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Rotterdam, home to Europe’s largest port, is considered the most modernist city in the Netherlands with a relatively low share of cycling. Yet, the city also represents a model for other cities in the world facing similar urban planning challenges. Once a true cycling city, Rotterdam lost that status after the war when the bombed-out center offered a generation of modernist planners the opportunity to rebuild it from scratch as car-oriented city. The Rotterdam modernist planners, closely associated with harbor interests, disregarded the historic city grid and instead facilitating motorized traffic, while also catering to public transit to meet the demands of a social democratic electorate to built the country’s first metro.
The postwar modernist urban planning sidelined the once huge numbers of cyclists, literally and figuratively. Planners, who built the Maastunnel under the harbor’s shipping lane in the 1930s, found the bicycle dedicated tube a waste of money because they believed cyclists would soon disappear from the streets. To their surprise, commuting cyclists still outnumbered cars by far by 1950. Pictures of the streams of cyclists descending the world’s uniquely designed bicycle-escalators in the tunnel have become iconic for Rotterdam’s, even Dutch, cycling culture. These and other cycling stories – including the surprisingly early resistance against the car-oriented and modern city plans and the key role of a liberal-conservative pro-cycling activist alderman in the early 1970s – are told for the first time in this richly illustrated book. Cycling Cities: The Rotterdam Experience also shows how the most modernist and car-oriented Dutch city is currently dealing with policy and planning today as cycling has become an integral part of the lifestyle of modern cities.