All about cycling in the Netherlands
Some weeks ago I had to do a course I didn’t find useful at all. I couldn’t find a good excuse for wriggling out of it, but as it turned out, there was a good thing about this course after all! And that was its location, or, to be more precise: the view from it. When I looked out of the window I could see one of the busiest cycle routes in Utrecht, that had been rebuilt just days earlier!
Utrecht is reconstructing its Central Station Area and this is on the edge of that area. Vredenburg has long been a major east west route that connects to a further street that I have shown you in an earlier blog post. This was a major arterial road for hundreds of years. But for more than 7 years reconstruction has been going on now. A reconstruction that is now in its final stages. A new music theatre was just finished and right next to it an apartment building on top of a shopping centre. In the basement of this new building there is room for several hundreds of bicycles in an underground parking facility. This street can finally get the lay-out of a “normal” street again and the city has started with building a new 4.5 metre wide bi-directional cycle path on the south side of the street. The south side path will be bi-directional because it connects to a new bi-directional path in the station area. So most people will use this bi-directional path. However, for those people who want to arrive at a destination on the north-side of the street, there will also be a one-directional cycle path there. That second path will be built in a later stage of the reconstruction of this street. It is what you often see in the Netherlands: a bi-directional path on one side, but only as an extra option. Because you need to be able to cycle on both sides of the street, so there is then also a one-way path on the other side of the street.
Up until the 1990s private motorized traffic had been allowed to use this street on the north side of Vredenburg square. In the 1960s it was a big arterial road with at least 4 and sometimes 6 lanes of traffic, including bus lanes. Nowadays only buses use the street and the many people cycling. An estimated 20,000 people pass here every day on their bicycle. Motor traffic was relocated wide around the old city centre. Not to one particular new route, but it was dispersed over a large number of other routes.
Today all you see is buses and people cycling. During rush hour even more people cycle than there are people walking. This reverses during shop hours. Because this is in the heart of Utrecht’s main shopping district, you will see a lot of pedestrians. This has been a main shopping street for a very long time. Google offers you a look into one of the very old shops, a large and very classic store for household items. A well-known store in the region of Utrecht.
I found another picture from 1961 that was taken from the same location from which I now filmed, only from a lower floor. If we compare the 1961 situation to the way the street is functioning now, we can see just how much mobility in the city centres of Dutch cities has changed. Private motorised traffic no longer dominates the streets, but buses and people cycling.
From my location at the 6th floor I could see how impressive it is to see so many people cycling during morning rush hour. I had not been prepared for this view so I didn’t bring my normal camera. Luckily my smart phone is able to make acceptable video too, even through slightly tinted glass windows. Because of the glass I didn’t capture street sounds and that is why this video has music again.
The building itself is also being changed. It will lose the brown and chrome 1980s façade and be open and light. You can see reconstruction has already started on the lower floors of the right hand side. It will be a completely new street this way.
And finally, that look down on an intersection that handles 20,000 people cycling per day, in morning rush hour.
Utrecht morning rush hour