“To ensure long-term accessibility, every town in the Netherlands needs to be adapted”
We regularly interview inspiring professionals from the world of traffic, mobility, transport and logistics. We’re keen to hear about what drives them and to gain knowledge about innovations and real-life cases.
Roxy, you’ve been working at the ANWB for over ten years. How and why did you decide to join the company?
“I initially joined the company for a summer job on the ANWB Emergency Hotline. I made a conscious decision for the ANWB because it’s such a well-respected organization, and I ended up staying. It was only when I started working as an ANWB public affairs advisor that I realized that, besides providing roadside assistance and being a company, it’s also an association that represents the interests of its members. That’s almost unique – there aren’t many organizations in the Netherlands that truly act on behalf of consumers.”
What does your role entail, exactly?
“I’m one of a team of public affairs advisors and we have a broad role, but our work always revolves around two questions: What do we want to achieve on behalf of our members? And how can we do that? First and foremost, our role is to spot signals. For example, over the past year we’ve received lots of indications from our members that the cycle paths are getting too crowded. In response to those kinds of signals, we first go in search of knowledge both within and outside the organization, and we then set to work based on our findings.”
Why did the ANWB launch the ‘Urban Traffic’ (‘Verkeer in de stad’) project?
“Urban areas have become busier and busier in recent years and the road safety risks have increased – especially for cyclists. In 2014, we challenged a number of mobility experts to come up with an idea for a solution. We soon realized, not least based on the signals from our members, that the growing volumes of users on the cycle paths combined with the speed differences were largely contributing to the increased safety risks. So something needed to be done about it. But some sizeable problems soon became apparent – such as space limitations in urban areas. It’s not always possible to simply widen the cycle paths.”
It sounds like a complex challenge. How did you go about solving it?
“In 2015 we developed a design methodology which ensures that all road users are taken into account. After all, the ANWB represents all road users – and they all have an equal right to mobility. Towns and cities must be not only safe and accessible, but also ‘liveable’ - there’s a human factor. That balance has been lost in some cases nowadays; traditional mobility approaches are no longer suitable in today’s urban societies.”
So all Dutch towns need to be adapted?
“Well, that will depend on the individual town to some extent, but I think that we will need to drastically change our towns and cities in the longer term. You can start small, such as by redesigning a particular street. But it’s better to take a structural and fundamental approach, of course, and to look at the mobility network as a whole.”
What is the ANWB’s advice to municipal councils?
“When a town or city is formulating a mobility vision and planning traffic flows, it’s very important to take account of every type of road user – from trucks making store deliveries to a network for electric cargo bikes; in other words, to think in terms of networks. That way, you’ll realize just how much you ultimately need to change.”
Do projects like these also include consideration of advanced digital mobility solutions such as intelligent traffic systems and initiatives related to smart cities or ‘talking traffic’?
“This is something that we’re focusing on very actively in our urban mobility vision. We’re part of the Dutch Mobility Alliance which also mentions this in its Delta Plan, particularly in relation to last-mile logistics. As the ANWB, we’re currently analysing which solutions offer real potential and which areas municipal councils should be investing in. It’s also important to think carefully about the best way to spend taxpayers’ money when it comes to traffic flow or road safety or ‘liveability’. Those innovations will have a huge impact on the future design of urban areas. The sustainability element is doable, because there’s already a clear shift towards electrification. The biggest problem lies in the accessibility and road safety aspects, and that’s also where the biggest opportunities for innovation are.”
What has the ‘Urban Traffic’ design methodology achieved so far?
“The design methodology we launched contains lots of ideas, and more and more of them are being adopted by municipal councils. One example is the concept of ‘vehicle families’ which groups vehicles together based on their weight – two-wheelers, light motorized vehicles, truck-like vehicles, for example. The design methodology ensures that a good primary network is developed for each ‘vehicle family’. It’s worth mentioning that the report is available to all municipal councils free of charge. My favourite example is the City of Groningen, which has set to work with the design methodology itself and has already used it in the Vision for the City Centre and to redesign two streets.”
What are you focusing on now?
“For the ANWB, I’ve developed a vision on the transition to lightweight vehicles or ‘micromobility’. New regulations are in the pipeline for light electric vehicles. The ANWB is in dialogue with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and we’re involved in the consultation process to shape the future legislation. For example, one of the aspects is that mass and top speed remain in proportion. This will help to ensure that the rules remain as straightforward as possible for the whole lightweight vehicle sector. Besides that, I’m working on formulating an ANWB vision on urban mobility that brings together all our ideas and principles.”
Last but not least, what kind of mobility solution do you use?
“I ride a moped and I love it! It’s even got ABS – and I’ve actually had to use it a couple of times too! [She chuckles]. At the ANWB we think carefully about our own mobility, so I do a lot of walking too. That’s really healthy as well as sustainable!”
More information about the ANWB
The ANWB uses Simacan Traffic Cast to gather, open, process and publish mobility information easily. Read the case here.
Photo credit: ANWB / Harmen de Jong