The Netherlands is a masterpiece of good practices on its mobility infrastructure. Freeways connect major cities and railways serve both passengers and freight. There are water canals that drain water that are also used for transportation.
We were in The Hague and decided to go to Amsterdam by bike. Considering the Brazilian point of view, this seems a bit dangerous, as connections between large cities are often accompanied by heavy traffic, heavy vehicles, pollution, large factory parks, and monotonous landscapes. But this is not the case of the route between the two Dutch cities.
We did not have a very detailed planning of the way, but the intention was exactly this: to assess the connectivity of the cycling network, the safety for the cyclists in relation to vehicles, to understand which profiles make use of this infrastructure, the landscapes, the attractions of the road, and how all of them reflects on the quality of life for the residents. Along canals, lakes, rivers and roads, there are often smaller paths that are used by cyclists and villagers. Although this infrastructure is constant in many European countries, the attention to detail makes The Netherlands a reference for urban planning.
The use of waterfronts for leisure and contemplation is frequent. Older people, children, families and couples travel medium and long distances without problems. Besides being greenways, that means, oases of peace in urbanized environments, we were able to observe locals on their daily commute. The speed allowed on the roads is compatible with the use of pedestrians and cyclists, and sometimes there are specific rules for vehicles. It is surprising how long distances can be safely and pleasantly traveled, with a comfortable pavement, signage, and landscape attractions enhanced by the infrastructure and urban furniture. Real estate developments come close to these paths, which always leads me to wonder how pleasant living in those places can be.
The good planning of the Dutch territory should be highlighted. Inch by inch seems to be planned, optimized, and multifunctional. Space for the people is much more relevant than space for cars. The narrow street design, where the preference is the human scale: that is why I always answer “The Netherlands” when asked: “where in the world do you recommend as a good practice for planning and mobility”.
Text and photos: Walter Weingaertner