Watch: Amsterdam tunnel turned into cycling highway during transport strike

Officials took an unexpected step to benefit the city’s cyclists

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A nationwide transport strike in the Netherlands became an opportunity for the city’s cyclists, as a car-only tunnel was turned into a highway for bikes.

The 1.6km-long IJtunnel connects the centre of Amsterdam with the north of the city and is usually only open to motor vehicles.

But as Dutch workers went on strike across the nation and transport ground to a halt, officials opted to take the unique opportunity and open the tunnel to cyclists on Tuesday (May 28).

Most trains, buses, trams and ferries were stopped amid the industrial action, but Amsterdam cyclists were able to efficiently make their way around.

Video footage from the tunnel shows a huge number of people using the route, which runs under the IJ waterway.

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The Dutch Cycling Embassy said on Twitter: “There is a major public transport strike today, which means no train, tram, bus, or ferry service across the Netherlands.

“To retain timely and efficient access to the city, Amsterdam opened the (previously car-only) IJtunnel to bikes and emergency services.”

Cycling is ingrained in the Dutch DNA after major investment in two-wheeled transport started in the 1970s.

A post-war boom in car use in Amsterdam led to 3,000 people being killed in 1971, 450 of them children, with money being spent to improve cyclist safety.

That investment has resulted in 400km of bike paths across the city, with around half of journeys being undertaken by bike.

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Back in Britain, two thirds of people say that cycling is “too dangerous,” according to a National Travel Attitudes Study – exactly the same number as in 2011.

The government’s walking and cycling strategy states that it wants these currently underused modes of transport to be the ‘natural choice’ for shorter journeys by 2040, but progress is currently going in the wrong direction.

Multiple surveys have shown that close passes are one of the biggest deterrents from cycling, alongside sharing the road with lorries and poor road surface.

A recent British Cycling survey of its members showed that a similar number – 66 per cent – felt concerned for their safety whilst cycling on the road, and 79 per cent regarded close passes as one of the major hazards.

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.