How the Kingston mini-Holland project will get more people on two wheels
In 2014, the London Royal Borough of Kingston was one of three local authorities which bid for and won a share of £100million worth of funding to put towards a raft of improvements to cycling and transport infrastructure.
The Mayor of London and Transport for London offered the funding to help build towards a vision of safer and more pleasant streets for all, in what they have called their “mini-holland” programme. But what exactly is a “mini-Holland”? And what will it mean for the everyday cyclist? The team behind Bike Citizens – the app for city cyclists – have partnered with the Royal Borough of Kingston to help you discover the city from a new perspective.
Going Dutch: The next mini-Holland
When one thinks of Holland, images of windmills, tulips and canals spring to mind – as does that of the bicycle. The humble bicycle is almost as synonymous with the Dutch as Sangria is to the Spanish. According to a Netherlands Ministry of Transport report in 2009, the bicycle is used for more than a quarter of all journeys. Although the distances travelled by the Dutch were seen to be increasing at the time, it was still the case that 70% of journeys in the Netherlands were shorter than 7.5 kilometres – and in 2007 just over a third of all those journeys were made by pedal power.
It wasn’t always this way.
In the 1970s, Dutch town planners made a bold decision to build their towns and cities around people, and not motor vehicles. Placing the focus on pedestrians and cyclists, the changes which were made back then created safer, more pleasant cities to live in – where travelling from home to work, or making a trip to the shops, by bicycle could be an everyday occurrence. Once you get over the weather – after all, they have pretty much the same climate in the Netherlands – one of the main barriers to people in the UK taking to two wheels is concern over safety. And so, London’s programme of design and improvements would take its cue from the world’s leading cycling nation – the mini-Holland scheme was devised.
Commuting by bike is nothing new in London, of course – many savvy workers in the capital have been doing it for years. However, until recently, the two-wheeled warriors dashing across London’s busy streets in a bid to avoid queuing traffic and busy public transport were more likely to be young, assertive riders – and predominantly male. Given the amount of money being pumped into the mini-Hollands, there are those who have raised eyebrows and questioned the decision to fund a project that, on the surface, seems to benefit only a minority. The aim of the mini-holland scheme is to improve infrastructure for those who are already riding but, more importantly, it aims to get more bums on bike seats.
Build it, and they will come.
One way in which London has looked to achieve that is with the Cycle Superhighways, which have already been a hit with most commuters. Witness the large volume of two-wheeled traffic at rush hour – every one of those cyclists is another car off the road, or an extra free seat on a bus, train or the tube. The Superhighways are designed to take cyclists across the city quickly and safely. There is, however, also the need for change at a micro-level in local communities.
This morning’s Cycle Super Highway Rush Hour Epicness (2016!) @citycyclists @london_cycling @veloevol pic.twitter.com/71ObI3MRj1
— So Wills (@_SoWills) 26. Juli 2016
Building townscapes which, through a mixture of segregated or protected bike lanes, offer quieter residential streets will promote both cycling and walking. Effective traffic calming measures are needed along with trees, planters and aesthetically pleasing – but functional – street furniture can all combine to help create a more pleasant, less congested and, therefore, less polluted environment.
It’s under the title ‘Go Cycle’, that Kingston’s Mini-Holland work is taking place. According to Kingston council’s website, “The population of Kingston is growing, but the spaces for travelling around aren’t – so the ‘Go Programme’ is looking at key areas in the borough where we can enhance and improve these spaces to keep Kingston moving in the future.”
The key concepts across the developments are: to create and enhance public spaces, with attractive features and street furniture; to transform cycling infrastructure and facilities, building protected cycle lanes and hubs; to improve and create new road crossings, and to improve access and connectivity for those travelling by foot or by bicycle.
Plans include a makeover of Kingston train station with the creation of a new public plaza, improved access and crossings, and new cycling hubs, along with making a feature of Kingston’s riverside with a “boardway” which will improve access and facilities for the local community and visitors. There are also a number of safe cycle routes proposed that will connect up the borough’s town centres. The first route is currently under construction on Portsmouth Road and will be compelted by Autumn 2016.
Cllr Leader, Councillor Kevin Davis:
The Go developments will bring benefits to all residents in the borough – improving the public realm for everyone’s enjoyment. The Go developments are a key part of ‘Kingston Futures’ – a regeneration plan that will shape how the borough adapts and copes with the forecast growth in population in the coming years. It will relieve peak time public transport pressures by offering increased transport choices and making better use of the existing road network and spaces.
The majority of car journeys made in the UK are of less than 5 miles – a perfect distance to travel by two-wheeled transportation. These are usually small errands or school runs and as child obesity continues to grow, what better way to improve the fitness of a nation than by making these journeys by bike?
The Bike Citizens app is a companion for your urban rides. Using knowledge gleaned from bike couriers, the app is designed specifically for the needs of cyclists in cities. It favours cycle paths and side streets, avoiding busy main roads wherever possible.
Through Bike Citizens’ partnership with the Royal Borough of Kingston, cyclists will be able to download the app for free and make use of an online route planner and the “five minutes by bike” tool. Data collected from the app will be used to verify usage of the new infrastructure and also help inform future decisions.
Mini-Holland hopes to create more everyday cyclists. If nothing else, it will be offering residents an option which they might have felt was not open to them previously. It’s good to have a choice.