Home > Design the Details, Engineering Design, Tools & Ingenuity, Videos > Who Has The Right Of Way In A Dutch Roundabout?

Who Has The Right Of Way In A Dutch Roundabout?

Video Tuesday

An urban roundabout in s-Hertogenbosch in the south of the Netherlands via Markenlei

Notice anything different from what you’d expect in the U.S.A.?


A View From The Cycle Path has a more extensive report back in which it is explained that in urban areas cyclists tend to have the right of way in a roundabout. In rural areas, where I assume motorized traffic is traveling at higher speeds, they typically don’t. This is a relatively new standard (recommended in 1993, mostly adopted in 2010).

Also worth pointing out is that single lane roundabouts are favored in The Netherlands and are expected to handle 20-25,000 motorized vehicles per day. Michigan is getting roundabouts, but our engineers still associate size with effectiveness and that’s one reason why we often see 2-lane and even 3-lane roundabouts; we’re American, we lean towards the side of excess capacity instead of frugalness.

Notice anything else in this video?

(I can think of at least 2 more curiosities)

  1. Bob Otwell
    May 17, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Nice video Gary. There are a lot of differences from what you would expect in the USA, because the Dutch have been promoting cycling nation wide since the 1960’s – we sort of started in the 1990’s with ICE-TEA. Dutch cyclists wear no helmets, they wear normal clothes, and they carry stuff. Most importantly, the Dutch transportation system prioritizes free flowing cycling. Notice the cyclists all go through this intersection at speed. Dutch traffic engineers want to make cycling easy, safe and convenient because they realize how much cheaper and easier it is to provide for cyclists as opposed to providing for single occupant automobiles.

  2. May 17, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Unexpected: large city buses and tractor-trailers actually ARE capable of navigating roundabouts, and single-lane roundabouts at that! Roundabout opponents in this country would have us believe that isn’t possible.

  3. Fred Schaafsma
    May 17, 2011 at 11:09 am

    It indeed works as the video shows. Some things to observe: note that the color of the pavement on the bike path is different from the motorized traffic lane(s). The sidewalk pavement is different from both of those. These are very significant visual cues to all users. I have personal experience riding a bicycle on Dutch roundabouts as well as walking them. It is very straight forward and intuitive.
    The good news for us here in the Grand Traverse region (and elsewhere) is that we don’t have to do a lot of inventing. Let’s just apply what we know from data and experience elsewhere. Once we have some good examples of roundabouts done correctly we’ll like ask ourselves why we did not do this sooner.

  4. May 17, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Fred, I too have experienced Dutch roundabouts and find them very easy to use. It is unfortunate however, that some in the Grand Traverse region seem very reluctant to acknowledge the decades of data and experience of other countries or even other Michigan cities. I often doubt we will ever see anything as efficient as the roundabout in the posted video in our region.

  5. May 17, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    How about the lack of clutter? Here we even have roundabouts with stop signs (Lansing) but certainly don’t put them in without large, neon yellow roundabout signs.

  6. Mike Grant
    May 17, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Kind of makes you cringe to see the cyclists cross the traffic lanes without slowing down, and with cars coming up to the same intersection and at speed. Seems that this “Netherland” of yours is a place where drivers are used to cyclists, and vice versa. Very interesting.

  7. May 18, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    I like how the cars slow down as they approach a cycle crossing path, even if they’re not sure if the cyclist will indeed cross, or stay “outside” the circle. What do you do when you drive down Front St. in TC as you approach a pedestrian crossing and see a group of people gathered there? You slow down (hopefully) anticipating a possible stop where the pedestrians have the right of way.

  8. Max
    September 28, 2011 at 9:23 am

    The only concern I have is that drivers here are so aggressive and may not slow or stop for cyclists or pedestrians in the crossing. At Grandview/Division, even when I have the cross walk signal in my favor, right turning drivers refuse to stop and let me cross, even if I start into the crosswalk anyway!

    Still, I have to admit I would prefer this type of design to what’s there now. Same with Division/14th, Front/Grandview, Front/College, etc. You are right, it does seem to flow better and generally seems more relaxed.

    It also seems to put all users on a more equal level, where the designs we have here favor the driver and motor vehicle. I wish I could experience it in person, though, just to get an on-the-ground feel for it.

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