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 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!

2013 Resolutions

I don’t typically do the whole New Year’s resolution thing. Generally, if there is something that I want to do or think I should be doing I make the change and get it done. That being said there are a few things that I am going to do this year to help ensure I stay on track with all of the things that I decided long ago to take on as tasks and a few minor changes I am making. What better way to stay honest than to publicly share what I’m doing.

One of the biggest changes I am making is with my diet. No, I am not GOING on a diet, I am changing my diet. The difference being that this change is more of a lifestyle change instead of something I am just doing to lose weight for a few weeks or a few months. Why? Because my current way of eating is makes it too hard to maintain a healthy weight and enjoy a physical lifestyle. Going to the gym and riding a bike on a regular basis and eating a bunch of processed foods don’t go well together. If last night’s dinner was an indicator, this new way of eating is going to be really tasty! Our family is going to start following the Paleo Diet. This one just makes a lot of sense. The human body doesn’t change overnight, yet the way our food is procossed has changed drastically over the last several decades. These changes and the rise in obesity is no coincidence. So how am I going to keep up a regular cycling training program on the Paleo Diet? actually works extreemly well. With just a few tweaks of the paleo diet the very low carbohydrate intake can actually work very well with a heavy physical training routine. The book “The Paleo Diet for Atheletes” by Loren Cordain and Joe Friel explains how the paleo diet can be tweaked slightly for athletes such that the low carb diet can drastically improve recovery times between workouts as compared to a high carb diet.

The next change I am making is with my workout routine and schedule. With my wife in school full-time it is nearly impossible to find time to workout on a regular basis, much less have enough time to make significant progress with increasing my fitness. I did “ok” last year going to the gym and doing indoor bike trainer workouts, but only rode 301 miles outside on my road bike all year. In years past I would generally ride more like 3000+ miles! So this year I am starting off with the Cyclo90 90-day off-season training plan by Graeme Street. I’ve been using Graeme’s CycloClub workouts, especially his 30-minute HIT (High Intensity Training) workouts over the past few years and I never would have made it though some of the toughest days of the Bike Across Kansas segments if it weren’t for his training methods. So this year (starting today) I am going to start and complete the 90-day off-season training program and get back into shape on the bike! The great thing about this program is that you can do it anywhere...outside on the bike, inside on a trainer and at home or a hotel with no bike at all!

Another change I am making is taking back full control of my finances. I’ve always had a budget and stuck to it, but we also use credit cards for all of our purchases and payoff the balance every month in order to take advantage of the points. Not anymore. Credit cards can take 2-3 days before the transactions shows up on my account, so my budget is always several days behind what I have actually spent. How am I supposed to control my spending if I NEVER know how much I have spent so far for the month? So I am moving away from credit cards and moving away from my current bank and moving to Simple. Simple is a tech friendly budgeting solution combined with a banking institution all rolled into one package. I won’t go into a ton of detail, but the main feature for me is that Simple keeps track of everything you spend for you and is always up to date so you know exactly what you have spent. Your budget and savings goals are built right into the banking site and application so you always know how much you have left to spend and how you are doing with respect to your savings goals. It is centered around a debit card instead of the credit cards I have been using, but the way I see it is that I have the potential to save more money every year by making smart and informed decisions then I could ever earn in credit card reward points. So I’m making the switch!

The last change I am making is to make an effort to play piano and guitar EVERY DAY. I’ve been playing the piano since I was a little kid and have been teaching myself slack key guitar for the past couple of years. In fact, I play piano a church every Sunday but most weeks that is the only time all week I play the piano. I have always wanted to start playing more, but something always seems to suck up all my free time. So I am making a goal for myself to pickup the guitar and sitdown at the piano for at least a few minutes everyday. I really enjoy both the piano and guitar, so its not a matter of discipline but rather a matter of getting into the habit of allowing myself to take time everyday to do things I enjoy doing.

The key to keeping myself honest with all of these changes is the last change I am making. A few months ago I bought the Day One journaling app and have used it off an on. It is a great app, but I haven’t been using it nearly as much as I was hoping to. So I am going to start writing in it everyday. I am going to set an alarm for myself that will go off around bedtime to remind me to spend a few minutes writing about my day. When I do this I will also write about what did or didn’t do that day with respect to the changes I just talked about. Nothing will keep you on track more than having to write down every night that you failed to make any progress on your goals once again today. This will do one of two things for will either keep me honest about my goals and make sure I make progress everyday or it will make me realize that possibly one or more of the goals I set for myself isn’t as important to me as I thought they were when I set them. Either way I will make progress and that’s the whole point!

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