Laura Bliss is CityLab’s West Coast bureau chief. She also writes MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Los Angeles magazine, and beyond.
A new short film celebrates bike-friendly Amsterdam’s no-drama strategy for eliminating car parking: “It’s not a big deal here.”
Visitors to Amsterdam may notice something new in coming years: more Amsterdam, and fewer cars.
Earlier this year, local leaders announced plans to scale back parking in Amsterdam’s core by about 1,500 spaces per year. As a new video by Streetfilms documents, visitors and locals alike can take in more of the city’s iconic canals, bridges, and gabled architecture with fewer vehicles blocking the view. The streets “are yours again,” Katelijne Boerma, the Dutch city’s official bike mayor, says in the film.
Some communities have already begun to re-envision their newly liberated outdoor space. As an indication of what’s possible, in the Frans Halsbuurt neighborhood, a whole grid of streets is almost totally free of parking, replaced by a bevy of rosebushes, benches, and slides. There is also more room for bikes, on which 65 percent of the city’s daily trips are made. Parked cars “are like fences,” Boerma says. “It really divides the neighborhood.” With their removal, she says, people have more of a chance to move.
As CityLab reported earlier this year, Amsterdam is using a few different strategies to systemically whittle down its parking stock. Residents with downtown parking permits will no longer be able to station their vehicles where they please; instead, they will have to pay a higher fee for a specific location. Permits that once belonged to people who move away, give up their cars, or die will not be reissued. Historic street renovations will present another opportunity to pare back parked vehicles. All told, the city believes it can eliminate as many as 11,200 parking spaces by the end of 2025. Yet even as it does so, it is not denying anyone the right to park.
The disappearance of so many spots might feel like an assault on drivers. (That’s likely how this narrative would unfold in the average North American city.) But according to Zeeger Ernsting, a city councilman who has helped lead the initiative, the parking purge hasn’t been all that controversial. There are still more than enough parking permits to go around, he says in the film. And the issue has barely come up in local newspapers—perhaps because so few Amsterdammers drive in the first place.
“The funny thing is, I read about this,” A. Henry Cutler, the founder and director of Workcycles, a local bike manufacturer, says in the film. “But I didn’t read about it in the Dutch press. I read about it on Twitter from you guys. It’s not a big deal here.”