Interesting Stuff

A Look At Amsterdam Biking

For those wishing to see a bit of Europe, the GUARDIAN is offering a photo essay on a small slice of Amsterdam biking.


We rented a simple cruiser for about $8 at MacBike and set off along the canals, busy streets and humpbacked bridges exploring. We found not only a total accommodation for bikes, but the bicycle is pretty much the prime mover for these Dutch folks.


Bike lanes ase set apart from both the cars and pedestrians with a clearly marked surface. Walkers who wander onto the bike lane are often greeted with the annoying tingle of the thumb bell on the handlebars of a bike.

We didn’t see a lot of bikers whizzing past at breakneck speed. Most were just moving from point to point, careful to avoid street car tracks which can be tricky to navigate with a bicycle.

There are also a variety of bikes. Some are pedicab-style with a box on the front, often as not filled with children. Most were simple and without the massive gears we see here. Theft is a big problem, so massive chain locks are standard equipment.
The bikes are so dominant they have special traffic signals for bikers and everything seems to flow quite nicely as bikes, pedestrians, and cars all take their turns at intersections.

As for making it happen here, we suggest some designated commuter paths along existing canal banks or new rights of way down alley ways in the north end as well as requiring bike paths wide enough to handle the flow without pedestrian conflict in new developments.

Painting a stripe along State, Fairview, or other major streets invites disaster.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Cool pictures. I have been interested in traveling to Amsterdam just to see the bike culture.
    I think your suggestions on canal banks and alley ways deserve some merit, but unfortunately people who use bikes for transportation need to get everywhere that people who drive cars do. There are no canals or alleys to go to my work or most of the shops that I frequent.

  2. It makes sense to have dedicated bike facilities when they are so ingrained in both the culture and the transportation. However, the notion of separating bike paths from both pedestrians and motor traffic is impractial, mostly, in these parts.

    What must be realized, both by transportation planners and the public, is that TRANSPORTATION cyclists have the same destinations as motorists. Not all bicycle destinations lie along the Greenbelt.

    IMO, Dave, the ACHD is doing a fine job of incorporating bike-friendly facilities into new projects and upgrades. There are some streets – you mentioned a couple – where it just ain’t gonna happen due to inadequate street width. Another example is Orchard Street. Since I live just off Orchard, I ride it regularly, and I realize I’ll be sharing a lane with motorists for the forseeable future. I can deal with that, and 98% of motorists can, too. (The other 2% are idiots. You don’t have to be smart to get a driver’s license.)

    What we lack is EDUCATION and ENFORCEMENT.

    There is no formal effort to educate kids (or adults) on how to safely navigate our streets on a bike. Adults teach kids the bad habits they learned – mostly riding on the wrong side, against traffic. (Does anybody else ever see that?)

    And the law enforcement community is very forthright about “bicycle violations are not a priority for us.” (They tell me that, every time I call to complain after I have a close call with a law-breaking cyclist. Their recommendation is for me to call Dispatch on a cell phone, and then follow the perpetrator, until a cop can be summoned to the scene. Can you imagine if DRIVING the wrong way was “not a priority violation”?)

  3. Yossarian_22
    Aug 11, 2007, 6:23 pm

    The ACHD Bicycle Advisory Committee has been working closely with many stakeholder agencies and members of the public to construct the newly initiated Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan. The new plan will conceivably eliminate danger areas and gaps in the current quasi-network of facilities. More facilities will be added as widening and maintenance is performed. The goal is for a true bike facility network to be built that will allow for a more seamless commuter/recreation system to be used.

    Right now, ACHD is hosting a series of open houses for the public to attend and be introduced to the master plan. Input is highly encouraged. It’s true that an Amsterdam type system will be some time off, but there will be some new “bike boulevards” contructed that will emulate the European commitments. The first ones will be on 3rd and 4th street.

  4. Interesting post. I’ve just started watching the backlog of A Billion Bikes podcasts

    ..Discussion of Copenhagen’s civic rationale for supporting and encouraging bike transportation.

  5. curious george
    Aug 12, 2007, 12:06 pm

    Here’s the url for the ACHD “Roadways to Bikeways” project.

    Overall it is an ambitious and wonderful project, but it will need everyone’s help to reach completion (and adoption!).

  6. I think your proposal is brilliant. When I made the transition to commuting on bike I found that for long distances you just can’t beat the Greenbelt rather than fighting traffic. Most everything is oriented to the river in some way and the traffic is greatly minimized. To radiate away from the river using canal right of ways would be ideal. Not only that they’d all be virtually level. Great out of the box thinking.

    EDITOR NOTE–in my usual humble tone, I must admit Bikeboy first voiced this and I saw it in action in Holland.

  7. Meridian Mike
    Aug 13, 2007, 11:10 pm

    The Dutch provide a real inspiration for us- showing what is possible.

    If ACHD really wants to do something for bicyclists, I hit on a few possibilities today. There’s a lot of extra loose gravel on West Boise’s pavement following the rash of ACHD summer projects. This afternoon one piece gouged and flattened my road bike tire on my afternoon commute home. As I was walking my bike the last two miles, I found problem #2- a couple hundred square feet of puncture vine in gravel on the Cloverdale right of way just north of Ustick. Other puncture vine was just south of Ustick in a lot on the west side of Cloverdale that ACHD’s contractor was using for the early to mid summer project.

    Many developments currently allow pedestrian and bike traffic only along auto routes. Here in the valley thru- traffic sometimes only occurs on the square mile corridors. A welcome goal might be to provide a rough X of pedestrian pathways, through each square mile and to have each development provide access to those pathways. Just like drivers, pedestrians will sometimes use pathways in an effort to actually go somewhere, diagonals may provide a much shorter route, and there should be better alternatives than having to walk or bike along main auto thoroughfares.

    Canal bank right of ways would be of real value if we find joint design improvements that benefit the water users, pedestrian and bike traffic, and improved safety for children

  8. Meridian Mike- Your comments are right on regarding connectivity and giving bikes other route options. For more reading check this link and the rest of this website. It also talks about the high cost of current subdivision design for services.

  9. Looks like Europe is just waiting for the bike helmet people to show up. Apparently it’s a yet untapped market.

  10. Meridian Mike
    Aug 23, 2007, 9:24 pm

    The folks at ACHD eliminated the major patch of puncture vine north of Ustick on Cloverdale, so thank you. Thanks, too, Clancy for the link.

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