Monday, August 15, 2011

Going Dutch

As anyone that's visited Amterdam knows, bicycles are completely everywhere. Not until last week Friday did I totally understand how much you could do with a bicycle!

I decided to have dinner with one of our colleagues in the hospital, and the restaurant we were going to across the city. She had a bike, and I had arrived by tram. No problem, I thought, I'll just take the tram and meet at the restaurant.

Instead, I was offered a ride on the back of a bike, side-saddle style. You know, like what you see in the old 50's movies, or when travelling in Vietnam, one person pedalling, and the other riding off the back of the bike, with both legs on one side.

Really, I thought? Is it really possible? Our colleague, she said "yeah, it's the fastest way. People do it all the time". Here's when I realized I was up for a real cultural experience.

First - it's really tough to hop onto the back of a bike when both you and the bike need to be moving at some speed. That takes a bit of finesse. Not only that, there's not exactly a lot to hold onto on the back of the bike.

Second - it's kinda scary! like 3rd world scary! Dutch bikers are super aggressive, so I had cars passsing me on the side, the bike passing very closely to parked cars, other bikes overtaking us within what felt like inches! I would have been more afraid if I was actually facing towards the street instead of facing the sidewalk (ie, my legs were hanging off the right side of the bike, and bikes ride on the right side of the street)

In all though, it was a completely hilarious experience. After a couple of times, I mastered the technique of hopping onto the back of the bike quickly, and efficiently, and mastered hopping off when we came to a "red light" or street crossing. And, looking at the map, it's really amazing the progress that we made across the city. And as my friend pointed out, bikes are the most efficient way to cover the city!

She gave the following true example: a taxi from central station to home is about 20 mins and costs EUR25. A tram takes about 15 mins, and it's maybe EUR2-3, but a bike, takes 10 mins, and it's free!

Maybe I need to find a way to lease/rent a bike for my time here?

Image credits:


Anonymous said...

why do you have to hop on and off the bike?
Also, why do you have to hop on when the bike is moving? can't you just sit and have the biker paddle?

Kent said...

Because it's too hard to start from a stopped position, bikes here don't normally have gears. And if a bike is stopped, with me unbalanced on the side, it'll fall over!