Houten, Netherlands: Where Cars and Bikes Coexist
First developed in the 1980s, Houten and adjacent town South Houten now house 50,000 residents. But with 66 percent of trips made by alternate modes, Houten isn't your typical suburb.
Eric Jaffe describes how Houten's layout restricts automobile movement: "Car traffic is primarily resigned to a 'ring road' that encircles the area. Within that ring is a network of low-speed streets meant primarily for people traveling on foot or by bike (there are 80 miles of bicycle paths alone) that connect to two main intercity train stations and most of the area's schools and shops."
If they commute to other areas by car, arriving drivers "exit the ring roads onto local streets in the core of Houten that extend into individual neighborhoods but don't connect to other parts of town. To get somewhere else by car, you have to get back on the ring road."
Other multi-modal planning features include comprehensive access to commuter rail, 18-mph speed limits, and streets reserved for walkers and cyclists. "The bike paths in the extensive cycling network have their own brick red coloring. Where bike routes do cross the ring roads, underpasses separate bike and car traffic."
It's doubtful whether the Houten model could work in the USA. To one American planner, Houten betrays a "Truman Show" artificiality: "Here you find a balanced transport system but little else." To be fair, longtime Houten residents probably feel differently about their home.