Amsterdam – Hamburg

After countless hours on a bicycle over the last couple months, there have been several reoccurring themes that have seem to exist in the most pleasant cities or areas to ride a bike through. The transition from The Netherlands into Germany has made these elements even more evident. For one, consistency is key when it comes to convenient bicycle infrastructure. When a cyclist has difficulty interpreting where they are supposed to be and when, riding can be unpleasant, especially in highly trafficked areas. One thing the Netherlands has figured out, is that a bike path only works as well as it is marked, typically in red, with more specific hierarchy markers such as yield and right-of-way designations in broad white strokes. This is also applied to materiality, which is used to create a clear distinction between road, bike path, and sidewalk.

As a side-note opinion, I want to make a small rant about the color of bike paths. I have noticed a trend occurring in the United States recently, where new bike paths or lanes are being painted green. Which is fine, but I do feel that color is a huge factor in how people perceive bicycle infrastructure, and there is merit for using red over green. For one, green almost has some political connotations that are associated with it. In a state like Arizona, we don’t necessarily need our drivers associating a bike paths with the Greenwash movement. Red on the other hand, when seen from the driver’s perspective, immediately triggers a cautious response. Because really, if people are going to use their bicycle to run an errand or ride to work, they should feel safe and comfortable, not like they’re helping make a statement. End rant.

Anyways, immediately after leaving Amsterdam, the tour picked up pace again since getting into the Netherlands, with longer riding days and fewer rest days in-between. Luckily, it’s been nice to have Regan join me and share her experiences of adapting to a riding lifestyle and seeing the peculiarities of a new landscape.

Our first day on the bike took us to Delft where we met one of Regan’s friends, Clare, who was studying there for the summer. Thanks to some perfect timing we were able to meet her and her classmates at a professional criterium bike race happening in the city. So, as the only appropriate thing to do after riding 50 miles, we talked Dutch bicycle culture with the other students while enjoying their local beverages of choice and heckling the riders.

We had to make our way from Holland to the eastern edge of The Netherlands, cutting through Gouda, Utrecht, and Arnhem along the way. Utrecht and Arnhem made notable stopping points because of their respective central stations, and Gouda was notable because of its cheese. Unrelated to the type of the cheese, we made it to Münster about 40 miles after crossing into Germany.

Thanks to a recommendation from a friend, I made sure our route passed through Münster just in time to see the city-wide sculpture exhibition that only happens every 10 years. With the first Skulptur Projekte exhibition taking place during the summer of 1977, the city has been inviting acclaimed artists to install temporary and permanent works throughout the city every decade since. Luckily for Regan and I, the best way to see these sculptures is by bicycle, so we spent an entire day riding to seek them out, like a city-wide scavenger hunt. It was impressive to see a historic city filled so much contemporary art.

Following Münster it was a four-day grind of riding and camping to make it to Hamburg. After we finally made it, we had to navigate our way through the heavily industrial southern edge of of the city; avoiding highways and crossing above or below waterways and railroads along the way. It was impressive to see the scale of the port operations, and after a couple of days in Hamburg, it was clear how much the city is influenced by this heritage. A symbol of this heritage is evident in the new Elbphilharmonie, where Regan and I spent our last evening in Hamburg before setting off for Sweden the following day.

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