Amsterdam says goodbye to wheel clamps
Amsterdam says goodbye to wheel clamps.
We've all seen them. The bright yellow clamps attached to the front wheel of a badly-parked vehicle. The angry reaction when the unsuspecting motorist returns to discover his car has been clamped. Usually they don't notice until they see the black and yellow sticker on their windscreen warning them not to start the car as they settle into the driving seat. This familiar scene will become a thing of the past as wheel clamps will disappear from the streets of Amsterdam as of 1 January of next year.
Wheel clamps were introduced in 1985, when the capital had a notorious parking problem. Drivers regularly had to cruise the area looking for a parking space. The first pilot only covered a 50 metre strip on one of Amsterdam's famous canals. Then the fine was a symbolic 2 guilders 50 (just over a euro). Meanwhile a parking ticket has increased to over 100 euros. Last year alone, 22,000 vehicles were clamped in the capital. The success of the measure is perhaps best illustrated in a reality television show called Wheel Clamp and Co, which follows the working day of traffic wardens. In the past twenty years, several other measures have been introduced to alleviate congestion and parking problems in Amsterdam.
Following a referendum in 1992, the local council decided not to make the city car-free, but to drastically reduce the influx of vehicles into the centre. The number of parking spaces was actually reduced. Parking metres were introduced. Residents had to get onto a waiting list for a permit to park in the own neighbourhood and could only apply for one permit per household. The policies seem to have worked. The traffic jams along the canals have disappeared, and for anybody willing to pay around 3 euros an hour there are plenty of parking spaces.
The message the city council wants to send out to rest of the country is, drive to Amsterdam by all means, but not into the centre. "Transferiums" where you park your car on the outskirts of the metropolis and receive a free ticket for public transport were not particularly popular at first. But the new Park and Ride concept at just 5 euros 50 for a day and free public transport is an attractive alternative to the expensive inner city tariffs.
The council is encouraging car sharing schemes, by giving car share companies free parking lots. And once a year there is the Car Free Sunday, usually combined with a major sporting event to help drive the healthy lifestyle message home. Even North Amsterdam, which up to now is the only district still to have free parking, is planning to introduce paid parking around its shopping centre next year.
The raft of measures taken since 1985 has probably made the unpopular clamping policy slightly redundant especially as, in the future, traffic wardens will be able to use scanners to check whether motorists have paid their fines. Certainly nobody will miss the wheel clamp and its absence will definitely improve Amsterdam's visitor-friendly image.
8 September 2008