Houten Bike Network
Houten is a town in the Netherlands near Utrecht and is known as one of the top bicycle towns in the world (in 2008 and 2018). In Houten, residents (and guests) are encouraged to travel by bike because of the accessibility of the railway station, green park zones, and an extensive network of cycling paths where cars and cyclists are able to avoid each other. A loop runs around the city to connect cars and houses but a more extensive, faster, and internal network connects bikes. The network is so simple and safe, that it is a perfect place for kids to grow up biking. Every child is pretty transportation independent as soon as they can ride a bike. Although a large number of jobs from the community require commuting, the internal bike network is very strong and in constant use; commuters have the convenient option to build additional bike infrastructure.
Kids biking in Houten
Imagining Houten Bike Network in the US
When I first heard of Houten, I thought of all of the missed opportunities to replicate Houten in the new developments in the US. In Florida, there have been a number of large developments (close to my Orlando house in Avalon and Celebration) that popped up from the swamps into a housing mecca. They include thoughtful land plans and innovations but none have embraced the Houten bike-centric lifestyle. Many of these (and many future growth opportunities) have the ability to focus on their version of “sustainable transportation” but none actually commit to the level of sustainable transportation in the development. In the US, development is focused on making money and transportation costs may take a while to pay off. I think a Houten-style development would work in the US but it would take a dreamer and large community support to make it work. I think that if this was implemented in the US, the developer would need to give free bikes, biking lessons, biking community and tours to change the US car-centric mentality (not to mention a bikable Publix if developing in Florida). There is a lot of land and growth in the US so I think it is only a matter of time before a community similar to Houten is built. If there is a golf cart community with specific golf cart infrastructure in Peachtree City, GA, there can be a bikable community in the US.
Me biking to Houten