Thursday, July 7, 2011

Houten - PSU Delft Day 4

A fantastic day in Houten. The town of Houten has some fascinating urban design characteristics. This is especially true for how suburban the community is being outside of Utrecht a few train stops. The town of about 50,000 has two key features. First, a ring road that serves car access. This is virtually a ring road that allows access to about 300 to 400 different homes. These are mostly via traffic signals, but there are some that are unsignalized. The second element that is remarkable are the bicycle highways that they provide through the center of the city. The north portion of the City is bisected by a 3.2 km bike highway that results in the neighborhoods having amazing bicycle accessibility to all of the other neighborhoods. The streets do not allow auto access between neighborhoods, which is the function of the ring road.
The approaches to the bicycle highway are shown in these pictures. There are yield signs for traffic. The other unique element within Houten is that all of the reisdential streets are 30 km/hr speed limits and the fietsstraat signs share the message that cars are invited to stay behind the cyclists on the streets and prioritize their fellow residents.
Peter Furth calls it a "bicycle heaven" within the Netherlands which itself is bicycle heaven. There are a few things the class can learn from Houten, but being that it is a suburb, the model might be best applied on the outskirts of Portland as opposed to most of our city where we can wall off our residents from cut through traffic.

One of the concepts we learned from the Dutch is the concept of roadway demotion. Let's say the ring road needs to be expanded to add more houses. In this case, the old road that was the ring road will be usurped by a new road that widens the scope of the City. Once that road is complete, the old street can and should be used differently. Thus, you demote the old road from a 70 km/hour design to a 50 km/hour. In Houten, they made a bicycle roundabout grade separated from a roundabout that controlled the access to the office/work space.

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