Dutch people are born with a bike attached to them. No wonder I try to find one wherever I am. Otherwise the longing for a two-wheeler grows too strong. I’m sorry. I think it’s an addiction. Who knew that aside from the healthy benefits of riding a bike, it also gives you new insights in a city and its residents.
Wen I first set foot in Amsterdam, coming from a smaller city in the Netherlands, I was super afraid to ride my bike. There is a total anarchy of cyclists going on in that city. I still can hardly get my head around the fact that bikes are actually higher in the hierarchy than cars. Who knew! Now I find it awesome to cycle in Amsterdam, but always keep in mind, other bike-riders are like your frenemies. You ride together in one big stream, forming a buffer for cars and other vehicles. But from one minute to the next these frenemies might ride you over or cut you off. Yep, watch out, always. Plus: they are EVERYWHERE – wear your glasses at all times. And your hearing aid if you need that. Or some kind of sensor to warn you. The bikes are EVERYWHERE. Can’t say I didn’t warn you!
And then there is Berlin. Ah. Germans. Pünktlich and ordentlich. Except for the fact that they ride their bikes on the sidewalks. And yes, this is forbidden there as well. But it’s safer (I think? There must be a reason for this behavior). Germany wouldn’t be Germany when cars wouldn’t rank first in the traffic hierarchy. Bikes behave like mice around a cat. One minute they are there, quickly taking a shortcut between two slow-riding cars, the next minute they are gone, in some narrow quite street. As a former inhabitant of Amsterdam this is hard to get used to. You and your bike are there, but you have to make yourself scarce. I actually was once told by a truck driver to start cycling on the sidewalk. Otherwise, he was afraid he would hit me with his side mirror. Ah…Sure thing.
But then, there’s China. I also cycled there. And when I mean cycled I don’t mean for some lousy day tour through Beijing. No, I mean cycled through Xiamen for days in a row (until my bike got stolen, whilst university gards were keeping an eye on it, strange story), a city of 2 million where traffic is crazy. Where a zebra is just there for decoration. Not for you to cross the street safely. The traffic in China – yes this feels like a contradictio in terminis – it’s anarchy. Between all people participating in the traffic. Survival of the fittest baby, in it’s purest form. No rules apply here. Only the fact that you need to get to point Z and start from point A. Where in Amsterdam and Berlin you proverbially need to pass the whole alphabet, in China you try to go directly from point A to Z. No matter how dangerous, crazy or impossible. Just do it. Wow. I at the same time wouldn’t and would recommend you to take a bike in China. Awesome, but verrrry dangerous.
So, biking can teach you about a city and its inhabitants. It’s fun and healthy, but at the same time can be very unhealthy looking at the risks of running into cars or other cyclists (hello again, Amsterdam). But I love it. Which you could also spot from my collection of 4 bikes (2 sports-bikes, 2 normal ones), and me and my BF’s wishlist, which has 2 mountainbikes on it. And I also wouldn’t mind riding the bike shown in the picture above. I blame my Dutch-ness.
What about you, what did you learn about your city and it’s residents while riding a bike?