Its like riding a bicycle

In the summer of 2018, I embarked on my journey to live in the Netherlands for some months. Beyond the focus on my studies, the main mission was to embrace the dutch culture as much as possible. One of these cultural experiences was that of the dutch relation to the bicycle. Come rain shine or snow, I was determent to be committed as a local.

The Netherlands has great bicycle infrastructure; dedicated lanes, paths and highways. Running from all corners to all city centers. In a country with more bicycles than people, one would not expect this part of the experience to be a challenge in any way, shape or form. Yet, in some student towns this could be the one thing that causes some headaches.

These challenges come in different forms. Firstly, legal parking is always an issue. One would think that there are no rules around this point, but there are actually some designated parking areas and garages, smarter and more pleasant than most car parking lots. Yet, you would find that bicycles are parked everywhere. Secondly, newbies do get ripped off. If you buy a bicycle on Facebook, Markplatz or Gumtree, chances are you will most definitely get ripped off. The going rate for just any secondhand bicycle could be anything from €70 to €120. There are of course always the odds that you could pick up a bargain, but with so many dodgy deals in the system, even the trained Dutch eye could be deceived. However, in the beginning of a semester some local bicycle shops will resell some secondhand bicycles. These would probably be serviced and in working order, but you will at least pay €100 and more for those. They are also limited, and available at orientation day. Bring cash. Thirdly, both short term and long term rentals are a possibility. Tourist day rates could be as high as €12 a day. But if you do stay a few months or years I would suggest Swapfiets. They currently charge €15 a month or €12 for students a month. They are available in all cities and bigger towns. You will know them by their blue front wheels. After the bicycle I used from my Airbnb host got trashed one night by the station, I also made use of Swapfiets. What is nice of them, they service and fix the bicycles when something goes wrong.

When it gets to parking safety, a basic rule that you could adhere to: always lock your back wheel and the front wheel plus the frame to a fixed parking pole or frame. This lowers the chances of getting the bicycle stolen. Road safety is also important, but no one uses helmets for day to day cycling. Cycling in Amsterdam is fairly hard with all the pedestrian tourists, even Utrecht can be crazy with so many junctions and students on bicycles. Especially those peak hours. You need to know what you are doing if you get yourself in these situations. If you catch up and apply the basics, you should be more than okay.

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