Making Cycling Efficient and Cool: Groningen’s Smart Routes

“Had a late night? Spent too much in front of the mirror? Use the smart routes” suggests Groningen's Smart Route (Slimme Route in Dutch) website.

From Groningen's Smart Route website

Groningen - arguably the city with the world’s highest cycling mode share - doesn’t really need to sell the concept of cycling to its residents. Around 55,000 students (quarter of Groningen’s population) are filling every corner of this compact city, and cycling is definitely the fastest and cheapest way to get around.

But when cycling is booming, some routes may experience congestion. Zonnelaan, the main road leading to the University, got too busy. In addition, the traffic lights along this road make the daily ride to the university even less convenient. As a result, one year ago Groningen launched the Smart Routes: cycling routes from the city center to the university. These routes are without traffic lights, making them much faster. By using these routes students can wake too late with a hangover, and still get on time to their morning lecture.

One downside: a short part of the Smart Route is bumpy and narrow (Picture: Lior Steinberg)

The route his marked on the road (Picture: Lior Steinberg)

Since I arrived here few weeks ago, I’ve taken the Smart Route, leading from the university to the city center, almost every day. Yesterday I took it early in the morning when most of the students were still sleeping, so I could stop along the route to take some pictures. I have to admit that this specific route is not perfect, some of the lanes definitely need to be upgraded. In some parts they are too bumpy, in others  too narrow. But for the most part riding the Smart Route is pleasant and fast, and it is possible to make the entire trip without a single stop.

Giving away energy drinks to the Smart Route users, couple of weeks ago. Source: Smart Route facebook  page

Giving away energy drinks to the Smart Route users, couple of weeks ago. Source: Smart Route facebook page

Besides the fine infrastructure, we should not forget the marketing. Just take a look at Smart Route’s website. It is cool, witty and simple. The project also has a Twitter and Facebook pages, making information and updates comfortably accessible to the target audience: students. In addition, they keep promoting the routes, as you can see in the picture to the right.

So if your city becomes so over-crowded by bicycles, two lessons can be learned from Groningen: continue improving your infrastructure and always keep it cool.

Written by Lior Steinberg. Follow him on Twitter and .