AMSTERDAM – If you regularly walk or bike around Toronto the scene in the photo above is probably familiar to you. Construction work forces you to cross the street (if you’re a pedestrian) or share a narrower lane with traffic (if you’re a cyclist). It can be annoying, but I think for the most part we accept these detours and slight inconveniences as fair payment for the necessary work of building our city. But are there other options; better ways of temporarily closing bits of public space?
In Amsterdam – and presumably the whole of the Netherlands and other more bike-friendly nations – there is a better way. Instead of telling cyclists and pedestrians, “Sorry, you’re out of luck,” this space is temporarily relocated (see photo below). Sure the sidewalk and bike lanes are narrower than usual and not as segregated from car traffic, but the space is preserved and pedestrians and cyclists can continue their journey pretty much undisturbed. It’s functional and it maintains traffic flow (yes, in the Netherlands bike traffic flow is given due consideration). More importantly it tells those not in cars that they matter and that someone respects their needs and was thinking about them when they planned out this construction job. As bizarre as it may sound, realizing this fact can give you a warm feeling inside.
Top photo by gbalogh.