Amsterdam Notes

2014-02-19

Random notes to self about Amsterdam

First off I loved the bikes. Amsterdam might be #1 for bikes in Europe. I was told several other cities have consulted with them since bicycles are so popular in Amsterdam. Every road seems to have bike paths, some roads are bikes only. Of course it helps that the city is entirely flat (unlike say San Francisco with all its hills). It also helps that it's relatively small and dense unlike Los Angeles so it's pretty much never too far to take a bike if you want.

There were some strange things though. Apparently scooters are allowed to use the bike lanes. There's also apparently tiny cars allowed to use the bike lanes.

I rented a bike from my hotel one day. I recommend giving it a try but I'm not actually sure biking around Amsterdam is good as a tourist. I went to the Haarlemmerdijk road area, a shopping street that was recommended. Parked the bike at one end and walked down the street. When I got to the end of the street there was more things and kept going. When I was done I was easily a kilometer or more away from the bike and didn't feel like walking back to it. So, for living in Amsterdam I'm sure it's awesome but for being a tourist in Amsterdam maybe not so much. I'd still recommend it at least once. I biked through Vondelpark which was really nice.

Amsterdam also has lots of busses, trams and subways like most European cities. The one shocking and embarrassing thing for me was it's the first time I've seen a tram, train or subway that has specific doors that are exits vs entrances. Most trams have 4 doors along the side. The 1st and 3rd doors are entrances. The 2nd and 4th doors are exits. The exits have one way gates inside the door. Soooo, having never experienced a tram with specific entrances and exits I got on at the second door. The door closed behind me and I was stuck between the one way gate and the door. The tram was about 1/2 full and lots of people nearby. I asked what to do but none of them offered any help. Finally one of the staff came by and let me through.

I don't know if it's better or worse than non−specific doors. It probably helps people flow since there's only one way to go from the entrance to an exit. But it could also suck if you get on a full train and have to work your way all the way from the entrance to the exit even if you only have to go a couple of stops.

Another interesting thing that I hadn't seen before. There's a ticket booth with an attendant inside the tram just inside the 3rd door. I think every other tram I've used the only attendant is the driver.

I ran into issues with my shitty American credit cards again. For one trying to get a tram pass all the machine require chip & pin cards so I had to go to the central station to find a human. But, I also found a restaurant that required chip & pin card and didn't accept cash. I thought about it and I can see why. No cash = neither employees nor thieves can steal the money. It also means no one has to go to the bank to deposit cash and no one has to go to the bank to get change. It also probably means faster service as people paying in cash often have to dig through their coins trying to make exact change or the cashier has to count out change when making it. I suspect we'll see a lot more of this.

I checked out the Red Light District which I detailed elsewhere.

Another minor thing I noticed. In SF some of the traffic signals have a visible timer that counts down the green light telling you how many more seconds you have until it turns red. Well, in Amsterdam they have bike signals which count the opposite. They count during the red telling you how many more seconds until it turns green.

I don't know which is better. It might depend on the culture and the people. I suspect in America counting the red would encourage people to gun it if the number is like 3 seconds so they enter the intersection the moment it turns green. That would lead to lots of accidents. On the other hand counting down the green might also encourage people to gun it to make it before it turns red. I hope that more people instead see it's just a few seconds from turning red and choose to slow down. Maybe the difference counting green is better for cars and counting red is better for bikes? No idea. I just found the difference interesting.

Photos of Amsterdam

One thing that bugged me. I didn't see a single convenience store. No 7/11s or even local equivalent. It could be I just missed them. I asked a friend and if I understood her they don't really exist. That's strange enough in the day but even stranger at night. It means if you want something you'd normally find at a convenience store late at night you're apparently S.O.L. If you want food there are some restaurants that are open late into the night but my impression was if you need TP or tissues or milk you've got to plan ahead. I guess I'm just used to the USA and Japan where 7/11s are open 24/7

Otherwise I liked what I saw of Amsterdam. It seemed like a nice city. I really didn't know much about it before I came. It's full of canals. In fact as far as I can tell it's got far more canals than Venice. I Googled "Venice vs Amsterdam" and saw quite a few people pick Amsterdam over Venice. I suppose they're not really comparable but it's easy to believe there's more to do in Amsterdam. More museums, more clubs, more restaurants and shopping. More everything and and it's also full of canals.

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