Those of you following my blog have seen some of my recent writing about Dutch culture, as I navigate the murky waters of Amsterdam canals as part of my post-doctoral position at the University of Amsterdam. Today my article on Amsterdam cycling, “A reluctant cyclist in Europe’s cycling capital”, is featured on Spacing Vancouver and also on the main Spacing website. For all the cyclists out there, you’ll probably accuse me of complaining about the conditions of paradise*, but for the rest of you it might be funny**. Check it out: Part 1 of the article appears today, and Part 2 will appear next Monday.
*Sample comment: “Take a tram those days if you don’t like the rain or snow – or buck up – I assure you, you are not made of sugar…This article really does sound like an “unexperienced cyclist” moaning about what most people get used to in a single riding season and learn to deal with.”
**Sample comment: “For cycling to be seen as “normal” in Toronto, we need more “normal” people to commute on “normal” bikes.”
Dear Dr Thomas,
Your blogposts on Amsterdam were posted at several local Spacing sites; I confess I blasted off a very angry retort at the Montréal one, then, reading your blog, of course saw that your analysis is usually erudite and nuanced. I wondered then if you were in a particularly foul mood due to dismal weather (it has been just as dismal this spring here in Montréal). Yes, Amsterdam has its problems, but it is paradise compared to Vancouver with its helmet law or Toronto with its antediluvian car-mad mayor. I think the major problem is that scooters and motorbikes should never have been allowed on the cyclepaths. I’m unsure about the history; perhaps this started with the justifiable exemption for motorised wheelchairs and disabled-person scooters.
But now, staying in Indischebuurt when in Amsterdam (you seem to be living either there or in a similar area) I mostly see teenaged boys and young men on those scooters, terrorizing pedestrians and cyclists alike.
Moreover, not only in Amsterdam but in other Dutch cities, authorities are taking action about almost unused bicycles clogging railway station racks, and those in other popular destinations. If folding bicycles could become more affordable, that would be a good solution to this problem.
I have certainly cycled in Amsterdam, and I’m considerably older than you, having reached “Freedom 55” territory. Perhaps Amsterdam cyclists give me more leeway because I’ve let my hair go silver, so from the back they may thing I’m very old indeed!
I’ll read you information about Amsterdam’s relatively low public transport provision – with all the tramlines and the new metro system (which many people question), it doesn’t seem so to a lay observer, except for the fact that the trams do stop relatively early, even with respect to Montréal’s métro. I really like the new trams, which are much easier to board than the older ones were for people of limited mobility or travelling with small children.
Cheer up, spring is finally coming, and you’ll have some lovely rides.