Ten years later in Utrecht

Usually, my “before-and-afters” are a couple of weeks, sometimes months, apart, but for this week’s post I rode a route which I filmed exactly a decade ago for the first time. That’s right, the before-and-after are 10 years apart this time! Especially in the city centre of Utrecht that is a very long time, since so much has been happening there in the last decade!

Ten years ago, in 2009, the left turn at the beginning of the video was around a major intersection. The north-end of the city motorway that was closed later that year and which has completely vanished now. (North is at the bottom of this photo.) Also the bottom-part of the road to the right has been closed since 2009. Motor traffic in both directions now drives on what was then just one-way, the top half of the road.
The left turn now takes place around the city canal-moat. The roundabout has gone and so has the bottom half of the road to the right. Leading to a double T-junction. There are fewer large trees now. There are many newly planted grown trees, but they are still not so big as the trees they replaced. This part of the city has changed much but it isn’t finished yet. The former road to the right will get buildings. It is just not completely clear how exactly. The residents would like to keep the former road as the small park it has become now.
Where people were waiting for the light to turn green in 2009, there no longer is a road in 2019. Note that the surface of many cycle tracks in 2009 still consisted of grey concrete tiles.
At the exact same location we now see a strip of grass to the right, where one half of the road used to be. A bit further in the distance the former asphalt remained and the driving lanes have been transformed into parking.

Since I have been filming for this blog since 2009, the first images I took are really becoming “old” now. It is also clear that the camera I used in those days was not very good at stabilising the images. That the surface was so much bumpier in 2009 also didn’t help. Still, the images are good enough to serve as the before images.

In 2009, the ride took me parallel to the motorway. Unfortunately, due to the fact that it was below grade, you couldn’t see much of it in the video. The road and all its viaducts have been demolished and there is now a canal with bridges.
This aerial picture of 2018 shows that the canal had been finished (since December 2015) and there are now a few bridges. Not every viaduct was replaced by a bridge which means there are fewer places where you can cross the water than there were crossings of the road. Some people are still a bit angry that a main cycle route was severed that way.
On this picture you can see where the motorway started to run below grade.
At that same location there is now water. Unfortunately not very visible from the cycle path. The cycle path is now one way on either side of the much narrower street. There used to be bi-directional cycleways on either side of the motorway before.
Almost everything changed in this picture. The pedestrian walk way was already closed and half demolished. All the trees have since disappeared. The facade to the right is going to be hidden with a new facade covering a number of 1970s and 1960s buildings to try and tie them together more.
It is no wonder the people in Utrecht are very tired of the reconstruction in this station area. What was a building site in 2009 is still a building site in 2019! The walkway is gone and the gigantic music theatre has been built to the left. On the right hand side we see the facade to cover the 1970s one, which is under construction. The two men in hi-viz attire are there to guide trucks with building materials across the temporary cycle path. Once this is all finished new trees will be planted along the new canal. But that is taking a long time.
Although the before ride took place directly next to the motorway, you can almost not see it in the video. The pedestrian walkway, part of the city’s mall, has been replaced by a walkway that is four times as wide.
In 2019, this part of the ride takes place next to a building site (even more so on the picture which is from 2018). The water has not returned here yet, but it should all be finished by the end of 2020. The new much wider walkway of the city’s mall creates a longer tunnel here. It helps that daylight can get through about halfway, but it is still not very attractive. On the right hand side of the picture you can see the much larger hall of the Utrecht’s central station and the honeycomb roof of the new station square.
Right behind the trees on the left was the motorway. The trees have gone and so has the pedestrian walkway over the road in the distance. The only thing you can see in both pictures is part of the white facade on the right hand side.
It is still very much a building site here in 2019. The white facade from the previous picture is just visible over the new facade they are constructing in front of many old ones. Behind the street light on the left there is now water. The pedestrian walkway of the mall is now much closer because it became so much wider. This created almost a tunnel. Many people in Utrecht do not like this part of the reconstruction.
It wasn’t any good, this place in 2009, from an urban design perspective. At least there were some trees. The surface of the cycleways was very uneven. This was a very messy place.
When you think it was bad in 2009 you can only conclude it has got much much worse in 2019. Much of the old surface is still there with a bit of paint on top of it. Fortunately this is temporary, but it has been like this for almost a decade now. It is high time this will be finished by the end of next year. The people in Utrecht can’t wait for it. We can only hope the trees that will be planted here will be as big as the ones that were planted in the first part in 2015. They have really changed the area for the better. That is very necessary here too!
A messy street scape in 2009, soon to be a building site when the road was closed.
An even messier street scape in 2019. The metal contraption to the left is a metal sheet that is drilled into the ground and which is going to be enforcing the shore. The metal will be behind the brick wall next to the water and it will help keep the road in place. You can almost not blame the people in Utrecht who complain that everything got so much worse in the reconstruction. It did here, but there will be an end to this situation. Hopefully by the end of 2020, as promised.
A separate cycle way at this location. Not visible, but to the left between the parked bicycles was actually a roadway for motor traffic. That has since disappeared and this part is now all for pedestrians.
Where the motor traffic once drove, there is now a wide cyclepath with a red asphalt surface. The two tier bicycle parking racks are temporary. When the largest bicycle parking garage in the world (at the end of the street to the right in this picture) will be opened next month, these racks will be removed.

Video with the same ride in Utrecht in July 2009 and July 2019.

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