Monday, April 19, 2010

De fiets / the bike - Part 1

I knew there was a reason we nicknamed Holland 'Bikeland' (along with Dutchland and Flatland) before leaving Australia: in the few weeks we have been here, the use of the simple bicycle - or fiets as it's known in Dutch - has blown me away.

The very first thing we did when arriving in Nijmegen was go shopping for some second hand bikes. Initially, this was because we are unable to do ANYTHING in this country (such as buy a car) without a social security number and it takes weeks before this number is issued. Since getting my new set of Dutch style wheels, I've discovered first hand why the push bike is the preferred method of transportation.

1. TRAFFIC!!! Traffic in the Netherlands is simply awful! We are currently living on a main road and as I sit here and type this, I can see the traffic jams from my window. Although I will be glad to soon have a car, I'm already dreading having to sit in line to get anywhere. Although there can be a little bit of 'traffic' on the bikeways (you should see the streets leading into Radboud at 8.45am!), it doesn't even begin to compare to the traffic on the motorways.

2. Cost: bike riding is not only good for your health, it's a cheap method of transport. In a country where petrol sits around €1.45 / litre and road tax is upwards of €1000 / year, riding a bike is far more cost effective then driving and even then catching the train. Employers such as RU even give small monetary incentives for employees who choose to ride to work, the amount varies on the distance you ride each day.

3. The infrastructure: in Australia, I would only ride my bike if it was along designated bikepaths (such as the Kedron Brook bikeway). This was not because I'm lazy, but out of fear for my life! Riding a bike through inner city Brisbane is something I found frightening as you have to share the road with motorists who in my experience have no regards for cyclists. In Nijmegen however, it's a totally different story. There are bike paths EVERYWHERE! Even the roundabouts have bike lanes! One only has to Google street view the area to see how well set up it is for cycling. Even when there are no specific bikeways and you have to share the road with cars, I still feel safe. This is because bikes have right of way over everyone else. Cars actually seem to look out for cyclists here!

4. Parking!!! Parking in most European towns is notoriously expensive and can be hard to find (and physically park in, if you're a driver like me that avoids teeny reverse parallel parks like the plague). Bike parking however, is... free!!! But I have to say, it is proving itself to be somewhat hard to find. On a weekend, trying to park your bike in town is like trying to park your car at Chermside shopping centre at 10.00am on a Saturday morning. Mitch and I can cruise around town for ages looking for a park for our bikes to no avail. We've discovered that the done thing is to just chain your bikes either together or to the nearest tree and leave them be.

I have to say, I'm loving doing as the Dutch do and riding my sparkly green Gazelle fiets everywhere... It's such a good feeling to ride along and know that I'm contributing to a greener country and improving my fitness at the same time :-)

2 comments:

  1. Hey Lu!! I love your bike!! So glad your enjoying riding! Its so freeing to know you can cruise anywhere, its great for your health and you can eat as many dutch almond rounds as you want!! Love lots and we miss you heaps! Loving your blog! We are getting over a nasty stomach bug! Youch! Love lots, Martine (and Dan and Noah)

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  2. Youch indeed! That's no fun Tia, I hope guys feel better soon! Love lots from Dutchland xo

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Thanks for reading, your comments make my day :-)

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