Sunday, June 26, 2011

Amsterdam - Day 5 (?)

Today was another great day.  We started the day off with a two hour lecture and engaging discussion on transportation decision making norms in the United States so that we can begin to understand the information we'll be receiving from local officials as the work week begins.

We then stopped at a market for picnic supplies to take on our first length ride outside the city to see what bicycle infrastructure in more rural areas is like.  The short answer - it's incredible and just as robust as in the Amsterdam itself.  We left Amsterdam by bike along a canal and just kept going along that canal until we hit the next town about 15km away or so.  To the right is the group - still smiling - half way on our way to Ouderkerk to take in a windmill.

The rural roads are design in a pretty cool way to accommodate multiple types of users.  Basically, there is a center car lane that is two-way and a bike lane in each direction on the side.  The middle lane is not wide enough to allow cars to pass one another without utilizing some space in the bike lane.  Cyclists have the right of way, so if there are cyclists present in a bike lane cars cannot merge over at all.  If no bike is present, then cars can move over to pass one another.  If cyclists are present on both sides and two cars come at each other, the cars will slow down until one can merge over when a gap of cyclists appears.  In the extremely rare event that there are cyclists on both sides for a long time while two cars approach each other, those cars will come to a complete stop until one of the vehicles can merge into a clear bike lane for the temporary passing.

The great thing about this system is that there is almost never a need for this last situation to appear - it is a rural area with few vehicles and always space and gaps between cyclists.  Cars do frequently slow down and scan the distance to see if and how to pass another vehicle and it works itself out.  Cars definitely yield to cyclists and do not really do anything intimidating.  Biking in that environment never felt uncomfortable or threatening; in fact it felt the opposite - thrilling, joyful, safe, and comfortable.  The movie above shows a bit how it works.

More kids cycling.  And smiling.

A woman biking with her dog up front.

 We then made it to our destination, found a canal, and pulled out quite the picnic spread and just rested, ate, talked and watched families coming and going by boat in the canal.  Here is Chloe hydrating and having a good time.  It was a picture perfect location, with one student saying it looked just like a movie set.  of course, it was the real thing.
Here is KK taking a break to document the place via watercolor.  All students are keeping a journal of their experiences as part of the course assignment, although students are free to choose the method of their documentation.  The graphically talented are choosing visual ways, like sketching and water coloring to capture their experiences.

This is a great group of students in many ways, but one of them is that they are just interested in lots of things. So when the two architecture students said they wanted to visit some famous architectural site, many others decided to go along and learn a little about how architects see the world and view their craft.  We ended up visiting two places.  The site in the picture below is an adaptive re-use project that I couldn't quite wrap my head around its uniqueness and why it is known.  I am really trying to understand what makes architects tick, but it is still a process and can't quite get as enthusiastic about small design details on buildings.  I'll keep trying.
 The picture below is from the roof of NEMO, a hands-on science museum in the form of a sunken ship.  The top of the building is this fantastic public space with a fantastic view of the city, plus it is populated with oversize game pieces to play - chess, Connect Four, Dominoes.  We had not planned to be here, but it too was designed by a famous architect, and while I still couldn't get excited about small things, we all enjoyed this fantastic, rooftop public space.  It was a great place to take a rest after a long ride and day in the sun. 
And rumor has it that a frisbee is making its way out and will be accompanying some students to an adjacent park for an evening toss (it's 8:30pm and couldn't be lighter outside).  It's been a great day - lots of learning, experience by doing, and developing some great relationships.

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