Wednesday, June 22, 2005

 

Bikes!

Bicycles in Amerstam are everywhere... and they're coming at me.

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Those old upright bikes corner surprising quickly.
Here, a pedestrian darts out of the way.


Amsterdam is more filled with bicycles than any city I’ve ever seen. I’d like to say it’s “bike friendly,” except that that phrase conjures a misleading image of smiling Fisher-Price people smiling and waving at you as they neatly and carefully ride past.

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Cars routinely work their way behind or around bikes on Amsterdam's narrow streets.

But that’s not how it is. Sure, cyclists in Amsterdam will give you two of those cute “Dzinngg! Dzinnggs!” on their bicycle bell by way of warning, but after that, it’s apparently open season for them to mow you down.

I suppose the profusion of cyclists is good for the environment – much as Lord of the Flies was a great learning experience for boys in a natural setting.

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Bikes everywhere you look! Above, in traffic. Below, parked.

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Amsterdammers uniformly go in for the dowdy, sturdy practical city bikes, and ride with a dignified upright posture redolent of black and white newsreel footage.

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But don’t let that fool you – those suckers can fly. Crossing the streets you have little to fear from cars or even streetcars in the cobble-stoned canal-strewn central district. But the bicycle buzz around like flies in every direction, silently rushing toward you at high speed and only emitting an audible whoosh (or “dzinngg”) when it’s virtually too late to dodge out of the way. If you step into the street for just a moment – as you often have to do to to go around some obstruction on the very narrow sidewalks – without looking in all directions, you take your life in your hands.

To be fair, Amsterdam bicyclists don’t put much more stock in their own safety than in yours. In my 48 hours in Amsterdam, I probably saw at least a thousand people on bikes. How many bicycle helmets did I see? Exactly one. ONE helmet! On a toddler strapped into the back toddler seat. And that parent is probably viewed by her peers as insanely fixated on safety.

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Above: You see this bike setup all over town -- infant seat in front, and toddler seat behind.
Below: Look, ma, no helmet!

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As further consolation, if you are hit by a cyclist in Amsterdam, there's a good chance that the rider will have a cell phone right in his hand -- you can ask him to interrupt his cell-con to call an ambulance.

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Cycling cell-cons. I think the woman below right is actually programming her phone.

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NOTE: Plenty of male bicyclists carried helmetless children and spoke on cell phones -- I just didn't happen to catch them on my camera.

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Comments:
YIKES! There's a bike rider in Madison who can do all that and more.
 
Ann Arbor , Michigan is a reasonably bike friendly city too, . There is great number of bikes, especially around the campus of the Univ of Michigan, where you see lots of students zipping around. And there is a big contingent of bike racers and bike tourers too, with both the Velo Club and the Touring Society being large organisations. I wih that there will be more bikes ridden in the USA, and one doesnt have to drive 10 miles or more tp pick up a jug of OJ!!!
 
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