Woonerven (Home Zones) are Nearly Car Free but woonerven are residential areas. Shopping streets do not have the same character. While woonerven are not through routes by either car or bicycle and serve only those who live in the area, shopping streets have to allow access by the public. Shopping streets should not have the same form as a residential area. The idea of Autoluwte goes back to the 1970s and it is common in very many town centres and smaller shopping areas across the entire country. Every town and city has areas like this and the centres of Assen and Groningen are not exceptions.
The video shows how this works on a fairly cold February afternoon (min -3 C, max +2 C) in Assen. There are a lot of cyclists and pedestrians but you won't see many moving cars. Many of the pedestrians have reached the centre of the city by bicycle. You can see their bikes parked everywhere in the video. Because there are very few moving cars there are also very few interactions with cars. This results in a high degree of subjective safety and makes it possible for everyone to feel safe when walking or cycling:
In the centre of Assen everyone cycles in safety. If you don't watch this video
Nearly car-free streets like this feature all across the Netherlands. They're a great success.
This is not "Shared Space"
Unfortunately, foreign observers often confuse NCF with the much newer, but much less successful idea called "Shared Space". This is unfortunate as they are actually diametrically opposed ideas.
|"Shared Space" in Haren. Much through|
traffic by car, conflict is promoted,
Cycling feels uncomfortable and
|"Shared Space" in Haren.|
It's really all about cars,
not about pedestrians and
In "Shared Space" areas, pedestrians run across the road and cyclists cycle amongst the pedestrians. Such areas do not have relaxing and pleasant streets as seen above in Assen and the many other places which have excluded cars.
Groningen also has nearly car free streets. As in Assen, this means that even
The most effective way of civilizing town centres
Removing cars from streets is a very effective way of encouraging cyclists. However, this removal has to be almost total in order to make cycling attractive to the whole population.
Note also that "pedestrianized" areas in the Netherlands usually make it clear that they do not exclude bicycles.
We are running an open Cycling Study Tour in May 2013. Book a place if you wish to see how what we describe on this blog works in real life.
Well before it was applied to streets in the Netherlands, the underlying principle of Shared Space was laid out very clearly by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.