Groningen: The World’s Cycling City

It’s no secret that just about anywhere you go in the Netherlands is an incredible place to bicycle. And in Groningen, a northern city with a population of 190,000 and a bike mode share of 50 percent, the cycling is as comfortable as in any city on Earth. The sheer number of people riding at any one time will astound you, as will the absence of automobiles in the city center, where cars seem extinct. It is remarkable just how quiet the city is. People go about their business running errands by bike, going to work by bike, and even holding hands by bike.

– by Clarence Eckerson, Jr. , Streetfilms,

The story of how they got there is a mix of great transportation policy, location and chance. You’ll learn quite a bit of history in the film, but essentially Groningen decided in the 1970s to enact policies to make it easier to walk and bike, and discourage the use of cars in the city center. By pedestrianizing some streets, building cycle tracks everywhere, and creating a unique transportation circulation pattern that prohibits vehicles from cutting through the city, Groningen actually made the bicycle — in most cases — the fastest and most preferred choice of transportation.

It does feel like bicycle nirvana. When I first got off the train in Groningen, I couldn’t stop smiling at what I saw around me. In an email exchange with my friend Jonathan Maus from Bike Portland, he described it as being “like a fairy tale.” This jibed with my first thought to him — that I had “entered the game Candyland, but for bikes!” In fact, for our teaser I originally titled this Streetfilm “Groningen: The Bicycle World of Your Dreams,” before I talked myself out of it. Although there is a magical quality about being there, in reality there is nothing dreamy or childlike about it. With political will and planning, what they have done should and can be done everywhere.

In our Streetfilm you’ll see the 10,000 (!) bicycle parking spaces at the train station, some of the incredible infrastructure that enables cyclists to make their journeys safer and quicker, and you’ll hear from many residents we encountered who go by bike just about everywhere they travel. But as one of my interview subjects, Professor Ashworth, wanted me to point out: the three days I was there were bright and sunny, and the hardy people keep up the bicycling through the cold winters. As with many bicycling cities, there area also big problems with cycle theft, and residents are always yearning for more bicycle parking.

I think most of us would trade some of those problems for a city with 50 percent mode share (and up to 60 percent in the city center!!).

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About Streetfilms

Streetfilms produces short films showing how smart transportation design and policy can result in better places to live, work and play. Founded in 2006, Streetfilms has become the go-to organization for educational films about sustainable transportation, and inspires action and behavioral change worldwide. Individuals, public agencies, non-profit organizations, schools, and transportation advocacy groups use Streetfilms to educate decision makers and make change for livable streets in their communities. Streetfilms are freely distributed online, and our nearly 500 videos have been viewed over 5 million times. Thousands of daily viewers watch Streetfilms on our site, through embeds on hundreds of other sites, social media, digital files and DVDs, film festivals, and community screenings. As people share the videos that inspire them, Streetfilms brings more and more people to the movement for livable streets.   * Click for more

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From World Streets

* More than one hundred postings on sustainable transport and social justice covering cities, actors, strategies, projects and culture in the Netherlands –  http://worldstreets.wordpress.com/tag/netherlands/

* Homage to Hans Monderman: Groningen – The Quiet Example –  http://worldstreets.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/groningen-the-quiet-example/

World Streets on Cycling – http://worldstreets.wordpress.com/tag/cycling/

About the editor

* The editor on cycle sharing (30 seconds is plenty) – http://vimeo.com/6856553

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Britton is an American political scientist and sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets, his latest book, "BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transport to Your City" focuses on the subject of environment, equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions. A pre-publication edition of Better Choices is currently undergoing an international peer review during Sept.- Oct. 2017, with the goal of publication in English and Chinese editions by end-year. If you wish to participate drop a line to BetterChoices@ecoplan.org .

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