Amsterdam’s Flower Solution

The City of Amsterdam has many canals. It also has many cyclists. It is a regular mode of transportation for many in the Netherlands, and since COVID the number of cyclists has increased. It allows people to avoid public transportation and also to feel safer than inside a car. Using some form of cycling has become so entrenched  many said they would continue it after the pandemic. The city now has more cyclists than people with something like 438 miles of cycle lanes. Those lanes are not only for bicycles but all sorts of cycles, motorized, electric, cargo and racing bikes. Before the virus lanes were already overcrowded, now it is of course worse. The problem as it is for those cities which rely on cars is parking. Lanes are often not wide enough for both parking and passage. People have been parking on the canal bridges chaining their bicycle to the fence, making it difficult for people to walk. Instead pedestrians have to walk on the street which is dangerous. It also interferes with sightseeing and with tourists since standing on the canal admiring the city becomes difficult. The answer: the city has now installed large wooden flower boxes in an effort for people not to park there. What is even more noteworthy about this story is that the flower boxes are to be tended by the homeless people who visit one of the city’s drop-in centers.

I once had a professor who was an expert on parking. His solutions, which have been adopted in several cities including Los Angeles,  revolved around charging for parking or charging  more. For those cities where charging or charging more wouldn’t have been viable, we would have found a technology oriented one. In either case Amsterdam’s answer is a reminder of how easy it is to forget simple people-based solutions—and in this case flower-based ones too.

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