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Bikes - some of the bad bits...

The Netherlands is often praised as a paradise for bikes. Well, who knows where bikes' souls go after they've been drowned at the bottom of a canal?

But here in the corporeal realm, I can tell you that while cycling is mostly heavenly, there are also plenty of moments from hell.

Let's go to hell first, it's more fun.

Beginning with the low-grade aggravations which gradually poison the soul... Tourists who can't distinguish between a road and a footpath. New students in September who don't know where they're going in the twisty maze of alleyways, all alike. High schoolers cycling three abreast overtaking high schoolers cycling three abreast. Trying to get a new-fangled bike into an old-fangled bike rack. It goes on.

Actually, I caused my share of moments when I first came back. I badly misjudged overtaking one time, but the offended party responded with a kindly, "no harm done." It's something I strive to remember when someone makes a mistake in front of me.

However, it's hard to hold onto that spirit of forgiveness around mopeds. They're allowed on many cycle lanes but most are souped-up to exceed the 25kph limit. Furthermore, they have a bad habit of getting impatient with, e.g., high schoolers cycling three abreast, and then pulling out far too wide to overtake, to the possum-like horror of any cyclist coming the other way.

But clearly, there's a difference between a mistake and the deliberate flouting of all common sense.

Texting while cycling, for example. I have no words. (The Netherlands also has no words in law -- it's legal!)

Which brings me to the single outright most stupidest thing I've seen. It's common enough to see romantics holding hands while cycling side by side. But this pair on the Breestraat...

Let me explain. The Breestraat is one of Leiden's two main shopping streets. It's car-free, to leave room for the 600 buses that pass through there every weekday. And taxis, delivery trucks and anyone who thinks the rules don't apply to them.

This is where our two lovers decided to stage their parting kiss, while cycling, one on a regular bike and one on a CARGO bike...!!!

Romance isn't dead. At least, not yet.


( 8 comments — Comment )
Jan. 11th, 2014 03:23 pm (UTC)
I often see cyclists in Edinburgh having conversations on their mobile phones. I generaly think they deserve the accidents I am sure await them. Shame about anyone else they involve, though.
Jan. 11th, 2014 03:54 pm (UTC)
Having conversations on a bike is one thing, because you can look around you and still have one hand near a brake. But cyclists peering at their screens have no chance.

The police circulated a graphic on Twitter claiming that 10% of cyclist injuries were caused by smartphone use.
Jan. 11th, 2014 03:27 pm (UTC)
One of my favourite things about visiting Amsterdam in the summer was watching them dredge the canals for dead bikes! I also fell foul several times of not working out the different between pavement and cycle path, so probably annoyed a great deal of people.
Jan. 11th, 2014 04:03 pm (UTC)
I love watching them fish for bike skeletons!

The difference between bike path and footpath isn't always that clear, especially in places like Amsterdam. I remember my first time back in A'dam after some years absence. I was there less than five minutes before a cyclist madly rang their bell behind me to get out the way. I was on the footpath...

“My experience in Amsterdam is that cyclists ride where the hell they like and aim in a state of rage at all pedestrians while ringing their bell loudly, the concept of avoiding people being foreign to them.
My dream holiday would be a) a ticket to Amsterdam b) immunity from prosecution and c) a baseball bat.” -- Terry Pratchett
Jan. 11th, 2014 04:04 pm (UTC)
I hope you enjoyed your visit to Amsterdam otherwise!
Jan. 11th, 2014 06:05 pm (UTC)
Oh boy. :)
Jan. 11th, 2014 11:52 pm (UTC)
Hm. Yes, I agree with everything you say, though must confess I have in the past both texted (albeit with buttoned dumbphone so it did not require me looking at it), and rolled and lit cigarettes while cycling on cyclepaths.

And the moped (limited to 30 kmh at that time in Sweden) I had when a teenager magically attained an ability to do 45 kmh soon after I'd got it. Almost exclusively used on village roads with very little traffic, though.

So while I'm older and wiser now, I can't justify complaining about the youth of today when I wasn't better myself. :-) Especially since I never had any accidents until I was in my forties.
Jan. 12th, 2014 01:50 pm (UTC)
It really isn't just the youth of today though, I wouldn't want to be misunderstood. There's plenty of older people who seem to be leading charmed lives!
( 8 comments — Comment )