When Amsterdam removed signals from a busy junction, it made journeys faster and interactions more pleasant. Now the approach is being copied across the city
On a foggy Monday morning in May 2016, 14 Amsterdam officials, engineers and civil servants gathered nervously at Alexanderplein – a busy intersection near the city centre with three tramlines – where many people were walking, driving, and, as in any Dutch city, riding bicycles. With a flip of a switch, the traffic controls were shut off for all transport modes, in all directions.
This live pilot project came about as a result of the rapid growth in cycling in some Amsterdam neighbourhoods. Nearly 70% of all city centre trips are by bicycle, and more space is needed on the bike networks. Traffic designers are deviating from standard design manuals to accommodate this need. Among the tactics being used are the removal of protective barriers, altering light phases, reducing vehicular speed limits and designating entire corridors as “bicycle streets”. Designers have created their own toolbox of solutions for other Dutch cities to use.