Amsterdam is running short on bike parking, despite efforts to continuously expand it, creating a ‘problem’ that few city planners could dream of. This cycling mecca has too many rush hour commuters clogging up its bike lanes, and not enough bike parking once they hop off. To tackle Amsterdam’s bike parking challenge, the city uses old shipping barges turned floating cycle-parking garages, builds underground two-tiered parking at train stations or near popular market squares, and constructs a plethora of bike racks on every corner. Nonetheless, in this city (and country) that has more bicycles than people, it’s often difficult to find a place to secure one’s bike. As a result, bikes are fastened to anything that is strong enough to prevent their theft, or being tossed into a canal by a late-night partygoer. The most popular bike locks include trees, stop signs, staircase railings, fences – or my favorite, bicycle latched to bridges.
There’s something almost romantic about a rusty old bicycle and its weathered bike lock firmly clasped to the side of an iron-rimmed canal bridge: the sun setting behind, silhouetting the bicycle. In the Dutch cycle cities of Amsterdam, Utrecht or Groningen, bicycles, new and old, clog bridge railings over their charming canal systems. Equally, bikes are strewn about in parks, on sidewalks, and outside doorstops. It’s a beautiful site. After 5 years of calling Amsterdam home, the novelty of this has not worn off, I always have my camera close at hand.
Parked cars though do not evoke the same feeling, quite the opposite reaction in fact. As a child I detested the mere sight of (car) parking lots. This childish aesthetic displeasure later influenced my education and career: focused on sustainable city planning, access to safe cycling and public transport, the preservation of open spaces in cities, as well as the protection of natural areas and rural communities surrounding cities.
As an adult, spending my days cycling through Amsterdam, Groningen or Utrecht, I fall in love with these cities all over again, every single time I hop on my bike. On my bike I stop and reflect on this amazing place that I’ve called home. I pull out my camera to take a picture (for at least the thousandth time) of one of my beloved canal bridges clad in rusty bicycles or flashy new models. It’s amazing to see how this cycle culture has influenced Dutch planning, and vise versa. Thankfully though, I’m happy to see many cities following suit, adopting the cycling lifestyle and planning models to support this urban transport mode. Of course, it will be a while before cycling will take the same stronghold as it does in the cozy cycle-centric Dutch cities I’ve become so familiar with, where cities have to deal with the ‘problem’ of what to do with all of those bicycles… For now though, I’ll just revel in the picturesqueness of the Dutch ‘Oma’ (Grandma) bicycle, chained to a iron railing over a canal…
*Images below and above were taken in Amsterdam and Utrecht.*