Bike traffic jam at the drawbridge

Bicycle traffic jam at Amsterdam drawbridge

This was actually a very typical moment for an Amsterdam bicycle commute but my work hours are strange so I don’t often find myself in bicycle traffic jams. Friday was an exception and the drawbridge over the Amstel River was opened so a couple ships could pass through. This bridge is actually quite high so it only needs to open for larger ships.

There are actually many, many such drawbridges in Holland, some even in highways (though these only open in extreme cases). In the city and countryside they open quite often to let freight ships, barges and larger pleasure boats through. The smallest drawbridges in villages are hand operated with a counterweight and a chain. Signs state the local “bruggeld” (bridge toll) which is generally collected by a local pub owner or retiree who hangs a clog from a fishing pole to collect the toll. I’m actually (for once) being serious here. See the photo below.

Bruggeld in de klomp

Generally the bridges operate very quickly but sometimes quite a few boats have gathered and the bridge will remain open for 5 or 10 minutes. Quite a few bicycles, trams, scooters and cars will then accumulate on either side.

Things to note in first photo:

– Schoolgirls with hockey sticks. Field hockey is very popular in Holland.

– The tram (the electric lines for the trams raise and lower with the bridges)

– Only city bikes, most of which have the usual white mudguard tail. No, wait… I spot one rear derailleur.

– Almost every cyclist has a bag slung courier-style over the shoulder

– The stop sign is painted on the road surface of the bridge

– No cars: sorry folks, too many cyclists, pedestrians and trams to have room for cars on this street. You’ll just have to take a longer route through the city.

One Response to “Bike traffic jam at the drawbridge”

  1. Mark Stosberg Says:

    Thanks for another cultural peephole, Henry.

    I love that this street is car-free. I wish for the day when we have enough bikes to have bike traffic jams in my town!

Leave a Reply