Large-scale Bicycle Parking

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If you’re walking, or better yet, cycling around Utrecht, you may start noticing more and more of these signs. Despite my photo, which was taking in strong morning sunlight, the green numbers positively glow, even from a distance. This is one of a pair that has gone up in the last month or so by Voorstraat and even in the nearby park, I can see the bright red and green of one of the signs from a fair distance.

What are they, you may ask? They’re bicycle parking signs. More specifically, they show primarily how many parking spots are available in various designated parking areas. And yes, I do mean bicycles and not cars. Keizerstraat refers to a smaller parking lot that primarily serves university students, particularly those going to the library, which is part of the building in the background. UB Plein is a larger, underground parking area in the University Library’s courtyard area. The station refers to the train station, which has space for around 30,000 bicycles at the station, with additional areas nearby for alternative options. The Centrum parking I’m not exactly sure about. I know that on weekends they set up temporary bicycle parking lots at Neude and in other areas, but I’m not sure if this is referring to a more permanent location.

Still, the numbers shown on this early Sunday morning gives you a small idea of the volume of bicycles in the city. This also doesn’t account for all the free-range bicycle parking you see everywhere, along with the smaller neighborhood bike racks. These signs are more for parking while you’re commuting, shopping, or studying. Even with all of the parking available, there seems to always be a need for more. Like the old Field of Dreams quote says, “If you build it, they will come.”
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Bicycles Instead of Fireworks

Even after many years here, when I see the date of 4 July, my mind turns to the American Independence Day, even though I’m now more likely to write the date the way the rest of the world does. Typically we celebrate in some vaguely traditional way, such as grilling out and maybe setting out an Uncle Sam figurine I have.
Tour de France Grand Depart Jaarbeurs
This year, though, it’s all about yellow instead of red, white, and blue, and bicycles instead of fireworks. This year, 4 July means the start of the Tour de France. The Grand Depart is being held here in Utrecht this year and there’s no escaping it. Rows and rows of pennants flap in the wind over most streets; trees are wrapped in yellow or white with red polka dots; flags fly from homes and businesses; large bicycle statues are in major squares; tour information desks are in the Centraal Station; and on and on and on. It seems like everywhere you look, you see something race related.
Tour de France Grand Depart Jaarbeurs

This week, I’ll be posting some photos of various decorations that have begun to take over the city. Some fans may have already arrived; the rest will be arriving throughout the week, with probably the majority coming in on Friday.

We’re also expecting a significant heat wave this week, with possible temperatures as high as 38 C/100 F on Saturday. Remember, there’s no air conditioning here. This may be my last week of blogging, as there’s a chance I may die from heat stroke this week. I don’t do well in the heat as it is, and working in a tiny hot kitchen in those temps may be the death of me. Just wandering around town today to get some photos had my head pounding from the heat.

So, with that cheerful thought, here are some of the photos I took today at Jaarbeursplein, the large square by the train station/theater and also the general site of the finish for the time trials on Saturday. (The actual Grand Depart is Sunday.) As you come out of the train station, you end up at the top of a massive set of stairs that give a great view onto the square and the painting that covers the ground. The bicycles in the foreground of the first picture are just normal Dutch bikes belonging to people probably having lunch sitting on the stairs. In the second photo, notice the tree trunk wrapped in yellow.
Tour de France Grand Depart Jaarbeurs
Tour de France Grand Depart Jaarbeurs
On the left is the Jaarbeurs convention center, which houses trade shows, exhibitions, meetings, etc. on a large scale. It’s also the home of the Beatrix Theater, where you can see concerts, musicals, and more. They’ve recently decorated the building with a plethora of bikes. I can’t help but wonder if they’re some of the ones dredged up from the canals or other abandoned bikes that have been picked up around town. I should hope so, as that would be an affordable way of decorating. There’s no shortage of broken, abandoned bicycles in town.
Tour de France Grand Depart Jaarbeurs
Tour de France Grand Depart Jaarbeurs
Tomorrow, perhaps some more trees, or maybe the Winkel van Sinkel. A bientôt!

800,000?!

DSC08161So it seems that 600,000-800,000 tourists are expected here in Utrecht for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in July. The city’s population will double or nearly triple.

That’s a LOT of people.

I thought the Domplein seemed much too crowded with tourists as it is on a normal sunny Sunday. Hmmm. Maybe I should stop encouraging people to visit more of the country than just Amsterdam.

Tour De France 2015 Route Presentation

Today is the grand announcement of the route of the 102nd Tour De France taking place next summer. It’s relevant to Utrecht, because Utrecht is where the race begins next year! We’ve known that for a while, but the official release of the full route was just announced moments ago. I watched part of the presentation on the Cyclingnews.com website, but had to laugh/cringe at the English pronunciation of all of the Utrecht sites (Jaarbeurs, Lepelenburg), but the worst was the name of the city itself. I don’t know who was responsible for the English commentary/translation I was watching, but dear lord, I hope they get that figured out soon. You should at least be able to pronounce the name of the city!

The race kicks off on 4 July, a Saturday, and part of it even goes down Biltstraat, where Vino Veritas is, though I think they turn off before they get to us. There will also be events in town in the days leading up to the start.

For a few months now, a statue of a bicycle representing the Tour de France has been in place on the Stadhuisbrug. I’ve taken ground-level photos in the past, but last month while up on the Neudeflat, I got a few more aerial views of the statue. Someday I may get over the Jaarbeursplein to see the big ground design they in place there. I guess I have until next July. For now, enjoy these shots of the statue on the bridge over the Oudegracht. You’ll notice that the Domtoren, in the background of one, was much too tall to be fully included. Also pay attention to the boat going through the canal in the shots, particularly the shot where you can see the man essentially pushing the boat away from the canal walls to get it through a rather tight bend.
Tour de France Utrecht 2015
Tour de France Utrecht 2015Tour de France Utrecht 2015

137 Kilometers From Paris to Utrecht

Tour de France Utrecht 2015
OMG, y’all! For the first time in more than a month, I left the house to go somewhere other than work! Six days a week, working two jobs, has left me little time or energy to do much of anything. But a quiet Sunday morning is one of my favorite times to go for a walk and with the heat abating a bit, as well, I set out for a short photo walk.

I had the Stadhuisbrug in mind today for a specific reason. Today is the last 137 kilometers of the Tour de France. Next stop? Utrecht! As I’ve mentioned before, Utrecht will be the site of the Grand Depart for the 2015 Tour de France. Various decorations, signs, and banners have been popping up around town already. The latest is this sculpture on the Stadhuisbrug.
Tour de France Utrecht 2015
I learned from experience when another sculpture representing the Vrede van Utrecht (Treaty of Utrecht) was in the same spot that it is best to go when few people are around, otherwise it’s almost impossible to get a decent shot. There’s always someone on it or in front of it. Fortunately, the people who were on it today were on the other side and don’t show up too much and the nearby tour group was focused on something else.

I managed to get it from a couple of angles, including with the Wilibrordkerk and its spire in the background, and one with a nice bit of shadow on the ground.
Tour de France Utrecht 2015Tour de France Utrecht 2015
I haven’t followed any of the race this year, despite my best intentions, but I really hope to get to see some of it here next year. They will be going down part of Biltstraat, although I think they turn off before they get to Vino Veritas, but I’d love to see them going under the Domtoren. Regardless, best of luck to the racers today. See you in Utrecht next year!
Tour de France Utrecht 2015

Cops on Bikes

Bike Cop
One of the differences that I can’t help but notice while being back in the US is the lack of bicycles. I’ve seen seven since being back. One of those was the police officer in the photo. Of the seven cyclists I’ve seen here, five have been wearing at least a helmet and most have been wearing some sort of special clothing.

Police in the US, at least in North Carolina, are always on mountain bikes or speed bikes. Certainly not the oma/opa fiets you typically see police riding in the Netherlands. This is a typical look for Dutch police on bikes. In other words, not much different than everyone else, except for the uniform. But even then, they wear a normal uniform and rarely wear a helmet. I don’t even have any photos of Dutch police on bikes — although I do have pictures of police on horseback — because they’re a pretty normal sight.

Dutch bike police also don’t seem to have the same kind of “attitude” that American bike cops have, although I’d say Dutch police in general don’t have the same kind of attitude that American cops often have. Take that however you choose. 😉 On the other hand, this photo was taken on an actual mountain, so fair play to the bicycle cop who can handle the climbs!

(Apologies for the poor quality of the photo. It was done with an old camera phone.)

Rainy Day Come My Way

Storm Cloud
This is the kind of weather we’ve been having. Hints of sunshine overwhelmed by dark storm clouds. It has its pros and cons.

On the con side, going out is a bit chancy, since you’re liable to get rained on at some point. If you bother with an umbrella, that’s just one more thing to carry. Forget taking photos. You have to juggle the camera and the umbrella and that just gets silly after a while. I know; I’ve tried it often! There’s also the matter of getting around town when it’s raining. You can walk and get rained on (even with an umbrella), or you can bike and get rained on (even with an umbrella, and I’ve seen many people bike while holding an umbrella). Many people just don’t bother with the umbrella, either wearing rain gear or just toughing it out. Yesterday I was reading about some mothers who were complaining about the “mother and child” spots being taken at their local grocery store (in the UK). So much whining! At least they have a car and somewhere to park at all! They should try it the Dutch way, in which (pregnant) women — often with another child or two in tow — do all their errands and shopping on a bike! In the rain!
(The blue bundle in front of the woman is a child bundled up.)
In All Weather

On the pro side of all this rain, we do get some wonderful light. Sometimes there’s an ethereal glow that settles over everything. Other times there’s a wonderful underwater ripple and stillness that produces lovely soft lights and shadows. The light can stop you mid-sentence with its beauty. I only wish I could capture it properly.
Storm Lighting [Day 214/365]
Even when all the color seems to disappear on a rainy day, there are still moments of quiet beauty and interest. The monochromatic effect makes you look at shapes, rather than get distracted by all the colors.
Monochrome

We do get a lot of rainy days, and sometimes it’s hard to find the beauty when there are a lot of them in a row, but it does help to try and look for the positives when you start to get a bit restless from cabin fever.

Back to the Future


I came across this video about cycling in the Netherlands in the 1950s and had to smile. Change the clothing and the types of cars in the background, but otherwise, the film could have been made today. Whole families on one bike, couples holding hands while riding, all sorts of things being carried while riding, and the inevitable bakfiets. The only real difference is that plumbers and such now have vans instead of bikes.