Pedal power rules the roads in Utrecht

Sat Jul 4, 2015 6:29am EDT
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By Martyn Herman

UTRECHT, Netherlands (Reuters) - Rush hour has a distinctive soundtrack in Utrecht.

Not the cacophony of growling engines and tooting car horns common in most sizeable European cities, instead the ting-ting of hundreds of bells and the gentle whirring of chains.

Two wheels rather than four rule the roads in this pleasant Dutch city that claims to have 900,000 bicycles -- that's about three for every one of its inhabitants.

No wonder organizers of the Tour de France felt they were in safe hands when they selected Utrecht for Saturday's Grand Depart of the 102nd edition of the famous race.

Here, you imagine, babies enter the world turning pedals.

Utrecht, Holland's fourth-largest city, is proud of it's high-tech industries, it claims to be the birthplace of Wi-Fi and is at the cutting edge of 3D printing and the gaming industry.

But it is the failsafe mechanics of pedals and wheels for human propulsion that has pride of place in the city's psyche.

"Amsterdam is more famous for it, they have more bikes, but Utrecht has more bikes per person," Edwin van den Berg, who leads bicycle tours around the city's Medieval canals and cobbled street, told Reuters on the eve of the Grand Depart.   Continued...

A Tinkoff-Saxo mechanic checks a bicycle before a training session in Utrecht, Netherlands, July 3, 2015. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard