Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dutch Efficiency

The Dutch live in the future. Airline pilots skip passport control through a retinal scanning aisle. Incredibly silent fast trains whisk passengers across the flat landscape. Communities are dense yet livable.

The town of Wageningen is 35,000 citizens strong, the same size as my hometown Andover, Massachusetts, but unlike Andover it is compact around the downtown nucleus instead of decentralized sprawling cul-de-sacs. Seven story apartment blocks straddle a canal leading towards the old town, a quaint cobblestone walking street. Almost every road has three divisions; a two driving lanes fenced by a red paved bicycle path and finally lined with a gray stone walking path. Though this sounds cumbersome, the transportation space is used efficiently and does not feel wasted in any way.

Efficiency is the Netherlands' outstanding aspect. Each square meter in the small country is accounted for and appropriately utilized; almost nothing is wasted. There are swaths of green farmland, but these end abruptly in colorful apartment towers. As the world population increases and more demands are put on space, Dutch spatial planning is a microcosm for the way the rest of us should live. Their compact, bikable/walkable cities are people friendly and in conjunction with a great bus and train system, the need for a car is negated, or at least minimalized.