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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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