’ roads — have cycle tracks. The country lanes and town streets are treated differently — the subject of posts later in the week.
The Dutch concede that roads (roads, not lanes or streets) are for motor vehicles: for getting people and goods from one place to another quickly. That concession is a great bogeyman to many British cyclists, but the reality is that most British people have also conceded that roads are also for vehicles: they will never cycle on them, just as they long ago gave up walking on them, riding horses on them, and letting their children play on these roads. To solve that problem, we could either build high-quality dedicated cycling infrastructure, so that there would be no need to mix with the fast cars and big trucks, or we could calm, slow, and the reduce the numbers of cars and size of trucks, reclaiming the main roads. I think I know which one of those is more achievable and politically acceptable.
Here’s a rural British main road not so far from the case study area, linking the market towns of Blandford Forum and Wimborne Minster, 14km apart, via a few small villages:
And here’s a Dutch main road between the small cities Assen and Groningen, 25km apart, via a few small villages:
It has a pair of lovely smooth flat concrete cycle tracks, one each side, wide enough to very comfortably ride in a social pack, at speed if that’s your thing, and still have space for overtakers when it’s needed:
Or this single bidirectional track on a quieter route, still plenty wide enough for riding sociably:
Bidirectional track beside main road in small village, with “children playing” warning:
Pair of tracks on edge of village where space gets constrained:
Or a bidirectional track in rural Belgium:
Absolutely rural main roads need these — wide, fast, prioritised cycle superhighways — and they would be worth it. There’s nothing to say about the design and benefits of these tracks that hasn’t already been said many times already by David Hembrow.
Main roads full of fast moving cars and big trucks are the main barriers that prevent any other attempt to “encourage” cycling from working. But country lanes and village streets have become barriers too, taken over by and conceded to fast cars and big trucks. Fixing those is the interesting bit, and the subject of posts later this week.