Bike Travel in the Netherlands: Part 3
After arriving safely in Amsterdam, we decided to ride to our campsite. There is a train that goes from the airport into downtown, which could have gotten us most of the way, but we still had over an hour of daylight, and we thought a nice ride would help reinvigorate us after being in cramped airplanes for so many hours.
We got a GPS for this trip (the Garmin Etrex 30 - thanks for the help choosing this, cyclists of Twitter!), and, while it was a bit slow at first, it definitely got us to our destination, and seems to be working more consistently and well now. It's been really nice not having to worry about looking at maps or trying to follow a map on the phone. (The GPS gives us turn-by-turn directions.)
The cycling infrastructure here really has to be ridden to be believed. We rode just over 20km from the airport and were on a road without a dedicated bike lane for maybe a kilometer or two of that. In the heart of the city, we spent a lot of the time next to cars in bike lanes, but most of our ride was on bike-only roads that run parallel to the car roads. They were completely separated, even at intersections! I say "roads" rather than "paths" or "trails" because in most places, there was as much consideration taken for the bike infrastructure as there was for the car infrastructure, including dedicated traffic lights and multiple lanes. Sidewalks and areas for pedestrians are separate from bike roads.
|Bike traffic light|
Aside from the traffic lights, there are other hints about how to behave when cycling. At every intersection there are a series of triangles. If they point toward you, you're required to yield to oncoming traffic (be it bicycle or car traffic). If the triangles point away from you, however, you have the right of way.
Despite the incredible infrastructure, three things made riding in the city a bit challenging. First, motorized scooters are allowed on the bike roads, and a bunch of these zoomed past us, which was a little unnerving. Second, after living in the country, we're not very used to riding alongside other cyclists! Riding in the city felt a lot more like driving, with ton of bike traffic on the roads (even after 11pm on a Tuesday night), and the other cyclists are obviously a lot more competent on the cycle roads than we are. It's definitely important to be confident and not hesitate as you flow with the traffic. And third, there are trollies that travel throughout the city. That means there are train tracks. I've wiped out on the South Lake Union tracks in Seattle before, so these always make me pretty wary, though I have yet to have a scare with the Amsterdam tracks. I appreciate the public transit, but nothing will make me like train tracks.
|Trolley tracks are not my friend|
Bike lanes that aren't separated from the street are marked with the usual white bicycle outline that we have in bike lanes in a North America, but I love that these ones look like the typical Dutch bike including swept-back handlebars and a chain guard.
|A Dutch bike lane!|
It was particularly fun getting a little lesson in Amsterdam cycling by riding behind Stephen West and Malia Mathers of Penelope Craft following the Penelope Thursday night Knit Night. We really appreciated them showing us the way!
|Stephen & Malia showing us how they do it in Amsterdam|
We spent some time yesterday afternoon just standing on the sidewalk observing the traffic flowing by, and it was really interesting not only to see how riders acted, but also the kinds of bikes they rode and the amazing collection of things and people they transported. Bikes and cargo are full blog entries in themselves, so keep an eye out soon for those.
Being in Amsterdam feels a little bit like an alternate universe - it's the bike universe, in which riding is not a statement, or even particularly interesting. The Dutch seem to be bicycle enthusiasts in the same way as Americans are car enthusiasts- certain people definitely care about their bikes, but most people just use them to get around without giving it much thought.