I have spent most of my adult life trying to get in better physical shape. I now know the solution…. move to Amsterdam. Everyone there, both young and old, is in good shape because the entire city rides bicycles. If you don’t have one, you can rent one everywhere.
And although the city is quite walkable and beautiful, it is most definitely not safe for pedestrians. The main streets are designed like this…. pedestrian sidewalk, bike lane, car lane, tram lane, car lane, bike lane, pedestrian sidewalk. Walkers must juggle five busy lanes of traffic to cross the street. After my first close call with a bike, I became ultra aware and began shouting out, “Bike!”, “Car!”, “Tram”, to the others in the group. Or in some cases, “Run!” was our only option. I must admit it sharpened my attention skills and occasionally provided good exercise for my reflexes. Smaller side streets are more manageable as bikes and cars share the same lane.
It will forever be a mystery to me why there are not more accidents. I witnessed one mishap that was actually caused by pedestrians.
The Dutch are ingenious with their bikes. They have designed every manner imaginable to carry things on their two-wheeled vehicles. My favorite was the children being delivered to school or daycare in a wheel- barrow styled box attached to the front of their parent’s bike. I saw as many as 4 toddlers crammed into these open boxes, smiling, waving, laughing, and eating with not a helmet in sight. Older kids doubled on handle bars, cross bars, or even on the fender rack.
In Canada we have parking lots and garages for cars, but in Amsterdam there are two and three level garages dedicated to bikes. Everything from railings to trees are utilized to secure your bike.
Another rather interesting thing about this city of waterways is the fact that there are virtual few if any barriers along the canals. People parallel park mere inches from the edge. It was amazing to watch them maneuver into place. Of course, the lack of railings also resulted in this…
Barges with a crane on one end, regularly scoured the canals to remove bicycles that have fallen in. A guide on the Hop On Hop Off boat joked that the canals are one meter of water, one meter of mud, and one meter of bicycles. He is probably correct. These guys were working near our boat so it was interesting to watch what came up.
This cycling mecca absolutely fascinated me. While sitting at our favorite pub located on the corner of a busy intersection, it was fun to watch what I fondly referred to as a “bicycle ballet”. Riders passed each other in perfectly synchronized harmony without ever stopping, no matter what direction they were going. Car drivers on the other hand were often sitting helplessly waiting for a break in the dance so they could join the fray.
Perhaps I should pull my bike out of the shed and pump up the tires. I may have been inspired!
Thanks for reading,
Penny xo ♥