Two-Wheel Transport

Two-wheel Transport
I couldn’t resist the juxtaposition of the scooter and the motorcycle when I came across them near Lepelenburg Park. Both may be motorized, but they have very different associations. One putters along, while the other zooms. (Though anyone who has had a scooter zoom past them on a bike lane is likely to dispute the puttering bit. There are frequent demands to have scooters banned from bicycle lanes.)

Of the two, the scooter is the more common sight, at least in this part of town. You’ll see rows of them near restaurants that specialize in delivery, and you’ll see both young and old riding them around town.

But of course, it’s the non-motorized two-wheel transport that you’ll find most frequently, in large numbers, and never far away.
Two-wheel Transport

Wild Bicycle Parking in Utrecht

Bike Parking Along the DriftDespite the number of official spots for bicycle parking in the city, ranging from indoor parking to your typical outdoor bike rack, wild parking (I like the literal translation of wildgeparkeerde) is still the norm. It’s not surprising, considering the number of bicycles in the Netherlands outnumbers people, not to mention the whole point of cycling is the convenience it offers. If you’re out running a quick errand, you don’t want to park your bike blocks from where you’re going, just to park in a designated spot. Of course, there aren’t always that many designated spots, either.
Bike Parking Along the Drift
The Drift canal runs is lined with university buildings, including a library, so it’s no surprise that it’s a popular destination for people on bike. Students and faculty alike spend plenty of time in the area. However, offhand, I can’t think of that many convenient outdoor bicycle parking areas nearby. I think the newly renovated library probably has some underground parking now, but there’s still plenty of wild parking happening up and down the canal. So much so, in fact, that signs have to be put up on some of the bridges to prohibit bikes being parked there. With varying degrees of success.
Bike Parking Along the Drift
Some people really dislike the mass of bikes that pile up and they can be inconvenient at times, but overall, I don’t mind them. I’ll take huge swathes of bikes over cars any day! Plus, it can be quite picturesque in its own way. A row of lamps, a sea of bicycles, charming buildings, and a Gothic cathedral to top it all off.
Bike Parking Along the Drift

Now Where Did I Park My Bike?

Fietsenstalling
Just a small section of some of the bike parking near the station. They’ve added new indoor bicycle parking since I took these photos in January. That holds approximately 4500 bicycle parking spaces in a three-storey, automated lot under the station. They’re building more bicycle parking to hold roughly another 12,500. All of this is to help get rid of this “ocean of bikes“, though it sometimes seems that as soon as a new parking garage is built, it’s already full. Still, imagine if all of these represented cars. You can see a small overview of the area I photographed in this photo. The massive above-ground parking is partially seen on the right.
Fietsenstalling
Fietsenstalling
Fietsenstalling
Fietsenstalling
Fietsenstalling
Fietsenstalling
Fietsenstalling

Utrecht One of the World’s Most Bike-Friendly Cities

Bike Paths
A couple of days ago, CNN posted an article listing the most bike-friendly cities in the world. As they point out, the majority of the cities are found in northwest Europe, with the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark among those with the largest infrastructure to make cycling a safe, daily experience.

Obviously, the Netherlands was bound to have a city or 20 in the list, but amazingly, they focused on Utrecht, rather than Amsterdam. As they rightly point out, Amsterdam may often top these kinds of lists, but the number of tourists — on foot, and on wobbly bike — make cycling in Amsterdam much more challenging. On the other hand, Utrecht, which has no shortage of people cycling every day, doesn’t have quite the same influx of uncertain tourists. We do, however, have an extensive system of spacious, segregated bike paths, not to mention a reduction in the number of cars driving in the binnenstad (city center) itself. The car is being phased out and more support for bicycles is being developed.

As the article points out:

In its center, up to 50% of all journeys take place in the saddle and local authorities are building a 12,500-space cycle parking facility billed as the world’s biggest.

That 12,500 bicycle parking garage is hardly the only one in town. It’s going to be by the train station where there are already a number of massive bicycle parking lots. There are others located throughout the city, both indoors and outdoors, as I’ve posted about in the past. I think tomorrow my Wordless Wednesday post will be some of the outdoor parking by the train station. After all, many people take the train to work, but cycle to and from the station to their home and work.

As the article also mentions, people of all ages cycle here. Going to school, going to work, going shopping, going to see friends … everyone rides a bike. Men in suits, women in skirts and heels, and everything in between, with not a helmet to be seen. The system is set up to make cycling safe and easy, and obviously it works if half of all journeys here are by bike, rain or shine.
Convey Motion
Bike Lane
Winter Sunlight
Pretty as a Picture

The Ubiquitous Bicycle

Flowers and FietsInvader Stu left a comment for me today on how difficult it must be to take a photo in the Netherlands without at least one bicycle getting into shot. It’s a conversation I’ve had with others, as well. Certainly when it comes to city photos, it is nearly impossible to get a street-level shot without at least one (or many more) bicycles in view.

Fortunately, bicycles add a certain charm to most photos and settings. Sometimes they even complement a scene, such as the red fietstas (bicycle bag) in this photo that pairs well with the red of the flowers. I find it best to embrace the bicycle and try to make it a part of the photo, rather than awkwardly trying to block it from the shot. Give in! Embrace our bicycle overlords!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Street (and Bicycle) Life in Utrecht

Street LifeThis week’s photo challenge theme is street life, which in Utrecht and most of the Netherlands, could easily be called bicycle life. It’s a rare moment that there isn’t a bicycle in sight, whether passing by or parked somewhere.

I decided to focus on one short stretch of street (approximately .2 miles), which is part of the main street that runs east/west through the old city center of Utrecht. Moving from west to east, you pass Janskerkhof, the square surrounding Janskerk (John’s Church), which is the big church-like building in the background. The street is closed to through traffic now, so the only real traffic comes from buses and bicycles. As you can see, there are specific lanes for the bicycles going each way, two lanes for the buses and occasional car, and sidewalks for pedestrians.Street LifeThere may be bicycles everywhere, but that doesn’t mean people don’t share a ride. Hopping on the back of the bike is done by everyone, both children and adults.
Street LifeIn the square in front of the church is the Broodje Mario shop stand. Mario’s is an institution in Utrecht, with the classic Broodje Mario made up of Italian meats and cheese and spicy vegetables, somewhat similar to a muffuletta in New Orleans. During the lunch hour, there’s usually a line of people and others milling about enjoying their sandwich. There’s no drive-through, but you can ride your bike practically right up to the shop.

Our final stop on this brief journey highlighting a small segment of street life in Utrecht takes us to Florin, a bar/restaurant popular with the university students. On Saturday afternoons, they host live music events, so it’s not unusually to see signs, banners, and people standing outside chatting. And of course plenty of bicycles parked outside.Street Life

Follow the Red Dots: Alternate Bicycle Routes

Bike Paths
The way some cities have streets congested with cars, many Dutch cities have streets congested with bicycles, particularly during rush hour. Mark over at Bicycle Dutch has posted a number of videos and blog posts over the years showing some of the rush hour bicycle traffic here in Utrecht. The worst area is the main street that runs east to west through the city. On the western side is the train station and on the eastern side of the city is the university. With all of the students riding through town, plus all of the regular commuters and locals trying to get around town, the street can be incredibly busy with bikes. Although I’ll take bicycles over cars any day!

In an attempt to find alternative routes and solutions for the heavier rush-hour traffic, a pilot program began in April to draw attention to less-travelled routes that still get you to the same place. No new paths were created, they simply made more of an effort to highlight existing routes. The way they did so was by painting red circles on the street, as seen in the photo above. The red circles guide cyclists by veering off into a different direction (over the Herenbrug and into the Museumkwartier, in this case), rather than taking you straight up to the main cross street. (You can see the new route in the last image in this post.)

Students from the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten (School of the Arts) helped provide some of the inspiration for the plan. The effects of the campaign were studied through September, taking into account traffic and user responses. I don’t think official results have been released yet, though.

In all, it seems like a decent idea to draw attention to alternate routes, especially for those who may find the main street a bit overwhelming during its busiest moments. If nothing else, it provides what is often a more attractive route.

Have any of you used the alternative route? Did you like it?

Pretty in Pink Bicycle

Is It Pink Enough?
I suppose this could be considered the Dutch equivalent of a high-viz jacket/vest. The person riding this bike certainly won’t go unseen. Trust me, the photo doesn’t even begin to do justice to the retina-searing shade of neon pink that is this bicycle. The fact that it seems to perfectly match the decorative flowers is simply pink icing on on the cake.

Still, for those who were lamenting their inability to recreate yesterday’s rainbow bike, this should give you hope. Just start spraying. Who cares if you happen to paint the tires, lights, locks …
Is It Pink Enough?