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Utrecht's new Merwede district will be home to 12,000 people and car-free

The new-build Merwede district of 6,000 homes is expected to be serviced by about 20,000 bicycles.

“It should be easier to get a bike than it should be to get a car,” the project’s architect, Marco Broekman, said of the philosophy behind the development.

“By having this car-free area, we can design spaces without the straightjacket [or] rules of the car, and thus focus on essentials for a high density area, which is the quality of public space, city on eye level, green, biodiversity, climate adaptation and meeting places for social interaction,” he adds. “With the car-free area and low parking norm, we want to set a standard for new high density neighborhoods, and want to set the right conditions so people can change their behavior; from a car dependent to more sustainable and healthy ways of transportation.”

Construction on the first homes is expected in 2022. Two new primary schools and health centres, a high school, a sports centre and shops and businesses will also be built on the site, which will be accessible to the rest of the city, the fourth largest in the Netherlands, by bike lanes and trams.

Only four dead-end roads of 60 metres in length will protrude into the car-free idyll to allow “logistical” access for petrol-guzzling vehicles into the district’s outer fringes.

Underground garages alongside the “logistical roads“ will offer 1,800 parking spaces for those who cannot quit their addiction to the car, equating to one car for every three households.


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