Transportation Planning Casebook/Bike Lanes in Amsterdam

Bicycling has been a prominent part of Dutch culture since the turn of the 19th century, when the Dutch owned more bicycles per capita than any other country in Europe. This early popularity in Amsterdam and across the country is undoubtedly aided by the fact that it’s a flat, compact and densely populated nation with a moderate year round climate. But just as many western countries, the post-WWII era saw a widespread adoption vehicles and a subsequent foray into auto-centric design. As the rest of the industrialized world left their bikes in favor of cars, many Dutch did not—particularly in Amsterdam, which had always been difficult to drive in due to its narrow streets and many canals. This new sharing of the roads led to a high number of vehicle-pedestrian accidents and deaths. Amsterdam and the Netherlands arrived at a crossroads. In light of domestic protests and concerns over the sustainability of automobiles, the Dutch government began a nationwide policy to divest from cars in its towns and cities and to focus on alternative transportation that were less reliant on foreign oil. The pendulum swung back to favor bicycles in cities. With the aid of consistent investments over the last 30 years in infrastructure and education, Amsterdam has become the most bicycle friendly city in Europe with 881,000 bikes in a city of 780,559 people.

Annotated List of ActorsEdit

Fietsersbond ("Dutch Cyclists Union"): Early bicycle advocacy group that has been successful over time in lobbying politicians and civil servants at the national, provincial and local levels for bike infrastructure and bike safety policies. It’s now a large organization with 34,000 paying members that employs 45 staff. They publish a quarterly magazine called the Vogelvrije Fietser, "Free-as-a-bird Cyclist." [1]

Stop de Kindermoord ("Stop the Child Murder"): A protest organization started in 1973 in response to the high number of vehicular related deaths of children in the early 1970s. Notably, this was a coalition of bike advocates, environmentalists, parents and schools. The group successfully influenced the Dutch government to fund and build segregated cycle paths. In 2001 they became part of the larger road safety campaign, 3VO / Veilig Verkeer Nederland, or "Safe Traffic Netherlands", that continues to campaign for lower road deaths.[2]

PM Joop Den Uyl (“Uncle Joop”): Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 11 May 1973 until 19 December 1977. Seen as a polarizing figure in Danish politics, he was a force for leftist causes and a proponent for the maakbare samenleving, or the “makeable society” under which many bike improvements were made.[3]

Timeline of EventsEdit

1906: The Motor and Bicycle Act provides regulations for traffic rules and for bicyclists. Bicycles needed to be equipped with a "properly functioning steering mechanism", a bell,at least one properly working brake and, when used after dark and a lantern.[4]

1919: Dutch Road Congress Association begins lobbying for better roads [4]

1923: Bicycle users and pedestrians are first allowed to use one meter of shoulder on country roads.

1932: The Dutch Road Plan was the first systematic attempt at road construction in the nation.[4]

1940-1945: German occupation the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, 60% of the transportation infrastructure is destroyed during combat.[5]

1944-1948: US provides $1 billion in international aid Netherlands as part of the Marshall Plan in order to rebuild from heavy damage incurred during the war.[5]

1950-1973: Dutch economy is rebuilt and grows 5% annually for nearly two decades in large part due to a resurgence in manufacturing and trade agreements in Europe. Average income of Dutch citizen increases 222% and the average distance driven a day increases from 4 km to 23 km. Cycling rates decreases 6% each year in that period.[5]

1958: Amsterdam’s population peaks at 875,000, then began declining due to suburbanization.[4]

1972: Bicycle deaths peak at 3,300, sparking public outrage. Stop the Child Murder coalition, named from the headline of an article written by a journalist whose child had been killed by a car, protests for safer streets.[6]

1973: Labor Party candidate Joop Den Uyl wins election in the wake of oil crises, implements car-free Sundays in order to ration oil.

1974: First city centers made car free.[6]

1975: Dutch national government starts financing dedicated cycling route, separated from motor vehicles. Prototypes in the cities of Hague and Tilburg were massively successful. Between economic forces and design, both cities see biking rates increase by over 50%. The modern Dutch Cyclists' Union is founded as a national advocacy group solely for bike infrastructure and bike safety.[4]

1976 to 1983: Bicycle use across the Netherlands increases by 35% [7]

1978: Amsterdam's traffic circulation plan gives priority to separated cycle tracks in place of wider roads for motor vehicles.

1980 to 2005: Rapid construction of separated bicycle paths. Cycling related injuries and deaths in Amsterdam fall 40% and 60%, despite the distance cycled per inhabitant increasing from 1.7 km to 2.5 km. Safer cycling encourages more cycling and more cycling encourages greater safety.


2003: A public bike-share system stationed at train stations, OV-Bicycle, starts and sees 100,000 rides in the first year.[8]

2006: Amsterdam begins implementing annual cyclist satisfaction survey that is applied to city planning.[7]

2011: 90% of Amsterdam roads are considered "bike friendly" by municipal government.

2014: OV-Bicycle rides exceed 1.5 million trips per year.[8]

Map of Amsterdam

Maps of LocationsEdit

Amsterdam is a small city, compact and flat, only 85 square miles in land area, approximately the size of San Francisco without hills.

[9] Amsterdam Other Top Bicycling Cities
Population 750,000 1,131,000
Population Density 4,581 per km2 3,885 per km2
Car free households 63% 36%
University students 11% 8%
Annual Average Precipitation 78 cm 71 cm
Days below zero Celsius 64 71
Days above 32 Celsius 0 15

Policy Issues and ImplementationEdit

Amsterdam's pre-industrial road infrastructure was not built for cars. Urban-renewal style clearance to make room for infrastructure was more political difficult than in comparatively less dense cities.

The energy/economic crisis captured national government's attention.

A coalition of environmentalists and concerned parents combined forces to campaign against auto-fatalities after an unusual number of accidents involving children.

The Netherland's high-tax, high-service model has enabled dedicated and sustained investment in cycling infrastructure.

Long-term Bicycle Plan 2012-2016Edit

In 2011, the City of Amsterdam released a long-term comprehensive plan for their bicycle infrastructure. The plan names three major problems to tackle over the next four years. The major problems are a lack of bicycle parking at the Central and Amstel Stations, narrow bike lanes on busy routes, and a lack of bicycle infrastructure construction. The City of Amsterdam promises to invest €120 million ($131 million) in bicycle infrastructure by 2020. By 2040, Amsterdam plans to make the investment a total of €200 million ($219 million).[10]

By 2016, the City plans to add at least 12,000 new bicycle parking spaces. Another 58,000 parking spaces will be added to Amsterdam's network between 2016 and 2020. A majority of the additions will be made at the Central station (16,000 by 2020) and the Zuid station (11,000 by 2020). Under this plan, cyclists will be able to park their bike up to 14 days (previously 7). Large parking facilities will also be ran with a bicycle monitor to track how long bikes stay without movement. Any abandoned bike is removed and donated.[10]

Plan Amsterdam Magazine: Cycling Policy and DesignEdit

The City of Amsterdam publishes magazine concerning the current projects, developments, and physical planning in the city proper as well as the Amsterdam Metropolitan Region. Plan Amsterdam releases seven issues per year. Two of the issues per year are in English while the rest are written in Dutch. Released in July 2014, the Cycling Policy and Design issue depicts the past, current, and future state of bicycling in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Region. The issue goes over the past history of cycling culture, upcoming projects and designs, a future forecast of cycling needs, and a look on biker behavior in Amsterdam.[11]

Bike InfrastructureEdit

Bike LanesEdit

Bike lanes are abundant throughout Amsterdam. These lanes normally come in two fashions: protected and unprotected. Protected bike lanes involve a separation between the bicycle and vehicles moving the same direction. The separation can be a concrete median, a row of street parking, plastic poles, or even a row of trees and planters. Unprotected bike lanes move alongside traffic with different paint or color of road differentiating the two modes of transportation.

A two way fietsstraat separated by a shallow brick median.


Otherwise known as a bike street, fietsstraat are a road in which the bikes have the primary right of way while any vehicle must yield. The width of bike streets are normally around 12 feet wide to accommodate personal vehicles. Bike streets are typically found in residential areas where traffic remains low. The fietsstraat are also vital to the larger bicycle road network since they connect the local roads to bicycle highways as well as bypass roads that are too busy for riders.


Also known as snelfietsroutes, represent links of bicycle roadway made solely for long distance travel or recreational biking. These differ from fietsstraat as cars are not allowed to share the roadway. Additionally, there are no traffic lights, no intersections with vehicles, and no lengths of poor pavement along the bicycle highways. The Amsterdam metropolitan region currently has fietssnelwegen connecting to Utrecht to the southeast, Haarlem to the west, and Zaandam to the North. In construction or other planned highways connect to Pumerend, Almere, and Hoofddorp.[12]

Bike ParkingEdit

Since there are more bicycles than humans in Amsterdam, there are multiple ways to safely park one's bike. Bike racks are abundant as well as a legal obligation from businesses to provide. As the popularity of biking increases, the number of available spaces also decreases. This is why engineers are creating more solutions for creating more bicycle parking space. Proposed solutions include floating mini-barges placed in the canals which hold 150 bikes a piece. Another solution proposed was to build an additional underground bike parking facility.


Amsterdam, being a canal city, is littered with over 1200 bridges spanning the water below.[13] As old bridges are retouched and new bridges erected, dedicated bicycle service is expected. A rising neighborhood, Ijburg, has seen two new bridges constructed since its groundbreaking. The Nescio bridge does not allow vehicles. The Nescio bridge separates pedestrians and bicyclists into different paths as seen in the photo. The separation of slower modes of transportation is a growing trend seen in Amsterdam's bicycle infrastructure. The Enneüs Heerma bridge connects the Schellingwoude neighborhood and the A10 highway with the IJburg neighborhood. The Enneüs Heerma bridge offers room for pedestrians, bicycles, vehicles and a public tram line all with safe separation.


Since a large percentage of Amsterdammer commute by bicycle, safety alongside vehicles is of utmost importance. As designed in the PLANAmsterdam 2014, the City is introducing an intersection design called PlusNet. The design allows almost full separation of bicycles from cars at large, multi-lane intersections. Any bikes crossing the intersection do so in pedestrian-like avenues perpendicular to traffic. All right turns can be made without stopping at all.[11]

Rental BikesEdit

Amsterdam uses a shared bicycle system called OV-Fiets. OV-Fiets, originally an independent company, has been run by Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) otherwise known as the Dutch Rail since 2008. The NS introduced the OV-Fiets system in 2003. There were 70 bike stations in 2004, and the system has grown to over 250 stations in 2014.[14] One can rent a shared bicycle in various ways. The bikes can be found at staffed stations, self-serve stations (much like NiceRides in the Twin Cities), bike safes, bike carousels, bike lockers, bike dispenser, or at any of the OV-Fiet pop-up stores.[15] The pop-up stores are normally set just outside of the Amsterdam Central, Amsterdam Zuid, and The Hague Central Rail stations in September and October. The pop-up stores are used to alleviate congestion of commuters and tourists in the busy months. Extra pop-up stores are used throughout the metropolitan area during large events such as large soccer matches.[15] The wide availability of the bikes has made the program a success with 180,000 subscribers and over 1.5 million rides in 2014.[14] To participate in the program, subscribers pay a small €10 ($11) per year. After that, the bikes can be rented for €3,15 an hour ($3.45).[16]

In 2013, the main central rail stations of the Amsterdam metro area had bike parking issues. Those that used the bike share system could not find a spot to park their bike before taking their train home. This was due to the mass amounts of riders flocking to the same major rail stations as they commute out of the city. In response to the parking issue, OV-Fiets launched a pilot program called OV-Fiets@home. The pilot program allowed subscribers to take the bike home and use it again on the commute to work. This allowed more parking spaces at many of the rail stations across the network. Users could opt into the program for €15 ($16.50) a month. The program was tested at The Hague Central and Utrecht Central stations, two of the top five busiest stations. The pilot program was not tested in Amsterdam Central station in order to find any faults without having them occur at by far the busiest station in the metro. The program was considered a success. But, the pricing scheme was changed so that a separate subscription was not needed. Instead, the length of time a bike could be rented was extended to 72 hours for all users.[16][17]

Narrative of the CaseEdit

Today, Amsterdam is perhaps one of the most bicycle friendly cities within the Netherlands, if not the world. In Amsterdam, over 60% of trips are made by bike in the inner city. Notably, Amsterdam is famous for its nearly 500 miles of bike lanes across the city. The popularity of cycling in Amsterdam and the Netherlands as a whole is aided by the flat, compact and densely populated terrain and the climate mostly moderate. The first velocipede, or bike, was introduced in the Netherlands around 1870 and were first used as a tool for the rich, as prices were too high for the average laborer. The bicycle continued to be a true luxury item in the Netherlands until the turn of the century when bike ownership disseminated to the broader society. Over this time, bikes were often met with hostility, particularly in rural Netherlands. The aggressive behavior of non-cyclists prompted the elite bikers to form cycling clubs, forming the first in 1883. Under pressure from these clubs, as well as increased motorist traffic, the national government implemented a vehicle tax to finance general roads, some of which went to bike infrastructure. From the 1920s onwards, bicycle use increased rapidly and was the most popular mode of transport in the country, with 2 bicycles for every citizen. In the 1930s, the total Dutch bicycle industry produced around 400,000 bicycles per year.The result of cheaper, more accessible bikes and cars led to a sixfold increase in traffic volume in Amsterdam between increased sixfold between 1916 and 1938. Following the war, the number of inhabitants in the Netherlands rose from 10.0 million in 1950 to 13.6 million in 1975. Women began to work, professional jobs doubled and development across the Netherlands started to suburbanize. In 1940, the maximum trip distance in the city was seven km, but by 1970 this was 15 km. As productivity increased, disposable income tripled and the Dutch began buying cars. The number of passenger cars rose from 139,000 in 1950 to 3.4 million in 1975. The city of Amsterdam, along with the rest of the Netherlands, began replacing early bicycle infrastructure with widened roads for motorists. As in many countries in Europe, roads became increasingly congested and the competition for road space became a safety hazard for cyclists. Around this time, Amsterdam began experimenting with one-way traffic, parking fees, and woonerfs—small residential areas that were pedestrian only, however these efforts were not enough. The rapid jump in drivers caused a sharp rise in cyclist deaths, peaking in 1971 with 3,300 deaths at the hands of motor vehicles. To the outrage of the nation, 450 of those pedestrian deaths were children under the age of 14. In response, a social movement called Stop de Kindermoord, or Stop the Child Murder, was formed in order to advocate for safer cycling conditions. Bicycling gained a political dimension after the oil criss in the Netherlands, the result of a boycott of Arabic oil-producing countries. Resistance to conceding entirely to the demands of the car rapidly gained ground. Car traffic regulation and the promotion of public transport became topics of discussion at the National level. In 1975, the Dutch Cyclists' Union was established out of defunct clubs to focus solely on lobbying for bicycle interests. These pressures helped to persuade the Dutch government under Joop den Uyl to shift its focus from accommodating cars to building out its now extensive network of paths and bike infrastructure, starting with a 1978 bike plan that listed building a bike route network as a top priority. These lanes, built up largely since the 1980s, are clearly marked with separate signs and lights for cyclists and are wide enough to allow side-by-side cycling and overtaking. Today, biking has become normalized around the entire country and is devoid of much of the stigma pervasive around the rest of the world.

Complete ReferencesEdit

  1.,. 'Fietsersbond: The Conscious Choice For The Bike (2015)
  2.,. 'Veilig Verkeer Nederland | Iedereen Veilig Over Straat!' (2015)
  3. Historisch Nieuwsblad,. 'De Spanning Tussen Den Uyl En De Ondernemers' (2008)
  4. a b c d e Fietsberaad,. 'Dutch Bicycle Master Plan' (1999)
  5. a b c Anderson, Michael. 'The Dutch Economy: A History Of The Dutch Economy Since WWII' (2010)
  6. a b,. 'Amsterdam's Cycling History | I Amsterdam (2014)
  7. a b Fietberaad,. 'The Bicycle Capitals Of The World: Amsterdam And Copenhagen' (2010)
  8. a b Bicycle Dutch,. 'Bike Share The Dutch Way' (2011)
  9. City Cycling. MIT Press (2012)
  10. a b City of Amsterdam. "Long-Term Bicycle Plan 2012-2016." (2012): n. pag. Gameente Amsterdam. Gameente Amsterdam, 2012. Web. 3 Nov. 2015. <>.
  11. a b City of Amsterdam. Plan Amsterdam: Cycling Policy and Design. Gemeente Amsterdam. City of Amsterdam, June 2014. Web. 3 Nov. 2015. <>.
  12. The Free School. "Fietssnelwegen." Sustainable Development. Trans. Google Translate. The Free School in The Hague, 9 Nov. 2011. Web. 3 Nov. 2015. <>.
  14. a b Nederlandse Spoorwegen. "Grafeiken." Grafieken. Nederlandse Spoorwegen, 2015. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <>.
  15. a b Nederlandse Spoorwegen. "Verschillende Huurlocaties." Verschillende Huurlocaties. Nederlandse Spoorwegen, 2015. Web. 03 Nov. 2015.
  16. a b Nederlandse Spoorwegen. "Veelgestelde Vragen." OV-Fiets. Nederlandse Spoorwegen, 2015. Web. 03 Nov. 2015.
  17. OV-Fiets. "OV-fiets." Wikipedia. Trans. Google Translate. OV-Fiets, 2015. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <>.