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Why I love the Netherlands

In a recent thread, “OrangeKiwi”  posted this link to an aerial image of a roundabout in the Netherlands, which is also shown below. Looking at this aerial reminded me of just how much I love the Netherlands. Having recently returned to Auckland after living/studying in Amsterdam for a year I’m definitely feeling the transport culture shock.

 

 

Some of the nice design elements of this roundabout include:

  • Pedestrian crossings on all approaches (O.M.G.)
  • Dedicated cycle lanes approaching and around the roundabout (O.M.G.)
  • Notably “non-flared” (i.e. straight) vehicle approaches, which encourage vehicles to slow down before entering the roundabout
  • An abundance of street trees and landscaping

It’s the overwhelming attention to detail in Dutch street design that I find most impressive. And what I wanted to highlight in this post is just how all these design elements add up to define the amenity and safety associated with the wider pedestrian environment. To get things started, in the images below I’ve calculated some key dimensions for two roundabouts; the one shown above from the Netherlands and one from Auckland (Dannemora). Both are reasonably modern single lane roundabouts located in urban residential environments. In fact I’d probably suggest that the one in the Netherlands probably occupies a relatively strategic location in the wider street network, whereas the one in Auckland is much more sedate – hence should have a smaller footprint.

The reality is quite different. In the image below you can see that the roundabout geometry in the Netherlands is generally smaller, especially in terms of the width of the lanes approaching the roundabout, which are only approximately 3.1m wide in the Netherlands versus 5m in New Zealand. The increased width of approach lanes in the Auckland roundabout seems to be entirely attributable to the way that on-street parking has been accommodated within the street cross-section: As you approach the Dutch roundabout you find that on-street parking has been accommodated in a distinct tiled area located to the side of the approach lane, but in the Auckland roundabout we’ve just widened that puppy out. This effectively means that whenever there are no cars parked on-street (and often there won’t be), then Auckland’s drivers will have enough tarmac to launch themselves into orbit around the roundabout at Mach 3 speed, which means that the intersection will be that much less safe for everyone.

But how do these geometric differences impact on the wider pedestrian environment? One of the key parameters for pedestrians is what I call the “walk circumference” of the roundabout – that is the distance a pedestrian would have to walk to get around the roundabout (NB: No one would actually walk all the way around a roundabout, but all pedestrians will walk at least partway around). In the case of the Dutch roundabout we see that the walk circumference is 170m, whereas in the Auckland roundabout it blows out to 200m. So what this tells us is that our simple geometric choices have increased the distance pedestrians must walk by approximately 15% – and that’s even before additional delays associated with the lack of pedestrian crossings is included.

Perhaps as interesting as the difference in the lengths of the walk circumference between these two roundabouts is the difference in their underlying shapes. If you look at the walk circumference paths drawn above you can see that the Dutch roundabout traces out an almost perfect circle. This means that pedestrians navigating the Dutch roundabout will (at almost all times) feel more or less like they are travelling in the direction that they want to go. Contrast this with the Auckland roundabout, where the walk circumference traces out more of a “Prussian cross” like shape. Where the walk circumference bends away from the roundabout, pedestrians will feel like they are walking (curving) away from their intended direction of travel. While some of you might think this is a very subtle difference, I’m fairly confident that it is an important determinant of whether pedestrians will follow the path that was provided for them, or instead find their own path across the roundabout – where the latter is undesirable for all road users.

So it seems that the Dutch could teach us a thing or two about street design. One is that the physical footprint of our vehicle lanes is simply too wide, especially as one approaches intersections, and the other is that we should design our pedestrian paths so that they feel direct – even if we are asking people to deviate slightly for reasons of safety. Ultimately, this comparison went a long way to reaffirming why I felt so much at home in the Netherlands: As a pedestrian or cyclists you feel like the streets have been designed partly with your needs in mind.

That’s not to suggest that in the Netherlands pedestrians or cyclists always have right-of-way, because they most certainly don’t in some places (and for good reason), but it is to suggest that the needs of pedestrians and cyclists are at least almost always respected. As discussed in my last post, there are many intersections in Auckland City Centre itself where pedestrians could not cross the road even if they were prepared to wait for a signal, let alone enjoy the kinds of dedicated crossings available in the Netherlands, even at roundabouts located in residential neighbourhoods of small towns.

All this begs the questions of why pedestrian/cycle design in New Zealand lags so far behind many places and how we might do better? To get the ball rolling I’d suggest that we should consider the forced immigration of the entire Dutch women’s hockey team, along with the forced deportation of all traffic engineers over the age of 30. There may be other potential solutions – what do you think?

141 comments to Why I love the Netherlands

  • Luke C

    I note in Palmerston North the newer roundabouts are definitely better, with pedestrian refuges and painted cycle lanes, but still miles behind Netherlands. Engineers here obsessed with solving any issues like this with paint. Yes it helps a bit, but raised and separated structures are much better to slow traffc down.
    Guess main issue with Dutch design is do cyclists coming around roundabout have right of way? Yes the painted unseparated lanes in NZ can be dangerous, but it is generally clear cyclists are in the traffic flow, however with Dutch example cycleway part of pavement, so would take longer for cyclists to traverse roundabout.

    • OrangeKiwi

      In the Netherlands, all traffic on a roundabout has right of way – including cyclists. The cycle paths, although physically separated from the roadway, are considered part of the roundabout. So yes, cyclists travelling the roundabout have right of way over entering and exiting vehicles.

      The roundabout design takes all this into account: white markings, narrow roadway, highly distinctive cycle paths at some distance to the exits etc. There’s even enough room for an exiting vehicle to stop and wait for cyclists without holding up the next vehicle. So in general it makes for a really safe “experience” for cyclists to cross, who with due care could confidently cross the roundabout in a matter of seconds…

      By the way the credit should go to John Smith for pointing out the roundabout in the thread mentioned…

    • Those lane marking suggest that pedestrians and cyclists have right of way over vehicles at that intersection.

  • Max

    “This effectively means that whenever there are no cars parked on-street (and often there won’t be), then Auckland’s drivers will have enough tarmac to launch themselves into orbit around the roundabout at Mach 3 speed, which means that the intersection will be that much less safe for everyone.”

    It’s also due to the fact that we don’t provide for cyclists off-road. In Auckland, narrowing the throat down DOES happen in some newer designs, such as the one recently built at Hutchison Ave / South Lynn Road. Exactly to reduce car speeds. And because we DONT provide cycle paths, this then immediately creates a dangerous pinch point for cyclists.

    I wish we had a more holistic design culture. Sigh.

  • Max

    “along with the forced deportation of all traffic engineers over the age of 30.”

    Okay, that would be me back to Germany. I’ll teach them the Kiwi way of doing road design then, if you don’t want me, Stu ;-)

  • obi

    One of the things about Dutch towns is that (excepting Amsterdam and a few of the other large centers), they’re pretty quiet because a lot of the traffic is either routed around the town or routed through the town on a road that is like an at-grade (sometimes only single lane each way) expressway. I lived for a while in Aalsmeer and the N201 was a major route that cut through the center of the town, but wasn’t lined with businesses and houses. Further to the north west, the N201 looped around Hoofddorp which was a pleasant modern town with a roundabout just like the one pictured. If you click the link to Wassenaar you’ll see an example to the south with the N44 avoiding the town. The N44 is almost motorway grade and turns in to the A44 just a few kilometers to the north, while the enormous A4 runs through the countryside just to the east.

    On the other hand, through traffic sort of forces itself through the center of NZ towns. Even Hamilton doesn’t have a useful bypass and all the traffic flows past shops and houses. That’s pretty much the case every where in NZ apart from areas of Auckland and Wellington that are on their motorways. The Dutch have worked out that bypassing towns means that towns are more civilised places.

  • Owen Thompson

    After looking at that photo, I can see I like women’s hockey a lot.

  • Phil

    Makes no sense to compare Wayne Francis Drive with that road in the Netherlands. Again you focus on things to close and fail to see the big picture. You need to look at the whole area and see how its been designed. and look at the area of East Tamaki and you’ll see why that round a bout was designed that way. it may not be the right way for everyone but it does work as it was designed.
    They way you just complain about they way things are in Auckland is as closed minded as the people that design them.

    • Stu Donovan

      Phil, from the way you write I’m guessing you a) don’t like me and b) don’t agree with me. Both are completely understandable – but please don’t describe me as ‘close-minded’ because you don’t know me.

      The problem this post is highlighting is our design standards. Yes the roundabout on Wayne Francis was designed that way, but the standards we use are obviously different from what is used in the Netherlands. What I’ve tried to do is point out the advantages of the latter for pedestrians. Dam straight “it’s not right for everyone” – what we design is crap for anyone who does not drive.

    • Stu Donovan

      P.s. From re-examining the aerials I really can’t see your point, in fact it seems to contradict what you are implying: The roundabout in the Netherlands occupies a far more strategic position in the traffic network compared to the one in Auckland. So if anything, the Dutch roundabout should be designed more with vehicles in mind. I’m not sure about the traffic volumes in each location, but the design elements I refer to would not have much (if any) impact on capacity. So you’re really not putting a good argument together here Phil, much like the previous post.

      • Phil

        The Netherlands one obviously has a higher demand for bikes and walking, while at Wayne Francis the demand is for people driving cars.

        • Max

          Self-fulfilling prophecy anyone?

          You aren’t really Steven Joyce, by the way, because that was always his key argument.

          • Phil

            Haha I’m not against making places more bike and walking friendly, Most people drive, yet your only concern is people walking or biking. Your all obviously only wanting to see things your way and not open to other options, which is why things are so badly designed because the people designing them aren’t taking everything into account.

          • Phil, we’re coming to this from a real life context where the base case is near total provision for private vehicles. The overt concern for walking and biking (and public transport) is the only way to achieve more choice and other options. It;s pretty hard to have more concern for car drivers when they already have all the priority!

            It’s not like we’re saying “here is an intersection that works for everyone, lets change it so it gives heaps of provision for cyclists at the expense of every one else”. The argument is more like “here is an intersection that has almost total design priority for vehicles, let’s wind that back a touch so it works well for everyone”.

          • Stu Donovan

            P.s, Phil – I love cars and I love driving. I’m not “close-minded” to the needs of drivers; but just observing that what we have now is crap for peds and cyclists. You seem to think that I’m out to destroy the ability for vehicles to move about – not at all, vehicle movements just need to be managed better.

        • Stu Donovan

          Phil, this argument is not really about demand.

          It’s about how intersection design needs should deliver a certain level of respect for all modes. I certainly appreciate the need to meet the dominant demand for travel (being cars), but in so many places in NZ vehicle demands are being met in a way that unnecessarily (this is a key word) disadvantages non-motorised modes. Even in those locations where pedestrians are dominant they do not receive priority.

          In terms of the Dannemora roundabout, narrower approach lanes would have little to no impact on drivers, except that vehicles would approach/circulate the roundabout slightly slower, which would improve vehicle and pedestrian safety. Similarly for the differences in the way that pedestrian paths and on-street parking is configured. You could provide the same things in a more “Dutch” way and get a better outcome for peds without disadvantaging drivers. The design elements I have pointed out above fit into the category of improvements that could be achieved with little to no effort/cost aside from small changes in geometric dimensions. You know it’s the truth!

          And for the record, walking rates may not be that much higher in small rural towns in the Netherlands than they are in metropolitan Auckland. MoT’s household travel survey shows that “walking makes up 13 percent of total time travelled and 17 percent of the number of trip legs” in New Zealand. Our walking rates are higher in urban centres and highest in the 15-24 age group. Basically, walking is more popular in NZ than you think; NZ’s current approach to street design completely undervalues walking’s contribution to meeting transport needs, as well as wider health/economic benefits.

    • Phil – for sake of (quality) argument can we have a bit of detail to help me understand why it “makes no sense to compare” one 4-way, 2-lane, ~25m internal diameter roundabout, in a suburban setting — with another 4-way, 2-lane, ~25m internal diameter roundabout, in a suburban setting?

      • Stu Donovan

        Thank you Greg. Nice bear outfit by the way.

      • obi

        The Dutch roundabout looks deceptively larger than it actually is. I think it is the size of the roads leading in to it. The SW-NE road must be 30-35m wide footpath-to-footpath with a grassed center reservation, off-carriageway parking, and landscaping between the carriageway and the parking. The Auckland equivalent is around a third the width. Not everywhere has the space for a road the size of the Dutch one. You’d think the Dutch wouldn’t either, given the density of the population. So it might just be a case that Wassenaar is a town of 20k people while Auckland is a large city, even by Dutch standards. I don’t recall tidy roundabouts like the Wassenaar one in Amsterdam… More typical is the sort of anti-pedestrian monster roundabout you’d see at Surinameplein, or the non-roundabout chaos at Leidseplein with its mess of traffic and tram lanes and extremely rounded rather than squared corners.

        I’m sure that there are better examples. I’m using places I used to walk through on a reasonably frequent basis.

        • Stu Donovan

          Hi Obi, try these roundabouts out west and south:

          http://goo.gl/maps/xd9Wc and http://goo.gl/maps/9F2fk (big and beautiful)
          http://goo.gl/maps/3aoLK (smaller and more complex, with tram tracks to one side)
          http://goo.gl/maps/XNPSm (my favourite – more of a square about, with a park in the middle)

          • obi

            The one ending in xd9Wc is nice. I like the way it is sort of surrounded by water on most sides. It does illustrate one of my points though… All the radial roads are sort of mini urban expressways with buildings set way back from the road and limited access to the radial roads from buildings and intersecting roads. If this was NZ we’d line the radials with houses, driveways, and dairies. The Dutch alternative obviously improves the traffic flow, makes the road safer since there are less turns going on and people are generally further away from the road, and is a more pleasant environment for people in my opinion.

            The squareabout threw me with the cross-squareabout pedestrian crossing. Surely that must be dangerous, I thought. But it allows pedestrians to get across the diagonals with maximum efficiency while they only need to do two road crossings. I approve! Although whether the center of a squareabout is a viable urban mini-park is probably debatable.

      • Phil

        Greg – So your saying we only need to design one type of round a bout and it will work perfectly in every situation? Isn’t that whats happened and why we have problems?
        A round a bout designed for cars does not work in a pedestrian environment, and if the round a bout is designed for pedestrians it will cause problems for cars.

        • Max

          So you are saying a suburban roundabout in the middle of housing SHOULD be designed with cars first? Wow. You obviously never had kids, or never played with them outside / walked with them to the park…

        • Stu Donovan

          No, he is saying that the roundabouts I have used in this post are reasonably comparable, while you were suggesting they were not. This is not about a roundabout designed for “cars” versus “peds”, it’s about making sure we don’t unnecessarily and unintentionally obstruct pedestrian movements through underlying geometric parameters.

          You don’t seem to realise (or prepared to accept) that the Dutch roundabout works almost as well for vehicles as the New Zealand one does. It’s not always either or – you can provide for multiple modes at once you know.

  • Phil

    Me describing you as “close minded” without knowing you is like you in the other post calling the traffic engineers “douche bag’s”, or do you personally know them all?

    If you look at the other round a bouts in the Netherlands you will see that some are pretty much designed exactly like some of ours,

    There is not really any problem with the design of the Wayne Francis round a bout, I think its more a personal preference which you want to complain about.

    • Max

      Phil, Stu likes to poke fun at “old school” engineers – and you can like that or not – but he’s actually made actual arguments here, which is a lot more than just raising an opinion “like” or “like not”. To summarise, the Kiwi roundabout works a lot worse for peds and cyclists, and encourages greater speeds (which is inappropriate for a residential area in any case, and creates higher crash risks / worse crash results. Based on THESE ARGUMENTS / FACTS, he (and I) then conclude that we prefer roundabout A over roundabout B. Sure, it’s still “an opinion”, but it’s a lot more than “personal preference which you want to complain about.”

      • Stu Donovan

        Thanks Max, yes that’s the general state of the argument here. I prefer A over B for the reasons Max has noted. I still don’t know why Phil prefers B over A, he seems to complain about our position more than he argues for his position. Very frustrating.

    • Stu Donovan

      Phil, I include myself in both the traffic engineer and douche-bag categories. Apologies if you were offended by my earlier comment; it was posted tongue in cheek.

  • Luke C

    There is no problem with the Wayne Francis roundabout if you are a car driver. However if you are a cyclist or pedestrian the Dutch one is far safer and more comfortable to use, especially children and elderly. In East Tamaki to cross road one has to cross an 11m carriageway with no refuge, in the Netherlands it is only 3.5m.
    Some of the ones in the newer areas of Flat Bush like http://goo.gl/maps/HDt9r have improved somewhat, at least having refuges in the middle of the lane that narrow the lane to 4 or 5m. Still could be much improved though.

    • Max

      The improvement is pretty marginal though – inconsistenty over the various arms, refuges not even wide enough to cater for a mother with a pram etc… better, but not by much.

    • Stu Donovan

      Yes, that is an improvement. The roundabouts emerging in Hingaia development (peninsula west of Papakura) are also better than the one shown above.

  • Icebicd

    The argument that Stu and the other pro-Dutch roundabout posters seem to be making is that the Dutch version is significantly better for cyclists and pedestrians, without being obviously worse for cars. If I understand Phil’s position correctly, he seems to feel the NZ version is significantly better for cars, therefore the NZ design is a valid choice in a car-dominant culture. I’d be interested to know which features of the NZ roundabout he feels makes it better for cars than the Dutch version.

  • AJT

    Generally I find alot of designers, architects in NZ are very practically focused. They don’t seem to understand the human aspects of design. Maybe it all comes down to saving money? I really believe with the innovation precinct we need a design district just to illustrate how important this should be in all aspects of products and infrastructure.

    Good spotting on the hockey team. I’m also for an airline to set up a direct flight to Brazil, Argentina or Chile. It was time one was reestablished! After all they’re some of our closest neighbours.

    • Stu Donovan

      Yes I think saving money is one part of it. The Dutch roundabout will definitely have higher construction and maintenance costs.

  • Matthew

    What I like about the Dutch roundabout is the median refuge for pedestrians. Like Julie-Anne with her dislike of slip-lanes (or turn left anytime with care lanes), which is a distaste I share with her for their anti-pedestrian qualities, I find raised medians in the middle of the road to be one of the best things for pedestrians. It means only having to look one way and only having to give way to one direction of cars. It also allows mid-block jaywalking in relative safety for most pedestrians (maybe not for kids and the elderly). A city designed for jaywalkers is a city designed for pedestrians. Yes I jaywalk. Happy motoring isn’t going to take away my liberty as a free man to walk in the direction I want to walk.

    In my native Adelaide the concrete median is the standard offering, and I think it is way better than a painted median as it has advantages to both motorists and pedestrians. Firstly it allows for more safety for crossing a road as noted in my first para. Secondly it stops random vehicle movements. It always freaks me out when someone unexpectedly crosses a median line and does a near U-turn into angle parking, or comes out of a random driveway. I much prefer it if those coming out of all those minor streets and driveways have to turn left and then they can do u-turns at designated spots, or work out a different route for themselves. Thirdly its a planting spot for street trees.

    I would so like to rid the streets of a lot of street parking and use the extra width for raised medians and separated cycle paths without fear of dooring.

    I spend a bit of time in Palmerston North and around the Square there are raised tables which are paved with pavers and are at footpath height and not at the road height, and they are great for slowing traffic. But it is ambiguous if they are pedestrian crossings. 4 out of 5 cars stop and give way to pedestrians, but they aren’t actually pedestrian crossings. The ambiguity is going to kill someone and I would recommend that they become designated pedestrian crossings. The traffic has its own inner city bypass, and the pedestrian count is high enough that this makes so much sense to me.

    So get rid of slip lanes. Get rid of a lot of on-street parking (Use a lot of yellow paint). Add raised medians. Add separated bike paths. Slow the cars and get rid of ambiguity on the “raised tables” or whatever they are called.

    And also instead of sending our freeway engineers to Holland, why don’t we have a Dutch planner in residence programme? Get out the people who know how to do it well. Bring over a Dutch traffic planner and his or her family for 12 month stints and tell them to teach us. Just tell them not to bring any liquorice.

    • Stu Donovan

      Well said!

    • Stu Donovan

      I’m on the fence with respect to jay walking. I understand why it happens and understand the value/attractiveness of free/spontaneous pedestrian movement. But I do think there are some benefits from coordinating our pedestrians movements in a somewhat predictable way that allows for traffic to flow predictably.

      The best way forward is, I think, to design transport systems in ways that consider and also positively shape pedestrian desire lines so that people don’t want to jay walk. That is the best thing about the Dutch roundabout – is that it’s design deliberately shapes pedestrian movements so that they can be safely integrated with cycle and vehicle movements.

    • Max

      “4 out of 5 cars stop and give way to pedestrians, but they aren’t actually pedestrian crossings. The ambiguity is going to kill someone ”

      Actually, that ambiguity is often INTENTIONAL. It forces both drivers AND pedestrians to think and pay attention. Amusingly, when placed on a serious, raised table, they can even be safer than if they had zebra crossings. So no, that ambiguity isn’t going to kill someone, it’s helping keep them alive.

      We have a very fine example at Park Road / Domain Drive ourselves, by the way. Oh, how some people in Council must have worried about that one at first ;-)

      • Matthew

        That hasn’t been my experience of them. I’ve thought I’ve been safe and a car which I thought was stopping didn’t and I had to jump back out of the way, and I’ve also been abused by boy-racer types using them where I didn’t wait and kow-tow to their stupid-mobiles as they wanted me to. Now I am more used to them and am becoming more militant and I force cars to stop. I am not daft and won’t do so when it would be dangerous, but I do give them no option to slow and stop where they mightn’t have chosen to. Then I give them a friendly wave to say thanks. Yet for others I’ve observed they may as well be crossing a freeway. Some painted zebra lines, and a ped X-ing sign would even it up, and I would feel safer too.

  • Bryce

    I find the pedestrian crossings in the Netherlands photo interesting. Why do we not have far more pedestrian crossings at these kind of roads? There are a bunch of roads near the local school that would benefit from pedestrian crossings.

    • Stu Donovan

      Bryce – you should check out my other links posted above in response to Obi’s comment. They show a vast number of different roundabout configurations in the Netherlands which all provide for the same level of pedestrian accessibility, even in rather complex traffic environments (check out the square a bout with a tram line and bus lane running around it!).

      • Bryce

        If the Dutch can do it then I can absolutely no reason why we cannot. All it would need is a little momentum I think. If it was initially aimed at school areas then the majority of people wouldn’t complain too loudly. After all, who likes to see kids get hit by cars? You’d have to be a hard nut to voice opposition to that – no? Safer roads by stealth……..

        • Stu Donovan

          Completely agree – we can and should. Good suggestion to start around schools; probably where a lot of the benefits lie. We have to start slowing cars down through the design of our streets. Every street should be assessed for its optimally “safe” speed profile and designed accordingly. I don’t give a fudge if the speed limit is 50km/hr; pull those lanes in and sharpen those turn radii. Make the drivers brake I say!

    • Stu Donovan

      P.s. The main reason we don’t have more crossing is because it’s too dangerous and it’s too dangerous because cars drive too fast and are not used to stopping and by not having crossing we allow cars to drive fast. See the circular logic emerging?

      • Bryce

        30 or 40km/h urban speed limit? We’ve been here before but that would give drivers plenty of time to see a pedestrian and stop. :-). We can but dream and keep pushing our barrow so to speak. I wonder if AT can start ‘sneaking’ them in without car drivers noticing that they are increasing in numbers?

      • Bevan Woodward

        We can break this circular logic by installing ‘raised’ pedestrian crossings along with enhanced road markings, traffic calming and replacing the totally ineffective orange disc with the something like this:
        http://www.nodeju.com/19061/pedestrian-crossing-sign-too-sexy.html

      • Bryce

        Timing is everything Stu. I dropped the little guy off to school today and got handed a Travelwise survey to fill out in relation to how to make it safer for local kids to walk or even cycle to school. There is plenty of area for suggestions too which I’ll be only too happy to fill out in some detail.

        • Stu Donovan

          Awesome Bryce! Maybe provide a link to this blog post or print it ad attach to the survey ;). It’s always good to provide overwhelmingly informed and passionate feedback.

  • TimR

    I like the convenience of the deportation strategy …

    But wouldn’t we probably achieve more by rewriting the rule book? Who writes the Austroads stuff? Who does the teaching on highway engineer courses? I don’t even know if engineers all start out ‘civil’ and then specialise, or if they do a degree in highway design alone.

    What gives? Can someone do a post on the black art of highway engineer training?

    • Max

      TimR – actually, the AUSTROADS guidelines are prettty good these days. They HAVE all these options. Most of these things could be built without deviating much or at all from what si available in the toolkit. It is the fact that our planners / engineers / politicians don’t WANT us to build roundabouts with pedestrian priority over all four arms and circular paths – THAT is what is keeping us back. And the wish to save money on everything but car capacity.

      The guides aren’t too bad – but they still allow either Option A or Option B, and we tend to chose the cheapskate version 9 times out of 10.

  • Stu Donovan

    Nope, we’re saying that these roundabouts are of similar size and in similar contexts but the Dutch one delivers much better outcomes for pedestrians and cyclists with minimal impacts on vehicles.

    • Stu Donovan

      Oh my – James I think you have just made me aware of my own worst nightmare.

      • Bevan Woodward

        Yes, indeed the Catherine Wheel roundabout. Especially intimidating for cyclists and pedestrians, but necessary in order to keep those traffic sewers flowing!

        • Max

          Whee, I spent years routing traffic around THAT VERY roundabout – isn’t it beautiful how pedestrians and cyclists get to see so much mroe of the surroundings while car drivers have to do the short route?

    • Stu Donovan

      I just spent 10 minutes scouring the Netherlands to see if I could find anything remotely that bad in a similar location. Instead I just found more and more examples of wonderfully busy, complex, but beautifully configured roundabouts, like this one from Rotterdam: http://goo.gl/maps/h0dU8

      Funny thing is I bet most students in New Zealand’s engineering schools are not even exposed to this type of design. Shame – because there’s actually a lot more engineering skill and thought in Dutch style roundabouts than there is in ours.

      • harminder

        I wonder if such roundabouts are the result of a negatively-reinforcing spiral:
        Auckland expands through sprawl
        –> inadequate (or delayed) investment in public transport means that cars are the primary means of transport for those living in the new suburbs
        –> the roads in suburb begin to be designed to meet the needs of cars, not pedestrians or cyclists, because very few or none of the latter two groups are visible
        –> residents do not use the PT (or use it less intensively than they could) when it’s available because they are used to their cars
        –> high-density residences aren’t built around the public transport hubs because few residents see the value of living close to such hubs
        –> the suburb gets crowded and sprawl begins again…

        Is this too simplistic and based on a bunch of unrealistic/unfounded assumptions? Looks like an example of Sterman’s systems dynamics to me…

      • Bryce

        Hi Stu. One thing I have noticed from some of these Dutch photos is the fact that residential on-street parking seems to be limited to just one side of the road, therefore freeing up room for on-road cycle lanes even in, what look like, quiet residential streets. It also makes the road narrower so I guess traffic speeds are naturally reduced as well.

      • It’s not perfect, but even a uk industrial estate can manage some basic dimension improvements…

        http://goo.gl/maps/DuZDt

    • David O

      Don and Ian McKinnon are clearly the patron saints of pedestrian-hostile traffic engineering. Between that horror-show roundabout in Albany and the mini-me Dom Road motorway they’ve had named for them two of the least human-friendly spots in Auckland, which is low-praise indeed…

    • David O

      Between Don McKinnon Drive and Ian McKinnon Drive those guys have had two of the most pedestrian-hostile bits of Auckland named after them! Weird.

    • Liam W

      Almost got run over on that one while exiting the stadium after a Blues game…people that night seemed pretty keen on driving through there at 60 despite several thousand people trying to cross the road…

    • Humans Verboten! And note the surrounding landuse is pretty much all carparking…… this isn’t a place but a playground for machines. Clever, no wonder Albany is such a success.

      • Stu Donovan

        It’s a flaming disaster, so much so that it’s worth a post on it’s own.

        • Bryce

          See, I keep getting to told that developers and town planners know what they are doing but the more I see of places like Westgate, Albany and Botany (all very recent developments) the more I am left wondering.

          • Stu Donovan

            I’d like to think they know what they are doing, but recent experience has left me wondering.

          • SteveC

            Albany has been a loooong time in plan form, the layout was pretty much fixed when I started at NSCC nearly 20 years ago and was based on a development in Joondalup, Western Australia, which must put it pretty firmly in the 60s or earlier, so relatively recently built, but hardly contemporary thinking

          • Stu Donovan

            Thanks for the background Steve. Personally I can’t see the similarities to Joondalup (which seems to have a much more regular road network?) but I guess many things got lost in translation.

          • Developers know exactly what they are doing, making money the easiest way they can.

          • Exactly Nick, and why not? It’s up to the regulators to make sure that they do this in ways that doesn’t harm the city. Now this has been lacking big time. Should never have been any approval for buildings like the Scene apartments, and nor should road designers get away with these appalling roundabouts.

          • Well that was my point. Developers will do what they can given the site constraints and the planning-legal framework. We can’t expect developers to do anything other that what will result in the greatest profit under the conditions, that is their job description and raison d’etre… so the point is to make sure the planning rules are appropriate and that councils have more teeth when it comes to these matters.

            There seems to be this idea that we need to let developers get away with murder otherwise they’ll take off elsewhere. I think that’s crap. Developers could still make plenty of money building new developments under a more progressive and human friendly planning regime, so they would.

          • Yes and now’s our chance because with one council we can make a level playing field. No playing of one council off against the other.

          • Max

            Having been involved a lot in the area, yeah, those roundabouts have been there forever (and were also grossly over-dimensioned from day one – only now the car traffic has caught up with capacity – talk of self-fulfilling propehcies). It’s telling that changing this road network to a “Botany” type environment with massive traffic signals would probably STILL mean improvement for peds here…

          • Stu Donovan

            Personally I think the best solution is for the council to take control over designing and building the street networks. Don’t leave it to developers because they will not give any thought to wider impacts of their design choices. It’s less about “what developers are allowed to get away with” and more about “who should be responsible in the first place.”

            In my mind, street networks (especially design) should be the responsibility of the public sector. There’s too many network effects and strategic dependencies at play to leave that puppy to the private sector.

          • Max

            But those roads WERE planned by Council, weren’t they???

          • Stu Donovan

            Possibly! I was talking more generally, but maybe you’re right. If so then god help us all.

          • Bryce

            Track down those responsible and send them to Europe for re-education.

          • Max

            I know by the time I got involved, those dual-lane roundabouts were all there, and had been for at least 5-10 years. So built earliest in the 1990s, but I thought it had been even earlier.

          • Bryce

            I just had a look at the historical photos on AC GIS viewer. The roundabouts were formed by 1996 but neither they nor the roads were finished until later. Not that long ago really.

          • Steve

            Patrick: what’s wrong with the Scene apartments? Though they stop me having a harbour view (I live over the road from them) I can’t see why they’re any different to any other apartment block in the central city. They’ve been there as long as I’ve been in Auckland: was something nice there before?

          • There used to be great sea views down Anzac and the like, that part of the city was open out to face the water. The problem with the Scene is they literally walled off all the light and views, they are quite different from other apartment building in that they are one long contiguous mass stretching across the equivalent of about three blocks. Nowhere else do we have one building that stretches ~240m. Most other buildings are roughly square in footprint with light/view shafts between them.

            Interestingly I did hear one rumour that the developer actually wanted to do it as four separate towers but planning constraints prevented them from getting enough apartments in with that format, so they went with what the regs did allow.

          • Ingolfson

            Hi Nick – it’s more like 220m long, and it IS broken up into separate sections by a much lower building.

            Not that I disagree it’s a crap building, with a crap treatment to Beach Road, too. So much space used for… nothing, really. And the seaside section is even worse.

  • RHarris

    I think harminder is bang on. Trying to find solutions to move cars quicker.

  • Luke C

    The street network in Albany isnt too bad, and who cares if that plan was fixed 20 years ago. However the real issue is what type of roads have been built on that street network, and how well orientated the buildings are to create a nice atmosphere. Albany has failed abysmally in all these regards.
    The Civic Cr facing side of the mall is much better than most other malls, however the mall totally turns its back on other retail, the university and importantly the office spaces. Unfortunately one of the good sites around Civic Cr is having a Countdown built there which will totally muck things up.
    All that silly office space in Apollo Drive should of been built along Don Mckinnon Drive, with parking hidden behind the back to create active street frontages. Also University Ave should have been built through to Don McKinnon or Civic Cr. These things would all make Albany much much easier to serve with Public Transport, as at the moment it is a real pain in the neck.

    • Bryce

      As was written in a book I read recently – “always build to the pavement” and “put the parking around the back”

    • Stu Donovan

      I think the street network is rather coarse and illegible. Plus it’s very difficult to route public transport efficiently given the location of the bus station and Massey. Pretty bad IMO.

  • David O

    What is it with roads named after McKinnons? Don in Albany and Ian in Dom Road… neither very much fun for humans.

  • Max

    Ian McKinnon repented, and became a lot more human recently. He still has some issues, but therapists are confident that with a few more years of work, he will rejoin the local community.

    • Stu Donovan

      Is his therapist prescribing a few tabs of dynamite followed by a week of bulldozing action?

    • Matthew

      Are you talking about Ian MacKinnon, the frequent commenter on the Dom Post and Manawatu Standard stories? He is a bit of a nut calling everyone socialists and left wing bludgers or some such nonsense. And he drives the Wellington City councillor of the same name nuts I believe. Its also quite a sport to try to say silly things in the Dom Post and sign them Ian MacKinnon. Some are obviously piss-takes, but its hard to tell a genuine one from a satirical one, because they’re all so funny. Basically if you want to say something stupid use his name.

  • bob

    can you please move all of this Netherlands rubbish to a seperate web site. This is Auckland and its getting boring when people go on and on about something from a very narrow point of view when they dont even know what they are talking about. The design of a roundabout to suit all users is very difficult and wether you like it or not peds and cyclists will have to compromise with the big metal boxes that drive our economy (at least for now…..). I dont mind walking an extra 27m to get around an intersection and i dont mind having to wait at a set of signals until it is my turn.

    To enable the little cutesy roudabouts that people seem to want with the odd car driving around it at 20kph and lots of peds and cyclists like holland requires a complete and fundamental upending of the entire roading network, hierarchy and layout not to mention a completely different modal mix. Unfortunately NZ is a small country that is way behind the rest of the world in being in a position to spend large amounts of money on ring roads, grade seperated arterial routes, rail, large scale passenger transport networks etc etc. You have to make do with what you have got and be positive about it.

    As far as sending all traffic engineers abroad i think that the majority of people on here need to start realising the reality of things and start trying to add value where they can, especially those in a position to, and stop being negative and slamming everything in NZ. If Holland is that good, move there and dont come back.

    I am a foreigner and sometimes get frustrated to hell with the way things are here, but i try in my job as a roading engineer to do things the best i can and not compare it to a completely different situation in a foreign country where there are so many contributing factors that you wont even be aware of. If you think you can get an understanding of the geometry and metrics of an intersection from taking a few aerial shots from Google Earth you are very mistaken.

    You can tell me to shut up if you like, but my main frustration is that this website has built up quite a bit of credibility but posts like this, which basically just belittle Auckland, are not a good look.

    • Matthew

      I don’t agree with any of what you say there Bob.
      I don’t think it belittles Auckland nor this blog to espouse World’s best practice.
      If we fall a little less short next time then it’s a gain.

      • Max

        Yeah, the old “go away with your recommendations because that’s not how we do it here”. Sometimes with an outspoken “if you don’t like it here, move over there” undertone – “my way or the highway”.

        I am an immigrant here too, and I consider that everyone can learn from multiple countries. NZ doesn’t exist in a bubble, and as others have already pointed out, the Netherlands roundabout does not DISADVANTAGE vehicles. It evens the playing field, and encourages a more balanced traffic mix. If you think that is an issue, I really don’t know how we can convince you anyway.

        Shame to hear we are losing you Stu.

        • Stu Donovan

          Thanks Max – yes, NZ is losing me (and I’m losing NZ) for a few years. Quire sad, but I will be back someday to continue the good fight.

    • Stu Donovan

      Dear Bob,

      You may have missed my recent post on “What I love about Auckland” (http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/07/26/what-i-love-about-auckland-transport-blog/)? In the post above I’ve simply considered some of the ways streets are designed in the Netherlands and how NZ might learn from them. The things they do are not very hard and perhaps more importantly have very little impact on drivers. They do however make a big difference to pedestrians.

      I disagree with your suggestion that large and expensive infrastructure (like ring roads, arterial routes etc) somehow “enable” the Dutch to provide these types of local roads. The capacity of the Dutch roundabout would be very very close to the capacity of the Auckland roundabout. The fundamental design differences are not attributable to the transport context (you’ll probably find both roundabouts have very similar pedestrian and vehicle volumes), but that the Dutch intersections are designed around different priorities. They simply are not prepared to treat pedestrians the way we do in Auckland; and I think their attitude is admirable. These values are also evident in this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuBdf9jYj7o) on how the Dutch go their cycle-ways.

      In terms of this blog “adding value” – all I will say is that four out of the five contributors are professionals working in the transport/land use space. One works in Council, two as consultants, and one in education. The fifth blogger is currently looking for a job in transport. So it’s fair to say that we “add value” every hour of every workday of every week … most of us take it much further and contact AC and AT directly when we spot problems on the street, such as when contractors rip up the footpath and do not repair it adequately (I did that yesterday). Last week I contributed to an IPENZ transportation group debate and a few weeks before that I have gave a presentation to first year planning students and encouraged them to foster an interest in transport planning. It’s fair to say that we all contribute a fair chunk of positive energy to the transport planning industry actually.

      And now finally to the saddest part of your comment: The suggestion that I should just “move back there [to the Netherlands] and don’t come back”. That is, actually, exactly what I am preparing to do right now. Give me 12-18 months and I’ll probably be blogging from Amsterdam, telling you how wonderful it is to cycle around and catch-up with all the other young New Zealanders who have permanently emigrated there. The posts will be positive alright – but maybe not in the way you imagine? More importantly, do you really want to live in a city where young people feel like they have to move overseas to be somewhere that respects pedestrians? And it’s not just me; from where I’m sitting New Zealand is at risk of MASSIVE population loss in younger demographics. I’ve grown up and studied in Auckland for most of my life. I have family and friends here and would like to stay. But approximately 2/3 of my friends are now living overseas, mainly in Europe, and most of them will not come back to live in Auckland anytime soon. Of course, not all of them are overseas because of issues with transport, but deep down a lot of the things they tend to like about Europe directly or indirectly stem from transport issues.

      I’m passionate about making Auckland better – and making Auckland better means first stepping back and being frank and honest with ourselves about where the opportunities lie. In this post I’ve suggested that some simple changes to street design would be a good (and inexpensive) place to start. You suggest they’re more complex than just design changes – I disagree, but let’s have that chat. But you’re kidding yourself if you think “we’re doing pretty well.” Today I tried to walk from my house in Parnell to the University and it sucked: My walk sucked in every direction. And many of the issues are not old: They’ve been created in my lifetime. So up until very recently we’ve been doing pretty crap, IMO.

      So rather than telling me to be more positive (when I’m about as positive as one can be without driving the people around me insane) why the hell don’t you write a guest post telling us how we can make this wonderful city even better? Rather than denigrating those that dare to dream that maybe one day Auckland will have some suburbs that offer a similar quality of transport environment to that found in the Netherlands. Or is aspiration now a dirty word altogether?

      Regards,
      Stuart.

      • Bryce

        I attended a community meeting in Te Atatu last night that Phil Twyford facilitated. It was primarily about getting input from the community on whether there would be demand for a bus-way and / or ferry service. I went along thinking that the ‘cars first’ brigade would be out in force but was astonished at the number of people who want this kind of infrastructure. The only real objectors were some, shall we say, ‘older’ residents. The same people who were there to support the bus-way proposal would also, I suspect, be in favour of improved pedestrian / cycle facilities. Maybe times are a changing after all. Now we just need to convince AC, AT, NZTA and the government.

        • Bryce

          Oh and not surprisingly, NZTA have discarded cycling underpasses at the motorway interchanges as ‘too expensive’. They are also very pleased with themselves about the ‘enhanced’ bus shoulder lanes. When questioned about a bus-way not being in the motorway plans they pushed the blame to AT / AC who have only included a possible bus-way along the NW in their 20-30 year part of the LT plan. Facepalm!

      • Phil

        Stu said “Today I tried to walk from my house in Parnell to the University and it sucked: My walk sucked in every direction.”
        I’ve walked all over Auckland during the last 20 or so years and never found any major problems, sure there’s room to improve things but i don’t find it as bad as some of you seem to complain about. What Stu said about getting from Parnell to the University sparked an idea of a study of walking routes, So if you would give me some ones to try out. Just give me a starting point and an end point, like – Start: Churchton St, Parnell – End: University of Auckland Library on Alfred St. Don’t tell me the route you choose until i have taken mine, but mention how you went about choosing your route, Did you plan it on a map, or did you just have a rough idea where to go and just went blindly. or did someone give you directions etc…
        I think it would be quite interesting to then afterwards compare routes taken and issues found along the way.
        Might be more productive than just trying to slap a Netherlands round-a-bout in the middle to try and fix things hehe

  • Peter H

    New Zealander do cycle at the same level as the Dutch where you let them

    “Broadgreen Intermediate School in Nelson is situated next to a cycle way that has been formed from an old rail corridor and a huge 60–70% of students regularly cycle to school on a good day, and closer to 50% on days of poor weather.”

  • Bryce

    Actually Bob, I was born in Auckland and have spent the majority of my 42 years here. I have seen what the rest of the world does compared to Auckland and no, I am not prepared to put up with the status quo. I don’t care if you are frustrated. I get frustrated when cyclists and pedestrians are left to be 2nd class citizens compared to cars and trucks. It’s time to make changes and if you don’t like them then that’s too bad. I get the distinct feeling I’m not alone here.

    As it is we have a bunch of motorways and arterials for trucks. The rest should be allowed to develop for people.

    As far as sending traffic engineers overseas, I think it was a people having some fun.

    • Stu Donovan

      I concur Bryce and yes, my comment on sending engineers overseas was made in jest – I am one such engineer that would have to be deported ;).

  • Peter H

    Even in parts of Auckland cycle percentages are same as parts for the Netherlands like Rotterdam, which has recently boosted biking to 22%.
    “22% of all students at Belmont Intermediate School on the North
    Shore of Auckland regularly cycle to school.”
    I want to ride my bike. NZTA report 380

  • John Smith

    Stu: ‘Pedestrians navigating the Dutch roundabout will (at almost all times) feel more or less like they are travelling in the direction that they want to go.’

    – I have walked through the pictured roundabout and can confirm (sample size n=1) your intuition that the direction of curvature is psychologically signficant.

    Phil: ‘Makes no sense to compare Wayne Francis Drive with that road in the Netherlands.’

    – What do you mean? Both are uncomplicated intersections of two lane roads that are somewhere in the middle of the road hierarchy.

    Phil: ‘The Netherlands one obviously has a higher demand for bikes and walking, while at Wayne Francis the demand is for people driving cars.’

    – Pure speculation. Do you know what the modal split of travel in Wassenaar is? And in the NZ example, does NO-ONE ever want to walk or cycle through the Wayne Francis roundabout to get to the shops that are 200m away or the school that is 500m away? In any case, we should reject the implication that in an environment where there are few pedestrians, we don’t need to bother designing so pedestrians can get around safely and comfortably.

    Bob: ‘The design of a roundabout to suit all users is very difficult’

    – If there are technical problems that would prevent putting the Netherlands style roundabout in SIMILAR SITUATIONS In NZ, which all other commenters have missed, please let us know what they are.

    The burden of the comments is that for no good reason the NZ example is designed to be safe and convenient only for motorists, while the Netherlands example is designed to be safe and convenient for EVERYONE. There is no reason to think the Netherlands example is any less functional for motorists, except perhaps from requiring a second or two of extra delay to slow down for the slighter sharper curve radius. (NB like the NZ example, it’s not an area where the density of pedestrians is so great that giving them priority would cause traffic congestion).

  • Max

    No, that’s just what some “shock therapy” weirdoes are proposing who obviously have no idea what this would do to an Aucklander’s psyche ;-) His therapists think he needs a a few more years and a lot more time on his bike before he is willing to make full amends.

  • lcmortensen

    I agree with sending any traffic planner over 30 overseas, but importing the entire Dutch women’s hockey team? The Black Sticks only lost to them on penalty shootout!

  • David

    The new roundabout installed in Pukekohe between the intersections of Edinburgh St, Seddon St, Paerate Road and Cape Hill Road has no pedestrian facilities at all! It does not even have an accessible / pram ramps for crossings. given that this area links the local dog parks, pet shops that may people take young kids to(to look at the animals), there are a large amount of school kids walk up to school and access to the local dairy and shops etc, it is now very unfriendly and extremely dangers if you not in a car.

  • Steve M

    Glad to find your site and some comments on roundabout design. Apart from bad layout one major flaw is that half of roundabouts are built with a National Park or some other major visual impairment in the middle of them, obstructing the view of vehicles entering and navigating the roundabout. A roundabout is a traffic management device and should be safe. Blocking the view of other traffic negotiating the roundabout is unsafe at best and downright dangerous. A classic example would be the roundabouts at Paul Matthews and Bush road or Apollo and Aarenway drives, there is so much undergrowth on the roundabout itself you can barely see the roof of cars approaching opposite and you certainly CANNOT see their indicators. However the roundabout at Bush Rd and Cebel place is near perfect being only a flat layer of grass and no visual obstructions at all (the grass while nice only causes a costly maintenance issue). Another bad roundabout would be the one at Forrest Hill and East Coast roads where I almost had a collision myself the other day because a car doing a 180degree turn was obscured by the lush green forest in the centre of the roundabout. I would like to see a safety standard issued for all roundabouts that requires them to be flat and maintenance free, indicators to be visible. How can this be achieved?

  • Steve M

    What I am saying is get the beautification society away from the roundabouts and turn them in to efficient traffic management tools.
    Another item to remove is the stupid 6ft wide black board with white arrows on it telling you to turn left, another vision obscuring device. Anyone who doesn’t know they should turn left at a roundabout should not be driving. Or once again at least standardise and use a round blue disc and arrow by default everywhere just like appears on some roundabout so you know what you are looking at and the inept drivers will have no excuse about which way to go.

  • Franka

    @OrangeKiwi (8 aug 2012) “In the Netherlands, all traffic on a roundabout has right of way” : that used to be the case in the Dutch city of Tilburg (Province Noord Brabant), untill about 2005, but on roundabouts with seperate bycicle-lanes the byciclist no longer have the right of way. Unfortunately. But fortunately there are many bycicle-‘highways’ and bycicle-friendly traffic lights in Tilburg, so I can get through the city fast and safe.

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