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Where's my bike?
There are thousands and thousands of bikes in Amsterdam. I knew that before I visited.
But I hadn't realised quite how many bikes would be standing (or lying) around, everywhere. I suspect many no longer actually belong to anyone, but have simply been abandoned when a new bike has been purchased. Huge numbers were left near my hotel, day in, day out......and the bike racks at Centraal station are simply amazing (see photo)!
So there are thousands and thousands of bikes in Amsterdam......and most are the same style (what we in the UK call 'sit up and beg')...how to know which one is yours amongst the hundreds in the bike racks?
I was fascinated by the twiddles and fiddles people added to their bikes, to make finding them amongst the thousands of others a little easier. Boxes and baskets, stickers and banners and flags, coloured sticky tape, beads on the spoke, feather boas, trolleys in front and behind (for children as well as for shopping).
I especially like the customised paintjobs, and the twining of plastic flowers around the handlebars (as in the photo).
Do spend a bit of time bike-spotting whlst you are in Amsterdam....it's fascinating!
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I was unsure about whether to put this tip into transportation or local custom.
The use of bicycles are very popular in Amsterdam and it is the main mode of transportation for locals. In Amsterdam walkers must give way to bikes. People on bikes will not give way to walkers which I learned the hard way when I was walking and was pushed by a local who was on a bike for being in her way.
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Goodness, I've never seen SO MANY BIKES! :)
Bike riding is a very big thing in the Netherlands as it is a main means of travel throughout cities/towns. Upon arriving you will see bike rack areas where there are easily 100 bikes locked up or you will see people riding toward a destination. You can rent a bike to ride throughout the city also, which is a great way to be a tourist and blend in at the same time! :)
We didn't see a lot of people riding bicycles in Amsterdam, perhaps because it was a Sunday and a drizzly one at that but we sure did see a ton of bicycles, locked to bridges all over the city but even more impressive was the massive bicycle garage near Centraal Station with several floors jammed packed with bicycles.
The Netherlands is very flat as is Amsterdam so it's a perfect place to ride a bicycle, just not on a drizzly Sunday afternoon...
Cycling in the city
There are lots of cyclists in Amsterdam and the city has been geared towards this environmentally friendly means of transport by building cycle paths along the streets. In addition, it is an ideal place for cycling, because it's totally flat and there are lots of narrow streets where you can't get by car, bus or tram ;-)
The cyclists can pretty ruthless, ringing their bells vigorously should you wander in front of them. In addition, many ride not so sophisticated bikes that do not actually stop very slowly, so beware! Walking on bike paths is an absolutely no-no and should be avoid at any cost. These paths are distinguished from the walking paths by their red colour and occasional cycle symbols. Also take care when crossing roads, even if the pedestrian light was green.
Since the entire city (well almost) is on two wheels, you can, of course, do the same. There are lots of places where you can rent bikes (see my tips things to do: rent a bike). Word of warning: be cautious and avoid the most crowded places. Absolutely no one takes their bikes to the pedestrianised area.
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I bet that you will be shocked by the number of bicycles in Amsterdam. Everyone who cares to know, knows that they are very popular here, but nothing can prepare you to what you will see :D
Actually, the whole bicycle thing is a great idea: they relieve congestion, provide cheap method of transportation, keep riders fit. We have seen many old folks riding bikes too!
In most places, they ride along their designated path which makes driving alongside of them a lot safer and easier for both riders and drivers. Just be aware when crossing the street and walking on sidewalks, that those lanes exist, and many bicycles travel at very high rates of speed.
The photo is of the large four-story concrete bicycle garage near the train station.
Bicycle is King
If you come from a part of the world were bicycles ar the domain of a small group of interested people you may be in for a shock in Amsterdam. The local custom is that bicycles have the right of way and they are unlikely to make allowances for pedestrians, even foreign tourists. If there is a bike coming strainght at you it is unlikely that the rider will even contemplate moving to avoid you. They have the right of way, you have to get out of the way. At worst you'll end up with a nasty injury at best you'll get a mouth full of abuse from the rider.
Why do they bicycle?
1. Because Holland is one of the flattest countries.
2. Bike paths are along all major roads through countryside as well as in the big cities.
3. It is a form of recreation.
- The Dutch have more bicycles than cars.
- A lot of bicycles get stolen every day. There is actually a place in Amsterdam where junkies sell you back your bicycle for as little as €25
- Most bicycles are old, not high equiped ones as you might think.
- They all look the same - how do they know which one is whose.
- Most bicycles are painted in black.
- Dutch have different bikes for different occasions.
- Most bikes carry two locks, but that is not a guarantee they won't get stolen or end up in the bottom of a canal.
- They lock their bikes at a steet lamp, traffic sign,... to make sure the bikes waits for the owner.
Riding your bicycle is definitely a custom with Amsterdammers or even Nederlanders. A friend riding on the bag rack on the back is a common sight. They look so used to it and even comfortable. They do not sway at all sitting on the back. We have also seen family bikes with a baby seat on the front and child seat on the back.
Holland is the land of the bicycle. While walking, be careful, you almost have more chances to get hit by a bike than by a car ;-)) But at least it's less dangerous and more ecological and it's a very pleasant way to move in the city.
In Amsterdam one can not do without a bicycle. It is the most ideal mean of transport for this city. You have therefore also special bicycle roads, bicycle traffic lights and special bicycle routes. It’s no wonder that more than a half million people daily is making use of a bike, whether it is to go to school, work, shopping or other engagement.
So if you are in Amsterdam you can rent a bike (there are many places where you can rent a bike - ask in your hotel) and go to discover Amsterdam.
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Amsterdam Travel Guide
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