23 June 2008
Bicycles in the Netherlands
Someone sent me a link to a highly amusing site with pictures of cyclists in Amsterdam. The pictuers were all taken in one 73 minute period of time and are complete with commentary. It's very interesting. Of course, I went looking for a picture of my bicycle to post here, but this is as close as I got.
Looking at the pictures and reading the comments (especially the feedback at the bottom of the page) got me thinking about how biking has become so extremely normal to me since moving here. Four years ago, a 5km bike ride seemed like an undertaking. Now, it seems ridiculous that I would drive that distance. Bicycles are just everyday transportation here. They're valuable but not special. Maybe like a mailbox at the end of your driveway in the States. It's not really worth a lot of money to you, but if it's gone, life is not good. In fact, given the reactions that a lot of my friends have had to a mailbox at the end of the driveway, that photo essay might make an interesting compliment to this one.
Finally, my word about the helmets. Unlike in the US, bicycles are the primary form of transportation here. Cars are secondary. Bicycles rule the road. They usually have their own lanes (with medians in many cases), for one thing. Most drivers are bicycle riders first, so there's a lot more respect and awareness there. Also, when you take your driving lessons, you're taught to always look for bicycles. This includes looking over your right shoulder before making a right-hand turn. In my four years here, I've only heard of two serious biking accidents. As far as I can tell, while both resulted in fairly bad injuries (broken shoulders, jaws, collar bones), both victims were (1) back on their bicycles soon after and (2) possibly trying to escape grueling road races. The second part of that theory is (1) yet to be confirmed and (2) certain to get me in loads of trouble!!!