Can Bikes Become A Nuisance?

This three tiered bike parking lot is a tourist attraction. Photo courtesy of New York Times

This three tiered bike parking lot is a tourist attraction. Photo courtesy of New York Times

The New York Times recently wrote an article about the plethora of bicycles in Amsterdam…clogging the routes and cluttering up the streets.  Whereas we in the USA work hard to get some of our populace out of their cars and onto bikes, the Dutch have succeeded; and there are some growing pains involved.

Citing their flat terrain, mild climate, and the fact that bikes can get around on the narrow streets faster than the buses do, cycling just makes sense in Amsterdam.  The stats I saw in the article report that 32 percent of the trips around Amsterdam are on the seat of a bike, while only 22 percent are in a car.  I’m not sure if the rest of the ambulation is on foot, by bus, or on the back of a reluctant camel.  It doesn’t matter much for this discussion…we’re talking bike congestion here!

A large portion of the bike consternation is parking, and part of the bike parking problem emanates from chronic ‘Dutch bike greed’. Not satisfied to clutter up the streets with one bike, many residents have two or three.  Because Amsterdam’ers are unable to ride more than one bike at a time, the spare bikes spend most of their existence chained to a much-sought-after lamppost (just about anything permanent is highly sought-after for locking up bikes).

Bike greed is so rampant that there are an estimated 880,000 bikes in a city with 800,000 residents.  I know that non-cyclists are duly impressed by this statistic, but considering that I have five bikes in my garage I wonder if we Americans don’t have a lot of bikes per capita as well.  The big difference being that most bikes in the USA are never ridden.

But back to the subject at hand, here’s what car congestion looks like in our big cities…

And they're all sitting there 'emitting'.

And they’re all sitting there ’emitting’.

And here’s what bike congestion looks like in Amsterdam…

And they’re all sitting there ’emitting’.








The rush off of the ferry.

The rush off of the ferry. Emma doesn’t appreciate having to compete with a scooter!






Seeing the picture above brings us to another issue…scooters are allowed to cavort with the bikes.  And many Amsterdam’ers don’t seem to appreciate it one little bit.  While many remain stoic, Emma seems to have difficulty hiding her ‘grumpy face’.

This bike/scooter struggle may have its roots in nothing more than an unwillingness to see one human being experiencing an easier life than another’s experience (non-exercise envy).  On the other hand, it may be that collision statistics are on the mind of  ‘Scowling Emma’.

Here are the stats…while scooters comprise only 3 percent of those on the bike routes, they are involved in 16 percent of the bike accidents.  Scooterists counter with the argument that nearly 100 percent of those they run into are cyclists.  The scooterist’s argument makes no sense at all, largely because I pretty much just made it up on the fly (the 3% and 16% statistics are true, though).

All of this is reported as a curiosity to you my loyal readers, since there’s not much in there that will effect you directly…just be thankful that you aren’t sharing the pavement with Emma from Amsterdam.

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