Exploring the world's built environments and seeking sustainable solutions.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

AMSTERDAM Prinsengracht: A Complete Street?

Prinsengracht: A Complete Street?
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A complete street is a street functional for all modes of transportation, including but not restricted to: pedestrians, cyclists, public transportation, and cars. However, what makes a street unique is how the city prioritizes it's modes of transportation and the emphasis given to each. A sustainable complete street emphasizes all modes of transit other than personal vehicles.
We chose Prinsengracht as the subject of our complete street case study in Amsterdam. This street is a smaller street off of the bustling, commercial Leidsestraat. We chose this particular street because of its location off of a wide and populated main street. Prinsengracht is a street cut by a canal, a feature fairly unique to Amsterdam, with shops on the ground floor and residential living above. The residential aspect of this street was important to us because we wanted to observe a realistic view of life in Amsterdam. On Prinsengracht we caught a glimpse of daily life in a dense urban area, while avoiding the tourists, who stayed on Leidsestraat.
Prinsengracht contained unique planning with room for improvement. There was no separate bike lane on this street; bikes were required to share the road with cars. Despite this lack of planning there wasn't a problem because there is little car traffic on Prinsengracht. The sidewalks were narrow, with just enough room for two people walking side-by-side. This was more of a problem because there were many pedestrians walking the street and stopping along outdoor cafes. Prinsengracht also has access to boat traffic and there are boats parked along the entire length of the canal. There is no public transportation on Prinsengracht, but there is a tram stop directly at the end of the street that runs along Leidsestraat.
Prinsengracht has access to all modes of transportation: pedestrian, bike, public transportation and car. However, none are emphasized over the other. Every form of transportation on the street was very small and narrow, with little land allocated to each. If improvements could be made to the street, we would recommend making the sidewalks wider for pedestrians. From a personal pedestrian perspective, we would have liked to have had a safer place to walk along the street. Another observation is that there are a lot of parking spaces perpendicular to the canal, which surprised us. A suggestion would be to reduce the number of parking spaces and making them parallel with the canal, opening up space for a bike lane. Additionally, bike parking is needed on the street because there were clumps of bicycles parked along the entire length of the street, taking up sidewalk space for pedestrians. Some of these changes will be harder to implement than others, but have the potential to make a big difference in all methods of transportation.

1 comment:

  1. Although the Prinsengracht might be something 'unique' to Amsterdam, it is by no means a 'normal' street. (actually, the name Prinsengracht refers to the canal itself ("gracht"), and the streets on both sides of the canal have the same name ;-)). Houses within the canal-belts of Amsterdam usually gross over €1 million, and are therefore pretty much exclusively for the rich. (see here for an example: http://www.funda.nl/koop/amsterdam/huis-48529396-prinsengracht-851/). The canal was constructed in 1612, and cars and trams etc did not exist in that time yet. The inner city of Amsterdam was, however, designed with ship-based transport in mind. Widening the streets lining the canal to fit to modern land-based transport would probably be nigh impossible: the entire city of Amsterdam within the Singel canal is a UNESCO world heritage site, and you don't go about destroying monumental buildings just for the sake of a nice bike lane ;-). That said, it is nigh impossible to even *reach* the Singelgracht by car (center is mostly off-limits for cars), so you can generally just walk and bike in the middle of the street ;-).