Monday, 21 April 2014

Cycling in Amsterdam

A couple of weeks ago I was married, so my wife and I headed off to Amsterdam on a mini-moon (two nights, three days) while we save money to go to Cuba later in the year for our "proper" honeymoon.

We talked about hiring bikes and how cool it would be to tootle around the city stopping off at the sights and having drinks at the city's numerous caf├ęs.

The bike hire plan went straight out of the window when we got into the centre of Amsterdam. The cyclists were crazy!

Alright, crazy is a strong word. I'm a confident cyclist but Rebecca is not. There was no way we would even ride a bike, despite it being April and the month of 30 Days of Biking. I'm sure that if you rode there everyday you would be used to the style of riding and the traffic conditions etc, but it really was not what I was expecting.

The Dutch have an exceptional cycling infrastructure that cycling campaigners here in the UK would dearly like to see implemented in our cities. According to Wikipedia, here are some numbers:

  • 1,000,000 bicycles in 2006
  • 400KM of cycle paths
  • 54,000 bicycles reported stolen in 2005
  • 12-15,000 bicycles fished from the cities canals in 2005
  • 490,000 cyclists rode 2 million KM everyday in 2012
  • 35,000 KM of bicycle paths in the country
  • 18 million bicycles in the country
  • 1.3 bicycles for every citizen old enough to ride

With that in mind, I expected the roads to be fairly motor transport free, the pedestrian footpaths and bicycle paths would be easy to distinguish and the cyclists would be calm, riding around with respect to other road users and each other. That wasn't the case.

Pedestrians need to be on their toes and have eyes in the back and each side of their heads. Seriously, crossing the road was dangerous, even when traffic lights were red and the green pedestrian signal was on, cyclists would zoom past without any warning.

We saw cyclists riding down the wrong carriageway because the traffic lights were on red. Hopping over pavements was no issue and riding while talking on the phone seemed to be perfectly acceptable. Flying over cross-roads with no hands on the bars or with passengers sitting on the rear pannier racks side-saddle.

I think we saw one cyclist wearing a helmet; there was no high-visibility or technical clothing on show and the lack of hand signals was conspicuous by its absence.

However, saying that, we saw no accidents. Here's a list to some more detailed blogs: (bearing in mind I was on honeymoon and not on official Bishop Auckland Biking business!).

 Have you been to Amsterdam? What did you think of the cycling culture whilst you were there?

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