All about cycling in the Netherlands
On a beautiful summer’s day, I filmed a ride on what appears to be a small country road. But this country road is special, it is in the middle of the city.
For ages this country road ran through the fields, but the city expanded and new parts were built north and south of this east west road in the late 1970s. Residential areas to the north and an industrial area to the south. By 1980 the old road was suddenly in the middle of the city.
When this was still a real country road there were many rural houses on it. The 1970s city planners deliberately kept the road and incorporated it into the city in a kind of city park. Many of the more contemporary houses were destroyed but all the monumental farm houses remained. There were so many of those that the road still has the atmosphere of a country road.
Motor traffic got new routes in the city expansion. This old road was not supposed to function as a short cut, so the access for motor traffic had to be restricted. All the remaining buildings can still be reached by motor traffic, but now usually only from one end. Since the original road was on a dike, and so elevated in the landscape, it was easy to create overpasses where the old country road crosses the new roads in the former lower lying fields. Three viaducts, only accessible for bicycles, make sure the route cannot be used as a through route any more. The down graded country road is now part of the recreational cycle route network.
A ride on a country road… in the city.
We can find his kind of urban planning all over the Netherlands. The city expansions from the 1950s and 1960s were planned with no respect for earlier structures like roads and waterways. Everything was levelled and city planners started with a blank canvas. However, from the 1970s urban planners kept some of the old roads and buildings and especially water ways. They were incorporated with a new function into the new urban developments, usually as routes for walking and cycling in park-like zones. This can only work if the original roads are downgraded and cannot function as short cuts for motor traffic. I know examples in Utrecht (Lunetten) and Houten, but other examples can be found all over the country.