Amsterdam Leading the Way: Towards Car-lite Cities

Calendar 27 Aug 2020
Time 4.00 pm – 4.40 pm, GMT+8 
Location Zoom
cpd2 SILA CPD Pts
BOA-SIA members: no lectures or webinars will award CPD points this year as CPD requirements are waived


Amsterdam is welcoming growing numbers of Amsterdammers, visitors and tourists, and faces increasing pressure on its public spaces and transportation infrastructure. Deputy Mayor Sharon Dijksma, who cycles for both work and leisure, presents how Amsterdam creates safe, liveable and accessible streets, especially in light of disruptions like COVID-19. 

Webinar Video




Slides by Deputy Mayor Sharon Dijksma (PDF: 1.82MB)

Deputy Mayor’s Response to LIVE Questions (PDF: 198KB)

Webinar Takeaways

“Cars are guests on the street”

With Amsterdam growing rapidly, how can the city ensure enough room for pedestrians, cyclists, public transport and cars? In a CLC webinar on 27 August 2020, Deputy Mayor of Amsterdam Sharon Dijksma discussed with Margriet Vonno how the city is creating safe, liveable spaces that are also accessible and inclusive.

Clean and active modes are “a no-brainer” for a liveable and accessible city

With the metropolitan region of Amsterdam expected to grow to include 290,000 extra homes by 2040, Ms Dijksma noted that the city will need to reduce space given to cars. This will not only create space for people to walk, cycle and enjoy green spaces, but also promote clean and active modes of transport that improve air quality, address noise pollution and improve traffic safety. Ms Dijksma also pointed out that too many cars will lead to traffic jams will make the city non-accessible in the long term, and become a heavy burden on the economy. In contrast, free-flowing access to the city will benefit the economy.

A cycling city where people uses cars, instead of owning them

Ms Dijksma shared how Amsterdam is a cycling city whose car use has been declining since 1986. Car trips have reduced from more than 620,000 trips per day in the beginning of the 90s to 440,000 trips per day. The percentage of people in Amsterdam owning a car has also decreased by 25%.  Ms Dijksma predicted an increase in car-sharing, noting how the younger generation does not want to own a car, but just “need to use it sometimes”. She also shared how criticism on Amsterdam’s car-lite policies usually come from people who were living outside the city, but there is “great acceptance” from people living in the city itself.

Integrated planning for the long-term

Amsterdam adopts an integrated, long-term approach to address mobility, with public transport investments complemented by additional cycling facilities, increased space for pedestrians and improved shared mobility options. Noting that trips to and from Amsterdam were still often made by car, Ms Dijksma commented that a regional approach to transport planning was also important. In the short term, until 2022, Amsterdam will focus on measures such as limiting vehicular speeds to 30 km/h, increasing shared mobility options and reducing the number of parking permits. In the medium term, until 2025, the city aims to improve traffic flow for buses and trains and construct “cycle streets” and more park-and-ride facilities. In the long-term, until 2040, new metro connections will help scale up public transport across the city and regions, and large, contiguous cycling lanes in residential areas will reduce car traffic on main routes.

“Cars are guests on the street” – even in pandemics

Outlining the key strategies adopted by the city in response to COVID-19, Ms Dijksma emphasised that “the COVID-19 pandemic will not be misused to create or to implement new policies, which could not be implemented before the pandemic”.  This meant that although people were increasingly using cars instead of public transport, “COVID-19 measures in the public space favour pedestrians and cyclists over cars and does not mean more room for cars”.

Ms Dijksma acknowledged that accessibility would become an issue if public transport users shift towards private transport modes, and shared the need to “tempt” people to continue using public transport. Higher hygiene standards, increased public transport capacity during rush hour, and providing financial assistance to public transport companies and operators are some ongoing efforts to ensure a safe and resilient public transport system during COVID-19.

Creating a 1.5m city

Ms Dijksma also highlighted measures to achieve social distancing norms of 1.5m in the city. For example, to give pedestrians more space, cyclists are temporarily allowed to use car lanes, where speed limits have been lowered from 50 km/h to 30 km/h. Street parking and residential streets are also closed to create room for terraces, pedestrians and parking of bicycles. Ms Dijksma shared how the city was discussing with schools and employers to change study and work hours to reduce crowding in public transport during peak hours. The traffic and education departments also worked together to close streets around schools in the city, to ensure the students’ safe arrival and departure.

A green and sustainable city, but also a social city

Ms Dijksma emphasised the importance of being a socially inclusive city and how the public transport system should not only be comfortable, but also affordable. Ms Dijksma shared how the city worked with the education department and private companies to loan 1,600 bicycles to students whose families could not afford them. She added that the city invests in public transport coaches who help persons with disabilities take public transport independently. Although Amsterdam is a car-lite city, she also noted that special concessions are available for car users who are differently-abled.

If we do not collaborate together, then we will end up nowhere

Ms Djiksma noted that “collaboration between different parts of government, whether it is regional, local or national” was key in developing a comprehensive cycling plan, be it installing parking for bicycles near stations or creating dedicated lanes for cycling between cities. She shared how the number of trips to and from Amsterdam were still often made by car, as options to take public transport are few. She also shared how the measures taken by different levels of government, such as building bicycle garages or using taxes to encourage people to buy bicycles instead of cars, are important to sustain the vision.

Investing in infrastructure might be costly, but is pivotal to go to the next level

While most stakeholders agree on Amsterdam’s car-lite vision, Ms Dijksma noted that there was “a lot more ambition than money” and that sustained investment was key to realise the vision. She shared how working with private sector companies, such as shared mobility operators, could unlock additional investments in public transport infrastructure, for example, through permit fees. This has the added advantage of supporting the car-lite approach and enabling the shift away from car ownership.

Cost is not the biggest issue, it is safety

When asked if cost was a factor in closing streets for pedestrian use, Ms Dijksma was quick to clarify that safety of the people using the streets was the first and foremost consideration. She shared how the city uses data to predict the response of the drivers when streets are closed, and discusses their plans with the local police and experts, to see if it is responsible to do so.

About the Speakers


Sharon Dijksma web

Sharon Dijksma
Deputy Mayor for Traffic and Transport, Water and Air Quality 

Sharon Dijksma has been Deputy Mayor for Traffic and Transport, Water, and Air Quality of the City of Amsterdam since 2018. She studied Public Administration at the University of Twente and Law at the University of Groningen. She joined the House of Representatives for the Labour Party as a member in 1994, and has been Secretary of State for Education, Culture and Science, Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Infrastructure and Environment. Sharon holds several board memberships including the founding board of BNN media group and the board of the partnership between the Stichting Expertis Onderwijsafviseurs and the Hogeschool Edith Stein/Onderwijs Twente. On occasion she is ambassador for Care International. 


Magriet Vonno

Margriet Vonno

Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Singapore and Brunei

Margriet has been Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Singapore and Brunei since 2017. In 1990 she started her career at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and held various positions in New York, Washington DC, Brussels and The Hague, and has been Director at the Strategy and Policy Advice Department at the Netherlands Ministry for Infrastructure and the Environment and Deputy Director of the Europe Department at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Margriet was member of the advisory board of international cycling conference Velocity, and board member of the Dutch Association of Public Management.  

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