27 December 2013

A bridge in Amsterdam


I really like this video. For one thing, it is a celebration of that most ingenious, elegant and liberating machine, the bicycle (in Amsterdam the cyclist is king). We see mainly the so-called Dutch bikes, heavy and untemperamental, variously accessorized and personalized; sometimes a mysterious clutch of identical bikes appears, ridden of course by beings who are not at all identical. The scene is hypnotic though full of interest and little surprises, full also of fleeting speculation about the lives and relationships of the people – pedestrians as well as riders – passing in and out of view.

They interact with calm and courtesy, making allowance for one another, observing only the rule that one should keep generally to the right. Everything else is improvised. Except for the roadway and the structure of the bridge, we see nothing of the state, no nannying, no hectoring. There is not one helmet. Luggage – even a Van-Goghesque chair – is carried as the rider alone thinks fit. A girl examines her phone as she coasts down the incline, one eye out for danger. No one is hurt or even inconvenienced.

When motorized vehicles – especially four-wheeled ones – appear, they seem monstrously intrusive. Though the cyclists and pedestrians have equal status, we only become aware of that when a car disturbs the flow. The bicycles themselves are equal. Their owners do not seek to impress other cyclists thereby. Not a shred of Lycra can be seen.

The film has another effect on me. I begin to understand the viewpoint of street furniture, assuming lamp-posts, bollards, litter-bins and the like are capable of vision. It might not be so bad, being a bench, provided you're sited somewhere nice.

The opinions above are coloured by the fact that I like very much Holland and the Dutch. Moreover, I am a lifelong cyclist and envy the understanding shown by drivers in Holland and indeed Germany, where the cyclist is also king.

The video-maker's original blog post is here; the comments are worth reading. And by the way, if you want to see what's on the other side of the bridge, Google Maps is your friend.

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