“Every time I look at the bike culture and infrastructure in Copenhagen or Amsterdam, I feel inspired and hope that people around the world will learn from these great examples,” writes Michael Graham Richard from Treehugger.com. That’s the beauty of city planning and bicycle infrastructure. Cultural and urban discussion ensues, debunking dependency on motor vehicle transportation, further piecing together safer communities. Bike heavens such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam lubricate policy and advocacy movements across the world to bring healthy and positive change.
The city of Groningen in the Netherlands deserves similar recognition. In just two days, fans of Groningen created Internet buzz as the “city of bikes” in tangent with Copenhagen and Amsterdam.
Also view Groningen: The World’s Cycling City
“We don’t have to live with noisy cities.” Groningen looks like a cyclist’s play land with traffic lights and smooth brick ways American big-city commuters can envy. As a cyclist in San Francisco, the gamble of riding on Market Street, even with clear road markings for bikes, is enough to make me wish for exiled car areas for public transportation and cyclists to ride in peace. Groningen worked to solve that problem without being anti-car. David Hembrow notes that the effort was not anti-carism but a measure to actually make bicycling an option and neighborhoods safer.
“The excellent and very safe climate for cyclists in Groningen is the result of very specific policy decisions made a generation ago, which built on the city’s existing advantages — including a compact street plan that was a legacy of its history as a fortress town,” writes Sarah Goodyear in The City Where Bicycles Rule the Road
In the 1950s and 1960s, the motor vehicle was paving the expansion of urban sprawl and roads accommodated space for more cars on the road. The 1970s brought on a shift in thinking. A leftist government and a traffic circulation plan cut the inner city into four sections. A “ring road” was built encircling the city driving out “negative externalities” like air pollution, noise and car crashes from the city center. Bikers have a superior commute, a direct point A to point B route that takes about 12 minutes versus 30 minutes by car. Only pedestrians, bikers and public transportation can travel through the city center. By law, even parents can’t drive their kids through Groningen to school. That means more space and roads families can safely commute by walking or biking together.
“A vital threshold has been crossed. Through sheer weight of numbers, the bicycle now makes the rules, slows the traffic and determines the attitudes of drivers. Motorways have been dug up, roads are being narrowed or closed to traffic, miles of bike lanes and special bike overpasses weave through the city and there are tens of thousands of bike parking places.” – Cyclorama
And the sustainable transportation plans swelled the cycle network. Free bicycle parking available creates a “garden bicycle park” that holds 5,000 bikes. On the weekends, the numbers can total 10,000.
- Main 46 routes of the cycling network is used daily by 216,000 citizens
- The average person rides 1.4 times per day
- 50,000 student population out of Groningen’s 190,000 population, leading to the lowest average age in any Dutch city, contributing to a correlation between higher number of students and more bikers
Regarding bicycle parking, “[i]t’s almost impossible to keep up with the demand for cycle-parking. The main railway station in Groningen featured in Clarence’s video currently has spaces for around 11000 bicycles, up from about 3000 ten years ago. However the cycle-park in not adequate at the weekends so current plans are for the number of spaces to rise to 19000 by 2020.” – A view from the cycle path
Bikes have simple designs, take up little space, and empower people of all ages through efficiency, cost-effectiveness and health. Even after decades of motorization and countless innovations in automobiles, the bicycle’s future is long and bright.