September 18, 2008

Amsterdam is car-free this Sunday

This Sunday, the 21st of September, is car-free Sunday in Amsterdam. According to the HR department at my company, this means it will not be possible to enter the city by car from 10.00 am until 17.00, but it is possible to exit Amsterdam (you just can't come back in until after 17). Public transportation (buses, trams, metro) will be running, but there will be no taxis available.

I'm conflicted about this.

On one hand, I love the idea of pedestrians and cyclists taking over Amsterdam even more than they already do. It sounds amazing, and I completely intend to take advantage of it and ride in the middle of the streets and envision a world where cars don't exist.

On the other hand, Amsterdam makes it easier than anywhere else I've ever been to avoid being in a car. The public transportation system is easy and affordable, bikes have their own lanes, the entire city is very walkable, and I think I know about two people that own a car. This blogger makes a lot of really good points as to why something like car-free day doesn't really have any advantages in Amsterdam. After reading that, I thought about the day I arrived in Amsterdam this past April - I showed up with a big, heavy suitcase and a big, heavy backpack. It just made sense that I took a taxi from Central Station to the apartment where I was staying. I could barley lift my bags onto the curb, nevermind trying to lift them into a tram. And I would have really inconvenienced everyone around me had I been on a tram (by taking up too much room). So what if I was moving into Amsterdam in the same kind of way this Sunday afternoon, and I was told "too bad, we're doing something good here by not allowing cars around the city today." I could have made it work, but man, it would have sucked.

So while everyone who is leaving the city (ie: headed to the airport or wherever) can still load up their cars or taxis with luggage, anyone arriving this Sunday, between 10-17 is out of luck.

If I had my way, no one would own cars, but I've got to say, I wouldn't get rid of taxis. While car-free day sounds like great fun to me, as a car-free person, it doesn't change my life whatsoever.

Thoughts? Has anyone ever experienced a car-free day in Amsterdam (or your own city) before?


Seb Berkovich said...

Dublin is tiny, i get get anywhere in the city by bike in a max of 40 mins, of course i never knew that until i started to cycle. So id say a car free day in Dublin would actually make a difference, those clever Dutch already have the right idea and probably don't need to be reminded how great it is not to live chained to a car.

Another American Expat said...

I'd have to agree. I think most people - Dutch or not - that live in Amsterdam don't just take their car tooling around the city (if they own one). For short distances, the Dutch rely on bikes - that's been proven a million times, and you can just tell by the fact that there are way more bicycles than people in Amsterdam!

again, in my perfect utopia world, there would never be cars in cities unless they were being used to moved things. and there would be chocolate growing from trees. :)

Dublin is a great city! Glad to hear you're traveling around on two wheels now - I was only there for a day or two and did it all on foot.

Anonymous said...

The taxis are the worst and the most dangerous of the lot. Maybe some of us would like a day without the noise and pollution, too. It's just one day of the year.

Another American Expat said...

I just think of people who made moving plans (I try to stay pretty up to date with what's going on in Amsterdam, and I just heard of car-free day 2 days ago) or are traveling to the city from say, a 3-month long holiday or something. They show up at Central Station after a long flight or train ride, they're weighed down with luggage, and they're thinking "ok, I'm going to treat myself to a taxi, even if it does cost €15 to get for a fifteen minute ride." I just feel for this fictional person that i made up - I think generally, the people who are going to be inconvenienced are the folks that don't need a lesson on why cars are bad.

But again, I'll totally enjoy car-free day myself. It doesn't interfere with my schedule, and it will be really nice to have the streets be free for us. I wonder if those tiny little electric cars (the red ones that sometimes ride in the bike lane) are also banned? where do they fall into this? hmmm.

Anonymous said...

I try to stay pretty up to date with what's going on in Amsterdam, and I just heard of car-free day 2 days ago

But you don't speak the language - if you don't read the paper, watch the news or talk to shopkeepers, you're not really going to pick up that much about what goes on.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to add, a quick google reveals that the taxi thing isn't even true. The city council can't ban one group of people from working for the day, after all! Your HR dept sounds rather odd. And cars can drive around the city, so moving is hardly going to be out of the question.

Another American Expat said...

anonymous, it sounds like you're just trying to be obnoxious. despite not speaking dutch, I listen to (english language) podcasts from Radio Netherlands, which cover Dutch and European news pretty well - they even go over the headlines in the Dutch papers. I read the Amsterdam Weekly, I stay on top of Amsterdam events and listings that are published in English. I do listen to Dutch radio (in Dutch), but that's just to help me get used to the language - obviously I can't really understand it yet.

I knew most of the shopkeepers in my former neighborhood and they knew me. I'm getting to know the folks in my new neighborhood - there are people I say hi to on the street, I know the coffee shop guy has been here for a long time (we spent a long time chatting one night while everyone else watched football), etc. I make an effort to talk to everyone in my work neighborhood as well, since I spend a majority of my time there.

I really, really doubt that my lack of Dutch comprehension is the reason I didn't hear about car-free sunday. I asked my climbing partner (a Dutch guy) what it was like, and he said he had no idea it was happening.

Anyway, I'm being defensive about a pretty silly topic. I'm not really concerned about the folks who live here and can plan for this type of day in advance, I feel sympathy for the folks who have planned moves or will arrive in Amsterdam burdened with too much luggage to carry on public transportation.

Jenny said...

I am never riding a taxi again.. So we took a bike instead! Wonderful tip to start the day in top shape

J in the Oud West said...

Just to clarify, taxi service will, in fact, be available on Sunday.


It is my guess that any cars within the center before they close the ring-road entry points will still be able to drive around within the city.

Another American Expat said...

Hey J! Thanks so much for the link, I just posted an update. :)