My trip to Amsterdam gave me a unique perspective on the way Amsterdam residents use bicycles for transportation in the city. I have never seen so many people on bicycles before in my life. It was like there were flocks of them, all pedaling themselves to work and the markets.
Despite the high numbers of cyclists, and their mingling on the streets and sidewalks with trams, buses, cars, taxis and pedestrians, very few if any at all of them wore bike helmets. I don’t go anywhere on a bike without a helmet protecting this big melon of mine.
On the other hand, my associate Jim Kharouf bikes to the office every day he can and always wear’s his bike helmet. He has multiple reflectors, lights and changes into and out of bike clothing. Those in Amsterdam rode in their regular clothes.
Now, I must admit that I balance out Jim’s environmental friendly transportation by driving to work too often. My Chevy Avalanche would cost me 600 Euros a month in local Amsterdam taxes to own it and drive it there. Chicagoans complain with a $100 city sticker fee, yearly. Of course, the price of gasoline or petro would be a bit more in Amsterdam too, despite Chicago’s current average of about $4 per gallon for gas prices.
I live a bit further than Jim from the office, since he lives in the city and I live in the suburbs. Also, his bicycle is not very good at pulling a scout trailer or delivering boxes of scout popcorn.
Chicago is a great cycling city, with more than 12,000 bike racks, and sheltered, high-capacity, bike parking areas at many CTA rail stations. Amsterdam has a 3 tier parking facility at their Central Station railway facility with parking for 2500 bikes alone.
I have a great passion for supporting cycling related causes, because it is a great urban mode of transportation and should be encouraged and developed.
John Lankford, son of industry veteran Tim Lankford, is the Executive Director of an organization called Walk Bike Transport in Chicago. WBT is a non-partisan political action committee advocating healthier, safer, and economically friendly everyday transportation for cyclists, pedestrians and transit users in the greater Chicagoland area. You might remember John and his brother for their bike ride fund raising trip across Europe from a couple of years ago.
For my Chicago friends, I would encourage them to check out the WalkBikeTransit.Org website. Consider supporting this organization and their cause. With a new mayor in Chicago in May, the time is right to improve even more the infrastructure for cyclists.