Suzie Zoo takes a look at cycling from a Dutch point of view, and, after a few falls and bruises, learns to appreciate the ride.
I bought my first Dutch bicycle in July 2009; but, I still wonder why the cheeseheads are such avid fans of cycling. If the weather is bright and sunny, sure, I understand. But, when the skies turn a depressing shade of grey and the wind is howling, I think they are mad to hop on their bicycles and ride away. Why not use cars? Why not use public transport? Why, why, why?
On a suicide mission
Then there are these dangerous cyclists who seem to be on a suicide mission, lacking the ability to look out for vehicles on the roads. And, not forgetting ‘dumb’ cyclists who are too small for their big bicycles and constantly head straight for lamp posts because they can’t brake and reach for the ground at the same time. I have noticed that I don’t see many Asians doing this; riding cycles that are too big. I am, unfortunately, not one of them. I secretly like to think of myself as some kind of Asian Lara Croft. For two months, amid my bruised legs and swearing, I took cycling in my stride.
My significant other took pity on me and splurged out on a new bicycle — one more suitable for my size. Things definitely got better after that. I could brake without inciting fear in my significant other and the rows of cyclists behind me. I was no longer damaging public property and best of all — I was allowed to cycle on my own, since I was no longer a danger to the rest of the world.
When things changed
My desire to cycle came after I missed the tram one night. It was 1:30 a.m. and the day trams had stopped. The only choice then was the night bus. Holy moley, a 15-minute bus ride cost € 7! I could have taken a Mercedes cab for that money back home in Singapore.
Cycling became an option for me — something I decided at my own whim and fancy. That was until one day when things changed. I dropped my purse in our car one night. The next morning, my significant other left for work before I noticed my purse was missing. There I was with an important meeting to attend and no way of getting there. My travel pass and bank card were in my purse; and we had no spare change in the apartment. I called my significant other and launched into a panic attack for three minutes before he could get a word in:
“I guess you just have to cycle there.”
“What? Are you crazy? How can I do that?”
This was followed by many other words which I prefer not to repeat in print.
The place was 8 km from my home, in the suburbs of Amsterdam — I had never been there — and now I was supposed to cycle?
After a five-minute coaching session on how to get there, I studied the map and headed out on my teenaged girl’s bicycle. I had exactly 45 minutes to get there, not counting the fact that I could easily get lost.
I got lost. I had to call for help. But I made it there; even with five minutes to spare before the meeting began.
So, there you have it, a happy ending. Yet, I may never fully comprehend why the Dutch cycle despite the bad weather. But, I do have my own reasons now to keep a soft spot for cycling.