Riding a bike here in the Netherlands is not like riding anywhere else in the world. Sure, there’s the pedals and seat and balance and forward momentum. That’s just the science of motion. It’s everything else that they do while riding a bike that makes them the world’s gold medalists at metro cycling.
For starters, talking on your phone and texting while you ride is de riguer. It’s kind of amazing actually. One handedly driving and braking and moving and chatting is just second nature. Basically what everyone in LA does, but with two wheels.
Somehow at the crossroads of canals the bikes, cars, mopeds that are converging from every direction seem to instinctively know how to weave together and move on. The official rule is that you give way to everyone on your right but there seems to be a dozen subsets to this rule that everyone knows, so a Saturday morning here looks like a massively orchestrated, living, breathing ballet on wheels.
Other favorite stunts here are the way that women can mount a pavement, brake, slide off their seat and walk with their bikes without breaking stride. In heels.
Then there’s the SUV version of the bike that has a wheelbarrow type box at the front that holds anything up to four children at a time. That’s of course if you aren’t stacking them on the seat in front of you or the ledge behind. Did I mention no one wears helmets? Mothers in LA would be fah-reaking out.
Dutch can shop for a banquet, carry a chandelier, move house entirely all on two wheels and without breaking a sweat.
So all in all it’s deeply impressive display, it seems like any Dutch person could join a circus with the kind of skills I’ve seen on the cobble stone streets of Amsterdam.
But there is one chink in the armour and that is the bell. Ah, the bell.
No one yells here when they do get cut off or held up. Kind of surprising for a people who don’t seem to afraid of confrontation. However, the bell sublimates for all of it.
Ring! (translation: Hi, I’m here, just to let you know I’m coming round the side)
Ring! Ring! (translation: Excuse me, but you seem to be cutting me off, you really should have left a little more room)
Ring! Ring! Ring! (translation: Where did you learn to ride? Did you get that bike last week?)
Ring! Ring! Ring! Ring! (translation: I am going to follow you home, burn your canal house down, kill your family tree, erase your memory from the face of the earth)
If you can master all of the above, you are ready to roll here in Amsterdam. Study up, there will be a test at every cross street.