The Hague introduces €50 flat fee for parking to deter drivers

‘If you have a short distance to travel, your primary way of transportation should be your legs,’ says council spokesman

Authorities in The Hague encourage people to walk or cycle, saying cars should only be used as a last resort. Photograph: Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images

Whether for 10 minutes or a whole day, it now costs a flat fee of €50 to park in certain streets in The Hague, including roads around the popular Scheveningen beach.

The pilot scheme in the Dutch city on the North Sea coast, which will last a year, aims to discourage tourists and visitors from blocking up the historic centre and seaside roads, particularly on sunny days.

Residents have for years complained that they cannot find a parking space in the centre of the city and at Scheveningen, which the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, visited on Thursday.

To try to change this, the city is making it as expensive to park for a quick stop as for a whole day.

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Jurriaan Esser, a spokesperson for the council, said the pilot was starting in a selection of streets so that the “collateral damage” could be measured before considering whether to extend it. Residents and businesses with parking permits will in effect gain priority in the largely residential streets.

“We want the primary way of transportation to be your legs, and then the bicycle, public transport, and, last, cars,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t allow cars in our city: it means that if you have a short distance to travel, your primary way of transportation should be your legs. It benefits not only the environment but also travel times.”

It is unclear whether the policy – inspired by initiatives in smaller Dutch cities such as Leiden – will also benefit the city budget. The Hague intends to clamp and if necessary tow away cars that have not paid the €50 fee, which is 10 times the previous typical charge.

Fleur Kruyt, the owner of the Van Kleef distillery, told the broadcaster Omroep West she was not keen on the scheme. “This will not make business any easier,” she said. “A lot of buildings here are empty, and if you set a minimum of €50 to get to a shop, I just don’t understand it.”

But sustainable transport advocates believe the policy does not go far enough. “They do have policies to promote cycling, and that’s a good thing, but they don’t really make a choice to discourage car driving,” said Remco de Rijk, The Hague’s bicycle mayor. “We will remain a car city as long as we don’t slow down structurally.”

He pointed to the example of Amsterdam, where as part of a low-traffic policy and aim to go emissions-free, officials plan to reduce 80% of road speeds to 30km/h, close certain streets to through traffic and change the flow of motor vehicles.