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Posts tagged "Utrecht"

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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.

StreetFilms
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Touring Utrecht’s Disappearing Roadways with BicycleDutch

As you may know I have been editing a monster Streetfilm on Utrecht debuting soon. It will likely be at least ten minutes in length!

But I just hate when really, really good stuff gets left on the cutting room floor and I only get to see it. So a lot of times I release bonus videos or extended shorts of my journeys and I have done many from my Netherlands visit in June.

Usually the extras come after the debut of the initial anchor Streetfilm, but I wanted to get this wonderful personal tour from Mark Wagenbuur out as a sort of teaser. Better known to most as "BicycleDutch" on Youtube, Mark has been a prolific documenter of all things bike and The Netherlands for a very long time. If somehow by now you have never seen his work, you must head over to: bicycledutch.wordpress.com

Anyway, as I was getting to, Mark will probably only be featured for 60-90 seconds in the busy final film, but I wanted to show much of what he talked about road removal and the ideas around keeping drivers out of the city center. So enjoy this!

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Utrecht’s Vredenburg is the busiest cycle path in all of The Netherlands!

In Utrecht you'll see the most mesmerizing site: Vredenburg carries 33,000 cyclists on an average day! 60% of trips into the city are by bike.  Private cars are banned from the road, all you will see is mega helpings of people on bikes, plus pedestrians, many bus lines and the very occasional taxi (taxis aren't very popular in Utrecht.)

On the plane ride home while going thru nearly 2,000 shots I took in Amsterdam and Utrecht, I realized so much of this good footage will not figure in the final product of my mega doc from Utrecht. So I thought best to put up a fun montage using some of the best shots. After all, I tweeted just one 30 second shot of footage overhead and that was watched nearly 400K times. So I figure there are probably many thousands that would love to just sit back and watch the bicycles flow by, sometimes their operators seemingly floating in air. If you go I warn you: one night I just sat for a half an hour sans camera taking it all in.

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Life on a Dutch Woonerf (Living Street)

When I posted I was headed to The Netherlands once again to visit (and for my first time to Utrecht,) as usual I got a lot of recommendations on what to look at. One of the first people to contact me was Rebecca Albrecht, who moved there with her husband Paul from Boston about three years ago and couldn't be more delighted to live there.

She mentioned she lived on a Dutch play street (woonerf) and when I looked at the photos she had snapped from the window of her bed & breakfast, my first thought was: maybe this would be an opportunity to get a unique angle from residents since I had ridden on so many similar streets in Amsterdam and in Copenhagen but didn't want to be too nosy.

When I arrived the street was full of neighbors and children and they wanted to talk to me about their lovely street. But this is not something exceptional as over 2 million Dutch people live on play/living streets. So take a gander but be warned: you will want the same thing for your block.

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The Netherlands Megamix Bike Montage

Over the past five years, I've visited several great cities for cycling in the Netherlands. One thing you'll notice if you go to places like Amsterdam, Groningen, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and Nijmegen is that there are a lot of kids biking.

Contrary to what advice columnist and bike lane opponent Amy Alkon has been spouting on Twitter, there's no evidence that biking with kids in the U.S. is more of a hazard than driving with kids. And if you're really concerned about children's safety, you shouldn't be trying to put a stop to bike infrastructure in your neighborhood.

I hope this short "Netherlands Megamix" montage, culled from some of my favorite shots and including some never-before-seen footage, helps bring home the idea that in countries with sane transportation policies, the goal is to make cities safe for people of all ages to bike, not to banish parents from cycling with their kids.

StreetFilms
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In the U.S. Walking & Biking to School is Becoming Extinct, Get Inspired by some Streetfilms to Change That

Last year, we debuted a crisply-edited Streetfilm "Children Have Lost the Freedom to Roam" as a chapter in our STREETFACTS series. We were surprised the 4-part educational series didn't do better. However, the last week saw renewed interest as people started forwarding it around Facebook, nearly 100 shares! Perhaps the general public is beginning to crave change?

Things sure have changed in most parts of the country since I was a kid. I'm now 47. I walked over 2 miles each way to school - in rain and snow (and I was also a morning paperboy for the Times-Hearld Record in Goshen, NY!) In many parts of our country, the built-environment has made it nearly impossible for kids to walk and bike. And as we all know in some places it is illegal or forbidden by the school district.

That's really depressing, sure. But at Streetfilms we've been lucky to be around cities trying to do it right here in America. Our recent hit from Lakewood, Ohio a Cleveland school district that has never provided buses for its students, just soared to nearly 60,000 plays! In Lakewood you can sense the atmosphere is much different than a typical school morning. The kids and parents seem happy, The energy level is infectious.

Last year we got to visit Portland, Oregon where thanks to much traffic calming and slow streets of the Neighborhood Greenways, children are walking and biking in growing numbers. It's encouraging. It's a very fun film. Especially the Bike Trains!

There are many videos to get inspired by via Streetfilms. In Brooklyn, PS 67 students painted the pavement to make streets near their school safer. In Davis, California the bike mode share is high, and most of the school districts there don't have buses either.

But in the U.S. we have so much further to go. See above, for this short video from the Dutch city of Utrecht, where children learn about transportation at an early age. And if you watch our 2010 Streetfilm from Copenhagen, you'll see plenty of young children riding bikes, and hear about how the learn how at a very early age to navigate the streets.

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Then there is this clip last year from an Amsterdam trip that shows what we are looking to attain is humanly possible. Yes this kid is four years old! I couldn't ride that well as a teenager!

But don't get depressed too much by this stellar work beyond done overseas. There are many communities and advocacy groups out there pushing to make our streets better. Use these videos as your inspiration and don't wait any longer. And also, our Zozo series can help spread the word!

StreetFilms
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From the Netherlands to America: Translating the World’s Best Bikeway Designs

The Netherlands is widely recognized for having the highest cycling rates in the world. What's not so well known is that the Dutch don't bike so much because cycling is in their DNA. They do it because after the country started down the path toward car dependence, they made a conscious decision to change course. After many decades of deliberate policy to invest in cycling as a mode of transportation, the Netherlands has the most advanced bike infrastructure you'll ever see.

Recenty Streetfilms joined a group of city leaders from Chicago, Washington, DC and Miami on a study tour of the Netherlands, through the Bikes Belong Foundation's Bicycling Design Best Practices Program. The program shows American transportation professionals and policy makers real life examples of what it looks like to invest in cost-effective bicycle facilities. This video takes you on a tour of the incredibly well thought out street designs in the Netherlands. You'll see the infrastructure, hear from the experts on the ground, and watch the tour participants react and imagine how they might implement similar designs in American cities
StreetFilms
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Self-Reliance Grows in the Utrecht Traffic Garden

In the Dutch city of Utrecht, kids start learning about traffic safety long before they prepare for a driver's license. And not just "look both ways before you cross the street."

The school curriculum includes regular field trips to the local "traffic garden." The City of Utrecht has used this facility, a streetscape in miniature, to teach kids the rules of the road since the 1950s. Students take turns as cyclists, pedestrians and car drivers, learning how to take other types of street users into consideration. The hands-on experience navigating the traffic garden gives kids the skills and confidence to get around the city under their own power as soon as their early teens.