Friday 28 January 2011

Houten - A typical day in a cycling town

A few days ago, Kever53 subscribed to my youtube channel. I had a look at his videos and found this great one which shows off Houten.

You'll see all types of people cycling, including the sporty, Mums with children, children on their own. Young, middle-aged, and elderly.

It's like a microcosm of the Netherlands as a whole. Everything's connected by cycle paths, housing, shops, schools, railway station, beach, and at the end you see how the old village centre is also connected.

Houten is a town of 38000 people in the Netherlands. It's an ancient city, but in 1966 was designated as an area of growth and started expanding rapidly. Houten is known world-wide as a town which was designed to prioritize cycling. The result has been a high rate of cycling and a very low rate of injuries on the roads and cycle paths.

Many things which were tried out first in Houten have spread across the country. However, Houten's achievement is still significant. Three years ago, Houten won the title of "Fietsstad 2008".

I've blogged about Houten before. You can find these posts here.


John in NH said...

very nice! However I find it interesting that I spotted more helmets being used than in any of your or Mark's videos (I counted 3 I think) Is this because of a "safety" campaign? or is it something else... I also noted that in the video there seems to be a large amount of :shared space" in terms of auto/bicycle traffic, more so than I have seen before... Very nice though!

David Hembrow said...

Hi John: I think you just got "lucky" with the helmets. The first in the video is on someone wearing the full racing uniform. Those people often wear them.

I don't think there's any formal "shared space" in the video. However, there are bicycle roads and in the centre you see some cars which have used the area for access (I think one is next to a trailer for selling something) even though it's ostensibly a car free area.

Anonymous said...

You guys do this just to torture us in the UK, don't you?

Cars giving way to cyclists? That not physically possible!

Mark W. said...

@John in NH; Yes there are some helmets to be seen, and there really are some in my videos too. I think the figure is 0.1 percent for the Netherlands so one in a thousand does wear one and it is not very hard to see a thousand cyclists here, so yes you do see them once in a while.

And you can also see some shared space but very little. Only when the video shows the old village from 3:45 there is a street with no cycle provisions. But the bollards you see from 3:50 give away that that is a very traffic calmed area. No through streets. The cars you see earlier in the video are either crossing a cycle path (at 2:25) or drive as guests in a cycle street as David already pointed out (2:40). And then they do (have to) give priority to the cyclists.

Houten is very well known to me as it is very close to Utrecht where I grew up. Most of these houses were built for people not finding homes in Utrecht. I remember as a kid one of our annual school outings was an evening winter walk from Utrecht to Houten (takes a little over an hour) and then a good old fashioned meal in the Hotel-Café-Restaurant this video ends with. The walk was then still through meadows as the village Houten was little more than a church on a square with that Hotel and just a few houses. But this was over 30 years ago. I am glad they created the new city as cycle friendly as they did.

Amsterdamize said...

After two and a half years of Amsterdamize, telling people I was born in Houten (1971) and saw it expand & transform to the current grid, feels almost like admitting to alcoholism in front of a support group :)

I have a few photos of Houten here & here (summer) and a little video to boot (although the sound got messed up a bit in the edit).

Hit me with any questions you might have about Houten.

OldGreyBeard said...

Looks a bit like Milton Keynes but with cars giving way to cyclepaths and without the 70mph dual carriageways.

But as a previous poster why do you torture us so?

Videos like this are a very advocacy tool for segregated cycle paths

amoeba said...

I'm convinced that eventually we'll start making sensible strides in this direction, but I don't know when or how long it'll take.

Lovely video.

Anonymous said...

It would be useful if you actually went to Houten. The cycle paths don't have logical routes, partly because the urban design of the 1970's rejected clear axes and sight lines, and partly because the roads were designed first. The works around the station (visible on the video) cut the main cycle route through the centre, and the diversionary routes were bad or non-existent.

But that's not the main issue. The problem is that this does not show Houten as such, but just a section of it. It doesn't show the employment zones on the outskirts (Doornkade, Rondeel, Meerpaal) or the motorways. The Google Earth images of those zones give a better impression of Houten than the video.

If you visit a Dutch city and make a video of the cycle paths, then you get a video of the cycle paths. In comparison with other countries that does at least show that there are cycle paths. But it does not show that "everyone is cycling" or that cycle policy has been successful.

David Hembrow said...

Anonymous (the second one): As it happens, I have been to Houten. The video gives a very accurate picture of what it is really like.

Others have shown repeatedly how the cycle paths provide more direct routes than the roads. In fact, there are two examples of films showing this already on this blog (1, 2).

I've also covered a report with figures showing that cycle usage in Houten-Zuid is higher than in another nearby residential zone.

While things are not perfect in the Netherlands, conditions for cyclists here still stand head and shoulders above those in any other country. The rate of cycling here is much higher than any other country for exactly that reason.