Author: Mandia

About Mandia

Masters of Urban and Regional Planning student at Portland State University. Lover of two wheels, and two legs. Cat momma. And avid burger eater.

Final thoughts: Sustainable Transportation Class in the Netherlands

Well, I can honestly say that the bicycle and train infrastructure in the Netherlands is amazing! I had such a wonderful, and carefree, time traveling through the Netherlands that it really makes riding a bike or taking a train in the U.S almost unbearable. Protected bike lanes, protected intersections, a signaling scheme that prioritizes bikes and pedestrians over the car… it was wonderful. Not only did I lean a lot from Dutch design, I also learned a lot from my amazing cohort. I don’t know if we just got luck in this group or what, but after two weeks of sharing a small room, I didn’t want to kill any of them. Ok, maybe one person…(j/k). I learned so much from my friends. Over dinner, gelato, drinks, and walks in the plaza, we often discussed the what we would like to change in the U.S. I think we all agree that if Dutch infrastructure was provided in the U.S. you would see a substantial increase in the bike use, and a decrease in car related fatalities among bike and pedestrians.

To the Dutch: Thank you for hosting boisterous Americans and allowing us to explore your cities on our bikes! Also, I’ve never eaten so much cheese and bread in my life!

To my cohort: Many of you I had already known when I entered this program, but this trip has solidified our friendships in a way that will last a lifetime. To my NEW friends – you were all fantastic, smart, and hilarious. I’m so happy that I’m returning to Portland with new friends that I can rely on for a laugh and beer over soccer.

To Dr. Bertini: Thank you for all your hard work in organizing such a wonderful program, for dealing with our variety of attitudes, and for dealing with Peter. We will miss you at Portland State but wish you the best of luck in California.

 

Oh boy, these guys…

Somewhere in that pile in Marisa.

Somewhere in that pile in Marisa.

IMG_4020
We are NOT lost! Discussions on which way to go...it was pretty easy to figure it out.

We are NOT lost! Discussions on which way to go…it was pretty easy to figure it out.

Impromptu stop at the local playground

Impromptu stop at the local playground

Dr. B. Riding in Style!

Dr. B. Riding in Style!

Holland Wins!

Holland Wins!

Receiving directions on the proper way to drive a Vespa.

Receiving directions on the proper way to drive a Vespa.

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Final Project: Using Dutch Street Design on Portland Streets

Design Analysis:
Our final project of the term was to redesign a Portland street to Dutch standards. This was an exciting project in which I was paired with Alexis Kelso.  Alexis and I picked the intersection(s) at Morrison bridge and the connection to Belmont street heading east. We were both very excited about this project because we both live on or just off of Belmont street.

In this process we emphasized the completion of the network, which is clearly something that stands out in Netherlands bike infrastructure. Every city we visited on this trip was easily navigated by proper separated bike lanes and wayfinding.  Secondly, we emphasized the protected intersection. Many street in NL had either a protected intersection with bike and pedestrian specific lighting sequence, or a roundabout that emphasized the importance bikes and peds over the automobile. Lastly, our goal was to create a comfortable space for cyclists to connect to the existing infrastructure in Portland.

*renderings and graphics are not to scale – used only for relaying a vision.

Area of focus for our redesign concept.

Area of focus for our redesign concept.

Existing Conditions: As indicated by the bike facilities map, there is a clear gap in the network that does not allow users of Morrison Bridge to efficiently head east. The 3 areas of interest include the off-ramp at Water St., under the Morrison Bridge, and the intersection of Belmont St. and Grand Ave.

Existing Conditions: As indicated by the bike facilities map, there is a clear gap in the network that does not allow users of Morrison Bridge to efficiently head east.  The 3 areas of intrest include the off-ramp at  Water St., under the Morrison Bridge, and the intersection of Belmont St. and Grand Ave.

Intersection/off-ramp at Water St.  We proposed to remove vehicle access from the off ramp and create a safe bike and ped shared space that allows users easier access to/from the Morrison Bridge. The green hash marks indicate to drivers and bicyclists that they are entering an area that has shared uses.

Final Presentation.indd Final Presentation.indd

 

Under Morrison Bridge: This space is ideal for creating a stronger connection to Belmont street. However, we also had to consider the current conditions under the bridge. This area, especially at night can be a little frightening and uncomfortable. But by using vegetation, lights and art, we can encourage use not only by bicyclists, but pedestrians as well. This could make the space more active at night and reduce stresses for bicyclists.

Final Presentation.indd Final Presentation.indd

Intersection of Belmont St. + Grand Ave.: This intersection is unsafe due to the high speeds on Grand, and the intersection where traffic coming up from under the bridge (runs parallel with Belmont) merges with traffic coming off the bridge onto Belmont. The signal at the intersection were the two parallel streets meet is confusing and leads drivers to run the red light. To add to the chaos, there is a bus stop located on the southwest corner that is streamline unfriendly to pedestrians. Using  a protected intersection, remove the parallel road, and giving Grand Ave. a road diet, we believe that we could create safer environment for bikes and peds., while simultaneously adding connectivity to both east/west and north/south. Final Presentation.indd Final Presentation.indd

Our Final product would ultimately create stronger connectivity between Downtown and Southeast Portland. Final Presentation.indd

 

Houten: Bike haven suburb

Houten is a suburban community  just southeast of Utrecht. This community is known for its bicycle infrastructure and family amenities. This neighborhood has a unique design that keep motor vehicles on a ring road that surrounds the city. Each neighborhood is located along the inner ring of the road and with very few opportunities  for vehicles to bisect the city. This ring road, in essence, acts as an urban growth boundary.

 

…..There are 31 residential districts, each is only accessible to cars via a peripheral road encircling the town. A network of different types of paths for cyclists and pedestrians has been created throughout the area, with a direct backbone thoroughfare to the town centre. Only in residential streets cars are mixed with cyclists. Mostly all schools and important buildings are located along the cyclist’s backbone. The railway station is right in the centre of town. Every fifteen minutes a train takes travelers to Utrecht (regional centre, pop. 350.000) in ten minutes. The peripheric road is closed for bicycles, all crossings are made at different levels, by tunnels or bridges.

Houton Boundaries

Houton Boundaries

 

What makes Houten famous is it’s bicycle infrastructure. Starting in 1966, Houten created a master plan that would emphasize the bicycle as the primary means to commute within the city. Because of the city’s structure, people are encouraged to travel by bike (mostly within the city) and train (to employment opportunities in Utrecht). The urban design offers distinctive qualities that include the accessibility of a major railway station (with ample bike parking), green belts and water zones throughout the whole city that promote recreation and beauty, and a high standard of accommodations and housing for different groups. As mentioned previously, a major design accomplishment is the fact that cyclists and cars are able to avoid each other, thus avoiding potential conflicts. This is done through an extensive network of separated bicycle tracks that connect the different districts of the town, while cars have to go to the city ring road before they can go to another part of the city.

 

In red the free cycle paths, in orange the shared roads (fietsstraat) belonging to the cycle structure of Houten.

In red the free cycle paths, in orange the shared roads (fietsstraat) belonging to the cycle structure of Houten

During our visit in Houten, Andre our host at the City, stated that many people (outside of Houten) consider the city “boring”. This sparked a conversation amongst the Portland State and Northeastern students as to why. Our conclusions were not all that surprising. As in the United States, suburban development is catered to family living away from the hustle and bustle of urban developments. When contrasting Houten to Utrecht there are clear urban development and social characteristics that make them distinctly different. After this brief conversation, the question shifted to whether or not ‘we’ would choose to live in Houten. I personally answered no. Not so much because it’s a suburban community, but because like many smaller towns and cities in the Netherlands, there is no emphasis on community character. As an urban designer and traveler of most of the United States, one thing that makes U.S cities and towns intriguing is the culture(s) that inhabit them. Very rarely do you find two cities/towns that are identical. However, here in the Netherlands, everything is homogenous. Every town has a Hema, a Jambo, and sandwich shops.  There is no emphasis on mom and pop stores, or unique suppliers of goods. That lack of ‘character’ is something that intrigues me about the NL. Is this institutionalized or just nationalism? I’m not sure.

From a transportation standpoint, Houten has lived up to their name of being one the best bicycle cities in the Netherlands. The emphasis on safety is unmatched in the U.S. It really us quite a marvel and Houten clearly takes the cake by strictly limiting car use through their city. This creates safe streets in which everyone can enjoy. It opens up street as a public space, which is clearly something that missing in the U.S. By limiting the car use, children and families are able to extend their often small homes into this public realm and this creates a character that defines each neighborhood.

3000 Bike parking spaces under the train station - bike theft has been reduced to nearly zero%

3000 Bike parking spaces under the train station – bike theft has been reduced to nearly zero%

Bikes and Cars DON'T mix - separated and elevated paths reduce conflicts.

Bikes and Cars DON’T mix – separated and elevated paths reduce conflicts.

Bicycle infrastructure is directly adjacent to housing - making it a viable option for many residents.

Bicycle infrastructure is directly adjacent to housing – making it a viable option for many residents.

Utrecht: Catharijnesingel bicycle, pedestrian, and public transit bridges

Problem

Until the 1970s, the Catharijnesingel in Utrecht was a wide canal, with narrow roads on either side of it. Then the canal was filled to construct a six lane freeway that would inter the central city from the south east. This creation of a highway severely altered the urban environment that surrounded the newly constructed freeway. The City of Utrecht, like many American cities, had suffered a physical tear in their urban fabric that consequently separated communities and created an obstacle in the bicycle and pedestrian network.  During the time of the freeway, overpasses were used to connect the west and east sides of the Utrecht. However, these connections were for a mix of uses that combined pedestrians and bicyclists with automobiles.

As a freeway-Google Earth

Google Streeview of the freeway

Solution

The freeway was never fully completed after the 1970’s. It only span a few miles, therefore its use was limited at moving cars at a fast speed over several miles. To improve the conditions in Utrecht, and to bridge better connectivity from the west to east side, the City opted to return the defunct freeway back to its original purpose, a canal.  Because of the return of the canal, a new system of bridges are being built that will separate uses. One will support pedestrians and bicyclists only, and the other will support public transit only. Leaving personal vehicles to find routes to the north and the south.  At the time of our visit construction was still in progress, however, a pedestrian and bike only temporary crossing was already installed. In our observations, this detour were the new bridge will eventually be built, experienced a large number of cyclists as this connection provides immediate access to the Central Station and its expansive bike commuter parking lot.

 

Bringing the Canal Back

Bringing the Canal Back

Rendering of intersection at pedestrian and bicycle bridge

Rendering of intersection at pedestrian and bicycle bridge

Pros and Cons of the Catharijnesingel Canal

(+)  The restoration of the canal provides a natural space that will be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.  By removing the freeway, the city is reverting to a more human scaled urban form. By removing the freeway there are clear environmental benefits that include a reduction in noise and air pollution. As humans we enjoy natural places – although the canal is manmade, it does provide a biophilic opportunity for the community. With the dedicated bike/ped crossing, there will be an increase accessibility and mobility for the residents of Utrecht.
(-) An obvious con is a decrease in mobility for automobile drivers, especially those that have to rely on the automobile (eg. physically challenged or elderly).  By removing the freeway and redirecting traffic, there will be an  increase in traffic on surrounding surface roads, this can create congestion and have environmental effects in other neighborhoods. Lastly,  I would consider if the proposed bike and ped only facility will continue to meet demand well within the future.  Will the crossing need to be retrofitted again to keep up with increasing demand?

 

Is this viable solution in for the US?  yep!

Over the past several decades many U.S. city’s have begun to tear out freeways  that have severed their communities. Examples of these include Portland’s Harbor Drive (Removed 1974), San Francisco’s Embarcadero Frwy (removed 1989), and the Alaskan Way in Seattle (in progress). Another solution to the tear in the urban fabric is the creation of freeway caps. These capping systems function as an alternative to removing a highway, but also allow for the cities, neighborhoods, and communities to be mended.

Harbor Drive, Portland (1960's)

Harbor Drive, Portland (1960’s)

Harbor Drive - Now!

Harbor Drive – Now!

Retrofits in the U.S.

Highway removal and park creation is part of a series of changes that widened sidewalks and create other transportation options at the expense of car lanes. Turning six lane wide roads into public spaces help to calm traffic, create green space, reduce environmental degradation, and in some cases help to instituted public bicycle systems. By tearing down freeways, residents and visitors of many U.S. cities experience the city differently, through walking, biking, and public transportation rather than automobiles.

The above mentioned projects have created spaces at the human scale and have given natural access back to the residents. In all of these cases, in comparison with the Netherlands, non had the intention of creating an alternative transportation system to accompany the newly acquired space. In the U.S. the urban design of these spaces, whether a freeway teardown or a freeway cap, is centered on the creation of green space and/or economic development. Although bike/ped infrastructure is typically included it often is lacking because it does not connect to a larger network. However, in Portland Oregon, like in Utrecht, the City has opted to create  a bicycle, pedestrian, and public transit bridge (Tilikum Crossing) that crosses the Willamette River to better connect southeast Portland to downtown.

Of course big projects like these are not easy to come by. I won’t go into all of the arguments, but you can note that politics, funding, personal property rights, ROW, and nimby(ism) plays a major role in the U.S. in which large projects like those mentioned above are often put on a shelf and never realized. Whereas, in the Netherlands, the national and local government has the power to institute major projects. As argued by our host in Houten, the government does not experience much backlash from the public when it comes to funding such large and innovative projects – this is because the national government fully funds projects and taxes a only put to the maintenance of that infrastructure.

 

To learn more about really amazing freeway removals, visit http://gizmodo.com/6-freeway-demolitions-that-changed-their-cities-forever-1548314937

 

A link to further information on the Catharijnesingel  will be available through the NEU Wiki page (coming soon!) Check back for a link. But in the meantime, feel free to visit these website from more information!

http://cu2030.nl/page/catharijnesingel

http://aseasyasridingabike.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/should-we-employ-children-as-transport-planners/

http://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/the-big-detour-utrecht/

Plantagebrug Bike and Pedestrian Bridge

To insure a complete bike network, the Plantagebrug was constructed in 1985 as a bicycle and pedestrian only bridge. The Plantagebrug is located within the city of Delft and is part of a larger city-level bicycle network. This bridge links the north-eastern part of town to the city center and crosses the Rijn-Schiekanaal canal. Its location is key, given the fact that the other crossing options available , the Koepoortbrug and Reineveldbrug, are located about 1.2km on either side of the Plantagebrug. The creation of the Plantagebrug reduced the spacing to a much more desirable distance for many cyclists.

Goals:

  • Add a missing link to the city network
  • Reduce the barrier effect of the canal
  • Offer more comfortable and safe connection for cyclists

By prohibiting vehicular traffic on the bridge, the Plantagebrug offers a safe and comfortable route for bicyclists and pedestrians a like to enjoy.

Features:

The width of the bicycle path on the bridge is about 4.5 m., and there are two sidewalks of about 1.5 m. on each side. The length of the bridge is about 50 m. The use of bollards and signage prevent automobiles from gaining access. However, motor scooters are allowed to cross the bridge. The Plantagebrug is a Bascule bridge allowing for the passage of large boats and barges to enter the city.

 

Delft_Plantagebrug

Pete Jordan and Amsterdam

Over the weekend a group of us PSU students headed to Amsterdam to meet Pete Jordan zine legend and recent authors of In the City of Bikes. As part of our course readings we were encouraged to read this historical account of bikes in the Netherlands, which was intertwined with the personal life of Peter Jordan and his journey to becoming a resident in Amsterdam.

Getting a history lesson from Pete Jordan

Getting a history lesson from Pete Jordan

Our tour took us to many places mentioned in his book in which he gave us further information – not only from a historical view point, but from the political and social as well. As a student of  urban planning I found this information fascinating and this furthered my understanding of policies and planning in the NL. Obviously, land use and the availability of right-of-way is key to the success of the cycle track system in the Netherlands. The government owns all the land, thus if changes need to be made there is no opposition from private land owners. As a national government they can easily implement policies and plans that promote bicycling. Although the local and national governments do have ultimate control of bicycle infrastructure, they do perform community outreach to gain support for projects. The contrasting difference between the NL and the US is that the public (in most instances) support investments in alternative transportation modes.

One thing that became noticeable while visiting  different cities and towns is that infrastructure design is not a one-size fits all.  Applications of cycle tracts and bike lanes vary.  Contrasting Delft to Amsterdam, both provide an extensive network of cycle tracts, however, due to population and size, the application of the network vary and in the case of Amsterdam, their system fails at creating a safe cycling environment. Delft with a population of 97,690 (2011) and Amsterdam with a population of 779,808 (2011) and extremely different in infrastructure needs. Delft has the space and ROW to create large safe cycle tracts that provide accessibility across the city. Whereas  Amsterdam is more limited in the amount of space that is available for  such projects. This became apparent as cycle tracts randomly ended and pushed us out into traffic, squishing us between parked cars and large tour busses. Because it’s a medieval town, the land use is so tight that expanding row to create a better bike network is not possible. This leaves the cyclists in some vulnerable situations. Not only does the infrastructure abruptly end in some places, you are confronted by hordes of tourists and pedestrians that sometime inhibit the use of the bike (in my case, I would have preferred to be on foot to avoid any conflicts). Regardless of the bicycle infrastructure, in both Amsterdam and Delft having the street as a public space is culturally important. Mixing street furniture, cafe space, bike and peds, makes for an lively streetscape in which social interactions can occur.

Public space and bike parking, and bike parking, and more bike parking...

Public space and bike parking, and bike parking, and more bike parking…

Fourth of July in the Netherlands

Spending Fourth of July in a foreign country was not spectacular. I missed out on the All American Cookout, fireworks, and my cats hiding under the bed. Hearing people hollering up and down the street, random illegal fireworks going off in the neighborhood, the smell of charcoal, and children chasing each other with sparkler (and sometimes adults). It was nice that many of our foreign professors and guests acknowledged America’s freedom and hosted a BBQ, but this ultimately made me miss home.

The concept of freedom in NL is different  than in the US. You might not notice it at first sight, but under the pretty brick facades, clean streets, and compliant people, there is a silence of institutional segregation that occurs. Although the US experiences the same in many parts of the country, here it seems almost taboo to have any diversity (except within large tourist cities). There are clear social and cultural differences that have made me miss the “American way”. We are by no means perfect when it comes to providing opportunities for the disadvantage – but surprisingly, in a country that is known for so much progress and innovation there is a clear divide  that is born out of nationalism that as an American I find hard to comprehend.

However, to relate this all back to transportation, the public transit and cycle tract system is so extensive and prominent in the lifestyle that equity in terms of  transportation is not a concern. Ample transportation options are available regardless of social disadvantages, so this has the potential to provide opportunities to all peoples in the Netherlands.

 

 

Delft Neighborhood Tour

This self guided tour took us to three distinct neighborhoods in Delft; Binnenhof, Delfgauw’s Emerald, and Oost Tanthof.

Sites Visited in Delft

Binnenhof – the corridor that stretched from north to south was reminiscent to an U.S. transit oriented development (TOD). However, the difference here is that the width of the corridor is rather large to accommodate the separation of uses (pedestrian, cycle tracks, on-street parallel parking, automobiles, and light rail) at approximately 162ft in width. When contrasting this to typical TOD’s in the States. What happens in the Dutch example is that the scale of the development is not to “human scale”, the development of this space is large and tall creating a canyon. However, because Papsouwselaan street does provide multiple uses and is so wide, the design of the lanes was done in such a way that did attempt to reduce the feeling of being in a canyon. This was done through street trees and vegetation that created buffer zones around each use, thus bringing the scale of the street down to the human level in which one can feel comfortable. When considering the land use and transportation connection; the surrounding land uses (mixed use, but mostly residents) does provide the necessary density to support the light rail and bus systems, and the adjacent cycle tracts provide imitate mobility and accessibility to the community.  However, the urban design of the buildings and streets appear purely utilitarian. For an area that supports several multi-family dwellings, there was a lack of public spaces where people can gather and public life could flourish.

 

Separation of Uses

Separation of Uses

 

 

Emerald – This development is an “enclosed” neighborhood like many of the neighborhoods in Delft. This community offered multiple cycle tracts into the center of the community. However, after you enter this development the bike lanes disappear leaving the bicyclist on shared streets. This works in the neighborhood as many of the streets offer low speeds and several traffic calming devices – speed humps, painted roundabouts, and some vegetated buffers.

Two-way cycle track with vegetated buffer

Two-way cycle track with vegetated buffer

 

The land use in this neighborhood is characterized by two to three story multi-family dwellings, and nearest the central market is a senior housing complex that provides immediate services and access to to its residents.  Biking in the neighborhood was comfortable even considering the fact that we had to travel in a shared lane with cars.

More info on the Development:

http://www.kcap.eu/en/projects/v/emerald/details

http://www.archello.com/en/project/emerald-sheltered-housing-delfgauw

 

Oost Tanthof – is comprise of mainly low-rise multi-family dwellings and is characterized by a central market square. This development appears similar to New Urbanist ideals and concept by creating a compact development where the residents have access to shops and outdoor spaces.  However, because this development is so enclosed and isolated from other neighborhoods, the shops that are available are limited thus not meeting the full needs of its residents. From conversations with professors, it appears that many residents leave their community to meet their needs thus creating more trips (both by bike and car).

Although the development is dense, there were a noticeable amount of cars within the neighborhood which suggests that a personal vehicle is still very necessary for many families.  With the prospect of continued car use, the development does implement varied traffic calming techniques through the use of bollards and within the physical street design.

Vehicle circulation

Vehicle circulation

 

 

The diagram above shows how cars access this neighborhood (diagram and explanation provided by http://sustainabletransportationholland.org/examples/tanthof/ ) “The red road at the north indicates the main road. It is 4 lanes across with high speed traffic. This road is completely blocked off from the Tanthof area. The distributor road is labeled in blue. This is a two lane asphalt road with a speed limit of 50 km/h.” The green roads are considered local, distributor roads. “This is where true traffic calming starts as most of these roads are made with cobblestones and twist and turn to slow traffic. Streets are physically designed to enforce low speeds and be cycle friendly. Finally these roads all branch off to smaller roads that would be considered shared driveways in the United States.”

 

Riding through to the town center

Riding through to the town center

 

 

First Impressions are Lasting Impressions

Upon arrival I was fascinated with the sheer numbers of bikes that were on the streets. People weaving in and out, scurrying by, and in some cases barely missing each other – it was truly a ballet on the street. Once I had secured my bike which I promptly named ‘ol’blue’, we were off! Just a handful of us at the time, we explored the eastside of town and maybe got lost a little. About 30 minutes into our I ride I experienced the feeling of being little overwhelmed as there were clearly more bikes on the road at one time then I was use to. It was uneasy at first because of the often tight conditions on the bike path. It felt very much like crossing the Hawthorne bridge in Portland at rush hour.  However, after getting by bearings and “doing as the locals due” my confidence grew and I was off like a wild steed – which is a good sign in the sense that I was able to safely navigate the impressive cycle tracks.

I will state that I might have had higher expectations than what was realized on the ground. Mostly due to the fact that although bicyclists are safe due to the large financial commitment to infrastructure, and cars and their users are not given priority, the system is by no means perfect. I state this because just like in the U.S. pedestrians are treated a nuisance – they are clearly in the second or even third class ranks when it comes to road user hierarchy. In the same way as American automobile drivers don’t stop for pedestrians, bicyclists follow this same trend. However, the difference here is that ignoring the pedestrians plea to cross the cycle track is socially acceptable. But as an advocate of walkability and access, these cycle tracts could inhibit people from making short trips. providing  

Culturally the bike is significant in the Netherlands.  It is not glorified as it sometimes can be in the States. It is not an extension of one’s self expression. It is simply a tool that is used by everyone to get from destination A to B. The bike life that comes with this appears somewhat chaotic but the reality is that is flows like a well oiled machine. 

Imageol’blue

 

 

A similar story, but with a different ending

As per the course directions, I explored several online videos on Dutch bicycle design, explorations of cycling in the city, and the importance providing safe routes to school children. All of these videos touched on the fact that the Dutch had made deliberate choices in regards to infrastructure, design, policy and education. This ‘conscious decision’ to move from car-centric planning to a bicycle friendly country greatly peaked my interests. How did this happen and why?

After visiting the video How the Dutch Got Their Cycle Paths, by Markenlei, I had a better understanding of this cultural shift. I think many American’s think that the Dutch naturally through their genes are drawn to the bicycle. However, that was not always the case. A culture against the slaughter of innocent people by motor vehicles and the irreparable damage being done to the earth by carbon emissions were the leading causes in spurring a country to take up alternative means of transportation.

The most enlightening aspect of this historical account is the fact that Dutch were on the same trajectory as the United States in terms of car use and growth. Shortly after WWII the car became the idealized means of transport. A status symbol of prosperity and the rebirth of a nation. Moving into the 1950’s and 1960’s, the same form of “urban renewal” took place. The destruction of buildings and cities to make way for widening streets and parking lots to accommodate the growing demand. And in the 1970’s the same oil and economic crisis hit the Netherlands, devastating the nation. However, at this point in time is where the Dutch reached a pinnacle conclusion that would forever change their nation, culture, and lifestyle. As deaths from motor vehicles steadily rose (3300 deaths in 1971 alone, and of those deaths, 400 were children under the age of 14) the public declared a crisis. This public outcry coincided with the oil crisis and politicians used this historical moment to forever change transportation in the Netherlands.

Deliberate choices (as supported by the nation) influenced design, policy and education in the Netherlands. Financed by the national government- the first cycle route was built. The cycle route increased cycling by 30 to 60 percent (percentage dependant on city – not national percentage rate). This proved the theory that “if you build it, they will come”, this concept can be easily seen in Portland, Seattle, and Minneapolis where investments in bike and ped. infrastructure increases use of those modes. The shift from car-centric policies to ones that promote other modes is not an easy feat. It took political will on a national and municipal level and public intolerance of vehicular related deaths to make the shift.

Although I live in the U.S. which remained car-centric after the 1970’s oil crisis and continues to support personal vehicles as a valid means transport. I admire, and perhaps a little envious, of the fact that the people of the Netherlands recognized the deaths of innocent people in their communities, and the environmental degradations that was happening, and opted take responsibility and acted on it in a selfless way. The safety for their children rather than the connivance of mobility was a priority, and that the nation as a whole was represented by their leaders and forever changed culture.