Thursday, February 22

In the Land of Bikes

12 March 2006

There is no doubt about it. We live in the land of bikes. Sometimes, when Emma and I have missed a bus, we have a count-the-cars-and-bikes contest, just to see if our observation can be backed up by statistics. From our very scientific study-sitting on a bus stop bench and counting out loud- Emma and I have determined that bikes rule. Our first counting poll indicated that in a 10 minute period, 101 bikes passed our bus stop, but only 47 cars. The second time we tried our counting, it was a 15 minute period and we were passed by 86 cars and 151 bikes! Lately, we’ve been arriving at the bus stop in a timely manner and so haven’t been twiddling our thumbs. I mean to say, we haven’t had opportunity to continue our study. But rest assured that the bicycle is boss here in Holland.
There are three levels of biking here. First, you have your standard, peddle it yourself bike: the “fiets”. This is powered only by your own strength and stamina. I have commented before on the strength and stamina of the average Dutch person who can strap on myriad number of items and/or children to the bicycle and ride for hours on end. Even after six months here and taking this as the norm, it is still a marvel.
Next, there is the “broomfiets” (pronounced: Broam-feets) which is a regular peddle it yourself bike outfitted with a small motor, so when your strength and stamina just aren’t enough, you can rely on the motor to power you onward.
The third level of all things fiets is the Brommer (pronounced brrroam-errrr) which is your full-on Vespa or Moped kind of thing. These machines though fully motor powered enjoy all the benefits and shortcuts of the ‘level one’ bikes. It is not uncommon to be mowed over by a Brommer in the bike lane while you are traveling at personal strength speed and someone is tooling along on a mini-motorbike. Brommers are not my favorite. I feel like I need eyes in the back of my head sometimes to avoid collisions, because Brommer drivers tend toward the not caring about others on the path and seem to always be in a hurry. I don't think they give my personal strength and stamina speed much credit as they come ripping past me. My one consolation is that the fact that brommer drivers are going so much faster in the bike lane, and therefore, they are creating more wind in the face, and thus getting red, chapped cheeks faster than me.

The best thing about bikes as travel is that life is lived at the speed of transport. My life is paced by the speed my legs power my bike. As a result I am never rushed, I am merely moving as fast as I can. And that speed is just right for me.

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