Bicycling in Amsterdam

What is the most common mode of transportation in Amsterdam? If you looked at the picture, you know the answer. A bicycle.

As a city reclaimed from the ocean, Amsterdam is totally flat. Therefore, bicycling is easy, and everyone does it. You will see chic ladies in high heels and skirts, businessmen in suits and ties, senior citizens, and kids of all ages, including teens in social groups.

The authorities have encouraged the practice by building bike paths everywhere there is a road. Bicyclists also have the right of way over anyone else, including pedestrians. Which means walking can be hazardous. Each road consists of the car roadway, a paved bike path, and a sidewalk. Major streets also include tram tracks. Oftentimes, all these things are on the same level, with little to mark one lane from a different one, not even a curb.

Whatever method you are using to get around, you need to be very careful as people and cars come from all directions. Not to mention the scooters, which as far as I can tell are allowed on any surface they can find. Cars often park on the sidewalks, which forces pedestrians onto the bike path, and bicyclists will not be happy to see you there.
Notice the child in the box on the picture above. To his right is another child on his own bike. It is common to see a mom moving her children around this way. Or here's an alternative method. Ride on the back.

Even adults ride on the back. I loved this shot of an older couple. The woman is pedaling along and the well-dressed man is enjoying the ride.

You will see people carrying umbrellas, texting, talking on their phones.

If you are observant, you will have noticed one unusual fact about bicyclists in the Netherlands (versus the US). No one is wearing a helmet. No one. I never saw a single helmet on a bicyclist in Amsterdam. Not even toddlers in the little boxes attached to the front. (See note below.) But I did see my first bicycle garage.
The bike garage is right over a canal. How cool is that?

Note re bicycle accidents: Amsterdam is a very safe city traffic-wise. Approximately 200 people per year die in bike accidents in The Netherlands, with an average of only 6 per year in Amsterdam.
Death in traffic accidents overall is the lowest in Europe at 45 deaths per million inhabitants per year vs. the comparable US rate of 147 deaths per million and the European rate of 90 deaths per million. (credit Toby Sterling). So I guess that's why they don't feel the need for helmets.


Natasha Moore said...

That really interesting Carly. I'd love to ride my bike more, but with so many cars & trucks wizzing down the road, it makes me nervous. I confine my bike riding to bike trails most of the time.

Love the pic of the older couple!

Anonymous said...

What a great idea! Nice to have flat routes. Some of the hills in my hometown of Toronto are absolute killers. Though some roads have bike lanes. Cool post and great pics.

Carly Carson said...

Natasha, we don't really have bike paths here in the US. They do make a difference. Paris and London both have an extensive system of bike rentals but those people are riding in traffic.

Joan, like you said, the flat terrain is a big factor. Walking your bike up a hill is no fun at all.

Nicole North said...

This is fascinating, Carly! What amazed me was the number of bicyclists risking their lives on Scotland's roads.

Carly Carson said...

Scotland - where the roads are narrow and curvy and the hills are steep. Of course, I have seen hundreds of bicyclists riding up the Austrian Alps so they probably would think Scotland is for sissies. (The bikes in Amsterdam have neither gears nor brakes.)

Nicole North said...

LOL Carly. Not because of the terrain but because of how fast Scots drive out on their main roads. Yes they're very narrow and curvy and the speed limit is 60 mph but they usually go at least 80. I'd never get on a bike there on a highway. But we saw a LOT of bicyclists and had to pass them.