A few hundred drivers gathered on the Piet Heijnkade to demonstrate against the traffic policy of the municipality of Amsterdam.Photo: Olivier Smits

A few hundred taxi drivers demonstrated on the Piet Heinkade on Wednesday to express their dissatisfaction with the traffic policy of the municipality of Amsterdam. The drivers speak of an unworkable situation. According to them, the measure is more than full. “If we do nothing, nothing will happen.”

It is 15.00 hours when the demonstration starts. A few hundred taxi drivers have responded to the call to demonstrate against the traffic policy of the municipality. The Piet Heinkade, where the protest is taking place, is packed with taxis. Some vehicles are parked on the sidewalk.

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Taxi protest on the Piet Heinkade. That is against the sore leg of the police, who want to fine one of the taxis parked on the sidewalk. About thirty drivers fly towards it. However, tempers quickly calmed down. The drivers start the conversation and explain to the officer that a demonstration is taking place. The taxi driver in question was spared a picture.

Detour The drivers are dissatisfied with the current traffic policy of the municipality. The eventual closure of the Weesperstraat and the closing of the Eastern entrance are the drop that breaks the camel’s back for the taxi drivers. “Ahead of here, a very important tunnel has been closed for us,” explains Zouhair Bakali. He serves as one of the spokespersons for the demonstration. “That tunnel will be one-way traffic. However, this road is one of the only roads on which we can drive directly to the center. Now we all have to drive all the way around. As a result, a twenty-euro ride now costs about forty euros.”

“On balance, it doesn’t make you any better,” adds taxi entrepreneur Stef Keij. “Although you earn more money, you also lose more time because of all the traffic jams and congestion.” According to Bakali, the consequences of the current Amsterdam traffic policy are incalculable. “We are the victims of this. And not only we, but also the environment and the passenger sacrifice. Quarrels also arise. Then just keep those streets open.”

Freedom of choice All well-known names from the Amsterdam taxi world are present at the demonstration. One of them is Hedy Borreman, director of Taxicentrale Amsterdam (TCA). She also criticizes the municipality’s traffic policy. “I think that Amsterdam does not take taxis into account in any way within a city that wants to become car-free. We understand that it is busy in the city. But if you want people to leave the car behind, you have to make sure they have a choice in which mode they want to go from A to B. That is not always public transport, the bicycle or the scooter.”

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Taxis are blocking the road De Ruijterkade. “In fact”, Borreman continues her story. “It now even seems that many measures are specifically aimed at blocking taxi movements in the city centre. We are no longer allowed to cross in some places. We just want to get from A to B quickly. Also to transport our passengers quickly, so that the price for a ride remains reasonable. We regularly receive questions from passengers about why it takes so long and why a ride is so expensive. That is simply because we have to drive around everywhere and cannot drive directly from A to B. We will soon be stuck en masse in the city. That is something we do not want.”

What should the municipality of Amsterdam do to put the genie back in the bottle, according to Borreman? “These drivers all want alternatives that allow them to do their job. In some cases, this means that the closures that are currently in place, such as Muntplein or Paleisstraat, will be opened. This also applies to the tramways, such as those on Dam Square. If things like that just keep going on, you can come up with alternatives for the taxi together in good consultation. That is what we mainly want.”

Flags One of the drivers pulls out a plastic bag. The bag is full of Amsterdam flags. He hands out these flags to his colleagues. These are eagerly received, after which the flags are tied to the taxis. The atmosphere is pleasant. The drivers have a chat with each other and discuss what will happen next, because there is still some uncertainty about that.

There are also a handful of drivers at the back of the queue. They talk about the practical problems they encounter every day. According to them, there are not enough parking places for the number of taxis in Amsterdam. They are also regularly thrown on the ticket by enforcement. “I get one or two fines a week,” says one of them. The amount of the fines often vary between 100 and 768 euros.

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Parked taxis in front of the Michiel de Ruijtertunnel. Then an elderly lady passes by on her bicycle. She gets off and asks the drivers what’s going on here. “A demonstration, ma’am,” says one of the drivers. They explain that this is partly due to the traffic congestion in the city. “You are absolutely right, it should be over,” says the woman, after which she gets back on her bike.

Horns There is movement in the group. The drivers get back into their taxis, after which they leave the Piet Heinkade while honking their horns. They leave for Central Station. There they block several roads, causing a traffic jam around Amsterdam Central. After standing on the road for a while, the group moves towards the Stationsplein. They hand out flyers to passersby. When asked if the drivers are not afraid of putting themselves in a bad light by this blockade, one of them replies: “No. Something has to be done now. If we do nothing, nothing will happen. This is just a taste of what is to come.”

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