Houten – A City for Cyclists July 22, 2010Posted by Dana Petit in Denmark, Graduate, Individual Fellowship, Master's, Netherlands.
Tags: bicycle infrastructure, bicycles, Netherlands, urban design
While in the Netherlands and Denmark, I visited a variety of sites and towns that provided cyclists with better-than-average everyday biking experiences. This isn’t difficult in two countries that pride themselves on the comfort and convenience of their bike infrastructure. The sites I visited ranged from suburban residential neighborhoods to downtown commercial streets and everything in-between.
One of the highlights of my stay in the Netherlands was visiting Houten, a town of approximately 50,000. Back in the ’70s, Houten was a wee village of 4,000.
Because of its proximity to Utrecht, a larger university town, the national government designated Houten as a “centre of growth,” and the village was left with the challenge of figuring out how to accommodate up to 10,000+ new inhabitants. While many in the village were opposed to such dramatic growth, forward thinking leaders saw that developing Houten as a “bike city” could help to maintain the village’s small-town social dynamic and high quality of life.
I had the delightful experience of biking to Houten from downtown Utrecht, where my hostel was located. In the United States, biking from the center of a city of 300,000 to a suburb on its outskirts would probably be a harrowing experience. It might involve biking on the shoulders of two to four-lane roads, struggling through intersections in which few motorists expect to see a cyclist, and generally adapting to infrastructure never intended for bicycles. On the way to Houten, I was always on a bike lane, a bike path, and even a bike road. (A bike road is a road for bikes, on which cars can travel, but they must move at the pace of the cyclists.) While I took my trusty bike map along with me, I hardly needed to refer to it because of the constant wayfinding signs along the bike paths and lanes that pointed me in the right direction.
Houten was designed so that cyclists can move about faster and more easily than motorists. The town has an extensive network of bike and pedestrian paths than extend radially from the shopping district at the town center through an extensive greenway system. (more…)