Riding from Amstelveen to the University of Amsterdam

The morning rush hour in Amsterdam is not something I have ever filmed myself (yet). When I started this blog other bloggers were covering Amsterdam but I also never really felt the urge to get up very early to travel all the way there to be in time for the morning rush hour. Amsterdam is more than an hour’s travel from my home after all. But fortunately I have some great followers who are willing to help me out. I was able to show you a morning commute from the Amsterdam De Pijp neighbourhood to the railway station parking at Amsterdam South station in 2015, filmed by a friend. Now I am able to show you a morning commute from Amstelveen to the University of Amsterdam thanks to a friendly follower!

Many children on their way to school in Amstelveen.
This roundabout in Amstelveen was only built last year, in 2019. Cycling has priority over motor traffic, which is according to the design recommendations in the Netherlands.

Hidde is the name of a student at the University of Amsterdam who lives in Amstelveen, which is a suburb in a separate municipality directly south-west of Amsterdam. Hidde wrote me:

“This is my daily commute to the university. It is a route of 10.7 km from my home in Amstelveen to the University of Amsterdam UvA. I recorded this on Thursday 31 October 2019. I left home around 8:10am that day to catch the morning rush hour. Unlike you, my camera is mounted low, directly on my handlebars, which gives a different result than the higher-up view in your shots. I use a GoPro which has a fish eye lens and while that makes the field of view a lot larger, it also causes some deformations at the edges. I did not change my cycling behaviour for the video because I would not find that true to nature. So you can indeed see me cycling through a red light at signalised intersections where that is possible (according to my own judgement).”

A protected intersection in Amstelveen. The signal phases for cycle traffic going straight-on are combined with the signal for turning motor traffic. But cycling then still has priority.
After the first turn in Amsterdam Hidde encounters this on-street cycle lane in a 50km/h street. That type of infrastructure is advised against by the Cyclists’ Union among other organisations.

You will indeed see that Hidde rides a bit differently than I do, partly because he knows this route so well. He already rode to secondary school in Amsterdam before he studied there at the university. He has quite a high speed because he uses a hybrid bicycle. That is not really a city bike but also not really a racing bike. Some of his traffic decisions are also a bit different from how I would make them. Not only the red light running but also how fast he cuts some corners and how close he passes other people also on foot. Where really necessary he does pull the brakes though, so it never really becomes dangerous also in my perception.

Cycling and motor traffic can use the same space in a 30km/h zone. In the bottom left hand corner you can see the shade of Hidde on his bicycle, not holding his handlebars…
A signalised and protected intersection in Amsterdam-South, we can see the high rises of the Amsterdam Zuidas (South Axis) in the distance. Hidde doesn’t stop for this red light because there are no cars when he does that.

On his ride Hidde encounters an interesting range of different types of infrastructure. Also of the type that the handbooks advise against. On-street cycle lanes on 50km/h streets and quite a few of those actually. Amsterdam is a bigger city that seems to lag behind a bit when it comes to catching up with these developments. It takes more time to change the course of a large ship and in the same way it also takes more time to change a larger city apparently. What is promising is that in the end there is a modern cycle street with priority for cycling on a street that previously had those inadequte on-street cycle lanes. Also in the beginning of the video developments are visible; the roundabout in Amstelveen was only constructed in 2019.

One of quite a few building sites in this ride. Here the traffic warden asks all passing cyclists to stop for a crossing van.
In Amsterdam it is much busier and Hidde has to deal with many other people cycling much more indeed, than with motor vehicles.
At this building site cycle traffic in both directions uses the normally one-way cycle path. The yellow sign I added means (end of) detour.

I had Jitensha Oni look at the video beforehand. Because he can analyse rides like no one else can. He has done quite a few already on my blog. Examples can be found here, here and here. The figure of 9% of the ride being on 50km/h streets with only on-street cycle lanes is even higher than I expected. I really think that this type of infrastructure is not good enough, not even when these streets are not the busiest there are. This is exactly why so many people from the rest of the Netherlands are not impressed by the cycling infrastructure in Amsterdam. Of course there is no place that is perfect, but in this particular field Amsterdam has work to do. It is good to see (at the end of the video) that they are indeed changing this.

This van was stopped to unload without blocking the on-street cycle lane – which is almost invisible due to worn off paint. The van does block all other motor vehicles but not people passing on a bicycle. That is the way to do it!
The bridge over the river Amstel (giving Amsterdam its name) is for trams and cycling only. But there are no protected cycle lanes, only a line of paint.
This is the intersection which Hidde perceives as the most dangerous intersection in this ride. It is indeed not very clear to say the least. That van ends up waiting half on the cycleway to make a turn, while people cycling are passing it on all sides.

What really blew my mind is the incredible number of people cycling which you can see in this 30 minute ride: well over 800! And that is even without counting the people you see crossing Hidde’s route. Only the ones on his route, in his own direction and directly oncoming. Normally we get to see dots on Jitensha Oni’s maps where other people cycling were to be seen, but that was not possible with these high numbers. So he tried another style a figure that corresponds directly with the route in the same picture. This has turned out to be very clear in my opinion. You can see that at the beginning in Amstelveen there are a lot of school children because Hidde passes a secondary school there at just the right time. In Amsterdam, where he is later, we see a lot of adults going to work and a lot of students, obviously more and more the closer he gets to the university.

On this street in a 30km/h zone it is very clear what the dominant form of traffic is. Far more people cycling than walking or in motor vehicles!
The crossing with Weesperstraat is very busy. The cycleways here are becoming too narrow for the amount of people cycling.
This part of Sarphatistraat was converted into a cycle street around 2016. It is now a 30km/h street where cycling has priority and cars are guest.

There is quite some road work going on in this ride and that leads to some detours. Most of the infrastructure is very safe, but the most dangerous intersection, according to Hidde, is just past the bridge over the river Amstel where he needs to take a left turn to the Weesperzijde. You can even see a vehicle standing there in the middle of the intersection – stuck in the sea of cyclists. In the bicycle parking garage of the university at the end we see quite a few traffic wardens or “bicycle coaches” as they are called. One of them shouts in great Amsterdam fashion “Good morning lady… lady, good morning… lady… bicycles with baskets must go in the back. Bi-cy-cles-with-bas-kets-must-go-in-the-back!” Which apparently means that that student’s bicycle with a front basket was not allowed to be parked where she put it and that the lady in question wasn’t really paying attention to the bicycle coach…

The entrance to the bicycle parking garage of the university. The sign tells people to dismount, because there is not much headroom. In true Amsterdam fashion nobody does.
The parking garage is very large and in case people don’t find a parking space here the sign informs them that there may be more space in the back.
This ride was analysed by Jitensha Oni. Thank you very much! It is -as always- very interesting to see these figures about the ride.

Enjoy Hidde’s ride! You can choose the real time version, which has additional information with signs informing you about the type of instratructure on the route, or you can choose the sped-up version.

Real-time version

Sped-up version

The route in Google Maps.

7 thoughts on “Riding from Amstelveen to the University of Amsterdam

  1. Thank you very much, very good article and excellent video.
    It is very interesting to observe how, although there is a great quantity of bicycles, in the intersections without traffic lights the traffic seems more fluid.
    In my opinion, it is because the people who ride a bicycle give themselves continuous corporal “feedback” (with the look, the hands…) that make superfluous most of the traffic lights intersections

  2. The video, analysis and commentary are excellent. Very helpful to understanding the Dutch approach to cycling. Thankyou to all involved.

  3. I, or my wife and my self always enjoy a ‘Mark has another video’ video. But I have to be honest with you, we were well surprised with the lack of rule following going on. We kept saying ‘this is not our Mark’, ‘this has to be someone else’… We were well pleased to see that it wasn’t you.

    Cheers for the video.

  4. One thing that struck me about the on-street cycle lanes was the high numbers of automobiles parked so that the cycle lane was in their door zone. Obsolete infra indeed! This violates the “forgivingness” principle of Sustainable Safety.

    In other words, car drivers are also people, and will inevitably make mistakes. Mistakes such as opening a car door into a cycle lane in front of someone.

    It is good to read that Amsterdam is correcting this.

  5. Yes, I twigged it wasn’t Mark riding quite soon, well, as soon as we went through red lights and cut people up! Compared to the rest of the country, this shows Amsterdam has some way to go, the lanes are poorly marked, at times really narrow, but Hidde, the rules are there for everyone, that’s how systems work for all, please show some respect and follow them – otherwise you give cyclists a bad name…. well, in England you would anyway, but that’s another story. Thanks for the film.

    1. Why should people follow the rules of a system that is viciously rigged against them? As we see in the video, even in Amsterdam motor vehicle operators get street space that is grossly disproportionate to their numbers.

      Particularly disturbing in the video is the vast amounts of street space devoted to car parking. Property in Amsterdam is very expensive. If those car drivers were charged the true price of storing their cars when not in use, very few of them would be able to afford it. Why should we subsidise car drivers by handing them public space to store their private property?

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