Is cycle tourism a thing? Where you go from country to country with the sole purpose of trying out their cycle ways, admiring the bikes and basically just geeking out over anything with two wheels? Well if it isn’t then it should be.
I was all set to get my bike on as soon as I arrived in Amsterdam, but surprise surprise, the weather had other plans for me. For the entire six weeks I’d been in Belgium the weather had been stunning, but for three days in Amsterdam it just rained. And rained. And rained.
I went to museums, looked at beautiful works of art by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Vermeer. I discovered the female dutch painters Thérèse Schwartze and Lizzy Ansingh. I choked back a multitude of tears at the Anne Frank house. Caught a cough standing in a billion queues in the rain. I walked through the redlight district and visited coffee shops with some other kiwis. But during it all, the only thing I wanted to do was ride a bike.
Then, on my last full day in the city, the sun came out! Without a second thought I went straight to Black Bikes and hired a fixie for 24 hours. It cost €17 including insurance and came with a heavy chain lock plus the kind of key lock that’s attached to the back wheel. I was off!
Without any kind of plan I just started pedalling. I followed the cycle lanes and turned down cute little streets, traversed bridges and rode alongside canals. It was all so simple! Sometimes there were just painted lines on the road, other times the track was completely separated from the road by a barrier or parking area. Wide footpaths accommodated lanes for pedestrians and cyclists while small side streets allowed you easy access to both road and footpath (no curb) depending on the traffic. Cars gave way to cyclists, cyclists gave way to other cyclists, pedestrians were quick to keep out of the way when they heard the little bells ring.
Old people, young people, kids, everyone was out on their bikes. Some went fast while others took it more leisurely. Everyone was accommodating so long as you signalled and stayed to the right. One of the more stand out moments was remembering to merge like a zip: I’d never had to merge on a cycle lane before!!
I rode to the zoo to meet up with some fellow New Zealanders. There were bike racks all the way down the street which left me with no need to walk for miles to find somewhere safe for my bike, as can be the case back home. It was still there when we were finished and after a beer at a local café I was back on my bike.
Amsterdam, you da best!