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.