The growing interest in liveable, healthy and competitive cities generates an increasing attention to the use of bikes in urban areas. The Netherlands can be seen as one of the major cycling countries in the world, and the Dutch central government, local municipalities, engineers and architects are developing policies and projects that are on the forefront of stimulating and facilitating cycling in cities. Nevertheless, we see new issues arising that have not been investigated yet – especially in a spatial sense. Examples range from the appearance of bicycle traffic jams during rush hour to dangerous situations that emerge due to different speeds in bike lanes or the increasing negative impact of bicycle parking on public space. This raises the question of which spatial measures we can take to keep our cities and villages attractive for cycling in the long run. In other words: How do we prevent the bicycle from becoming a victim of its own success?
In order to explore these issues, the Dutch Board of Government Advisors (College van Rijksadviseurs) has initiated the project ‘Dutch Designs for Cycling Country’ (in Dutch: Ontwerpen aan Nederland Fietsland), in which design thinking is applied to a number of specific issues in the Netherlands’ four largest cities. Each city was linked to an urban designer who was given the assignment to research the future of cycling trough a specific thematic perspective. PosadMaxwan, for example, worked on cycling in Utrecht and the interaction between cyclists and pedestrians in the busy inner city. Artgineering investigated how infrastructural barriers in the North of Rotterdam can be overcome and how connections with the landscape and adjacent urban areas can be improved. De Urbanisten worked in Amsterdam on their vision of the bicycle neighbourhood of the future, with the new Havenstad district as a case study. Finally, MUST explored how to deal with the increasing number of bicycles in The Hague’s busy inner city.
In anticipation of the forthcoming publication of the study, we are presenting four observations, illustrated with the work of one the offices involved. The studies do not provide a perfect answer, but can be seen as a first step towards an urban future for the bicycle. The outcomes encourage people to come up with new ideas, experiments and projects that will help keep our cities attractive for cycling.