How did the Netherlands do it?

Photo courtesy of Graham Paul Smith

The first thing to know is that the Netherlands had a car culture in the 1960s that would look familiar to anyone in the UK or USA.

In the early 1970s, there was a pushback. Key to this was a group called Stop de Kindermoort (Stop the Child Murder). Steven Schepel (pictured above; far left) was one of the activists in this group, which demanded that the national government and municipal authorities take concrete steps to make streets and roads safe.

The levee broke when Groningen implemented the Traffic Circulation Plan in September 1977. This plan was adopted in 1972 by a left-wing city council and made it to fruition only through sheer stubbornness and conviction. The chamber of commerce organised actively against it.

If you imagine that some people in Oxford would be upset by a Dutch-style traffic scheme, you are correct. But know too that Groningen went through exactly such traumas. Jacques Wallage, the council official responsible for implementing the 1977 reform, was under police protection.

See “How Groningen invented a cycling template …” (Guardian) for more of the story.

For details on the political campaign, see “Planning fundamental urban traffic changes: experiences with the Groningen traffic circulation scheme” (Tsubohara & Voogd 2004)

For details on the backlash, see “The effect and modification of the Traffic Circulation Plan (VCP)” (Tsubohara 2007)

For extending the campaign to residential areas: “A traffic plan to make residential areas car-limited” (Tsubohara 2007)

See also Carlton Reid’s new book, Bike Boom (2017), which includes the chapter, “How the Dutch really got their cycleways”

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