DGC 03 - 31 - 2010

Bicycles; the silent killers of Amsterdam. If the United States is car crazy, Amsterdam is bike insane-- bicycles are the principal method of transportation in Amsterdam. Instead of giving the automobile priority, the city has developed what is probably the world's most efficient bicycle infrastructure system with entirely separate bicycle lanes, traffic lights for bicycles, and a steady stream of daring cyclists who instill fear in the hearts of pedestrians and cars alike. This infrastructure extends beyond the limits of the city center and the most dense medieval street grid out into new developments several miles outside the city proper, and probably far beyond this. I rented a bike in the morning along with TJ and we rode through the city for a while, but after several hours and close brushes with death too many to count, we decided to follow the bike paths out into the periphery through new developments along the water. We made our way to Borneo-Sporenburg to experience some of the world's most fantastic residential development in Amsterdam which we had visited earlier in the morning with a tour guide. The developments are suprisingly well suited for vehicular traffic, but almost all of the cars are hidden from public view; instead, the streets are dominated by green and pedestrian pathways. Each home is connected to the sidewalk by a small courtyard which includes the garage, and some of the garages had two cars in a vertical parking structure. We rode back to the train station to return our bikes before the store closed, and then continued on a tram back to the hotel for some R&R before heading to dinner. I don't actually remember what we ate for dinner because I'm writing this in London, which makes me wonder why I'm writing this at all aside from the fact that I'm being asked to for an assignment. If a journal is supposed to be inherently personal, what happens to the intimacy of keeping a personal journal if you're only doing it so other people can see it? It loses all of its value as something of importance to the individual and becomes only important to others, in which case it's no longer what it began as. "Journalling" can become a singular obsession that has the potential to steal the true experience of the trip from some of us when the it becomes simply a list of things that you've done and tourist attractions that you've seen, which in turn becomes how you begin to define a culture. A journal can become a filter through which a culture is often diluted, while the true experience should be completely individual (both to the individual person and city.) Of course, the fact that I find it difficult to distill the essence of an experience into words doesn't mean that the other 40 people in this group are also incapable of this. But in light of my difficulty, I now know that immediate experience is always more rich than the one that's hidden away in a little book, and that's why I don't keep a journal anymore. Many thanks to Amsterdam, written from London with love.

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