Even Amsterdam Wasn’t Always “Amsterdam”


If you live in a city where people are trying to make it easier and safer to get around on foot, by bike, or via transit, you’ve probably heard that what works in other towns won’t work in yours.

Amsterdam is often held up as a place where people magically move about using bicycles, trams, and their own two feet, as if the city as it exists today was created from whole cloth.

But before Amsterdam chose to prioritize people over private motor vehicle traffic, it ceded its streets to cars. Matty Lang at Streets.mn posted the above video, which dates from the 1940s.

This short film shows a police officer patrolling the streets of Amsterdam in a Jeep with megaphone amplification telling women how to cross the street, telling people how to use the tram, exhorting a woman bicycling to keep to the right, and telling a young boy to get on the sidewalk with his scooter.

Of course, Amsterdam didn’t become a world leader in livable streets by shouting at people, but by designing a city for walking and biking. Cities in the U.S. — where we’re still shouting — would do well to follow Amsterdam’s lead.

Elsewhere on the Network: FABB Blog reports that WMATA is adding bike parking facilities at Metro stations, and Market Urbanism chronicles urban decay in Havana.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Building a Better Bike Lane

|
This weekend’s Wall Street Journal has an massive, full-page report on bike friendly cities in Europe. Initially the arguments for more biking were mostly about health and congestion, but in the last year concern for the environment has become an important factor compelling people to travel by bicycle: Flat, compact and temperate, the Netherlands and […]

How Children Demanding Play Streets Changed Amsterdam

|
The above video, excerpted from a Dutch television documentary series, shows how children helped catalyze the fight for safe streets in Amsterdam more than a generation ago. The documentary examines the conditions in a dense urban neighborhood called De Pijp, from the perspective of local children. In the film, neighborhood kids energetically advocate for a play […]

Envisioning an Upper West Side Streets Renaissance

|
If you’re thinking about coming to tonight’s Upper West Side workshop with Jan Gehl but you are having trouble picturing what a "Streets Renaissance" might look like, the video above was made for you. It consists of a series of photo simulations produced by New York City Streets Renaissance Creative Director Carly Clark. Whipped into […]

Zurich: Where People Are Welcome and Cars Are Not

|
When it comes to smart transportation options and city planning, Zurich can credibly claim to be the global champ. This Swiss city has enacted a number of policies and practices that have produced streets where people come first. Getting around and simply experiencing the city is a pleasure. How did they do it? In a 1996 city […]