Saturday, December 17, 2011
Cycling in Amsterdam
The title of this post is sort of misleading, as I didn't actually cycle while I was in Amsterdam. I'd planned to rent a sturdy Dutch bike to check out the famed separated city bikelanes and to tour around the city, but my visit was short and rainy and I didn't end up making the time to rent a bike.
(by the way, those are Van Gogh Dutch bikes pictured above-- almond blossom and sunflowers. As Dan said, they are single
(g)eared. Hee hee)
Or at least, that's my story. The truth was that I was a bit intimidated by the commuter riding scene in Amsterdam. Pre-conceptions of stately riders gliding along on clunky city bikes were smashed: the commuter riding is strong, fast-paced and assertive and the traffic flow was simply immense. Hundreds and hundreds of cyclists flowing through the separated bikeways, which cross tram, auto and pedestrian paths at regular intervals. Men in suits, women in heels, students talking on cell phones while steering with one hand, folks carrying groceries and other cargo (large boxes! potted plants!) and lots of parents transporting kids, from small babes in carriers on the handlebars to larger kids on the rear, sitting on the top tube and even dedicated kid cargo carriers (see below). I consider myself a seasoned urban commuter (despite my car-focused commute at the moment). But, this was new ground and I didn't know the rules. (Ladyfleur has a few remarks on this in her post on Amsterdam riding). I am sometimes a bit self-conscious (like to look like I am not a tourist!), and this + the rain tipped the balance of my activities towards walking.
It was neat to see bike dominance- the cars were a tiny minority of the traffic. This video gives a flavor of traffic flow and dynamic of the separated bike lanes mid-day. The rush-hour commute volume was easily an order of magnitude greater than shown in this video.
I also developed an appreciation for the Dutch commuter bike and the practical accessories seen on many bikes: super sturdy front racks, hub-based generator lights (lights are required at night and most people had them), panniers for cargo carrying, and a variety of kid carrying options: seats mounted front and rear, kid trailers, and even an extra saddle mounted on the top tube, so that the little one is sitting in front of the adult with hands resting on the bars. It was cool to see kids chattering with parents as they rode together on one bike.
I wish now that I had rented a bike, but there is always the next trip to look forward too! I think if I'd had another day in the city and/or dryer weather, I'd have taken the plunge.