If you happen to look left as you exit Amsterdam Centraal Station, you will be amazed by the ‘Fietsflat’ – a 3 level bike garage that holds over 2,500 bikes, that’s almost always full. The population of this Dutch capital is @ 900,000 and there are purportedly @ 600,000 bikes. You can see why there are plans afoot to build a sub-acquatic bike parking station for the city; it is quickly apparent that the bike is where it’s at.
But it’s only until you get on one and wander around the city free-wheeling the easy tree-lined streets beside canals, the mellow October sun shining on the water, on golden leaves, on the brick 17th century merchant houses 5 levels high that it hits you. Biking with a bunch of others is fun. The comraderie of communal two-wheeling is unexpectedly tangible. Maybe it’s because the whole city is bike-laned and stopping at a corner to let pedestrians pass all you see are bikes and people. Kinda ‘groovy’ like everyone is going home to knit sweaters and make granola.
An exaggeration maybe, but some sort of goodwill is at work when you turn left right in front an oncoming bike and they slow down to avoid hitting you without yelling or honking a horn. Maybe a slight scowl, but you deserved that. You pedal up the humped bridges together then coast down, rise and swoop, like a roller coaster, nodding to someone as they pass gliding on their swifter ride, unlike the sturdy rental you’re sporting. But basically, it’s flat. Even toddlers are freely hitting the road on their trikes. And babies look pretty pleased – riding in the front, in the back, in baskets, in wooden boxes, the wind in their hair as they munch on gingerbread.
In fact, everybody seemed pretty happy in Amsterdam. And everybody spoke English just like an American. (love it!) Waiters made jokes with you and didn’t scowl or spit in your soup. Shopkeepers made small talk, people smiled at nothing as they walked down the street. What was going on? What a great city! Amstel, anyone?