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AMSTERDAM: Why it’s so efficient as a city

December 2, 2019

World-famous for its canals, cafes, bikes, amongst other things, but what else do we know about its urban form and urban layout? Apparently experiencing a population boom, Amsterdam is expanding urban development beyond the canals and relaxed downtown into outer regions. To grow the city smartly, the Amsterdam city council introduced the structural vision Amsterdam 2040 plan. It includes things like developing existing areas into mixed-used development, redevloping industrial communities and waterways, and building more high-rises and public transport. But that’s for the future; what about now? Amsterdam is the country’s largest city with a population of more than 800,000. And over 3.5 million foreign visitors each year. The Netherlands is a country situated in Western Europe bordering Belgium to the South and Germany to the East, Its North and West is the North Sea and although Netherlands is the country’s official name, people often refer to it as Holland. So now that we’ve got the basic facts out of the way, let’s talk about urban planning in Amsterdam. But just before I get started, I should mention that there are so many different aspects I can talk about and it’s impossible for me to cover everything in this video. Amsterdam was originally founded as a fishing village somewhere in the 12th Century. Like many other Europeans cities the original settlement area has a windy layout with little structure to it. It wasn’t until around the 17th Century when Amsterdam implemented the canal network and although the the original plans have been lost, it is thought to have been built mainly for transport, water and defense reasons. After the completion of the canal network in the 17th century, there was barely any construction until the 19th century on the opposite side of the canals. Nowadays however, we can find large new neighborhoods built in Western, South-Eastern and Northern parts of the city. These new neighborhoods were built to relieve the city’s shortage of living space and give people more affordable housing with modern conveniences. The neighborhoods consisted mainly of large housing blocks situated among green spaces connected to wide roads, making the neighborhoods easily accessible by vehicle. Much like majority of the cities in the world, geography has played a major part in the layout of the city. For the majority of the Netherlands, the land is generally flat, which allows for continuous urban sprawl which we can see today. However, the biggest issue the Netherlands has had to deal with is sea levels. Amsterdam is around 2-4m below sea level and without dykes, majority of the country would not exist today. How the Netherlands actually combated the sea is a whole other video. Highways in Amsterdam are definitely not as intrusive as they are in the United States. You can notice that there are no major highways splitting through the city area but much rather just circles in the areas. There are definitely main roads throughout the city and even major tunnels – the only one worth mentioning is this one right here. On the opposite side of the river, you can see it is a main arterial road. But once it comes into the city area, it just fizzles away. This is a great example of how it’s not always necessary to implement a highway directly through the downtown. So it’s since then that there is a lack of highways this definitely encourages more walking, cycling and the use of public transport. And Amsterdam is a real great example of how this can work. Transportation by car is actually discouraged by the local government with the steep parking fees and the great number of streets are actually closed off from cars in the city center. With the lack of highways throughout the city, limited car access and more cycling and walkabilty options, it overall creates a more relaxed and positive atmosphere. It can even encourage a healthier lifestyle and can benefit the local economy. Some people go as far as to call the atmosphere of Amsterdam like a large village. I should also mention that it seems there is a height limit in the majority of the inner city area which could definitely help keep the village and the relaxed atmosphere going. There has been several draft developments made in order to construct a highway through the downtown area but all have been rejected. So due to the lack of highways in the inner area, Amsterdam is known as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world and is the center of bicycle culture. Between 40-50% of all city journeys are made by bicycles. Most main streets have bike paths and bike racks are pretty much everywhere throughout the city. There are more than 1 million bicycles in the city and just in case you were wondering, around 25,000 end up in the canals each year. In a city famous for canals and small bridges, when you look at the major canal going through the city, there are several major roads going over it. But once you look closer almost all the roads actually go under the canal. Although a costly move, the reason they did this was to allow major ships to go up the canal without the constraint of height limits. There are also no bike paths going over the major canal. There are however, ferries connecting the other side. Looking at public transport is much like other cities consisting of a metro, tram, bus and ferry routes. Currently, there are 15 or so different tram routes which are great options for getting around the inner city area. The city buses will take you destinations in and outside the city center and pretty much everywhere else. The metro is also a fast alternative to navigate this city but also great for travelling outside the city area. All of these options meet and link at the Amsterdam Central Transport Hub in the city center. It really seems the city is well-covered and you can easily get to numerous places in the city without relying on a car and in certain areas, the metro track actually runs between the highways. This is a real great alternative to saving space and to keep it all compact. Now I couldn’t go any further without mentioning even more about Amsterdam’s cycling network. Many roads have 1 or 2 separate cycle ways alongside them, but even cycle lanes marked on the road. Some 35,000km of cycle track has been physically segregated from motor traffic. Which is actually equal to roughly a quarter of the country’s entire road network land. On other roads and streets, bicycles and motor vehicles share the same road space but these roads are usually with a slow speed limit. The surface quality of these bike lanes are actually really good and grading tends to be direct with gentle turns making it possible to cycle at a good speed or considerable distances. Cycleways come with their own set of rules and systems including their own set of signals, lights, tunnels and lanes. All of these small details definitely have encouraged the use of cycling in Amsterdam and the country as a whole. You can find fast bike ways and even cycling highways for long distances. A cycle street is a road where bicycles are considered to be the primary and preferred form of transport and where cars are technically allowed but they are considered as ‘guests’. What makes cycling so effective in Amsterdam and even the whole of the Netherlands is just the connectivity of these pathways. The government has clearly put a lot of priority to these types of networks whilst not forgetting about everything else in the city. Green spaces in Amsterdam is actually quite abundant. Recent studies have suggested 13% of the city is green space and if we were to compare that to other cities, that is actually quite good. For example, Los Angeles is 6.7% and Melbourne is 9%. And if we factor in space from canals, it definitely really creates an open and relaxed vibe. Social planning studies suggest that the more open and green space there is in a city, the more subconsciously you feel happier. Now, as I mentioned earlier in the video, the council has created the Structural Amsterdam 2040 Vision Master Plan. Basically this plan was made to help manage the 150,000 new inhabitants between now and 2040. It includes developing office and parks into mix-used residential communities and redeveloping industrial areas and river fronts and building more high-rise wind farms and public transport networks. The overreaching goal is to ‘densify’ existing communities and build new suburban business, commercial and residential districts that maximize the space as effectively as possible. Although this is going to be done within the encircling highway around the city. Now by focusing on the area within the highway ring, basically limits any further suburban sprawl outside of the highway area. Basically the new motto for the 2040 masterplan is Densifying, Redeveloping and Repurposing and the plan has outlined 6 new main special tasks. These include densify, transform, public transport on a regional scale, high quality of public space, invest in recreational use of green space and water and converting to sustainable energy. The number one special task is densify. A total of 70,000 new developments are proposed between now and 2040 along with required infrastructure including schools, retail and sports facilities. The 2040 masterplan also calls for the redevelopment of several waterways throughout the city and the redevelopment of the Southern Business District called ‘Zuidas’. The new city plan set out by the council are already being implemented in the South suburb of ‘Zuidas’. Which literally translates to: South Axis. The growth of this Southern Business District has promoted an upgrade to its buildings and transportation. In case I didn’t mention earlier, ‘Zuidas’ or South Axis is a 2nd downtown area for Amsterdam.The only difference between the 2 is that this one is on the outskirts relying on highway and train connections. In the heart of this suburb, the train station is now under development and is going to be the 2nd largest rail transport hub in the city, linking all of Amsterdam’s neighborhoods with each other. The rest of the Netherlands and much of Western Europe. The 2040 master-plan also outlines the needs to further implement more public transport routes and cycling networks. Amsterdam is quite advanced in terms of urban planning and although not 100% perfect, it is definitely on the right track and should be a model city for others who want to achieve similar outcomes. Cities can learn a lot from their former-selves and this is exactly what Amsterdam has done. Before the rise of cars, streets were filled with people and everyone was connected. Nowadays, in most modern cities, people are definitely not connected – they are more car-centered. Amsterdam is slowly taking back its streets and is reverting to an older time in urban planning history. I really thought Amsterdam would be a really great first city for this series, demonstrating all of its advanced urban planning methods and achievements. And there isn’t much a need to recommend or suggest. And if there’s one thing you can take away from this video, it’s this. Amsterdam is a city for its people, not cars. Amsterdam is a social city and a social city will give you a reason to enjoy your journey, even if it takes slightly longer than driving.

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  • Reply Sam Bur June 29, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    What should be the next city ?

  • Reply A October 24, 2018 at 11:14 pm

    800,000 citizens with 3.5 million tourists? Wtf.

  • Reply chj020 November 8, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    3.5 million foreign visitors? 17.6 last year

  • Reply G.J. Radsma November 22, 2018 at 7:51 am

    Around 10:00 a guy picks up a crate of beer from the water next to the statue… Hilarious!

  • Reply V1K1NG_C010N3L November 27, 2018 at 7:10 pm


  • Reply Dicky Strike December 9, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    Agenda21 bullshit that confronts people with cars they ride

  • Reply James Ho December 14, 2018 at 6:32 am

    This is what happens when you don’t have urban sprawl

  • Reply Catharina Loonen December 15, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    Thank you, you taught me some stuff I didn't know about a city I live about half an hour away from. My knowledge about Amsterdam's infrastructure didn't go beyond: "you must be brain damaged to actually want to take your car into the city centre, because if the traffic won't make you want to drive straight into a canal, the parking costs will".

  • Reply Dodo Maker December 16, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    I am from Netherlands ☺️

  • Reply alex braas December 16, 2018 at 9:39 pm

    I live in the netherlands

  • Reply 清水ケビン December 17, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    Amsterdam is not that efficient, especially with the growing population, the city is just too small, too handle more than a million people…

  • Reply Elizabeth Stetler December 25, 2018 at 5:54 am

    Went there and loved it —

  • Reply The Student Official December 28, 2018 at 1:02 am

    I wonder if Netherlands stayed colonizing Indonesia

  • Reply DANNYonPC December 28, 2018 at 1:55 am

    Amsterdam is the best city ever
    (Source: Am Sterdammer)

  • Reply hairytofu December 29, 2018 at 3:36 am

    how can we have walkability in a tropical city like Singapore?

  • Reply David Vilchez January 3, 2019 at 12:37 am

    I've been 3 times. Was there 3 months ago and getting around with the public transit system via bicycle or tram is super easy! My favorite city on earth

  • Reply Commentator541 January 3, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    It has like 350 000 thousand residents and is sitting on a flat plane next to the sea. Of course it's easy to be efficient.

  • Reply Claire M January 3, 2019 at 9:40 pm

    I was tripping balls with that thumbnail. The windows don't look like they are straight. It's a optical illusion

  • Reply Michael Zemaitis January 5, 2019 at 12:07 am

    "amongst other things"

  • Reply January 5, 2019 at 4:30 am

    Amsterdam is a nice city to visit.
    @8:55 Hobo traveler picking up cold beer from fountain 🙂

  • Reply Elliott Getz January 5, 2019 at 5:02 pm


  • Reply Anthony ZIzza January 6, 2019 at 9:10 am

    I want to live there so bad. <3

  • Reply Binozia - Tech January 7, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    I just realised I’m watching Sam bur

  • Reply Binozia - Tech January 7, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    Good choice of music for the video not some crazy dubstep louder than the person that is talking

  • Reply Alexandre Potvin January 8, 2019 at 4:37 am

    It seems there's a height limit?

  • Reply Dimitar Motev January 8, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    I think Sofia, Bulgaria could be reviewed in a new series called "Why it’s so inefficient as a city" and how badly it's being planned for the future 🙂

  • Reply tigch January 9, 2019 at 10:25 am

    haha de swied-as

  • Reply Nicholas Camp January 9, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    You talk too fast.

  • Reply Tsa Szymborska January 10, 2019 at 7:16 am

    Amsterdam is not the center of bicycle culture in the Netherlands. We just bike everywhere, and because there are a lot of people in Amsterdam there are a lot of bikes there too.

  • Reply Nic Jansen January 13, 2019 at 12:17 am

    8:08 Zuïdas? Zu-idas?
    Wat zeggie nou?
    Jeez… is it that hard for you bloody foreigners? 😛
    Ok, you could be further from the Dutch pronunciation by lengthening the a, but you're off quite a bit already

    The "ui" in Zuidas is a single sound. If we were to separate the u and the i, the i would be written like ï, or there would be a dash in between.
    Since all that's not the case, we pronounce it just like the google translate lady does.
    Do your pronunciation homework next time please

  • Reply Roy Hoeksema January 13, 2019 at 11:49 am

    0:14 talks about Amsterdam yet has a pic of the Reitdiephaven in Groningen in the background

  • Reply Fleur Nightingale January 13, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    as a Dutch girl, I can say that most of this stuff is accurate. nicely done Sam Bur

  • Reply Fleurix January 13, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    Holland is a province…. god it bothers me so much when people (in general, not you) refer to the whole country as such…. Its like referring to all of the United States as "California"

  • Reply Sander Fitzwilliam January 14, 2019 at 11:07 pm

    Great to see a video about my city that is not about it being a tourist destination, but rather a modern , living and breathing capital city. Id say its greatest succes in making it a great place to live is the lack of motor traffic like you explaned very well. When going on city trips I always notice how many cars there are and how bad cities smell. Amsterdam managed to make it so inconvenient for cars that you only use them if you really have no other option. Im 38 and I dont even have a drivers license , there is just no need. In this regard the city could really function as a international model on how to deal with traffic without losing efficency. Thanks for the vid, great stuff!

  • Reply Cosmonauteable January 15, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    Now all it needs is to import about 1 million refugees to make it a wonderful diverse city!

  • Reply dbredenbeek January 15, 2019 at 5:36 pm

    As a urban planner who studies in Amsterdam I agree on most but some parts I really miss, also the height in the city center is due to the doable construction limits from the time, this evolved into a height limit eventually. The first canals served as a defence towards the south of Amsterdam and a sewage system, in the further expansions they served as waterways for transport of goods and to get materials to building sites.

  • Reply AngryBoy January 15, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    Because of drugs and whores.

  • Reply MrAppie9090 January 15, 2019 at 10:28 pm

    Amsterdam is fucking overrated. It's way to expensive and it's a tourist trap. Rotterdam is a real city, great architecture, and not such a touristy destination.

  • Reply Evan11 January 16, 2019 at 12:51 am

    One of my favorite cities

  • Reply The United Provinces January 16, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    It may seem awesome, but amsterdam does not respresent the netherlands in any way… far more crime, more foreigners, more muslims, less dutch culture, more tourists….

  • Reply Mushroom_hunter January 17, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Your wrong, amsterdam is the worst city in the netherlands

  • Reply 121212 January 17, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    Still Amsterdam will be horrible because it has a extreme leftist government and major… people will flee it because of immigrants and criminals

  • Reply pineappleG January 17, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    supprised you diden't talk about weed

  • Reply TG Leviathan January 18, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    Great video but Amsterdam is by far NOT as efficient as you describe. Maybe it was in the 1800 but after WW2 the city plunged into a metropolis of inefficiency. Most roads in Amsterdam are unable to handle the vast amount of traffic that goes into the city so congestion is something most residents have come to accept. Then there are the tons of trucks that invade the city to bring supplies to all the shops and again bringing traffic to a grinding halt. A failing tram system that gets older and older but is very poorly maintained and now the infamous Noord-Zuidlijn a subway that goes from the north all the way to the south that was completed June 2018 and only took 10 years longer to complete from it's original plans back in the 50ies.

    Amsterdam is still one big hole because of that subway and now they decided that trucks won't be alowed back into the city because of all the traffic jams but at the same time no solution is being sought for on how shops now are going to get their stuff. Some have suggested that some of the obsolete tram lines can be used to get product to the shops.

  • Reply Pyrozfears January 18, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    "Zwiedas" lmao
    Nice video Sam, Amsterdam was efficient at the time you made this video, but now a semi-communist party took over city control and they are messing up the city.

  • Reply David Belfort January 19, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    I've been there, but i couldnt enjoy all of what you talked about because I was high all the time.

  • Reply amosa mwig January 19, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    man this was boring..
    Good for taking a nap

  • Reply Willem Aardappels January 19, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    Verdomme man dat ge-Holland is maar niks je praat dan over 2/12e van het land

  • Reply Rhayr Harry January 19, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    This is awesome. I so wish that Lithuania moves towards this model of commuting by bikes. Currently if you cycle in Kaunas your quite likely to get run over. Even though things are improving and more bike lanes are being built. We still have a long way to go to get anywhere near to Dutch model.

  • Reply Patrick January 20, 2019 at 12:32 am

    They should build a wall arround that city.

  • Reply TheTruth76 January 20, 2019 at 11:02 am

    Noisy poluted city with artificial overpriced properties at 8000 Euro/m2!
    Not to mention the horrible leftish city counsil.
    You do not want to live there, nice for a visit as foreigner, but the rest…….

  • Reply rockkiller124 January 20, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    I wanna travel so badly :/

  • Reply Rens Gervers January 21, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    Just for any outsiders: Compared to other Dutch cities Amsterdam is an absolute degenerate and chaotic shithole; It's practicly in a state of anarchy/revolting against the national governement, it's badly planned, disgusting and in general the people are considered to be insufferable (they are seen as either dumbfucks or arrogant)

  • Reply Pnkj D. gr8 January 21, 2019 at 10:19 pm


  • Reply The Saltiest Shake January 22, 2019 at 2:06 am

    If the Netherlands thinks they're only going to get 150,000 more people arriving in Amsterdam between now and 2040 they have another think coming.

  • Reply Alex Boehm January 22, 2019 at 6:07 am

    proof read your scripts before recording.

  • Reply Platvoet January 22, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    Holland?! TRIGGERED

  • Reply jurriaan Adema January 23, 2019 at 1:51 pm


  • Reply 93011454 January 24, 2019 at 8:56 am

    however Holland is also incorrect because it's just the the name of the province ( like american states). also Amsterdam our capital is in north Holland. (it's basically like north and south Carolina)

  • Reply Felix ten Haaf January 25, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    You can say what you want about Amsterdam, but it is not ‘chill’ or ‘laidback’. The centre especially is very stressing and there’s no tranquility to be found. Would even go as far as to compare it to London in terms of crowdedness in the centre.

  • Reply ALTAR BEATZ January 26, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    Thanx Grtz from Amsterdam Or in the peoples mouth.. MOKUM

  • Reply XNX.ROmania January 27, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    Amsterdam is so eficient because it basically run on WEED! 😉

  • Reply JerEditz January 28, 2019 at 11:29 am

    Santa Monica shares some similarities there. Its in the LA area and I think is the main place thats biker friendly. I mean alot of places in LA have dedicated biking lanes, but Santa Monica is the place.

  • Reply Boris Prins February 1, 2019 at 11:50 am

    8:54 Who else like to keep their beers in the water to the right?

  • Reply G.B de Jong February 1, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    It's a shithole.

  • Reply Grythix February 2, 2019 at 11:58 pm

    Great video! I loved it there 🙂 I even made a vlog of my experience with my university friends 🔥🔥

  • Reply Estera Kowalczyk February 14, 2019 at 8:39 pm

    is ticed ~:*

  • Reply lo co March 1, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    More videos

  • Reply The Armchair SpacemanTM March 13, 2019 at 10:28 pm

    its because cannibis is legal. pure and simple, a whole sector of productive society is not ostracised, lied about, belittled, criminalised, and shunned by employers, thus theres more folk available to provide services and labour. and of course, on a ecological level The Netherlands are worlds ahead of the rest of europe, which it could be argued is a direct result of liberal intellectual thinking brought in to mainstream thinking by a side-effect of the legalisation of weed.

  • Reply Jannis Höntscher March 19, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    I would love to live there

  • Reply AJ Zebadua April 28, 2019 at 3:35 pm

    If you ever pick this up as a full series, I'd suggest looking at the cities of Ottawa, Canada, and Hong Kong for their planning and specifically public transit planning.

  • Reply WR3ND May 2, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    Their primary plan's goal is "densifying" the city? Yeah… that's working out swell for Hong Kong. -.-' Well, there goes the neighborhood.

  • Reply Strong Passion May 2, 2019 at 6:13 pm

    Never Amsterdam again , we are robbed there, a lot of crime in this city. We are robbed there, a lot of crime . So watch out .

  • Reply Sunday Thursday May 14, 2019 at 6:04 pm

    If you bike you're getting somewhere as well as exercising and you can spend less time and money on a car and a gym

  • Reply sumanjit arora June 26, 2019 at 8:11 am


  • Reply Oldhammyham July 16, 2019 at 5:36 am

    Great vid, Sam.

  • Reply Jack Havranek August 6, 2019 at 1:52 am

    Great video really brings out your eyes!!

  • Reply Danny Cohen August 8, 2019 at 10:29 am

    Lekdijk, ook niet echt Amsterdam, maar meer midden van t land!!!

  • Reply WJ Koopman August 13, 2019 at 10:38 pm

    First of all, great video, I enjoyed watching/listening very much! Just wanted to say/add a few things: because of the "narrow" streets in the center cycling actually gets you faster to your destination than driving. So you'll enjoy your journey through this "social city" even more. The major canal that you're reffering to at 4:11 is actually not a canal, but a natural waterway, called the IJ. It is the estuary of 2 small rivers, the Zaan and the Amstel, into the IJsselmeer, what used to be the Zuiderzee, or South See. At 5:20 you show a german bicycle path picture. It would never be like that in the Netherlands. The part for cyclists would be red to emphasize it. Traffic laws in the Netherlands protect cyclists to great extent, so it must be clear where they are allowed/have priority. And about the green space, there are new developements on the canals themselves to increase green space in the city by creating "platforms" on the sides of the canals outside of the center which they fill with low vegetation. This also increases breeding space for waterbirds. So the precentage of green space will increase over time.

  • Reply Reviews Because-I-Care September 6, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    5:44 I was confused… I thought it was a road through the sea, then it occurred to me it's frosted grass

  • Reply Johan Petersson September 15, 2019 at 10:19 pm

    Well I thought it was most famous for its coffeeshops

  • Reply Victor September 16, 2019 at 3:05 am

    This graphics so real for Cities Skylines 3 release in 2040 🙂

  • Reply ZankerBoy Groetjes aan je Moer September 27, 2019 at 12:03 am


  • Reply Mark Knudsen November 16, 2019 at 5:58 am

    Hey Sam Bur! How would you implement some or most of the items you mentioned about Amsterdam in a city for Cities: Skylines?
    Also, what's a good multi platform metro station?

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