Brooklyn on Amsterdam

The Brooklyn Paper has posted an excellent article on the state of bicycling in that most bike-friendly of cities, Amsterdam. Bicycling in Amsterdam sounds like a dream; the biggest issue they face is a lack of sufficient bike parking due to the ever-increasing number of bicyclists — what a problem!

To cater to the ever-increasing number of cyclists, the city has installed 250,000 free bike racks, mandated that office buildings include indoor racks for employees, and installed a three-story bike garage on a barge beside Centraal Station that can house 4,000 bikes at a time.

But the racks are never enough, and cyclists often chain their rides to railings, street signs, and just about anything else that doesn’t move.

As would be expected, bike theft is a major issue as well, mostly due to the sheer number of bicycles available.

Although the crime has declined in recent years, thieves still hijack about 50,000 two-wheelers each year.

To curb the crooks, cops establish random checkpoints and repossess any bikes showing the telltale signs of theft: a missing built-in rear-wheel lock, an etched off identification number, or defaced bike shop plates.

All that said, Amsterdam is just about as close to a bicyclists’ Utopia as you’re going to find; bicyclists dominate the roads and demand respect with their sheer numbers (50 percent of residents use their bikes for transportation on a daily basis). Plus roadways are designed to favor bicyclists. For example, some bridges designate one lane for cars and the remainder for bicycles and pedestrians — exactly the opposite of what we see here in the U.S.

All of this came about by a long-term effort within government to reduce automobile use and increase bicycle and pedestrian travel. We can only hope that we someday see a widespread shift within this country that takes us in a similar direction.

Read the story in The Brooklyn Paper

15 Responses to “Brooklyn on Amsterdam”

  • bongobike says:

    When I die, I hope my soul goes to Amsterdam.

  • Iain says:

    I am happy when I see the half a dozen, yes 6, racks outside my office window are full. 4000 that incomprehensible!

  • Roland Smith says:

    As a Dutchman I’m very glad we decided to invest in cycling infrastructure again after the 1970s oil crisis. I can do my daily commute and get my groceries by bike safely and comfortably. Weeks or sometimes even months go by between car trips.

    The important thing to notice and to bring to the attention of local governments is that the cost of cycling infrastructure is extremely low compared to infrastructure for cars or mass transit. The article mentions 5% of the cost of car/mass transit infrastructure.


    Hmmmm….I wonder if I could get a job in Amsterdam? I would be willing to work in, say, a coffee house or perhaps a smoke shop. Yeah thats the ticket.

    I hope to be able to go to the other side BEFORE I die

  • Rick says:

    A-Town, NL = flat. A-Town, USA = not so much. Copenhagen is similarly lacking in inclines, etc., and some of our better cycling towns are less hilly (Potland, OR, as compared to say, Seattle. Also Minneapolis, pretty flat-ish).

    I favor the bicycle-dominated landscape, you bet, but there are additional barriers to entry in several of our larger metropolitan areas.

  • Sharper says:

    The natural barriers to cycling in some American cities are no excuse to refuse to expand bicycle facilities in all of them, especially those (like Sacramento) where bicycles should be a no-brainer.

  • A Bike Commuter says:

    We have plenty of natural barriers: hills, snow, intense heat. We also have inane rules, such as the fact that most office managers prohibit bicycles inside office buildings (yet they do not provide secure locking areas).

    We also have design issues, such as the general lack of proximity between housing and work thanks to the abundance of cheap oil historically, local governments’ quest for growth and additional tax revenues, a expansionist view of road building, etc.

    Culturally, we are moving rapidly towards Michael Crichton’s ‘state of fear’, and cycling has to fight the public perception that it is a dangerous pasttime/sport/mode of transportation. Add to that the average household’s proclivity for super sized everything from WalMart, Costco, and other warehouse stores. A general lack of convenient public transportation for the young, old, or anyone unable to cycle. These generalizations don’t apply to every urban center, but you get my drift.

    None of the above is an excuse. And I doubt that any of it surprises the informed readers of EV. It’s just to say that there is no single answer to getting more people on bikes. I support more bike racks for commerce, cycle friendly work places, responsible use of resources and more. So I do what I can with a car-light approach to my daily life. And I try to help others do the same.


  • Stipe says:

    I was recently in Amsterdam, and I admire the whole cycling tradition and one can only hope to see at least half of it in his or hers local community.

    But what I didn’t like was the rudeness of Dutch cyclist against pedestrians – a saw people ringing their bells in anger if someone is slow on the crossings with traffic light (and the light has changed). For a tourist from a country with no cycling tradition I imagened that Dutch cyclist thinks themselves as gods on the road, and that isn’t good (at least not when headgear isn’t obligatory :(

  • drooderfiets says:

    Also Amsterdam is a flat city so this is easy to get from on point to another, the only moment when cycling requires an effort is when you start at a traffic light and when you get on a bridge. All other roads paths and tracks are flat as a pancake.

    @Stiple Yes bikes have bells and riders use it but I am not sure this is always with anger. Dutch pedestrians usualy take care of cycle path and don’t stand in the way of a bicycle. Tourists (and the city centre is full of them) are not used to pay attention to cycles. The only international way to tell them “caution there might be a danger here coming towards you” is by ringing the bell. In Amsterdam you must have one. Required.

  • drooderfiets says:

    By the way, does The Brooklyn Paper knows that Brooklyn comes from the Dutch village of Breukelen? They should have gone there, they’ll have realised that the entire Netherlands are organised around biking.

    Ouderkerk ann de Amstel is not Breukelen but it gives you an idea…

  • Roger says:

    We could learn a lot from places like Amsterdam.
    Vermont has this reputation as a great place to live, very deservedly in some senses; but in the bicycling sense NOT as it relates to use of public roads IMHO (especially Chittenden County).
    Having been a self-appointed bicycling advocate since the early 90s I know well the attitudes we meet. Which is the first barrier to overcoming the problems mentioned by previous posts (facility problems, access problems, etc.)
    In spite of long standing laws that say otherwise, a large number of the general driving public in VT thinks that bicycles are not allowed or belong on the roads. One I’ve heard a lot of: “bicycles don’t pay for the road, the cars do.” Believe me I know and have used all the arguments.
    Instead of seeing bicycle lanes as a way to clearly delineate the road and benefit everyone, they are seen as a tax burden. In fairness to the other side, gas tax money that was designated for road repair and maintenance in the past number of years has been diverted to social programs.

  • Rick says:

    Not disagreeing with any of the foregoing, I bring up topography as a separate obstacle to our hopefully bicycle-dominated future for intra-city transport. In hillier European towns (that still have more bikes than U.S. equivalents) the general populace are out and about predominantly on scooters. Just an observation on the significance of a viable electric assist option for bike commuters here.

    Most of the roads in my city will not be easily converted to accomodate bicycle lanes. Some pro-active locals are pushing for restricting to bicycle use only some roads of ingress/egress to central business areas. I heartily support their efforts, but urge them to keep the need for the electric assist option in mind when drafting the proposals.

  • Frits says:

    “Amsterdam is just about as close to a bicyclists’ Utopia as you’re going to find”? Amsterdam will never be a cyclist’s Utopia, if only because the structure of the city doesn’t allow it. Your blog list includes David Hembrow’s A View from the Cycle Path ( who over and over again shows how it can be done better.
    @stipe: The rudeness is real, and regrettably is one of Amsterdam’s trademarks.

  • Alan says:


    It’s all relative I suppose – try urban California (my stomping grounds) sometime to see exactly the opposite of what I’d call “Utopia” (heavy-duty car culture, pollution, few bicyclists, etc., etc.). Amsterdam does, in fact, seem like a Utopia in comparison, if only by the sheer number of bicyclists and the lack of automobiles.


  • hector says:

    Bicycle is part of Amsterdam because you can see bicycles wherever your eyes focuses. They value a lot their bikes.

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