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Green Talk: Sustainable Transporation

Amsterdam’s leading role in sustainable transport

Mobility is essential in any city. We depend on it for going to work, school, leisure, for visiting family and friends and for many production processes. However, the transport sector is rightly one of the first things that comes into mind thinking about environmental pollution and the perfect solution for a greener transport system is yet to be found.

Amsterdam appears to be one of the leading cities in this area with several sustainable innovations being implemented. The city’s nickname of ‘capital of bikes’ certainly gives Amsterdam a sustainable image (even though taking the car is still the predominant transport mode), but there is still a lot to learn about this topic. So, to inform and to inspire UvA students and anyone interested, the Green Office organised a lecture in which experts in the field shared their knowledge and thoughts on sustainable transport in Amsterdam. Luca Bertolini, professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the UvA, and Cornelia Dinca, founder of ‘SustainableAmsterdam,’ told the audience all about the current challenges and innovations of our city.

Most intriguing where perhaps the pictures of Amsterdam in the seventies that Cornelia showed us. The city centre – where in a few weeks, parking costs will rise up to €7,50 per hour to discourage the use of cars- used to resemble one big parking lot, making the streets unsafe for other users, and the popular green square in front of Rijksmuseum used to be a busy road, almost like a motorway paralleling Vondelpark. Interestingly, already back then the locals tried to fight against this car-ruled city. There even was a electric car share project in the early seventies [look up Witkaron YouTube].

Despite the failure of this project several decades ago, Amsterdam is now a frontrunner in electric vehicles, with a high density of charging points. The municipality released several plans to improve the sustainability of Amsterdam’s transport system, and the capital aims to be mostly emission free by 2025.

Are electric cars and improved public transport the solution? After the lecture we could conclude that, in spite of many efforts and improvements throughout the years, there is no perfect model for transport in metropoles yet. Prof Bertolini called this ‘exciting,’ because there is still so much room for innovations. However, it might also be worrying. Transport is only one of the big systems we have to change, and mobility is only of increasing importance. Are we going to find and implement the perfect solution in time? Can sustainable development and economic or urban growth really go together? These unanswered questions left us with some food for thought, to reflect upon next time we cycle through the city.

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