So there was a time… once upon a time… that Elloise also put on a helmet and strapped on a Joe Rocket jacket and boots. There was a time she even owned the title to a cheap little bauble called a Ducati.
Why? Duh! For a boy!
Back then I felt like a Biker Chick – big blond pony tail scrunched in underneath the helmet, clothes plastered to me under the jacket as we screamed around curves in the Julian Mountains in 78 degree temperatures.
But now.. Now I feel biker chic :)
Life in Amsterdam revolves around Bicycles. Life in the Netherlands revolves around bicycles.
Ok – and beer and cheese. But you need your bike to get to the beer and cheese!
I hadn’t realized how ubiquitous the bikes were in Amsterdam on my first few visits. I was too busy staring at the great architecture and the lovely bridges and the drunken tourists urinating on the side of said lovely bridges. But when I moved here, the first thing that my dad said was “You need a bicycle.”
Bicycles in Amsterdam – unlike what you would think when raised on the standard American supply-demand model in life – are expensive. So most people that I know have ‘used’ bicycles. (Let’s leave it at that and remind you to lock your bike!”)
So my dad came home one day with a purple bike with a little cute basket… and I was ‘almost’ an Amsterdammer simply by ringing the rusty bell. (And the tires were of the thicker variety so as not to get stuck in the tram tracks that crisscross the city.)
The Dutch are born on their bikes. Actually… I think they can bike BEFORE birth. And if you see the number of women on the street here who are cycling in high heels and a shirt stretched taught over a very pregnant belly… you’d be amazed! At least 10 times a day I find myself wanting to run after them and scream “Wear a helmet at least!” Anyway – point being… the Dutch start young. By the time they are six months old, you will see them on the front of bikes on a plastic seat protected by a visor – Happily gurgling at the world. They bike before they can walk.
(I even have seen parents biking holding the handles with one hand and supporting the head of a sleeping infant with another!)
It doesn’t mean it’s perfectly safe… to the contrary… you are not biking on neat little bike lanes that run along the beach boardwalk or through a deserted canyon like you would in San Diego… you are biking between cars and trams and scooters. But there are relatively few accidents. And what is amazing is that there ARE great bike lanes – everywhere! In the city… among the canals… in the countryside. You can buy a map of the Netherlands that ONLY shows the cycling lanes.
And cyclists have their own lights at the stoplight ;)
I’ve seen EVERYTHING on a bike – people cycling with one hand holding an umbrella and the other holding a phone to their ear, a dude in a tuxedo, a kid in graduation gown, a drag queen in a prom dress.
In the two years I’ve lived here, I have not missed my car once. Okay… I’ll be honest… there was that time that it rained so hard that I thought I would need flippers and a floatation device to be able to stay on the bike – and could only see the handle bars, nevermind figure out where the deluge ended and the road started. And… there was that moment in Ikea when I thoughts, “You want me to pay HOW much to deliver this crummy table? If I had my car… I’d already be HOME!”
(The Dutch are pretty adventurous on what they will take home on the back of their bikes – beer crates, plants, chairs… you name it! And no Date Night is complete without giving your ‘honey’ a lift on the back of your bike. My balance is not yet that good.)
BUT… that said… most of the time I love that I get exercise every day. I love that I have no need for a stupidly inflated car payment, insurance payment, or credit card payment due to my debt to the gasoline/petrol industry. I love that I don’t need to search for parking. And that I don’t need to worry about tune ups or checking the oil – which I anyway never could figure out how to do.
Plus… when you go down a hill and yell ‘weeeeeeeeeeee!’ in your head… well… there are just not that many moments like that in a car.
When I was back in San Diego in May I was disconcerted by being in a car – it was the first time since December that I had been in one, and the first time since October that I had driven one. And I felt… caged. Trapped. Cut off from the rest of the world. It felt… odd.
There’s a reason why Dutch gals have such incredible legs! :)