Biking in Amsterdam
Bicycles Are a Main Form of Transporation in Amsterdam
On a recent trip to Amsterdam, I found myself mesmerized by the number of and types of bikes there are in Amsterdam. There are more than 600,000 bikes in Amsterdam. This means there are almost as many bikes as there are people. The estimated population of Amsterdam is currently 780,559. One of the reasons biking is so popular in Amsterdam is because there are virtually no hills within the city, so it is not a chore to ride around.
Old Bikes Are the Most Popular Bikes
People bike to work and leave their bikes against a fence across the street, or on one of the many bike racks around the city. People even think nothing of biking at night in Amsterdam and most bikes have lights. People bike to do errands, they ride them to work, and they ride them to meet friends for a night on the town. I was there in December, and people were riding bikes in the snow, both in the day and at night. No one wears bike helmets. But most do use some form of bike lock. And the most surprising thing to me is that they are not new and shiny like in the U.S. Most are old and well used. By talking with some of the people that work in restaurants in Amsterdam, I found out that the reason most of the bikes are old is that the new ones get stolen much more often. Since there are no hills in Amsterdam, the ten to twenty-speed bikes that are popular in the United States are not necessary for Amsterdam. Any bicycle with two wheels and handlebars will do.
It is obvious that people's bikes are just part of their everyday lives, and not anything to show off. There are bikes of all colors and with various attachments to them. Some have carts on the front to carry cargo or children. Some have a seat on the front for children. Some have a seat on the back for children. Some have seats both front and back for families with more than one child. I didn’t see many children’s bikes because it seems most are transported places on the bikes belonging to their parents. And there are also baskets and milk crates attached to many of the bikes to help transports the riders worldly possessions, or maybe just some groceries after work.
There are bike racks everywhere as well. And some bike racks are so long, they look like bike parking lots, alongside automobile parking areas in city neighborhoods. One of the most surprising things about having this many bikes and bike riders is that there aren’t more accidents. Each bike has a small bell attached to it. There are bike paths next to all of the sidewalks in the city of Amsterdam. The bike lanes are in between the pedestrian sidewalks and the main roads for automobiles. They are about 1 inch lower than the pedestrian sidewalks and so many pedestrians, especially tourists, don't even notice the bike lanes are there. If pedestrians get in the way, they will hear a small little bike bell urging them to move, which is quite different from angry car drivers shouting and making obscene gestures that I often see in the United States. When renting a bike, there are many types available to choose from. Tourists can rent a single bike, with three speeds or no speeds, which of course you don’t need because there aren’t hills in the city. There are also tandem bikes for two adults, tandem bikes with a lower seat with pedals in front for an adult and a child, cargo bikes, children’s bikes, and even an electric bike!
Because I have become so fascinated with the bikes of Amsterdam, I found myself taking pictures of many more bikes than most tourists would. I am sharing them with you because I find the idea of the bicycle as the main form or transportation in a city quite novel, and quite unforgettable as well.
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