Bicycles, bicycles & more bicycles! Pt 3.

The variety of bicycles is enormous and for a non-cyclist, this could be a minefield!  My advice is to start with the price for a good “station bike” that offers a “quiet ride”.  The next criteria would be the technical elements and for this, I recommend going for the absolute simplets of bicycles, sans levers and gears, i.e. the standard Old Dutch Bicycle or “Omafiets” as they commonly refer to the version without any gears or handbrakes, instead only back pedal brakes.  The reason for this option is that there is very little to repair apart from pumping a flat tyre or getting the chain back on (something I am yet to have to undertake, thankfully as it can be a little trying and rather greasy!)

The electric bicycle or e-bike has become increasingly popular, thanks to the arrival of ‘Rona the virus as there is a new reluctance to using public transport.

Personally, I have had the experience of enjoying an e-bike tour on a friend’s new acquisition and what a blast!  Fun to ride at such speed and to take on a “hill” with ease but the best part was the ease at which I was able to pedal into the wind!  Pedal one does indeed still have to do and of course, since one has the electric assist, one rides further so the distance makes up for the usual heavy pedaling.

I do feel a certain “guilt” about liking the electric invention as there is really no hilly challenge to face so it seems a bit of a “cop-out” though I am not needing to make a long daily commute in the wind and the rain so I shall leave my e-bike opinion right here!

The best invention is the famous bakfiets!  What an awesome mode of transport for parents with young children, it almost makes me want to relive our daughter’s early childhood…. Instead I find it inspiring, delightful, charming & incredible to watch the families on the roads either as I cycle along or from our kitchen balcony that overlooks a large traffic circle. I can always tell when they are late for school as the parents pedal furiously whilst the children clutch bags, jackets & projects from blowing away.

There is also a bigger “kiddi-carrier” that is used in the kindergarten’s where from 6-10 children at a time can be transported in this giant bakfiets.  Most often they are electrified but I have also seen some that are “kiddi-powered” which is a 2-in-1 sort of outing for everyone!

The bakfiets is not only intended to carry children, so I have noticed, but serves as a family’s car (or second vehicle) carrying virtually anything that one would usually need carrying from house plants and pets to building materials and items of furniture or simply one’s “big shoppingS” for the week!

I may not have my own children to cart around in a bakfiets but when our youngest daughter was au-pairing in Amsterdam some years ago, she was obliged to ferry her young charges around in one.  This two-wheeled wonder was parked on the pavement outside her street level window, chained to the window railing. At 2am, we were woken by the sound of much hilarity outside on the pavement, followed by some knocking of the handlebar of the bike against the low lying window pane. In an early morning dazed irritation, my daughter got up and banged loudly against said window.  What followed was a shocked drunken shriek and a friend calling loudly from further down the street: “Waar ben jij Molly?” Needless to say this has become a family legend and the phrase is trotted out at appropriate moments of confusion!

There are a number of variations to the bicycle, one of which is the tricycle for the mentally and physically handicapped as well as for the aged and infirm, all of which promote independence which is a highly admirable element of Dutch society.  

It is this bicycle culture that creates a sense of community, tolerance and amazing patience most particularly noticeable when a young child is learning to negotiate the roads and the traffic.  Usually the parent rides on the road side of the bicycle path and often with a hand on the child’s back to help those little legs that tend to grow weary with the pedaling.  

From our balcony view over the traffic circle, we see many cars waiting quietly and patiently for the young learner to navigate the circle, extending an anxious arm to indicate which exit will be taken, and only when the cyclist is safely on their way do the cars pass, mostly with a congenial smile for the brave young person – I too smile from my balcony perch: What’s not to love about the pace of a bicycle?

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