Category: Leiden – Netherlands

Dutch cycle tracks to die for… Part 1

Lego's own cycle track

Lego’s own cycle track

So far, I have visited as many as 7 cities in The Netherlands and as I biked through these charming towns, I notice the cycle tracks are beautifully landscaped. They are so attractive that they are almost eye candy to me. To be fair, I am not talking about bike paths that are in parks or tuck away somewhere that you have to look on a map to find it. I am talking about cycle tracks that everyday people on bikes use and riding adjacent to streets within city limits.

Note many cycle tracks are bidirectional, and many times are on both sides of the street. Moreover, many are really wide to accommodate conversational cycling. The ones that are installed in recent times are made of special red asphalt that is really smooth that any weekend road warrior would appreciate. And no flats to worry about!

Special colored asphalt that will make your slow bike seems fast

Special colored asphalt that is so smooth that will make your slow bike seems fast.

By the way, did you know that the word “landscape” originates from the Dutch? I am sure because they have to work their land to manage floods since the beginning of time that they have become experts in landscaping and among other things. This expertise can be seen in their bike infrastructure.

On a cycle track just outside of Leiden

On a cycle track between The Hague and Delft

A cycle track in the Hague

A cycle track in the Hague

A cycle track on the beach of Scheveningen

A cycle track on the beach of Scheveningen

Another beautifully landscaped cycle track in Den Bosch

Another beautifully landscaped cycle track in Den Bosch

Cycle track leading up to Hovenring in Eindhoven

Cycle track leading up to Hovenring in Eindhoven

Green cycle track in Eindhoven

Green cycle track in Eindhoven

As I am half way through my bike travel, I have more cities to discover and will post more eye candy photos of cycle tracks. So stay tuned.

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Kids and Bikes in City Centers

This child on a push bike is really confident that he was about 30 m away from his mother, and he's not going to get run over by cars.

This child on a push bike is really confident that he was about 30 m away from his mother, and he’s not going to get run over by cars.

As a lot of us did when we were kids decades ago, we all biked and that experience became one of our fondest memories. As kids, my best friend and I would ride our bikes everywhere. We biked to our school on the weekends to play marbles, to buy sweets from the corner store, and rode just about everywhere in our neighborhood. This was all very safe to do because cars were few and drivers were considerate of people on the streets.

The signs show that cars are restricted to enter the city center at certain time of the day.

The signs to the right show that cars are restricted to enter the city center at all times of the day, except residents.

Now, we have pretty much lost that and children roaming streets on bikes are non-existent. But in these Dutch cities that I have visited so far, I felt these kids are empowered and independent. I see them having their own bikes decorated to their personal likings. I see them leading in front of their parents. I see them riding with their friends to school together. After they are done, I see them locking up their bikes. I have never seen so many kids out and about. These are scenes that I remembered growing up with.

This is in front of Saint John's Cathedral, famous atttraction in Den Bosch.

This is in front of Saint John’s Cathedral, a famous atttraction in Den Bosch.

What’s incredible about these Dutch cities, is that these all happen inside city centers. When you think of city centers, you think of traffic congestions and crowds. But when you close the city centers to automobiles or when majority of the population rides, this actually widens up the space and creates a safe place for all children alike. What these city centers offer to kids too, is that everything is there to foster their curiosity and to learn what’s out there in an adult world.

More kids inside the city centers...

More kids riding carefree inside the city center…

I am curious as to know whether Dutch children are most happy children due to biking and safer streets. Even without studies, I anticipate so.

Update:  Indeed, Dutch kids are the happiest children in the world in a UNICEF study done in 2013 (this was brought to my attention from Mark @ Bicycle Dutch).

These two kids are riding to play some kind of sports.  There's no such thing as soccer moms in these cities.

These two kids are riding to play some kind of sports. There’s no such thing as soccer moms in these cities.

This child here is leading the way.  And check out the little child on the front basket.  Happy as ever.

This child here is leading the way. And check out the little child on the front basket. Happy as ever!

This boy here is going inside the bike parking structure in the Leiden.

Here, this boy is going inside the bike parking structure in Leiden.

These bike racks can fit both adult's and kid's bike.  By having this, kids can have the same empowerment as adults, as it should be.

These bike racks can fit both adult’s and kid’s bikes which are ubiquitous. By having this, kids can have the same empowerment as adults, as it should be.

Great bike infrastructure allows for conversational cycling

I was sitting in this Indonesian restaurant eating lunch next to the window to bike watch. By the way, the Netherlands are known for their excellent Indonesian food, how England is known for their Indian food. And I was happy to see so many bicyclists there pedaling in pairs and chatting away.

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When you are cycling, it’s refreshing and fun! To me, it stimulates your mind and breaks down your social barrier. So naturally, you would want to converse. You never hear people saying “let’s go for a drive”, but you always hear “let’s go for a walk”, or “let’s go for a bike ride”.  Walking as much as riding a bike is pretty fun except that you can always for go for a walk because sidewalks are segregated from cars. If you apply the quality of sidewalks to bike paths, then more people would bike.

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But in America, you can’t do conversational cycling. It is just too dangerous to take your eyes off the road. The bike lanes are usually narrow for just enough for single file cycling, and majority of the bike lanes put the cyclists next to the door zone. It’s this way because we only get bike space only where cars have plenty of space already. An examples is those silly bike sharrows when there’s no space for bike lanes. Not to mention, all those cracked pavements and broken bottle glasses on the bike lanes that you can easily get tire punctures or getting your tires caught in those nasty potholes.

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Because the infrastructure here in the Netherlands puts bicyclists first, it naturally allows for conversational cycling. Their are so many car-free zones here that you think “where are all the cars?” These car-free zones are conducive for it. And their bike paths are usually wide enough for pairs riding together. Even more impressive is when you are out of the city center biking, the cycle track is wide enough for 3 riding abreast.

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So next time you are at a meeting for implementing bike paths, don’t settle for those skinny ones. It’s unsafe and it’s not fun!

Ad Bikes in Leiden

How pervasive is the bike culture in Leiden, a quaint but dense city 40 km southwest of Amsterdam? I say extremely pervasive. Bikes are being used to prop up advertising. I might add it is a smart way to incorporate marketing without being intrusive.

In the States, we have advertising on billboards, ads on the sides of cars and transits, and everywhere else that has space. We get so many ads from watching television and when we go out on the streets, we are bombarded with even more ads. It gets very commercial, obtrusive and makes the surrounding unattractive.

But using bikes for ads, I think it’s a nice touch. It’s small but it can get your eyes drawn to it due the the simplicity and beauty of a two wheeler.  But make sure no other personal bikes are around the ad bike because other bikes can take the attention away. Here are some ads I see riding around Leiden and I am sure this concept is in other parts of the Netherlands, too.

A creative pop-up store for all kinds of arts and products. Pretty creative ad bike!

A creative pop-up store for all kinds of arts and products. Pretty creative ad bike!

A nice contrast between the bike and its phone carrier store, Vodafone.

A nice contrast between the bike and its phone carrier store, Vodafone.

An ad for Eazie restaurants that serve Asian food.  www.eazie.nl

An ad for Eazie restaurants that serve Asian food. http://www.eazie.nl

Amrani beauty shop with its representative white step thru bike.

Amrani beauty shop with its representative white step thru bike.

If a bike can't get enough attention, attach a billboard to a trailer. Thank goodness this ad is inside the building.

If a bike can’t get enough attention, attach a billboard to a trailer. Thank goodness this ad is inside a building.