Solving traffic problems by talking about them in the Netherlands

It would be an awful thing indeed if around the world each of us, each person, each group, each city, each country had to learn only our own lessons in isolation, without being able to open our eyes and look beyond our borders and what we know. In the following short report, roughly translated by Google and the editor from the original Dutch article which appeared yesterday morning in the web journal KpVV Travel Behaviour, Friso Metz tells us a story of low cost problem solving based on social analysis and citizen participation from the beginnings, as opposed to treating all problems of transport as infrastructure considerations to be sorted out by experts and politicians.

Netherlands Groningen cycling education program

Smart biking solves a traffic bottleneck in Groningen

– Friso Metz, Utrecht, 9 April 2015

The city of Groningen is a place in which many students live, and more often than not get about by bicycle. That’s fine, but sometimes this causes problems.

The large flow of cyclists to the Zernike campus is so great that it has lead to significant congestion on the ring road. Cyclists have priority over cars, but given their number this  creates significant  traffic jams and unsafe situations.


To solve this problem the municipality wanted to reconstruct the intersection. However, it was chosen a different solution: a behavioral campaign. This blog tells how a much cheaper solution may be just as effective.

The reconstruction of the intersection would be an expensive affair. Moreover, the municipality wanted to gain more experience with campaigns. Spring 2013, a focus group was created containing the municipality, the University and the Hanze University. The target group, the Cyclists, joined them in the form of the Student Advisory Committee.

The focus group discussed ideas with students via other routes to allow bikes to campus. Between the center and Zernike is the most obvious cycle route through the Zonnelaan. However, this route has lots of traffic and ultimately contributes to the bottleneck.

There are two alternative routes which are both more fun and less traffic. Those routes are less ‘logical’ which made ​​them much less used.


The alternative routes were provided with conspicuous signs and markings on the bike path itself. A campaign was to encourage students to use the trails.

Because freshmen are still new to the system, they were the most ideal target. During the KEI-week , the orientation week for new students, the students were given information about the routes. A promotion announced at various events flyers and sports drinks, which routes were shown. Also have a website and a Facebook page used.

In the fall of 2013, students could indicate what they thought of the routes and whether they had suggestions for improvement of the campaign or the route. The best tipster received a new bicycle. Most of the suggestions were about improving the route: improved pavements, bends convenient setup, road safer and improve signage. There were also communication tips such as offering information in English and brighten the route.


Before and after the campaign, the number of cyclists monitored on the three routes. While the total number of cyclists has increased by 3,000, the increase occurred mainly on the alternative routes, especially on the route through Selwerd.  At the height of the exit of the ring, the number of cyclists even fell. Based on the success of Groningen will continue to repeat the campaign during the KEI-week . Furthermore, it is intended that the cycling be improved and to be safer.

– – >  For the original Dutch arrticle:

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About the author:

friso metzFriso Metz is a mobility management expert, program manager and human behavior specialist in the CROW-KpVV Knowledge Platform for Traffic and Transport. Working with in-depth information and international expert networks KpVV supports local and regional authorities in the development and implementation of policy in the field of mobility. Currently at ADVIER Mobiliseert in Delft regularly on information, choices and influencing behavior and   can be reached at friso(dot)metz (at)

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About the editor: 

Eric Britton
13, rue Pasteur. Courbevoie 92400 France

Bio: Founding editor of World Streets (1988), Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher, occasional consultant, and sustainability activist who has observed, learned, taught and worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. In the autumn of 2019, he committed his remaining life work to the challenges of aggressively countering climate change and specifically greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the mobility sector. He is not worried about running out of work. Further background and updates: @ericbritton | | #fekbritton | | and | Contact: | +336 508 80787 (Also WhatApp) | Skype: newmobility.)

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Note: This is hardly the first time that the city of Groningen has turned to its citizens to involve them directly in a problem solving process, including for the very beginning.  And for those of us who are asking ourselves how can we bring the citizen into the center off the problem defining and solving process, from the very beginning Groningen and the Netherlands more generally provide us with a number of striking examples.  Often with the entire process starting with the active citzens, and government only joining in once the new pattern has been detected or demonstrated. And example for us all. Thanks Groningen, and thanks Frizo for sharing this.

* If you have a moment spend 80 seconds to have a look at “Unexpected Interview in Groningen” at

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