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18 May 2020 Comments (0) Architecture, Environment, Other, Technology

Utrecht is creating Europe’s largest pedestrian residential urban area

Welcome to Merwede, a former industrial district located in the heart of Utrecht, one of the fastest growing European cities. This neighbourhood is undergoing a massive transformation, based on urban planning criteria that induce clean and shared mobility. Imagine a city where everything would be done by foot or by bike, where public transport would be designed to meet all mobility needs, and where sharing would be preferred over ownership.

This new neighbourhood will soon come to exist. Designed to house no less than 12,000 people, it will welcome its first residents in 2024. In an original urban environment, where pedestrians and cyclists will have priority, since they will be almost the only users of the public road.

In the history of urban development of the second part of the twentieth century, many cities were redeveloped with the possession of an individual vehicle as the main criterion. In Merwede, only shared cars will be allowed to circulate (with a ratio of one vehicle per three families). Bikes will be shared as well. An efficient public transport system will connect the neighbourhood to the rest of the city and the country.

Utrecht, pilot city

Merwede, a former industrial district of Utrecht, destined to become the largest pedestrian residential area in Europe. © Okra, marco.broekman

The designers of the project are aware that the most difficult aspect will be to change the behaviour of the residents. Evolving from the good old single family home with one or two cars parked in front, towards sustainable and shared mobility. In this respect, Utrecht seems to be the perfect city to promote the cause of cycling. Today, already more than 100,000 people use their bikes daily to go to school, work, the market or some entertainment show. And Utrecht is not a novice: in 1965 already, the city was experiencing partial closures of the streets, to reserve them for pedestrians.

In addition to this focus on cycling, the project will benefit from a lot of sustainable equipment, including capturing solar energy, shared gardens… Everything will be done to make Merwede a beautiful, sustainable and car-free city. A human-sized city that will promote meeting places and social interaction thanks to its quality public areas. With a slogan that the designers chose themselves: “green, as much as possible”.

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