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Bilthoven: An example redesign of a Dutch town to make it more walking and cycling friendly

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: The above headline might sound strange to some people. Many might ask: ‘Isn’t all of the Netherlands not already at least cycling-friendly?’

The truth is that not all Dutch roads and streets are perfect, and many towns and cities lag behind the more cycling-friendly places. As Dutch cycling consultant André Pettinga has written, it is helpful that people avoid seeing the Netherlands as “bicycle paradise”.

Bilthoven is an example of relatively recent changes which have made the town (population around 22,000) more people-friendly. Here’s a short video of one of its main shopping streets:

This side street was pedestrianised — before and after from Street View:

And this wide section of the street (the same street in the video above) was changed from having a really wide carriageway to having a narrowed carriageway and two-way cycle path and more space for pedestrians and street life.

The old cycle paths (unidirectional) used to end before this junction, but now the new cycle path contuines closer to the train station:

A mix of photos from last year:

And Bilthoven is an interesting example because it also reconstructed its train station area as part of a project to switch from level crossings to underpasses, with separate underpasses for motorists, and walking and cycling.

This project was to accommodate higher frequency trains — similar work is planned in parts of Dublin to accommodate the expansion of Dart services, which will mean higher frequency trains.

BicycleDutch has an article and video on the Bilthoven underpass project, here. While the IrishCycle.com video shows a quick view of the underpass:

Originally tweeted by IrishCycle.com (@IrishCycle) on March 6, 2022.

And in the Netherlands, cycle routes are not just built in the urban area, and you can find many routes around Bilthoven — for example, it’s 8km to the centre of Utrecht or, in a different direction, just 5.5km to the Utrecht University and medical centre campus.

This video shows part of one of the many inter-urban cycle routes in the area — there are two-way cycle paths on both sides of the road here. It starts with a space-confined section that nearly looks like an Irish/UK quick-build cycle path:

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Cian Ginty
Editor, IrishCycle.com

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