Yo, Amsterdam! Let's talk...

Got back from a little travel. Did Barcelona, some Italy (did it better last year), some France, and then Amsterdam.

Sigh. Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Amsterdam…

Do I have to say it? I do, don’t I…Awwwww.

Seriously: why are your bikes so shitty looking? You ride them everywhere. I’m cool with that, really, I am. Initially, I was horrified to note that the vast majority of your bikes are single speed bikes with back-pedal brakes and step-through frames (here in the US, only a small number of grey-haired old ladies ride step-through frames and, in fact, step-through frames are also called “women’s bikes”). Then I realised the terrain is so flat, you don’t need low gears. With lots of other bicyclists, pedestrians, and cars to contend with, it’d be dangerous to go too fast (particularly on your numerous cobblestones, tram rails, blah blah blah). So you don’t need high gears either. I guess single-speed bikes do kinda make sense. And the step-through frame thing makes sense for people wearing long coats when it gets cold.

But then, we’re back to my main point: why do your bikes look so shitty? So many of them looked like badly maintained relics and rickety old fossils. I saw a few bikes with so much rust on the chain and sprockets that I needed a tetanus shot just from looking at them. I saw some bikes that were chained up but had tires that had long gone flat. Did their owners get liquored up one night and forget where they left them, and then were too embarrassed to ask their friends for help in locating them? I did see a few nice bikes, but they appeared to be owned by companies that rented them to tourists.

And what’s with the bike helmets, and by that I mean the lack thereof? I didn’t see one person (seriously) wear a bike helmet. Yeah, I know they look kinda dorky, but c’mon…

On an unrelated note, what’s with the English? I had little difficulty negotiating the other countries because of the prevalence of people whose English skills ranged from manageable to decent, but Amsterdam seemed to have a startling number of people with unusually good English skills. Really, the challenge seemed not to be finding someone who spoke English but rather was finding someone who didn’t. Is it required or something? In any case, bravo Amsterdam. Your English is certainly better than my Dutch. Interestingly enough, I couldn’t make hide nor hare of your language when listening to it, but when reading subtitles on your tv shows I had a much easier time guessing what was going on… the overlap between Dutch and English was more evident, especially as a former New Yorker (although New York has few Dutch immigrants these days, at least to my knowledge, it’s history as a former Dutch colony is evident in some of the speech patterns even today).

Loved your red-light district. What I found fascinating was not the fact that prostitution was legal and brazenly advertised, but rather the fact that the red-light district was also frequented by what appeared to be otherwise normal families out for a stroll or a bite to eat in one of the restaurants. They didn’t seem fazed of disgusted by the goings-on, or view either the purveyors or purchasers of sex as something they scraped off of their shoes. And your Sex Museum, a bargain at 4 Euros, was awesome. Once again, bravo Amsterdam.

Lastly, your weather was cold and rainy. So you’re gonna wanna work on that.

I like Holland, the people are great, the food can be really lovely [and I’m looking at that fresh stroopwaffle stand …] and being able to sit in a cafe with a great cup of coffee, a few friends and some blond hash chatting and people watching is one of my favorite passtimes.

My personal downside is how handicap unfriendly the canal district is. It is a pain in a manual chair, I really need one of those 11 mph Bounder powerchairs …

Most of the bikes you saw where probably student bikes, they were stolen or bought from someone who stole them,
A lot of Dutch have two bikes an old one for work/school/going to bars and a better one for riding longer distances for leisure activities. You would never leave that one unintended in Amsterdam
Only Americans and Epileptics use bike helmets in Holland
Oh the weather…yeah can’t help you with that

You actually answered some of this already. It’s flat. It’s small and narrow. You can’t go fast. You’re not going to need a super fancy bike for daily usage.
Plus, there’s a lot of bike snatching going on, especially in Amsterdam.
That crappy rusty bike is less likely to be stolen (and if it is, you just go out and buy another cheap used one (read: buy a stolen bike))

The forgotten bikes, with flat tires (or half the time stripped of tires, saddles, etc) are probably that. Forgotten. Or someone found themselves a better one without a lock :slight_smile:

Not required by law afaik. You see a lot of kids wearing them, but no grown ups.

Yes it is. English is a mandatory class in highschool level education.
Probably because we’ve always been a nation of oportunistic traders, so being able to speak English next to the little known Dutch helped us a lot.

My American fiancee keeps pointing this out to me. I’m trying to…no luck so far.
IIRC we have the same climate as Seattle, so yeah…that explains a lot maybe?

It’s not just student bikes and they are not all stolen property (though many probably are). It is just that these bikes get a lot of use and are often left outside or in bike stands for hours at a time. I think you would think my bike is an old beat up piece of junk…and you would be right, except that it is less than a half year old. I don’t have space inside, so I leave it outside at all times…it gets knocked down by strong winds, plenty of parts have rusted because of the rain, my ‘headlight’ was knocked at angles by some other guy who ‘parked’ his bike against mine, etc. This is also the reason why I bought the cheapest bike I could find, I know it will get knocked around… if it doesn’t get stolen first. This was the first ‘new’ city bike I bought btw, all my other day to day bikes have been second hand, precisely because they tend to be sturdier and are less likely to be stolen (not sure if that is true anymore). And yes, I also have a better bike with 27 speeds for the occasional funride or ill advised attempts at climbing mountains in France; it spends 99% of its time indoors.

We don’t use helmets, because we don’t… just because we never have. Same reason why I don’t use a helmet for wintersports, by the time it came into fashion I had been doing without for more than a decade. The lower speeds and more relaxed bodyposition also makes it a lot easier to both maneuver and jump of your bike when needed. Also don’t discount the fact that 99% of drivers are (or at least were) cyclists themselves and that drivers are always at fault in a any collision between car and cyclist.

The English thing is probably because there are so many Brits, Yanks and Aussies staying in ‘the Dam’… you probably didn’t meet a single real dutchman :p. The weather is supposed to get better next week… but I’m not holding my breath to be honest. As you have noticed, the RLD is kind of touristy. I believe I read somewhere less than 10% of clients are actual locals… same goes for most coffeeshops.

Moved Cafe Society --> MPSIMS.

Some Swedes who had been on a bicycle holiday in the Netherlands commented that the Dutch cycled to their local in the evening and left their bikes unlocked outside. When they left they just picked up the nearest bike and cycled home again.

Hm, maybe the government should just buy <whatever the population of Holland is> and parking the appropriate number in the center of each village and scattering them around the cities in the middle of the night Christmas Eve and have an announcement made ‘Merry Christmas, everybody gets a bike!’ :smiley:

So, if I parked my wheelchair outside a store, would it still be there when I hobble back out? Or does the random borrowing only happen with bikes? :dubious:

Until I visited Amsterdam, I never realized the versatility of herring.

English: we subtitle all tv programs instead of dubbing and most of them are American. Therefore, we get a large infusion of American English at a very young age. You’d be amazed at some of the words our kids know. Embarrassing, sometimes, since they tend not to know the exact meaning of the word.
Bikehelmets: we just count on the cars not hitting us. There 's a massive resistance against having to wear the. I do on my racebike, especially since I found out the hard way how useful they are.

Streets full of water. Please advise.

I don’t mean to cross across snarky, and certainly don’t expect a cite for this, but I suspect this to be largely an urban myth. I heard the same thing, but have noticed that all my friends there lock their bikes religiously.

Just like here in Copenhagen, which has an even more extensive bicycling culture. The bike lanes here are spacious and everywhere, with very few exceptions.

Waterbikes, of course.

Alternately: drive on the sidewalks.

Indeed, this is nonsense. I live there and have never seen it. Probably all bikes left unlocked would be loaded in a van and driven off to be sold if this really happened.

Wasn’t there a law proposed/passed that bars tourists from partaking in the herbal offerings at the cafes?

Not yet. There is such a law (you need to be a registered member of the coffeeshop) in the border area, where they had a lot of Belgians, Germans and Frenchmen coming in just for the blow and being a nuisance. I believe the first results indicate that it just means a lot more illegal dealing on the streets. We’ll just have to see if they’re going to expand the rule to the whole country.

When I was there, people were smoking outdoors in parks, etc, and it didn’t seem to be a problem. Didn’t present a problem for us. It’s nice to be able to sit outdoors on the grass and have a picnic and get your buzz on. You can do that in Copenhagen without much worry too, BTW.

Something that cracked me up though- there is a big lawn outside Schipol airport where all the smokers going home are trying to burn through their stash, presumably to ride out their buzz on the (possibly super long) flight. I only noticed this the last time I was there. I will consider visiting the area if I ever find myself there again.

Not yet, and if they did it would be a matter of a fairly short time before the entire government would get recalled or whatever they do there to express their displeasure - the economy would seriously tank - it is amazing how much tourist orientation there is on getting tanked on weed in many areas. :eek:

Hm, I didn’t notice last time I was through there a couple years ago. But then again I rarely buy more than I can inhale while sitting in the cafe. I don’t get smoking rooms in hotels so there wouldn’t be many places for me to light up other than at a cafe.

Honestly though, I love traveling in europe, I seem to keep meeting the nicest people. But then again, if you don’t act like a total asshole, and try to be nice to people they tend to be nice back at you.

When we went to the Anne Frank Museum (see, I did more than the RLD), I went to the front of the line to ask the first woman standing there how long she had waited. First, of course, I first asked her if she spoke English. Turns out she was an American and said she had been waiting about an hour. She further noted, “you don’t have to ask if someone speaks English here. Everyone speaks English here.” I said, “yeah, I noticed that, but I don’t want to take anyone for granted. Besides, what if someone were a tourist from another country?” She said, “even the tourists from other countries speak English. You’ll see.”

Another note: Your Rijksmuseum was pretty cool.

Advice to a prostitute in one of the windows (you know who you are): yawning when trying to entice customers is not part of a solid business plan. Just sayin’…

Startling cultural difference: heavily occupied men’s room in the Amsterdam airport had a female attendant cleaning it up. That would never play in the US.

Another thing with the bikes. They keep running into each other. I was only there for 4 days (and in a conference most of the time) and saw multiple bicycle on bicycle and bicycle on pedestrian accidents. Yeah, it’s probably a good idea to enter an intersection without slowing down, while texting, with a heavy shopping bag hanging off you’re handle bars so you can’t steer well. I never saw anybody get seriously hurt, because the speeds were slow. It was like an entire city of people riding on the roads with the same oblivious attitude some US cyclists use when going the wrong way on the sidewalk (followups to whatever on topic pit thread you want).

I was impressed by the high penalty parallel parking along the canals. Don’t hit the curb, because there isn’t one, and now you’re in the water!