Last Thursday Lauren and I met up after work at Cafe Oranjerie on the Binnen Oranjestraat ('B' on the map) on the edge of the Haarlemmerbuurt. It's narrow, one-way (like many streets in the center of Amsterdam) and quaint. Residential, shops, galleries, cafes, etc. This street connects the Jordaan neighborhood (via de Oranjebrug [Orange Bridge], 'A' on the map) with the popular, aka busy shopping street Haarlemmerdijk ('C' on the map), which also functions as an important arterial cycle road towards Central Station (one-way for cars, bi-directional for bikes). Not surprisingly, Haarlemmerdijk is one of the busiest cycle streets in Amsterdam.
View Larger Map Below: the streetview of Binnen Oranjestraat, in the direction of Oranjebrug, Jordaan. One view step ahead you'll see the cafe by panning left.
View Larger Map So that's the backdrop. Lauren and I got our tasty beers, sat down in front of the cafe and talked about our day while rush hour picked up a little steam: Mum & daughter... He was helping his mum taking a box of wine home, saying hi to the neighbors. Gender equality when it comes to picking up the kids... Dad with front load...picking up a second load. A smile & some laundry to do... Suddenly, a traffic cone appeared. It turned out to belong to a group of kids. They probably found it somewhere and decided to have a little fun with it. More than that, it was their actual intent to stop car traffic. "Car traffic?", you say? Yes, as quaint as the street is, the few cars that drive by have about the same impact on this urban environment as a whole lot more cars would have on a bigger road. Noise on this narrow street gets amplified in a way that you can quickly speak of pollution. The acoustics will drown out many conversations (like ours) and generally annoy. No matter how slow they drive. However, far worse are the scooters, which pass by at high speeds (think souped up, 2-stroke engines), higher than cars ever will and add real danger to people walking and cycling. All combined, rush hour isn't that nice in a bicycle city when a few ruin it for the rest of us, including kids who just want to play in the streets. Victory! The driver accepted her (temporary) defeat gracefully by smiling with the kids. Knowing very well this blockage could not be sustained... The answer? Simple. This street doesn't actually need to serve as a connection with/through way for Haarlemmerdijk. It only has car traffic because it's allowed and still convenient. Just like in many other areas of the city (and proven traffic grids elsewhere in the Netherlands) you can make it bicycle/walking only (no scooters either), forcing cars to make a...wait for it...250 meter detour along Brouwersgracht. So direct routes for bikes/peds, longer routes for cars. Neighbors with cars (and parking) on streets in between could get access by automated systems, as used for commercial traffic at certain hours of the day. Amsterdam is very much a livable city for all. Let's keep working at it. If not for us, do it for the children. At least they spot the bull. And do it quickly, before they grow up and forget.