May 19 - 23, 2015 / Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Although I may not be "much Dutch" culturally, I think my mother's genes may have expressed themselves through my life-long love of cycling.
Riding a bike has always been my favourite means of transportation, recreation and thinking -- the best ideas always shake out of my brain when I'm out for a ride. And I've gamely taken my life in my hands by cycling in Kitchener, Hamilton, Ottawa, Barcelona, Izmir and even Dar-es-Salaam.
But I have always wanted to ride a bike in the Netherlands, arguably the best country for cycling in the world -- although the Danes may disagree. So one day during our stay here, Tricia & Isaac, Zoe and I set out on three bikes (including a tandem) for a day's riding.
From what I've read, cycling wasn't always so popular here. In fact, by the 1960s and 1970s many cities in the Netherlands had started to follow the North American model of auto-centric, suburban development. But after a few years where over 500 children were killed by cars and the OPEC oil shortage, the Dutch introduced a combination of bike-friendly policies, infrastructure, and training which have made it safe for everyone to ride. Having a mostly flat country with little snow also probably helps; as does the Dutch penchant for saving money.
Most people ride upright bikes with just a few gears, and flopping panniers, and most just wear their normal clothes. Oh! and because it is so safe, only racers wear helmets here. In fact, the Dutch argue that mandatory helmet laws actually discourage people from cycling. Go figure.
Cycling is just so well established, safe, and mainstream here, but yet still very cool. It seems like everyone from ages 4 to 94 rides a bike. It is fascinating to sit on a street corner and watch the parade of cyclists whiz by (click to see the video -->)
Here are just a few shots from Amsterdam, many of which include a bicycle, even when I didn't mean to! There are just that many bikes here. As always, please click on the thumbnails to see the picture in full screen mode.