Why Amsterdam's cyclists are in a spin about purported pedestrian prioritization

·2-min read
Pedestrians and cyclists sometimes struggle to share space in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is known for being a pioneering city when it comes to promoting cycling. But while it has long been a haven for bikes, some cyclists are now up in arms with the city, which stands accused of prioritizing pedestrians. In the city center, several pedestrian zones, where cyclists' status has been relegated to that of "guests," have recently sprung up.

Cyclists are in a spin in the city of Amsterdam. Cycling groups are claiming that the city is now prioritizing pedestrians in the historic center to the detriment of cycle traffic, as reported in The Guardian. Cyclists could fear seeing themselves essentially squeezed out, one day, from riding in several emblematic neighborhoods, and they're starting to make their feelings known.

Amsterdam remains a city that's particularly well-adapted to cycling. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get around certain zones in the city center. These are areas with heavy tourist footfall, and with many café and restaurant terraces. And while special signs show alternative routes to cyclists, this is not without consequence, because the more bikes are pushed out of the city center, the heavier cycle traffic becomes on surrounding cycle paths. A problem cycling advocates have pointed out when tests have tried to discourage cyclists from using certain main throughways.

It was the speed of bikes -- judged too fast for these busy streets -- that was originally causing concern among local residents and café and restaurant owners. In fact, sharing the space between pedestrians and cyclists has often been a source of stress, and things couldn't continue in this way. Now, some of the city's cycling thoroughfares could soon be swallowed up by pedestrian zones, like in the university quarter. Here, it remains to be seen whether bikes will continue to be allowed to share the space.

Still, word is that the city isn't planning to ban bikes from the center, but is rather seeking to improve traffic flow on certain thoroughfares used heavily by pedestrians. At the same time, the city points to the number of bike parks currently under construction, including a garage that will have room for up to 7,000 bikes at Amsterdam's Centraal station. All in all, it's a problem that many cities promoting cycling could one day have to face.

David Bénard