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Utrecht: Planning for People & Bikes, Not for Cars

Utrecht is a city with unbelievable momentum for altering how its city center integrates with people. They've been slowly pushing the car out for decades in favor of bicycling and transit. But in the last few years it has turned up the dial.

For one, they are removing multiple roadways and converting them to bikeways, featuring green spaces and restoring the city's canal which was removed in the 1970's for a highway. They are on the verge of having 33,000 bike spaces with the opening of a to-be 12,000 space facility under Utrecht Centraal, which you are legally allowed to bike thru! They are encouraging more bike use with new routes and the Dutch way of bicycle streets. And they have built the symbolic Dafne Schippersbrug, a technological feat of creative imagination that features a multi-use path that lands on top of a school.

You have got to see it all and that is one reason why this Streetfilm clocks in at 13+ minutes, the 2nd longest video we have produced of all time (only Groningen - also in the Netherlands - is longer).

It was such a joy bicycling around the city. Everything felt reachable by bike or transit. That's why 98% of residents own at least one bike and the city center boasts a 60% bike mode share. Transit abounds, whether it's buses, trains or trams (a new one is opening as we speak).

The lesson for the world is that Utrecht has put the health and well being of its citizens first, not car travel. That transportation plays an integral role in doing that so making traveling simple and easier by bike or bike/transit/walk combo is far better than having people driving around in metal boxes polluting, hogging road space and making it dangerous to road users. Cars create far more problems than they solve. And hopefully Utrecht can export that lesson to the world.

Sure, you cannot make your city become Utrecht overnight. It takes decades of planning and smart policy. But if your city isn't so friendly to people, bikes and transit you can get started today. And then maintain that commitment to change.

The most incredible thing I learned? Utrecht works so well that taxi/car service/Uber is hardly a thing there.

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