A new bike and pedestrian tunnel in Amsterdam runs 361 feet and connects people to the main railway station and to the port, where they can continue by ferry. But its spectacular split design, which clearly cuts the tunnel into two halves according to their usage, is also notable for another reason. Even though it looks–at first glance–as big as a car tunnel, no cars are allowed.
The path is called the Cuyperspassage, and it carries 15,000 people, daily, from the city center to the waterfront. Looking down it from either end clearly shows the two sides of the design, by architect Benthem Crouwel. The tunnel is divided into light and dark sides. The light side, for pedestrians, is lined with a huge tiled mural by artist Irma Bloom, giving them something to look at as they walk. This is reminiscent of the tiled murals in many passages and stations on London’s Underground, and other metro systems.
The dark side is for cyclists, and uses sound-absorbing asphalt, along with a strip of LEDs to further separate the two halves. The mouth of the tunnel appears split and offset, making it look kind of like two tunnels, although even this probably won’t stop joggers running in the bike lane.
The darker cycling lane incorporates sound-absorbing asphalt and steel grates, while the pedestrian side is almost completely wrapped in a mural of 80,000 delft blue tiles. The artwork was designed by artist Irma Boom, heavily inspired by the work of Dutch tile artist Cornelis Boumeester. The two lanes are further delineated by LEDs to create a safe multi-function corridor with minimal barriers
The Cuyperspassage would have been finished years earlier, though, if it wasn’t for cars. While the port end of the tunnel took a lot of engineering to complete, the city end was finished quickly, then boarded up. Why? A car tunnel had to be finished first, so that cyclists wouldn’t be dumped out into the middle of fast and dangerous traffic. Even in the Netherlands, then, bikes still need to cede to cars sometimes.