Code the Streets was part of the research agenda of the Innovation Centre for Mobility of Amsterdam. Different departments within the municipality work together in the center with partners in the public and private sector. They research, test and develop new concepts, such as digital mobility management tools, to improve the quality of public space in the city and its region.
In Amsterdam, mobility is key to create a connected city for its residents, visitors, and businesses. In a world of digitalisation, climate change, and increased awareness of the social and ecological environment, the city is exploring the possibilities that smart mobility solutions offer to manage urban mobility. Amsterdam is addressing this issue in cooperation with other cities, businesses and research institutes. Code the Streets is one such collaboration. Together with its partners, Amsterdam sets out to answer the question: 'How can cities communicate their information and values on the desired use of public space with service providers and end-users (residents, visitors) and stimulate them to take a 'social route'?’.
Possibilities of digitalisation
You might wonder: why not just use the traditional means of communication, like road signs? Conventional ways of communication have so far been effective; however, they are less adaptive and flexible than digital tools.
Digitalisation offers the opportunity to provide real-time information on how to best navigate and use the public space at any moment in time in line with city values such as liveability, sustainability, safety and accessibility.
In addition, digital tools could make it possible to repurpose the public space for different uses at different times, serving resident needs in several different ways. Imagine, for example, that a road changes to a bicycle lane in the afternoon and to a terrace in the evening.
The city of Amsterdam is currently exploring the possibilities to manage and (re)design the public space in more efficient ways and to learn how these interactions and feedback loops work.
The Code the Streets project
So, how can cities, in reality, communicate information and values on the desired use of public space with service providers and end-users and stimulate them to take safer, more 'social' routes?
Together with project partners TomTom and Mercedes-Benz, Amsterdam is working on an open Application Interface (API) that includes the city's rules for the desired use of the public space on street level.
The city provided the partners with information regarding streets with safety concerns, such as school zones and small side streets. These were incorporated into the navigation software of TomTom and Mercedes-Benz, which now give users the standard route and an alternative, more 'social' route. This social route avoids school zones and nudges users towards a preferred, socially responsible choice, such as staying on the main road as much as possible or applying maximum applicable speed limits within the zone.
The Code the Streets project focused on rerouting car drivers. However, this is only one example of how Amsterdam and its partners are endeavouring to build a safer and more liveable public space.
The application also holds a lot of other future possibilities. For instance, by rerouting heavy vehicles away from vulnerable infrastructure or creating dynamic loading and unloading zones based on vehicle types and loads.