Cycling in Amsterdam

Last fall I was fortunate enough to have a business trip that took me to London and then on to Amsterdam. My meetings in the Amsterdam area ended early one day and we were able to spend most of the afternoon wandering around the city. So of course I took lots of pictures! As many of you know I am a bit of a cycling nut. I'm always out riding on the weekends on my road bike and enjoying doing the 500-mile Bike Across Kansas (BAK) ride when I am able to swing a trip to Kansas to do it. In fact, earlier this year I took my teenage daughter with me because I wouldn't let her get her driver's license until she had gone on BAK (I wrote about why on a previous blog post). So FINALLY getting to see Amsterdam in person was a really big deal for me.

Before I get to describing Amsterdam I want go back to the London part of my trip. At the time I didn't realize the link the small town of Stevenage (just outside of London) had with Amsterdam until just this past week. You see, Stevenage had a Dutch style cycling infrastructure built into the central city many years ago. While I was in Stevenage I used some of the cycling paths to walk to and from my hotel and my meeting location not even realizing what it was that I was walking on. Unlike Amsterdam, cycling in Stevenage is almost non-existent. I didn't even notice any cyclists while I was there which is why I didn't make the connection. But this past week when I read an article by Carlton Reid, he mentioned in that article the history of the cycling infrastructure in Stevenage and I was shocked that didn't even notice it while I was there. Just goes to show that you need CYCLISTS as well as infrastructure to have a real cycling culture.

Now on to Amsterdam. For those of you that don't know, Amsterdam is well known for its wide spread use of bicycles as a primary means of transportation. There are literally bikes EVERYWHERE! Amsterdam also has a pretty significant cycling culture as well, but since cycling is seen as normal way to get from A to B the culture isn't like the cycling culture you would see in say Berkley here in the States. Cycling is just cycling. I could go on and on about Amsterdam and cycling, but instead I will share with you the one thing that hit home for me the most. One of the locals that I was talking to there explained that school kids in Amsterdam will actually make fun of kids that DON'T ride their bike to school on days where the weather is really bad. You see, in Amsterdam cycling is seen as a badge of honor. There is no such thing as cycling weather...you ride rain or shine. Most bikes there are what we call utility bikes here in the U.S., complete with fenders, lights and bags. You almost never see anyone wearing a helmet but you see a lot of people riding two people to a bike (either sitting on handle bars or on the back fender off the main seat). Never once did I feel "unsafe" walking around the city with all the bikes intermixed with the city vehicle traffic. As a pedestrian you did have to pay attention because the cycling paths were just offset to the main roads and did cross the pedestrian walkways. Most of the time the bikes were moving much faster than cars, so they posed a larger danger to those walking. But pedestrians were used to the bikes and the bikes were looking out for the pedestrians. They just simply co-existed without a problem. I just found it so fascinating that in Amsterdam you would get made fun of for NOT riding your bike but here in the States something was obviously wrong with you if you DIDN'T use a car to get around.

Now, on to the pictures:

The image above was the first picture I took in Amsterdam as soon as got off the train.

No ugly mutli-lane streets filled with pollution belching cars here. Just lots of trees, walkways and people effeciently traveling to where they want to go safely and quickly. You see quite a variety of bikes. All politcs and environmental issues aside, who really looks at a 10-lane freeway and says "it's just looks so pretty?"

This is a good picutre of how stop lights work with the cycling paths. Paths are offset from the main roadways but cyclist still stop for the same lights at the same intersections as cars.

You can certainly pack a lot more bikes into an area as compared to cars. Parking generally isn't a problem if you are riding a bike.

This is my favorite picture. It really drives home just how many bicycles there are in the cities surrounding Amsterdam. This picture wasn't even taken in Amsterdam, but instead in a small city about 20 miles south of Amsterdam. Notice the 2-story "parking garage" in the left side of the image. This lets you store your bike and it stacks them up. There are little ramps you can pull down that allow you to load and unload your bike onto them. They can really stack a lot of bikes this way!

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