Utrecht vs bikes

January 25th, 2006

Today is Day 3 of my time in Utrecht and it hasn't taken quite that long to notice some oddities and recognize certain patterns in how people here ride their bikes. Everyone says there are probably as many bikes as there are people in this country and in Utrecht that seems to be true indeed. The first rule of biking is: everyone shall have the same bike. For whatever reason,there just is no variety, the same exact kind of bike is sold in every store and every bike on the street is one of those. Ok, I have seen the odd mountain bike in a store, but none of those are on the streets anyway. The second rule of biking is that everyone rides a black grandma bike. If your grandma (or any other grandma) rides a bike, what kind of bike do you think it is? Have you seen grandmas on bikes, what kind of bikes were they? The World War 2 models, right? So we agree. Sometimes people paint their bike, but that's rare. What never changes is the class of bike, it's always the slow moving grandma bike. Which brings me to rule three: we all ride at the same pace. It's no wonder really, it would be really inconvenient to do anything else on those bikes, they have no gears, they're heavy, they're old, they're barely fit to roll. And accordingly, everyone rides at the same speed, you will see people speeding occasionally (which is nothing like actually going fast), but a lot of the time people bike in line (because there are lots of bikes here). So whether you're a grandma or Jaap Stam, no cutsies. The advantage is that you will probably never be hit by a bike cause you can see it coming half a mile ahead. Rule four is one I couldn't have known about: bikers own their own lanes in traffic, and they act like they own them. See if you own something and you don't know about it, people will gladly use it knowing you own it and you won't mind either cause you don't know. Over here bikers have their own lanes in between the sidewalk and the road. This effectively reduces pedestrians to 3rd category citizens. Some places have lanes for traffic and for bikes, no sidewalk. Of course the bike lanes look like a normal sidewalk, people walk there but bikers will ring their grandma bells at you for that. Right, why don't pedestrians move to the road instead. While there are more points to discuss and explain about biking in Utrecht, you've heard enough for a day, so let this sink in for now. Here ends our lesson.

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3 Responses to "Utrecht vs bikes"

  1. erik says:

    Mind you this attitude towards the bikes will change the minute you ride one yourself. Then the pedestrians are the evil ones ;)

  2. numerodix says:

    I think you're taking too much for granted here, notably my low threshold for getting annoyed ;) I don't hate bikes, they don't really annoy me, I was just making some observations. The fact is I want a bike, just not a grandma bike cause it would drive me insane :wallbang:

    I also don't respect traffic rules a lot when biking, it's a case of common sense to me.

  3. Diana says:

    I must say that you're observation is funny and very true too :) I also own a grandma bike :) lol. I almost forget how strange and akward this all may seem to the ones that didn't grew up with all this. Let's face it: we're just a weird bike-nation :D