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EU Urban Mobility Observatory
News article30 March 20201 min read

Utrecht aims to bolster its position as Europe´s bicycling capital

The city of Utrecht is currently building the first high-density, car-free residential district in the Netherlands. It will consist of a 24-hectare site with the capacity for over 12,000 people, making it the first of its kind in the world of such a size.

The site, in a prime location close to the city centre, is currently home to a business centre. However, by 2024, the Merwede district will accommodate over 12,000 people, in 6,000 homes, with the capacity to be serviced by approximately 20,000 bicycles. The district will include several services, such as high schools, two primary schools, shops and health centres, and will be easily accessible to the rest of the city.

The philosophy behind the project aims to deter people from using their cars, making it much easier to move around with a bicycle. This is fully in line with the trends in the city, which have seen Utrecht having the highest number of shared cars per capita in the Netherlands.

Nevertheless, the project will still cater for those who, for different reasons, are not willing or able to stop using their cars by offering 1,800 parking spaces, albeit with considerable associated costs. This would be the equivalent of one car for every three households.

Marco Broekman, the architect behind the enterprise, believes that: “By having this car-free area, we can design spaces without the strait jacket rules of the car, and thus focus on essentials for a high-density area, which is the quality of public space, green, biodiversity, climate adaptation and meeting places for social interaction.”

With over 125,000 daily cyclists in the city centre alone, the city of Utrecht aims to boost the attractiveness of this mode of transport, prioritising it in their mobility policy. This project is an additional step undertaken by Utrecht to cement its reputation as Europe´s leading bicycle city.

Photo Credit: Sergio Gutierrez Getino/ - no permission to re-use image(s) without separate licence from Shutterstock.

Article first published first at The Guardian on 15th of March 2020



Publication date
30 March 2020
  • Walking and cycling
  • Netherlands