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Inside the Bicycle’s Conquest of Amsterdam

To make way for pedal-powered mobility, the Dutch capital embarked on a decades-long campaign to design streets around the needs of cyclists, not drivers. The…

Friday, Oct 14

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To make way for pedal-powered mobility, the Dutch capital embarked on a decades-long campaign to design streets around the needs of cyclists, not drivers. The humble black bike is the undisputed king of urban mobility in Amsterdam.

Photo: David Dudley/Bloomberg CityLab In a city where bicycles outnumber humans, the omnipresence of the machines can be overwhelming. The bikes of Amsterdam cluster at every curbside, line canals and bridges, and sweep silently around you when as you stroll. The urban fabric is saturated with cyclists, flowing through a complex network of bike-optimized lanes, paths, fietsstraten and woonerfs in numbers that can astonish — and intimidate — newcomers.

“You are here in the bike capital of the world,” Meredith Glaser announced to a gaggle of attendees at the Bloomberg CityLab conference in Amsterdam this week. More than 60% of trips in the city happen on bicycles, she told us. As the director of the Urban Cycling Institute at the University of Amsterdam, Glaser helped develop an online course called Unraveling the Cycling City, which aims to explain how the Dutch transformed their transportation infrastructure to bring the bike to the top of the mobility food chain.

To tell that story — and show how other cities could follow the Dutch example — she led a group of neophyte riders on a field trip through the city’s streets at dawn.

Many of us were uneasy about setting off on an urban ride bare-headed. Why no helmets? “Look at the bikes you’re riding,” Glaser said. Neophyte riders […]

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