Once in a blue moon, I have to drive a van to campus. The main entrance of campus is a ‘round’-about, where there previously was an intersection. On it, I keep running into cyclists where they shouldn’t be going: against traffic, either on the roundabout itself, or in the approach lane. I’m of course thoroughly annoyed by this, but instead of making complaining about traffic in the second column of the year a tradition, it made me realise something else: Enschede is not as much of a cycling city as it purports to be.
Maybe you’ve seen the advertisements, while you were dodging cars on your way to campus. Enschede wants every trip under five kilometers to be taken by bike, instead of by car. Because it’s more fun! Because cycling is freedom! And because you’ll have a whopping 1.3 fewer sick days per year! The municipality (purportedly) does this by making cycling safer, by providing safe cycling paths and good cycling infrastructure. And an app..?
Let’s take our ‘round’-about as a case study first. The mostly-manageable intersection was replaced by the worst roundabout I’ve ever encountered. As you might’ve noticed, it is tighter than a normal roundabout, making the curves hard to take at a normal student-in-a-hurry tempo. Furthermore, because of how it’s laid out, it always forces cyclists to take the long way round. With the intersection, you could always take the direct path, while now it’s far more comfortable for drivers than for cyclists.
The city itself isn’t much better. Cycling on the Singel, you have to share space with cars — and scooters! — going twice as fast. Furthermore, since Enschede is a perpetual construction pit, you are detoured along rickety side streets. Manageable for cars, but not so much for bikes with zero suspension. Moreover, as a cyclist at traffic lights, you are lucky when you get a couple of seconds of green light, while cars get green for sometimes whole minutes — and multiple times! In lieu of actually fixing this problem inclusively, they went for an unnecessarily technological solution: the aforementioned app. It is supposed to give you green faster, while they could’ve just as easily made the cars wait a bit longer. As the final slap in the face, while Enschede has a couple of so-called fietsstraten, this means squat legally. You’ll still be overtaken at 40+ km/h, after they make you go make room for them. Even those thin red lines that pass for cycle paths feel safer (if it weren’t for the scooters of course).
All of this betrays Enschede’s current priorities. Currently, the car still has the highest priority, while cyclists have to make do with the leftovers, and an app to paper over the metaphorical potholes (if only it could paper over all the real ones). But priorities can change, of which this campaign is an example. Currently, ‘Enschede Fietsstad’ is still mostly virtue signaling. Nevertheless, it’s still trying. Maybe in a couple of years, I might get to cycle where cars are driving now, without needing an app.
On that roundabout (or hopefully its replacement) for example. Safely and legally this time. So it’s actually fun.