Sunday, 31 July 2016

Amsterdam

Goedemorgen nederlands, het is 10 AM en ik fietsen op Amsterdam op 30/07/2016.

As you could tell from the first line, I had my first day of cycling, first day in general, of cycling in Amsterdam. And it was truly amazing. Even aside from the fact that I never needed to wear a helmet or feel like the cops were just around the corner waiting to fine me, I could cycle for tens of kilometres and want to keep cycling for over 10 hours (with a few short breaks, including trying to find my bicycle in a whole crowd of parked bicycles). I probably went at least 25 km of riding in that day. It was pretty relaxed too. 

The biggest stresses come from the same reason they would be stresses back home or anywhere else really, having to share with dense and large traffic. There were some portions where there were illegally parked vehicles, usually vans for no particular reason at all (you know who you are you annoying van drivers) and so I had to overtake them using the car lane (I never saw any four lane roads in Amsterdam), sometimes there was only a bike box and trixie mirror, and sometimes I had to get off and walk because of roadworks, but overall, it was far more comfortable (although some waiting time indicators and more roundabouts would be nice) than anywhere in Edmonton. Cycle lanes were generally wide and normally on relatively low volume roads otherwise where there was a genuine incapability of using anything else for cycling. 

The brick roads were nice, although they were sometimes a bit old, and especially with the need of replacing tile with brick on the cycle tracks) 

I got to experience the protected intersection for the first time in my life, found it to be even better than expected. Actuating the signal was much easier because the system was installed specifically to make it easy to push for cyclists, not to be used by pedestrians or dismounted cyclists. I also saw the roundabout with the tramlijn 3 through it, Mark Wagenbuur filmed that a few years ago, link here: BicycleDutch Amsterdam Roundabout. I liked the roundabout quite a lot, although I didn't like the sharp corners that I had to make to get onto the circle and I could never be sure whether the cars were going to give way. I liked the waiting time indicators, also when they were used for pedestrians (something we could immediately adopt in Edmonton, it would not be difficult). 

Public transport also felt like a joy. The trains from Haarlem to Amsterdam were fast and efficient, up to 130 km/h, there was WIFI on the trains, I could use the same card to pay for both the train and the tram I rode, and the tram often had reserved lanes with actual curbs to keep cars from intruding upon it as much, with signal priority, and priority even at that roundabout, it felt very comfortable to ride. 

Amsterdam also felt like a place where even at 11:30 at night, I could walk around a hundred metres ahead of my dad without feeling scared, I could even talk with someone who had tried cannabis in a pleasant way at the McDonalds. The street lighting was good, there were plenty of people around, and people weren't violent. All this even with the drunk and stoned people around, and roughly the same proportion of people who were drunk/stoned on their bicycles. Hey, at least they aren't driving drunk, and as long as you can balance on a bicycle, you should hopefully get home safely to sleep off your booze (although you should still wait until the booze has worn off before you try to cycle anywhere). Or party some more. I got back to my hotel after 1 AM, and the walk from Haarlem Central to the hotel, even over a kilometre, felt fine to me. 

No doubt you will ask whether I indulged in the tolerance of Amsterdam. Not in the sense that they tolerate people for who they are, I'm a straight man who is male and white, so nothing about me would stick out in Amsterdam (except that I know only basic phrases in Dutch), the other recreational options. Actually, no, I didn't. I'm 16, you have to be 18 to get cannabis unless your doctor is prescribing you some for something like a herniated disk, a condition that I don't have, and nothing would get a coffeeshop closed faster than selling to under 18s. Although I did buy some fries (without mayo though. How do you Dutch and Belgian people stand mayo on your fries?) from a place that also sold cannabis (I didn't look that carefully at the cannabis, but I think it was just the plant and brownies and other edibles, not joints). Amsterdam also happens to be the first place that I ever smelled marijuana (which isn't a bad smell IMO, it's the cigarettes I can't stand), not that smelling it can make you high, it is a distinct smell that I never knew before (probably for the better). I could have visited a hooker (21 to be one, 16 to buy from one in the Netherlands), but I'm not interested in a hooker, why would you when you could form a relationship with someone you could love back home (especially given that you have more options, like where you go, at what time of day, if you just want snuggles that night or something more intense, etc)? One of the sex workers did try to honeypot me though, nice try but no cigar. For the same reason why I can't get cannabis, I didn't try any Heineken, you'd have to be in Belgium for me to legally get that. Yes I know that it's a bit prudish and that most of the locals have had (usually somewhat dilluted) alcohol from a much younger age, but better that than someone who gets fined by the police (also Health Canada advises against even a millilitre before the age of 15, I haven't even had a millilitre in my life, and extreme moderation even into your twenties). 

I'm going back for more cycling and exploring in Amsterdam today, hopefully the traffic won't be too bad and the weather will be nice. Tot ziens je blog kijkers! 

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