Streetfilms in Amsterdam: Remove Parking and Watch a City Bloom

Amsterdam shows how beautiful a street can be without on-street car storage. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.
Amsterdam shows how beautiful a street can be without on-street car storage. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

On my recent swing to The Netherlands, I definitely planned on following up on the news that the cycling haven would be removing from 10,000 to 11,000 parking spaces from the city’s core.

I really only planned a very short 90-second video, but I realized this story was worth so much more. I got to talk to some amazing folks, including Zeeger Ernsting, a City Councilman for GroenLinks (Green Party), who discussed how the initiative came about. Ernsting advised me to check out the Frans Halsbuurt neighborhood, where an entire grid of streets now has virtually no parking, except for loading spaces (an extremely good idea!) and a few spaces for the disabled.

The transformation of the neighborhood looks amazing on the face of it — but is even more stark when you look back at the Google street view from 2012. Click forward year by year and you will see car parking slowly evaporate. As dramatic and lovely as this film makes it seem I must advise you: it is even more lovely, lush and livable. If you have a chance, go there. See it for yourself.

Before (2012).
Before (2012). The after is below. Photos: Google

 

After.

 

  • Larry Littlefield

    It would appear that if smaller vehicles are being parked, the amount of parking actually goes up even with less space used for parking.

  • Polly Trottingberg

    Ridiculous. If a city wants to remove parking, official process requires smart planners and leaders to consult with groups of unelected car owners – we call them “stakeholders” just so it doesn’t look bad – before making a decision. This can’t possibly work and whatever city you visited, Clarence, must be an unlivable nightmare.

  • David Day

    Your comment is strangely written so I can’t quite discern your point, but if you’re saying Amsterdam is an unlivable nightmare you need to get around a little. Amsterdam is consistently rated one of the best places in the world to live.

  • Mike Schumacher

    I actually stayed on that street last year for a few days! The work had not started, but it was scheduled to go in the later half of 2018. (They were working on the street closest to the canal.) It was a very quiet street before the work due to all of the modal filtering for car traffic in place, but not a great-looking street because of the car parking and bikes were all over the place, overflowing from a lack of bike parking.

    It works because the core of Amsterdam is very dense/compact and most residents don’t have cars. I believe the latest modal share survey stated that 40-50% of Amsterdam residents commute via cycling, and about 20-25% use cars (mostly those living outside or close to the A10 ring). You can get pretty much anywhere you need to be with a 10- or 15-minute bike ride, or using a nearby tram. There are two nice Albert Heijn grocery stores within a ten minute walk, and plenty of good restaurants nearby. (Van ’t Spit is a great dinner spot two blocks from that street.) It’s perfectly livable; the only nightmarish scenarios involved avoiding tourists who thought the bike lanes were sidewalks.

    It could be implemented in the USA if land use policies changed to facilitate it. Basically you need dense housing (with good soundproofing – note those buildings are brick), excellent non-car transit options, and shops (especially good grocery stores) that people can walk or bike to. You can’t just take out the parking without the systems perspective of how to make the entire neighborhood/city work.

  • qrt145

    I think it’s fair to say that the comment you are replying to was sarcastic and was meant as a criticism of the system in NYC, where even trivial changes to parking can be held up for years of so-called community board process.

  • Joe R.

    Just as an aside, that street still has plenty of parking, only it’s bike parking, not car parking. In fact, there are likely more vehicles parked than before, but because of their small size, there’s still a lot more space.

  • Amerisod

    Even more suburban places in the US could be made much more livable. In many places there are several destinations (grocery, library, pharmacy, restaurants, movie theaters, parks, etc) that are within easy biking and walking distance but very few people bike or walk because our local governments and state highway departments provide poor or no infrastructure for this, but do provide extra wide lanes for cars to induce them to speed.

    Even the outskirts of cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen are much easier to move around in than the outskirts of US cities.

  • basenjibrian

    The challenge is the market seems to be moving over the past decade or two to larger and larger supermarkets that demand large service areas. one 60,000 supermarket or one 100,000 Super Target versus three 30,000 grocery stores. Supermarket operators (concentrated into fewer and fewer hands like the rest of the American economy) are disinterested in building smaller stores serving fewer people. Even Walmart has slowed or halted its “neighborhood market” concept. Unless a new operator comes in like Aldi, I am not sure this will change.

    Who knows what will happen if even convenience retail goes all online/delivery.

  • basenjibrian

    Happily, cheap gas means we can all drive MANLY MAN TRUCKS for even the most minor suburban errand! No sissy small cars for this patriot! How would I fit my 64 count package of toilet paper in a Prius?

  • Vooch

    Also note:

    until the 1950s it was illegal to park curbside overnight in Manhattan.

  • Vooch

    Amerisod,

    Agreed – its surprising how short the travel distances are in most suburbs built before say 1980.

    Add some PBls ( the roadways are plenty wide to add PBLs, sprinkle the traffic calming tookit and Viola ! – mode share of active transport could quickly be 50-75%.

    On a cost savings basis alone, I am surprised that suburbs aren’t implementing these easy mobility solutions.

  • vicki

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  • Random_Jerk

    I think someone doesn’t know what sarcasm is….

  • Amerisod

    Can land use policies help with getting more smaller stores people can bike/walk to as opposed to large “drive only” superstores?

  • Amerisod

    My suburb has a big plan for being bike-able and more walkable, and plans to add lots of bike lanes. I might even live to see some of it.

  • basenjibrian

    That’s a tough question. In the American context, even if your ZONE the land for commerce, in low density suburbia it does not seem to get many takers. Except for quite small “convenience stores” which often make their money from “sinful” purchases (tobacco and alcohol)*. 🙂 The landowners often petition for changes to the zoning for more housing.

    * there are better quality convenience stores which can meet the demand for smaller, more localized convenience retail. The problem, of course, is convenience stores often serve as hangouts for people not always up to any good. 🙂 At least in the eyes of surrounding upper middle class home buyers.

  • basenjibrian

    It is steadily happening in many suburbs. I know they are “just stripes of paint,” but bike lanes do slow traffic just a bit and serve as a visual cue that there are other modes of traffic. No, they are not miracle cures, but….

  • Vooch

    The most powerful change in land use policies would be to eliminate parking minimums entirely.

  • Knut Torkelson

    Look at their username…

  • what_eva

    It’s not just NYC, we have the same thing in Chicago

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  • more economics please…. give me costs/benefits… something.

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