December 28, 2014

Much-hailed solar bike path is cracking

Filed under: Bicycles,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 7:00 am


We’ve been posting about this solar cell bike path since 2011 and now the truth is, when this year’s first frost hit the ground, the solar panels cracked.

In November, De Orkaan website had said that the solar cell bike path was possibly a bad idea (Dutch), quoting an article from Renewables International that had dissed the project altogether.

A 70 metre bike path in Krommenie, North Holland was fitted with solar cells, protected by a glass surface ‘strong enough to drive a truck over it’, but apparently not strong enough to deal with a bit of frost. Granted, it was a pilot project, but it is important to show people what failure looks like before the Dutch government spends tons of tax payers’ money on something that doesn’t work.

(Link and photo:

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October 24, 2014

Bike path with solar cells finally being built

Filed under: Bicycles,Dutch first by Orangemaster @ 11:39 am


In 2011 we had a story about a Dutch bike path with solar panels to be built in Krommenie, North Holland by SolaRoad in 2012, but apparently construction is happening right now in October 2014.

A straight stretch of 70 metres of bike path is being fitted with a concrete base, topped with a 1 cm thick layer of crystalline silicon solar cells. The solar cells will be protected by a thick, heavy-duty glass surface strong enough to drive a truck over it.

The Netherlands’ 140,000 kilometres of bike paths could be built out of 400 to 500 km2 of solar cells, which would provide a much bigger surface than the total roof surface of all Dutch houses, to give you an idea of future possibilities.

(Link:, Photo: SolaRoad)

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May 13, 2013

Bike path under Rijksmuseum Amsterdam to open tomorrow

Filed under: Bicycles by Branko Collin @ 9:33 am

On a dreary Saturday I snapped this picture of the entrance to the recently opened Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

This is also a photo of the only bike path in the world that bicycles are not (yet) allowed on, which is why there are barriers and security guards.

When in 2003 renovations started the architects came up with a plan to move the museum entrance from the side to the tunnel underneath the museum. This would bring museum visitors in closer proximity to the cyclists who fully expected to still be able to use their age old bike path. The footpath (not shown here) is several meters wide, but as anybody who lives in Amsterdam knows, tourists will not look where they walk.

Museum director Wim Pijbes has traditionally been against the bike path, Eindhovens Dagblad reports, and probably would shed no tears if people stopped noticing that there was one.

Although the Netherlands does have a concept of right of way (recht van overpad), people here make much less of deal about it than in, say, the United Kingdom where the Rambler’s Association actively works to keep public paths over private property open. The Rijksmuseum is, as the name implies, publicly owned.

The new Rijksmuseum opened on 13 April of this year. The bike path will be opened tomorrow evening, although the city reserves the right to close it ‘at busy times’ until it has had the time to put in extra security measures.

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February 11, 2013

How cities clear bike paths of snow

Filed under: Automobiles,Bicycles by Branko Collin @ 1:15 pm

Bicycle blogger Mark Wagenbuur has enough clout these days that when he calls the city’s department for public works to tell them they forgot to clear a bike path of snow, they go out and clear the bike path.

The city of Den Bosch went even further and invited him over for an in-depth explanation of how clearing the roads works, which led to a fascinating blog post and video (in English):

A city of the size of Den Bosch (140,000 inhabitants) in this day and age works with sophisticated technology to detect and combat slippery road surfaces. Sensors in the road, weather reports from different sources and agreements with other governments and other departments all feed information to the five people who make sure someone is on duty around the clock during the winter months. “The city in turn warns the smaller towns in the vicinity, which cannot afford to have such a sophisticated system themselves.”

(Photo: me. Video: YouTube / Markenlei)

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November 4, 2012

Heated bike paths and glow in the dark roads

Filed under: Automobiles,Bicycles by Branko Collin @ 9:43 pm

The towns of Utrecht and Zutphen will start experiments with heating bike paths, DutchNews reports.

The news site quotes a Telegraaf article that says these experiments will start ‘soon’. The idea is that ‘asphalt collectors’ will collect and store the summer heat, and release this energy in the winter to stop ice from forming. This could reduce accidents:

‘The result is cooler asphalt in summer and a warmer surface in winter,’ Marcel Boerefijn, the project’s leader, is quoted as saying. In the future, footpaths could also be kept ice-free using the same techniques, he said.

Boerefijn says the new surface and heat collection system will cost between €30,000 and €40,000 a kilometre – about the same as it costs to lay new asphalt.

Car drivers need not feel left out. In 2013 a “few hundred metres of glow in the dark, weather-indicating road will be installed in the province of Brabant” according to Wired.

The special paint needed for these glow in the dark roads was developed by Studio Roosegaarde and will be used to create road markings.

The studio has also been working on a paint that will be invisible until the temperature drops below a certain point. This could be used according to designer Daan Roosegaarde to indicate that the road is slippery.

The idea is to not only use more sustainable methods of illuminating major roads, thus making them safer and more efficient, but to rethink the design of highways at the same time as we continue to rethink vehicle design. As Studio Roosegaarde sees it, connected cars and internal navigation systems linked up to the traffic news represent just one half of our future road management systems — roads need to fill their end of the bargain and become intelligent, useful drivers of information too.

See also: A Dutch bike path with solar panels

(Photo by Flickr user comedynose, some rights reserved)

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July 17, 2012

Should the bollards on bike paths stay or go?

Filed under: Bicycles by Orangemaster @ 4:08 pm

Cyclists union Fietsersbond says it’s high time to remove bollards from bike paths, which account for some 300 serious injuries every year in Amsterdam, and surely across the country. The city still has a lot of them (quite different from the one in the picture), but how much of a big deal is it? What if people just watched out a bit more or is that too easy to say?

Wikipedia says since trucks push over the bollards and smaller cars pass between them, the use of bollards doesn’t prevent cars from parking on sidewalks. Sidewalks in Amsterdam are currently being slightly elevated from the streets, meaning that the bollards are no longer needed to separate the sidewalk from the street.”

So why still have them on bike paths? And is removing them worth it?

When cycling home slightly drunk from the pub, tired from work or through rain that cuts down on your visibility, you can miss a lot on the bike path, including things like broken glass (nails?) à  la Tour de France. You could be that cargo bike mum arguing with your whinging offspring or being the douchebag chatting with your BFF on the phone not paying any attention to stuff on the road.

If the bollards don’t work anyways, why not just get rid of them? It would save 300 trips to the hospital. You could also assume than many of those trips are tourists, blame tourists for making this an issue and just say that people should pay more attention when they cycle.

Either way, pick the cheapest is my Amsterdam answer. I’m more worried about the douchebags on the phone, especially the ones cycling with children, reminding me what bad parenting looks like.

(Link, Photo: Jihyun David)

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December 14, 2010

Speeding scooters, the curse of bike paths

Filed under: Bicycles by Branko Collin @ 10:40 am

A couple of months back a reader asked if the growing popularity of mopeds detracted from bicycle infrastructure. I could not answer him back then, but now I can. The Fietsersbond (Cyclists’ Union) reports that the moped type known as ‘snorfiets’ has become a plague on the bike path, mostly because they go much faster than they are allowed.

A limited study held by the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management. concluded that 96% of all ‘snorfietsen’ go faster than their legal limit, averaging 34 km/h (the legal limit being 25 km/h). About 40% of all collisions between mopeds and cyclists are because the former either brake too late or do not keep enough distance.

Traditionally there has been a split between regular mopeds and snorfietsen in the Netherlands. The former were allowed to go 40 km/h, but their drivers had to have insurance, wear helmets, and pass a test. The slower ‘snorfietsen’ were considered bicycles with an assist engine and had a dopey image.

In 1999 the Fietsersbond managed to get the fast moped banished to the main road. Moped drivers had to mix it with the cars instead of the much slower bicycles. Nobody knows why young people started driving the uncool snorfiets. Maybe drivers felt unsafe among much heavier cars or maybe they realised a snorfiets is almost the same amount of fun but without all the rules, maybe something else or a mix. What also may have helped is that manufacturers started producing snorfietsen with that cool, Trevi Fountain scooter look.

The problem according to Thomas Aling of the Utrecht police is that being young and owning engine driven vehicles doesn’t mix very well: “At that age, looking cool is what matters, and the safety of others is unimportant.”

(Source: De Vogelvrije Fietser (PDF), Photo of Solex snorfiets by FaceMePLS, some rights reserved)

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November 24, 2010

Permanent play street in part of Potgieterstraat

Filed under: Automobiles,Bicycles by Branko Collin @ 4:00 pm

We saw this huge on-street playground under construction at the Potgieterstraat in Amsterdam yesterday. It is basically taking over the space where the road was.

This used to be a one-way street for cars, with a two-way bike path and a smaller playground. The neighbourhood wanted more room for children to play and so the decision was made (PDF) to ban cars from this part of the Potgieterstraat altogether. You can still bike through it though.

I did some Googling. Play streets have been a feature of Belgian cities since the 1970s, and have also been introduced to London and New York. In all those cases the play streets aren’t permanent fixtures, and cars are never completely banned from the street.

In a way this Amsterdam variant isn’t that much different. Bicycle streets are fairly common here, something I only really started to appreciate when Google Streetview came around, and I noticed that I could not get views for many streets in Amsterdam simply because the Streetview car wasn’t allowed to go there. Bicycles are kept separate from the playground though.

Illustration: the old situation, as seen from the other side.

Furthermore: Orangemaster points out to me that the De Genestetstraat has been a play street for two years. It took a prolonged legal battle for the borough to push this one through—perhaps that is why the Google Streetview car was able to take pictures there.

(Source second photo: Google Streetview)

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