Here’s a great new video documenting the progress that Rotterdam is making to become a nicer, more productive place. The city is rapidly expanding and improving it’s cycle network. Currently bicycle mode share is *only* 20%. They are also extending their light rail network and have a magnificent new central rail station with parking for 5,000 bikes.

What’s interesting about Rotterdam is that it doesn’t have a precious old town centre that people sometimes correlate with high bicycle use in the Netherlands. Rotterdam’s downtown was largely destroyed during World War II. It was rebuilt using a car focused model including wide streets and copious amounts of car parking (and even a classic Traffic In Towns pedestrian mall). In many ways, Rotterdam looks like a new world city, so it is a useful reference to observe how cycleways are being inserted into the street network and how the transportation system is evolving to move more people and to be attractive to people living downtown.

The City recently announced it’s Transit Vision 2018-2040 (PDF) which reinforces priority for cycling and transit by increasing metro and train frequencies, and adding additional cycle links and river crossings.

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27 comments

  1. This is what inner Christchurch could (have?) become… but instead, for the most part, it seems they’re just rebuilding more of the same. Had the opportunity to be revolutionary and a world leader…

  2. You mention exactly what is unique about Rotterdam in a Dutch context: it has a downtown that has similarities with downtowns in countries such as NZ or the US, because it was built mostly in the 50s and 60s and reflects a car-centric approach combined with modernist urban design principles. It is this legacy of its built environment that makes Rotterdam a testbed of what downtowns with similar characteristics in other, mostly “new world” countries could look like, if they prioritise high quality transit and walking and cycling, in the way that Dutch cities do.
    Of course everyone loves Amsterdam and Groningen and Copenhagen. But few Dutch and European cities offer the practical insights that Rotterdam does.

  3. There are not many Dutch cities with a giant arterial running right throug the city centre, but Rotterdam is one of them.
    What Queen Street is to Auckland, the Coolsingel is to Rotterdam. A linear north-south arterial that runs right through the city centre, and, in Rotterdam’s case, carrying a disproportional amount of non-local traffic of about 40%.
    Currently the Coolsingel is one of the most disliked streets in the city centre because of the excessive amount of space that is reserved for cars. It’s not a place where you want to linger and stick around. That is set to change in the coming years, as space dedicated to moving cars will soon be reduced by 50%. Plans here: https://decoolsingel.nl/ Essentially it is set to become an urban boulevard ‘that Rotterdam deserves’, with ample space for outdoor cafe seating, walking, cycling, trams, and, yes, one lane of traffic each way. A big step, seeing as it had two lanes in each direction. The reduction of space for cars is expected to cause all non-local through traffic to make use of other routes, effectively reducing the number of cars in a significant way.
    Though Queen Street is much more narrow than the Coolsingel, perhaps the same general principle– reducing space dedicated to cars by 50%– is one that makes sense at Queen Street too. It’s the busiest place in New Zealand when it comes to people being out and about, walking and not in their cars. Street design must respond to that.

    1. I wouldn’t use this model for Queen St – that needs no cars at all. It’s not an arterial anyway.

      I would transfer some of these concepts instead to the harbour bridge. Having a motorway dissect the city centre was perhapas the worst of all the bad planning decisions in Auckland, and we need to stop planning as if keeping it like that is a given.

      The harbour bridge needs to be converted to buslanes and cycling now, with conversion to LRT as soon as practicable. Trucks and general traffic, if allowed on the bridge at all, should only get one lane each way. People would soon switch to PT and cycling and take the WRR if they absolutely need to drive. This will have a massive rejuvenating efffect on the whole city.

      1. Heidi: agree with your plan for Queen st. Puzzled it hasn’t happened years ago. The harbour bridge I don’t agree with you. Much as I believe it would be better knocked down and North Harbour declare UDI of Auckland Council and its uncontrolled council organisations it really has to exist where it is because of the geography. It is difficult to imagine it not being connected to a motorway north and south although it could have been done better.
        To what extent the commuters can be persuaded to move from car to PT crossing the bridge can be debated – free bus fares would be a help [but most commuters would still be driving to their nearest bus station].
        Your problem is that bridge carries far more than commuters on their way to an office job. My social worker daughter crosses it frequently taking clients to attend meetings with other support services; my son the builder carries his tools in his car from North Shore to Flatbush leaving about 6am. On the rare occasions I venture into that alien territory called the CBD there are numerous trucks and vans crossing – I can see them through the bus windows (although I prefer the Ferry and viewing seabirds, sandy beaches and small boats).

        1. It’s hard to reimagine the city, but I think it’s worth doing. A city should not have a motorway dissecting it. If you start reimagining Auckland with that as a premise, solutions start appearing, but they do require a fair amount of radical change.

        2. Of course, SH1 was not intended to connect with the bridge. It was meant to follow the path of what is now the Waterview connection. Mayor Allum demanded SH1 be rerouted to ensure “his” tolled bridge didn’t fail.

          The bridge was intended to be connected only to surface streets. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10575671

          Imagine what a different city it would be if Allum had kept out of it and let the original plan proceed.

        1. Yes, I agree. So do many arterials. And we need to prevent the cars being diverted from these arterials onto parallel road networks. As I say, a radical rethink is required.

          I was on Greenlane Rd at 10 pm on Saturday night, and it was as heavy with traffic as peak hour used to be there when I was a young thing. All this induced traffic needs to be evaporated; luckily there are lots of international examples about how to do this.

      2. A lot of trips taken by car could potentially be transferred to PT. however we don’t yet have the mature PT network that will be able to handle them all efficiently. further there is a lot of commercial traffic that PT is probably not going to handle efficiently. My understanding is that a road network and PT network complement each other and that we don’t try and rely on just one of the two. To no longer have any general traffic lanes on the bridge would leave a huge hole in the road network, I just don’t see that happening. Sure you may be right it is a bad idea to
        Having said that You are absolutely right that the harbor bridge should not be dominated by cars and I would most certainly support immediately converting two of the traffic lanes to a permanent bus way each way.

  4. That is by far the best example for Auckland to follow. Practical solutions that could work just as well here. I really love the bike tools on on cables so you can fix your bike.

    1. Most European cities have solutions that will work in Auckland because they have been developed over many years. What particularly about Rotterdam appeals to you?

      It seems AT has absolutely no plans to do anything different to what they are doing now. I have read today projections for public transport trips of 240 million by 2046 – in other words growth at less than a simple growth rate of 5%. (cf Vienna currently at 950 million trips per year now). With population growth at up to 2.1% per year in Auckland the projected number of public transport trips will simply not keep pace with the population growth rate.

      It appears that Auckland in 2046 will be more congestion, expensive public transport and a generally less appealing environment.

      1. Rotterdam is a working city. Somewhere for trade and commerce that isn’t simply based on selling things to tourists who have come to see the sights. It doesn’t have an inner city of old buildings and narrow lanes paid for at a time when money was no object. They were all destroyed when the poor people of Rotterdam were bombed by both sides during WWII. Lastly but most importantly the Netherlands has always had a culture of allowing people to make their own choices, rather than simply passing rules like Germany, or relying on a culture of social compliance with the norm like the Scandinavian countries. It means the Dutch are the most like us.

    2. Agree seems to be a good role model for Auckland. And we do have a number of those bike fix it stations, one at Unitec and one at Ecomatters Bike Hub New Lynn plus a couple of others.

        1. Yes, disappointed that AT Journey planner still doesn’t include cycling options either. Planning our route to Mt Roskill yesterday I had to use Google maps. Surely showing the cycling option on the journey planner will encourage cycling amongst those who hadn’t considered it? Especially as the times are so often faster. Yesterday Google maps showed a journey time of 40 minutes by bike, 57 minutes by bus, with a transfer. And all on cycleways except at the very start and end.

          1. Even google is missing half of the cycle routes. e.g. half of the bits of the dominion road alternate cycle routes is missing, and it doesn’t have anything south of mt albert rd. e.g. there is a cycle route of shared paths, traffic calmed quiet streets and parks that goes from parau, bremer, john moore reserve to frost rd, which links up with the southwestern cycleway and keith hay park.

            It makes a very useful if indirect network to get around the neighbourhood for normal people that aren’t keen to mix it up on busy arterials. But how are people supposed to plan a trip when google and the council maps don’t show these routes.

  5. “the Netherlands has always had a culture of allowing people to make their own choices, rather than simply passing rules like Germany, or relying on a culture of social compliance with the norm like the Scandinavian countries. It means the Dutch are the most like us.”

    Nice in theory, but NZ doesn’t have a great record for good choices. Finally we have come to the conclusion that single use plastic bags are not great for the environment while ignoring an equally dangerous mountain of other plastic; beaches that are unswimmable; rivers that are not much use for anything; green house emissions way above targets; and badly congested cities. I am not sure with the experience of history that allowing citizens unfettered rights to make there own decisions is going to be at all helpful.

  6. A nice view of the future.

    Even better – imagine that third picture of Rotterdam without the forest of pylons and ugly transmission wires. Save the cost of the rails, save the cost of the pylons and wires, beautify the environment by their omission and add massive flexibility to your evolving system by running tyred trams/trains on the existing road system with additional tar sealed or concrete guideways where required.

    For the pessimists and doubters – initially run a trial (on the Northern Busway??) with a I car tram to replace a double decker bus. Batteries too difficult? Start off with diesel (wash my mouth out…) or hybrid power. Once the general concept is proven, add more units progressively to the tram/train. Required enhancements in station design will jump out & bite you. Driverless? When everyone is comfortable with the systems & technology, the driver will no longer be needed.

    1. ” running tyred trams/trains on the existing road system with additional tar sealed or concrete guideways where required.”

      aka a bus.

      1. What’s in a name? The boundaries between buses, trams and trains are becoming increasingly blurred as designers open their minds and mix & match the elements of all three traditional concepts to meet particular public transport needs. For example, take a bendy bus, add a third compartment, reduce the ground clearance & you have something which looks like a tram, but without the rails.

  7. How about an increase in those pedal power type vehicles, where everybody sitting in the vehicle pedals to move the vehicle?
    Like that beer-wagon that everybody sits on all around the sides, I’ve seen that vehicle do the rounds every now and again around large events in Auckland CBD.

    Save the load on electric grid, save emissions, but might stink up a little bit though…..

  8. I was in the Netherlands earlier this year but didn’t get to Rotterdam. I’ve put it to the top of my list for the next trip!

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