Monday, 22 September 2008
Back in the UK, much is being made of the proposed eco-towns. These are supposed to be developments which encourage living in a more sustainable manner. However, none of them seem to be seriously tackling the problems of transport by making a serious effort to get people out of motor vehicles. The Dutch have tackled this by encouraging people to cycle.
Houten is a few kilometres South East of Utrecht. It dates back hundreds of years, however it was always a small town until the 1960s when it was targeted for growth. In the 1970s, the city's planners decided to discourage car use and encourage the use of bicycles. The city has grown rapidly since then, allowing a lot of new ideas to be built in at the point of design. It now has 47000 residents living with a very low road casualty rate and a very high cycling rate.
To quote from the Houten local government website: "There are 16 districts, each is only accessible to cars via a peripheral road encircling the town. A network of different types of paths for cyclists and pedestrians has been created throughout the area, with a direct backbone thoroughfare to the town centre. Only in residential streets cars are mixed with cyclists. Mostly all schools and important buildings are located along the cyclist's backbone."
We visited Houten on the 2006 Study Tour and found it a pleasure to cycle there.
The local government web page has English language information about Houten, including links to other articles about the city.
Many of the principles established in the design of Houten have since been used in other new developments and existing cities around the Netherlands, including Assen where we base the Study Tours, particularly around the new suburb of Kloosterveen. However, other countries seem slow to pick up on what has been achieved.