Canada's Condominium Magazine
58% of Amsterdam’s population bicycle daily, outnumbering cars, reducing congestion and pollution at the small cost of an infrastructure of bike-only trails and lanes
f Amsterdam is not Toronto is not London is not Copenhagen. Each city has its strengths and weaknesses, peculiar to itself. How a city reacts to the problems presented by its weaknesses, some of which are the result of forces beyond its immediate control, is one test of how successful a city will be. Just consider how Amsterdam has dealt with its problem of traffic congestion.
Amsterdam, as the video attached here shows, is often held up as an example to the world for its enlightened policies on cycling. But it wasn’t always so. As the video shows, the post-war boom that saw Dutch incomes rise dramatically also brought about a building boom in the cities, and a growth in automobile traffic that was gradually choking the life out of cities like Amsterdam. Problems that are so drearily familiar in Toronto today—gridlock, long commute times, the high cost of parking, air pollution—were threatening the Dutch cities in the seventies. And the numbers of fatalities among cyclists, especially children, grew so high that people literally took to the streets to demand that something be done to stop it.
As the video shows. the oil crisis of 1973 acted as a catalyst for the Dutch to act decisively. At the national level, money was allocated for building cycling infrastructure, and that commitment has endured. Today, according to the city of Amsterdam, there are more bicycles in the city than people (789,559 people; 881,000 bicycles).
More than half of the citizens of Amsterdam (58 per cent) use a bike daily. Of those, 43 per cent use it for their daily commute.
Cycling is not a goal in itself but a way to create a more livable and green city with healthier citizens and should be perceived as a ‘normal’ means of transportation in line with the car, bus, train and Metro.
Anja Larson, City of Copenhagen
Now the city faces the problem of accommodating all the bicycles. Accidents involving cyclists are up again, parking for bikes is hard to find and the bike lanes are crowded.
But these are problems that have relatively simple solutions, and the city has shown a willingness to deal with them. How much easier and less expensive is it to expand bike lanes than to build new highways? Imagine creating parking for 38,000 new cars in the centre of Toronto.
But the city of Amsterdam will create 38,000 new parking spaces for bikes, and it will add the necessary new bike lanes, of which it already has over 400 kilometers. (Read more about Amsterdam’s plans for biking infrastructure here.)
Toronto, with a vastly greater area and population, has just over 100 kilometres of bike lanes. And we took one out of service just this week, on Jarvis Street. A proposed lane for a Bloor-Danforth lane was effectively killed by city council. We are going backwards.