The village of Houten, in the middle of the Netherlands, grew in the nineteen eighties from 9.000 inhabitants to a town of 50.000 inhabitants. At the time a decision was made in favour of an urban planning concept where cars always have to detour via a ringroad and the most direct routes to the town centre are bikes paths and bicycle streets.
This planning structure produced a special cycling climate that has been examined by many a bicycle professional from abroad.
The jury of the Bicycle Town election praised Houten with the phrase: ‘For almost 30 years Houten has managed to create an attractive urban environment where people are happy to live and stay.’ At the presentation the chairman of the jury encouraged people to visit Houten specifically at a quarter past eight in the morning. It is quite obvious at that particular time that children cycle to school in droves and large numbers of commuters cycle to the train station.
Town councillor Marianne Kallen (VVD) is delighted: ‘We are very proud.’ She feels her town deserves the title. ‘We are the only town in the Netherlands to have consistently maintained an urban planning concept with the bicycle as the main mode of transport. This has been continued in the latest expansion plans as well.’
Councillor Kallen praises the nerve of urban planner Rob Derks and the town council of the time. ‘They stuck to their guns.’ The bicycle town election is a result of the second round of the Fietsbalans study by Fietsersbond, investigating cycling conditions in 42 towns. Previously Veenendaal (2000) and Groningen (2002) have been elected Bicycle Towns.