A hi-tech app for 400-year-old canals
AMSTERDAM _ What do the Eifel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, China’s Great Wall and other iconic landmarks in common? They are inanimate objects. Ever present, but never changing. Thank God we have the canals of Amsterdam! They go on for more than 100 kilometers and include 90 islands, 1,500 bridges and 1,550 monumental buildings. They are a landmark that invites participation. They are people places. People by the water. On the water. A lot of people, in fact.
It is for overcrowding reasons, the Dutch Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) has developed a system of real-time monitoring of recreational and professional traffic in the canals. Watercraft traffic has increased dramatically in recent years. Efforts by the authorities to step up regulating canal traffic led them to TNO which has installed sensors at 17 strategic locations that record the length, speed and direction of all passing watercraft. They feed traffic density data and let authorities issue a water traffic forecast every 15 minutes. The project remains under development in 2013, the year when the canals mark their 400th anniversary.
The canals have become crowded. Today, there are 333 commercial licensees, up from 202 in 1994. Private boating licenses have doubled to 12,000. Amsterdam’s canals boast 2,500 house boats and 100 passenger vessels offering tourist and scheduled services. Of the 15,000 recreational craft, 15% are unlicensed. There are 100 water bikes and 130 rental boats _ small and big tenders, gondolas, party boats and water taxis.
Summer is the best time to explore the canals of Amsterdam. The city just looks different from a boat. Bring your own boat or rent one. There are at least a dozen places where boaters can stop for a drink or meal. Some useful addresses:
www.bootjehureninamsterdam.com: Rental of electric boats. Before you depart, you will get basic instruction and a good map of the Amsterdam canals.
www.canal.nl. Take the electrically powered hop-on, hop-off Amsterdam Canal Hopper that comes in 2 sizes: 12 and 35 persons boat that can be rented for private events and canal cruises. Also canal bus and water bike rental services
www.sloepdelen.nl: electric tender rentals for canal rides or social events.
www.amsterdamboatevents.nl: BBQ tours, lunch & dinner tours
www.kan-grachten-amsterdam.nl: See Amsterdam from a kayak. Or double-seater canoes. You can do that for several days and sleep rough. Under a bridge or under the city’s central railway station.
www.e-boats.nl: definitely more upmarket. See the city from an elegant saloon boat, also electrically powered