Europe Dispatch: EU Green Capital and Amsterdam Cycling Utopia

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Amsterdam, city of bikes. The streets are full of them, Dutch “Granny bikes” with upright handlebars piloted by stylish hipsters and real grannies.

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Fifty percent of people in Amsterdam ride a bike at least once a day. On Sunday we saw one car driving for every fifty bikes riding around historic district beyond Dam square. Bikes with trailers, bike wagons pedaled by thirty people, with beer keg on board [Ed: see orange contraption in middle of above photo]. Today, a Monday, it’s about one to one car to bike, and we’re on the latter. Bike lanes ring every canal, and through the use of islands and curb cuts, (Bicycle planner is noteworthy profession in Holland’s cities), intersections are designed for complete bike and pedestrain access.

And now Amsterdam is making sustainable mobility the showcase of its transportation plan with ambitious goals set for 2010. The city motto is now, “Cycling to Sustainability.” More on that later.

After addressing the EU last week in both Brussels and Paris, I will return to the States with heady optimism for what can be achieved in the world’s cities and beyond. Europe is even hosting a Green Capital Europe” program for 2010 and 2011 with different cities now applying for the honor.

I nominate Amsterdam from what I’ve seen. Paris and its Velib bike rental program is an amazing success, but in Amsterdam, I’ve witnessed the promise of a new future that is emerging now. Giant wind power turbines outside the city, trains, trams, bikes and people walking everywhere.

Off we go!

Photos: Flicker user redjar, Warren

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