Tuesday, June 28, 2011


The day after my first official Amsterdam bike ride, I spent my spare time re-familiarizing myself with Amsterdam's streets. The ride was not too bad...however the only thing I was able to focus on was staying with the group and not getting hit by a scooter, car, tram, cyclist or pedestrian. Least to say, it was not the most relaxing or scenic ride. I had a hard time understanding where I was and what street I was riding on--especially since Amsterdam's street signs are an alphabet soup mess (seriously, how I am supposed to remember Vijzelgracht or Nieuwe Kiezersgracht while riding? C'mon.). I should also mention that said signs are (for the most part) found on the sides of buildings rather than street corners--which often blend in with the building's facade.
With that said, I've taken to foot. This requires a tad more energy and time but the payoff is learning the subtleties Amsterdam has to offer. My favorite observation so far is Vondelpark--Amsterdam's circulatory heart.

This park is quite a magical experience. Everyday bikes filter in and out of the park's various corridors. In the morning parents and children ride to work and school while tourists flood the park's green space during days and evenings. At night, headlights flutter like floating fairies, dinging along, with lovers that hold hands and share Amsterdam kisses while riding (couples literally kiss and hold hands while on bicycle--cyclists are multi-talented here). I've included these pictures of a human heart and map of Vondelpark to show how (in my opinion) similar the two are shape and function wise.
Based on my city riding experience, riding in Vondelpark is much more enjoyable and, aside from the tourists, less chaotic. The park also spans across a fair amount of Amsterdam which allows riders to cut through the park and connect with alternate city streets. This helps save time and furthers the notion that riding a bicycle in Amsterdam as a main form of transport is way more efficient and desirable.
A few nights ago, I took a late night ride through the park with a few of my University of Oregon peers. While riding, I became curious as to whether or not Oregon provides such expansive and bicycle friendly parks for its residents. This is something I've especially thought about after moving to Denver and witnessing the wonderful city parks it has to offer. The only drawback is that these parks lack proper bicycle lanes/space--often forcing riders to share busy sidewalks with runners, walkers, children and pets (It's a miracle more accidents have not occurred). On top of this, the best way to get to said parks is to drive rather than ride a bike. Ideally, I would like to see Denver parks adopt more bicycle lanes and better connect its parks to each other and the city. Vondelpark has perfected these aspects and, after receiving an almost DUH like answer to my question, Eugene, Oregon has also done the same. It would seem that Denver has some catching up to do...
  Checkout how wide the space is for bicycles. In the middle street (black top) bikes share the road, traveling in opposite directions, with pedestrians and (at times) small cars. On each side of the street there are also paths for walkers and runners to enjoy--some of these lead to secret nooks within in the park!

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