Trails: Ouderkerk and Waterland

The trail system in the Netherlands is amazing! On the 4 day, we were given the chance to utilize the system as we traveled to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. It was a 12 km (7.4 mi) journey from our Hotel near Vondelpark.

Ouderkerk aan de Amstel

Hotel de Filosoof to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel

We traveled from the hectic streets of Amsterdam towards the Amstel. As we made our way to the path, it wasn’t really a path per se. Instead it was a shared space where bicycles and cars co-existed. However the balance was heavily favored for bicycles as cars had to yield to bicycles. Cars also had the added traffic calming at various intervals with pinch points where only car can pass through.

As for cycling, it was pleasant to see wayfinding signs at every major intersection. The Dutch bicycle trail system is amazing for this fact alone. It also takes some getting used to since the intersections are numbered and not the paths. So at every knooppunt (junction) there is a number and you go from one to another. So for our journey we went from knooppunt 60 to 61 to 62.

Cycling to Ouderkerk

Fietsroute Netwerk Map

Fietsroute Netwerk Map

Windmills!

Freedom and Flexibility

Freedom and Flexibility

On the 5th day, we traveled even further up to waterland. A journey of 22.4 km (~14 mi) to the north. After getting lost for a bit, we made it to the path. We went from knooppunt 46,47, 79, 77, 52, 53, 54, and finally 55 where we stopped in Monnickendam.

Amsterdam to Monnickendam

Amsterdam to Monnickendam

In this case we moved from shared roadway to separated path very quickly. As we traveled next to the Markermeer, we quickly ate up kilometers without a bother in the world. With only having to worry about other cyclists, it was a nice and pleasant ride. The only downside was riding upright the whole way there. It definitely makes the tailbone sore. šŸ˜¦

On the Path to Monnickendam

On the Path to Monnickendam

On the way back from Monnickendam, we got the chance to travel along the highway. N247 has traffic that is going around 80 to 100 km/hr (49 to 60 mi/hr). However we were next to the traffic on our own dedicated cycle path. While not the most pleasant, it was a quick way to travel from city to city.

Highway Cyclepath

Highway Cyclepath

I could only imagine what that kind of path would be like from Eugene to Corvallis along HWY 99. I guess one can dream.

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Groningen and Assen

On our 8th day, we traveled to Groningen and Assen. They are about 2 1/2 hours away from Amsterdam. The saying is that from Groningen to Amsterdam it isn’t that far, but from Amsterdam to Groningen is like traveling to another county. It is located in the far northeast corner of the Netherlands. Assen is in the province of Drenthe.

Netherlands

The provinces in the Netherlands

Groningen has a population of approximately 190,000 with a large component being students. Compared to Eugene, which has a population of 156,185. They are also comparable in size with Groningen (32.3 sq mi) and Eugene (40.54 sq mi) It has also been called the “World Cycling City” with 57% of all trips within the city are made by bicycle. So with such a reputation, we traveled to the meet with Jaap Valkema. During his presentation he discussed how the T structure of the A7 and the A28 and the ring road around the city centre dictate the growth of and structure of the city. Additionally their focus is on combining both Town Planning with Transportation planning to provide a better synergy for development.

The co-ordination of town planning and transportation policy led to Spatial Plans favouring the compactness of the city, access restrictions for cars to the city centre, parking management, management of the car flow, an extensive cycling network, and public participation and consultation of stakeholders.

Jaap also talked about how there needs to be a balance between all different modes of transportation. While coming from Amsterdam and Utrecht this was kind of letdown because it seemed like the city was focusing too much on cars and parking garages. However coming from Eugene, this is revolutionary…

Here are some pictures taken from Jason DeHaan’s Picasa account.

Two Ways for Bikes...One way for Cars
Two Ways for Bikes…One way for Cars
Bikes Only Road
Bikes Only Road

Bicycle Parking at the Train Station

Bicycle Parking at the Train Station

A Pedestrian Only Sqaure

A Pedestrian Only Square

As for Assen, I really didn’t have a lot to say about the place. It didn’t really blow me away. It didn’t stand out in any way. It was what it was. But I guess that plays to the greater narrative of the Netherlands. Keeping up with National Policy will get you to at least 20% bicycle ridership in the city. There really isn’t a cycle culture…instead it is something one does to get around. I can only hope for the day where I can be the same and not labeled as something I’m not. But until that day, I’ll continue to advocate for bikes!

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Utrecht and Houten

On our 7th day in Amsterdam, we traveled to Utrecht and Houten. They are about 30 minutes south of Amsterdam by train. In Utrecht, we met with Hans Voerknecht from Fietsberaad (Bicycle Council). We also met with Ronald Tamse, who works for the city on traffic education and safety and Peter Kooy, the Principal at De Spits Primary School.

Ronald

Ronald Showing Us Infrastructure Improvements

We traveled through the city and saw lots of different bicycle infrastructure. However the real highlight of the day was going to the De Spits Primary School. Watching the children meet their parents and bike away was an awesome sight compared to the car filled parking lots and idling in the United States.

Kids Getting Out of School

Kids Getting Out of School

Child Riding Away from School

Child Riding Away from School

Mother Daughter Riding Away

Mother Daughter Riding Away

Getting Ready to Leave

Getting Ready to Leave

Ronald also talked a lot about how the education component of his job is critical at getting kids to bike. In the Netherlands, schools have a great opportunity to participate in bike classes. The students are educated on the rules of the road as a pedestrian, bicyclist or car.

Trafficgarden

Trafficgarden-Practice Makes Perfect

They even have miniature courses, called TrafficGardens where they are able to practice! Then once they reach age 12 or so they have a big practical exam where they have to travel along a route around the school to show their skills. If they pass they get a certificate/award.

It is through this education component that they are able to instill education and awareness that bicycling is a normal everyday component of society.

During the second part of the day we visited Houten. It is linked to Utrecht following some very mellow roads. Central Utrecht and Central Houten are only 10 km (~6 mi) from each other. Houten is an interesting case study because it was essentially a pre-determined city. The government decided that Houten would be a ‘Groeikern’ – a centre of growth. This means that the population has grown from 4,000 to 30,000 with an end goal of approximately 50,000 by 2015. However what make Houten a great case study is that the road and path network was designed to make bicycling much easier than car. In most cases if you wanted to get from where you live to say the city center, by bicycle you would have a direct path whereas a car would have to travel to the ring road and skirt around the city to reach the city center.

Houten-Car Route

Houten-Car Route (3.4 km)

Houten-Bike Route

Houten-Bike Route (1.1 km)

In Houten, we were led by Herbert Tiemens. He showed us many interesting sites, however by far my favorite was at the central train station. Their bicycle parking was amazing! Fietstransferium holds about 3,000 bikes and was almost full when we arrived in the middle of the day. I guess the University of Oregon has a bit of catching up to do…maybe when we put in the new EMU we can aspire for this.

Fietstransferium

Fietstransferium

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Setting the Stage – Day 1 and 2

The first two days in Amsterdam were a mixture of excitment, orientation (both for the program and the city) and adventure. During the mornings we walked to a nearby arts center for lecture. Marc conducted his normal lecture on bicycle planning in the United states and Europe. The lectures were a good refresher about the context that exists. It also ensured that everyone was on the same page.
Some highlights of the lectures include (we also had an in-depth discussion which I won’t paraphrase):

How do we get people out of their bikes:
1) Infrastructure (the built environment and installed infrastructure from bicycle lanes to cycle tracks to paint on the ground)
2) Land Use (how land uses are coordinated and determined)
3) Design (how does the installed infrastructure actually functions)
4) Culture (the culture itself of a community or society and how it interacts with the outside environment)
5) Equipment/gear

He also discussed the decision tree that people use to cycle:
Inital Considerations (family, work, time, distance) –> Trip Barriers (weather, geography, route safety, route efficency) –> Destination Barriers (storage, showers, employer support)

The final component I will talk about is (however we did discuss other things) the American Transporation Paradigm. Ultimately, it is argued that the main considerations for designing our road network is congestion reduction, mobility, order & safety via a reduction of conflicts. What isn’t a consideration is colaboration with land use planning.

This set the stage for our adventures in Amsterdam.

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Amsterdam – Initial Impressions…

Having spent time in Kobenhavn, it wasn’t as much of a shock in seeing so many bikes. It is nice though! It is estimated that Amsterdam has more bicycle than people. In walking around I would sit it is true!

There are literally bikes at every rack, street pole and pretty much anything else you can lock a bicycle to…

Bikes Everywhere!

Bikes Everywhere!

A majority of the bikes are utilitarian with fenders, rack(s), kickstand and fully enclosed chain guard. They also have internal geared hubs for bad weather. A 7-speed or less is all one really needs since the Netherlands is flat.

My Bike

My Amsterdam Bike

The city itself is pretty amazing as well. There streets are generally narrow and arranged in a non-gridded fashion. The large roads are generally the ring roads (S100) around the city and the rest of the roads are local streets.

Amsterdam Roads

Amsterdam Roads

Cars are not entirely absent from the city, but there are less than in other cities. (I’m thinking London was particularly bad). There are also mopeds and lots of pedestrians everywhere! Amsterdam also has an extensive bus and tram system that travels throughout the city. With all of these factors, it creates a vibrant busy city with multiple modes of transportation.

Most of the buildings utilize vertical mix use where there are shops on the bottom and housing above. Surprisingly the condition of the buildings (i.e. whether they look oldĀ or new, failing and in disrepair or newly painted) are quite nice and the buildings all seem to look new and not built in the 1800s/1900s. Most people takeĀ careĀ in keeping their buildings in tip-top shape. I would imagine since downtown Amsterdam is the Central Business District (CBD) that the price of homes and shops is a critical reason that the buildings are kept in good condition. I have heard that the price of housingĀ is comparable to New York, which for me isn’t surprising since the CBD is so compact.

Amsterdam Facades

Amsterdam Facades

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Reflections of Norwich Ctd. 2

I got a chance to chat with a few staff and professors at the University of East Anglia. Being with a group of climate change experts, you would think they would talk about their work. That was not the case when I told them I was interested in bicycle transportation. In England, Urban planning is referred to as Town and County Planning. We chatted quite a bit about how moving from our carbon dominated society towards a carbon less environment.

Ultimately, we discussed a popular street towards the University. It is called the Avenues and is similar to 13th at the University of Oregon it is one of the main veins to campus. It is a lovely tree lined street with speed bumps. At some point the council government decided to remove the bicycle lane and push the bicycles on to their own separate path. In the picture below, as a cyclist you would make a slight left (remember they drive on the opposite side of the road in the UK) on to the path.

The Avenues

The Avenues

However no one uses the path.

We all agreed that in most cases we stay on the road. And complained how the council government in most cases installed infrastructure they don’t use. It felt like while the goal was respectable the output was off mark.

In comparison, this infrastructure addition was done quite well.

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Amsterdam to Eugene Questions

I always hear the comment, “how do we bring Amsterdam (or Kobenhavn) to the USA?” or in the States, “how do we become like Portland?” For me, I know I want to be like Amsterdam or Portland. But I also know there are plenty of people who don’t want to be like them and will automatically shut off to those arguments.

So it ultimately leads to the question how do we get there without…quote unqoute becoming them…? How do we make Eugene solutions or Portland solutions or <insert city name> solutions created by those residents. Or how do we as planners communicate best practices that are location specific to that time and place. Or how do we frame the answers that use the best knowledge and can be agreed upon by all.

i_amsterdam_logo.jpg

i_amsterdam_logo.jpg taken from http://crossmedia-storytelling.wikispaces.com

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