It’s that time of year again in the Northern Hemisphere: it’s cold, dark way too soon (if the sun even shows) and often rainy. To compensate, cities fill with colourful lights and decorated trees. I’ve done a bit of decorating, but just the bare minimum – what I can get on a bicycle and up the stairs of my 4th-floor apartment. Besides, with Amsterdam’s cozy lights in its parks and public spaces, my house doesn’t require any extra glam.
December is a special time for me. It marks my anniversary (now 3 years) since moving to this magic cycle city. And while the cycle culture is status quo here, it remains a fascination, a constant photographic muse, and a pleasure which I don’t take for granted.
Rain or shine, I hop on my bike: fighting wind, exhaustion, or the clock (since I always leave too late to catch a train, meet a friend.) Nevertheless, it is the most real and raw form of transport to embrace the season or discover a city, especially a city as enchanting as Amsterdam. Three years and I still love cycling the old canals, through Museum Square or across brick-covered bridges. I love the safety and freedom to travel with friends or alone, as a woman day or night.
I love that on busy days when I don’t have time to exercise, I have already ridden my bicycle for at least an hour in my commute; or if I do have free time, I can justify the extra calories of a second (or third) beer with a good friend. I’ll burn it off on the bike ride home and I don’t have to worry about who will be the designated driver. I love how clean the air in Amsterdam is (well, generally.) So much so, that I distinctly notice when a car or motorcycle emits putrid exhaust around me. And I love that during rush hour I can wiz past them, plugging my nose and pointing to their foul four-wheeled exhaust machine. (Cycling snob? Yes.)
With the bicycle I interact with school kids, citizens or tourists, if only for a smile or the ring of my bell when caught up in the chaos. I love that maintenance or repair is almost always less than 30 EUR and that the cycle lanes are generally safe, segregated from car traffic and well-maintained, even the morning after a wild night full of randomness or broken glass.
I could go on… but I’m not the only one who feels this way. Here’s a video produced by Street Films depicting Amsterdam’s cycling culture, as appreciated by its expats. I think it is the one thing about this fine city that we really wouldn’t trade. (That being said, I wouldn’t mind trading out the Dutch fried bar food for some healthier alternatives… at least I can burn it off on the cycle home).