A great new video from Streetfilms on Nijmegen in the Netherlands and something particularly relevant for our smaller cities like Hamilton, Tauranga and Dunedin

This Streetfilm was a pure joy to make, and it really snuck up on me. Nijmegen, a small Dutch city, was never on my radar. But I found myself in town last month for the Velo-City 2017 conference, and it was a marvel.

The car-free center of Nijmegen is full of street life. Kids play and ride bikes without giving it a second thought. People just don’t have to worry about cars. Nijmegen has accomplished this by devising a system where essential motor traffic, like buses and deliveries, has access to central city streets, but other vehicles do not.

In the city center, bicycling accounts for nearly 60 percent of trips, according to Sjors Van Duren, program director of Velo-City. The stories of these smaller Dutch cities “are not often told,” he said, but they should be. The extent to which Nijmegen has prioritized walking, biking, and transit — and kept car traffic at bay — is something every city should strive for.

So I started interviewing as many people as I could — residents and visitors — about their experience in Nijmegen, to show what it’s like to live in a city where cars have been tamed and people can walk and bike where they please.

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18 comments

  1. Fantastic! It’s certainly a way forward for Wellington, Napier, Hastings etc. Auckland will take a little longer – but is making the biggest strides towards this goal.

  2. Such an inspiration. I loved the bus barrier that retracted into the road; it’s exactly what I need for Meola Rd once I get that blocked to through traffic. The independence of the kids! If we don’t aim for that, and if we keep building car dependency, we are a stupid and heartless lot.

    Perhaps the best way forward for Auckland is to retrofit entire suburbs as a trial?

      1. 🙂 Yup.

        Pt Chevalier needs higher density to help house Auckland’s growing population and to improve the walkability and liveability here – we would have more amenities and services within easy walking and cycling. Apart from its parks, Pt Chev has not been a “leafy suburb” – it needs careful development to increase the green infrastructure; there’s plenty of opportunity for regeneration here.

        What we don’t need here is for Meola Rd and Pt Chev Rd to continue to be treated like a traffic sewer by the commuters from out west. They need more and better bus services. One of these can be along Pt Chevalier Rd and Meola Rd, but it will only work if the road is blocked to the private car. (People accessing the Meola Reef Reserve and the soccer club and music theatre, etc, could still drive there from one side, and from the other, just not go through, which stops the road being used as through-route. But with the removal of the commuter traffic, they will be more able to walk and cycle there.)

        Now is the time to pounce – with WC just opened, when supposedly 50,000 cars have been taken off the local roads, and before the induced traffic kicks in.

        I know it’s radical – doesn’t the above video show how radical we haven’t been?

  3. there are a lot of cycle trails in napier hastings. I wonder if they could go dutch with a little more encouragement.

    1. Well there are a lot of cycle trails between, and around Napier / Hastings, but not much integration into the neighbourhood yet. I used to ride my bike 5km to school each day in Napier, along with several hundred other students, but little sign of that today. Can’t help feeling that a nice fat bright green fully segregated cycle way down some of their super-wide streets would greatly help the uptake of cycling up there.

      1. +1, visibility of cycling infra is so important. If people see it and notice it then they know that it is an option for some trips. This is part of the reason that shared paths on roads are so bad; they’re invisible to motorists.

  4. It looked nothing like this 22 years ago. There were still a lot of bikes back then, with bike parking completely blocking footpaths and spilling out onto the roads outside pubs, 3 rows of bikes deep.

  5. Two things from that clip – one of the interviewees mentioned the fact that the city is flat – Auckland isn’t; a lot of our inner city street would gain points for the polka dot jersey in the Tour de France. I also noted that there were very few racing and bmx style bikes that dominate our cycling scene to be seen. Having said that, I still can’t understand why Queen Street can’t be shut off from cars, which are simply using the road as a way from point A to point B.

    1. I can attest that it is possible to take one of those Dutch style upright bikes, put a battery and a motor on it, and comfortably cycle the hills of Auckland, arriving presentable at one’s destination. That’s with plenty of luggage and without great levels of fitness. (And I wouldn’t seriously consider doing the same on an un-powered bike).

    2. From my experience, the Dutch have pride in having a bike that is as old as possible, and no one except complete tossers wears lycra and goes speedy. In Netherlands you aim to use the bike your Mum or grandmother had, and you have two or three of them, and leave them locked up in various places around the city. Old bikes – nobody nicks them. Their theory is that cycling is just like walking – something that you do without having to change clothes, so no-one raises a sweat, and you don’t have to worry about cars, so you can still talk on your mobile phone while you cycle. Occasionally people cycle into the canals, but that’s about as serious as it gets. The fashion statements from the women especially are great – lots of tweed, chiffon, scarves and other things that we might consider impractical here.

      But first things first: make the surface completely free of cars, and the rest will follow. It takes time. Decades. But it will happen.

  6. The Arnhem-Nijmegen region is 750,000 people. Arnhem is about the same distance away as Napier is from Hastings . So its a substantial urban area, with half Aucklands population in 20% of the area.
    Its a common misunderstanding of the size of European metropolitan areas, some here were thinking its like Napier ??

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnhem-Nijmegen_Metropolitan_Area

    There are of course a number of motorway style roads within the region, much more than what Hamilton, Tauranga or Napier have.

    1. Yes, i think most people here would be aware that Holland is one of the most densely inhabited countries on earth, and nothing like Napier or Hastings – yet the countryside is still mainly green and open (or if in tulip country, red, yellow, orange, blue, purple etc). But in central old cities, like the urban part of Nijmegen and Delft and Amsterdam, virtually every single street is either completely divided into a cycle-friendly lane (and a cars-begrudgingly-accepted lane) or is just for bikes and pedestrians (often no “footpath” as such).

      Napier city has about 30 people living in the CBD (figure not known, so I made it up, but point is: not many, if any). But in Holland, there would be a couple of thousand inner city residents at least, living above the shops in town in a similar sort of urban conglomeration.

      1. Napier Hill area right by the CBD could have 2-3K people, plus there are houses along the Marine parade in the CBD area.
        of course Nijmegan has been around since the roman times and likely the central city compact core was built in medieval era, with narrow streets and multilevel buildings as they required to be inside defensive walls- which werent removed till the 1870s. It makes a lot of sense to allow this area for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.

      2. http://www.stats.govt.nz/StatsMaps/Home/Maps/2013-census-quickstats-about-a-place-map.aspx

        You can get all of the census population data in this link. There may be very few living in the commercial area, but there are 2,500 people in the CBD’s area unit which is only about 1.5km2, and over 12,000 in the adjacent area units.

        While the Netherlands is densely populated, it’s important to remember that newly developed areas are the same. The Dutch have transport and regulatory systems that favour higher density development and regulatory, housing and transport systems that favout cycling as the primary mode of transport. These things don’t ‘just happen’. They were a conscious choice extending back to the Kindermoord campaign. We could easily make the same choice, it will just take time to realise the benefits.

    2. I would argue that both Hamilton and Tauranga have similar density of expressway/motorway style roads compared to Arnhem. Hamilton has the existing SH1 and Wairere Drive. In the near future it will have the Hamilton section of the Waikato Expressway , Resolution Drive, and Gordonton Road. Recently the southern links wee also announced. These roads are limited access with infrequent at grade intersections, just like Arnhem. All Hamilton needs to do is reduce traffic and accommodate cyclists on other roads.

      Tauranga has similar roads, have a look at all of the current and former state highways. Napier- Hastings has the Expressway and Prebenson Road. We are building the ring roads that the dutch do, but none of the cycling infra.

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