Roadway Tapestries

Materials Survey

The rich material detailing and paving of the Netherlands’ roads and bicycle paths stands among the most impressive and important aspects of its infrastructure. Subtle variations in paving, tiling, and material type go a long way towards creating a legible and successful architecture of the street.

In order to illustrate this point, I have linked a series of photographs intended to illuminate this rich roadway tapestry.

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As the photographs above illustrate, one of the key ways that the Netherlands has created bicycle lanes, has been through denoting clear paving differences on street and sidewalk areas. These paths appear so fluid and natural that at times one forgets that the bicycles and pedestrians or cars and bicycles are actually traveling right next to one another. (Obviously, part of this is that Dutch cars are typically quite compact and used to respecting bicyclists space.) Frequent speed bumps and brick tiling also force drivers and cyclists to maintain lower speeds and be cautious of pedestrian traffic on residential and old city streets.

One of the tendencies I have noticed in New York and Boston, two cities which have recently stepped up their bicycle infrastructure investment, is to use green paint or other types of on-street painting. Painting and street symbols are used extensively in the cities of the Netherlands, but these mainly complement paths which are already segregated for at least part of their route or are not as heavily used by cyclists. Routes will frequently change from a dedicated to a sign-posted path and back, often with several different materials along the way to accommodate particular traffic situations. These are the less preferable routes and should not realistically serve as models for US cities.

Frequent speed bumps and brick tiling also force drivers and cyclists to maintain lower speeds and be cautious of pedestrian traffic on residential and old city streets.

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