Amsterdam and Bicycles

23:59 Sun 17 Jul 2011. Updated: 17:35 23 Jul 2011
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I didn’t get to cycle in Amsterdam, but in three days of wandering around I got a reasonably good sense of the city from a transport standpoint.

That sense tells me that despite lots of pedestrians, cars, trains, ferries, trams, and scooters/motorbikes, the dominant mode of transportation in Amsterdam is the bicycle.

By “dominant” I mean that the bike is more prevalent, more noticeable, and more catered to than the other modes—and that bicycles seem to have right of way at all times, even with regard to pedestrians. I’ve never been in a city where bikes and biking are so integrated. The degree to which they’re part of the fabric and spirit of Amsterdam is amazing.

There are bike lanes everywhere, and intersections often have three sets of signals: car, bike, and pedestrian. I don’t think I ever made it a block at any time over my stay without encountering at least one bicycle, and normally more than one. Bikes are also parked everywhere, in numbers that seem astonishing.

I’m not sure how bikes came to be so central to the city, but Amsterdam is a clear demonstration that biking can be fully integrated into a system that includes cars and pedestrians—even in a city where streets are really narrow and space is at a premium. Dublin really has no excuse, and it would be such an amazing thing if Dublin could move in that direction (San Francisco is already doing a good job of moving in the right direction, but is simply put to shame by Amsterdam for bike-friendliness).

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