Amsterdam = Bikes

 

Rental BikesWe left our own bikes at home with the plan to buy used touring models in Amsterdam, so the first order of business was to buy two bikes. (I’ll do it! Call on me!) To make moving around easier in the city of bikes, we rented a pair from the shop a couple of doors down from the hotel. Three speed Dutch bikes. Nothing special, but they work well. So, what’s a bright orange bike with numbers painted on it shout to the world?  “TOURISTS ON BIKES!” That was us as we tried to navigate the lanes and streets of the city.
Everyone rides bikes in Amsterdam; grandmas, businessmen, mothers with children, fashion conscious women in heels, students, and even tourists. There are 800,000 people in the city and 880,000 bikes. Liz and I pedaled our way around, getting better and better at navigating and enjoying the energy of a cycling culture.
People on bicycles

In Amsterdam people move from place to place in the city in waves. Intersections are a confusing snarl of movement. Thankfully, traffic signals rule! Pedestrians, cyclists, scooters, cars and trams all respond to the almighty signal, and if you know where to look for your particular signal, it becomes clearer. Cyclists use bike signals AND pedestrian signals to their best advantage. Sign says walk, it’s okay to ride too. Motor Scooters use traffic lanes AND bike lanes to their advantage. Watching the signals and the people made it much easier to move with the flow without acting so much like a tourist on a bright orange bike.

Bike LaneWhat I appreciated most in Amsterdam cycling was the network of bike lanes. These weren’t just lines painted on the pavement, although there were those too. There is a citywide network of connected, separate from traffic, easily identified bike lanes. Imagine the Bob Jones Trail running like Tic Tac Toe throughout your city. No matter where you wanted to go you could get there on a bike lane separate from traffic.That would make bike transportation so much better and encourage people to get on their bikes. Old ladies rode on them. Kids and mothers, students sharing a bike. It was amazing to see. One problem with the lanes though. You had to watch your step. Bike Lane Rule Number One! Dont walk in bike lanes. Scooters and bikes fly past only inches away from the sidewalks. Bike Lane Rule Number Two is one your mother taught you: Look both ways before crossing bike lanes.

Tour Bikes

It took three days of searching and comparing in bikes shops, nosing around rental shops, and the repeated checking of the vendors at flea market, but in the end we found two that will work. Liz’s has the special heavy duty 10 lb front rack that is engineered for carrying a couple of tons. If me or my bike breaks down she can carry me. While the bikes are not as fine as if we’d shipped our own, these will suffice, and they come with a built in mini-adventure.

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One Response to “Amsterdam = Bikes”

  1. Dan Conroy Says:

    Hey George,

    Loving the ongoing commentary! Pat and I just arranged a month long home exchange in Maastricht a year from now, so your scouting of the Dutch bike culture is really valuable. Roll on!

    -Dan

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