A Starry Night’s Ride
If there’s two things you should know about the Dutch, it’s that they love to bike and they’re seriously proud of Van Gogh.
Possibly the most bike-friendly, and bike-congested, nation in the world, the Netherlands have been at the forefront of the burgeoning urban biking trend since before it was a trend.
To the Dutch, it’s a way of life. It’s the way of life. It’s how you get around, and to tourists it can be frightening, stressful, and completely mind-boggling. You’re probably better off skipping the bike rental and the immense struggle of learning the intricacies of local biking altogether and bumbling around the Van Gogh museum instead. At least that way you’re moving at a slow, controlled speed when you inevitably collide with someone else.
But, if you’re determined to put your mettle to the pedal, do as many do and leave the city centers to enjoy a relaxing, rural cycling experience with minimal potential for physical harm and embarrassment. You can cycle along the windmills, sojourn in clogging country, or wind around the postal routes and wild flowers favored by Van Gogh himself in real life. And now, you can step further into one of the master’s classics all while perched on the padded throne of a comfy cruiser.
Eindhoven’s glowing bike path channels Van Gogh’s most famous work, Starry Night. Designed by artist Daan Roosegaarde, the path is a solar-powered, LED interpretation of the Dutch painter’s classic. About half a mile long, the path is covered with thousands of tiny LED lights that illuminate the biker’s way along a swirling montage of patterns inspired by the famous Post-Impressionist sky of the original.
Celebrating the 125th anniversary of Van Gogh’s death, Roosegaarde’s path in many ways embodies a physical amalgam of the collected consciousness of the modern Netherlands.
“You have people who are interested in technology to make landscapes which are energy neutral,” he told NPR. “You have people interested in cultural history and experiencing it in a contemporary way. You have boys and girls who have a first date and want to take their date to a special place. You have an artist like me who wants to create something just incredibly poetic; and all that comes together. A good project generates new stories.”
That new story is a nation that is, in so many ways still tied to the past, yet is markedly progressive, pedaling faster into a distinctly modern and beautiful future, all without sacrificing a rich cultural history, a feat that is all too uncommon, but is more and more possible, with someone else lighting the way.