Tuesday, September 28, 2010

bikes, bikes, bikes

To sum the previous, then: if you can somehow get on two wheels here, whether by renting your own or joining a group at Mac Bike or Yellow Bikes, or taking your life in your hands with an Eastern European intrepid bike taxi driver, it really is THE way to see and understand this city.

Two wheels are without a doubt the fastest way around Amsterdam. Literally nothing is more than 20 minutes away if you are on a bicycle.

If you do take the plunge and rent a bike on our own, first of all, BRAVO! You won't regret it. Now, some guidelines for first time cyclists in our fair city:

1. Always lock your bike, through the front wheel AND the frame, when you are not with it. Period. Take it from me, who is on her third bike in four years, the previous two lost to theft.

2.. ALWAYS stay on the bike path. Take it from me, who careened gleefully down a sidewalk and collided into some poor workman carrying his tools away from a house for the day. "dit is voor lopen," he said indicating the sidewalk. "This is for walking." Thank God he was not hurt, or some feeble being. I learned that lesson.

3. ALWAYS have a light on the front and the back once the sun goes down. Not only does it simply make good basic safety sense, but the politie acties may await you around every bend, and they will fine you on the spot for neglecting your "lampje." Get in the habit of carrying them with you at all times, less you get into one of those afternoon-turns-to-evening situations.

4. PAY NO ATTENTION to the casual Dutch zinging through red lights and pirouetting down the sidewalks on a single wheel while they juggle apples with one hand and text their friends with the other. They can do this without incident. If you try to buck the rules with the same disregard for flowing traffic, you will unwittingly cause a pile up. They have been running red lights for decades. Don't be a twit your first week on two wheels here. I'm not kidding. Things move quickly on a bicycle. Be careful out there.

5. DO GET OUT of the tourist centrum. I highly recommend the canal belt, over on the west side. Pick a time outside of rush hours and try the Browersgracht and Bloemengracht area for great gracht riding with little traffic. On the other extreme end of the canal belt, the east side, riding around Rembrandtplein, towards Reguliersgracht and around there is a very pleasant ride.

6. VONDELPARK is the best place, in my opinion, to go on a bike. It can get a bit wild with roller bladers and oblivious tourists strolling into your path, but it's a sure escape from cars and the bustle, such as it is, of the city.

Life on bike is delightful. I love my enforced 20 minutes twice a day to and from work. Getting to the point where I don't even mind it much in the drizzle. Guess I'm slowly going native. Next post, hotel tips!
Ivy claiming a bicycle chained to the wrought iron fence at Sarphati park.

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