Amsterdam is famous for a number of things, and one of it’s more innocent claims to fame is that it is home to more bikes than people. So far one impression that I have of the Dutch way of thinking is that they do the most logical thing. The country is flat, cars are expensive… what’s the most logical thing to do? Ride bikes everywhere!
So, of course we have bikes. Those bikes both have seats for Sean. If you ever want to visit us in Amsterdam, we will force you to rent a bike. We’ve already become fully dependent on our bikes. In all seriousness, Amsterdam is not a huge sprawling city and if you have a bike, you can go anywhere and see anything whenever you want via the bike paths that appear to have been designed along with the city streets rather than being an afterthought. The organisation is impeccable.
For those of you worried, Sean does indeed have helmet now. He is one of the only people that you’ll see with a helmet on though. I can’t quite figure out what I think about the total lack of acknowledgement that locals give to the potential cranial damage that riding bicycles poses. I’ve narrowed it down to three hypothesis:
- Nobody crashes. (highly unlikely…)
- Crashing is seen as just another one of life’s risks.
- The helmet manufacturing lobby in America has done such a good job of instilling fear in all who own a bike that we now equate riding bikes to NASCAR.
To be a bicycle in Amsterdam is not an easy life. Apparently more than 10,000 bikes end up in the canals every year. I have no idea how or why that would be the case. As far as I can tell, it’s easy enough to not ride into the canals as they are mostly parallel to the streets and for perpendicular situations, the city has provided bridges. Wind wreaks havoc on bikes. If you get up early in the morning and walk around, you’ll find the ground strewn with bikes that were blown over in the night. It’s interesting how a vertical bike is nothing more than a vertical bike, but a pile of bikes on the ground brings to mind an apocalyptic zombie plague. Bikes are stolen regularly. An Italian who has been living in The Netherlands told me that stealing bikes is a national sport.
Very few people have flashy bikes. Ours are no exception. Marianna’s is an average bike for Amsterdam. Nothing flashy, but it works just fine. It was probably stolen, maybe more than once. Mine is on the lower end of the quality spectrum. Marianna valiantly found it online and went to buy it alone, with Sean. She’s a hero for having got herself, her bike, my bike and Sean all back to our apartment building. She paid 50 euros for it. The first time I rode it, it didn’t really have “brakes”. I have since added new brakes, and since I don’t really know what I’m doing, they are performing at about 75% of their potential.