Road Diet - Groningen’s Gedempte Zuiderdiep

Road diet - the practice of reducing the number of car lanes in a street - is a great example of favouring pedestrians and bikes over cars. While a common implementation of a road diet is the transformation of a 4-lane road into a 2- or 3-lane road, it is very rare to see a road diet like the one of Gedempte Zuiderdiep in Groningen, the Netherlands.

Making a long story short, in 1977 Groningen has implemented the Traffic Circulation Plan, which banned motorized vehicles from going through  the inner city. Instead, the city was divided into four sections and a ring road was built around the city. From then on, drivers that wish to pass from one section to another must use the ring road, making their inner-city trips much longer and the use of bicycle much more appealing.

Picture by: Cor van der Klaauw

Picture by: Lior Steinberg

One of the streets that benefited from this change is the Gedempte Zuiderdiep, that used to be an expressway in the city center. I can count at the left picture some six lanes, and two parking lanes. Since 1977 it was transformed from a noisy car-centered street to the nice and relatively quiet street we know today: only two lanes for cars, dedicated lane for buses, protected bicycle lanes and wide sidewalks.

We shall not look at Groningen’s case as a miracle. Recent studies show that when the number of lanes is reduced, vehicles’ flow is not negatively affected, in addition it reduces the number of accidents and injuries. And above all, it just makes streets much more livable - that’s what I call a radical diet.

Written by Lior Steinberg. Follow him on Twitter and .