Prior to even researching Holland, I already knew that The Netherlands is a very bike-friendly country, so much so that in any given city there, you will probably notice that bikers outnumber cars by a long shot. Countless articles I’ve read, not to mention people I’ve met who have either lived, visited, or are from Amsterdam have noted that Amsterdam is very likely the most bike-friendly city in the world, that it could even be stated that bikes outnumber pedestrians, which is mind-boggling to me. The city of Amsterdam has about 400 kilometers (249 miles) of bike lanes. They usually run alongside the streets, but sometimes, it can get confusing when the bike lanes look to cut into pedestrian walk paths. And while bikes are supposed to stay in bike lanes since that’s what they are designed for, very often, you can see bikers in walking paths and on sidewalks. And this is when I, as a first-time visitor to Amsterdam, get confused.
I am all for a bike-friendly city. I do not bike (nor do I have any desire at all to bike, especially in a city like New York), yet I was excited to see all the new bike lanes that have been created throughout Manhattan. But while pedestrians typically have right-of-way when it comes to vehicles, here in Amsterdam, it seems like bikers have right-of-way… against virtually everyone — cars and pedestrians. Maybe it’s just because I’m a foreigner and just don’t “get it,” but why should a biker have right-of-way over a pedestrian? And why would you, as a biker, want to go against a pedestrian when you are a) not wearing a helmet (I didn’t see a single biker wearing a helmet here) and b) likely to fall off your bike in the event that you hit a pedestrian and then get injured?
Looking both ways doesn’t always help either. Several articles I’ve read have said that tourists tend to cause bikers to get into accidents because they do not look. I would argue that we actually are looking, but given some of the bike lanes curve and are not always clearly outlined to someone who isn’t familiar with the roads here, it’s hard to just assume pedestrians will see and understand all of this.
I didn’t realize how much I like cars until I realized how aggressive bikers could be.