Amsterdam (2) / Netherlands
In the Kingdom of Bicycles, I want to join the ranks of the cyclists!
For many people, the mention of Holland brings images of windmills to mind, but surprisingly, the thing that Holland leads the world in is the number of bicycles on a population basis, with 1.1 bicycles per capita.
Some people say that the number of bicycles increases because there are so many thefts (750,000 per year), so the Dutch have several bicycles that they use for different purposes. At any rate, when you see the vast sea of bicycles along the guard rails of the canals in the old town parked by throngs of people commuting to school or to work, you are completely convinced that Holland does indeed lead the world. And it is not just that there are so many bicycles, either. Various types of bicycles are used to suit a broad range of purposes, some equipped with baskets in the front where people can set their babies, and some bicycles designed so that riders can sprawl out as they pedal. Holland is also replete with special lanes, paths, and traffic signals for bicycles—surely this can be regarded as the Kingdom of Bicycles!
When you go on the road along the Amstel River on the weekend, you come across various groups—some dressed from head to toe in uniforms flying by on their road sports bikes, elderly couples cruising along at a leisurely pace as they have a pleasant chat, and families riding their bicycles together, with parents pedaling along with the baby in a basket at the front, and helping to support their children’s bicycles as well—and you get a true sense of how bicycles are an integral part of life here.
The Dutch are truly adept riders—they ride in the rain holding umbrellas, play portable games using both hands, reading books, and more. You naturally get the sense that riding a bike has become ingrained in them by riding ever since they were small children.
I have been searching for a bicycle so that I can join the ranks of the cyclists here in the kingdom of bicycles that is Holland, but I have had no luck as I can find only large sturdy ones, but none that really suit me. So I have been relying entirely on rental bicycles (about ten Euros a day). But even so, I am hooked on the exhilaration of flying through the park, and I can’t wait to find my own road sports bicycle.
I invite all of you who are coming to Amsterdam to be sure and enjoy rental cycling once during the upcoming season. If you ride for an hour, you can fully enjoy the rural landscape of Holland with flowers blooming, horses and cattle grazing in the meadows, and windmills in the canals dotting the scenery. And for those of you who will be driving, please do take the utmost care about cyclists—they really push it in terms of their riding speeds.
Marubeni Group magazine "M-SPIRIT" VOL.64 (July, 2011)