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The Dutch have done it again; as usual paving the way with an innovation that is as beautifully engineered as it is practical. Constructed between Eindhoven and Veldhoven, the new ‘hovering’ roundabout separates bicycles from the motor vehicles below, harmonising high-functionality, aesthetic appeal, and plain old-fashioned genius.
My initial reaction of awe quickly turned to irritation as I realised that I don’t live in The Netherlands any more. This morning’s emotional roller-coaster took yet another turn as jealously turned to joy when I caught wind of plans for more conventional Dutch-style roundabouts to be trialled in the UK: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-22347184
For those of you who are unfamiliar with how Dutch roundabouts work, check out this brilliant video from our friends at NL Cycling: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhqTc_wx5EU
Dutch roundabouts are intuitive to use once you understand how the shark-teeth markings on the road indicate priority, and there’s really nothing to it. Roundabouts can be pretty dangerous and intimidating places for cyclists in the UK, but in The Netherlands they are a breeze. Transport For London (TFL) has raised concerns that the Dutch design might reduce the speed of motorised traffic. Personally, however, I don’t see that as a cause for concern, but rather yet another benefit of a concept that prioritises the most vulnerable road users.
If the UK is realistic about meeting emissions targets, combating sedentary lifestyles, and generally improving the nation’s health then a great way to do this is to incentivise cycling by introducing measures to protect and prioritise people on bikes. It frustrates me when such a simple and elegant solution to so many of our country’s problems exists within tantalising reach but remains obstructed by a system that perpetuates antiquarian notions of cars as symbols of progress and success.
Russell Brand was wrong to tell the youth not to vote; we need to vote, and we need to vote for some serious change if we want to see it happen in our lifetime. It’s hard to believe, but until the mid-seventies the Dutch had a car-centric culture and a government who gave little or no consideration to bicycle infrastructure. The people got angry, voted for a left-wing government, and good things started to happen; laws changed, cycle paths were build, and road deaths decreased dramatically. I really don’t understand why we can’t do the same.