For Dutch planners, failing to integrate bikes into other modes of transportation is kind of like going to work without your pants on. It’s bread and butter; the sum of forces equations of planning; the pick and roll of transportation engineering. I can think of a few examples. One is their bike parking at train stations. Gotta catch the train? Cycle to the station and throw your two wheels in a bike parking deck with more spots for cycles than all of Atlanta. It’s safe to say they’re extremely prevalent over here (as in, we saw one on pretty much every single tour), and they’re all quite seamlessly built into the stations. In Delft, you simply ride into the parking deck, lock your bike up, and walk directly into the station to scan your train card and take an escalator to the platform. For people who would rather take their metal steed with them, bringing it on the train is also an option. There are designated bike cars for people to do this, and it was very helpful to the few of us who biked from Delft to Houten. If I had to ride my bike all the way back, Dr. Watkins might be burying me right now.
Figure 1: Part of the 70 km bike ride gang.
On heavy rail, bringing your bike on board is pretty simple. There are special elevators you can use to get yourself to the platform, and then you just board the correct train car with it. A special, slightly more expensive ticket will allow you to do this. Or, you can be a tourist and fail to know any better and just use your normal ticket. Oops. But anyways, that whole process is pretty simple. I will say, though, that bringing bikes on light rail isn’t nearly as feasible as it is on heavy rail. As convenient and plentiful as light rail is, there’s simply not enough room in the cars for anyone to comfortably fit their bikes on board. There’s usually only 1 spot or so per car. Some light rail stations have bike parking, but more do not. Typically, though, light rail is located within walking distance from urban centers.
Figure 2: Light rail in Amsterdam.
Figure 3: A "carless" street in The Hague (possibly my new favorite city). Note the light rail, all of the pedestrians, and the cycle tracks as well!
In Amsterdam, ferries run frequently across the river to ship people from central station and back. In true Dutch fashion, anyone on a bike can roll up onto the ferry and be easily transported to the other side of the water. Ferry-bike transit is definitely the smoothest and easiest. Most cities, however, don’t really have as much a need for a good ferry system, so this aspect seems unique to Amsterdam.
Figure 4: A ferry outside of Centraal station in Amsterdam. Check out those bikes on board!
Plan is Life
To call the Dutch efficiency-oriented in their transit planning as a pretty gross understatement. Dutch planners live and breathe efficiency, and that was most evident when the planners in The Hague were detailing their transportation plans, their measures for determining effectiveness, and their progress throughout the past few years. There is all kinds of technology at intersections to help keep track of how many vehicles or bikes pass, and what their wait time is. This helps them run simulations and find solutions for when intersections become too congested. In many cases, they were able to implement small design changes that helped improve efficiency, and they were all based on the data they collected.
Overall, Dutch transit is very efficient by American standards. In fact, it pretty much blows it right out of the canal. Trains always arrive and depart on time; trams are quick in unloading and loading; biking is essentially always a viable option within a certain distance. Why is that so? How have they done such a good job with all of this? The answers are certainly complicated, but one thing is clear as day to me: the Dutch don’t mess around when it comes to planning and transit.
Figure 5: Unrelated to the post, but here's me with some putty I got from an arcade in The Hague. I beat the top score for a basketball game and got 500 tickets. Big highlight of my trip for sure!
It is safe to say that the Dutch center much of their world around transit. They have it all; from streetcars and trams to sprinters and trains. Transit is often the first thing to be built with a Dutch settlement, often preceding the bulk of the surrounding development. Once a station is established, several networks are connected to a main hub, an area synonymous with the city center, then those networks spur out in various directions and loops. Upon emergence from a transit station, you will often find a cluster of taller buildings that house government institutions or large companies. The clustering of basic functions invites human activity, and from there, retail and restaurants pop up, and eventually, high density housing. Although the initial period of establishment around a station may take a couple of years and mental training for those who must alter their daily routes, but most stations are a great success in the Netherlands, meeting and often exceeding ridership projections.
Biking with transit? Yes, please...
It does not take long for one to find the connection between transit and bikes in the Netherlands. Where there is transit, there are bikes. Many stations feature large bike parks, several of which are among the largest facilities in the world. Below are a couple of examples we’ve experienced along our journey thus far:
Figure 1. Bike parking at a the central transit station in Utrecht
Not only do bike parks simply exist, but the transition from biking at street level to parking underground is nearly seamless thanks to the employment of several ramps that allow bikers to maintain speed until they need to disembark.
Figure 2. Bike parking at the central station in Utrecht. Straight ahead is the ramp system to travel from grade level to underground or vice versa
Figure 3. Just outside of the transit station in Utrech. The red paths show the way underground for bikers who wish to park and ride.
The only problem? Finding a space to park your bike! The parking areas we’ve seen are so successful that many of them are overflowing with bikes. Some bike parks are even free if you drop off and pick up your bike within a given amount of time, but many require a couple of euros. They are also covered, meaning you arrive to a bike that is dry, free of bird droppings, and out of the main path of the general public.
Bikes on transit? Not so fast..
Although the primary purpose of providing bike parking at transit stations is to incentivize transportation modes aside from driving, bike parking also discourages riders from bringing bikes onto the train. While bikes only take up a fraction of the space that cars do, 10,000 bikes on the train during rush hour would be a logistical nightmare. Many residents of the Netherlands own multiple bikes, and some stash one at their “home base” and another at their work destination. However, some riders still do take their bike on the train. Two common solutions include providing an open space at the end of a car to stash your bike nearby or utilizing a dedicated bike car. Dedicated bike cars are common during rush hour periods but aren’t found on every train.
By now you may be asking, it can’t be THAT perfect, right? Well… it’s pretty perfect. Why? If it’s not working, the Dutch proactively find a solution. Before a transit line fails, the Dutch evaluate if moving the line to a local system is a better option, which oftentimes it can be. The Dutch also quickly build up the area surrounding a transit station, creating instant ridership for the new hub.
Expansion of a station is also planned for. In our home city of Delft, a tunnel was built for four sets of tracks even though only two were planned for immediate use. Why tear up a road twice when you know your transit usage will inevitably increase in the future? Although the project was more expensive in the interim, it will end up saving millions in the long run.
Design conflicts are not just dealt with, they are met head on with creative solutions. Trains, trams, and streetcars have technical differences. They run on different sized tracks, have different heights at the door openings, and possess a myriad of other small, yet very opposing specifications. One such station outside of Delft had two types of trains running through the same station, one train with a door opening about 1.5’ above the ground and the other with an opening about 5’ above the ground. Instead of building two stations or even two levels of a station, they built a dual height platform with ramps and stairs between the two types of trains. While these are specific examples, design conflicts are prevalent within transit functionality, the Dutch don’t give up until the problem is eliminated. The result is an efficient transit system, one with high ridership, serving dense city centers that are conducive to other alternative modes of transportation such as walking or biking.
Figure 4. A train station outside of Delft with a dual height platform for two different types of trains
One last piece of food for thought
During one of our lectures this week, the speaker said something that will stick with me forever. He said that if we do not start today, we have to start tomorrow or the next day, and history has shown that we MUST eventually start. To me, this translates to the US quite well. Even though it is easy to write our country off as a car nation, cities, especially rapidly expanding ones like Atlanta, MUST act today. Every day we put off innovation is another day we are delaying an improved, efficient, non-congested transportation system. Instead of waiting, the time to act is now.
Now, time to enjoy the last couple days of the trip (If I come back to the US at all, that is)! Check back in later for some final reflections of my journey throughout the Netherlands.
Figure 5. Enjoying my walking tour through the city center of Utrecht
A city in which cars are guests on the road! Welcome to Houten! Most of us think that as trains are on tracks, so are cars on roads, but Houten thinks otherwise. In the 1960s, Houten was identified and picked by the national government for development so that it can accommodate the growing population of the Netherlands. Starting from scratch, plans for Houten were drawn on paper and supported by locals. It was time for the village of Houten to become the city of Houten. A big part of the discussion included how to deal with traffic. Considering the environment and safety, it was concluded that the city’s design would prioritize cyclists and pedestrians by providing them with more direct routes than the limited routes that would be provided for vehicles. These indirect routes would make it difficult for vehicles to enter into the city. This was accomplished by designing two outer ring roads in the figure-of-eight shape for car traffic. In fact, cars are guests on the paths within the city, as is depicted by the many road signs on the road, similar to the one shown in figure 1 below.
Figure 1. A road sign stating that bicycles are priority and cars are guests on the road.
On some sections, cars and pedestrians are further separated with each having their own path in order to reduce commotion and eliminate accidents. Pedestrian sidewalks are parallel to the bike paths, as is shown in Figure 2 below. Figure 2 also shows that the bike paths are colored brick-red.
Figure 2.Brick-red bike paths and separation of cyclists and pedestrians.
To further restrict cars from entering, there are narrow roads in addition to low speed limits. There are also multiple speed bumps and sharp turns to slow down vehicles.
Other interesting cycling infrastructure that we saw include the two-tiered round-about shown in Figure 3 below. The lower level is to be used solely by cyclists while the upper level is for motor vehicles. There is also the greenbelt, shown in Figure 4, which is green space that one can get to either on foot or by cycling.
Figure 3. Two-tiered roundabout
Figure 4. Greenbelt
Something similar in the U.S.?
This is an interesting question. I favor the phrase “never say never” and believe in a world of possibilities. However, some of these endless possibilities would be difficult to implement. They seem too good to be true, but that is because cities in the U.S. have already been planned, for years. In fact, our teacher for the day who was a planner for decades, mentioned that cities are not built in months or in a few years, but building a city endures politics. This is to suggest that even though politics may conflict, even though politicians may be in and out of office, building a city shall continue. I mean after all, Rome was not built in a day. Anyway, Houten also has the advantage that it was planned on a “blank slate,” which is to say that not much was happening there, in terms of city life. Therefore, a city similar to Houten could be planned and developed in the United States where little currently exists. The public would need to be educated out of a car-centric mindset, developers and investors would need to trust that the plan will flourish, and politicians wouId need to be persuaded into supporting this plan. It would take plenty of work but someone once said that “Nothing worth having comes easily.”
Day 4 in the land of Stroop, where biking is king and nobody drinks water. A group of six of us biked 70 kilometers from Delft to Houten this morning, leaving at o’dark thirty to make it in time for our lectures and tours. It was amazing traveling through the scenic hinterland and we only made a few wrong turns.
Figure 1: The group about an hour into the 70 km trek
Houten is the reigning champion for best bike city in the Netherlands and the self-appointed best biking city in the world. A town of about 25,000, Houten geographically resembles a peanut shape, and has an outer ring of car-oriented roads with bike-only infrastructure inside the ring. In 1971 the Houten leadership decided to transition from a car-centric city to a human scale one and the ring road acted as a geographic boundary to help facilitate that goal and ensure higher density development while preventing sprawl. Houten initially was just one city with neighborhoods spread out along green bikeways, which are long parks located around bike paths. When the town started to become overcrowded, Houten annexed more land and created the second ring. The result is what we see today, with vehicles relegated to using only the ring road and a connector road between the cities.
Figure 2: Riding through one of the several neighborhood greenways in Houten
Houten has seen great success toward its goal of being a completely bike city. They have about 40% bike mode split currently. I like the vision we heard about yesterday from Andre, but I also think this model only works without existing infrastructure. Houten was essentially built from nothing, so there was complete flexibility in design. Additionally, I think the vision of Houten is narrow and doesn’t address some of priorities that cities should emphasize. For example, they designed the city for bikes and achieved a 50% mode shift from vehicles to bikes, but they also made every vehicle trip from origin to destination over double the length or its original distance. Hence, total vehicle miles travelled actually increased despite the perception that they would improve. This is harmful for the environment and on pavement maintenance plans. I also foresee problems with freight delivery. How does Houten regulate the delivery of packages and products within the outer ring barrier? Andre kind of provided a non-answer to this question during our session and also said that they have problems with delivery vehicles using bike lanes when they are not allowed to.
Overall, I do not think the Houten model is transferable to a larger city, and especially not transferable to a city with existing infrastructure. The reason Houten works is because it was built from a clean slate and has a high-density development in a bike-able geography. Atlanta, or even a smaller city would have trouble mimicking the results of Houten.
Houten is a town that's been designed for the bicycle. With one ring road surrounding the initial development and small connecting roads to residences, this town is an attempt to counter the convenience of cars that exists in most other towns. An extensive cycle network through designated green space connects the train station to residences, offices, and all that Houten has to offer in a short time. Despite having this network, the total bike share of trips is only 40% - lower than neighboring towns that have been retrofitted for the bicycle.
As a way to intelligently manage a growing population, the government of the Netherlands declared that the small village of Houten had to grow dramatically. The existing village had around 3,000 inhabitants who mostly disapproved of the growth target of 100,000 inhabitants that was set. While Houten today has less residents than initially expected, the town has grown dramatically.
Transportation Network Design
As stated before, the town’s center is the Houten train station. Greenspace flows throughout the east and west, with separated bike and pedestrian paths running through the scenery. The main paths are populated with key features of the town such as schools and offices. Residences are also connected to the network. Figure 1 below shows the greenspaces, bike paths, and ring road.
Figure 1: Plan of Houten
There is one road that surrounds the town, with smaller roads servicing residential parking lots. The densities of these residences aid in the compaction of these parking spaces. Cars cannot drive through the center of Houten, but must instead drive from the parking lot to the ring road, and then travel around the entire town to reach their destination. This inefficient path incentivizes the use of bicycles and walking even more. Figure 2 below shows a two-level roundabout with bikes traveling below cars to avoid conflicts altogether.
Figure 2: Two-level roundabout in Houten
Applications in the United States
The Houten approach to transportation design is hard to relate to existing cities. Changing fields into roads and townhomes is far easier and cheaper than altering existing structures and infrastructure. With that being said, the only way that I can see the Houten approach to transportation being applied to the United States is in the development of new suburbs (especially in Florida similar to The Villages).
New suburban developments (much like Houten) convert the natural landscape into whatever a planning group decides. In these scenarios, focusing on the use of bicycles and walking in scenic greenspaces would likely be a success. Having more densities than single family housing is crucial, but a starter-neighborhood (in Americans' minds) could be the purpose and concept behind a Houten-like development. Given that many starting families seek to move into the suburbs and also enjoy greenspace and recreation, a Houten approach to American suburbs would likely be a success.
Houten was lucky enough to take a stab at “city making” from a blank slate. As a native engineer, but newfound planner, I have learned that we can no longer plan new cities from scratch in the United States since we are constrained to the existing street and utility network that was formed when cities first originated. Houten has the advantage of conception during the time of the new town movement, which was prevalent throughout England in the 1960’s. The movement led to purposefully planned towns built at human scale. However, The Netherlands and the United States both experienced a surge in personal automobile ownership around this time, and as cities became more car-centric, they also became more dangerous, especially for children. Houten vowed to plan a safer town, one where the interface between cars, bicycles, and people was minimized.
Figure 1. Reference map. The red pin shows the location of Houten in relation to other cities. Source: Google Maps
Rather than setting up a grid system for cars, Houten created a ring road to route traffic away from the city center. Figure 2, above, shows the initial ring road in yellow. The area within the ring road was then separated into several neighborhoods that were only accessible by car via the ring road. Setting up the network in this fashion made vehicular trips longer, and thus, less convenient. On the other hand, walking and biking between neighborhoods was made easy thanks to the vast inner network of walking and cycling paths.
A couple of decades later, Houten expanded beyond the ring road to create a similar network to the south of the existing city. The result was a rough figure 8 pattern as shown in figure 3 below. Houten, and moreover the Dutch in general, have made it a point to support transit use by creating denser nodes of development around the city centers. Thus, it’s important to note that transit stations are the focal point of both north and south Houten.
We arrived in Houten by train and were set loose to explore the town by bike. Some notable features in Houten’s plan include an abundant use of green space, an easy-to-follow way-finding system using signage and number/color-coded routes, and even a double-decker roundabout! Below are some photos of our short, but very sweet ride:
Figure 4. One of Houten’s transit stations. At some point during the trip, all of the bikes parked out front became the norm and not the exception!
Figure 5. Examples of way-finding throughout the trail network. Notice the pole on the left has two colors of stickers, denoting the route number.
Figure 6. The double-decker roundabout. Cars zoom around the top like a typical roundabout, while bikes enjoy a two-way roundabout on the bottom level
Figure 7. The underpass that connects the northern and southern portions of Houten. Notice cyclists and pedestrians are completely separated from vehicular traffic.
Will the United States ever have a Houten?
As of today, approximately 40% of all trips made in Houten are made by bicycle. Can the US mimic this type of system to increase the share of biking trips? Yes and no. As stated earlier, building a completely new town just to support biking is unlikely. Cities need an economic base from businesses and a decent starting population. Creating this scenario out of thin air would take enormous support from all levels of government. Furthermore, changing daily habits from mostly driving to mostly biking or walking is a major hurdle! Therefore, at this level, I personally don’t think Houten is a practical model for a new US city. However, I do think the Houten model can work on a neighborhood level. Instead of creating a new subdivision for cars, try to re-center the focus on bikes and walking. There are several areas along Atlanta’s metro line (MARTA) that could fit this bill. Areas along the new portion of the BeltLine could also implement a Houten-esque strategy. The point is, in America we like a proof of concept before going all in, and mimicking Houten on a smaller, more manageable scale could be the first step toward creating a more bike-friendly Atlanta.
I’m not sure how I would describe Houten to a person that has never been. I would hope that they had seen The Truman Show, because that’s really the best way I could help someone understand it. Houten seems almost to good to be true; too perfectly designed to be real. It is a case study in what can happen with excellent, well-thought out planning. As in, if a bunch of planners got together to start from scratch on a city, Houten is what they would make.
We got to listen to a really prominent and experienced Dutch city planner named Jan. He loved to talk about transit. I talked to him about light rail for at least 30 minutes and he was much obliged. But something he told us, which will stick with me, is that when you are looking to develop, you start with transit. Once you have the mechanism to move people around, the people will come. It’s a field of dreams kind of transit attitude, and it’s kind of cool. When it comes to Houten, this ideology definitely applies. Houten began with a group of people realizing that a town could be built right on the train tracks that lead to Utrecht. And so they just built it. Houten feels like it was born as the brain child of a bunch of city planners that got together to make a perfect city. Essentially, it’s a town with hardly any automobile roads, except for on the outer ring of the town. It’s hard to describe, but mostly because it’s unlike any US city I’ve ever seen (or anyone has ever seen). Houten is similar to Atlanta with its loop; one might compare the “ring road” that surrounds the small town to 285. But that’s about where the similarities end.
Figure 1: Green space and bike paths in Houten.
The Houten Approach
Houten’s approach to transportation is fairly simple, and when you consider the history of the small Dutch town just outside of Utrecht, it makes sense. As our lecturer today, Andre, put it, the original planners of Houten wanted to make “the greatest city to live in.” These planners started with a blank slate: Houten was a tiny village, a blank canvas for a city planner. With their vision of a perfect town in mind, and with their eyes always on the future, the creators of Houten began designing what is now an outstanding city.
The main guideline of the Houten planners’ philosophy is essentially to minimize car transportation as much as possible, maximize public space, and make getting around on a bike easy. There are only a few roads going through Houten that cars can access, and they’re very small. While almost everyone in Houten owns a car, they get around most everywhere in Houten on bike. Contained within the “ring road” is one of the most robust bike networks I’ve seen in any Dutch town. Andre described the approach to building that network pretty well. He told us that the planners started with green space; once they knew where that would be, they added the bike paths; only then did they put some arterials for automobile access. Biking is almost always preferred. Andre even showed us a route between places in Houten that took more than twice as much time by car as it did by bike!
Figure 2: The train station in southern Houten. Check out that multi-modal approach!
An American Houten?
So could something like Houten work in the US? Well, I think it’s unlikely. First of all, I think one of the main reasons Houten works so well is that the planners got to start from scratch. A city like Atlanta was simply far more “off the cuff” than Houten was. Additionally, I think our car-centric culture would definitely inhibit any effort to make such an “anti-car” town. Americans would throw a fit if they couldn’t access their neighborhoods or their grocery stores in their car. It’s sad, but it’s true. What I will say is that there are plenty of pages American planners can nab from Houten’s playbook. Start with greenspace. Design for a human scale. Make biking more convenient than driving. Always look deep into the future. There are hundreds of ways to try to make our cities better in the areas Houten excels at. Perhaps all it will take are trips like this! And a little political expediency, if that’s possible (it’s not).
Figure 3: A double round-about in Houten. Now it seems like they're just kind of rubbing it in our face, right?
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.
Houten is unique in that it was mostly planned anew when it was decided that a small village would become a small city. Planners had the opportunity to design a city essentially from scratch and used that as a chance to create something new. The main goal of planners was to make a livable city, including all aspects of life into their equations. With a rising concern of the negative effects of car traffic (such as pollution, safety, and air quality), Houten decided to prioritize cycling in its city layout. It was purposefully designed to make it more convenient to travel by bicycle than by car within the city limits. An outer ring and roads leading into the city were built for car use but traveling between neighborhoods within the city was designed to be easiest by bike. An extensive cycling network was built connecting all parts of the city, making cycling an easy and safe option for all residents.
There were many examples of cycling infrastructure in Houten that help contribute to its status as “Best Bicycle City” in the Netherlands. The green belt is a network of paths that are designated solely go bike usage. There was also a two-tiered roundabout with the lower level for bicycles and the upper level for vehicle traffic. Finally, all the bike paths were in red pavement or brick, and there were speed indents (similar to speed bumps but dented into the ground) to slow motorized bikes in the bike lanes.
It is hard to imagine taking this approach in the US as a lot of major cities have already been built and new development is mostly in suburban areas. While suburban areas have a lot that they could learn from Dutch infrastructure, they tend to be large and sprawling, making cycling a less appealing mode of transportation. However, there is a lot in U.S. cities that could be done to transform their existing car-focused infrastructure to be more bike friendly or even bike priority. For example, giving bicycles priority on neighborhood roads by designating advisory bike lanes. This gives cyclists more space and security but also allows cars to pass through when needed.
Something that Andre mentioned that I thought was interesting is that city planning is a decades-long process, yet politics often fluctuate within short time periods. With new politicians coming in and out of election cycles and changing their stances with the newest tide of public interest, it is difficult for planning to really function on a time scale required to finish a comprehensive plan. I got the impression that he thought planning should happen completely separate from public will, or at least outside of election cycles and with a certain amount of protection from the latest public fad. As someone interested in going into city planning or public policy, this raised a few important questions for me to consider: when should public involvement be solicited in city planning projects and if elected politicians are to be separated from planning decisions, how can planners get an understanding of public will? I definitely understand where he is coming from in that politicians do what they can do be reelected even if that means turning on former allies within the city, but also, I believe in the affected community having a voice in what happens in their neighborhoods. For me, Houten was a really cool example of a city that had a vision and was able to follow through with it and learning more about how they accomplished their vision gave me a lot to think about.
Houten’s Approach to Transportation Network Design
Houten went through an extensive planning period soon after it started growing as a city. This time was critical to allow for planers to make radical changes to city development that are safe for children to travel by bike and that intensively incentivizes cycling as the mode of travel.
Houten is designed with two major ring roads on the outside of the city that connect in the center. Figure 1 and 2 display the northern and southern half of the city divided by two major ring roads. Houten prioritizes cyclists and pedestrians by making their routes more direct and convenient than car routes.
Figure 1: Northern-half of the City of Houten Distinguishable by its Transportation Network
Figure 2: Southern-half of the City of Houten Distinguishable by its Transportation Network
In the center of both ring roads is a train station with offices, retail space and residential areas built around the stations. This design makes all destinations close to a train station and to each other. A statistic shows that around half of all travel in the city is done by cycling, which was intentional because travel distances are reasonable for biking. Most trips that are not done by cycling include grocery shopping where the car serves to transport baggage. The purple lines are the ring roads just for motor vehicles. The yellow network are shared bike and motor vehicles roads important for emergencies and deliveries. The dashed line in both figures below is the train line. The green areas are the major bike routes. This design model is not adopted anywhere else in the world.
Transportation design prioritizes pedestrians and cyclists through narrow roads, traffic calming measures, and separating bicycle paths from car traffic in many areas. The urban planner we met with today mentioned there are no traffic signals for pedestrians or cyclists in the city. Even though other cities like Delft in the Netherlands give priority to cyclists with traffic signal timings, I agree there is a huge advantage to not stopping and waiting as the ride is smooth and direct. Specific designs that improve safety are featured below:
Figure 3: Speed Bumps to Slow Motorized Scooters that Share the Cycle Paths
Figure 4: Plastic Bollards Physically Separate Cars from Entering Cycle Paths
Figure 5: Tunnels Continue Bike Paths in a Smooth Flow Without Interruption from the Ring Roads
Figure 6: Winding Residential Streets Lower Vehicle Speeds and Make Drivers More Aware of their Surroundings.
Adoption in the United States
Cities in the US like Atlanta are dealing with urban sprawl where people are not willing to bike the long distances from suburbia to city centers. Current US cities can promote traveling by bike by making it more difficult to drive. Measures may include reducing the number of parking spaces in cities and residential areas and incurring fees on parking spaces.
Design approaches in Houten are best applied to new districts of cities where there are opportunities to develop schools, housing and everyday shops in proximity, so people are willing to bike. Additionally, there are several opportunities for land development in the US to design a city from scratch or one with a newly growing population. One proposal in the US currently is a car free city close to Denver Colorado to serve a smaller population (Barber 2019).