My wife loves bikes, the upright kind, not the slick, ultra-light racers. She described the experience of walking down a street in Amsterdam (for the first time) a few years ago as being like viewing ‘bike p*rn’!
These are a few shots from a more recent visit there. What I was struck by is how differently bikes look and are treated over there compared to here, in Ireland.
Here we mostly have bikes for racing or ‘mountain’ bikes mostly used in town. Then there are a few women’s bikes of the high-seating, ultra-comfortable type. In all three cases most seem to be new, or relatively new, and often expensive. There are of course a few really old bikes that get lovingly restored and are generally painted black though I’ve seen a few in pink! However there’s a sense that most cyclists wouldn’t be seen dead cycling a bog standard old bike they got for €20 and worked on themselves. I think this is because cycling here is a bit of a statement, it’s unusual. Over there it’s as normal as walking.
Over there bikes are ubiquitous. They’re everywhere, of every kind, mostly old and generic. There’s even a multi-storey bicycle park cantilevered over a canal beside Amsterdam’s main station in . What’s interesting is that they seem to get treated like an extension of the legs or a scruffy pair of sneakers. There’s little pretension: a guy in a suit can get off an old generic pushbike there who wouldn’t be prepared to get on a bike here that wasn’t new gleaming, customised with paniers, with matching helmet etc here.
No-one cares what it looks like they just care that it gets you from A to B and that it functions the way you want (though that doesn’t mean they won’t paint it any colour of the rainbow!). ‘Functioning’ in Ireland means moving horizontally down the road with you on it, but in Holland ‘functioning’ can include carrying you and the shopping, the baby or babies, the baby and the shopping, the baby & shopping & girlfriend, or bread or pizza delivery etc. Bikes are used by the Utrecht museum to transport the public to the Schroeder-Rietveld House (worth visiting with tour guide), and for cycling visitors through the Hoge-Veluwe National Park.
Bike lovers and users aren’t afraid to be sensible over there either. Chain guards and mud guards are big and sensible. The willingness of Irish bike couriers & other cool cyclists to allow long mud streaks up the back of their coats has missed the Dutch entirely. They go for clean!