A couple of days ago, there was a great Metafilter thread on Amsterdam’s (or Dutch) bicycle culture (direct link to photos). Generally speaking, what was possible to do in The Netherlands you’d be arrested for over here. Some annotations that are applicable to the discussion:
- You need huge chains and locks if you don’t want your brand-new or dirt-old bike to be stolen.
- You’re allowed to carry kids whenever you turn 16.
- Every kid is being taught traffic rules at and around age 7 or 8.
- From the twins, I was the first one to be able to drive a bike and that was at age of 5, I believe.
- The biggest achievement as a kid was the very first time I drove on a bike to the nearest library (earlier).
- Before I came over, I left my bike at the Deventer railway station, locked, naturally. On my return 4 years after, I expected the bike to be still there. Afterwards, I thought that that was one of the most ridiculous thoughts.
- When I was a teenager, I reported a stolen bike at a police station. Later on, I found out that that was pretty naive: In the Netherlands hundreds of bikes are stolen everyday.
- At one time I bought a bike with a locked chain tied to its frame. I was lucky to have a friend with the right tools. I remember the poor excuse too and it’s so bad that’s not worth mentioning here.
- We used to have a set of race bikes and (this suprises everybody) used to tour (‘race’) around with it, together with my brother. My favourite climb was the ‘Holterberg’, which is the only ‘mountain’ with a 10% elevation.
- I had an accident on that same mountain: While going downhill at 50 km/h, I was hit by a car with a trailer. I was (miraculously) not hurt and my bike had only suffered light damage.
- At one time, I was touring with a friend of mine and he had a hard-time keeping up with me: we figured out that my weight was to blame for my speedy climbs.
- At one night, I (together with Alfons) accompanied a female friend accross one of the Deventer bridges because her boyfriend was too lazy to bike her around in the dark. It was one of the weirdest and funniest drives.
- At one time I had to drive back home in a Fall storm: I remember ‘sailing’ home, literally.
- Thanks to my dad, I’m fairly good at taking apart bicycles and doing repairs on them. There goes nothing above the smell of a newly-greased bike chain.
This also reminds me that the last time I officially drove a bicycle was during my stay in The Netherlands in 2004. We (Alfons and I) drove out to pick up “flemish” fries and some other typical Dutch junk food. So once in a while, my wife asks ‘what was in that stuff we bought when we were overthere and you guys drove the bike and it was a kind of uh, gross’ (general answer: ‘horsemeat’). Anyway, after that bike drive, I became aware that I was totally out of shape. I remember having that same feeling during my second return in 2006: this time however, we mostly walked.