Walk past the entrance of Albert Heijn Centrum around 5 pm, and you'll find bikes piled in the bike racks at full capacity. Essentially, the bike racks here look like the Whole Foods parking lot on Lincoln and Rose at 5 pm. True story: the first time I rode my bike to Albert Heijn, I actually had to scope out someone leaving, follow them to their bike and wait for their open space.
Needless to say, this is something entirely new to me and it's taken some getting used to. It's not just because biking is far less prevalent in Southern California, it's more that I find biking rather terrifying. Or at least I did.
You see, biking here is not a big deal, people just do it. You wont find "bike culture" in the Netherlands, biking is Dutch culture. Gaze out on any street and you'll find parents riding and carrying their children on tiny bike seats, ladies elegantly sitting side-saddle on the back of their beau's bike and senior-citizens peddling along slow and steady.
In fact, 30% of people in the Netherlands list biking as their main mode of transportation. Between the flat topography and vast network of inter and intra city cycle paths, the country is set up for biking. These paths are clearly marked and often segregated from main roads - complete with their own traffic signs and signals.
Beyond the stellar infrastructure, cars seem to have this "bike is right" perspective. Drivers expect bikers and almost always patiently give them the right-of-way. This is something I'm still not entirely comfortable with, but it's getting easier and absolutely appreciate the dynamic.
After four months of biking in South-Holland, I've concluded that biking in itself is not terrifying - but biking in Southern California is. Someday, I'd really like to share the pros and cons of switching from car to bike - but I'll save that for another time.
I have two questions for you: Expats, how is transportation different in your new country and do you see this a positive or negative? Everyone, how often do you use your bike, if at all? Would you bike more if you felt safer?
Until next time,