Interview of Ufuk Kahya
Alderman in charge of Sustainable mobility in the municipality
2020, January 24th
S-Hertogenbosch’s city is designed in order to facilitate sand foster cycling for everyone. Mr Ufuk Kahya, alderman in charge of Sustainable mobility in the municipality, let us know how the municipality has reached its goals and continue to strive toward more sustainable and active ways of transportation.
Both your logistic and Mobility plans are focused on limiting the use of private cars and encouraging citizens to cycle more. Why did ‘s‑Hertogenbosch decide to become a biking city?
‘s‑Hertogenbosch is a historic city where the bike fits in excellently, also from a spatial perspective. The city was built before the motorcar era. Since the 1980s, a gradual ‘rehabilitation’ has been underway in which the role of the car in the city centre is being reduced in favour of walking and cycling.
Our aim is to achieve that all transport in the city of ’s‑Hertogenbosch is sustainable, accessible and smart by 2050. We want to facilitate pleasant living and working in ’s‑Hertogenbosch, while combining accessibility with comfortable and safe transport for everybody, with the smallest possible ecological footprint. Together with residents, companies and other stakeholders, we will ensure that ’s‑Hertogenbosch remains excellently accessible and liveable.
That is why we promote cycling and why we made it a priority in our approach. Moreover, cycling is good for your health.
We have been working towards an extensive, uninterrupted cycling network for many years now. We are a hospitable city and so we give way to bikes in the inner city. Hence the free bike sheds in the inner city. Parking bikes in the public space is allowed as well. In order to manage this, we developed behavioural campaigns to limit any nuisance from parked bikes in public spaces. ’s‑Hertogenbosch was awarded the title Cycling City 2011, which gave it the status of cycling city.
Currently we are continuing our efforts to optimise the cycling network, to integrate technological solutions such as apps, and we are implementing a regional cycling highway network in order to cater for the e-bike as well.
It is said in your SULP that shopkeepers are satisfied by the “bike-only” policy in the city centre. How did you manage to convince all stakeholders to change their habits for more sustainable and active ones ?
Indeed, there has been opposition, but still entrepreneurs and shopkeepers realise the importance of an attractive city as a whole and particularly so in the inner city where people find it easy, safe and pleasant to go shopping. ’s‑Hertogenbosch has been one of the top five most attractive cities for many years. Attractiveness is an important condition, also for economic vitality. Surveys have also shown that people who come by bike spend more and stay longer. ‘s‑Hertogenbosch also boasts an abundance of hotels, restaurants and pubs, another perfect fit for bikes. Many visitors combine shopping with a visit to catering facilities. It is a total experience. Finally, being able to briefly park your bike in the shopping streets is an incentive for a shopping visit. It is easy and flexible, much more so than by car. There are attractive and safe multi-storey car parks on the fringes of the inner city. From the Park & Ride facilities on the edge of the city, visitors travel quickly and sustainably – by electric bus or bike – to the inner city. It is the complete package that makes it work: enticing, but also offering practicable and sustainable alternatives for, for instance, parking cars.
The municipality is offering everyone the opportunity to be active, from youngest to eldest, thanks to school-related initiatives or the Fietsmaatjes initiative. What do these represent for the city ?
Initiatives such as Fietsmaatjes serve multiple purposes that fit within our policy: it is about social cohesion; connecting people. It is also about inclusion; helping people to get from A to B when they are not able to do so by themselves. This means enabling people to remain active in our society, but also to keep participating independently, for leisure, for education or for work. Finally, it is healthy; especially for people who are getting older. Exercise is particularly important to remain physically vital. Last of all, it links up with our sustainability ambition.
If you had 2 ‘’quick wins’’ measures to recommend to other European municipalities in order to become Active cities and grow an efficient biking policy, what would they be ?
- Shut off one or more streets, or a central square, from car traffic and give that part of the city back to the people. When you introduce a free cycling regimen here, you literally give room to pedestrians and cyclists. Start small-scale, on a central square or a few streets. Also make it easy and free of charge to park bikes. In ‘s‑Hertogenbosch, we finance this partly from car parking revenues. When more people experience the positive results of such measures, you can expand. It is a process; it has to grow. It took us in ‘s‑Hertogenbosch many years to get where we are now; and we have certainly not finished.
- Communicate that cycling is ‘normal’, just as normal as driving. It is relatively easy and inexpensive to arrange communication and information. Introduce children to cycling, for instance at school. Ensure that cycling is not ‘something funny’ but a regular, healthy transport option.