Friday, June 10, 2011

Killer Bikes of Amsterdam

Yeah, we are talking horror movie, here. Bikes rule in Amsterdam. There are zillions, literally more bikes than people. Public transit is big, so many people park a bike at each station on their normal commute. Ride from home, park, hop on the tram (bus, metro, train), zip into town, hop on their other bike and ride off to work... then reverse it at the end of the day. Needless to say, bike parking has taken over any car parking. Around Centraal Station, I found all these bike parking systems...

On a boat docked off shore behind the station:


A lot behind the station:


And a totally amazing quad level parking terrace beside the station:


And everywhere else in this city. Ok, all well and good... eco friendly, green, healthy, and so on... Nope, danger, danger! There's an interesting hierarchy of transit in this city. At the top of the food chain are bikes... they rule! Below them are the trams, then the buses, then the cars, and finally, at the low end, are pedestrians. On most streets, cars and trams have their lane, the bikes have a wide lane, and what's left of the width, and not much of it (and old city like Amsterdam does not have very wide streets), goes to peds. But pedestrians are often forced out into the bike lanes by sidewalk cafes and pubs (everywhere!) or parked bikes or junk, whatever. Also, at intersections, bikes are turning across pedestrian lanes. Death is eminent if you are walking (and don't even think of using an iPod... you must hear the warning bells from the bicyclists or you die!). At first, the bells scared the shit out of me, but I've finally adjusted to automatically stepping aside (when I can). But don't space out... or you die! Watch your step... or you die! I'm serious, there's not much tolerance by bicyclists in this otherwise very tolerant city.

Our walking tour guide the other night emphasized this once again. And apparently bicyclists have a points system for plowing into tourist groups. I've never felt such vulnerability walking down the street.

1 comment:

Brett said...

The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. ~Christopher Morley