An experiment involving the closure of a main road into Amsterdam as a traffic calming measure is having a major effect on both locals and hotels and conference centres in the centre of the capital.
The Weesperstraat, which runs from the ring road to Waterlooplein, is being closed to traffic from 6 am to 11 pm for a six-week period. The so-called knip or cut, is part of a trial to monitor the pros and cons of closing off the busy road permanently in 2025 in an effort to cut down on car travel in the capital.
“The closure is having a big impact”, manager Ludo de Jong of the NH-Hotel Barbizon on Prins Hendrikkade told the Parool. “Our concierge has been going out on his bicycle to pick up guests who were lost.”
De Jong, who also manages conference centre Tivoli De Doelen on Nieuwe Doelenstraat, has had to cope with “furious guests who have missed meetings or events. We had an event planned for next week but that has now been cancelled because of the lack of access.”
The six-week trial is not only making hotel managers unhappy. In order to avoid people taking shortcuts via the surrounding streets, locals are also being hard put to reach their own homes. And some report their own once-quiet streets are now being clogged with traffic jams for most of the day.
— Lars Duursma (@LarsDuursma) June 12, 2023
Yolanda Moleman, who lives in one of the affected streets, said she had expected to be exempt from the rule and “given a pass of some sort”. “I live there for goodness sake!”, she told Dutch News. “I can be on Sarphatistraat, which is five minutes from my house, and be told that I need to take the IJtunnel which takes me at least half an hour longer.”
Moleman said she had witnessed several angry outbursts from drivers who were being told by traffic wardens which routes they should take. “It’s not their fault. These poor people are standing there all day in the heat giving people maps and telling them where to go and all they get is abuse,” she said.
A small business owner who needs their van to reach customers and suppliers said they are being forced to make huge detours to get to work. “I have no choice but to use a van but the council is making it much harder for me to do my job,” he said. “I can now serve fewer customers in a day and I am driving more kilometres.”
Despite the criticism, council traffic chief Melanie van der Horst (D66) said the experiment is going “exactly as expected” and, depending on the outcome of the trial, the city will follow it up with more closures to limit through traffic.
“If we don’t take measures now we will all be stuck in traffic,” she told the Volkskrant.
The capital is set to house another 300,000 people in the next 25 years, and the number of people working in the capital will also grow, she said.
“If people think the streets are busy now, they should see them when the number of road users has doubled,” Van der Horst told the paper.
Lecturer in city logistics Walther Ploos van Amstel said a plan to limit traffic in the capital is long overdue. “Many cities have done the same, Paris and Barcelona are good examples. And in the Netherlands there’s Hilversum and Utrecht.”
The council has set up a temporary park on two of the Weesperstraat lanes which used to be full of traffic, complete with trees and picnic tables. However, the decision by the green-thinking city council to use plastic grass has also been slammed.
“Artificial grass, you would think it is a joke,” said one local on Twitter. “But this has really been laid by our oh so green city administration.”
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