Amsterdam on Two Wheels and More

 

Most European cities, at least the ones that aren't all hills, count bicycles as part of their transit and traffic plans, but Copenhagen and Amsterdam are the twin capitals of two wheels, with dedicated roads and bridges and more.

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But on my most recent stay in Amsterdam, I realized that 'bicycle' is really only a shorthand for the variety of vehicles and purposes that are part of the city's 'personal transportation system'—and even that official term doesn't fully recognize all the commercial uses of human-powered transportation on view.

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But two-wheelers, whether traditional or with battery assists, and the most common, and their density, especially at rush hours, defies belief. Even parked, they make their numbers quite clear.

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In some places, they're parked so densely that you wonder how anyone can get one bike out from the middle. And it's not a joke question; the young woman below took about 15 minutes and the help of a friend to get hers out.

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Others are more fortunate: the city is developing more parking options in congested areas, such as this 'garage' modeled on car parking just outside the main railroad station.

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But where there's no garage, there's always a wall, a railing, something to lean a bike against, and maybe lock it. The density of bikes is probably what keeps the spread of 'love locks' down—no room for them!

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It's not just a youth movement, either. All ages can be seen on the street, families, older people, children...

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Your food may arrive by bike. The cops may pass you by on bikes.

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Groceries? Kids? Baggage? No problem when you have what is essentially a pedal-powered wheelbarrow!

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A growing number of bikes and mopeds are electrified or have electric assist for pedaling, and local authorities encourage that because it makes longer commutes by bike possible. But you do need to charge!

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Of course, if you're just visiting and don't have a bike, there are lots of them available to rent. Of if you prefer, you can pick up a used one at the big flea market at the Waterlooplein. Of course, if you get distracted into the flea market, you may need a large basket for your bike...

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And here's one of the more unusual alternate transportation items in the Netherlands: the Canta. It's a tiny car, smaller by far than a Smart car. It's available only to people with serious mobility challenges. It's low-powered, but allowed on streets and on bicycle lanes, and even allowed to park on sidewalks. They have many variations, including one that allows a wheelchair user to roll in from the back and drive the vehicle while still sitting in the wheelchair.

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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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