Amsterdam paves the way for biking in Boston

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Bicycle traffic light in Amsterdam.
photo by: Kate Lemire

For the past six weeks I have been studying abroad in Europe. It has been one of the best experiences I have ever been through and it has opened up my eyes to aspects of culture and history that I think the United States should look into to improve the quality of life for its citizens.

As I travelled to the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, my eyes were opened to one of the biggest stereotypes in the city: bicycling. Everywhere you go there are bicycles. They are either being stacked high up on “bicycle parking garages” or zooming through the bike lanes. Whether it is rain or shine you will find bikers commuting to work, headed to a restaurant, or hitting the nightlife. Spending time in Amsterdam would not be the same without witnessing the high paced yet efficient bicycling transportation system. Bicycles dominate the transportation system in Amsterdam and rightfully so.Bikes parked in Dam Square, Amsterdam

Coming from Boston I am used to the hustle and bustle of a city but I am used to cars and crowded sidewalks. Watching yellow taxis swiftly turning corners and hearing the T screeching underground are much different familiarities than the bells ringing from bikes and the bike tires rolling along the pavement in Amsterdam.

Entranced by the high pace yet enjoyable form of transportation that Amsterdam has adopted, I started asking myself “Why is Amsterdam full of bikers?” I figured there must be a reason why there are more bikes in the city than actual residents. The most recent figures show that there are 881,000 bicycles in a city of 799,000.

Parked bicyles in Dam Square, Amsterdam.
photo by: Kate Lemire

By comparing Boston and the transportation methods it uses to the transportation methods of Amsterdam it is obvious that there are several differences. Since the benefits of biking in Amsterdam are so great Boston (and all major cities in the United States) should seriously consider it as the prioritized form of transportation. Although Boston already boasts a strong public transportation system, they could learn many things from Amsterdam.

The positive aspects that biking would have on the environment compared to driving cars in Boston would be enormous. Bicycles are emission free and would reduce air pollution in Boston. Since Boston continuously strives to have a more “green” environment the use of bicycles would aid their efforts enormously.

Biking also brings forth many health benefits. One of the main reasons that the Netherlands integrated biking into their transportation system is because of the health benefits it provides. Physical activity reduces the risk of being overweight; simply biking to and from work or to a friend’s house could help people stay fit and healthy. Integrating biking into the US, as a preferred mode of transportation, would assist in achieving a healthier and overall better lifestyle for its citizens.

Along with health, an aspect of biking that would be helpful to Boston residents is how inexpensive biking is compared to cars. With cars you have to pay for insurance, gas, maintenance, and everything in between. Although bikes can have some problems they are generally smaller, cheaper problems to fix than cars. If you are willing to purchase a decent bike at first and a strong lock then you could easily save hundreds of dollars each month. Many Amsterdam residents find it useful to buy dependable yet cheap bikes on Craigslist or from local markets. This way you don’t have to pay a fortune for a bicycle but it still is a reliable method of transportation.

Since a large group of Boston residents use the MBTA as their preferred form of transportation it is hard to think that you would be saving money by purchasing a bike. Instead of paying for a monthly T-pass or a Charlie Card you could buy a bike and never have to worry about waiting for a train, putting more money on your card, or getting squished next to twenty college students on a Saturday night. Buying a bike would be cheaper in the long run compared to the costs of public transportation.

Also, biking takes up less space in the city. If bikes were to dominate transportation the city would feel less cluttered and congested. Cars wouldn’t have to be stopped in bumper to bumper traffic or honking the horn at every red light. Biking would allow for a generally more relaxed way of life.

One major aspect of Boston that many residents utilize is how it is a walking city. This means that when you are in downtown Boston, most parts of the city are accessible by walking. Although walking is an inexpensive way to get around the city biking is a cheap and quicker way. If you were to bike instead of walk it would cut the time of your travel around the city by significant amounts. Biking is an efficient way of getting around a city because it is cheap but it also gets people where they need to be in a reasonable amount of time.

Generally, with biking there are fewer accidents. It is a safer way to get around a city because bikes are less dangerous than cars. If biking were integrated into Boston’s transportation system it would decrease the number of car accidents and deaths each year.Bicycle traffic light in Amsterdam

Amsterdam truly is a role model for cheap and effective transportation in a major city. The environmental, health, and economic benefits that it provides for the city are enormous. These benefits are one of the main reasons that the citizens of Amsterdam can live care free and healthy lives. If Boston and other major cities were to take after Amsterdam with their biking mentality I believe it would benefit the city in more ways than imaginable.



Kate is a sophomore journalism major at Emerson College. Currently she is studying abroad in the small village of Well, Netherlands. In the future Kate would love to be able to write about travel and review different cities. The work published on this website is the work that she has done while enrolled in the feature writing class in the Netherlands.

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