Bikes are everywhere in cycle-friendly Amsterdam, and the city even has more bicycles than it has people: 881,000 bikes compared to 821,752 residents. But as the number of bicycles continues to increase – partly because more people are cycling instead of taking public transport because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – Amsterdam’s narrow streets and bridges are growing more crowded. Now the local government has decided to step in and dissuade cyclists from parking their two-wheelers by setting up large flower boxes and planters on bridges across the city.
The city has complained that pedestrians are forced to walk in the street because of the number of bicycles chained to the bridges, which also blights the view down the canals. But soon the city’s busiest bridges will be in bloom with wooden flower boxes. Amsterdam has some 400km of bicycle paths, and before the pandemic, it was estimated that half of all journeys in the city were on two wheels. Last year, Amsterdam announced that it would reduce the number of parking spaces for cars to make room for bicycle stands over the next six years.
Amsterdam has been making bigger moves to restore the balance between visitors and locals, as it’s one of the main cities in Europe that has struggled with overtourism. In 2019, it saw 19 million visitors, though the city’s population is less than one million. In January, the city increased the tax on tourist accommodation, charging a flat fee of €3 ($3.25) per person per night on hotel stays, in addition to the current 7% room rate. Visitors staying in Airbnb rentals pay an increased rent of 10% per night. Airbnbs and other holiday rentals are now banned in three of the city’s districts, and elsewhere rentals can only be let out for 30 nights each year.
‘The beauty of the city center of Amsterdam lies on one hand in the historic canals and architecture, and on the other hand in a diverse mixture of people living, working and visiting here,’ Mascha ten Bruggencate, who chairs the council of Amsterdam’s central district, told Lonely Planet earlier this year. ‘We owe it to ourselves and the people living here to keep the city a place to live in the first place, where visitors are welcome.’
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