Our sabbatical started in the Netherlands, where we stayed for two days in Amsterdam, then took off down the Rhine River for a week long cruise through Germany, France, Switzerland and finally an additional four days in Lake Como, Italy! We learned so much history and saw so many cultures. We ate such good food and drank such good wine. We met wonderful, fascinating people from all over the world in a giant dinner party every night on board the ship.
In Amsterdam, we did not expect the maniacal bike riders in such large numbers and with such velocity that they seemed otherworldly! There were bike lanes on every street, clearly marked with a symbol on the pavement.
Pedestrians were not welcome in those lanes. Period. Riders populated those lanes en masse, like a super highway! And they were not stopping for anyone who casually got in their way! This was no past time, this was a serious means of transportation.
I started to look at the faces of these bike riders. There were whole families of bike riders together, from the smallest with no pedals, skooching along like cute, little scooter pies, to the oldest grandpas on gigantic trikes. Mommies with babies in seats on the handlebars (rear-facing, of course!), toddlers on the back in seats facing forward, and groceries in the baskets on the side or the front. There were pregnant moms. There were students and singles. There were grannies in their Sunday best with scarves flying wildly in the wind, and there were goths in their flying layers of darkness. Lovers shared a bike, with a damsel sitting side-saddle on the back, jumping off at each stop then running alongside her sweetheart till he reached a safe speed, pivot, jump and re-plant her bottom behind him. Love really does conquer all!
Along with the many types of seats, the bikes had numerous styles of baskets, some very functional–like plastic crates–others were mesh wire, festooned with colorful flowers and the wicker “Toto” basket from Wizard of Oz fame was also very popular. It was all so charming.
I live in Tempe, Arizona. We have bike lanes that are hardly ever used. Until I went to Amsterdam, I never understood what our city fathers were trying to accomplish. A more vibrant bike-using culture takes some of those cars off the streets! So I made a commitment–in Amsterdam. I am going to buy a bike and use our fine city’s bike lanes! But I couldn’t bring it home as a souvenir, so I decided to do the next best thing.
I walked into a shop and asked “Do you have bike bells?” He stared at me. My first language barrier, but I was undaunted. I held imaginary handlebars in my hands and pedaled to the floor with my legs: “DING! DING!”
“Oh, sure,” (pronounced “oh shur-ah”) he said as he pointed to the toy section. I passed up the psychedelic color combinations, and the ‘stay calm” sayings, and selected the bell that most reminded me of Amsterdam. It’s a bike path symbol like the ones on the pavement, blue with a white bike on it–my first investment in my new biking habit. Since I got home, I have been looking for “THE BIKE” to match the bell–I know it seems backwards–but work with me here.
Follow me, a 60+ year old granny blogger, as I find the perfect bike for a blue and white bell, to charm the bike paths in Tempe, Arizona! It turns out there is more to choosing a bike than I thought!