Green mobility in a green area. A student exploration of alternatives for car use in National Park Utrechtse Heuvelrug.

At the end of 2023, Master students from Wageningen University mapped out the opportunities for the transition to sustainable mobility in the Kwintelooijen recreational area. The aim of the exploratory research was to map the visitor and current barriers, generate insights into behavior and mobility, and identify opportunities for train stations as a green entrance to the area.

Student presentations in the Rhenen townhall, photo: Sterre Sparreboom, Stichting NPUH

With its nature, cycling and walking paths and a wide variety of cultural-historical heritage, the Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park is a valuable recreational area for the province of Utrecht and surrounding areas. However, the excellent accessibility of the park also has a downside: the car is still the dominant means of transport in the area, which leads to pressure on nature, higher management costs and inconvenience for local residents and visitors. The Research & Education Hub Utrechtse Heuvelrug is therefore working on a knowledge base to promote sustainable recreation and mobility practices.

This effort also looks beyond the boundaries of Utrecht University. At the end of 2023, the Hub facilitated an exploratory study by master students from Wageningen University in the Kwintelooijen day recreation area with the aim of further mapping the visitors and current barriers, generating insights into behavior and mobility, and opportunities for train stations as a green entrance to the national park to identify.

The students' insights were shared with stakeholders from the area at the Rhenen town hall and incorporated into advisory reports. On the one hand, this includes encouraging public transport through stronger (online) information provision, improving the cycling and walking infrastructure and positioning the train stations through greening and signage as green access to the park. On the other hand, the advice is to discourage car use through paid parking and (online) campaigns. The extensive advisory reports can be found on the website of Stichting Nationaal Park Utrechtse Heuvelrug.

MONA project

The students' insights contribute to the larger European partnership MONA of the European subsidy program Interreg (North-West Europe). MONA stands for 'Modal shift, routing and nudging solutions in NAture areas for sustainable tourism'. The aim of the project is to realize sustainable and nature-oriented mobility and recreation in nature reserves in Northwestern Europe over the next 4.5 years.