Case Study: Groningen, Netherlands

The Compact City: Groningen, Netherlands (source: google maps)

The Future of Carbon-Free Transport

by Warren Karlenzig for

The future of carbon-free transport lives strong in Groningen. This Dutch city of 185,000 proves that bicycle transportation can reign supreme: people there make about 150,000 trips by bicycle every day.

Bicycles and pedestrians entirely rule the medieval-era city hub, cruising along on car-free dedicated pathways and short cuts with no traffic signals in some instances. But people also commute on bikes in large numbers from suburban housing spread out around the city to downtown jobs, via a ring-and-spoke network of paths. Overall, 37 percent of area commutes are made on bikes.

Boasting an official town bicycle planner, Groningen has created an infrastructure it refers to “continuous and integral,” which includes massive surface and underground bicycle parking facilities, dedicated bike paths, and two-way bike lanes even on one-way auto streets.

Since the early 1980s, 30 city bicycle parking facilities have been developed, including one underground facility at the central train station that sells bikes, repairs bikes and offers valet and secure parking for more than 4,000 bikes. Parking is financed through a low-cost annual membership program that costs $50 a year, while bike valet positions create significant numbers of jobs at the public parking facilities and also at 15 local schools. keep reading at

Groningen, Netherlands (google maps)

The Way it Should Be: Continuous and Integral

from On the Level: Car Free Blog

I’m back in Bristol after a trip to Groningen, Netherlands (above), Ashford UK, and Lille France. Groningen was amazing. I traveled of my own volition– something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, to experience the city with the highest percentage of cycling in Europe. 57% of all trips are made by bicycle in this student town in the North of the Netherlands. It surely did not disappoint. As soon as I arrived, I was a little overwhelmed at the numbers of people on bikes. It was like Critical Mass everyday. The way it should be. Paradise on wheels. keep reading at

Bike Lanes—Groningen, Netherlands (google maps)

Groningen: Compact Cycling City

from Fiets Beraad Publication No. 7

To many other cities in the Netherlands and abroad, Groningen sets the example as regards bicycle climate and bicycle use. What has made these two factors so prominent here? The answer revolves around three key words: policy, coherence and continuity. The municipality for instance conducts a broad cycling policy, firmly embedded in overall transport and traffic policy. On the other hand, spatial policy has been persistently oriented at a compact city for decades, offering many activities well within bicycle reach to its citizens. This, putting it briefly, is the success of vision, political choices and effort on the part of civil service.

…Car traffic boomed in the ’60s, a development which was expected to continue even more strongly. It is striking that car ownership in Groningen in 1965 was slightly above the national average (110 cars per 1,000 inhabitants compared to the national average of 100 cars per 1,000 inhabitants). Between 1955 and 1968 car traffic in Groningen became threefold; between 1960 and 1968 it doubled. Public transport declined sharply in this same period. Traffic on one of Groningen’s main public transport lines fell by ca. 45% between 1958 and 1967 (1,970 to 1,093 million passengers per year).

In 1969 this induced the municipal executive to present a traffic circulation plan characterised by a far-reaching vision. Named Verkeerscirculatieplan Groningen 1968-1969 this provided for a distribution ring closely encircling the city centre (Diepenring and Zuiderdiep). The traffic structure would moreover be composed of three tangents: the inner, middle and outer tangent. The distribution ring and the inner and middle tangents would result in large-scale traffic breakthroughs. keep reading the PDF

Bicycle Parking—Groningen, Netherlands (google maps)

Groningen: the Car-Free City for Bikes


In Groningen, the Netherlands’ sixth largest city, the main form of transport is the bicycle. Sixteen years ago, ruinous traffic congestion led city planners to dig up city-centre motorways. Last year they set about creating a car-free city centre. Now Groningen, with a population of 170,000, has the highest level of bicycle usage in the West. 57% of its inhabitants travel by bicycle – compared with four per cent in the UK.

The economic repercussions of the programme repay some examination. Since 1977, when a six-lane motorway intersection in the city’s centre was replaced by greenery, pedestrianisation, cycleways and bus lanes, the city has staged a remarkable recovery. Rents are among the highest in the Netherlands, the outflow of population has been reversed and businesses, once in revolt against car restraint, are clamouring for more of it. As Gerrit van Werven, a senior city planner, puts it, ‘This is not an environmental programme, it is an economic programme. We are boosting jobs and business. It has been proved that planning for the bicycle is cheaper than planning for the car.’ Proving the point, requests now regularly arrive from shopkeepers in streets where ‘cyclisation’ is not yet in force to ban car traffic on their roads.

A vital threshold has been crossed. Through sheer weight of numbers, the bicycle lays down the rules, slowing down traffic, determining the attitudes of drivers. All across the city roads are being narrowed or closed to traffic, cycleways are being constructed and new houses built to which the only direct access is by cycle. Out-of-town shopping centres are banned. The aim is to force cars to take longer detours but to provide a ‘fine mesh’ network for cycles, giving them easy access to the city centre.

Like the Netherlands nationally, Groningen is backing bicycles because of fears about car growth. Its ten-year bicycle programme is costing £20m, but every commuter car it keeps off the road saves at least £170 a year in hidden costs such as noise, pollution, parking and health. keep reading at

This entry was posted in Auto Independence, can bicycles save the world?, Culture, human scale, Livability, Placemaking, transit, Transportation, Uncategorized, urban design, urban planning, walkable, What if? and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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