Owning a transportation-focused bike shop means that every so often someone asks "Have you been to Amsterdam? Copenhagen? Gronigen?" to which, until recently, I'd have to admit "No, not yet." (Nadia has been here before) Well, I can finally cross one of the worlds bike cities off my list and start making plans to see the next.
Amsterdam was amazing. Yes, there are bikes and bike lanes everywhere. It was quite chaotic when you first step out of the Central Station, especially for this Canadian lad. One of the first sights you are greeted by is the massive bicycle parking garage adjacent to the train station which is quickly followed by people on bikes, on foot, in cars, and on trams, going in every direction all at the same time. You very quickly realize that it's best to put your head on a swivel and look both ways before you do anything lest you be run over by a bicycle or motor scooter (more on scooters later).
|The view from our AirBnB apartment.|
|So many painted cargobikes, artwork, and otherwise.|
Right out our front door was a separated bike lane that went straight into the downtown and within minutes we were in bicycle heaven, surrounded by people zipping every which way.
With no agenda, we just rolled, turning down this cobbled road or that cobbled road, following the canals that makes this place so famous, and just cruising along enjoying the feeling of being the "king of the road" - so to speak.
Cycling in the "Centrum" area was so fun! Cobbled streets everywhere, beautiful little roads, narrow as can be, and old buildings seemingly leaning this way and that, all sitting atop little shops and cafes. So many people walking around and canals filled with boat tours and locals in their own boats enjoying the sights. It was impossibly easy to get turned around in this area, at least for us, and eventually we had no idea where we were, nor did we really care. As Dorrie in Finding Nemo says, "just keeping swimming!".
After a few hours of that, and with the sun fading fast, we figured out where we were and headed back towards the flat, with a quick stop at the grocery store for some supplies. A note to foreign travellers, grocery stores here won't take your credit card or debit card so come armed with cash. Also, don't doddle in the checkout or you'll incur the wrath of the cashier! Giddy up pardner!
|3 of WorkCycles beautiful family bikes.|
There was one store we enjoyed a lot - WorkCycles - the shop (Jordaan location) was bright, spacious, and had some amazing utility bikes (shown above). We had a nice coffee and chat with Henry and I was able to take a spin on 3 of his bikes - the Fr8, Gr8, and new Kr8 modular bakfiets. All of them were fantastic to ride, incredibly stable, and super comfy - and more importantly, have created a desire to perhaps offer them in the future. Time will tell.
We left WorkCycles inspired and continued our random meander around to more shops, spotting these brutes at a Mac Bike location. We ventured inside, on the hunt for seat covers for our Bromptons, and were greeted with happy hellos and Black Sabbath blasting on the radio. Fun!
|Heavy haulers at Mac Bike.|
|There is a menace on Amsterdam's bike infrastructure, motor scooters.|
|When the rain starts just pop the umbrella and keep on pedaling!|
|Durgerdam, North Amsterdam|
|Riding in Waterland.|
|No room for error, swerve and you're going for a swim!|
However, along the way, we spotted some bikes down a little side road and found this cute little bike shop with a tree growing inside it! It was so humid in there is was literally raining! Needless to say, this treehugger loved it!
|Yes, that's a 150 year old tree in this bike shop.|
|Where else would you find this? :)|
|More heavy haulers.|
But one thing really struck me while we were there - it felt wholly unremarkable and completely normal. Why? The way we were living there was exactly the way we live here in Calgary. The grocery stores there were about the same distance away as they are from our homes in Calgary and getting to the "Centrum" area took us about the same time as riding from Westbrook Mall to 17th Ave shopping area. We already do most of our shopping and errand running by bike and we live close to all the places that matter to us.
The bicycle lifestyle can be yours in Calgary too. You just have to decide to do it and make the choices required to live that way. Park your car as often as you can. Choose to live closer to the amenities that are important to you. Get a sturdy bike capable of carrying your groceries and children. Don't worry about the weather, plan for it.
What are you waiting for? :)