Groningen – Introduction to Traffic Circulation Plan (VCP)

When Max van den Berg [then aged 31] proposed a plan in 1977 that made the centre of Groningen virtually impenetrable by car, his party was the subject of outrage, protests, and death threats. Now not a single resident misses the days when cars choked their streets. Fortune favours the brave.

From the 1970s through to the 1990s Groningen’s population was just below 170,000 people – as Hamilton’s is now.

Groningen Nov 2018

How Groningen invented a cycling template for cities all over the world In the end, the younger generation won. Four local politicians resigned, saying it was impossible to work with Van den Berg. Their successors were very young and very left-wing, and they shared Van den Berg’s vision. Angry shopkeepers painted slogans on their store windows, collected signatures and demonstrated at city hall – to no avail

go to minute 15 for Groningen

Groningen – Traffic Circulation Plan (VCP) – Verkeers circulatie plan (VCP)

This is my summary of key facts from a report by Shinji Tsubohara: The effect and modification of the Traffic Circulation Plan (VCP) – traffic planning in Groningen in the 1980s. [Please read full report to check context]

From the start businesses published reports in rapid succession showing the harmful influence of the removal of cars on the inner city economy. According to “small businesses” they suffered from “a decrease in sales of 25 to 40 percent”. (p11)

Concerning sales, the Businesspeople’s Association of Groningen estimated a decrease of 30 percent just after the VCP was introduced. (p11)

The Chamber of Commerce investigated sales at shops in the inner city for the first three months of the VCP. Half of the responding shops experienced a decrease in sales. (p11)

Walking & biking: A survey of citizens outside the inner city and residents in the region showed that those who completely agreed that safety was adequate had increased from 35% to 45% for walking and from 19% to 30% for cycling. (p16)

The Business Association argued that it was estimated that visitors to all businesses decreased, because of the VCP, by 2.2% on an annual basis. (p26)

The effect on traffic: private cars reduced by 47%. Bus passengers to the inner city showed a 12% increase on weekdays and 17% increase on Saturdays. (p16)

The effect on the economy: The number of visitors to the whole inner city decreased by as much as 9%, while visitors to the core increased by 22%.(p18)

Business organisations had claimed that the regional function of the city would be lost, with a decrease of as much as 30% in per capita expenditure at the inner city shops. (p18)

Visitors to the core: those younger than 30 increased by 2%. (p18)

According to an annual nationwide survey: 19% of businesses in the Province of Groningen increased their net profits from 1977 to 1978, and 24% in the inner city of Groningen showed increases. (p19)

Opinions from businesses: 51% of businesses regarded the VCP as “more or less negative”. Those businesses emphasised the negative effects of the VCP regardless of the facts. (p19)

Residents’ groups asked for “green streets”, “residential streets”, and measures to prevent through traffic. (p24)

A survey conducted two years and four months after the VCP was introduced showed that:

Businesses:While the first survey revealed that there were 16 businesses that planned to move out the inner city or close down their business within two years, it turned out that only four among these businesses put their plans into practice. Compared to preceding two years, more businesses were located in the inner city, the number of vacancies decreased, and the term of being vacant became shorter. (p26)

Parking: the proposed Sledemenner-straat parking garage was ‘completely scrapped’ (p35)

Conclusion: The VCP had drastically reduced cars in the inner city. This improved the environment there, and substantially contributed to facilitating the bustling, so-called ‘encounter function’ of the city centre.

Compare to: Hamilton, where from 1985 to 1990 three car-parking buildings were opened. The 1991 annual pedestrian survey, Introduction, page 1, states“Results since 1981 – Some of the changes over this period are: general pattern of increasing pedestrian movement until 1985 but since then a decline in numbers”

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