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5 ideas from Amsterdam that could work in Cape Town




Cape Town and Amsterdam go way back; in fact, many features of Cape Town could have originated in a 17th century Ideas from Cities blog post.  The Dutch showed us how to push the sea back from the Castle, gave us the gorgeous gables of Cape Dutch architecture and provided the base for one of our indigenous languages.  This edition of Ideas from Cities explores some less grand, but nevertheless innovative, ideas from the Amsterdam of today which could work in the Mother City.

1.  BICYCLE FRIENDLINESS

Credit: ssogut

Credit: ssogut

Amsterdam takes the idea of a bicycle-friendly city to the extreme.  Cyclists, who take advantage of the flat landscape and compact city centre, enjoy their own traffic lanes, right of way and multi-storey parking garages.  No wonder the city topped the Copenhagenize Index, a biannual international study of the most bicycle friendly cities.  This may not be the ideal for Cape Town, but at the very least, awareness of cyclist-safety on the road and provision for bicycle storage could definitely benefit the city.  How about converting a few Waterfront or beachfront parking spaces into secure, free bicycle storage spaces to encourage less traffic and healthier bodies?

2.  PUBLIC RESTROOMS

Credit: mesozoic

Credit: mesozoic

Perhaps the least glamorous item on our list is the availability of public, open urinals located on city streets.  They are by no means picturesque or fashionable, and may be a little sexist, but they do prevent men from defiling public spaces.

3.  MUSEUM TECHNOLOGY

Credit: Minke Wagenaar

Credit: Minke Wagenaar

Many celebrated museums are realising that just because the works displayed in them are ancient and unchanging, it doesn’t mean their facilities have to be.  The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam uses tablet technology to offer visitors a multi-media self-guided tour.  Instead of the usual old walkie-talkie audio guides, visitors use small touch-screen tablets to listen to snippets about selected paintings, view and enlarge work not seen on the tour and engage in activities such as experimenting with colour or restoring older pieces to how they would have looked in their glory days.  This would be an attainable way of keeping sites such as the Iziko Museums current and engaging.

4.  FREE CLASSICAL MUSIC

Credit: sapiamaia

Credit: sapiamaia

The Concertgebouw and the Muziektheater in Amsterdam have free 30-minute rehearsal concerts once a week.  Perhaps the world-renowned Cape Philharmonic Orchestra could add the same to their outreach programme for the cultural benefit of students, tourists, or office workers on their otherwise mundane lunch breaks.

5.  ARTY CHARITY (OR CHARITABLE ART?)

Credit: PjotrP
Credit: PjotrP

Amsterdam recently hosted a “Bauble Parade”, in which a number of Dutch artists and personalities decorated large mosaicked balls.  They were exhibited in the popular Museum Square, to be enjoyed by passers-by and bought by anyone with 2000 Euros to spare.  A portion of each sale went to local charities, uplifting the community and artists.  Such a display might go down well in Green Point Park, or attract some foot traffic to more dreary areas of the Foreshore.

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Pamela Hellig

Proud Paarlite, Capetonian and South African on a London sojourn. Actuary by day, actuary by night, but a weekend epicurean through and through.