I think you are able to enjoy Amsterdam **because** of bikes. On the subject of “should looks matter”, the fact that most people here in west sit through their lives in car, makes it OK to have mentally stagnating slabs of grey concrete everywhere. It makes it OK to have dull plain buildings, grey roads.
Why have nice canals when you will just zip by them in a car?
Cars make it OK to have residential area stupid far away from business area (Toronto vs residential cities around it), to have “food deserts”, to have houses spread-out just to accommodate wide drive ways enforcing the problem.
Now, build city around pedestrians and bikes, suddenly the things you enjoyed become important – your surroundings become the “entertainment center” as you make way from home to work (ideology behind Moscow subway ornamentation).
It’s not just the bikes… it’s the cars, bikes, trams, and scooter/ mini cars… take them all together and it makes walking miserable in many places… the bikes stand out because the riders don’t obey any rules. They ride in the bike lanes, the car lanes, the sidewalks and where ever they want. Many don’t stop for the bike red lights, they go twice as fast as the cars, and are just a pain…
Its easy to think that getting cars off the road helps pedestrians, but at the end of the day the sidewalks here are even smaller than in places where cars rule.
Cannot argue against that. A good thing spoiled by bad behavior. Narrow sidewalks sound useless. Only bright side, I guess there is no incentive to introduce driveways with parking that stretch distances.