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Amsterdam Plans Wide Limit on Cars

by Marlisle Simons
New York Times
28 January 1993

Amsterdam wants to be the first major European city that virtually banishes the car from its heart....

The present image of the automobile here is approximately that of a leech on the body of the community.

"For years the city was forced to adapt to cars," said Rob Pistor, a city official and one of the plan's chief strategists. "Cars will now have to adapt to the city."...

Cars will be squeezed off the streets by wider sidewalks and new bicycle lanes, and parking spaces will be cut back sharply. In the final stage, all non vital traffic is to be banned....

Moreover, the city held a referendum last March -- the first in Amsterdam's history -- in which almost 53 percent of the voters backed a plan for a virtually car-free center....

"We are reconquering the lost public spaces," Mr. Pistor said. "We need them for walking, cycling, shopping and sitting around, for markets, music or other street events."...

Today, the canal girdle is the most vibrant part of the city, home to 75,000 of the 500,000 inhabitants, and the hub of shops and offices, universities and schools, hotels, restaurants and bars. The restricted traffic zone will be inside this ring of canals, an area of about three square miles, about one- 10th of the city proper.

"Every day some 67,000 cars and trucks circulate in the center, almost as many as residents," Dave van Ooyen, a city traffic specialist said. "We think the most effective instrument to reduce cars is to reduce parking. The idea is to cut parking spaces in half."

Other steps planned this year include new speed limits of 18 miles per hour and higher parking meter fees, now $2.25 per hour....

The city says it will expand metro and tram lines and plans garages near the terminals on the city periphery. It also says it will provide more and safer locations to park and repair bicycles to encourage cyclists. Amsterdam already has a head-start: one-third of downtown traffic consists of bicycles.

Ultimately, the plan foresees that apart from taxis, police cars, ambulances and fire trucks, only the disabled and some of the residents will have access to the canal zone. The city council has still to decide how many permits will be available for residents.

Buses and large trucks will be banned and small business vans will be allowed to load and unload for short periods.


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