Cycling in Amsterdam has been since the 50’s of the last century a major way of transport. But now since the city is growing again and more visitors come to Amsterdam things have gotten a little bit out of hand. So the citycouncil made up a plan to improve things.

First let’s look ut some numbers: in 2015 there were 847,000 bycicles in town, 665,000 bikejourneys per day and the total annual distance covered by bike was 760,000,000 km.

A big challenge is that there is a limited space in town for all these cyclists so this has to be reconsidered. New cycle streets, cycle junctions and parking garages for bycicles are being developed.  There are already 16.000 spaces for bycicles but in the next coming years 24.000 more spaces are being created. Amsterdam is experimenting with ‘guest roads’, i.e. roads where motorists can only drive slowly and cyclist have priority. The motorists are the ‘guests’ in these roads.

The outcome of several studies have shown that people on bycicles are communicating more easily by way of eye contact and body language than motorists. An example is that somebody riding a bycicle can nod his head to give priority to some else, a thing that is much more difficult in a car. Overregulation, for instance using a trafficlight, is demotivating this kind of social behaviour. Letting go of a number of rules may lead to a little more stress and friction but the benefit is that there is more interaction between individuals.  You can see this whole discussion on a bigger scale, i.e. in our society as a whole; ‘do we focus on peoples vices or their virtues?’ ( Marco te Broemmelstroet, Plan Amsterdam 2018-2, page 25.

You can read the mayor conclusions in a magazine called Plan Amsterdam ( giving way to cyclists, 2-2018) which has also been translated into english. You have too use this link:

Since 2016 Amsterdam has a bycicle-mayor. In 2017 Katelijne Boerma was chosen and she is in contact with bycicle mayors of Mexico City, Sidney, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro and others. She tells them about her experience in Amsterdam and listens to experiences and plans of the other mayors.

Katelijne wants to focus on three objectives: 1. ‘To promote the bycicle as a healthy, social and sustainable mode of transport’. 2. ‘Be considerate to each other, also when riding your bike’. 3. ‘Improve safety for children, so that more Amsterdam children can cycle independently to school’.

She will be satisfied when she has achieved those things. Reaching a wider audience than the cyclists, for instance people who drive a car and people who drive mopeds. She is setting up a graduate course with the mission to make 50% of all journeys in cities bycicle journeys ( so not only in Amsterdam). And last but not least she is developing with other people an Amsterdam Impact Index for bycicles, for bycicle mayors in other cities to use.

Especially my wife is complaining that cyclist in Amsterdam are not very considerate to each other and pedestrians. She even calls them ‘those militant cyclists’. And I think she is right. Ofcourse because I was born and raised in this town I am quite used to this kind of behaviour, and to be honest when I was younger I used to cycle in this anarchist way.

Amsterdam, the 25th of september 2018

Source:  Magazine Plan Amsterdam 2018-2, Ruwan Aluvihare, Vera van den Bos, Ria Hilhorst, Thomas Koorn, Sjoerd Linders and Kees Vernooij.