AMSTERDAM TO HAARLEM – with bike and smartphone

Bring it on! Trucks and planes are no bother.   I have my own cycle path.

Bring it on! Trucks and planes will not bother me. I have my own cycle path.

The joys of living in Amsterdam. It’s a fine day, I need some exercise and I have the afternoon free. One of the most beautiful small towns in the world is an hour away by bike.

I don’t need a helmet, I’m not wearing lycra and this time I’m not even taking a camera. The phone in my pocket will do the job.

Even my bike doesn't need to be special. I'm taking the old Peugeot I use as a city bike. That's it on the left, the blue one.

Even my bike doesn’t need to be special. I’m taking the battered old Peugeot I use as an anti-theft city bike. That’s it on the left, the blue one.

We live on a fairly quiet street beside a canal (the one in the above photo). There’s a back way from here out of Amsterdam in the Haarlem direction. I ride just a hundred metres before the car-free cycle path begins.

Maybe there's a little danger of tangling with another bike, but I'll hardly ever have to deal with motor traffic over the 21kms between here and Haarlem.

Maybe there’s a little danger of tangling with another bike, but I’ll hardly ever have to deal with any motor traffic over the 20-odd kilometres between here and Haarlem. Except the scooter in the photo.

Broad cycle paths like the one above take me six kilometres to the fringe of Amsterdam’s built up area. There are a few roundabouts where roads cross the cycle path and at every one, I have right of way.

Of course, any Dutch bike ride needs to pass a windmill. This is the Molen van Sloten, which also features a barrel-making museum and statue of Rembrandt.

Of course, any Dutch bike ride needs to pass a windmill. This is the ‘Rembrandt Molen van Sloten’, which also features a barrel-making museum and statue of the man himself.

Behind the suburb of Osdorp I ride onto a dyke, with a road like this. I say 'road' but it's highly unlikely a car will be using it.

Behind the suburb of Osdorp I ride onto a dyke, with a road like this on top. I say ‘road’ but it’s highly unlikely a car will come along to endanger me.

Near Schiphol Airport, there's a busy intersection. But look - the cycle path goes underneath it.

Near Schiphol Airport, there’s a busy intersection. It could be a daunting cycling hazard, but look – the cycle path goes underneath it. Thanks, Dutch bike-path planners!

About five kilometres further on, I reach the outskirts of Haarlem, a town of 155,000 people. It too has bike paths, separated from motor traffic, all the way in to the Centrum.

I pause on the (bikes and pedestrians only) bridge over the Spaarne River to take the photo...

I pause on the (bikes and pedestrians only) bridge over the Spaarne River to take the photo…

...then roll into the Grote Markt in the centre of the town.

…then roll into the Grote Markt in the centre of the town. There are cars on this small section of road, though they drive with care. Bikes outnumber them.

It's Market Day by the Grote Kerk. (Great Church)

It’s Market Day by the Grote Kerk (Great Church). Central Haarlem is closed to motor traffic. Everybody seems happy with that, shopping at the stalls, drinking koffie in the sun and taking photos with their phones.

But the surrounding streets are still very quiet.

The streets by the Grote Markt are very quiet. The only problem is a shortage of bike parking spaces. Fortunately there are racks near the church.

I have 23 kilometres on the bike computer. I can give myself some extra credit for having ridden into a stiffish headwind to get to Haarlem. It will blow me back home in less than an hour.

In the course of my afternoon’s ride, I’ve seen dozens of Dutch cyclists out taking advantage of the bike paths, for recreation or just going about their business. It’s clearly a boon for reducing traffic congestion, carbon emissions and improving public health, physical and mental.

Is it any wonder I feel frustrated with the lack of cycling infrastructure in Australia, and in NSW in particular?

It’s the first time I’ve relied on my phone to do all the photography. Works quite well, I think, and much less trouble than lugging around a camera. Must do it more often!

13 Comments

Filed under Amsterdam, Cycle touring, Cycling

13 responses to “AMSTERDAM TO HAARLEM – with bike and smartphone

  1. What exactly is an anti-theft city bike?

  2. Richard,
    Is riding at night a common occurence? I can imagine the scenery at dusk must be beautiful-er.

  3. I have a new Samsung phone. The quality of the photos is very good, though settings are limited and some photos need editing on the computer. My camera is in permanent hibernation. Your photos look great Richard. Nice little bike trip for you.

  4. David Young

    Love the post, brought back memories as the ‘old Peugeot’ is the one I rode to Haarlem where I left my camera under the coffee table. Thanks for the memories and for retrieving the camera.

    • Yes, David, and if I remember correctly we took the slightly longer, more scenic route, through Halfweg and Spaarndam, where the Peugeot suffered a flat tyre. Haven’t had one on that bike since.

  5. You are sooo lucky to have such an excellent cyclist/pedestrian network, Richard. I wish we had that in our city too. But here cyclists (and pedestrians) have to face off against fumes-spewing delivery trucks, erratically lane-changing minibus taxis, assorted speeding cars, and drivers who don’t stop at pedestrian crossings or who race through just-turned-red traffic lights. You can imagine who doesn’t win in such a tussle.

    So – enjoy the beautiful scenery all around you – and the photos are brilliant!

    • Yes, Reggie, many cities around the world are now building better infrastructure for cyclists, or at least paying lip-service to the need to do more. Nearly all lag behind the Netherlands, which is why I’m so keen to point out how it works here.

      The benefits are not just for cyclists; this helps everybody through reduced traffic and pollution and better public health, not to mention the tourist dollars it attracts.

      • I wholeheartedly agree, Richard. And I think some improvements have already been made with the creation of (fairly) dedicated cycle paths… but they aren’t well integrated, and often rejoin busy roads, which in my view defeats the whole objective of being able to use your bike to get from A to B.

  6. kevinmayne

    Nice post. Al the best ones make me go “wish I was there” – you have done it again.

    My cheap phone takes rubbish blurry pics, I think I need an upgrade. And learn not to rub the lens with my keys in my pocket when riding.

  7. Thanks, Kevin. Yes, and give that lens a wipe! I ruined a perfectly good set of shots last week with a big smudge I failed to notice till I downloaded them.

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