Amsterdam Rijksmuseum

Enjoying Bach on your Bike

Last week the annual company outing took me to Amsterdam for a visit to the Rijksmuseum. That’s the museum that has the cycle path running right through it. While most of my colleagues went by train and tram I went by train and OV-Fiets rental bike. That gave me the opportunity to ride through the most wonderful bicycle underpass of the Netherlands and arguably of the entire world once again.

Amsterdam Rijksmuseum
The Amsterdam Rijksmuseum as seen from the direction of the old city with the passage in the centre of the building.

After the museum tour and before dinner I had half an hour to spare and what better way to spend it than filming this magnificent underpass and the people using it. As is often the case at this location a duo was performing. On violin and cello they played Bach if I am informed correctly. People passing by on their bikes really enjoyed the Bach concert as you can tell from some of their reactions. The live music always gives a magical atmosphere to the underpass and I am not the first to notice this.

Jonathan Maus, of Bike Portland wrote last June in his article “Two wonders of the world

“One night I went on a walk and just by chance happened to see people riding underneath this amazing, palatial structure. Upon closer inspection I realized it was a designated bicycle path. My first thought was, ‘Oh my god!’ And then I thought, ‘How come I’ve never heard of this before!?’ I stood, jaw-dropped and took it in.”

Then under a picture of someone playing the violin he writes: “Yes, that’s a guy playing violin. It was magic.”

Magic indeed, and for some (like this writer at the whole situation is like a fairytale:

“The Rijksmuseum itself resembles a fairytale castle, and the path runs through the middle, where a castle gate would be.”

The recently re-opened 1885 passage also featured on The Atlantic Cities website. In the article “10 brilliant pieces of infrastructure” we can read:

“It hardly seems fair. Not only does Amsterdam have one of the world’s greatest museums and one of the world’s greatest bike cultures — those things actually intersect, quite literally, where a bike path passes through the museum, providing a short cut for riders. The presence of this historic tunnel route was the subject of much contention during a recent renovation of the museum, and it was almost destroyed. But cycling advocates prevailed, and in May the path finally reopened, with glass walls allowing riders to see the museum as they pass under the majestic vaulted ceiling.”

Amsterdam Rijksmuseum
The Amsterdam Rijksmuseum as seen from the museum square with other museums like the Van Gogh Museum and the Amsterdam city museum for modern art. The artwork “I AMsterdam” always draws a lot of tourists.

I wrote about the controversy in an earlier blog post but everything has turned out fine! Since the opening there have been no incidents with cyclists and pedestrians. The only problem still remaining is that moped riders who are not allowed in the underpass do try to use it. I saw 3 mopeds in the tunnel in the short period I was there. And twice a police motor cycle went through to watch for these mopeds (but of course there weren’t any right then). During most of the day there are traffic wardens who stop the mopeds. But apart from this minor problem everything is fine in the underpass and I tried to capture the wonderful atmosphere in this new video:

Bach in the bicycle passage of the Rijksmuseum

10 thoughts on “Enjoying Bach on your Bike

  1. Hi, I visited the rijks in November and made this little film. I found YOUR’s, tonight. I enjoyed it! I am a local cycling advocate. We must think alike.

    Cheers from Chicago.


  2. Last time I was there the music was Vivaldi’s the Four Seasons – magnificent! I did read that that one of the numbskulls who wanted to close this cycle path exclaimed that the building was too beautiful to have a cycle path, but cycle activists responded by describing it as a beautiful cycle path. How right they are!

  3. While watching this lovely film, I instantly wanted to visit the Netherlands, and I think I will next spring. The Dutch tourist board ought to hire you.

    Greetings from Stockholm

  4. I was in Amsterdam for a few days this summer, and I wanted to go see this for myself specifically because I saw your previous blog post. It was very easy to hire a bike from the campsite we were staying in, but it was raining so the woman thought I was a bit mad, I guess cycling in bad weather is only for hardy natives! Despite having a leisurely ride and stopping to consult maps and see some sights along the way, I arrived at the museum at the same time as my parents because the trams were having electrical problems. My parents were totally bemused “A cycle lane – through a building!”, and we sat in the cafe for a while eating cake and watching the world go by. But my mum got to see paintings so she was happy too.

    I’m a total country bumpkin so I was a bit worried beforehand about the trams, bendy buses and city traffic, but it was so easy and enjoyable because of the segregated lanes or quiet roads the whole way there – there’s no use having “showcase” infrastructure if you can’t get to it. And as soon as I’ve saved up I’m getting a comfy Dutch bike instead of my 20 year old cheap awful mountain bike.

  5. Thanks for making this beautiful film. I especially like the man and child (0:35) stopping to watch and listen to the music being played. Very poignant for me.

    Forget about life imitating art – I want life to imitate life in Amsterdam!

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