If you listen closely you might just hear it…past the sounds of the ducks in the pond, and the sounds of the bicycles riding the “7” regional route, and the metro train passing through Capelsebrug station, and the neighbors in the street. Yes, if you listen carefully you may just hear the sound of cars and trucks passing along Prins Alexanderlaan, the main access road that runs along the east side of the neighborhood.
You may hear the through traffic passing along to some other destination, but you won’t see it. In s-Gravenland and other neighborhoods in Rotterdam, residents are sheltered from cut-through traffic and any harm it could cause to their living environment. The street pattern in this small community, built in the early 90s, is permeable (easy to move through) for people on foot or bicycle but not for motorists. The result is a traffic “haven” that protects residents in a similar way as the Rotterdam harbor has historically protected ships from harsh weather.
There are two access points from the south (the direction of the Metro station) and both are car-free pathways. The auto access points from the main traffic roads feature an entry with a raised crosswalk and sign which designates the entire area as 30 km per hour. The entry not only signifies to motorists that they need to yield to people on the neighborhood streets, but also, that there are “no through routes here” so move right along.
The six north-south streets in the neighborhood each have a distinct street configuration and character. Some feature parking on both sides, and other only one side. Some have curbs with intermittent driveways and other streets are curbless. Some have a row of street trees and others have no trees. The final design is “always a result of improvisation,” I learned from one of the traffic designers who worked on the development of the street system.
The adjacent buildings and resulting parking needs are a primary factor determining the specific roadway configuration. The neighborhood is the most dense along the western edge (Prins Alexanderlaan) where there are 9 to 10 story apartments. As you move west, the density steps down until you reach Arie de Zeeuwstraat where families live in spacious sets of paired units.
George de Vosstraat, the access road into the neighborhood from the SE, is closed to motor vehicles (just west of Prins Alexanderlaan) creating two blocks of play space fully equipped with benches and playground equipment. This is a clear statement to motorists to beware that kids have priority in this neighborhood.