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New issues in an old debate

[By Wim Pijbes] – The Rijksmuseum Passage has not been used for almost ten years. As a result, many people have trouble visualizing the new situation. The Rijksmuseum frequently receives questions from Amsterdammers who were familiar with the old passage and cannot yet form an idea of the future Passage. The Zuid District Administration has approved the decision to reserve the Passage for pedestrians (and street musicians) and to direct cyclists around the building. This choice is supported by various institutions and persons, including the ANWB. Five reasons explain why:

1. New entrances
In 2013, the Rijksmuseum will re-open as the museum of the Netherlands. After a substantial renovation, the Rijksmuseum will receive two million national and international visitors per year, many more than in the past. The four future entrances will be in the middle of the new Passage, in the former subway. The two old entrances at the Stadhouderskade will disappear.

2. New surroundings
The expected flow of visitors (mainly pedestrians) to the institutions around the Museumplein will amount to five million (!) per year, turning this into the busiest location in the Netherlands. It is evidently important to receive these (international) pedestrians in a safe and welcoming way. Taxi stands, parking places for the handicapped, bicycle and pedestrian flows are now being decided on. Busses will park underground, 600 new bicycle parking places will be created along the building. With the upcoming reopening of the Stedelijk Museum, with its new entrance at the Museumplein, there will be a cultural concentration of global proportions, including the Concertgebouw and the by then also renovated Van Gogh Museum. The Museumplein has not had its central traffic route for some years and all bicycle traffic has been diverted around the square for years.

3. Safety
There is growing discontent with the local bicycle, moped and scooter traffic, which has grown in intensity. Independent studies and reports, along with personal experiences, show that the safety of both cyclists and pedestrians has seriously worsened over het past years. Numerous incidents involving tourists clashing with cyclists and mopeds prove this. Reports on the traffic funnel, which the Rijksmuseum Passage is technically, warn for risks when both cyclists and pedestrians will share this busy passage in the future. Traffic studies by the Delft Technical University, SWOV and most recently DTV Consultants argue to separate cyclists and pedestrians: pedestrians through the Passage, bicycle traffic to the left and to the right along the Rijksmuseum on new, safe bicycle paths.

4. Making connections
By connecting the areas around the Museumplein, the PC Hooftstraat, the Museum & Fashion District and the galleries around the Spiegelkwartier to the area, an attractive and high-quality area will be created. The Passage will organically connect the city with the building and the freely accessible gardens, which will provide a ‘green outdoor hall’ to repose comfortably and safely.

5. New elegance
The future Passage is a welcoming gallery and a natural entrance hall and can be used in the future by street musicians, but if so desired also for small-scale book markets, fashion shows and other cultural events. The Rijksmuseum will be ready for the 21st Century, open to anyone, accessible to all. The building has seen a substantial renovation; modern facilities have been added including a freely accessible Grand Café, an attractive museum shop, a grand Atrium and a beautiful garden with sun terrace.

Wim Pijbes is Chief Director of the Rijksmuseum. Tonight, the Rijksmuseum passage will be discussed by the Zuid District Council. Find the view of the coalition parties here, response from cyclists’ organisation Fietsersbond here

15 May 2012 |