Clearing away space for cars could create room for more bike parking, which is at a premium in central Amsterdam Kevin Coombs/Reuters

Amsterdam plans to systematically strip its center of parking spaces in the coming years, making way for bike lanes, sidewalks, and more trees.

This week, Amsterdam is taking its reputation for pro-bike, anti-car polices one step further by announcing that it will systematically strip its inner city of parking spaces.

Amsterdam transit commissioner Sharon Dijksma announced Thursday that starting this summer, the city plans to reduce the number of people permitted to park in the city core by around 1,500 per year. These people already require a permit to access a specific space (and the cost for that permit will also rise), and so by reducing these permits steadily in number, the city will also remove up to 11,200 parking spaces from its streets by the end of 2025.

The cleared spaces won’t be left empty, however. As room for cars is removed, it will be replaced by trees, bike parking, and wider sidewalks, allowing Amsterdammers to instantly see and feel the benefits of what will still be a fairly controversial policy among drivers.

How can the city get away with it? Put simply, Amsterdam’s government has been given a mandate to. The city is currently being run by a coalition of left and centrist parties in which the Green Left party (GroenLinks) has the largest share. A promise to reduce parking space formed part of the initial coalition agreement. It also helps that no driver will actually be stripped of the right to park. Rather than revoking permits, the city will simply not replace any that are given up when drivers leave the city, give up their cars, or die. In this way, the city reckons it can naturally do away with about 1,100 permits a year.

To get rid of yet more spaces, the city has other tricks up its sleeve. Many of the waterside streets and harbor quaysides in inner Amsterdam are in need of repair and renovation. Thanks to the delicate nature of Amsterdam’s subsoil, some of them actually need it pretty badly after groaning and buckling under the weight of cars for years. It’s a common and eminently fixable problem, but also one that provides an opportunity to winnow yet more motor vehicles off the roads of the city’s historic center. Meanwhile, some other major streets are due for remodeling, and their spaces are also on the chopping block.

This strip-back might seem hard on drivers, but in a city where bike lanes, trams, buses, and the metro all work well together, private cars still enjoy unmerited prominence. Only 22 percent of Amsterdam’s journeys take place via car, while drivers still enjoy the large majority of the road space. Most Amsterdam journeys in fact take place by bike, but despite efforts by the city, cyclists are still faced with an eternal scarcity of convenient bike parking spots.

Removing the parking spaces (some of which will be relocated to underground lots) will give pedestrians, cyclists, and trees a bit more space to breathe in an area where streets are narrow and rights of way somewhat contested. Parking in central Amsterdam will get steadily harder year by year, but overall the city should breathe a little easier because of it.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: a wallet full of Yen bills.
    Life

    Japan’s Lost-and-Found System Is Insanely Good

    If you misplace your phone or wallet in Tokyo, chances are very good that you’ll get it back. Here’s why.

  2. Design

    How We Map Epidemics

    Cartographers are mapping the coronavirus in more sophisticated ways than past epidemics. But visualizing outbreaks dates back to cholera and yellow fever.

  3. photo: Masdar City in Abu Dhabi
    Environment

    What Abu Dhabi’s City of the Future Looks Like Now

    At the UN’s World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi, attendees toured Masdar City, the master-planned eco-complex designed to show off the UAE’s commitment to sustainability.

  4. Charts

    The Evolution of Urban Planning in 10 Diagrams

    A new exhibit from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association showcases the simple visualizations of complex ideas that have changed how we live.

  5. A photo of high-rises in Songdo, billed as the world's "smartest" city.
    Life

    Sleepy in Songdo, Korea’s Smartest City

    The hardest thing about living in an eco-friendly master-planned utopia? Meeting your neighbors.  

×