When my daughter comes to pick me up from work, my colleagues already know what’s about to go down… We’ll be hopping onto the bike together! It’s not a tandem no, it’s just a regular English Pendleton Somerby. Nothing special about it, just two Dutchies who will be riding it home.
I’ve noticed that we’re quite a novelty here, up north, but back in the Netherlands we’re part of the ‘Dutch dare-devils’. Riding a bike with the two of you isn’t so special there. It’s a way of life. It’s the first thing you’ll learn besides swimming, roller-blading and ice-skating.
As a child growing up in ‘Bicycle-Land’, right after you managed to brave the force of gravity, and face the world from a toddler-birds-eye-view-perspective, you get thrown into the deep-end again and forced to re-master your balancing skills all over again. The ones doing this to you are nobody less than the proud spectators also known as the ones who brought you into this world.
After you’re no longer suitable to be your parents laughing stock and have helplessly encouraged them create the next funniest home video’s 2.0, they’ll get you a tricycle . One with a ‘parent push handle’ and a canopy so you can snooze, without the risk of sunburn, after a good ole’ temper tantrum, because you desperately needed the other kid’s spiderman themed trike (which is obviously way cooler than your Bob the Builder ride they bought you for your 18th month birthday/anniversary).
As long as it has tires, a handlebar, peddles and a saddle, we’re off! We don’t wear helmets, not even whilst riding a light moped – approx 18mph (a ‘Snor ‘ is how we lovingly call it). I remember when the government tried to get us to wear a helmet. Us Dutchies silently rebelled and here we are; riding our bikes with our hair still looking great -depending on the weather and hair style of course-.
We’ve got so many different styles, for all types of usage. We’ve got cargo bikes, which has a compartment in between two front wheels to carry your ‘load’; there are ‘butcher’ bikes with a basket for the merchandise; Grandma/pa-bikes and even special ‘mother-bikes’. Their frame is low enough for even the shortest mum to easily hop on and off. Wide enough to attach a child’s seat to the handle bars and still have plenty of space for mum to jump on. Incredibly strong frame to have another child-seat attached to either the pannier rack or seat post, and carry the additional weight of any shopping bag and/or baskets. Our bikes are strong and durable, and have lights attached to the tires with dynamo’s. Therefore, lights only stay lit until you stop peddling. As of young, we are taught to repair our own bicycle instead of dropping it off at the bike-repair-man. We’ve got gorgeous lady-saddles (which reminds me to order one from Amazon). These seats are especially made for women who love to wear their skirts but hate the imprint the male seat leaves behind. We use our bicycles to get from A to B, to move house, friends, parents, children, shopping and some even use it to transport their bride to the town hall to get married! We fall, get up and back on again.
Yep, the Netherlands is equal to Bicycle-Land… and I love it. It’s healthy, free and it’ll take you basically everywhere you need to be. Often in half the time it takes when relying on the trustworthiness of public transport. The frustrations most of us feel when a bus is delayed, a metro broken down, a tram derailed or a train cancelled, is a regular source for a raised blood pressure, and although the reason behind any disruption is generally appreciated, it still doesn’t seem to justify the nuisance of having to wait longer than 20 minutes for the next service.