2_4_DiscoverBenelux_13_Januar_2014_MADS_Scan Magazine 1 17/12/2014 15:22 Page 42
Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Cycling
A M S T E R D A M
Europe’s most bike-friendly capital city TEXT & PHOTOS: PHIL GALE
One of the first things that springs to mind when anyone mentions Amsterdam is its bikes. You know a city has many bikes when its local authorities state there are well over 600,000 but “we cannot tell for sure”. As soon as you arrive at the city’s central station it is clear that this is a population that moves on two wheels, as flanking the station are numerous multi-story bicycle parking areas.
on their relaxed Dutch bikes at a more leisurely speed and in normal clothes – sometimes on the phone, sometimes carrying umbrellas to shelter from the rain – while the number of riders wearing helmets can be counted on one hand. The question then must be asked: “how come things are so different in Holland’s capital?” It isn’t hard to see where Amsterdam’s passion for the bike comes
Unlike London, where the riders battle with the mass of cars, buses and trucks, Amsterdam’s policy on bikes is different. Compared to Greater London, Amsterdam is tiny, yet it has over 400 kilometres of bike lanes, separated from the traffic. Amsterdam council’s tolerance and tendency to embrace all things cycling is reflected in the riders’ styles. There are very few, if any, Lycra and high vis-clad riders racing with the traffic. Instead, Amsterdamers can be seen cruising around
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from; with an intensely compact, flat city, with numerous, narrow, twisting streets, driving a car is clearly a disadvantage. Added to that is the fact that bikes take priority over cars, a mentality that is light years
away from London (and the UK as a whole), where the car is king. It is then no surprise either that 68 per cent of all journeys are made on two wheels in Amsterdam. All of this leads to a pleasant, safe and enjoyable environment to ride a bike in. There are very few incidents between cars and bikes in this city. Discover Benelux even spotted a cyclist run a red light in the path of an approaching police car, where the police officer kindly stopped and apologised to the rider for being close to him, while technically it was the cyclist who was wrong. An interesting scene to observe, but also a reflection of the mentality that is at the core of this bike-friendly city. Everyone in Amsterdam rides a bike, they have done so all their lives. When they drive a car they understand the vulnerable position of cyclists compared to motor vehicles. So it is the car that gives way: a great model that all major cities in Europe should take note of.