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Cycling infrastructure in Groningen, Netherlands: taking the smart route to Zernike Campus - Part 1

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

Hi, everyone! I'm Alexander, an urban mobility planner and designer who enjoys working on user experience. I recently started collaborating with Bicycle User Experience to explore more ways of improving everyone's cycling experience and help grow and spread my knowledge. I'm glad to join the discussion about the cycling experience, and here is my first blog post on BUX about my user experience when cycling to Groningen central station!

Groningen has a long history of having a good and clear cycling policy. This is a tradition they want to maintain alive in order to keep the city economically vibrant, accessible, and healthy. Groningen is a small city of two hundred and fifty thousand people located in the North of the Netherlands. It is quite famous in the Netherlands for two reasons; it created the first traffic calming circulation plan in the 1980s. It is one of a kind traffic circulation plan dividing the city centre into four parts, closing the traffic for through travel for automobiles but not for bicycles. Second, Groningen is a city within the Netherlands where the bike is the primary mode of transportation. The bicycle mode share about sixty-five percent of daily trips.

A new cycling strategy will address parking in the city center and the lack of a well-connected bicycle network. In addition, the municipality of Groningen is focusing more than ever on influencing cyclists' behaviour and self-learning capacities to place itself as a bicycle city.

So let's see if that is indeed the case. I took a bicycle ride from the central train station to the Zernike campus; it is an area north of the city where many companies and institutions are located. This area represents a working and learning area for around fifty thousand people, so one-fourth of Groningen's population. In collaboration with the institutions and the city, two smart bike routes connect the train station and the campus. The routes are called smart because they are planning in a way without traffic lights to save time. I took the eastern route.

It is a cool October day with leaves already on the ground, and the classic red asphalt of the bicycle path is moist from the rain. I start my trip from the bicycle parking beside the train station. I look for some wayfinding signs to the Zernike campus. I am only provided with two that show to go left to the centre or on a national bicycle path.

Signage at the central station

Crossing the first traffic light

I make my way toward the Groningener museum as it is the bridge that will allow me to go toward the centre. My first traffic light greeted me; it was quite difficult for me to see whether it was green or not as it was placed beside me but slightly out of my field of sight. As the light was out of sight, I had to keep turning my head behind to see the signal, which made me feel silly and annoyed. In general, waiting from traffic lights irritates me as I prefer shark teeth or (yield markings on the ground). At this point, I am already skeptical about this smart route to the campus. After crossing the main road from the train station, I need to turn right to cross the bridge; still, at the point, there is no sign for Zernike, which makes me worried if I am going the right way. The bridge is a shared space from pedestrians and cycling, connecting to the funky museum, an island in the canal. This type of infrastructure makes me so happy as I feel like I am special, and it was distinctly designed for bicycle users. The bridge pavement is blue in order guess to show it is a mixed area, but it is unclear. In general, I felt nervous cycling in this area and getting looks from pedestrians made me feel like I wasn't meant to be here. As I continue further, the blue turns into a painted rainbow, which makes me feel happy; I enjoy it when the pavement is painted with a different colour other than the traditional red asphalt for bicycles.

Bridge with blue painted surface entering the rainbow asphalt ahead

After crossing the canal, the road turns into a beautiful bicycle path with interlocking stones where the pedestrians have their own area and vehicles are not allowed. This type of infrastructure continues until the Vismarkt or (fish market) with one main road to cross Gedempte Zuiderdiep. This section is nice as you feel like you are walking with the pedestrians and can view the older buildings full of stores and cafes. The size of the street feels cozy, and as if it was specifically designed for you, a feeling like everything is within hand reach. To cross Gedempte Zuiderdiep we were given white triangles on the ground, representing that we need to prioritize others. Generally, this is a safe crossing; however, in the middle, I felt a bit uneasy as I was waiting for a car coming from the other direction in the middle of the road.

Cozy street toward the Vismarkt

ntersection crossing of Gedempte Zuiderdiep

When you arrive at the Vismarkt, the pavement change to cobbles stones, making the ride a bit uncomfortable, but it does have a feeling that you are entering the heart of an old medieval old city. The cobblestones provide a homey feel and a historical vibe to the area, like no one, really lives here but rather an area for tourists. Leaving the Vismarkt and continuing my trip to Zernike, I need to turn right, which has led me to a larger street that looks like the first section but broader. Now it is shared with vehicles, but it does not feel busy with them, just the occasional one passing by. When you encounter a car here, it is stressful, and these roads are jam-packed with people walking and cycling. The car doesn’t seem to fit in here and feels dangerous when having to manoeuvre around it.

Cobblestones of the Vismarkt


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