Cargobikathon - Who owns the sidewalk?

22 June 2022 - Published by Deirdre Buist
That’s the question! And it was the theme of the latest SURFLOGH partner meeting and Cargobikathon, hosted by City of Groningen on 13th – 15th June, where the topic was discussed in depth. With a booming delivery economy and more logistics than ever on our streets, our sidewalks are increasingly inaccessible and negatively impact perceptions of the inner city. After a couple of days confronting (and being confronted with) this complex issue, four teams came up with some really creative solutions for reclaiming the sidewalk.

“The more you think about it, the more complicated it becomes,” according to Jeroen Berends from Gemeente Groningen. “Theoretically the sidewalk is public space and belongs to the municipality -  in practice it’s for everyone.” So how come not everyone has the feeling that they can use it as was originally intended? Jeroen’s colleague and policy adviser for urban development Sjouke van der Vlugt: “In the narrow streets of historical inner cities, the sidewalks are often more congested than the roads, causing unsafe, stressful and agitated situations.  We need to not only reduce the CO2 emissions in our cities but also make them more livable – focusing on people, sustainability and climate adaptation.”


Sidewalk space is very limited for pedestrians

Facing the challenge 

Groningen organized this cargobikathon in cooperation with SAC (Student Advisory Commission) and Maatschappij Spaak (a local bike company), offering  a perfect challenge for the four teams from various disciplines. Students, residents, marketing and property experts, biking fanatics and a team of international representatives faced the challenge, battled it out and transformed some brilliant ideas into creative presentations - within a day. These were then critically judged by an expert jury…and they didn’t have it easy!


The judges had to weigh up the pros, cons and feasibility  of some pretty inspirational brainwaves, such as:

  • A Sidewalk On Demand /pop-up pathways
  • Colour-blocked light up zones
  • Areas exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists
  • A real urban jungle - trees & greenery - tiles out, plants in
  • Alternative bike parking (e.g. using the vertical space, pods, unused properties)
  • Change of mindset with emphasis on nudging desired  behaviour
  • Shared space with adaptable functionality within set timeframes
  • A modular, personal, expandable, sustainable, temporary system

Winners make choices

And the winners are…? Team Kadaster/Next Generation came up with some great proposals, including a ‘bike pod’ in which to park some of those many cycles. They  were also not afraid to make hard choices when it came to banishing certain forms of transport from the most overcrowded streets. “There simply isn’t room for everything, so we’re putting people and space to enjoy the city first”, said team member Peter Mercx on accepting the prize.  


The Cargobikathon winners: Team Kadaster/Next Generation

Problem  clarified

For the cargobikathon participants and SURFLOGH partners the problems are clear. While the City of Groningen is currently redesigning the use of inner city spaces, transport and logistics flows and committed to the  goal of  achieving zero emissions by 2030, the sidewalk solutions also require a  change in attitude and behaviour from all concerned. 


Presentations of inspiring and creative sidewalk solutions