The Traffic Circulation Plan, Continued: Evolution, Current Strategy and Challenges.

This is part three in a three-part series on the history of the Traffic Circulation Plan (TCP) in Groningen, Netherlands. Part one is here, and part two is here. The content was originally an assignment for History & Theory of Urban Planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where I am a master’s candidate in the College of Urban Planning and Policy.  I’d like to thank Lennart Nout and Chris Brundlett at Modacity for their input and resource-sharing.  I’d also like to thank Vincent Ziols who also contributed to the paper.

Vismarkt, 1968.  Image Courtesy of Karsijns and Schilt, 2003.

Vismarkt, 1968.  Image Courtesy of Karsijns and Schilt, 2003.

In the late 1970s, the PvdA and municipal administration revised elements of the TCP as well as expanded car-limited traffic schemes in other areas of the city. The 1978-1982 Municipal Programme sought to create a plan that would extend the TCP into adjacent residential neighborhoods. The PvdA retained its political majority, and as such was able to adhere to the same principles and practices that were employed in the TCP. Their Traffic and Transport Plan was approved by the city council in 1982.  

Vismarkt today. Image courtesy of    Wikimedia   .

Vismarkt today. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

As mode share shifted in subsequent years, city officials considered plans that would not merely reinforce the car-limited traffic plans but would also increase bicycle usage among citizens. The latest plan, Groningen Cycling City, was developed in 2015 and represents the city’s efforts to keep the bicycle as a normative and relevant means of transportation. The plan includes capital improvement strategies designed to enhance the safety and utility of bicycle paths. Heated lanes, expanded indoor parking, and stoplight-free “smart routes” are among the many projects outlined in the plan.   

Image courtesy of    Bicycle Dutch

Image courtesy of Bicycle Dutch

As Groningen’s population grows, city officials must work to ensure that their streets function as public spaces for all types of transportation modes, not least bicycle users. The city’s Vice Mayor for Mobility recently stated that the city is making a concerted effort to ensure the bicycle remains the primary mode of transport. At the same time, the proliferation of the bicycle has resulted in some of the transportation challenges exhibited by the influx of the automobile in the 1960s, albeit to a different degree. Congestion, parking, and even pedestrian safety are all concerns expressed by citizens and city officials.  Although such challenges are not insignificant, the traffic reforms necessary to remediate will certainly be more incremental than the comprehensive, car-limited plans created in the 1970s.

Image courtesy of     Imgur

Image courtesy of Imgur

This series has provided a history and critique of the actors and events which led to the creation of the Traffic Circulation Plan, a car-limited planning intervention in the City of Groningen, Netherlands.  The plan is largely responsible for creating the conditions necessary for normative bicycle transportation for its residents.  Although Max Van Den Berg and other PvdA members espoused the concept of citizen participation in its official planning documents, there is little evidence to suggest that citizens were involved in the plan’s creation or implementation.  The absence of participation was a central argument among the shopkeepers and business owners who were opposed to the plan.

As the city encounters new bicycle-oriented traffic challenges, its municipal planners are advised to develop a collaborative, multi-actor planning approach as part of an effective governance strategy.  Inviting stakeholders to contribute to the plan-making process is an essential element in creating an effective, sustainable plan.


Arnstein, Sherry R. “A Ladder of Citizen Participation.”  JAIP, Vol. 35, No. 4, July 1969. 

Boyko, Christopher.  “Groningen’s Binnenstad: Informed Perceptions on its Design.”  Accessed         10 November 2017.

Bruntlett, Chris and Melissa.  2016. “How Groningen gained (and hopes to retain) the title of     ‘The World’s Cycling City’.  Daily Hive Vancouver, September 28.  Accessed 28 October         2017.        title-of-the-worlds-cycling-city-photos-video

Bruntlett, Chris and Melissa.  2017.  “How Groningen’s Bold Moves Built ‘The World’s Cycling     City’. Modacity, May 30.  Accessed 28 October 2017.        groningens-worlds-cycling-city

CROW Fietsberaad.  “Continuous and Integral: The cycling policies of Groningen and other         European cities.” Amsterdam: Fietsberaad, 2006.

CROW Fietsberaad.  “Verkeerscirculatieplan  Groningen.”  Accessed 14 November 2017.

Fishman, Robert. “Urban Utopias in the Twentieth Century: Ebenezer Howard, Frank Lloyd         Wright, Le Corbusier.” The MIT Press. 16, September 1982.

Forester, John.  “Challenges of Deliberation and Participation”  In Readings in Planning Theory.        4th ed. Sussex, United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016.

Gemeente Groningen.  “Groningen Cycling City: Cycling Strategy 2015-2025.” Gemeente         Groningen, 2015. 

Golderberger, Paul. “Robert Moses, Master Builder, is Dead at 92”. The New York Times, On         this day. 30, July 1981.

Groningen ImageBank.  Image search, Verkeerscirculatieplan 1977. Accessed 29 November         2017. 

Hellemeier, Clemens, Mahdokht Soltaneihha.  “Implementation and Results of the Traffic         Circulation Plan in the City of Groningen.”  Stockholm University, 2010. 

Homrighausen, Jasper. 2015. Institutional Innovations in the Pursuit of Sustainable Mobility and     the Role of Collaboration and Coalitions.”  Master’s thesis, faculty of spatial sciences.          Groningen, Netherlands, University of Groningen, 2015. Accessed 1 December 2017.        Institutional-Innovations-in-Sustainable-Mobility.pdf

Karsijns, Nico, and Maurits Schilt.  “Groningen en het VCP.”  Presentation slides, University of         Groningen, October 16, 2003.  Accessed 14 November 2017.        p.h.pellenbarg/voordrachten/28.%20groningen%20en%20het                    %20verkeerscirculatieplan.pdf

Mans, Bruce Timothy.  2010.   “De binnenstad van Groningen.”  Accessed 4 November 2017.

Scott, James C. “Authoritarian high modernism,” Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemese to     Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven, Conn. Yale University Press,         1988. 

Steinberg, Lior.  2014.  “Making Cycling Efficient and Cool: Groningen’s Smart Routes.”          September 17. Accessed 4 November 2017.        making-cycling-efficient-and-cool-groningens-smart-routes

Tsubohara, Shinji.  “Democratic Nature of Urban Development in Groningen in the 1980s: PTT,     Brink, Casino and Museum.”  University of Groningen. 2007.  Accessed 1 December         2017.

Tsubohara, Shinji. “A Traffic Plan to Make Residential Areas Car-Limited.” University of         Groningen.  2007.  Accessed 21 October 2017.            nl/publications/a-traffic-plan-to-make-residential-areas-carlimited(7b243aed-ccd8-423a-        bc4f-b3d4fa517fb2).html 

Tsubohara, Shinji. “The Effect and Modification of the Traffic Circulation Plan (VCP): Traffic         Planning in Groningen in the 1980s.” University of Groningen.  2007.  Accessed 21 October 2017.

Tsubohara, Shinji, and Henk Voogd.  “Planning Fundamental Urban Traffic Changes:             Experiences with the Groningen Traffic Circulation Scheme.”  Southampton, United Kingdom: WIT Press, 2004.

Tsubohara, Shinji, and Henk Voogd.  “Policy Network Theory: an Ex Post Planning Evaluation         Tool?”  In New Principles in Planning Evaluation: Urban Planning and Environment.         2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2016.

Van der Zee, Renate.  2015.  “How Groningen invented a cycling template for cities all over the         world.” The Guardian, July 29.  Accessed 4 November 2017.        vancouver/how-groningen-gained-and-hopes-to-retain-the-title-of-the-worlds-cycling-        city-photos-video

Van Maanen, Gijs. “Deliberative Democracy in the Netherlands: The G1000 Groningen Put in         Perspective.” MA thesis history, migration and global interdependence. Leiden: Leiden         University, 2016.

Velo-City Groningen. “The Cycling Experience: Velo-City 2017.”  Accessed 4 November 2017.                 city2017_groningen_press.pdf

Wagenbuur, Mark.  2016. “Groningen: Cycling City of the Netherlands?” Bicycle Dutch, March         8.  Accessed 4 November 2017.            groningen-cycling-city-of-the-netherlands/