Category: Water

A short list of features of the Netherlands that I still try to wrap my head around

The Netherlands is the country I’ve visited the most, going there eight times between 2011 and 2022. I’ve obsessively visited 31 cities, the Hoge Veluwe national park, and plenty of other places outside cities.

Here are three land use and infrastructure characteristics that continue to fascinate me.

Transportation systems, obviously

Learning about how the Dutch created the safest network of streets for cycling is what started my near-obsession 15 years ago.

Then I went there in 2011 and I got to experience it for myself (photos from that trip).

I think the quality, capacity, likability, and integration of their transportation systems can be summarized best, for Americans who haven’t been there, by learning the results of a Waze survey: People who primarily drive in the Netherlands are more satisfied with the driving in their country than people in other countries are with driving in theirs.

In other words…if you like driving, then you should also care about what the Netherlands because they happened to also create the most driver-friendly transportation system.

Creating land & living with flooded land

As a novice, it’s probably easier to notice and understand how the Dutch create, move, and live with flooded land from above. There have been moments while I was cycling in the country where I’ve ridden past “polders” and former lakes and seas only to realize it later that I had biked through a massively transformed area that appeared entirely natural.

When I lived in Rotterdam for three months in 2016 I tried to visit as many places across the country as I could. I especially wanted to visit Flevopolder, the larger part of the Flevoland province, built from of the sea in 1986 where 317,000 people live.

I visited both major cities on the Flevopolder in the same day, Almere and Lelystad, the capital. I cycled from Almere (photos) to the seafront of Markermeer, and…get this…had to ride uphill because the land is below sea level.

Reaching the edge of Flevopolder, where it borders the sea called Markermeer
Cycling uphill to meet the sea north of the city of Almere, in the Flevoland province of the Netherlands.

Most Dutchies live below sea level, and the country has massive land and metal engineering works to keep the water in check.

The Dutch, especially in and around Rotterdam, come up with new ways to deal with water and export this knowledge abroad.

While the existing and planned measures should be sufficient until at least 2070, too much uncertainty over the progress of climate change remains afterwards to assess whether the city will truly stay liveable.

Some assessments suggest that if the sea rises by 5m – an estimate in sight within a century, considering the unpredictability of the rate that Greenland and Antarctica’s glacier will melt – Rotterdam will have no other choice but to relocate.

“Rotterdam: A bastion against rising sea, for now”
By Zuza Nazaruk

The country may rely on electricity to survive more than most: it’s needed to keep the pumps working, to keep the water in the sea instead of in and over the land.

How productive their agriculture industry is

By land area, the Netherlands is a very small country; it would be the tenth smallest state in the United States. By population, it would be the fifth largest state (17.6 million, greater than Pennsylvania’s 13 million).

Given that, how is it that the Netherlands is the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products by value, after the United States?

Simple answer: High-quality, high-value, high-demand foodstuffs; space-efficient farming practices, including a significant amount of food grown vertically and in greenhouses. And, I don’t remember if this was in the article, very good transport connections to trading partners through seaports, canals, railways, and motorways.

I was surprised to see that both brands of canned cold brew coffee sold at the convenience store in my apartment building are produced in the Netherlands.

Chicago is the First City when it comes to permeable paving

The New York Times wrote on Sunday about the Pilsen pollution fighting bike lanes I’m really gung-ho about. They didn’t provide any new information, failing to even mention their location. But they did publish an excellent 3D graphic showing how it works! (The article’s main focus is how Chicago is predicted to become hotter and wetter, “more like Baton Rouge”, and how city planners, geniuses all, are working on this problem.)

First, here’s a photo of what the bike and parking lanes look like now, both made with a topper created by Italcementi that removes nitrous oxides from the air:

Then take a look at this diagram showing the streetscape design on Blue Island between Wood and Ashland (still under construction).

Hat tip to The Car Whisperer – “Chicago may stop paving streets altogether in ten years”.

Friday is final day for comments about Damen-Elston-Fullerton

Tomorrow, Friday, May 13, 2011, is the final day to email comments to Bridget Stalla, project manager for the Damen-Elston-Fullerton reconfiguration.

What should you do?

  1. Read an overview of the project and my analysis
  2. View photos of the posters at April’s open house to understand what will and won’t change
  3. Think of what you like or don’t like about the project
  4. Email your comments to Bridget: bridget.stalla@cityofchicago.org
  5. Think about posting your comments here.

My draft comments

Here’s what I plan to email Bridget tomorrow:

  1. Bike lane on Damen – There should be a bike lane on Damen connecting the two ends north and south of Fullerton. Additionally, the bike lane should go THROUGH both intersections. See an example of a “through bike lane” in this photo. Too often bicyclists in Chicago are “dropped off” at intersections, left to fend for themselves and get caught in the same problems as automobiles. But automobiles and bicycles are different kinds of vehicles and need different treatments and direction.
  2. Roundabout – Was a roundabout considered for any of the three intersections? What were the results of this analysis? A modern, turbo roundabout should be given serious consideration for at least one of the three intersections.
  3. Curve and wide road on New Elston Avenue – On “New Elston Avenue” between Fullerton and Damen, there are two regular lanes and one bike lane in each direction. The widening of Elston was not justified. The high radius curve on New Elston Avenue on the east side of the project, and two regular lanes in each direction, will likely cause higher-speed traffic than bicyclists are used to on many roads on which they travel in great numbers. Automobile drivers speeding around the curve may enter the bike lanes. This is a good case for protected bike lanes at least on this part of the roadway.
  4. Removing the center island – Was removing the center island an alternative the project team considered?
  5. Queue backups caused by Fullerton-highway ramp intersection – The project area should be expanded to include the intersection to the west of the project area, at Fullerton/Kennedy ramp. Westbound drivers constantly and consistently block the Fullerton intersections with Damen and Elston while waiting to go through the signal at the highway ramp.

A bird’s eye view of the new configuration.

Readers Ask: Recommending bioswales

The second post in “Readers Ask,” from a planning student in Chicago.

I want to recommend bioswales for my Complete Streets project area which consists of a part of Grand in Chicago, Illinois  There are a lot of surface parking lots over there, and a big shopping mall which is built on a weird arrangement of slopes (Brickyard).  Since I know nothing about bioswales, I’m wondering what you could tell me about how I could go about recommending this. I have no idea what the rainwater runoff issue is over there, but I could only imagine that there would be one, with all the surface parking and weird slopage.

Bioswales are just one of many solutions to water runoff and stormwater collection. Another option is using permeable pavers in the parking lot. The real experts on this are Janet Attarian and David Leopold at CDOT. As a project manager at the Streetscape and Sustainable Design Program, he’s dealt with and implemented bioswales, permeable parking lots, and pollution fighting bike lanes – the works. There’s a parking lot, designed by CDOT, built with a bioswale AND permeable pavement on Desplaines between Polk and Taylor in Chicago (photo below)/

Parking lot has permeable pavement and a bioswale. The site is monitored by CDOT to see how it performs in the winter. Photo by Bryce.

EVERY parking lot has runoff – every parking lot should do a better job managing it. By not better managing our stormwater, we all pay the costs, be it through flood insurance, recovering from floods, or having to build bigger pumps and sewers.

Permeable pavement at Benito Juarez High School in Chicago, Illinois.

Perhaps you shouldn’t recommend a bioswale, but a parking lot that “captures 80% of its runoff” or something through a “variety of methods.”

Bioswale in Portland, Oregon, as part of a green street transformation.

The EPA lists additional Best Management Practices. The Cities of  Seattle and Portland are experts in this. Portland was even able to get parts of its bikeway built by rolling them into the Department of Environment’s Green Streets program, their efforts to reduce stormwater runoff and thus reduce the costs they pass on to their customers that pay for sewer service (like, everyone). I recommend this blog article about Portland’s sustainable design, written by a fellow planning student.

Proposed changes to 31st Street Harbor

Copied directly from the 31st Street Harbor Traffic Impact Analysis (PDF), prepared for the Chicago Public Building Commission by AECOM.

See Exhibit B on page 12 for a drawing and list of proposed changes. They’re exciting. When designing for the lakefront, the stakes are pretty high.

The only mention of “bike” or “bicycle” is misnaming the Lakefront Trail as the “Chicago Lakefront Bike Path.” Can’t anyone get this right? According to the LEED Strategy document, though, the project aims to get 1 point for a “bicycle storage/changing room.”

Stay on top of construction updates with this blog.

The 31st Street Harbor project is one of two new harbors being designed for the Chicago Park District along Chicago’s lakeshore. Located in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, the 31st Street Harbor will incorporate extensive new community amenities and a new 950 slip marina. These include over two new acres of green space located on a peninsula of land formed by a 1,200 foot long breakwater sheltering the new harbor, providing exceptional views of the Chicago skyline to the north. The breakwater will also create new underwater habitat and provide opportunities for fishing.

Photo shows the new breakwater and pier under construction. See Exhibit B.

The existing surface parking will be removed and relocated within a new parking structure covered by an accessible green roof that allows park users improved views of the lake while reducing impervious surface. Landscape plantings will include native plants selected to provide food and cover for the twice yearly bird migrations through the City, while also reducing maintenance and irrigation demands. A new fully accessible play area that connects the green roof area to the beach will replace an older existing playground, while improvements to pedestrian and vehicular circulation will improve connections to the neighborhoods in Bronzeville to the west. Located atop the green roof will be a new LEED Certified community center and restaurant, providing sorely needed facilities currently missing along the south lakeshore.

The marina itself will include approximately 950 new slips ranging from 35’ to 80’ in length, on site covered storage in the parking structure, fuel dock, marina store, dedicated shower facilities, and a public access boat ramp. Additionally, youth sailing programs and storage for small craft including kayaks will be provided, allowing this facility to make boating economically accessible to a very large portion of the community.

Breakwater and pier construction panorama at the beach in August 2010.

As part of these improvements, additional parking accommodations in addition to the new parking structure are being planned. Approximately 200 new parking spaces will be incorporated along the Fort Dearborn access road north of 31st Street, serving 31st Street beach. A new surface lot west of Lake Shore Drive and immediately south of 31st Street will be constructed with a capacity of over 150 spaces.

The existing attractions of Burnham Park near 31st Street will remain, including 31st Street Beach, the beach house, and the Burnham Skate Park.

Parking options:

  • 31st Street Harbor Parking Garage (310 covered spaces)
  • Surface Lot on Fort Dearborn north of 31st Street (202 spaces)
  • Surface Lot off Moe Drive south of 31st Street (161 spaces)
  • Total: 573 spaces

[Currently this beach has 188 auto parking spaces, a difference of 355% compared to the proposed quantity. It currently has about 14 bike parking spaces and needs more but I cannot find evidence that this number will increase when the new harbor opens.]