Amsterdams IJtunnel Opens to Cyclists During Dutch Transit Strike

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Amid a Transit Strike, This Dutch Tunnel Turned Into a Bike Highway Bicycling A nationwide transit strike hit the Netherlands on Tuesday, bringing most trains, buses, trams, and ferries to a halt. In

  • A nationwide transit strike in the Netherlands prompted Amsterdam to open a major tunnel to cyclists on Tuesday.
  • The IJtunnel, connecting central Amsterdam to the city’s north end, was also closed to car traffic.
  • The major road essentially became a highway for bike commuters.

A nationwide transit strike hit the Netherlands on Tuesday, bringing most trains, buses, trams, and ferries to a halt. In response, city officials in Amsterdam got creative, opening a car-only tunnel to cyclists.

If you were wondering what an officially sanctioned bike takeover of a major roadway looks like, it’s this:

That’s the IJtunnel, a mile-plus underground road connecting central Amsterdam to the city’s north end. With two lanes going in each direction, it has a posted speed limit of 50 kph (about 31 mph) and typically serves only drivers commuting beneath the IJ waterway that crosses the city.

But since ferries did not run over the IJ on Tuesday, officials closed the tunnel to “fast-moving” car traffic, essentially turning it into an efficient—and quiet—highway for bicycles. (Pedestrians still could not use the tunnel.)

Videos taken at the site showed scores of cyclists entering the tunnel in a matter of seconds. The Dutch Cycling Assembly, a public-private network of bike experts and consultants, gathered some of the most eye-opening footage in a thread on Twitter.

The strike came amid a fight over pensions for Dutch workers across industries. Other trade unions plan to strike on Wednesday, in support of demands to freeze the pension age at 66 and have pensions rise along with inflation. But transit workers decided to hold their strike a day earlier, so as not to interfere with other labor actions.

Dutch commuters had prepared for a slow commute on Tuesday, and indeed the roads saw heavier traffic than usual. According to the news site, 520K (about 323 miles) of roads in the small country of 17 million people were jammed with traffic during the morning commute.

Nederlands Verplaatsingpanel, a traffic-counting program using GPS phone data, found a 5 percent increase in average commuting time on Tuesday morning. Data also showed that car use increased by 9 percent during the strike. Cycling and walking, meanwhile, actually decreased by 17 percent, though observers credited this to bad weather during the morning commute.

Furthermore, the Netherlands already has one of the world’s highest rates of bike commuting: Cycling accounted for 27 percent of all commuter trips nationwide in 2016. In Amsterdam, that number rose to 48 percent, compared to 21 percent for cars and 17 percent for public transit.

Still, as Dutch cycling advocates took the opportunity to note, the IJtunnel closure showed how much urban space has been given over almost exclusively to cars, even in a bike-friendly city like Amsterdam.

Although uncommon, the IJtunnel does occasionally close to car traffic for races, protests, and other events. It had previously opened to cyclists during two other transit strikes, in 2005 and 1993.

Jessica Coulon Assistant Digital Editor When she’s not out riding her mountain bike, Jessica reports on news, gear, and all things cycling related for Bicycling.

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