True Green Cities / Celebrating One Year – Applauding Amsterdam’s Trainability, Tram-ability, Bike-Ability and Walkability

Looking towards Amsterdam's Old Center from one of the many bike racks that line the canals and roads surrounding the Central Terminal railroad station.

My sister and I treated ourselves to two weeks in Europe last month to celebrate our birthdays.  We chose three cities neither of us had been to – Amsterdam, Bruges and Paris - with the criteria being that they would be within 3 hours of one another so we could take the train and not lose a whole day when traveling to the next city. If walkability is a measure of how friendly an area is to walking (according to Wikipedia), I’d say this trip was planned around trainability, tram-ability, and bike-ability with some walkability thrown in too! Bikes and Trams, with a taste of Canals Amsterdam boasts an impressive public transport network including metro, buses, trams, ferries and trains.  But the way most inhabitants seem to get around is by bicycle.  We stayed at a new hotel adjacent to the Central Terminal train station, an area that is criss-crossed with tram lines, bicycle paths, and pedestrian walkways.  For us it was chaos until we figured out which paths were for whom, how to read the tram signage and once we rode the tram a few times, how to signal a stop and then get the doors to open!  We were able to find our way around the city on trams and on foot with very little trouble.  And I’d like to give a plug to the fantastic website, “iAmsterdam”, which helped us plan our trip and continues to provide us with great updates.

Taking photos of bikes and canals in Amsterdam was one of my favorite things to do there.

While we were thrilled at how easy it was to get around, we were mostly intrigued by the bicycles.  They were everywhere.  Everyone rode them.  Instead of car parking ramps, there are bicycle parking ramps.  Children take bike-riding tests when they are 9 years old.  Residents take the train to the Central Terminal and keep their bikes at one of the thousands of bike racks or ramps near the Terminal so they can jump on them when they come into work.  There are 750,000 people who live in Amsterdam and 600,000 bicycles.  And the rain doesn’t seem to deter anyone.  It was very interesting that no one wore helmets except for recreational cyclists and I would like to know what the percentage of injuries and head injuries might be from bicycling.  I suspect it’s not very high given everyone starts biking so young and it’s just part of their lifestyle.  And I’ve never seen such a group of healthy, beautiful people. And then of course there are the canals.  After a week in Amsterdam and Bruges, I wish every city had canals.  There is something so refreshing and revitalizing about encountering canals at every turn.  One of our Amsterdam friends told us that the canals were a disaster several decades ago but a beautification approach revived the great 17th century planning that created the canals.  One of my favorite things to do while we were in Amsterdam was taking photos of the bikes framing the canals. If the Walk Score website’s tagline is Drive Less, Live More, then Amsterdam’s could be Bike Always, Live Forever! Celebrating One Year

Every city needs canals like the historic ones in Amsterdam!This week is the one year anniversary of my firm, BAC/Architecture + Planning, PLLC.  In honor of that, I am writing a blog a day for at least the next five days.  I’m hoping that if I get into the habit of writing daily it might just stick!  Thank you to all my readers, clients and colleagues for making this past year so wonderful and memorable.

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