Amsterdam makes streets greener and more attractive

The city of Amsterdam calls it a “postage stamp sized” mini park, in the video celebrating the opening of the reconstructed Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal. In Dutch you can say “postage stamp sized” to indicate that something is very small. In this case that is extra appropriate, because the tiny new park was created at the location of a stamp collectors’ market that has been held here twice a week for almost a hundred years.

The new mini-park with the grey water play area and the pavilion that now has a larger outdoor seating area.

The reconstruction of Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal is part of a corridor in the city centre that is currently under construction. The name of the project is “Oranje Loper” which means “Orange carpet”. That name refers to an earlier project to reconstruct another corridor in the city centre. The walking and cycling route from Central Station all the way to the south, that was then called the “Rode Loper”, the red carpet. The orange carpet runs partly parallel to the red carpet and another part runs perpendicular to it.

Map of the “Orange Carpet” project. City of Amsterdam.
Information about the road works and the detours in the “Oranje Loper” (Orange Carpet) project.

The goal of the projects is to give people who walk and cycle more of the available space in the city centre of Amsterdam and to add more green space. All at the expense of motor traffic. The project is executed in stages and the part I show in this post was the part of Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal from the back of the Royal Palace on Dam square (the corner of Paleisstraat) to the square called Spui. Works on this part of the orange carpet started in January 2021 and took about one and a half years. The official and festive opening of this part of the reconstruction plan took place on 16 June 2022.

In December 2021, during the reconstruction works, it didn’t seem that this would be a mini-park by June 2022.
In most of the streets of the Orange Carpet project a new bi-directional cycleway was built, such as this one. This was shortly before this path in another part of Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal was opened in December 2021. The brick surface is not liked by everyone, but the city of Amsterdam does not want red asphalt in the city centre.

The street at this location was rather common in the before situation. It was only used to get somewhere, never to stay for a while. After the original canal was filled in around 1884 the street got the width it still has today. But almost the entire width of the street got paved and most of it was asphalt dedicated to motor traffic, both moving and parked. In the new situation 68 parking spaces for cars were removed. The tram tracks in the centre of the street remained, but they now run on grass, no longer on asphalt. The tram stops have been changed to become accessible for everyone. While the streets were opened up all cables and pipes were replaced as well. There is new lighting and there are new underground waste containers. The former service streets on either side of the main car lanes are now the only place where cars can drive. There is now a 30km/h speed limit, enforced by the width of the lane and the design, which includes a speed reducing brick surface. The former car lanes became the mini-park. The city also built a water storage system, under the street, so that heavy rainfall does not mean all the water flows directly into the sewage system. Existing trees were saved as much as possible and more than 20 new trees were planted together with a lot of plants and flowers. Benches were added and an existing pavilion where you could get a drink and food got an extra outdoor seating area. It has become a great outdoor café. A play area with a water feature was also added. An integral part of the design is the earlier mentioned space for the stamp collector stalls. The market for postage stamps and coins takes place every Wednesday and Saturday, and I filmed on those days, so you can see the market in my video.

Even on a colder spring day the benches were all used by people to relax for a while in the busy city centre of Amsterdam.
The market for stamps and coins got a dedicated space in the design of the new park. The market takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The seating is well-used by locals and tourists even in the colder months. The atmosphere in the street is now very attractive, including how silent it has become, even though this is right in the city centre of Amsterdam. In most of the reconstructed streets of this project cycling takes place on a new bi-directional cycleway, this is the direct route from central station to Koningsplein. Only at the location of this park there is a short stretch of shared space for cycling and car traffic.

In the before-situation the street was just a common street to get traffic from A to B and there was some car parking. A space where most people would just pass through. Photo Amsterdam City Archive.
After the reconstruction the same location has suddenly become a mini-park and an attractive space where you would like to linger a bit longer.

The Oranje Loper project is not completely finished yet. The rest of Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal (in the direction of Central Station) is almost ready. The entire project (including the streets from Raadhuisstraat further west) is expected to be finished in April 2024, two months ahead of schedule.

Amsterdam is changing rapidly and especially for people walking and cycling that is good news. This reconstruction almost looks like one of the videos of Jan Kamensky became a reality!

In the before situation the tram stop was not accessible for all. Picture Amsterdam City Archive
In the new situation the tram stop became accessible for all. The edges are clearly marked for the visually impaired, but the kerbs are flush for people in wheel chairs, mobility scooters and for people pushing baby carriages.
My video report on the new mini-park in Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal in Amsterdam
A ride in the new part of Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, with an extra lap around the new park.

3 thoughts on “Amsterdam makes streets greener and more attractive

  1. We were there last year when it was just finished. It was a very pleasant surprise to see it like this. Unfortunately a confused cardriver had found himself on the tramtracks and ripped up the grass. It shows what you can do in a historic city if you really want it it. Unlike the Brits who seem to fight Active Travel at every step to protect their God-given right to drive their SUVs everywhere. The Dutch rule!

  2. Thank you for this post!

    As for a previous post of yours (about the inner ring of Amsterdam), I would have loved for you to explain the changes in the traffic plan, because they are key to the reduction of traffic in this street, and its evolution from a through-traffic road to a locally used only street 😊

    From what I deduce from Street View:

    North-South:
    – Previously possible to go from Central Station to Raadhuisstraat, from Raadhuisstraat to Paleisstraat and from Paleistraat to Rosmarijnsteeg
    – Now: from Central Station to [?], bike only from Raadhuistraat to the minipark, and only allowed to make a U-turn after the minipark and coming from the local streets.

    South-North:
    – Before 2017: possible to go South or North coming from Spuistraat. Going North, possible to go straight to the Station until 2018.
    – Since 2017, only allowed to go North from Spuistraat.
    – Since 2019, only allowed to go no further than Raadhuisstraat coming from Spuistraat.
    – Currently: only allowed to go no further than Paleisstraat coming from Spuistraat, because of the street works. Is this the permanent traffic plan?

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