Amsterdam. Quiet, apart from the scaffolding-clang bells of the trams and the gentle chuckling of dope-heads in the cafes. So quiet you would think you would hear them coming. But no, they make no more than a whirr, a whisper, or sometimes a soft tinkle as the buggers come out of nowhere and try to knock you over as you cross the road.
Everybody knows Amsterdam is the cycling capital of Europe. The picture is of a multi-storey bike park adjacent to Central Station. A multi-storey bike park. Just think how many bikes must be in their. They are chained to every bridge, every railing. They have bike parks under the canal bridges. They are everywhere.
Thing is, Amsterdam is held up as being a paragon of 'the bike'. And it is. Bike have their own lane almost everywhere, although they do have to share it with uncouth mopeds. Super safe. Their accident rate must be next to nothing. For the cyclists.
For the pedestrians, its a different matter. Roads are six lanes wide; bike/car/tram/tram/car/bike. In fairness they have many light controlled crossings, which sounds good until you realise that cyclists in Amsterdam ignore them with even more enthusiasm than our home-grown breed do.
It is almost as though the extra authority given to cyclists in Amsterdam has gone to their heads. When the cycle lane is busy, they happily ride on what little pavement there is left for foot traffic. Zebra crossings they don't even acknowledge.
In all seriousness, I found it quite intimidating. I injured my neck trying to figure out which way I should be looking for threats each time I crossed the road - because they seem to go both ways along each cycle lane.
I'm all for making things safer on the roads, but surely it needs to be safer for everybody, not just for the single-interest group shouting loudest at the moment. Amsterdam is a living example that solving the bike problem is not just about giving cyclists somewhere safe to ride, but also in the still-unaddressed arena of forcing them to be responsible for their own safety and that of others.
Sadly, seems that wherever you are, that is still something being ignored.