Sunday 22 May 2011

Houten visit and discussion

Yesterday I went to Houten to meet once again with the group of Australians currently in the country (the same people as came to Assen a week previously). Herbert Tiemens from Houten lead a ride around the city with Mark Wagenbuur, while Marc van Woudenberg and myself where also on hand and talked a lot.

Paulo made a video of some of our conversation over lunch:

I took a few photos:
The centre of Houten. No cars are allowed here, except for access.

I could have stood here all day and taken similar photos. Note the wide demographics of cycling. In the Netherlands it is normal for children who are old enough to balance to ride their own bikes, rather than having to be carried on a bike ridden by parents.
Herbert talks about the city, how cyclists can take direct routes while drivers cannot. Herbert also told us about the road safety record of Houten. In the past 25 years there has been just one fatality amongst cyclists in the city, a pensioner who was unfortunately run over by a refuse truck. Dutch cyclists are the safest in the world.

OV-Fietsen - the national public bicycle system of the Netherlands. These distinctive blue and yellow bikes are available in almost all cities.

The new railway station cycle park is especially well integrated You can park your bike (there are 3500 spaces for a city of 50000 people) buy a ticket and then climb the stairs to access the platform directly.

Social safety is also important. This is cycle parking in which you don't feel you will be mugged. The flowers are a nice touch.

Most cycling in Houten takes place away from cars.

The demographic of "cyclists" in the Netherlands also includes disabled and elderly people. Cycling is accessible to all in one form or another. Note the subtle barrier to prevent motorists from using this cycle path (I'm standing at a junction with a bicycle road)

A relatively new development in Houten. This narrow bicycle road (bikes have priority, cars are considered to be "guests") is the only access road by car for 900 homes (a short silent movie showing it can be seen here)

Everywhere is most easily reached by bike.

Cycle paking in the historic centre of Houten. Amongst five adult bikes, which share three child seats for very small children, are two small bikes for 4 year olds. In Dutch cities, it's quite normal for such small children to ride their own bikes into the city centre.
The photos show many of the features of Houten. However, while this city was specifically designed to accommodate bikes, and does so very well, it would be wrong to get the impression that what works in Houten has stayed in Houten.

All other cities in the Netherlands, including Assen where we live, now have many similar features. Successful experiments in Houten as well as other cities have influenced new development and re-development all across the country. These days, the Netherlands doesn't really have just a few "cycling cities", but is in fact an entire cycling country. Cycling en-masse is not concentrated in just a few areas. This is the secret of why the cycling rate is so high for the country as a whole.


Slow Factory said...

Sounds like Houten is doing everything right. I am curious as you know about cycling amongst immigrants from non-European countries and their children... and grandchildren. I think you have covered this before and I saw statistics from Fietsberaad, so I am most curious about which provinces or cities make the most difference, though I realize some of this might be difficult to track e.g. if immigrants move around and finally decide to do normal, boring cycling in a different place then they first lived in.

Anonymous said...

I know it is a matter of personal choice but that's weird to see those Australians wearing their helmet in Nederland when everybody else kids included ride without!

Richard said...

The interesting question with Houten is how well it will still work when they build a whole new set of houses "outside" the peripheral road. It'll probably be OK to start with, but start to break down as more and more is added.

Houten is a commuter village, pretty much all new-build. I'm not sure it really helps understand what to do in larger/older settlements.

David Hembrow said...

Richard: this has already happened, and quite successfully. The photo of a "relatively new development in Houten" is in a place which is already outside the original ring-road (it's here, in fact).

Houten is not only a "commuter village". Many people who live there work in Utrecht, to which there is a good quality 10 km long cycle route and very good public transport links. However, 40% of the people who live in Houten also work in Houten.

And as for "larger/older settlements" - well, actually if you look around the Netherlands you'll find that all new developments on the sides of existing larger and older cities are being built in much the same way as Houten. Kloosterveen in Assen is a good example. The cycling rate of Assen as a whole has increased after building this large extra suburb beyond the city's original border despite the "sprawl" which this added to the city.

Houten was a successful experiment. The lessons learnt there are successfully being applied elsewhere.

dreamer.redeemer said...

I think you live in heaven... what's the bandwidth like? Oh that's right. Huh.