So Amanda and I knew–absolutely knew–that the first thing we would do would be to buy bikes. And you’ve now read about how that happened. But we were not prepared for biking in Amsterdam.
-Cars are constantly aware that there will be throngs of bikes on the shoulder of the road, so you never have cars cutting you off when they do a right hand turn. It’s as if the car drivers just understand that they will be sitting for 5 min waiting for all the bikes to clear before they turn. It’s awesome. And the drivers are never rude or ticked off or surprised when you bike by them (unlike Toronto.) The drivers actually look sheepish and embarrassed to be in a car. Maybe secretly longing to be biking? Ingrained perma-fear about hitting a cyclist? Who knows.
-Bike highways! Like the 401, but for bikes. Multiple lanes! Faster biking!
-Bike lanes everywhere!
-Plenty of space to lock up. Dutch people complain that they can’t find a place to lock their bike, but they complain about everything. If there was a totally empty bike rack they would probably complain that it is cluttering the sidewalk.
-The country is totally flat. Bikers heaven
-Traffic signals are optional, or are “that thing that everyone else should use but my life has this totally justifiable exception”
-Scooters. These things are crazy. Half-vespa, half motorcycle, you can hear their little chainsaw engine screaming up behind you in the bike lane. They pop it into a higher gear the closer they get to you just to let you know that they are motorized and you aren’t and if you decide to change lanes you are going to be on the business end of the tiniest fender-bender in history. Scooterers derive a sense of satisfaction being totally insufferable on the road swerving into traffic and bike lanes whenever convenient. (But it is super hilarious to see two dudes totally trying to look cool in their club-wear and gelled hair pumping their dance music and hollering at girls on the sidewalk, while holding on to each other tightly in an intimate embrace while sharing a scooter.)
-Lots of bikes. Bike rush hour. Oh, and remember the optional traffic signals?
-Bike tourists. They are a hazard to us and a danger to themselves.
-Cellphone using bikers. They would be safer if they were drunk and paying really close drunk-attention.
-Bike wielding children
At first Amanda and I were timid bikers, allowing pedestrians and faster, more aggressive cyclists the right of way.
But that didn’t last long.
Now we are totally yield-sign-ignoring, eye-rolling at tourists, bell dinging (Amanda anyway. She’s going to get me punched one day ringing her bell at people all the time) hardened bike experts. But not without our growing pains tho. I’ve almost bailed a few times trying to keep my bike-tank on the straight and narrow in rainy weather and Amanda almost totally head-on collisioned with another guy.
Oh, and in a related story, we are learning dutch swears!
And the next time we bike in North America we will be promptly squished by a North American car driver who doesn’t have the “check side mirror for bikers” permanently etched into his brain and the lack of perma-fear.
59 cent Heineken and churches!