Everyone knows that the Netherlands is a cyclists dream, it's flat and perfect for pedalling and I'm serious when I say literally everyone rides a bike!
As well as the people you'd expect to see on bikes, teenagers, students and kids, I've also seen a man in a suit holding a briefcase, a mum with three kids in a box attached to the front doing the school run, kids on roller blades hanging onto the back of their parents bike for some speed, elderly couples doing their shopping, groups of old women out fir a weekend trip and, my favourite, a girl in a pencil skirt waiting at the lights, who wpuld run and jump onto the back of her boyfriends bike everything he set off again!
To handle this many cyclists the Dutch have had to make sure that their road infrastructure is top notch to avoid accidents. Which is fantastic really but it does make a rather confusing array of new rules for a tourist to get used to.
The first surprising thing I had to get used to was that scooters (and sometimes actual cars) are also allowed on the bike lanes. That was a surprise the fist time I was over taken by a man on a scooter speeding by!
The second was that there are bike paths literally everywhere, if you're not on a bike path then you probably shouldn't be there. It is really wonderful how bike friendly the whole of Holland is, such a nice difference to cycling in Manchester where you were on edge every moment.
The third thing to get used to is just how to cross roads safely, on a bike and on foot.
My Mum warned us to always check both ways before crossing a road as you obviously can't hear bikes coming - however I've noticed that in Amsterdam all the bikes have their own little quirks and personalities. Everyone's bike seems to make some sort of noise, some would whirr as they go by, others a more obvious clattering that makes me think they really should get it serviced, others have a bell that tinkles every time they go over a bump. Overall there is a great noise of clicking, wizzing, clattering, ringing and whirring that should alert us to a bikes proximity, unfortunately it doesn't help at all and there were still many near collisions, especially in Amsterdam!
Not only do they have the red, yellow and green lights for the cars, they also have the expected pedestrian crossing red and green man, but they also have a red and green light for bicycles. The intention is great but what it makes for is a dazzle of lights and colours leaving me not knowing where to look. It takes a bit of getting used to but once you do it is great system that is much safer for cyclists.
I've really enjoyed cycling in Holland and will be sad to leave tomorrow for Germany. But at the same time super excited for a new country:)
A Wheely Long Journey Blog
Charlie and Lou are twins from Cheshire, UK on a mission to cycle back to their childhood home in Hong Kong.