- Cycle paths are generally made from red coloured bricks and slabs. In outlying areas they seem to be separated from roads by parking strips or vegetation. When approaching a roundabout together a car seems to generally always give way to the bike and cyclists seem pretty sure of this, I don't see hesitation on their part. The cyclists all use their bells and hand signals frequently, they don't wear specialized clothing or helmets and for the most part neither do the children it seems.
- Mopeds, electric bikes and motorized wheel chairs all share the cycle paths, I know this causes some aggravation and I'm sure over time I will form an opinion on the matter, but right now it does seem one good point about this is that traffic is separated based on if you are protected from or by a metal frame, although Mopeds do still have the option of riding on roadways if over a certain CC.
- Grocery shops here seem to be scattered amongst the communities, they are smaller and more compact but still priced competitively. In our experience so far it seems like most neighbourhoods have a grocery shop within walking distance, you might also find a fish monger, bakery, newsagent/post office nearby too. These shops are generally flanked by large amounts of parked bicycles which are locked with a wheel lock rather than a chain as their owners won't be gone for long. The shops carry far less frozen foods than their U.S./U.K. counterparts, have a lot of cheese and I have yet to see a throw away grocery bag in this country, it seems like everyone brings their own bags or purchases the thick plastic or canvas bags that are reusable.
- The ground seems to be generally free of litter, even in the city centre you don't see a lot of rubbish, except cigarette butts on the ground. I get the sense that the Dutch take a lot of pride in their homes and living spaces. When walking in Amsterdam quite often we've noticed windows to living rooms and bedrooms are ground level and open to the view of passers-by, they all appear to be like shop windows and it's easy to mistake them for a window display until you see someone sitting on the sofa watching TV.
- Children here seem to have it far nicer than their American/British counterparts, they cycle to daycare (which is subsidized in costs by the government) on a parent's bike, then as they get a little older they may cycle with Mum or Dad to school on their own bike, then as they approach the years of more independence they seem to travel in little packs by bike. Kyle and I enjoy watching them, it's nice to watch the groups of high school age kids being loud and obnoxious like teenagers from all over the world, except they are on bikes!
- Bike shops vary greatly here as to what they cater to, but the majority of them seem to favour everyday bikes and family bikes. You also find non bike stores carry bikey things, like the drug store we found that sold rear mounted kid seats for 30 euro. The things you can buy in the bike shops amaze me, like wheel locks for 10 euros, pannier bags in a variety of colours and sizes, kits to strap your child's buggy to the bike, kits to extend your back rack to allow the use of panniers and a child seat (I know at least 12 parents in the US who will want me to ship them one). The repair shops seem to always have a selection of child bike seats and parts on hand, hanging from the walls. The fancier bike shops can have about 10 varieties of cargo bike to choose from, all waiting for test rides, in fact just yesterday our local bike shop sales man told me to come back and take their Urban Arrow out for a spin!
- I looked at some classified ads and saw half a dozen box bikes and bakfietsen for sale for under 450 Euro, some as low as 300. Really do I need to say anything more on that subject?
- Sometimes I will overhear a conversation between what I assume is two Americans on a train, only to hear them drop their American accent on a word here or there and realize they are actually Dutch. The younger generations especially seem to have amazing clarity with their English language skills, adopting either a British or American accent, it is really impressive.
- One of the things we have to look forward for Jack, is he will automatically qualify for special classes aimed at helping English speaking children settle into the Dutch school system, basically he will qualify for a greatly subsidized daycare that will help him reach native levels of language by the time he starts school, which means he will be bi-lingual from an early age. According to an article I read, based on studies by Unicef and the World Health Organization Dutch children are the happiest in the world. This U.N. study compared children based on scores of how fulfilled they felt at school, how healthy and active they kept, how well they felt they could communicate with their parents and a number of other things. The Dutch tend to be very child focused and I can see how all these elements combined would make for a more trusting, open and enjoyable adolescence for both parents and offspring. To learn more about this subject, simply google "Dutch children are the happiest in the world".
There are a million more observations I could share but those are the ones that really stand out to me this morning as I sit here at our dining table looking down to the street below, where I can see cyclists of all ages making their way to their destinations, its an amazing place to be right now.