February 15, 2009

Traditions (7)


Fietsen is the Dutch verb for riding a bicycle, (the word for bicycle is fiets.) Unless you have visited this beautiful country in Western Europe, you really don’t know how important it is to the Dutch to be able to ride a bicycle. In the United States biking has become much more popular recently, there are even some who would ride a bike to work and back, but this makes the news... We ride primarily for recreation, fun, or sport. Even though bicycle events like “RAGBRAI” (the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) attract many thousands of bicycle riders and supporters, it still is primarily an “event.”

(RAGBRAI 2007)

Even my bride and I now ride primarily for
our enjoyment, not to go to the store or the post office. In the Netherlands, however, riding a bicycle is like driving a car in the US. The fiets is a primary means of getting from here to there. In any city, it is usually easier and often much quicker, to get around on a bike, every thoroughfare has a bike-lane as well. Even special traffic lights exist for these specially marked lanes for the safe flow of all the traffic. Foreign pedestrians should take very special care not to walk on these bike paths, because he might get hit by a handle-bar. Usually a bel-ring warns unsuspecting walkers that a bike is about to pass them; you are expected to clear the way. There are probably more paved bicycle paths and roads dedicated to cycling than for automobiles. Although bicycle riders are expected to obey all regular traffic rules and have the right of the road, where a bike path is msiising, they also have special protection. In the event of an accident between a car and a cyclist, the car driver is usually considered “at fault.”

There are many more specific bike experiences, like holding hands, or “carrying” your sweetheart along, which I could share but I’ll save that for another time.

Bicycle "storage" (Amsterdam)