CategoryFun

I grew up in the suburbs and it shows in early drawings

Vanceville 3 of 13

This panel has the light rail station next to an office complex that had the United Airlines headquarters and the office for “Steve Vance Enterprises – Western Region”.

I lived in suburbs until I was 22. The suburbs of Houston, of San Francisco, and of Chicago.

And from when I was 11 years old to about 15 years old I drew a municipality called “Vanceville” (and “Vancin” at one point) on 13 adjoining panels, each a standard size grade school poster. I started in fifth grade, within a couple of months of moving to Batavia, Illinois.

The first panel was drawn on the backside of a poster that displayed my study for class that counted cars on my street categorized by their manufacturer.

The suburban pattern of development was all I knew – and it really shows. I didn’t make it into the respective city centers that often, and when I did it was mostly by car. I think I drew the ultimate suburb of NIMBYs.

I don’t support this kind of development. Back then I thought I was designing the best city. I had no idea that what I was drawing wasn’t a sustainable way to develop places where people live.

You can see how four panels adjoin.

You can see how four panels adjoin.

I mean, just look at all the massive parking lots I drew. I seriously thought that that was how cities should be designed. I didn’t know that they paved over natural areas and caused dirty water to run off into the river I drew.

There are no multi-unit buildings. In fact, each single-family house is built on a huge lot. I gave each house a big garage, writing explicitly “2 + 1” and “2 + 1/2”.

I drew townhomes, a denser housing style than single-family, because I had a few friends who lived in them. This panel has my house in the lower-left corner.

Sidewalks are rare, but they become more prevalent in later design phases. You can forget bike lanes, but you may be lucky and find a bike path, again, in a later design phase. Those phases are also distinguished by smoother lines, fewer stray markings, and a lighter touch of the pencil.

People have to drive to the parks. Strip malls abound. Many of the shops are named for real businesses in Batavia.

Oh, wait, I drew in light rail tracks and stations. But I didn’t draw them because I knew or thought transit was a good thing. None of the places I lived had it. I drew the light rail because I loved trains.

Vanceville was so oriented to driving that some of the road lanes had “ATM” imprinted where a right-turn arrow would be, to signify that there was an upcoming turn off for a bank drive-through, with two lanes that had only ATMs. Even “Steve Vance Enterprises – Western Region” was connected to a 5-level car park.

There are just so many roads. I drew what appear to be interchanges between two “connector” roads within a residential neighborhood! That same panel seems to have as much asphalt as any other surface, be it developed or grass or water.

I’m not surprised this is the kind of city I drew.

If I still drew, the outcome would be completely different. It would probably look like a mix of Rotterdam, Madrid, and Houten.

What else do you see in the drawings? View the full album.

Vanceville 5 of 13

I drew these at a time when I was also obsessed with spy stories, which explains the CIA building.

5 reasons to come to Bikecitement Night!

WTB@YBS

West Town Bikes sent these young adults to Youth Bike Summit in New York City (2013). Photo: Michael Young

I am copying this message straight from the West Town Bikes e-newsletter I just received, with some personal notes in brackets. WTB holds multiple fundraisers each year. Tour de Fat is their largest, but we need something to do in the winter, right?

Bikecitement in three weeks is a time for people to get to know more about West Town Bikes, its people and its programs, than possible at Tour de Fat – all while enjoying Revolution Brewing refreshments.

1. Support one of Chicago’s premier bike-based, youth development organizations.
[I support it in multiple ways: blogging about it now, going to their events, taking friends there to help them fix their bikes, and buying my bike parts there. I also make monetary donations.]

2. Meet our talented & enthusiastic youth leaders.
[The youth who join West Town Bikes – either as students, or as apprentices and later staff members – are the coolest, brightest young adults I know.]

3. Bid on auction items like theater and performance tickets, dinner at fine restaurants, Chicago sports memorabilia, and much, much more.

[I don’t like going out to these things, so I’ll leave room on the silent auction bidding sheet for your name.]

4. Enjoy craft beers & tasty treats from Revolution Brewery.

[Revolution Brewing makes the best beer, Eugene Porter, and donates a portion of its profits to bike culture endeavors – the more you eat and drink at Revolution the more money they can devote to that cause. The founder, Josh Deth, is also an urban planner and basically did his own zoning analysis about parking requirements for the brewpub.]

5. Enjoy the “Bike Scene” with the West Town Staff!

[The staff, what can I say, are committed, passionate, and fun to hang out with.]

West Town Bikes

Emily Leidenfrost, a program coordinator at West Town Bikes, helps kids make crafts at Tour de Fat this summer. Photo: Daniel Rangel

Addendum: This summer I co-taught a bike planning class with Emily Leidenfrost. She led the class while I joined a few times each week to teach urban planning and bike infrastructure design concepts. I instructed a group of five high school students (most of whom became college freshman last month) to collect and analyze data, and prepare a professional report that described the problem of bicycling among key sites along Western Avenue in multiple neighborhoods.

When
Monday, November 9, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

at Revolution Brewing’s brewpub in Logan Square
2323 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

Buy tickets now!

There was no contest: I had to visit the Netherlands again

Me bicycling on the Hovenring in Eindhoven

Me bicycling on the Hovenring in Eindhoven. It’s the world’s first, floating bicycle roundabout. It’s a gratuitous way to solve the problem the city had at this intersection outside the built up area. Despite its frivolity, it wasn’t as expensive as something that solves a similar problem in the United States. 6.3 million euros in 2012. The Navy Pier Flyover in Chicago is over $60 million in 2014.

In my last trip to Europe, which concluded three weeks ago, I hadn’t yet scheduled where I would stay on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights on my final full week (I came home the following Tuesday).

On that Monday I was in Barcelona but my mother was going back home and I had to move on. On Thursday I was going to be in Bonn.

“Where should I go?” I debated. I considered Morocco (that was a complicated journey and I didn’t want to go alone), and Salzburg or Austria. Then, after talking to a couple before and during my trip I decided I would stay in Lyon, France.

Once I was in Seville, though, right before heading to Barcelona, I started looking at possible journeys from Barcelona to Lyon. They weren’t looking good. They were cheap, but the timing was bad – flights weren’t frequent enough, departed and arrived at odd times, and the train journeys were long.

But “timing” turned out to be just an excuse to avoid having to go to France and skip going to the Netherlands. I really wanted to go to the Netherlands. It wasn’t possible for me to skip visiting some Dutch friends and the greatest country for transportation and utility cycling. I still had more things to see there!

Rotterdam Centraal (train station)

My favorite train station in Europe: Rotterdam Centraal.

My friend Daniel in Rotterdam was available to host me for a couple nights. There was no contest anymore: I booked a flight on Vueling from Barcelona to Rotterdam, just 90 minutes away. And he was even going to pick me up at the tiny airport so we could take the bus to the central train station and get me an OV-fiets bicycle (it’s the national bike-sharing system that requires a Dutch bank account to rent).

On this trip to the Netherlands, though, I only added one new Dutch city: Eindhoven, where I had to see the Hovenring. I paid an arm and a leg to get there – thanks, expensive intercity Dutch train travel prices!

So here’re the 16 cities where I’ve stayed or visited in the Netherlands, in chronological order:

  • Amsterdam (2011, 2012, 2014)
  • Utrecht (2011, 2015)
  • Houten (2011)
  • Zandvoort an Zee (2012)
  • Den Haag/The Hague (2012)
  • Delft (2014)
  • Den Bosch/s’Hertogenbosch (2014)
  • Nijmegen (2014)
  • Arnhem (2014)
  • Groningen (2014)
  • Veendam, Bourtange (Spanish fort) (2014)
  • Leeuwarden (2014)
  • Haarlem (2014)
  • Rotterdam (2014, 2015)
  • Delft (2014, 2015)
  • Eindhoven (2015)

The list excludes cities I only transited or biked through. I’ve transited through Venlo half a dozen times by now. It’s on the German border. It’s a tiny station, tiny town, but has a lot of intercity traffic. I’ve biked through Pijnacker twice, now: once while biking from Rotterdam to Delft in 2014, and the second time, in 2015, I took the metro there and biked the rest of the way to Delft (this time to see the new train station).

I’ve also biked to the Hook of Holland in 2014; not the city, but the port, canal, and to see the Maeslantkering, a flood barrier that’s part of Delta Works.

Meet Chicago’s newest street view fleet: bikes

Bicycle holds an iPhone to take street view-style images

This position gives the smartphone an unimpeded view of the street but prevents the user from manipulating it.

I first used the Mapillary app on iPhone last fall, in August, and I uploaded one photo, of my arm, which I can’t delete from the website. I uploaded a couple more photos from a street in Roscoe Village in November.

This week, though, I uploaded 500 photos from a three mile journey on California and Milwaukee Avenues in Chicago – streets that no one else had photographed for the Mapillary street view service.

Mapillary is an open source (sort of) street view service, originally developed in Sweden, which allows the public to contribute photos taken with their smartphone app.

What’s “sort of” about Mapillary being open source is that it appears that the company owns the photos once you upload them. People are free to use the photos to edit OpenStreetMap, or publish elsewhere – for personal use only – with attribution that adheres to Creative Commons 4.0. People who want to use the photos in a commercial application must subscribe to a pay service.

Mounting an iPhone to a bicycle

I took the jump from contributing nothing to uploading a whole lot because I bought an iPhone mount for my bicycle. After months of research – okay, chalk it up to my being lazy and it being really cold outside – I settled on the DgRock Universal Bicycle Mount from Amazon for $9. I was perplexed that there was a gap in choices between this decent $9 product and the next group, hovering around $30-40.

After three days of use, I’m satisfied, despite limitations that are present in all mounts I surveyed. The DgRock mount is solid, barely moves even as the bike bounces along Chicago’s pothole-ridden streets, and securely holds the iPhone with a strong, spring-loaded grip. It’s universal in two ways: it holds nearly any smartphone (it probably can’t hold one with a screen 5″ or larger) and it attaches to most bicycle handlebars.

The first day I used the DgRock mount Mapillary complained with a red icon that it couldn’t get a proper fix on its location and therefore it wouldn’t start photographing. Fine, I was in downtown Chicago where connecting to GPS satellites can be hard. I figured the wifi positioning system that all smartphones and tablets use would suffice.

There are problems with the mount, but I think these apply to all bicycle smartphone mounts: When the phone is in position to take photos, meaning its horizontal and level to the ground, you can’t see the screen. That’s because the screen, mounted on the handlebars, is much lower than your eyes and faces vertically, instead of angled towards your face. The only way around this, I believe, is to either get an upright bicycle (like my WorkCycles Fr8) or an adjustable lens (I can’t find any).

Smartphone mount holding an iPhone on a bicycle

This position allows the user to manipulate the smartphone but you cannot take street view-style images.

The possible position angles of the smartphone when held by the mount was my main concern as I was shopping on Amazon: The mount need to have the flexibility to position the smartphone so its rear camera could be level with the ground. Smartphone mounts, though, are made to put the device in a position to be used and viewed frequently by the bicycle rider – it was unclear if many of the other smartphone mounts could accommodate the street view angles requirement.

The DgRock has no issue moving the iPhone into the right position, as you can see in the photos from my journey (or scroll to the end). Its issue, though, is that you have to put the smartphone in “backwards” so that the claw covers up part of the screen. I call it an issue but it doesn’t disturb the mount’s primary purpose when using Mapillary – the phone still has a clear view of the street.

Even with an upright bike like mine, though, it’s difficult to see the screen. I believe that Mapillary can actually design its app to help overcome this physical limitation.

Using Mapillary

The Mapillary app has improved greatly since the first version. It allows you to delete bad or undesired photos before uploading, and it has a simpler interface to go from opening the app to making your own street view. There are a couple changes I think would improve the user experience and lead to more contributions.

I would like to be able to turn off the screen while using Mapillary to save battery life. I think that the screen could fade to black and a small white dot or halo appears frequently to remind you that it’s working. I’d also like it to chime when iOS throws the “low storage” warning. Otherwise I may be riding along, thinking Mapillary is capturing the street, when iOS had actually run out of storage 10 minutes ago.

Citibike in New York City differs slightly from Chicago’s Divvy

I visited New York City two weekends ago for a Streetsblog writers conference. I was there for three nights and four days. To get around I put a bunch of cash on a Metrocard to use the subway and JFK Airtrain and I bought a 7-day pass for the Citibike bike-share system.

Citibike and Divvy in Chicago use nearly identical equipment from the same manufacturer, and Alta Bicycle Sharing operates both systems. Citibike sells the 7-day pass for $25, a relative steal for personal transportation costs in New York City – probably any city. Divvy only offers 24-hour and annual passes.

Citibike stations have maps of a better design that matches the walking wayfinding stanchions that New York City’s Department of Transportation has installed. The stations integrate the ad+map board onto the kiosk while Divvy has separated them. I don’t see an operational advantage to either design, but there does seem to be less material used in Citibike’s integrated design which uses one fewer solar panel.

I’ve never used Divvy’s touch-screen kiosk to obtain a single ride code as part of using a day pass so I can’t compare it to interacting with the Citibike kiosk to obtain the ten or so ride codes I needed on my trip. This was the most infuriating part of the experience, which annual members don’t experience because they have a key: the kiosk is very slow in responding to a tap and sometimes the docking bay wouldn’t accept my brand new ride code. You can’t get a replacement ride code for two minutes, preventing quick dock surfing.

The bicycles seem exactly the same: too small of a gear ratio which means a slow top speed and an easy-to-reach “over pedaling” threshold. This may be more important for New York City to have because you must climb 140 feet up the bridges to cross between Manhattan and Brooklyn or Queens while Chicago has no significant slopes. I eventually stopped using Citibike in favor of the subway and walking. I like riding trains almost as much as I like riding a bicycle and cycling in downtown Manhattan is difficult if you’re unsure of a good route to get to your destination. I prefer to not use an app for directions because of how frequently the turns appear meaning I have to inspect the app just as often to ensure I made the right one.

I’d like to see my Divvy key work in other cities where Alta operates bike-sharing. Just charge my bank card on file, applying the lowest-cost pass and letting me bypass the user agreements before purchasing a pass in another city.

NIMBYs can’t have it all: Student instructor at West Town Bikes supports wheel-friendly park

Lebster, far left, three students at West Town Bikes, and executive director Alex Wilson, head to Open Streets on State Street. 

Update August 27:  Lebster was interviewed by RedEye reporter Leonor Vivanco today.

Lebster Pabon, an instructor at West Town Bikes in Humboldt Park (it used to be in West Town!), attended an important Chicago Park District board meeting yesterday and brought one of his high school students and that student’s mother. They spoke up to support what would be the city’s first wheel-friendly park, where people can skate, bike, and… which would be new to Chicago… use wheelchairs in the park. Neighbors of the Bloomingdale Trail were in attendance to oppose the park.

Lebster called me to say that another attendee spoke up to say he would like to bring his grandchildren to such a park, and that a board member added he has to take his kids out of Chicago to use bikes in a park like this. Lebster mentioned that since it’s at the end of the Bloomingdale Trail it would be very accessible: ride up Rockwell from West Town Bikes, a low-traffic “side street”, hop on the Bloomingdale Trail, and ride 10 minutes over to Walsh Park. When asked if the park would attract people from other suburbs, Lebster said it would attract people from around the country because it could host events.

Finally, a Chicago Park District board member asked if bikers and skaters coexist. Lebster told me he said, “Yes, the culture is very disciplined in skate parks”. I’ve witnessed it myself and I didn’t expect it, imagining that teenagers are unruly. Rules aren’t needed, though, as each person has learned to take a turn in the park and then respect the time and talent of the other skate park users.

This is a very special and unique moment for young Chicagoans who are active outside as this proposed park would be the first to accommodate bicycles and wheelchairs. The Chicago Park District’s first core value is “Children first”. The website says, “Our most important task is to bring children and families into our parks and give them great reasons to stay and play for a lifetime”. Lebster’s contributions to the meetings, and the conversations around the park, were integral to that value and the District’s mission.

About West Town Bikes

West Town Bikes and I have a good history. I came into contact with the organization in 2006, the year I moved to Chicago. I joined a scavenger hunt in October that ended at the shop. I met a lot of people there that have shaped my bicycle advocacy future, including Kevin Monahan, who put John Greenfield and I together after which we started Grid Chicago, Jim Freeman, Kevin Conway, Gin Kilgore, and countless other people. West Town Bikes is also the host and a sponsor of my annual Cargo Bike Roll Call events.

Residents are gathering on Wednesday to voice opposition to wheel-friendly park along Bloomingdale Trail

Walsh Park rendering, from a September 2012 public meeting.

This message is for everyone who likes using parks designed for skating, BMX, Razor scooters, and doing tricks with wheelchairs. They’re typically called skate parks, but they’re not just for skateboards and inline skates anymore. The 606 should have (if not shut down by these people) a “wheel friendly park” at Walsh Park, at the eastern terminus of the Bloomingdale Trail, a constituent feature, at about 1800 N Ashland. Some neighbors will be gathering at the next Chicago Park District board meeting on Wednesday to voice their opposition. They have a petition.

Someone forwarded me their letter to people in the neighborhood (and to staff working on the Bloomingdale Trail project), pasted below, doesn’t describe their basis of opposition. It must be all those 5-year-old girls on push scooters, and 10-year old boys learning to ride a skateboard.

Can you spread this to a wider community of people who use skate parks? The Trust For Public Land, in charge of fundraising, describes the feature in Walsh Park as a “wheel friendly” zone, agnostic to the equipment (bikes, skateboards, and wheelchairs will be allowed).

—–

Hello Bloomingdale Trail Neighbors,

The Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners is having a meeting on August 14th. My husband John will sign up to put our opposition to a skateboard park on the agenda. He would also like to present the Board with our signed petitions. Anyone with signed petition sheets please let me know so that we can work out a way to collect them. Anyone who has yet to sign the petition please let us know that as well so we can arrange to get your John Hancock.  (John’s email is [email protected] )

If you are able to attend, please join us.  The more supporters the better!  I’ll let you know what time slot John gets.  [text removed.]  He is a great spokesperson for us.  Please pick up a copy of the Red Eye on Monday to read an extensive article about Bloomingdale Trail.  John was interviewed for the article [excerpted below].  Ananda Breslof is also scheduled to appear before the Board regarding the Dog Friendly Area of the Park.  She needs all the supporters she can get as well.

LOCATION:
Board of Commissioners, Chicago Park District, 541 N. Fairbanks Court, 7th Floor, Chicago  60611

This is what the Park District sent out:

The Public Participation portion of the Board’s regularly scheduled committee meetings will commence at 10:30 a.m.; and  at 4:00 p.m. for the Board’s regularly scheduled Board meetings. Any individual interested in making a presentation must register with the Office of Secretary in person between 9:00 A.M. and 10:00 A.M. on the day of the Board committee meeting; and between 2:30 P.M. and 3:30 P.M. on the day of the Board meeting. Individuals may also sign-up to speak via the Park District’s web site beginning at approximately 7:00 P.M. the Friday before the board meeting and ending at 5:00 P.M. the Tuesday before the board meeting.

Please pass this along to anyone I may have missed who would be interested in this important decision.

Here’s to a safe and well thought out 606 Project.

Judie Knoerle
[address redacted]
[phone number redacted]
John Knoerle
[phone number redacted]

—–

Interview with John Knoerle about the wheel-friendly zone in Walsh Park, published in the RedEye on August 11, 2013

JOHN KNOERLE

Author of the American Spy Trilogy, a series of World War II-era novels, but his housing situation may be more dramatic

When Knoerle first moved off the 606 with his wife, Judie, in 1999, freight trains were still traveling the trail.

Now Knoerle’s neighboring Walsh Park may feature a concrete skateboard space.

“It’s going to be insane,” Knoerle said. “We’ve been blessed to have a very quiet block here, and that’s going to change.”

Though he believes the project will increase his property value, and he enjoys occasionally walking the trail, he has concerns that crime and traffic will increase.

Beth White, the Chicago-area office director for the Trust for Public Land, said the concrete space in Walsh Park won’t just be for skateboarders, but rather a “wheel-friendly space” that can be used for concerts and plays. People in wheelchairs will be able to utilize it as well.

“It’s going to be a far safer space and actually a more quiet space than what is there now,” White said.

Knoerle said in recent years, trailgoers have thrown rocks at car windows and tagged walls of homes adjacent to the 606. Knoerle said he’s asked for an increase in bike patrols of the area. A Chicago police spokesman said the trail sees very little crime and police regularly patrol the area.

Knoerle’s now worried that the proposed changes would significantly increase the amount of traffic to his block. Knoerle said he’s gathering petition signatures so the Trust could rethink the skate park for Walsh Park, which is expected to be the largest of the five access parks. “It will be like living along the bike trail on the beach,” Knoerle said. “It doesn’t seem a pleasant prospect.”

Walsh Park’s final rendering, from a June 2013 public meeting. 

Shaming dangerous drivers, like they did in Bogotá

My friend D.D. said:

Oh, and the documentary i mentioned to you about Bogotá is on YouTube now
Cities on Speed: Bogotá Change
My favorite initiative Antanas Mockus started was he hired clowns to stand in intersections and make fun of drivers that disobeyed traffic laws

His reasoning was that Colombians care more about looking foolish than being fined.

I think something like that could work here:

Like, every day video an example of terrible driving and shame the person. Maybe follow them home, ask them what was so important that they had to risk the safety of other. Then they’ll say “well, i wanted to watch game of thrones” and look foolish.

SFO airport showed me some cool planes

I flew on Virgin American to Portland, Oregon, last year and had to stop in San Francisco on my return journey to Chicago. The layover was over 2 hours long, and I spent that time relaxed in the new Terminal 2. The terminal has great window coverage of the airfield.

I saw for the first time an Airbus A380, the largest of the so-called jumbo jets (is that phrase even used anymore?). It was flown by Lufthansa (see photo).a

I also saw a lot of Boeing 747s from different airlines, including United, OneWorld, Star Alliance, British Airways, and Cathay Pacific. I may have seen a Chinese airline.

I also saw President Barack Obama land in Air Force One. I recognized the plane from far away, as it was coming in for landing, but I wasn’t completely sure until it touched down. My camera was probably hanging around my neck; I was too dumbstruck to do anything about it. After it landed and I was positive that Boeing 747 was flown by the United States Government, I walked around the terminal until I could see it.

The plane had been parked far away from a terminal, near a hanger and two C-17 military cargo planes.

American airports should have viewing platforms. Not just plane spotters like to photograph them. Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) airport has a viewing platform and there was over 50 people up there, including lots of families.

Tidy bikes on trains: a trip to Den Haag, and Thursday in the Netherlands

Two WorkCycles bikes stand tucked out of anyone’s way in a Nederlands Spoorwegen (NS) train to Zandvoort aan Ze. See all photos from this set, and from Netherlands.

60% of people arrive to train stations on bicycles.
A third of the country commutes by train each weekday.
Passengers, in a departure from American transit policies, must pay a fee to bring a bike aboard trains. (Bikes are not allowed on buses or trams, though.)

In August, my friend Brandon Gobel and I took a trip to Copenhagen for 7 days and Amsterdam for a little less than 3 (when he returned to Chicago I kept going to Munich and Berlin). We arrived in Amsterdam on Wednesday, August 22, by overnight train, walked to the WorkCycles Jordaan shop and picked up our reserved rental bikes. Brandon got an opafiets and I a Fr8 (the same model I bought two days later).

Bicycles are accommodated at every point in a Dutch resident’s journey – and for visitors, too! I don’t know how it would have been possible for us to do so much in the Netherlands without the bicycles.

In Latin: A wise man doesn’t piss against the wind. 

On Thursday we had breakfast at some place with a surly waiter that old pancakes near the Apple Store and this funny slogan written in Latin. We then ambled to Amsterdam Centraal Station to buy tickets for our short train trip to Zandvoort from where we’d then bike to Den Haag (The Hague; I just love pronouncing Den Haag). The station never stops bustling. We walked our bikes to the desk to buy one-way tickets, including all-day bike tickets. I never set a PIN on my credit card so the NS ticket vending machine wouldn’t accept it; I had no idea that you could set a PIN on credit cards, thinking that was something only debit cards had.

The train station at Zandvoort. The train is a DD-AR.

A lot of people were traveling to Zandvoort: it’s a beach resort town less than an hour from Amsterdam and the weather was atypically wonderful, warm and sunny. We rode in the direction of the water until we found the infamous red and white bike wayfinding sign pointing to Den Haag. It hugs the sea for a short distance. Before deviating, though, I wanted to jump into the North Sea.

There are no photos of me swimming in the North Sea, but here’s a photo of my rental bike on the beach. 

We got back on the route to Den Haag. I didn’t bring my GPS logging device so I can’t say for certain where we got off the route, but we kept going south and on the advice I got from a local, “kept the sea to our right”. We eventually drifted inland and started riding through towns and along highways (Americans: in the two-lane, rural sense of the word). There was separated infrastructure for most of the journey. When there wasn’t, the roads and laws were set up to prioritize bicycle traffic.

Welcome to South Holland province. Holland ? Netherlands. Do not call the Netherlands “Holland”. 

At one point in our “off the route” cycling, the off-street path ended. That didn’t seem right. I didn’t notice a sign indicating that we should turn off prior. We backtracked a little an then found a different path (still no directional sign). But we kept moving south. Neither of us had a map, nor data connections on our iPhones. I was confident we wouldn’t need one. I have a pretty good sense of geography, even in a foreign country. This one’s so small and I memorized some of the names on a map before we left.

I will admit that I was getting nervous. I didn’t want to “get lost”, even though I completely disbelieved that “getting lost” in the Netherlands was really possible because of its small size and extremely well-connected towns, trains, and roads.

One of the signs that eventually popped up along the bike path that pointed us towards Den Haag. 

“Huzzah!” A red and white sign saying Den Haag is 17 km thataway! After this sign, every proceeding junction had one pointing to Den Haag. It’s still weird that we got off the route for 30-45 minutes (it seems longer).

The last part of the route before entering Den Haag is along a motorway. This is kind of awkward. Think of biking along any interstate. The only separation between the bike path and the road was a strip of grass and some trees (I didn’t take a picture of it). This is the complete opposite of American motorway design (Americans: motorway is “European” for interstate): here, if there’s no concrete or metal barrier on the outside, then there’s a 50-feet wide cleared right-of-way, often with a ditch.  But we know that while clear areas mean less colliding into stuff, it means faster driving!

Pretty much any city greater than 200,000 people in Europe has trams.

Anyway, back to the bike route. We arrive in Den Haag. We head toward the train station, in the center of town. We’re hungry but there’s nothing around here (which is unexpected, as this is the center of town). But the center of Den Haag is very modern and “business oriented”. Maybe the restaurants are inside the office buildings where the plebeians can’t find them.

Expansive plaza outside the Den Haag train station. View of the opposite direction.

We bike north a little towards what looks like a residential area and find what could be a dive bar. Whatever, as they’ve got cheap beer and food. The menus in Dutch, neither of us read Dutch, and the proprietors don’t speak English, but we recognize the word “hambuger”. That’s what we order. I order mine “deluxe” – I can’t remember how it was described; it came with an egg on top! Hamburgers don’t automatically come with buns, apparently.

We ate weird hamburgers at Café Locus. 

I turn on my iPhone and find that the restaurant has wifi. I’m having a hard time recalling how I asked for the wifi password. A patron (who seems like a regular) knows English and passes this along to the proprietor and tells me the wifi password. After a few attempts it works. I needed it to try and contact someone in Delft whom I wanted to meet but it wasn’t to be. We pay up and depart the restaurant for the Den Haag train station, saying thank you and goodbye to the owner and patrons.

A low volume neighborhood street between Café Locus and the Den Haag train station. 

The bike ticket we bought (€6 each) is good for the day. We return to Amsterdam, tired. It was a smooth, fast train ride  on a VIRM (my favorite).

The return train to Amsterdam (which leaves pretty much every 30 minutes) had seatbelts for bicycles. 

We return to the apartment on Bilderdijkstraat we rented through Airbnb. The lovely bakery across the street, Cake Loves Coffee, is still open so we talk to the owner and sole employee, Nicole. I get a slice of berry sponge mascarpone (photo). We can’t subsist on sweets and fill up on fast food pizza restaurant across the street while we gulp beers sitting outside on the sidewalk in front of the apartment, watching nearly a hundred people bike south after work.

Beers in public. Yes, it’s allowed. Yes, it’s a very civil and normal thing to do. No, it doesn’t lead to the downfall of society. 

View Street View of apartment/bakery neighborhood larger. This image was taken over 3 years ago and the street has been redesigned. Instead of having door zone bike lanes, there’s now a proper cycle track. The bakery wasn’t built yet.

It eventually comes time to head out and visit the Red Light District. What a fun place to visit. If you don’t like seeing real live topless women, or stag parties (Americans: stag is British for bachelor), you should probably avoid it. On our way back to the apartment we stop at a nice bar down the street (between it and Vondelpark). I had noticed it the previous day and finding it reminded me of something peculiar: I never created a turn-by-turn route for any journey we took but I was able to get Brandon and I to any destination in Amsterdam, and “home”, without too many deviations (one of my goals is to never backtrack). I think half the money we spent that wasn’t on trains was spent on booze.

Hash Marijuana and Hemp museum in the Red Light District. 

A group of guys carry the bachelor in the Red Light District. Prostitution is legal in this area of the city. It’s impossible to photograph Amsterdam without a bike in the shot. 

© 2017 Steven Can Plan

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