Category Archives: Transportation

Lunch in Graf Wilhelm Platz: Solingen

Graf Wilhelm Platz area in Solingen ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to town centres. First, it has an attractive bus terminal area (more on this below). It also has a town square, used as a market place for entry-level retailers, in addition to which there is a car-free on-street retail area (Alter Markt), an open mall (Muhlenplatz), and very good enclosed mall (Hofgarten). The city itself is known as the “City of Blades”, and is the centre of the German cutlery industry; about 90% of the German cutlery industry is located in Solingen. The name of the city was protected by law 1938. This makes Solingen the first city in the world to protect its name and products.

Photo from https://mapio.net/pic/p-20271125/

The Graf-Wilhelm-Platz bus transport centre serves 6 trolleybus and 16 standard bus routes, with a good number of these routes overlapping into neighbouring cities, making it very easy to get to. It provides the heartbeat for the centre of Solingen.The traffic passing through the transport centre is on a double road, similar to a train station (but it works without the tracks and synchronized switch points). There is a three-leg roundabout at the southern end, with one leg being a double road, with a cross-over where it connects with the roundabout. Basically this creates an unusual entry/exit to the roundabout, which works. At the Northern end again there is also a cross-over, plus three pedestrian crossings (see drawing below). The magic here is that there are so many conflict points along these bus stop areas/routes, but humans driving and walking in this area can and do adapt to this example of ‘good confusion.’

Now back to the start of this post about this town centre ticking a lot of boxes. Walking through both Alter Markt and Muhlenplatz there were many empty shops. In Muhlenplatz the local art community is trying to full this space with art displays, but it felt like art for the sake of art. Sadly this doesn’t feel like it is revitalising the city centres.

To finish, here is some population data on Solingen. In 2012 the city had 158,908 residents (down from 177,899 in 1971)  and a population density of about 1,800 people per km2. Looking at the local population density near the city centre, in 2015 the Solingen-Mitte district had 41,836 residents in an area of 12.51 km2, giving a density of 3,344 people per km2. This is similar to a number of places in Hamilton, when looking at census unit area data (see link).

I only visited this city for a few hours; the Hofgarten mall and transport area was nice and busy, but my visit was too short to understand why other parts of the city were under-performing (Note: rain and cold is normal and does not change the feel of city centres).

 

The problem in Solingen looks short term, most German cities work really well and Solingen should also. This link is good example of what the future looks like for Solingen. Solingen, the City of Blades – Business location for your future

Lunch in Venlo NL

The other week my wife and I stopped for lunch in the city of Venlo, on our way to Wuppertal from Schipol airport. Venlo has a population of just over 101,000 people, with a population density of about 800 people per km2. On leaving the rail station we saw the Venlo bus station, which services 3 bus routes and 8 regional routes (Hamilton has over 20 routes). The station has drive-through berths, allowing bus stops to be located in a compact area, and also can allow buses to wait with their front destination sign facing the direction passengers will arrive from. I like the way the Dutch design tidy and uncluttered areas in a way very few other designers can do.

The city has a reputation for being Green. I did notice the electric bus charging stations, and but sadly I didn’t have time to look into their ‘cradle-to-cradle’ (C2C) principles; in the future I would like to explore this more, but for now here is an introductory explanation

‘The Venlo region was the first in the world to embrace the principles of cradle-to-cradle (C2C). It is a method that minimises the environmental impact of products by employing sustainable production, operation, and disposal practices, so that products can be 100% recyclable and waste can serve as a raw material.’

Dutch cities are nicer than German cities. Venlo being close to the German and being part of the large Verkhrsverbund* Rhein-Ruhr (VRR) ticketing area, it attracts many visitors from there, and on the Wednesday we were there the city streets and squares were pleasantly busy. (*means ‘Transport network’)

What I did make time for was to take a look at Maasboulevard, promoted as ‘the place to meet’. I’ve visited many cities with river promenades; on sunny days these places attract plenty of people coming out to enjoy the open space and to people-watch, which is the reason why they need width. There is also evidence that residential apartments/homes with water views attract a premium, and add eyes on the street when retail has closed or on quiet days when it is not so sunny.

 

The day we visited it was a nice but quiet day on the river promenade, so we had a great lunch where most others were meeting, in the more active old market place.