Utrecht – a city that has been designed for cycling and mass mobility

I remember David Arditti once describing the experience of viewing pictures of Dutch cycling infrastructure, while sitting in a British conference a few years ago, as like seeing scenes beamed back from another planet – such was the difference between the road- and streetscape that we were seeing on the projection screen, and the familiar British roads and streets that we had encountered outside the venue, and indeed in the places where we live.

Much as I am now reasonably familiar with the Dutch city of Utrecht, every visit I make there has the a similar astonishing impression. Despite only being a mere 200 miles or so, as the crow flies, from south east England, the difference in the nature and character of the cycling environment in this city, and the nature and character of cycling in it, is so mind-bogglingly different to towns and cities in south east England, it really is like being on another planet. Indeed, as I write this, I’ve noticed a new piece by Andrew O’Hagan for the LRB which contains descriptions of London cycling so utterly at odds with nature of cycling in Utrecht – as we shall see in the pictures that follow – that the two places really could be on different spheres.

Andrew O'Hagan on London cycling

Andrew O’Hagan on London cycling

Anyway.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Utrecht is, of course, the staggering volume of people cycling, especially in rush hour, but also throughout the day. I have observed before how the ‘boom’ in cycling in London is essentially a commuter boom, limited to central London, and to the rush hour; cycling disappears from central London after 9am. This isn’t the situation in Utrecht; cycling is omnipresent, with what seem like continuous flows along the main routes throughout the day.

Typical cycling scene, Nachtegaalstraat, 12:30pm. Children are in school at this time.

Typical cycling scene, Nachtegaalstraat, 12:30pm. Children are in school at this time.

This is the case both on the main roads – which naturally have separate cycleways – and also on the streets which form useful routes, but have low motor traffic levels.

11:30am, on the Oudegracht.

11:30am, on the Oudegracht.

At peak times the flow becomes a flood, a dense mass of people on two (or more) wheels.

Cycle flows on (brand new) Vredenburg bridge, 5:15pm

Cycle flows on (brand new) Vredenburg bridge, 5:15pm

As is clear from these pictures, the other reason why cities like Utrecht feel like another planet is the character of the cycling itself. People who are cycling are dressed just like pedestrians. Helmet-wearing, and hi-viz clothing, are totally absent. As Chris Boardman puts it in this wonderful video –

I’ve spent a couple of days riding around the streets of Utrecht, and I’ve seen tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of bikes, but I haven’t seen a single cyclist. I’ve just seen normal people, in normal clothes, doing normal things, dressed for the destination, not the journey. The bicycle is a simple, fun and inexpensive way to get from A to B.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 13.28.48

Indeed, the only hi-viz clothing I saw in five days in the city was worn by police officers, and by the construction workers directing people cycling at the temporary junctions through the construction site by the railway station.

Some people in hi-viz - but these are workers stopping traffic.

Some people in hi-viz – but these are workers stopping traffic.

Apart from racing cyclists, heading out of the city in lycra of an evening, helmet wearing amongst adults was non-existent; amongst children, a tiny minority of those perched on their parents bicycles had been given a (usually far too large) helmet to wear. Children riding independently, however, were also entirely unhelmeted.

The behaviour of people cycling is also ‘pedestrian’. By that I don’t mean that they travel at walking speed, but that they engage in activities they would be engaging in, if they were walking. Chatting side-by-side; listening to music; eating; carrying objects; talking on phones; travelling along with a dog beside you; and so on.

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This behaviour, and this absence of safety equipment, isn’t because of any innate rebelliousness, or lack of concern for safety. People are just responding to the environment they find themselves in. Cycling in the city looks and feels safe – principally because, thanks to the design of the environment, it is safe. Interactions with motor traffic are minimal, or non-existent. On the main roads you are clearly separated from it, as in the photograph above; on side roads, design ensures that the only motor vehicles using these streets will be doing so in order to access properties on it, meaning motor traffic levels are very low. People can relax, everywhere, and that is reflected in how they behave.

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Likewise, a good sign of a safe and attractive cycling environment is that children who are old enough to ride a bike do so themselves, rather than being ferried about on their parents’  bikes. Perhaps this wasn’t quite as common here in Utrecht as in a city like Assen, (this may have something to do with slightly longer trips in Utrecht, it being a larger city) but nevertheless young children riding independently was a common sight.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 16.36.26Children were even giving each other backies, on some of the busiest roads in the city.

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My impression was also that women formed a distinct majority among people cycling in the city – certainly during the day. Rush hour was more balanced, but it was not unusual for me to arrive at traffic signals and find myself the only male queuing at the lights.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 15.11.00Cycling here is a mode of transport for everyone. Nobody is excluded from cycling. From what I could see ethnic minorities were cycling around just the same as everyone else, on exactly the same types of bikes, in the same way.

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For those with mobility problems who can’t ride a conventional bicycle, the city is far, far easier to navigate than a British one – an environment designed for cycling is equally suited to  hand cycles, mobility scooters, assisted trikes, and powered wheelchairs.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 19.09.20 Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 19.12.08 Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 19.12.59

Law- and rule-breaking by people cycling is at a very low level, mainly because there are few laws to break, and because the city is set up in favour of people cycling and walking. The environment supports you in where you want to go, in safety and comfort; you don’t have to choose between bending rules and avoiding danger, or avoiding inconvenience, because safety and convenience is built into a ubiquitous network. Where there are rules that people can break, people generally obey them, because the rules makes sense, and because there are reasonable alternatives. (There are, of course, anti-social idiots on bikes, but they are drowned out by the mass of everyday people behaving normally and sensibly).

To give just one example, cycling is banned on a busy shopping street during the day, and from a short period of observation, I would estimate that around 90% did comply with the rules, and dismounted.

People dismounting and walking on Choorstraat.

People dismounting and walking on Choorstraat.

But this isn’t because Dutch people are any more compliant with rules than Britons; if you are travelling in this direction by bike, there is a parallel route just yards away where cycling is allowed, so naturally people travelling through will use that route instead. The people dismounting on this street are happy to do so because they are only travelling a short distance to shops on it. This contrasts with the typical British situation, where cycling bans are implemented on pedestrianised streets which are very often the only attractive and safe route from A to B. If you want people to obey rules, they have to make sense.

Admittedly this ubiquity of cycling (and of mobility aids on cycling infrastructure) does present some problems. The huge flows can be mildly irritating for people on foot at rush hour; there were some occasions where I had to wait 30 seconds or more to find a suitable gap to cross a cycleway safely, as did others.

Waiting for a gap to cross the cycleway at peak times

Waiting for a gap to cross the cycleway at peak times

To be clear, this is only a problem that exists for a short period of the day, and even at these times natural gaps do present themselves, and the wait is, of course, much shorter than one might expect at signal-controlled crossings of a road carrying around 50,000 people per day (on buses and on cycles). But I did find myself wondering if there are ways of resolving this issue.

Other problems present themselves in the volume of bikes parked on some streets – especially the narrower ones that still serve a through-function. Voorstraat, in particular, is not a brilliant pedestrian environment. A genuinely narrow street has one-way flow for all traffic, including cycles, a protected cycleway running in the opposite direction, and ungenerous pavements. Notably, a supermarket on this street had at least 100 bicycles parked outside it.

Cycle parking on Voorstraat

Cycle parking on Voorstraat

The pavement on the other side becomes increasingly narrow, with bicycles leant against buildings; buses thunder through on the road, heading towards the centre of the town, combined with access motor traffic. On an earlier trip a few years ago, I saw children cycling on this road, being tailgated by one of these buses.

Cycling on Voorstraat

Cycling on Voorstraat

It’s a far from brilliant cycling or walking environment. But the problems with this street would be much, much worse without the levels of cycling in the city. That supermarket would have cars coming and going, clogging the street. There would be most likely be two-way flow for motor traffic, presenting more danger and difficultly to people walking on the pavements.

Indeed, in general, the minor irritations and inconveniences one experiences on foot are vastly outweighed by the benefits cycling brings. Mass cycling goes hand-in-hand with a highly pedestrian-friendly city. The entire ‘old’ city centre of Utrecht is effectively an autoluwte, or ‘nearly car free’ area.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 17.41.42The area outlined in red measures approximately 2km by 1km, and represents the original fortified city, surrounded by canals. Today, it is a low motor traffic area, dominated by walking and cycling.

You can drive here, either to car parks, or simply to access properties; but from the way the streets are arranged, you won’t be driving through. Motor traffic in this red area is therefore at a very low level, meaning roads that at face value are ‘shared’ with motor traffic aren’t really shared at all.

Typical access road layout in the north of this area. All these streets are accessible by motor traffic, but designed not to be through-routes.

Typical access road layout in the north of this area. All the streets in the photograph are accessible by motor traffic, but designed not to be through-routes.

It’s very easy to wander from one side of this area to the other without encountering a single traffic light. Indeed, there are only a handful of junctions with traffic lights within the ‘zone’. That means there is little or no delay to journeys on foot or by bike within this area. It’s cycling that allows mobility into and across it, that provides the viable alternative to the car, and that means, consequently, it is such an attractive environment. It is ubiquitous cycling infrastructure, allowing easy, comfortable and painless door-to-door journeys, that actually contributes to ‘placemaking’.

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It should be stressed that this is a city of some 340,000 people, not some minor town. Utrecht ranks just outside the top ten English cities in terms of population. Yet it feels extraordinarily calm, peaceful, and civilised. Sitting at a bar of an afternoon, you can see people travelling past spotting each other, waving, saying hello, or stopping for a chat. Transport here brings people together, rather than separating them. We would do well to learn these and other lessons from such a brilliant city.

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112 Responses to Utrecht – a city that has been designed for cycling and mass mobility

  1. Chris M says:

    All looks great – spent some time in Utrecht a few years ago and remember thinking I had never seen so many bikes parked up – in some areas there were literally thousands! In your photos I note that some people are on their phones or even looking at their phones – hardly safe!

    We need some proper bike lanes here – I think the danger of being on the roads with the ignorant drivers of this country is what puts many off getting a bike or if they have one, venturing anywhere that isnt a canal tow path or other ‘away from main roads’ paths. We need a national movement to lobby govt to provide what they have in other Euro cities. I recently moved back here from Seville, Spain where the cycle lane network is truly fantastic. And surely we have FAR more money in this country to do that… Spain is so much poorer and yet these things are done for its citizens… sad state of affairs indeed!

  2. Hendrien says:

    Just read your post. It is so normal to us Dutch, that it takes an outsider to point out to us how marvellous the system is we have in place.
    Thank you!

  3. I accidently came accross Utrecht when I was a teenager as my Mum moved to a town just outside and Utrecht was the nearest interesting place.
    I lived here thoughout my 20’s and loved it, but needed a change at 30 so moved to London.
    Now 15 years later, I moved back to Utrecht with my family, because I couldn’t deprive my children of the life I knew they could have in Utrecht that they absolutely couldn’t anywhere in England.
    A year or more on, I don’t regret the move, it is, as good as it sounds and each day as I cycle I thank my crazy decision to up my whole family and come here. They are also very happy and now bilingual! How about that? Bikes and Bilingualism, that’s Utrecht in a nutshell.
    It’s a city meant for people, all people.

  4. bicycledutch says:

    Thank you Mark, that was beautiful.

    I sometimes despair when I notice my fellow country (wo)men take everything we have in The Netherlands for granted. So many really haven’t a clue about just how special and valuable our traffic system has become in just the last 20 to 30 years. Complaining –admittedly sometimes with good reason– about the last things that could be improved. People adjust so easily to their own environment. As a species it helps us live a better life when we can deal with any given situation in flexibility, but it also means we get blind for how it could be different. We only notice our everyday situation when things are suddenly radically different. That works for you being in the Netherlands, that is true for me when I am in London. (Feeling deafened by traffic after a day on the streets…)

    I think it would be nice to mention that on one occasion in your last trip we sat together at an outdoor café and that you yourself even recognized who passed us by: two well-known spokespersons from the Dutch Cyclists’ Union. Their office is at walking distance from where we sat. They greeted me especially. One joked I shouldn’t sit there idle. I should be writing a blog post. As a matter of fact I am doing that right now, about that very street. But I am really glad you did too!

  5. John says:

    Seconded. Just back from a week in Amsterdam, commuting daily by train from a hotel near Leiden central station. It took some readjustment on returning – my corner of leafy British suburbia is actually noisier, more polluted and dangerous than the much busier urban settings where I had stayed and worked.

  6. Notak says:

    Interesting to compare cycling while chatting, snacking, phoning, etc as being like walking. It is, of course, but it’s also the case that people do all these things while driving. It’s just normal human behaviour in a variety of circumstances.

    Also the observation that most people cycling were women is interesting. In Britain it’s often pointed out that buses are disproportionately used by women. Do you have any figures (or simply observations) about the prevalence of other modes of transport among women in NL?

    • andreengels says:

      I found data on that at http://statline.cbs.nl/StatWeb/publication/?VW=T&DM=SLNL&PA=81128NED&D1=a&D2=0&D3=a&D4=0&D5=a&D6=0&D7=l&HD=130830-1349&HDR=G5,G3,G1,G6,T,G2&STB=G4
      The big differences between men and women are in car usage: Both make about 1.25 car trips a day, but men make 80% of those as a driver, 20% as a passenger, while women are passenger in 38% of their trips. Men also use mopeds double as often as women, although the number is still low (0.03 trips/0.2 km per day). Women make more cycling trips, but men’s trips are longer, also in total (women make 0.8 trips of 3.1 km/16 minutes on average, men 0.7 trips of 5.0 km/19.5 minutes). Regarding public transporation, women spend more time in the bus; in the train there are more women, but the difference is small.
      If you want to check the data yourself and do not konw Dutch: The columns are trips per day, km per day, minutes per day, with subcolumns all, men, women. The rows are “total”, “car (driver)”, “car (passenger)”, “train”, “bus/tram/metro”, “moped/motorscooter”, “bicycle”, “walking”, “other mode of transport”

      • Notak says:

        Thank you! Very interesting. No, I don’t know Dutch, though of course it’s easy enough to read most – but not all – of a table like this. I didn’t know “snorfiets”, what a lovely sounding word! The data shows women spending slightly less time on bikes than men, so I wonder if what MT noticed was more down to time of day and place? But the differences are small anyway. What most strikes me is the Dutch don’t travel long or far – presumably down to being a small-ish, highly urbanised country, though employment and residence patterns (and house prices!) must play a part – and how little they use buses!

  7. Mike Adams says:

    Thanks for that Mark. It’s always useful to be reminded of how far we have to go.

  8. It is one thing to visit another planet – it is quite another thing to be able to write about it! It is fantastic how you are able to combine pictures and observations to paint such a perceptive description of my home town. Heartwarming! Utrecht is indeed a very friendly city, and so homely that, even though I left it for North Wales nearly thirty years ago, it still feels like home. As it happens I’m in Utrecht at the moment, partly to collect another van load of Dutch bicycles to take back to Britain, in an effort to give people back home a taste of the Dutch way of cycling: upright, relaxed, comfortable, effortless, exactly as one can see in your pictures. This is the type of bicycle that makes cycling possible for everyone, young or old, male or female, in any weather, in any clothes. It is a crying shame that these bicycles are so sorely missing from the British cycling landscape, and being looked down upon and misunderstood by the British cycling community.
    Your visits to Utrecht (and, equally, bicycledutch’ visits to London) make clear how important it is to actually experience another culture, rather than just read about it. Chris Boardman, in his film, also wishes that policymakers from Britain would spend a few days in Utrecht before deciding on spending their money. I’m afraid no statistics or arguments (as in the latest series of Posts for Comments), or even wonderful descriptions with pictures as above and those on bicycledutch’s blog will get through to people if they haven’t had the experience of being there themselves. This is also the reason why I started importing (second hand) bicycles from the Netherlands. Instead of just fuming against those rotten, useless hybrid bikes everyone buys from you-know-who, I can now offer a ride on a ‘normal’ bike. A few weeks ago, during a college induction day, nearly a hundred sixteen-year-olds had the opportunity to ride a Dutch bicycle (if only for a few minutes, on a huge empty parking area!). For the first time in their lives they experienced the kind of bicycle that is not a toy or a piece of sports equipment, but a practical, comfortable means of transport. They loved it! Still, I’m in no doubt that they will all proceed to take driving lessons during the coming year, but I sincerely hope I have fired their imagination of the possible alternative. Nothing but the actual experience can trigger that. Could we, shouldn’t we try to give more people (youngsters, policymakers) the opportunity to experience the ‘other planet’, so they can join the chorus for better cycling provisions? Could the Embassy, apart from being a platform for the fight for better infrastructure, also be a facilitator for cultural exchanges (i.e. trips to and from the Netherlands) and perhaps provide a meeting place for practical initiatives that could fire people’s imagination about possible futures?

    • John says:

      Great idea and I would say grab the Brits whenever they visit the Netherlands and educate them. Plenty go on holiday, for sports events or trade shows. Arriving for the first time in a Dutch city, the street layout and flow just seems confusing and strange. The number and location of cyclists and cycle tracks seem inconvenient and confusing. All needs explaining, visitors need to try it out and learn how and why things are different.

    • Notak says:

      Dutch roadsters? They were British roadsters till the early 70s. Great for leisurely normal-clothed riding, yes, but also heavy and with limited gear range, so not so good for hilly Britain. And the full chain guard makes puncture mending difficult. Yes, great for flat cities where you’re never far from a shop that will change a wheel for you, etc, but really, hybrids and mtbs (with appropriate tyres and racks or baskets and maybe a chain guard) are much more suited to most terrain. I was in Vienna and Prague over the summer, both cities are full of cyclists but no “Dutch bikes”. (notable though that the Praguers wear helmets – but not lycra – whereas the Viennese are bare-headed)

      • This is exactly what I mean: the Dutch bicycle is misunderstood. Not all Dutch bikes are roadsters, a common mistake. There is a whole range of Dutch bikes, including a wide choice of ‘sporthybrides’, light weight derailleur-geared machines, with the same comfortable riding position as all the other Dutch bikes and perfectly suited for hilly countryside like here in Wales. You probably won’t believe me, like a lot of British cyclists. Of those who were brave enough to give such a bike a go during one of my demonstrations the vast majority was completely surprised. They never thought that an upright bike with all the practical accessories attached would be so light rolling, and that it would be so easy to climb hills on them. It went completely against what they always believed to be true. Once again it shows how important it is to actually experience new things for yourself rather than go from theory or established ‘wisdom’.
        I am not denying you enjoying your type of bicycle or your way of cycling, but I’m convinced that, to get more people in Britain cycling, the bicycles offered to the public should be far more practical and comfortable. Without a wide-scale adoptation by the public and a general re-appreciation of the Dutch bicycle by British cyclists, cycling in Britain will be confined to the fit and the sporty, and the much needed revolution will not happen.

        • Notak says:

          So Dutch bikes include “a wide choice of sporthybrids” whereas in Britain we have “those rotten, useless hybrid bikes”? It’s not at all clear what the difference is (nor who you mean by “you know who”).

        • Cyclestrian says:

          Interesting. Love to see some pics/links of these lightweight Dutch derailleur-geared bikes with comfortable riding position🙂

    • “It is a crying shame that these bicycles are so sorely missing from the British cycling landscape, and being looked down upon and misunderstood by the British cycling community.”

      Try and be nice. I doubt many people look down on Dutch bikes. Most cycling people are enthusiastic about cycling in all its forms. It’s up to the individual to find the bike(s) that suit them best. By all means promote and recommend a particular type of bike, but don’t do it by trying to create divisions where they don’t exist.

  9. Colin Tweed says:

    Excellent post Mark. Great bit of research.

    Of course one of the main things that get cited as a reason we can’t have this type of civilised infrastructure is for Deliveries to shops etc. It would be nice to see a few words specifically addressing how this “problem” gets dealt with.

  10. Brian Quinn says:

    A great article – you write very well. I think one of the things wholly missing from UK cities is the understanding that a city centre could be quiet, unsmelly and convivial AND yet economically successful. I think too many UK local authorities and shop keepers think a street full of cars means a street full of customers. They think a bunch of cyclists are not a bunch of proper consumers – there is the prevailing assumption they’re all left wing, muesli munchers who abhor capitalism/trade.

  11. Almost 30 years ago in 1986, I was driven at breakneck speed along the motorway from the Hague to Utrecht by my then Dutch boss. ‘Paul’, he began to say, looking away from the road ahead and at me, ‘Nederland is een heerlijk landje …’ – ‘the Netherlands is a fine little country where you can ignore the speed limit’. I deeply regretted this aspect of Dutch transport policy, wishing that a police car would pull alongside and an officer instruct the manic, bearded, duffel-coat wearing man at the wheel to pull up and receive a speeding ticket. Fortunately, we reached Utrecht without a crash, but I was determined not to have to suffer the same madness on the return journey.
    After our business meeting in Utrecht was completed I told my boss that I wanted to stay in the city and look around as it was my first visit there and that I would get the train back to the Hague.
    I well recall sitting on a cafe terrace sipping tea and eating a cake as I watched, spellbound, as a seemingly endless number of cyclists passing back and forth before me. I toyed momentarily with the idea that they weren’t real people, but were paid by the local tourist board to cycle round in circles to impress the tourists.
    I had been living in the Netherlands for some time and cycled everywhere that was feasible,, revelling in the pleasure of safe, segregated cycling, separated from the likes of my boss who was as crazy behind the wheel as any bad driver from Britain. But it was that afternoon in Utrecht that impressed on me the reality of a mass cycling culture. What I had seen as an almost unbelievable number of people on bikes showed how a city could transport people in large numbers without destroying the city’s streets and damaging its liveability.
    It is fantastic to see how, over the past three decades, Utrecht has expanded its capability to support mass travel in the city without sacrificing its fine city ambience. The problem we have is convincing people in Britain that Utrecht is not stage set, but a real working city, a place which shows the way in which cities can be run and made so much better to live in.

  12. Heitor Botti says:

    Hello!

    I live nearby a city named Sorocaba, which is all designed for cycling as well, but unfortunately, the population don´t know how to preserve this gift. Nice post!

    With the best regards, Heitor Botti

  13. nmblog871 says:

    Wow this is something I have never seen or heard of but now that i know it’s something soo different to my country

  14. Grandtrines says:

    Reblogged this on Grandtrines and commented:
    Ultimately the future for many of us, particularly in urban areas. Bikes are more energy efficient, and overall we should be healthier. But, I do hope we continue to at least have electric automobiles.

  15. Very interesting piece. It really highlights one of the key aspects of the cycling conundrum. Here in Montreal, the problem is that some people would act like morons no matter what mode of transport they use…

  16. Naren Srem says:

    It is nice to see people use bicycles instead of cars. Help each other to save our environment by changing our habit to walking and riding a bicycle when we could. By doing so we reduce the fume into the air which pollute the environment. I also hope that in my country, Cambodia, people will understand more about this soon.

  17. ikemdaniel says:

    That’s real #Urban #Planning! And i love that! Is awesome!

  18. Pingback: Utrecht – a city that has been designed for cycling and mass mobility | marcianosilvacom

  19. annamagique says:

    I do not know Utrecht but I have now become acquainted with some other Dutch towns, including Eindoven, and as a novice in a country where cycling is king, I felt as though I was was taking my life in my hands every time I left the safety of my car!

  20. Nate Homier says:

    As long as pedestrian is king I will support biking. Sounds like they need to support signals for bikes to allow pedestrians to cross. This city is a good start. But we need to do even better and make the world a true pedestrian place. We need to lower the use of cars AND bikes. Bikes still clutter the pictures in this article. A walking only centric city design is one of peace and health. Bikes should be relegated to the peripheral of cities and all of the inner city should be pedestrian only. Free scooters for the mobility challenged should be provided or for a nominal charge.

    When the majority of the population can walk for 6 miles or more during the course of daily activities then we may have a chance to reduce obesity. Not only do we get health benefits from walking we also get a calmness and sense of peace from walking, especially when there is no other traffic other than pedestrian. Walking also promotes a social view of the world as its almost impossible to avoid looking at the oncoming person.

    Bikes are very important, but we should not forget that they are pedal cars. They are in the same classes as cars and should be treated as such and viewed as a method to reach the outlying area from which walking or electric busses or subways can mass transport people to the inner cities.

    Good article. Thanks.

    Nate

  21. aihunter says:

    Beautiful and we’ll written article and shamefully I have given up the cycling because it’s stolen last year, so I think I should buy a new one and start it again to feel the wind!

  22. Reblogged this on ATHEIST IN NIGERIA and commented:
    Beautiful.

  23. anggik says:

    Really impress what has been done by utrecht to people who like to ride bicycle in every day routinity. Just to compare with my current city in medan, all people tend to use motorbike or private cars for everyday life routinity.
    Really like this post..

  24. Risha says:

    Nice post. It’s really nice. Can you check out my blog and give me some feedback too. It’s http://www.theneedtodream.wordpress.com

  25. Zeron+ says:

    Hats off
    … to …
    Baron Karl von Drais…
    the German inventor of bicycle

  26. Zeron+ says:

    Thank you for sharing your effort…..and u deserved to be pressed

  27. I am ook netherland cen hou netherlends spreek

  28. myleasepad says:

    I would love to visit this Dutch city. I think they have the right idea!

  29. Mandy says:

    Si tu aimes les voyages n’hésite pas à venir visiter mon blog !
    Gros bisous 😘

  30. nancy1941 says:

    Nice, healthy, interesting_seniors too?

  31. Really interesting, Mark. In Boston, we have a pretty decent train system, and we have many bikers. It’s pretty dangerous for bikers because of the close proximity to all the Boston traffic. My brother-in-law was actually a hit and run victim on his bike, and somehow continued on to work on auto-pilot with a concussion – he doesn’t remember doing so.

    -Ophelia
    https://thoughtswithdildo.wordpress.com

  32. Jane Pavadai says:

    Great post! I went to Copenhagen last year and saw something similar. The cyclists dressed for the destination rather than the ride (as it often is in NZ). They would just cycle with a phone in one hand like its totally normal. I was so surprised in the beginning but I think you’re right, they don’t do it to be rebellious, they just do it because it feels normal and safe to do so. I love this type of city planning.

  33. ingaavenue says:

    That is something for my husband

  34. BAP Blogger says:

    There is a shift here in SF, but Utrecht looks better laid out… the whole system is better designed.

  35. sulfen says:

    I would really love to live in a place like this. Unfortunately everything is at least 10 miles away.

  36. SBKD says:

    Wow I never knew! It’s very well thought and and organised unlike our chaotic scramble in London. Loved your description and how you illustrated the differences so well. Great read

  37. socialdee says:

    I dream of living in one of these scenes, beamed in from another planet. Except it’s not! It’s right here. Can other cities….just….please do this

  38. I love bike riding and can’t wait to live in a place where I can bike to work and everywhere without a car. You do make a good point about safety. Riding in NYC isn’t safe right now. Thanks for sharing.

  39. Emser says:

    It’s hard to imagine a US city being willing to adopt the changes to be cycling friendly like this, but oh how I wish they would! Thanks for the great post, I’ve added Utrecht to my list of places to visit!

  40. Elke Gubbei says:

    Reblogged this on aktuell.hierkaufichein.de and commented:
    Diese Ruhe und Gelassenheit gibt unsere Städteplanung selten her.

  41. Oh, i love this town with all the flair.

  42. what is the name of this place

  43. I had a very similar experience while living in Utrecht, the cycling mobility was the best I have ever experienced. I now live in Berlin, where the cycling infrastructure is far inferior, but the number of people on bikes is starting to approach Dutch standards, so I hope infrastructure will follow suit…

  44. Nice post 👌 so much love for Holland! You’ve included some good photos too

  45. iam.rvdy says:

    At least traffic cycle more tolerable than mass of motorcycle on the street. I wish that the future will be more friendly and prefer to the public transportation and non pollutant vehicle.

  46. leodisanto says:

    Well said! I passed through Utrecht while hitchhiking across the Netherlands on a European busking trip and, enchanted by the city’s charms, wound up spending a week there performing along the Oudegracht and dodging the ubiquitous bicycles. The sight of innumerable bikes leaning against the trees and railings along the old canal and the casual, commonplace style of cycling you noted were among the things that evoked my strongest sensations of being in a place with a far different character from that of my PA home, where cyclists are usually ignored, often abhorred, and in constant peril from angry motorists. True story: the picture of me on my page features the giant bunnyman sculpture that filled me with a weird mixture of terror and joy in downtown Utrecht.

  47. I’ve been to the Netherlands, but I never had a chance to see Utrecht. The difference is impressive. I live in an American college town that has an usually high proportion of cyclists, but there are no bike lanes and the layout of the city is such that they get in the way of motorists (like me) which can be incredibly annoying, especially when you’re running late. If I lived in Utrecht, I guess I might bother to learn how to ride a bike.

  48. Jeffrey Jefferson says:

    I’m so scared I will never get to see anything like this. Looks amazing.

  49. anand231995 says:

    Very nice cycling here we see that many school going girl are riding a bycycling that’ s helps us to make healthy body and in figure publisher riding by cycling in heart warming ! Utrecth is indeed a very friendly city , and so homely that ,even though I left it for North Wales nearly thiety years ago ,it still feels like home .as it happens I’m in Utrech t at the moment ….
    .

  50. You did a fantastic job describing the Dutch biking culture! I wish more cities would embrace this as it is a wonderful way to get around and enjoy their neighborhoods, towns, and cities.

  51. Alex Her says:

    Great job summarizing your experience. It would be great for more US cities to adapt such a thing. Having just returned from Europe myself, this is something that we need.

  52. Kally says:

    I have very fond memories of Utrecht, it’s where my then boyfriend proposed to me and now he is my husband! The people are so lovely and the whole place is so peaceful and has a wonderful stress free calming effect on us. Thank you for bringing back wonderful memories to me. Makes me smile.🙂

  53. JustMeMike says:

    While I Have not been to Utrecht I did spend a week in Amsterdam. And there was indeed a proliferation of bicycles. I even note that quite near the Amsterdam Central Station there was an enormous garage – not for automobiles but for bicycles. I also noted that near the rail station sometimes it was difficult to cross the street – but that was to be expected near a transportation hub. I enjoyed Amsterdam’s smaller street and the many many tiny bridges.

    Thank yiu for this excellent post which refreshed my memories

  54. Wow I wish India also get inspired by such system..

  55. I remember making a point of going to Utrecht when I visited the Netherlands. Definitely a city for cyclists. It was also the metropolitan hub for the former villages around it. My sister lived in one of them for some years – effectively in the greater Utrecht connurbation.

  56. Utrecht So Amazing City It Is More Useful For Cyclists…

  57. Michael says:

    Thank you for your post, sharing your impressions and the wonderful array of images.

    There’s an excellent report about cycling in the Netherlands that shows how to make it work. http://www.fietsberaad.nl/library/repository/bestanden/CyclingintheNetherlands2009.pdf

    The use of bicycles in the Netherlands does have its patterns. So, immigrants cycle less than native Dutch, people with low income cycle more than wealthy people, women cycle more than men (perhaps due to income difference?) and so on.

    Bottom line is that most people in the Netherlands are using the bicycle, so whenever they drive or walk, they automatically adjust to the cyclist’ point of view, and aren’t hostile to cyclists.

    As to the helmet use – not wearing a helmet is a wise, rational, scientifically supported decision – http://www.bikecitizens.net/papa-do-you-have-a-bike-helmet-too/

    Thanks again.

    • andreengels says:

      I think the male-female difference has to do with the fact that in many couples the man has a full-time job and the woman only a part-time one. Because of this, women will make more trips doing the shopping or with the children, while men will make more trips to and from work. In most families, those latter trips are considerably longer than the former ones, so if there is one car available, it is more likely to be used by the working partner, leaving the stay-home partner to use the bicycle.

      • Michael says:

        That comes down to income difference – women generate less income than men and are thus left with the cheaper alternative.

        The numbers on the use of bicycle are available here: http://www.fietsersbond.nl/de-feiten/fietsen-cijfers

        The native Dutch cycle 4-5 times more than the immigrants! There is still a lot of growth potential for cycling in the Netherlands.

        And the cycling infrastructure gets much less investment than other transport infrastructure, so there is a lot to be gained there in terms of making the bicycle an equal mobility option.

  58. I love Holland and live quite close to the Dutch border near Germany’s most famous bicycle town/city, Münster. We, too, have a great network of bicycle paths, although Utrecht seems to be even better on that score. I recently read that the Dutch as a nation are one of the only groups sustaining or trimming down in comparison to the rest of Europe. It must be due to the cycling, the kippers or the cheese, or the fresh, sea air.

  59. Remind me of my days in Cambridge where there is a high volume of cyclists, but I never bothered to learn, seeing these images makes me regret.

  60. Dane Legaspi says:

    Would love to go here soon!

  61. Reblogged this on In no particular order and commented:
    Really enjoyed reading this post. Loved the fact that the cyclists rule the city and keep riding all day long.

  62. elsiefast says:

    The cycling behaviour that is noted, is also due to the fact that cyclists, as well as motorists, get fined for jumping red lights or other traffic offenses. Having lived in the UK for many years now, after growing up in the Netherlands, it still amazes me that cyclists seem to be ‘above the traffic rules’. Another amazing fact for a Dutch person like me is that here, in the UK discuss making the wearing of a helmet legal, whilst, to my knowledge, bikes are not required by law to have lights. Worse, when you buy a bike it will be without a light – standard. You need to pay to add one. When do you go to the garage to buy a car without lights? There’s a lot that could be said, obviously, but the last but not least comment is: look at the bikes the Dutch ride and check out the type of bikes typically available in an English/British bike shop. The Dutch bikes are meant for cycling at your ease: you sit up straight, no hanging over the handlebars, or leaning over. I have not found a bike like that in an english shop: they all involve hanging over the handlebars: not only a very bad posture for your back, but increasing the discomfort and therefore the urgency to hurry to your destination and get off your bike (besides, try chatting in that posture….)

    • michael says:

      Well, living in the UK, mostly as a pedestrian, it still amazes me that motorists seem to be ‘above the traffic rules’. Generally they take the view that the rules are for others, e.g. cyclists, but not for them.

      Also, bikes _are_ required by law to have lights Its just that, as with almost all laws to do with the roads, e.g. speed limits, amber-gambling, parking, driving – or cycling – on pavements…) the law is not enforced very assiduously.

  63. milnademilly says:

    Interesting Woooooooow…….

  64. It may be a bit off point but I really love the way European cities in places like the Netherlands are constructed. In a lot of places it seems the historical structures (ancient buildings, narrow roads) have remained and haven’t been obliterated by tall skyscrapers. I think it looks really wonderful.

  65. Wow, this is amazing! Every city needs this kind of set-up. Everybody in the photos looks so healthy!! Makes me want to live there

  66. Pingback: Utrecht – a city that has been designed for cycling and mass mobility | finnish concerto

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  70. I lived in utrecht for two years and if i had to describe it in one word: gezellig

  71. Anthony says:

    Awesome post. Thanks. I hope more and more cities improve their cycling infrastructure.

  72. kasselt says:

    Generally the Dutch are fantastic at finding a way to get around on bikes. They have also figured out how to carry just about anything on a bike. First time here I was nearly run over by a herd of bikes! I lOve here now and regularly use bikes as a way to get around. Sometimes it’s easier than driving Because of how havetiger Dutch organized the streets.

  73. hugobeelen says:

    Reblogged this on HBA and commented:
    Leuke blog over Utrecht,de stad waarin ik leef. Grappig dat het fenomeen fietsen helemaal niet vanzelfsprekend is voor de meeste steden. Het is vooral Hollands!

  74. Thank you for posting this. I just shared on Facebook and emailed a few people. We love cycling. My husband and I never owned a car in Japan. We commuted on bicycles or took the train, sometimes both! I had a folding bicycle. In the U.S.A., we need to be thinking about these things more, quality over flash and community over personal quick gratification. We will likely be happier!

  75. Wow. Absolutely amazing. It’s great to see almost an entire city appreciate the earth by cycling instead of using cars. More cities should learn from this as we can easily see this is possible to do in mass quantities. Boggles my mind!

  76. gaucher69 says:

    Hail! Hail! Hail! Motherearth real lover! Real human being, rest are human becoming.

  77. R. Phoenix says:

    As a Dutchman from Amsterdam, I find it nice to read that our Dutch cycling culture is of so much interest in other countries, as for us it is habit and “business as usual”.

  78. cavalieriop says:

    And no one is texting in this photos.

  79. pjwmia says:

    I liked the description of bicycling as a pedestrian activity and fun. I find many cyclists in the US both arrogant and demanding. Your distinction between bicyclists and cyclists is important and should effect our planning efforts in designing bikeways perhaps with a focus on fun.

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