The fear of traffic in Amsterdam

By Jonas Armbruster, Natasha Jahanshahi and Iraide Ibarrondo

The Netherlands capital city is famous for being a city specially designed for cyclists, but other means of transport such as trams, cars, pedestrians and scooters have to share the roads with cyclists too. This can make the traffic pretty chaotic for those who aren’t used to it. In fact, the number of pedestrian deaths in Amsterdam accounted for 27 per cent in the Netherlands.

Z. Grasman is an ex taxi driver from Amsterdam and he believes driving a car in Amsterdam is “frustrating”. The frustration comes when people do not respect traffic rules as they are supposed to: “I enjoy cycling myself, but people do many crazy stuff like passing through red lights and as cyclists always go first you have to be really careful with them.” Also, Grasman highlighted the fact that traffic can be really dense and often you can´t go “straight” to the places you want to go.

According to Tom Tom Amsterdam Traffic Report, the average congestion in Amsterdam roads in 2018 was 24%, but in morning and evening peaks the percentage could reach up to 39%.

According to Grasman, the traffic isn’t the only thing making it difficult for people in Amsterdam to have a car. “The government wanted to make the city greener and for that they closed roads, incremented the prize of parkings and made owning a car really expensive. I wouldn’t recommend an Amsterdam citizen to buy a car”.

By the canal tour boats, close to Central Station, Hamza Alkan, a young German pedestrian, is standing with a group of his classmates. They have come to Amsterdam on a school trip. And although Hamza Alkan was impressed by all the bikes going around, he doesn’t feel comfortable in the traffic: “I feel a little scared, they just pass really close to you and they don´t look at their sides. You have to be extra careful when walking around”.

In order to avoid dangerous situations, he also has an idea for a solution: “I would put a fence between the sidewalk and the bike lane”. When asked about if he would consider riding a bike in the city, he doesn’t hesitate to answer “No”.  

Like Hamza, not all people want to enter the Amsterdam traffic on bike. And not even all of those, who want to, should. Valerio Conte works in a bike rental shop near Centraal Station. Their main customers are tourists. But although Valerio makes money from renting bikes, he doesn’t just allow any person to rent them: “There are people who want to try riding a bike for the first time in their lives. We don’t rent bikes to them, Amsterdam is not the best city to learn”. Nevertheless, Conte thinks there are not that many accidents compared to the amount of people that ride a bike. “Of course we receive broken bikes once in a while and people do have little accidents, but it is not as often as you might think”

But not all tourists are clumsy or afraid of joining the dense Dutch traffic. Johan Snader has been around the city for just a couple of days, and he already feels very secure on his bike: “As long as you respect traffic rules, there is no problem. My brother lives here, and he explained all the rules to me before taking a bike”. The Columbian feels comfortable while riding: “There are plenty of paths and the city is specially designed for bikes. You can drive peacefully because nobody is going to assault you on your bike”.

Watch a video about this topic here: