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. 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 two children on the bike on the picture to the left. It is common to see a parent moving his or her children around this way. Below is an alternative method, with the child in a box up front.
You will see people holding up umbrellas in the rain, texting, talking on their phones. People ride on the back of the bike. Even adults. I loved this shot of an older couple. The woman is pedaling along and the well-dressed man is enjoying the ride.You may 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. But I did see my first bicycle garage. The bike garage is right over a canal. How cool is that?
ETA: I almost forgot to mention the scooters zipping around! They apparently can go on either the bike path or the road. But Amsterdam is a very safe city traffic-wise. I did a little research. Approximately 200 people per year die in bike accidents in The Netherlands, with an average of only 6 per year in Amsterdam. http://www.tobysterling.net/2007/12/bike-accident-deaths-in-amsterdam-and.html
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.
Which is your favorite photo?
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