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The influence of spatial planning and policy on road safety

Netherlands Flag
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
STRIA Roadmaps
Transport mode
Road icon
Transport policies
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

This exploration of the road safety effects of spatial planning and policy is one of SWOV's first explorations of external influences. In the whole path of environmental planning up to the level of local design, road safety is an inseparable part of the road traffic system. The design processes are carried out on three different levels: environmental planning, structure of the road network and design of this network's components. This exploration mainly aims at the top level: environmental planning. 

For a long time now, the largest growth of the numbers of factories, offices and houses was in what is known as 'the Randstad' i.e. the densely populated coastal area of the Netherlands. In the meantime this concentration is spreading to the eastern and southern parts of the country. For the future, the greatest mobility is expected in and around urban agglomerations, and along the arteries for the economic structure.

The Netherlands has a high degree of urbanisation. This is often accompanied by an increase of the urban density, i.e. the environment is used for multiple purposes and functions in the vicinity of large public transport junctions are combined and intensified. This then lowers the necessity of using a car and therefore car dependence. Also, there is a tendency towards scattered urbanization of the countryside, a trend that will continue for the coming twenty years. This results in traffic spreading over a larger area.


The purpose of the study is in the first place to provide insight in the road safety effects of developments in environmental design, now and in the future. In the second place, it identifies opportunities and threats to road safety within this sector. The third purpose is to determine which spatial factors influence the development of traffic and transport, and of road safety.


Literature study and interviews.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Research agency
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


The tendency towards scattered urbanisation of the countryside results in traffic spreading over a larger area. This spreading results in longer average journey distances, but also in (slightly) lower volumes per kilometre of road. As a result, the car dependence increases, which means that less use is made of public transport and the bicycle.

Spatial expansion is visible at the regional as well as the local level. Large scale facilities, known as 'outlet stores', including mega cinemas, media markets and multistorey car parks, are being developed at new locations outside the edges of urban areas or in industrial zones. Residential areas are more often built at the edges of cities, and at the same time households increasingly prefer living outside the urban area, known as 'country living'. Scaling up also takes place in the service sector with regard to shops, offices and health care. The expansion of the urban area results in longer journey distances and more criss-cross journeys. This leads to a greater car dependence, which in turn leads to less support for pedestrian and bicycle facilities. 

Policy implications

Spatial choices are made for decennia. Bad, but also good spatial decisions can determine the nature and volume of traffic and transport for many years afterwards. To influence road safety positively and sustainably by spatial policy, indirect steering is important. Steering on six socalled robust spatial factors seems the most promising. These six factors are:

  1. Vicinity (e.g. near public transport or the centre of urban areas);
  2. Concentration on one or more centres (spreading the activities over one or more city neighbourhoods);
  3. Size and type of urbanization (expansion inside or outside city areas, building density);
  4. Connection to the main arteries of public transport;
  5. Function mixture and facility level;
  6. Design at street and neighbourhood level.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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