The car-free Weesperstraat pilot will be a watershed in Amsterdam’s mobility strategy

The car-free pilot on Weesperstraat (‘de knip’) will become the watershed in Amsterdam’s mobility policy. Last week in the City Council debate, it became clear again how the pilot with the knip continues to divide Amsterdammers and that a genuine vision is lacking. Everything was dragged into the debate by the alderman and council members. The acute problems with the waterbed effect, emergency services, inclusive mobility, the mobility problems caused in the region, and more space for pedestrians and cyclists. The debate spun in circles for more than two hours. Nothing was accomplished.

No vision of mobility and public space

Amsterdam party GroenLinks jumped into the debate in support of people who have been pushed to the margins of space, such as pedestrians. Last week, the coalition with GroenLinks, marginalized the position of pedestrians in traffic plans. The Amsterdam mobility plans don’t add up.

Due to lack of time, the City Council did not discuss essential agenda items such as coaches, air quality, road safety, and zero-emission zones. The integrated vision of mobility is missing, and the implementation of several dossiers is delayed because the various underlying plans are not aligned. The stakeholders’ interests have not been considered.

Amsterdam and the region are in a gridlock

It can’t go on like this. Everyone recognizes the problems of growing mobility in the Greater Amsterdam region. Amsterdam alone will have 250,000 new Amsterdammers and 200,000 extra jobs by 2050. If we do nothing, it will get stuck, not only in Amsterdam but also in the region.

The pilot with the knip makes painfully clear that the college has no vision of mobility and (in a broad sense) public space. It lacks a vision of mobility in Amsterdam and its connection with the region. The pilot with the knip is not going to learn anything here.

Building blocks for a vision

A vision of mobility seems simple. Make specific mobility plans for target groups such as residents, employees, students, and visitors. For both mobile and less mobile target groups. Which mobility behavior do you want to stimulate, facilitate and perhaps even regulate? Then it would be best if you first thought about what broader welfare goals you have in mind. Mobility means so much more than just traffic flow, traffic safety, and clean air.

The measures are clear

The measures a clear. Reduce car ownership and use with selective access in neighborhoods, intelligent access, and complex traffic interventions. Commit to fair shared transport concepts. Limit private parking supply. Encourage walking, biking, and micromobility. Providing good public transportation; that is available, reliable, and affordable. Tackle urban logistics (including by water). Work on a good taxi policy as part of public transportation and MAAS. Regulate traffic with smart mobility and provide intelligent travel advice. Adapt a ‘vision zero’ strategy for road safety. The 30 km/h plans are a good start. Less traffic is even better. Create a patronizing standard for good traffic behavior and enforce existing rules. It’s the unspeakable elephant in the room. And consult with everyone!

Above all, address the hypermobility of Amsterdamers. Haven’t we all become a bit overmobile? More than 60% of mobility is fun mobility. At a workshop on mobility in the future Havenstad, the leading solutions were to get residents and workers in and out of the neighborhood as quickly as possible, and offer more mobility options, traffic management, and convenience. Why keep pushing people in and out of the neighborhood? Surely it will be a nice neighborhood, I hope. Amsterdam is certainly not yet a 15-minute city for everyone.


Of course, sometimes the interests are big and conflicting. It’s not going to fit into the public space there. You have to make choices. That requires leadership and sometimes a top-down approach. A master plan that guides policy on pedestrians and cyclists, traffic safety, car traffic, and city logistics, and especially the design of (future) neighborhoods is needed.

Incidentally, mobility goes far beyond the portfolio of a single alderman for traffic. It also touches on the city’s spatial planning, digitalization, and economy.

Locally, in the neighborhoods, there is room to work out the details with the participation of residents and entrepreneurs. There is room for customization within the framework of the master plan.

The question is: how are we going to do that with the siloed organization within the municipality? What knowledge and competencies are needed? What knowledge can we get (and share) with other European cities (e.g., SUMP)? It is naive to think that the people who came up with these problems can solve them.

The connected city (and region)

Where is that master plan that will reconnect the city and the region based on a good story about what kind of city we want to be for whom? A master plan is about proximity, staying, moving, and experiencing. That is about people, residents, entrepreneurs, and visitors. And not about vehicles, bikes, buses, and other means of transportation.

Together with Luca Bertolini and Marco te Brömmelstroet (from the University of Amsterdam), I wrote in Parool, “What if, instead of clinging frenetically to the false certainties of the existing, we embraced the inevitable uncertainty of thinking and doing things differently? Don’t talk about a car-free city, but rather and consistently about a relaxed or connected city, with mobility implications as a consequence, not as a starting point.

The pilot with the knip on Weesperstraat will hopefully be the watershed in Amsterdam’s mobility strategy. Before we go any further, we need a master plan. We get soulless policies from the period before the cut and inspiring policies from the period after the knip…. I hope.

Walther Ploos van Amstel

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