Monday, 11 October 2010
Utrecht's pedestrianized shopping centre
It is not only cyclists, but also pedestrians who have benefited from the work which has been done in the Netherlands. The world's first deliberately car free street was the Lijnbaan in Rotterdam which opened in 1953.
This video from Mark Wagenbuur shows the way that the shopping streets in the centre of Utrecht have been transformed.
Mark says: The Utrecht pedestrian zone is a large area of car free streets in the historic city center. First in 1965 and from November 1968 on a larger scale, the narrow streets were closed to car traffic on the busiest shopping days. This experiment made the streets car free on Wednesdays and Saturdays which were -and still are- important market days. There was a lot of opposition from shop owners but the city went through with the plans for a permanent car ban. From 1971 the streets were permanently car free and they were redesigned. Side walks were removed and the streets were transformed to streets for pedestrians only. All opposition has since vanished. The area has been car free for 40 years now. The area is livable and a commercial success. It is one of the most attractive inner city shopping areas of the country. Best reached by public transport and bicycle. Deliveries to shops take place in the early hours of the day.
When private car ownership increased dramatically from the 1950s in the Netherlands, it was soon clear that the historic city centers could not handle that much traffic. Streets could not be widened without demolishing many historic buildings. It took about 20 years before the public and the cities knew that it could not go on like this. From the early 1970s many cities in the Netherlands created car free zones in the city centers. From that same time the use of the bicycle was on the increase again too.
On these streets, cycling is banned between 6:00 and 18:00. However, there are perfectly good, virtually car free, routes for cyclists which avoid these streets. Some can be seen in the other posts about Utrecht. Pedestrianization in the Netherlands works with cyclists, not against them.
Utrecht is not unique in having done this. In fact, virtually all towns in the Netherlands have made similar transformations.