Sunday, August 7, 2011

When in Amsterdam...

Nah! Haven't engaged in the first thing you thought of when you saw the title. Nor the second either. Keep going, and somewhere on the list you get to something else Holland is famous for - biking!

And I don't mean Tour de France biking. I mean get on your bike to get somewhere biking. Bikes definitely outnumber the cars in this city, and if possible, it might outnumber the people, too. It's the thing to do and how to get around. Every morning since we've been here, I get my morning coffee (which after 2 weeks in a continent which apparently has not discovered full fat cream for coffee, I'm almost used to drinking my coffee just a little less than black, rather than the very light brownish tan I am accustomed to) and I watch the bikers out on the street.

I ride my bike at home, but not the way these people do. When I ride, I get into comfortable biking pants and a sweat-wicking athletic top, lace up my sneakers, tie on a bandana and strap on my helmet, drop my water bottle into it's holster and then I go ride up the bike trail. No where in particular, up Rock Creek Trail or down towards Chevy Chase. The journey is the destination (or something profound like that). After an hour or two, I come back home and put my bike away until the next time.

These folks? You can't even call them "bikers" because their sole purpose is not to bike, it's to get somewhere - to work, to school, to the grocery store, to the bar. Outside my window, these folks:
- have 1 baby in a baby seat on the handlebars and an older kid sitting on the back, behind the biker
- have 2 kids in a wheelbarrow-contraption type thing on the front of the bike. (I can't imagine the bike I would need if we lived here!)
- are talking on their cell phones
- are texting!
- are riding 2 next to each other and holding hands (romantic, no?)
- have their friend sitting on the back of the bike (I wonder which of my friends would trust me enough to ride side saddle on the back of my bike?)
- are carrying musical instruments and packages
- are "walking" their dogs, I.e. holding the dog's leash as it runs behind the bike
- are carrying an umbrella because is has suddenly started to rain
- are wearing heels, and dresses, and suits - they look good while biking.

All without a helmet! I haven't seen one helmet yet, not even on the baby sleeping in the basket.

And this is not a couple people in the 3' bike line on the side of the street. The bike line goes down the middle of the street, in between the 2 car lanes, which are so relatively empty, the bikes often drift into the car lanes, along with the cars that may be there. The cars, busses, bikes, and streetcars all share the road.

At home, there are some attempts to make biking more popular for all good reasons - save energy, reduce pollution, get more exercise. We need to do better on our bike lanes however to really make it work. There is a lane on the major street near where I live, but when it gets to the next major intersection, the lane ends. And since U.S. drivers are not used to a biker being in the lane, there's no way I'm jumping in between an Escalade and a Navigator on the road (that's another thing, the cars are alot smaller over here). We would also need better summer weather, looking cute and riding a bike when its 100 degrees with 60% humidity does not work well.
The best way to get around Amsterdam - Elle enjoying a bike ride.
After watching the bikers for a while, I couldn't resist. I rented a bike and rode down one of the canals. I love the feeling of biking - the wind blowing and all that. And then later - me and the kids took turns riding with each other on the back carry bar. All without a helmet.


Robyn said...

Good for you! I know that was fun. That's why Europeans are slim. They walk and bike everywhere. Take pics of some fashionable people riding bikes. I wanna see them in heels.

Mommyx4 said...

I have a photo of L posted, you can see the ladies with their scarves and purses behind her. I have more on my camera. I want to be one of those ladies!