Since the beginning of the year 2012, I started to ride bicycle for a return journey from home to the office. This is not a sporty thing since the distance traveled in total of at most 5 km, but usually around 4,4 km. I only passed 2 traffic lights and crossroads. There are several small intersections too but the neighborhood is not a crowded one, so it’s not a tiring journey.
My Bike and Accessories
I got my bicycle new, fresh from the store € 500. I did not buy it with the money from my own pocket. I bought it using the national fietsplan which aimed to en-bike (not a word) people or employees all over The Netherlands. It is a government laid plan which supported by many business or employers. It’s almost like the car lease plan, but this one is totally tax free but within a certain limit of amount. My office offered a total of € 750 for the whole bicycle package which includes the bike itself, accessories, and insurance. Yes, there is such thing called bicycle insurance and since I live in Amsterdam, the capitol and the city with the most population, it rife with bicycle theft. However, my bike package cost in total of € 740, so right on budget. Afterwards, I have three years contract to ‘pay’ for the bike: (1) if I resigned before 1 year, I have to pay 75% of the cost spent, (2) within 2 years then 50%, (3) within 3 years then 25%, (4) afterwards I can do whatever I want with my bike and my work and my money 😀
I also bought several accessories including the side bags, basket, baby front seat, and wind shield. When I explained this to one of my colleagues he responded: “so basically, you’ve got a mom’s bike” Yes, that’s what they call it here, Moederfiets, a bike with long and deep lines between the middle bars and the holding bars, and with longer back, so you can put side bags and children rear seat. But what I actually bought is called stadsfiets which loosely translated as city bike, so it is not set for a mountain bike or a race á la Tour de France. In my list of things to buy are bicycle helmet for babies.
Now, about the ride itself. It is not just like you paddled your bike and cycle through the city in which ever lanes you like. The Netherlands provide special pathways for bicycle and if you follow the path through and through, you can manage to bike yourself to the northern most part of The Netherlands, and if you cycle the other way, you will get to the southern most part of it. This country is well-pathed for bicycle riders. So if you got a full 1-2 weeks free, you might have spent it touring the whole land of The Netherlands with your bike! Cool heh?
You must also follow the path directions. Now, this part I just learned. Once I went home in a midday, riding my bike. In an intersection, I met one of my colleagues crossing the roads from the parking lot to the office. We exchanged greetings and have a little chat, and he suddenly said: “oh by the way, why are you cycling through the wrong path?” I said to him, “no, this is the bike path,” and he replied “you must be riding in the same direction with the car, especially if there are a path in each directions. If on a road there is only one bicycle path, then you can ride it in two directions, but usually there is a dotted line (to separate the direction)” Hah! This is true and I have seen people riding bike, crossing the roads or streets to get into the right direction. Just like driving cars.
Another thing when riding bicycle is that you have to notice the traffic lights. There is a special traffic lights installed along with pedestrian traffic lights and the car also. For the bicycle and pedestrian lights, we have to manually push the buttons to make the red turn to green because the default is red. But there are also several lights which will turn red to green automatically. One thing for sure: pedestrian and bicycle lights are different. Sometimes when the bicycle lights turn green, the pedestrian still red. It also happened the way around. So, never followed the people, just follow the lights.
When making turns, we have to wave or straighten an arm depending on which side you will go: left arm for turning left, right for turning right. I still need to master and remember this, because mostly I just ride along the way and as long as no bike intersected, I just turn which way I want, but this is not the way I should have done it. I still need to balance myself for a small task such as correcting my glasses or scratching an itch. I see many people ride without hands, they can text or do anything else, but I believe those acts are dangerous.
To ensure safety, I have a back wheel lock installed on my bike. Well, it’s an attached accessory so it is already there when I bought the bike. I have a key which I need to put in to unlock and I need to take out to lock the wheel. There is also a chain lock. This lock is not necessary useful for a rather safe neighborhood, but you do need so if you are not sure about the safety. The best way is to put the chains through the front wheel and the middle bar and then lock it. It is even better if you managed to find a tree or a tall post to put the chains through. So whoever wants to snatch your bike, must as well snatch the post or the tree along. Or even the ground beneath them. So much of a Herculean task just to get one bike.
The thing which I do not favor is the fact that bicycle path is also accessible for scooter or motorbike, and a mini car. Super small car fit for only 1 person, looks so much like a joke, but they can run faster and might just side swept all the bikes in the same path. But the most dangerous ones are the scooter. They can run so fast and I think that is the nature of motorbike rider because they inhale so much lead produced by their own combustion, it affected their brains. It lower their brain’s IQ for real, so they become a real moron. Just want to speed without hitting the brakes. So much anger, I need to calm myself down…
Lastly, riding bike here is transportable. You can take your bike on a metro, ferries, or trains. So it is basically a hop on, hop off, and ride on travel. But never try to take your bike into buses or trams. No space for bicycle there, besides those modes of transportation only reach within local distance, so the logic here is whatever reachable by bus, it is also reachable by bike. They will not allow you either, even when you carry your child in the bike. Actually, I made the conclusion of the last part myself, since I have never seen anyone try it.
Once you’re in another modes of transport, you must watch for special areas reserved for bike. You cannot just bring your bike right next to your seat. You can latch your bike into a special bike storage, or put it beside you next to the entrance/exit door. But then you must be right next to it since it might disturb the people coming in or out.
My next challenge is to ride my bike across the state. I want to try riding through if the weather permits.