In a tailored jacket, skinny jeans, heels and the essential scarf, I’m gearing up to cycle with the fashionable folks of Amsterdam, on my Dutch rental bike.
Monthly Archives: September 2011
After five days wistfully watching the bicycle riders in Amsterdam, I finally got to step through the frame of a Dutch bike and go out for a spin. It was heaven–and a little bit of purgatory.
Renting a bike was super easy. We just asked at the hotel desk, and the clerk gave us keys to bikes parked outside the front door, explained how the locks worked, and sent us off. We were both surprised how the same frame size could accommodate Dick’s long legs and my short ones with a quick adjustment for the seat height.
Our hotel was adjacent to the Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s answer to Central Park, so we had a gentle start to get used to the bikes. But before too long we hit the city center and had to ride tight cycle paths with the men in suits, blondes on cellphones, mothers with toddler-filled cargo bikes, plus motor scooters. Then there were the cars, streetcars and pedestrians, all crossing the cycle paths at regular intervals.
The myth of separated pathways is that it isolates users by group. In practice, there are so many places where paths cross and people turn that it’s carefully orchestrated chaos. Unfortunately, we didn’t know the tune. Sometimes there were separate signals for pedestrians, bikes and cars, but not always. And if you don’t move right away on a green light, expect a tongue lashing in Dutch just as you would a car horn in Boston.
Nontheless, we made our way across the city all the way to the Central Station, then out to the ferry dock, into the Westerpark. We had no agenda, so it really didn’t matter where we rode. After getting a bit of advice from a friendly Dutchman, we stopped for ethnic food in the Oud West, got completely turned around and miraculously found our way back to the hotel.
In four hours out on the bikes and we probably covered 12 miles. But we saw some unique areas of the city, got some exercise, and learned a little about how to navigate the city (and how not to).
When was the last time you felt like a complete newbie at something you consider yourself experienced at?
The trade show is over, Dick has arrived, and I’m on vacation in an amazing city. It feels odd to complain, but I’m having trouble adapting. Before I left I was having a minor panic over my iPhone, iPad and MacBook not being able to work there. Did I need a power converter or would a simple adapter work? Would my cell phone work? I thought I was being overly anxious.
My friends reassured me I’d only need an adapter, so I picked up one at Best Buy. But at the hotel, I found the adapter didn’t fit the outlet. The prong configuration was correct, but the plug body was too big for the outlet.
So I had to recharge my beloved devices during the day at the trade show on power strip in the booth. At the show, I could get internet access through a network cable at the booth, but we had to share. So at the hotel: no power, but internet access. At the show: power, but very limited internet access. All frustrating.
After the show ended, we moved to a hotel closer to city center, where they had the same type of outlets so I really needed an adapter. I asked the guy at the check-in desk and they didn’t have any, nor did they know where to buy them. So I wandered the streets searching for one while Dick slept off his jet lag. I finally found this little hardware store with “keys made” sign in the window. I wanted to hug the sales guy who not only had the right adapter, but also explained how the new deeper outlets were grounded, which is why the old style adapters didn’t fit them.
For the cell phone concerns, an internet search said that AT&T doesn’t off cell service, so I’d have to pay very expensive international rates, which I could reduce by upgrading my service. I decided I would upgrade my voice service only, and not use my data services at all. I didn’t know just how how lost I would be without them. As we meandered around the city today, there were a half dozen times pulled over to reorient ourselves and couldn’t find our location on the tourist map. Where was my little blue GPS dot showing my location?
Fortunately, we found that if you’re looking at a map, especially in a tourist area, some genial Dutchman will stop to give you not only directions, but tour advice. A man stopped to help us at the Westpark, and we later saw another man helping these girls too.
What items would you be lost without in your life? Your phone? Your watch? Your favorite cup of coffee?
I guess I should have expected wind like this since the windmill is one of the most famous symbols of Holland. I’m glad I’m driving today, not riding a bike. Poor Dick is flying in this morning. I think he’s in for a bumpy ride.
When you think of Holland, what do you think of first? Windmills, wooden shoes, canals, or something less innocent?
The cars on the sidewalk are much smaller than they appear. Smaller than SMART cars, they’re legally not even cars, they’re light engine-powered quadricycles. They’re classified as four-wheeled mopeds and because they’re regulated to speeds less than 40 kph (25 mph), they don’t require a drivers license.
Who drives these things? According to their manufacturers, 65% are people over 50, mostly men living in rural areas or remote suburbs and who for various reasons don’t want to drive standard cars anymore. Another 30% are workers between 25 and 50 and don’t have the time or resources to take the driving test. Apparently in some countries the wait can be between 1 to 3 years to take a driving test. So no more complaining about the inefficiencies at the California DMV for me.
But the perception among my French colleagues is that because these minicars don’t require a license, many of the drivers are people who got caught driving drunk. The industry doesn’t agree, saying that only 3% of the drivers have been fined for minor (albeit multiple) traffic violations, not DUI or excessive speed violations. But then again, without a license requirement would the police even care?
Do you think minicars aka quadricycles should require drivers licenses? If so, what about bicycles? Where do you draw the line?
(See I told you they were small)
You know those boring corporate events you hate to go to after a long day on the show floor? This was not one of them. It’s hard to beat a canal boat cruise on a warm night in a beautiful historic city.
Our alliance partner BlueArc sponsored the event, inviting about 40 customers, resellers and alliance partners, plus a half dozen people from Hitachi Data Systems, which acquired BlueArc last week. With beer, wine, hors d’oeuvres and lively conversations, the three hour tour passed quickly. Then we rushed across town to join our colleagues for a late dinner.
What was the venue of the best corporate event you’ve attended? The worst?
Today I stepped out from the trade show for a walk in a nearby neighborhood. Being Amsterdam, there are bikes everywhere, on the cycle paths and locked to anything imaginable. In this little neighborhood, I found large bike racks on the sidewalk for the residents. The racks were overflowing. I guess when your bike weighs 40 pounds, dragging it upstairs to an apartment doesn’t make sense.
A few weeks ago I read an article about why San Francisco doesn’t install bike racks in residential areas. The short answer: they’re focusing on racks at commercial locations because they have more demand. But based on the article’s comments, there’s also a fear that the racks would be used by residents for long-term parking, not by visitors. Sounds reasonable at first—why fill up city-provided bike racks with resident parking? Shouldn’t residents or the building owners foot the bill for bike parking?
But take a step back and consider that long-term car parking in neighborhoods by residents is not only allowed, it’s demanded. That’s why converting street parking to bike lanes meets a lot of resistance. Some neighborhoods go so far as to restrict parking to residents only through permit programs, giving them priority over visitors. So why not give bike owners the same privilege as car owners?
What do you think? Should cities provide bike racks in neighborhoods, just like they provide street parking for cars?