It’s almost impossible to take a photo at street level here in Utrecht without a bicycle in it. And on the rare occasion that there is no bicycle and you want one, you only have to wait a few seconds for one to go by. But for all the bicycles around, it’s not so common to see one proudly displayed in a window that isn’t part of a bicycle shop. This is just a residential street, with a great selection of bicycles on display, both inside and out. I must say that the window bicycle is certainly a change from the typical cats and plants I usually see in a front window.
Today’s big news is that the 2015 Tour de France will start off here in Utrecht. There’s been a lot of will they/won’t they going on for the past few weeks (months), but the official announcement came today.
To celebrate, the Domtoren has been festooned with yellow flags (in reference to the yellow jersey of the Tour de France). You can’t see the yellow flags that clearly in my photo, but I kind of dig the way the whole photo looks vaguely flat like an old-fashioned painted backdrop or stage set.
It’s not the first time we’ve had a bicycle race come through town. The Giro d’Italia passed through in 2010, but this will perhaps be a bit bigger, particularly as we’re the starting point. I wonder if they’ll ride on the Maliebaan, site of the first official bicycle path here in the Netherlands.
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?
I had meant to stick with the bike theme all week, but the number of links I was collecting for that museum story was getting overwhelming. Add in that yesterday was the Cetraal Museum’s 175th anniversary, and I just had to finally write that post. Unfortunately, I think I’ve used up all of my writing mojo for the week between work and yesterday’s post, so the more content-heavy bike post I had in mind will have to wait. So instead, here are a few more stylishly painted bicycles seen around town. Some are quite well done, while others gain points for creativity rather than execution.
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.
I’m finally going back to the US for a visit later this month. It will be my first trip back since moving here. I’m expecting a bit of reverse culture shock, including the lack of innovatively colored bikes that I see almost daily here.
While I try to cram a month of work writing into a week or so, I think I’ll take this week to share some of these interestingly decorated bicycles that can be found throughout Utrecht (and the whole country). Meanwhile, for everything you could possibly want to know about cycling in the Netherlands, check out the fun and informative blog Bicycle Dutch. Mark does a great job explaining the Dutch cycling infrastructure and how it can work in other countries. Plus, lots of great videos!
Sunday was a magical day, as the sun returned for a brief visit, and when I saw the sign in the photo, I suddenly started to feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland. We had been out for a walk along the canals, enjoying the sunshine and scenery. On the way back, we passed the Stadsschouwburg, the city theater, which has its front lawn decorated with stages, tables, and more as part of the new cultural Spring Performing Arts Festival. Not surprisingly, they also had a specially dedicated space for bicycle parking.
When we saw the sign (I am a pleasant bicycle parking. Please use me.), we couldn’t help but do a double-take and then burst into laughter. Sure, it could just be an error in translation, but I suspect it’s meant to be intentionally funny and welcoming. Regardless, how can you get upset with something so pleasant.
An added bonus is that it also reminds me of the Polite Dance Song, by The Bird & The Bee: