After a few cities in Canada, it’s now the turn of the United States to embrace the building of a ‘woonerf’, a typical Dutch construct from the 1930s, an area where drivers, cyclists and pedestrians have to share the same space, but where pedestrians always have the right of way.
Ithaca, New York is building what they call a ‘living yard’ (‘woonerf’), with a low speed limit of no more than 10 or 12 mph (16 km/h to 19.2 km/h). Today in the Netherlands the woonerf speed limit is 15 km/h, although a few years ago it was still referred to as ‘stapvoets’, which is a old term from when people rode horses at a slow pace, which would be 6Â km/h if it was really a horse, but not actually possible by car or bike without consequences. However, 15 km/h is still slower than what Ithaca has decided, which to me sounds too fast.
“The whole point is to encourage human interaction; those who use the space are forced to be aware of others around them, make eye contact and engage in person-to-person interactions.” As a North American, the car is always king of the road, but the woonerf forces drivers to realise that it’s not always their space just because there’s a road, which I think is a good thing to learn.