All about cycling in the Netherlands
Exiting Amsterdam Central Station will become a completely new experience in the coming years. Amsterdam is updating the street design on the so-called station island and the entire pedestrian route into the city centre. Now that the works for the North-South metro line are in their final stages the city can finally update all the public space right over that metro line. Amsterdam has decided to do more than just “put the stones back in”. It will create a ‘red carpet’ to have a great promenade into the city. People on bicycles will also benefit, but motor traffic will be restricted.
The area in front of Central Station was oddly enough totally designed for motor traffic even though most people arrive by bicycle and on foot at the station. Amsterdam was quite late to put in four-lane roads in the city centre. After failed projects such as the Jodenbreestraat you would have expected the city to stop with these big new roads, but they continued to build them. It was only in the 1980s, that part of the water in front of the artificial island that the station was built on in the 19th century, was used to build a network of roads with multiple lanes for private motor traffic. These roads existed until the turn of the last century when the works for the metro-line started, but in a way they still exist.
The city has decided to do things completely different, now that the public space over the almost finished new metro line can be restored again. The city decided to take this opportunity to give the area a ‘quality impulse’. The project got the name “Rode Loper” (red carpet) and it aims to give Amsterdam a beautiful entrance, not only when you come from the train station, but also when you exit any of the new metro stations. An entry that you may expect from an ambitious metropolis that Amsterdam likes to think it is and tailor-made for its historic city centre.
The city designated the pedestrian as the main user of the area and this group of road users is to get most of the space. To a lesser extent cycling is also a main user of the space. Private motor traffic is to be banned from the area as much as possible. But Amsterdam did not just close the road (like Utrecht already did in the 1990s) it built a completely new road first. So traffic that has so-far taken a route in front of Central Station can now take a route behind that same station. A very expensive tunnel was built – and opened a few months ago – to make that possible.
With the cars mostly gone, a lot of space can be allocated to the thousands of pedestrians that walk here daily. The trams will still use the square in front of the station, but many cities in the world have proven that trams work well in a mainly pedestrianised area. People cycling also get a bit more space on new routes in the redeveloped area of the station island and the roads around it.
There will still be one lane for motor traffic on the east side of the area. That lane is part of the city centre loop for motor traffic. This loop can also be used by the many tourist buses. A lot of tourists get off the bus here to walk into the city centre or to go to one of the many hotels in the area.
Private motor traffic will also be restricted on the ‘red carpet’ into the city centre. But the city is investigating if it can be restricted even more. Just last month a report was published about traffic volumes on Muntplein. This study shows that it may be possible to restrict motor traffic even further if that traffic is led around the area better. There turns out to be a lot of traffic that has no business there. Leading that traffic away would open up the area for traffic that does have a business there, such as for deliveries, residents and visitors. By studying the license plates of motor traffic in and around the area it became clear that 65% of all motor traffic shouldn’t really be there. Of that traffic 20% needs to be in the area just around the city centre, 15% only traverses the city centre but has business elsewhere and 30% drives around in circles. Partly to find a parking spot but a large part of that last group is formed by taxis – without passengers – driving from one taxi stand to the other. (Taxis are not allowed to pick up customers in the streets in The Netherlands so driving around is pointless and unwanted).
Video of the Amsterdam station area in 2015
It will be interesting to see how these latest findings will be implemented in the plans that are partly still under development but partly being built already. Damrak, the street from the station to Dam square, has already been finished. Incidentally not to everybody’s liking. The cycleways are considered far too narrow by some for the volumes of cycling there (only two metres wide in one direction). It will take quite a while before the area in front of Central Station is finished, at least until 2018. So this week’s video really shows the before situation of this major project.
The map above shows the previously planned locations of the bicycle parking facilities. There is a more recent map now. Which you find below.
More information (in Dutch) on the website of Amsterdam Central Station. http://www.amsterdamcentraal.nu/