Cambridge’s Dutch experiment

The new style ‘Dutch’ roundabout in Cambridge

What you are looking at above may seem unusual, and there’s a good reason for that. We’re not used to seeing so many markings (or colours) on a roundabout in the UK, so there’s obviously something different about it.

The key difference is that priority – usually, unarguably, given to the motorist – is given to cyclists and pedestrians. The cyclists have their own ‘outer’ ring (seen by red coloured asphalt) and the markings clearly indicate that approaching motorists must yield to them, as well as to pedestrians using the zebra crossings placed on each ‘arm’.

Not only that, but notice the traffic lanes entering the roundabout are considerably narrower than normal. That, hope the designers, will slow the traffic on the approach.

Depending on your point of view, all of this will possibly lead to one of a couple of reactions; those that will no doubt question the need to prioritise cyclists over the all-conquering car. In the other camp, it perhaps is viewed as a much needed modernisation of archaic British road systems in need of new ideas. A more progressive, forward thinking layout that will hopefully provide the impetus and data for further uses.

No prizes for guessing which camp I’m in. Personally, I love it. Having driven quite a bit in the Netherlands way, way back in the 90’s, it’s only slightly disappointing to see that it’s taken so long to get this design over here. But here it is, and what a lovely sight it is! (I know, need to get out more)

Not only would I love to drive it, but I’d also love to train students on it – the challenges of using road space where the car doesn’t automatically get ‘right of way’, of the need for full-on defensive driving techniques such as excellent Scan / Anticipate / Plan would absolutely help to develop a responsible road user attitude in them, as no doubt it would in other drivers. (Although maybe this guy would disagree: 11/08.20 BBC News)

It’s road design features like this that really enforce a ‘thinking’ driver mentality.

This roundabout leans heavily on shared road space (more or less exactly what it says on the tin), another Dutch invention. It’s one of those ideas that has never quite taken off in the UK and indeed is a controversial concept in much of the World. But the fact remains that there is too much traffic on the roads, especially in cities. Like it or not, this needs to be addressed. Shared space, non-motorised priorities, excellent public transport are all arguably better answers than simply penalising motorists with congestion charges.

One thing the lockdown proved was that the environment in particular improved significantly with less vehicle use. So we (perhaps urgently) need more solutions. One idea will not fix everything.

So yeah, well done Cambridgeshire Council for having the vision to install this progressive road feature. I hope, for the sake of current road users and future generations, other will quickly follow your lead.

Heb een goede week. Zo lang!

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