If you’ve been to Amsterdam, there’s one thing you’ll notice immediately – and it’s not the smell of weed wafting through the air, the prevalence of canals or the surprising lack of windmills.
It’s not even the collection of incredibly friendly semi-naked women that for some reason want you to come see what they are hiding behind their curtain.
It’s bicycles. So. Many. Bikes.
Amsterdam’s love of the bike is extreme, but it looks like it could be too much of a good thing for the Dutchies. Bike parking in the city known for weed, waffles and women is scarce – so much so that the city appears to be officially out of bike parking.
While having an overload of bikes might be great for environmentalists – Sydney Mayor Clover Moore would likely dance around her office laughing loudly at the very thought – it has actually become a problem. Around 57 per cent of Amsterdam residents use their bikes daily, meaning that a lack of parking spaces could really bring the city to a standstill, while undermining the city’s green credentials.
The issue is so severe that the city has created a bike collection taskforce, which collects locked bikes before reselling them. In 2013 73,000 bikes were collected, giving an indication as to the extent of the problem.
The problem with maintaining such a taskforce is that it is expensive – estimates are that each bike costs anywhere up to $100 to break the lock and collect, and resale will only net the council somewhere close to $20. However many bike owners would prefer to buy a new bike instead of buying their own back, so if the council were to increase the price any further, they would sell even fewer of these expensively collected bikes.
The black market of stolen bikes is also huge in Amsterdam, meaning that paying $20 to receive your own bike back makes little sense when you could spend around $10 getting a hot ride that’s better than yours anyway.
Locals say you haven’t really been to Amsterdam if you haven’t had your bike stolen – sit in any bar in Amsterdam’s Red Light District and you will be offered a bike every couple of hours by a seller who totally owns the bike, but is happy to give you a 90 per cent mark down on its actual value because he likes you.
Also, the attitude to bike theft is consistent with the open-minded, easy-going Dutch mentality. If you have your bike stolen, no-one will feel sorry for you, as it happens to everyone and it is really your fault as you didn’t lock it well enough. Never mind that the thieves have an Ocean’s Eleven-style toolkit to assist with their operations – it’s your fault if it’s stolen, so just head down to the Red Light District with a 10 euro note and pick yourself up another one.
So, what is the solution to Amsterdam’s problems? Building an underground subway system in Amsterdam is impossible due to the marshy soil, and any city council that tried to encourage car usage would find themselves swiftly and deservedly voted out of city hall (Joe Hockey wouldn’t last five minutes in Amsterdam, or anywhere in Northern Europe for that matter).
The solution, then? Build more parking places. But as you can’t build basements, and all spaces on the land are full, there is only one option – go full Jesus style and park your bike on the water.
The city has already given approval for building floating bike parking islands all around Amsterdam Centraal Station – 21,500 in total. The end result will be a floating moat around the Station – not unlike the concept for Sea Britain, which ccame so close to getting off the ground in Arrested Development.
So, never fear Amsterdammers – your love for the bike can continue, and as long as you live in a city that is surrounded by water, you can always build more parking places on top of it.
Then again, you could always park your bike using the Billy Connolly method (although viewer discretion is advised).