Experiencing transport options in the Netherlands

At an Executive Meeting back in March of this year, when the committee first considered the draft Transport Strategy, a number of public speakers came along to discuss the role of sustainable transport in creating a more sustainable future for Canterbury District; in particular Robin Townsend of the Crab and Winkle Line Trust mentioned cycling in the Netherlands as a model from which we could learn. At the time Mr Townsend mentioned a plan he was formulating to visit that country and speak to local experts as well as experiencing the cycle network there for ourselves, and as an admirer of the Netherlands I volunteered to go along.

A few months later I found myself on the 7am flight from Stansted to Eindhoven to meet up with Robin and a small group which included Niels Degenkamp, one of the designers of the Hovenring (more on that later) and Professor Ineke Spapé, an expert in integrated mobility and urban planning. Myself and the rest of our group from Canterbury learnt a great deal about cycling, infrastructure and social trends towards sustainable transport which I now intend to use as a basis for a report on the topic which I hope to present to the City Council before Christmas.

Over the lifespan of the Transport Strategy Canterbury City Council is aiming to increase the percentage of journeys within Canterbury by bike to 10% and across the district to 4%, and to do this it makes sense to look at a country where a huge proportion of people travel by cycle every day rather than trying reinvent the wheel from scratch. It's certainly not going to be as simple as taking the Dutch model and dumping it in Canterbury, and certainly constraints caused by finance, physical space and legislation will all be limiting factors, but personally I don't see a reason why with the right promotion, infrastructure and safety measures we can't easily exceed those targets.

The Hovenring (pictured) is an example of the kind of innovative design solutions which can exist in a city where cycling is seen as a substantial and important mode of transport. The bridge was created to ease congestion at a busy roundabout by elevating cyclists and pedestrians above ground level and created an intersection underneath at a cost of 6.5 million Euros, indicating just how seriously cycling is taken as a mode of transport. It isn't simply the preserve of eccentrics and Sunday afternoon pleasure rides, but can make a real difference to public health, congestion and the environment. I'm not suggesting we have the resources or room to create such a structure in Canterbury, but it shows what can be achieved when thinking "outside of the box" in response to transport problems.

The rather brief trip to Eindhoven threw up a huge amount of information, both in the more formal presentations and just though the experience of riding around the centre as an individual; this article is only intended as a very brief outline of the purpose of the visit, and I will post my report online once it's completed, so watch this space!

Councillor Jeremy Bellamy,
Barton Ward, Canterbury City Council

This resarch trip to the Netherlands was funded out of Councillor Bellamy's own pocket, at no expense to the taxpayer