Amsterdam is a bicycling city, which is generally a good thing because it means less cars on the road and more people getting exercise. However, for the pedestrian it is not enjoyable…
Cyclists and motorcyclists had their own lane, which took a bit of time to get used to for us as most of their lanes looked very similar to the pavement and there were no cycle signs either to warn us unknowing tourists. I did hear that they are trying to stop motorcyclists from using the lane as they should stick to 15mph, but never stick to it as we always saw them bomb down the lanes with no worries about who or what was in the way. Cyclists never appeared to try and get out of our way or stop for us either. We thought this was rudeness but it was more likely to be because a lot of the bicycles didn’t have handbrakes, just a pedal-brake.
We realised this when me and Emma tried to rent bicycles from our hotel. We came across another very unexpected problem too. Dutch bicycles are too big for us! As it turns out that the Dutch are very tall people. I’m not a tall man at 5″6 but I have never had any trouble getting on a bike. But on a normal Dutch bicycle, even with the seat lowered I could just reach the ground by tip toe! So we had to rent two “small” bicycles, which by small I presume meant normal sized. Emma still wasn’t perfectly comfortable height wise on these smaller ones though.
It was two days later that we rented these “children’s” bicycles as one receptionist from our hotel called them…we only rode them for an hour or so around Vondelpark which was right near our hotel. Emma had an accident before we even reached the park! But it wasn’t her fault as we were still trying to get used to the pedal-brakes and lack of any handbrakes, so when Emma came to the entrance to the park which was slightly downhill on low sloping steps with a concrete bollard in the way, she was unable to brake quick enough and ended up grazing her knee quite badly and ripping her leggings on the concrete bollard!
The ride around the park was enjoyable, as the sun was out and Vondelpark is a large space with wide roads for all the bicycles. We got used to the bicycles but we didn’t feel confident enough to take them out onto the roads like my brother and mum did, as they did a group bike tour. Tourists need smaller bicycles that have proper handbrakes, then it would make it safer for everyone.