All about cycling in the Netherlands
My series of the nominees of the election to become best cycling city of the Netherlands in 2014 is complete. But the five nominated municipalities were also portrayed by the Cyclists’ Union. These portraits were made to make the cities look their best, so it is perhaps nice to see these videos too.
I translated each municipality’s motivation to participate in this election and the most important details as they were published on the nominee pages.
Area 248.77 sq.km
Almere is the safest cycle city in the Netherlands. The city has a network of no less than 500 kilometres of cycle routes, for the most part separate and with an asphalt surface. Cycling on the main cycle network has priority (over motor traffic) and all crossings with main roads are grade separated. Nowhere can you cycle faster and more pleasant. Many hundreds of bridges and tunnels make Almere a city without barriers. The extensive nature reserve areas, the water and the wide range of high-profile architecture make recreational cycling in Almere an enjoyable experience.
Why is Almere a cycle city?
Area 88.87 sq.km
Cycling in Eindhoven is pleasant and it becomes increasingly better and nicer to cycle. Traditionally Eindhoven has had many obstacles for cycling, such as busy and wide roads and many (older) traffic light installations. There were many cycle paths with a surface of concrete tiles and there was a shortage of good bicycle parking facilities. One by one these obstacles are eliminated, or the situation was improved, with a strong focus on innovative cycle solutions. The new mobility vision “Eindhoven En Route” gives direction to a pleasant cycle climate. In short, Eindhoven transforms from a car city into city for cycling.
Why is Eindhoven a cycle city?
Area: 142.72 sq.km
The love affair between Enschede and the bicycle has blossomed, the city again gives a considerable incentive to encourage cycling. With a prominent role for innovation, the quality level of future-proof facilities was raised, focusing on the use of bicycles for daily as well as for recreational purposes. Enschede has traditionally been a cycling city, with many cycle paths and good parking facilities. The city is proud of the rediscovery of these pearls for a sustainable and liveable city.
Why is Enschede a cycle city?
Area: 63.05 sq.km
For many years, taking good care of the needs of cycling in the municipality of Velsen has been a matter of course. So many separated cycle paths have been constructed and cyclists encounter few obstacles in their way. There are only few traffic lights, many bollards have disappeared and the cycling infrastructure is being kept in excellent condition. The recreational cyclists are not forgotten either. Important recreational destinations have become well-connected to the cycling network.
Why is Velsen a cycle city?
Area: 111.33 sq.km
Zwolle really is a city for cycling! Almost 50% of all journeys within the city, by residents, commuters and holiday makers, are undertaken by bicycle. Cycle routes have been paved with smooth asphalt and were designed as bicycle streets, wide cycle lanes or separated paths. They take the cyclists quickly and safely to their destinations. We are proud of our Hanseatic Arch, a high-speed cycle route and the cycle roundabout. In an innovative way we ensure that the rider can move forward in Zwolle. We do not do this on our own, we involve our residents in our bicycle projects.
Why is Zwolle a cycle city?
In exactly one month, on the 8th of May the winner will be announced. So which city has the best cards? Here are my thoughts.
Zwolle is my winner. This city clearly displays it cares for its citizens who choose cycling as transportation, not only in words, but in actual measures in the streets. For quite some years the city has been building many brand new facilities of a very high quality and with innovative designs that work. That there is (still) a high number of older cycle lanes is unfortunate but the many new facilities outweigh this disadvantage.
Eindhoven is a dangerous outsider. It too displays it cares for cycling by actually building (very) good new cycling facilities that at the same time discourage using the car. Hovenring draws most attention and is considered a “vanity piece” by some, but there are also great cycle streets, and many older cycle paths have been or are being repaved with smooth asphalt. On the other hand the city still has a lot of work to do: the car is still king on the city ring and there are many traffic lights that form barriers for cycling. So it may be a bit too soon for this title.
Velsen is small but the state of maintenance of the facilities in this municipality is impressive. Unfortunately the North Sea Canal is a huge barrier and the municipality choose to build cycle tracks with a surface of concrete tiles and not asphalt. I must admit that I have not visited IJmuiden because I hadn’t realised it was part of Velsen (and I have since learned of some good facilities there) but I think that overall the infrastructure quality is not as good as that of Zwolle and Eindhoven.
Enschede has been in the vanguard of cycling friendly cities. It was the birthplace of not only the “all directions green for cycling intersections” but also of the roundabouts with priority for cycling. But these innovations were long ago and the city seems to have been resting on its laurels in the last 15 to 20 years. The most recently built facilities are again of a very high quality but it is not yet enough to warrant the title in my opinion.
Almere is in a league of its own when it comes to barrier free cycling. But having a completely separate cycle grid turned out to have major down sides as well. The social safety and the long distances in this city are really a problem. And so is the state of maintenance. Bad surfaces are a barrier too. Many surfaces in Almere are in an urgent need of an update and the plans reveal that they are not going to be resurfaced any time soon. The solutions the city choose to increase the feeling of social safety on new routes are not well executed and seem a step backward. To top it all off the city forces cyclists to dismount to cross a pedestrianized street in the city centre. That alone is reason for disqualification in my book.
And why did I actually show you these cities at all? Isn’t this only interesting for the locals? I think not. It shows you that even in the country where cycling is generally thought important, there are huge regional differences. It is also good to learn what a competition like this does in a country. It makes municipalities think about their own policies when they are measured against other cities. This increases awareness about strong points and weaknesses and could spark better policies. The competition also serves as a yard stick for what the Dutch themselves think is important to facilitate cycling at the moment. This whole concept may serve as an example for other countries to make different cities in a country more aware of their own potential and the state of their cycling climate.