I have always loved writing, and now that I am retired I thought I would be able to find time to write, but it seems that I still manage to fill my days with activities. I have however found that while I travel, I enjoy writing about some of the interesting things we do. I hope you enjoy reading of our adventures as much as I like writing about them.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
The Dutch love their bicycles. I’m sure the
country has many more bicycles than cars; it sure looks that way visiting
Amsterdam. During a walking tour I got to experience the Dutch bicycle culture
from a pedestrian perspective, and it ain’t a pretty picture.
When we managed to make it to Amsterdam in
time to catch the boat, it also gave us time to take the walking tour of
Amsterdam. The ship puts on a walking tour as part of the package in every place
we stop. These tours utilize local guides, and so far they have been very good.
They all speak English and use an in-ear audio system that allows you to hear
them clearly from quite a distance. I’ve used these systems previously, and
they are not always that good, but Viking’s system works great.
As soon as we got off the ship we were
warned about the Dutch bicyclists. Our guide cautioned us, “Do not cross when
bicycles are coming, even though it is a crosswalk and they are required by law
to stop they will not.” Following his lead we waited for a break in the bicycle
traffic, and rushed across the bike lane.
Walking through the downtown of Amsterdam
bicycles are everywhere. Most streets have long bike racks and these are
crammed with bicycles, sometimes with additional bikes on top of others. The
official bike racks do not come close to accommodating all of Amsterdam’s
bicycles and every fence, railing, post or anything solid is covered with
bicycles, chained there with massive bike locks. Walking down one street
bordering a popular museum, I asked for a translation of a sign posted to every
window, and discovered that is was a dire warning against locking your bike to
the window bars. I then noticed no bikes on this street.
An interesting note about Amsterdam’s bikes
is that they are all old and shabby looking; you see no fancy 18 speed bikes or
slick road racers, these are all very solid utilitarian bikes. Our guide
explained that everyone owns more than one bike, and indeed everyone has a
fancy bike that is used for rides where you return home immediately, but the
bikes parked downtown were used to drive to work and you never left your good
bike here or it would be stolen, so everyone had a “beater” that was carefully
aged, rusted and battered to be used everyday.
Personalizing your Ride
We were told to notice the stickers on some
of the bikes. They were put there by the city and noted how long the bike was
there. Anything left for too long was cut free and trucked about 15 klm out of
town to a bike compound where you had to go ransom you imprisoned bicycle to
get it back; an effective deterrent to long term storage on public property,
but certainly necessary judging by the massive bike jams downtown.
I noted that the Dutch have adapted to cell
phone use on bikes very well. I saw many
one handed bike-texters. Apparently there is a law against “Texting while
driving” in Amsterdam that applies equally to bikes, but it is universally
ignored, (Sounds familiar)
Walking back to the ship, we were again
warned about crossing the bike lane carefully, and our guide deliberately challenged
one biker by stepping into the marked crosswalk, but the rider refused to slow
down and swerved around him uttering something in Dutch that our guide declined
to translate . . .