Today, the main form of transport in Groningen is the bicycle, and 60 per cent of inhabitants travel by bike – compared with four per cent in the UK, and a national Dutch average of 25 per cent. But Groningen used to be anything but bike-friendly. The city’s love affair with cycling began in earnest 16 years ago, when politicians backed radical proposals for digging up city-centre motorways to rid the city of traffic chaos and create a virtually car-free centre of green spaces, pedestrianised streets, more bike paths and separate bus lanes.
At first, the move was far from popular with the retail sector, which feared a mass exodus of shoppers to faraway shopping centres and a fall off in trade. But, in fact, the reverse has happened and businesses are clamouring for even more “cyclisation” of streets. According to city planners, the reduced congestion in the city has steadily benefited jobs and businesses. Faster journey times for employees have meant better productivity, and a nicer environment has brought in plenty of happy shoppers.
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