Wednesday 8 October 2008

The influence of spatial planning on bicycle use and health

The title is that of a report by researchers from the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam.

They looked at two new-build developments near Utrecht, Veldhuizen in Leidsche Rijn and Houten-Zuid (Houten itself being a largely new city, designed to be cycle friendly, as already discussed). These new developments are both still under construction, and both are further from the centre of a city making it more difficult to preserve a cycling culture due to journeys being longer. However, Houten-Zuid is judged to be much more cycle friendly than Veldhuizen.

The investigation showed that in Veldhuizen, 33% of shopping was collected by bicycle, 13% of commuters travel by bike, and 56% of people take recreational rides. These figures might look quite good for most countries, but they're a little disappointing here. In Houten, the figures are 51% for shopping, 24% for commuting and 77% taking recreational rides.

These figures need a little explanation. People who mix modes on their commute by cycling or walking in addition to taking public transport are not generally included in cycling figures in this country. To include them, add 9% and 14% respectively to the earlier commute figures. Also, sport cycling is excluded from the recreational figures.

Residents of Houten-Zuid rate their cycle facilities higher than residents of Veldhuizen. What's more, many residents of Houten-Zuid give the cycle friendliness of the location as a reason why they chose to live there. Cycle friendly design results in an area being more highly valued by its inhabitants.

Perhaps the most interesting result for me personally is this one, showing the preference for different modes of transport.

Having previously lived in a place in the UK where the local papers were always filled with letters from people complaining about cycles and cyclists, it is wonderful to see the overwhelming preference for bicycles of people living in both of these locations in the Netherlands.

I take the complete lack of anti-cycling sentiment in our local paper as suggesting that people in Assen have similar views.

Everyone appears to want to cycle, even if their circumstances currently make it difficult. As with anywhere else, where the conditions for cycling are better (as they are in Houten-Zuid), more people cycle.

The photo and the report contents courtesy of the Fietsberaad - the Dutch cycling experts group. Their story on the report, in Dutch, is here. Assen has a similar Vinex wijk, Kloosterveen, which features on the Study Tours we organise in the Netherlands for people interested in cycling infrastructure.

No comments: