Rotterdam: running, (racing) bike and car city

In Rotterdam, 37% of the population sometimes runs fast and 14% sometimes uses a racing bike; the largest sports facility in the city is not the Kuip, but the city itself. And yet there is still no picture of how the runner and racing cyclists use the city. Are the attractive routes that Rotterdam possesses found?  We collected public data from more than 100,000 running activities and 30,000 recreational/sports cycling activities via the Endomondo app, and mapped the active use of the city.

It will come as no surprise that the round Erasmusbrug-Willemsbrug and the Kralingse Bos are in place 1 and 2 as the most used running destinations. However, in the rest of the city the use is not always predictable and healthy.  

It is striking, for example, how often the Rotterdam runner in the rest of the city prefers the routes along 'S-Wegen' (heavy highways) to the green structures of the city. For example, the system of canals (including Noordersingel and Essenburgsingel) is neither a walking destination nor a route to the Kralingse Bos or the Schie. The Gordelweg (S111) turns out to be the actual entrance to the Kralingse Bos. The same S111 is even a real walking destination around the Vroesenpark. The combination S111 with S113 is the third most popular running lap (after Kralingsebos and Erasmusbrug) for short-distance runners (max 5 kilometres). You literally walk right past the Vroesenpark. The route to the Erasmus Bridge also appears to be the Westzeedijk (S100) more often than the route through 'Het Park'. It is no different in Rotterdam South; people walk around the Zuiderpark, right next to the S103, more often than over the main axis of the Zuiderpark.

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Is that bad? The combined analysis of running use and particulate matter concentrations shows exactly that a lot of people run in a polluted environment. Fortunately, running in an (air) polluted environment is still healthier than sitting on the couch, but many Rotterdam runners are less healthy than they would like. One also misses out on a beautiful, natural environment. And that green also seems to be healthy.

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Can racing cyclists find the most natural routes? Not everywhere yet. For example, the bicycle routes to 'Het Buijtenland van Rhoon' (Rotterdam-South) and routes between the Rotte and the Schie (Rotterdam-North) are not often found, again in contrast to nearby routes along the S102 and N471.  Routes along the A15 and A16 are among the most popular cycling routes out of the city.

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You almost get the idea that the 'S' (road) stands for Sport. Athletes are attracted to it without these roads being attractive. But what are those roads? Motorways (and Rotterdam is no different from most Dutch cities) are very clear, well-known structures, so there are routes along that are easy to follow and find. Unfortunately, routes through the greenery or along the water are not yet taken for granted in many places. And how beautiful the color green is; if that self-evidence is missing, you don't have to expect it to be found and used.

Sometimes major, structural adjustments are needed to create that clarity, the Rotte and the Maaskades are Rotterdam's best-known examples in this category. Fortunately, many improvement options also turn out to be relatively simple; it is often small imperfections that make a route not self-evident. Interventions such as adding missing connections, signposting a walking route or clarifying an entrance can change a lot. The map images below show where the best opportunities are to make Rotterdam even more running and cycling friendly.

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At projects you will find short slideshows, in which the steps from 'data to design' are shown for the Zuiderpark, Vroesenpark, Kralingse Bos, and cycling routes to Het Buijtenland van Rhoon. There you will also find the download link to the complete research report and its 'pocket version'.