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Utrecht: Planning for People & Bikes, Not for Cars

Utrecht is a city with unbelievable momentum for altering how its city center integrates with people. They've been slowly pushing the car out for decades in favor of bicycling and transit. But in the last few years it has turned up the dial.

For one, they are removing multiple roadways and converting them to bikeways, featuring green spaces and restoring the city's canal which was removed in the 1970's for a highway. They are on the verge of having 33,000 bike spaces with the opening of a to-be 12,000 space facility under Utrecht Centraal, which you are legally allowed to bike thru! They are encouraging more bike use with new routes and the Dutch way of bicycle streets. And they have built the symbolic Dafne Schippersbrug, a technological feat of creative imagination that features a multi-use path that lands on top of a school.

It was such a joy bicycling around the city. Everything felt reachable by bike or transit. That's why 98% of residents own at least one bike and the city center boasts a 60% bike mode share. Transit abounds, whether it's buses, trains or trams (a new one is opening as we speak).

The lesson for the world is that Utrecht has put the health and well being of its citizens first, not car travel. That transportation plays an integral role in doing that so making traveling simple and easier by bike or bike/transit/walk combo is far better than having people driving around in metal boxes polluting, hogging road space and making it dangerous to road users. Cars create far more problems than they solve. And hopefully Utrecht can export that lesson to the world.

Sure, you cannot make your city become Utrecht overnight. It takes decades of planning and smart policy. But if your city isn't so friendly to people, bikes and transit you can get started today. And then maintain that commitment to change.

The most incredible thing I learned? Utrecht works so well that taxi/car service/Uber is hardly a thing there.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.
  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Web / New Media
  • Genres:
    Transportation, Documentary, News
  • Runtime:
    13 minutes 11 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 1, 2019
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
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  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Essentially a one-person filmmaking juggernaut, Clarence is frequently referred to as “the hardest working man in transportation show biz” for his dedication to making difficult, wonky concepts more accessible and entertaining to the general public. He's been documenting advocacy transportation for over twenty years and produced nearly 1,000 Streetfilm shorts.

With no formal video training or education in an urban planning field, Clarence attributes much of his accumulated knowledge to never holding a driver’s license. 99% of all footage he shoots is by bike, foot, train, or bus, which gives his filmmaking a unique, see-it-as-it-happens feel. He also loves his commute.

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Director Statement

I have made 971 Streetfilms all over New York City, the USA and the globe. Utrecht is simply one of the most human and peaceful places I have ever been when it comes to transportation and human living. This film has been watched at least 1/2 million times on Youtube, Vimeo and Facebook, but, the vast majority of people beyond the transportation world have not watched it. And if we want to save the world they all should.

At the end of 2019 it was chosen as the Streetfilm of the Year and in subsequent votes for Streetfilm of the Decade 2010-2019 it finished a close second to a beautiful Streetfilm on Barcelona's Superblocks.