January 31, 2016

Bicycle tunnel built in a single weekend in Utrecht

Filed under: Bicycles by Branko Collin @ 11:49 pm

bike-tunnel-utrechtThe Netherlands is known for taking better care of its cyclists than other countries, but this may be taking the cake.

The sign at the beginning of the video says it all: “Spinoza Bridge closed from 2 May 9 p.m. to 4 May 11 p.m.” Two days in 2014. That is how little time it took the city of Utrecht to tear apart the bridge, put tunnel parts in the gap and repair the bridge. And all this for cyclists.

The city then took 12 more months to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, which included placing tile murals by Louise Hessel. Why the tunnel had to be built so quickly is unknown, but a report from 2009 (PDF) mentions that traffic crossing the bridge would be seriously inconvenienced if the bridge had to be closed. The same report argues vehemently against building the tunnel. Apart from the effects on traffic it mentions that the bridge’s counterweight room would ‘conflict with’ the tunnel and that the costs of alternative solutions would be humongous.

In 2015 the city started its campaign Utrecht Fietst (Utrecht Cycles) and (the run up to) this campaign may have created the funds and the political will to improve the cycling situation around the Spinoza Bridge after all. Alderman Lot van Hooijdonk opened the tunnel on 28 November 2014.

A more recent cycling development in Utrecht is that the city has closed a lot of bike paths to mopeds, which aren’t allowed to go faster than 25 kph, but reach much higher speeds in practice.

See also: The city of Utrecht received 5,000 answers when it asked which traffic lights should go

(Illustration: crop of the video, link: Mark Wagenbuur)

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April 25, 2014

Glow in the dark road: from wonder to failure

Filed under: Automobiles by Orangemaster @ 1:31 pm

Two weeks ago the art-cum-safety project Glowing Lines was launched, featuring 500 metres of glow in the dark road near Oss, Noord-Brabant. According to the television station in Oss and this Facebook post (video), the lines don’t glow anymore because they react badly to humidity. So it’s back to the drawing board for Daan Roosegaarde and Heijmans Infrastructure, creators of the project, which we wrote about back in 2012 along with their heated bike paths.

The comments on the above-mentioned video say that the first day, everything worked fine and on day two, it stopped working. And here’s what it looked like when it worked properly. There’s a big difference!

(Links: www.omroepbrabant.nl-1, www.omroepbrabant.nl-2, Photo of Coen Tunnel, Amsterdam)

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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 15, 2012

Automobile repair companies face crisis

Filed under: Automobiles by Branko Collin @ 9:52 am

Dutch car repair shops are having a tough time. Their turnover has been dropping for years, NOS reports, and it’s all got to do with improved safety of both cars and roads.

The news site says safety improvements to cars, such as automatic parking systems and adaptive cruise control, prevent accidents. Car crashes have further been reduced due to the replacement of many crossroads by roundabouts.

Trade organisation Focwa believes that turnover will drop by several percent in 2012.

With regards to road safety Eamelje (where we found this story) adds that the 2,000 alcoholsloten (ignition interlock devices) that have been installed in cars in the Netherlands are good news on the one hand, but on the other, a bitter reminder of how many drivers overestimate their ability to keep a heavy vehicle under control. An ignition interlock device is a breathalyser coupled with a car lock. Before starting the motor, the driver must exhale into the device. If the blood alcohol level is too high, the car won’t start.

NOS reports that these devices cost 4,000 euro apiece, and that convicted drivers must pay for the device themselves. Convicted drivers are also legally limited to driving cars with these devices installed—bad news for professional drivers. Only Sweden and the Netherlands make use of ignition interlock devices on a large scale. Experienced drivers that have been caught with a 0.13% blood alcohol level are typically convicted to use these devices.

Twenty percent of all traffic deaths in the Netherlands are connected to drunk driving—130 of 661 road deaths in 2011.

(Photo by Photocapy, some rights reserved)

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July 1, 2012

Floating bicycle roundabout in Eindhoven

Filed under: Architecture,Automobiles,Bicycles by Branko Collin @ 6:50 pm

The city of Eindhoven wanted to change the roundabout at the Noordbrabantse laan back to a regular intersection, but figured that this would be too dangerous for bicyclists. Their novel approach? To keep the roundabout for bicyclists, but shift it a couple of metres up into the air.

The engineers of ipv Delft designed a bridge that hangs off a giant pylon in the middle. The pylon is 70 metres high, and 24 cables support the bridge. A concrete nubbin appears to protect the pylon from adventurous heavy goods vehicles.

This video by Omroep Brabant shows what the bridge looks like from above:

The bridge was opened for the first time 3 weeks ago, but closed down again when it turned out that the wind caused the cables to vibrate dangerously. Since then dampeners have been installed that should fix the problem.

Eindhoven could have opted for bicycle tunnels instead of a bridge, but the city felt tunnels lack ‘social safety’, which Fietsberaad describes as “the extent to which (in this case) bicyclists feel free of threat or confrontation with violence”. (In other words, tunnels are dark and may be full of bad guys.)

(Link: Bright. Photo: ipv Delft. Video: Youtube/Omroep Brabant. More photos at Wegenforum)

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December 26, 2011

Postcodes and road maps liberated in the Netherlands

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 5:27 pm

It took a couple of lawsuits to put their prospective gatekeepers into place, but both the Dutch postal code data and the Dutch road map data have been set free.

Postcodes used to be determined by the Dutch PTT, and when the company privatized they somehow started claiming ownership. When the government started handing out postcodes for free through its kadaster (land registration office), the new company now called Post.nl sued them, and lost. The judge has determined that starting February 2012, everybody may use the postcode database for free, Gelderlander writes.

Similarly map makers Falkplan lost a lawsuit against the government where the latter published map data via freedom of information requests, Arnoud Engelfriet writes. Falkplan’s angle seems to have been to disallow competition, plain and simple.

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November 12, 2011

Most optical fibre connections are not being used

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 12:25 pm

Webwereld reported last Wednesday that 72 % of all optical fibre connections in the Netherlands are currently not being used.

In September 844,000 households in the Netherlands were connected to fibre by Reggefiber, 38 % up from last year. Only 240,000 households were actually customers using the network.

Telecom analyst David Yoshikawa told Webwereld that Reggefiber probably needed to step it up a notch if it wanted to remain able to pay its bills. He also offered a number of explanations for the low ‘activation’ rate:

  • Cable internet companies put in a lot of work to woo customers.
  • Reggefiber lowered its self-imposed limitation on the number of interested households that are required for a neighbourhood to be hooked up to the network from 40 % to 30 %.
  • On a number of locations, especially in big cities, Reggefiber started digging without measuring interest first.

A comparison: I can get 60 megabit downstream internet over fibre at XS4all for 65 euro per month, including telephony and television. UPC offers the same speed over cable for just 52 euro. For fibre to be worthwhile, it needs to offer both higher speeds and applications that people could use that higher speed for. Already having the fastest internet connections of Europe is not going help acceptance of a marginally faster connection type.

As an aside: at least digging up the roads is well regulated here. Anybody who wants to lay cables and pipes can, but they need to coordinate with other stakeholders using a government run web app called KLIC, so that roads remain as unmolested as possible.

From the KLIC website:

Excavators must notify Kadaster-KLIC before starting excavation work. Instructions for submitting a notification are presented below in the section ‘Submitting a Notification of Excavation Work’.

Your notification will be passed on to the network operators who have underground cables or pipelines in the area where you intend to excavate. These operators will send the relevant information about their cables or pipelines to Kadaster electronically, which then compiles the information and emails you a link to download the relevant information for your excavation site.

You must consult this information when undertaking excavation work to avoid damaging cables and pipelines. The maps must be available at the excavation site.

See also: Gigabit internet connection to the houseboat.

(Photo by Mephisto, some rights reserved, based on a photo by Daniel Mayara)

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September 26, 2011

How red asphalt is laid for bicycle riders

Filed under: Automobiles,Bicycles by Branko Collin @ 9:14 am

Mark Wagenbuur published this video of road workers resurfacing Parklaan in Den Bosch back in May, but I felt it was still interesting enough to share with the one or two of you who don’t already religiously follow his work. He wrote an accompanying piece at the A View from the Cycle Path blog.

Note that alongside the regular black asphalt for cars, two strips of red asphalt are laid. These will become the bike lanes. Two workers are continuously measuring the width of the prospective bike lines. I am not sure, but I assume this is to make sure the bike lanes have a minimum width. Remarkable, as there is no legal requirement to do so.

I don’t know why they use red for bike lanes. According to a 2002 article called Fietsvoorzieningen brengen kleur op straat by Fietsberaad, the decision is mainly a political one. It highlights that politicians supposedly care. Fietsberaad said in 2002 that red asphalt is three times more expensive to make.

Note that the famous Dutch Tiger Stone automatic road paver can also do bike paths by simply putting in the right coloured bricks.

(Video: Youtube / Markenlei)

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January 29, 2011

Amsterdam traffic 1900-1930 (video)

Filed under: Automobiles,Bicycles by Branko Collin @ 4:24 pm

Cycling videographer Mark Wagenbuur has released another doozy. His video shows traffic in early 20th century Amsterdam, with — you guessed it — a focus on bicycles.

I can’t help but notice that after a century:

  • People still cycle on the Leidsestraat, although it’s forbidden.
  • The corner of Spui and Singel is still riddled with lousy infrastructure.
  • A ferry still carries thousands of pedestrians and cyclists towards Orangemaster’s old neighbourhood, although these days buses take the tunnel.
  • Pets still run across the Vijzelstraat, but these days cars go much faster, and the cat I saw cross a year ago was lucky to come out of that clash alive.

What’s changed: there are no more horse, dog, or man-drawn carts for transport. Compare it to this vid which starts at the exact same spot on the Leidsestraat.

(Video: YouTube / Mark Wagenbuur)

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January 10, 2010

Etten-Leur buys bath salts against frost

Filed under: Automobiles,Nature by Branko Collin @ 4:29 pm

The city of Etten-Leur in Noord-Brabant has purchased 18 tonnes of bath salts to sprinkle roads with, in an attempt to keep the roads from freezing.

Salt lowers the temperature at which water freezes. Municipalities and Rijkswaterstaat keep about 100,000 tonnes of coarse ‘strooizout’ (lit. sprinkling salt) ready to keep roads clear from snow and black ice at temperatures of about -10 degrees Celsius or higher. Because of this year’s wintry conditions, some municipalities have already run out of stock.

Etten-Leur’s bath salt stems from a batch condemned by its producers. Some of the salt already had perfume and colouring added. The city expects to not have to use its bath salts, as new shipments of regular road salt is expected to arrive this weekend. According to Radio Netherlands, “the coloured bath salts smell of lavender, green tea and mango.”

The minister of internal affairs, Guusje ter Horst, has given the green light to produce more road salt than usual, despite environmental concerns. Strooizout is a very aggressive product that can rust cars faster, changing the selection of fauna along roads, leading to maritime plants growing inland.

(Photo by Flickr user sburke2478, some rights reserved)

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