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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Amsterdam: The Ballet of Traffic

Organized chaos or an unscripted symphony? The bike, scooter, car and foot traffic in this Amsterdam shopping district flows around obstacles like leaves on a stream. We drank our coffee and watched in amazement. Despite some close crossings, no one collided and we never heard honking or yelling. Pretty amazing since there are no stop signs or traffic signals, and there’s road construction to the left of the camera.

When I get back home and want to remember Amsterdam, I’ll grab a cup of coffee or glass of red wine, watch this video and be transported back to a rainy day with the traffic ballet. [see notes below to skip to the highlights]

Do you think this level of smooth interaction is possible in the US? Perhaps on a college campus?

Timecodes for interesting passersby
0:14 Two blondes on Dutch bikes; 0:18 Dad with kid in front seat; 0:37 Guy riding with cell phone; 0:57 Cyclists set up for full touring; 1:30-2:03 Fashionable women with boots, scarfs, mini-skirts; 2:52 Mom with toddlers in cargo bike; 2:50 Clueless male tourists; 5:48 Girl on bike walking dog; 5:50 Blonde with a cell phone; 6:26 Kid sitting on back rack

What we didn’t catch on video, but wish we had
Girls sitting sidesaddle on back racks of Dutch Bikes; Guy with cello on his back, resting it on his back rack; Guy with pink rollaboard suitcase on his front rack; Family on a triple tandem; Two moms with full cargo bikes stopping in the street to say hello; Guy helping his girlfriend fight the wind by pushing her back; Dad coaching 3-year-old on how to cross busy street.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Around Town, Issues & Infrastructure, Travel

 

Gallery: Bikes from the Streets of Amsterdam

Imagine a city filled with timeless, utilitarian bicycles with their own special charm. That city is Amsterdam.

[Click thumbnails for higher resolution photos]

If you could bring one of these bikes back to the States, which would you choose?

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Bike Gallery, Travel

 

Amsterdam: Cycling Gear for a Rainy Day

Last fall, when I told people I intended to ride my bike to work every day, I often got the response, “but what about the rain?” The truth was, I didn’t know if I would ride in the rain or not. I prefer to ride in my work clothes rather than carry them, but didn’t want to risk sitting around wet all morning. And I’m not brave enough to ride with an umbrella like people do in Amsterdam.

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Thus I began my search for the elusive perfect cycling raincoat. The problem with most coats is that they are designed for walking, not sitting. When you sit, the coat spreads to expose your thighs–exactly where most of the rain hits you when cycling. I bought a vintage swing raincoat that’s full enough to cover my legs, but it’s a couple of sizes too big, and frumpy is not my thing. So I ended up using my standard poplin rain coat and settled for changing my pants to wool tights that stay warm when wet. An OK, but not ideal, solution.

So imagine my excitement when I found the perfect cycle-specific raincoat here in Amsterdam, with a special panel that protects the thighs when sitting. It’s made by Agu and runs large in case you want to buy it online.

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And while I was on a roll, I found a few other awesome items, like these yellow panniers from Clarijs made from rain slicker material. I think they’ll look great on Zella, and will keep my groceries super dry.

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I also found a rain cover for my saddle that should come in handy too. I appreciated it today when I came out of the Rijksmuseum to a dry saddle, unlike Dick who had to sit in the damp.

All this fab Dutch cycling gear almost has me looking forward to the California rainy season. Bring it on, El Niño!

Do you have anything special that you wear to ride in the rain or are you a fair weather rider?

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Posted by on September 17, 2011 in Around Town, Gear Talk

 

Bike Date Friday: Amsterdam After Dark

With three days of Amsterdam cycling under our belts, we were ready to venture out after dark. Understanding the traffic rules was only part of the difficulty, it was also hard to navigate. For example, we couldn’t find a direct route to the Leidseplein, a popular eating and shopping district about a kilometer from our hotel. We kept riding in circles up and down canals trying to converge on our target.

But Friday night was Bike Date Friday night, so we had to risk it. We found the elusive direct route to the Leidesplein where we walked the square, had a tasty Dutch dinner, did a little window shopping, and pedaled back to the hotel through the Vondelpark with the unmistakable scent of marijuana in the air.

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About Bike Date Friday: Since September 2010, my husband and I have had a standing date every Friday night. We eat at a different place every week and arrive by bike. There’s no better way to end the work week.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2011 in Around Town, Bike Date, Travel

 

Fashion Friday: Cycle Chic in Amsterdam?

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.

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Posted by on September 16, 2011 in Cycle Fashions, Travel

 

Amsterdam: Finally Riding a Bike!

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?

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Posted by on September 15, 2011 in Around Town, Travel

 

Amsterdam: Trouble Adapting

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?

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Travel

 

Amsterdam: The Windy City

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?

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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Travel

 

Amsterdam: Minicars or Maxicycles?

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)

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Issues & Infrastructure, Travel

 

Amsterdam: The Boating Party

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?

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Posted by on September 10, 2011 in Travel

 
 
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