So much has already been said about cycling in Amsterdam in various blogs that there’s not much more I can add to the general amazement at all the bikes and all the people on bikes and all the different kinds of bikes and the little kids on bikes with stabilisers cycling right in the middle of a big city and, well, just, you know, bikes. Everywhere. However, now that the general amazement has worn off, a few points have occurred to me thinking back over our weekend trip:
1. It’s actually quite stressful to cycle in Amsterdam, due to all the bikes. We’re not really used to sharing our cycle paths with anything other than the odd dog walker and maybe another cyclist coming the other way. Trying to insert yourself into a flow of bike-borne traffic,* especially when you’re still instinctively looking the wrong way at junctions, can lead to you learning some interesting new Dutch swear words. And once in, it’s even harder to stop with all those silent bikes coming up behind you. Best just to go with the flow, and hope that eventually you will find some way to escape.
2. Scooters in the bike lane are a nightmare. Stressfulness aside, and even with the odd hapless looking-the-wrong-way visiting bike blogger in the mix, in truth everyone seemed to rub along fairly well in the maelstrom, just swerving out of the way when necessary and adjusting their speed to meet the conditions, but the scooters just blast along regardless, weaving through everyone else. As one of our party commented, the only good thing about it is that it makes the Dutch seem a bit human because otherwise everything would be a bit too perfect. Of course, we may be biased because we’d barely arrived before all four of us were almost wiped out by a scooter blasting round a corner at high speed.
3. The Dutch have an inalienable right to cycle side by side with their mates. I knew that they had nice wide cycle paths so that you could cycle side by side, but I hadn’t realised just how ingrained this was into cycling culture – it is not considered a nice-to-have. Not just on the nice wide out of town paths, but right in the middle of the city where there are meandering tourists and scooters and people in a hurry also using the bike lanes, there will be two Dutch cyclists going at a stately pace side by side, chatting away. I consider this a mark of the highest civilisation.
* At the Vondelpark, where the central path is basically a huge river of bikes, we watched a Dutch dad launch his young son on what appeared to be his first stabiliser-less maiden voyage into the endless stream. I suppose that’s the way to learn to cope – but it did strike us as being similar to teaching someone to drive on the M25.