The Seven Types of Amsterdam Bike Lane Users and how to spot them
So it came to pass, that after a gap of many years of not cycling in Amsterdam, that the Shallow Man decided to buy a bike. I used to live in the Pijp area of town, where bike theft was more common than the sight of Dutch women wearing ripped jeans. Having moved to a place which has secure bike storage, I decided that it was time to take to the streets of Amsterdam on two wheels once more. It’s been an experience of joy, fear, and loathing. Which brings me to the subject of today’s post, the seven types of users of Amsterdam bike lanes and how to recognize them.
The things I do for my readers!
1. The Nervous Bike Rental Tourist
During their Amsterdam holiday, Barb and Chuck consumed vast quantities of Nutella crepes, waffles, tried weed for the first time and took a look at the bed bound entrepreneurs of the Red Light District. They even visited a couple of museums. The other thing on their Amsterdam bucket list was to see the city by bike. Chuck hadn’t been cycling since dinosaurs roamed the earth. Barb, did a lot of riding when she was younger, but mainly on the back seats of cars.
They decide to rent bikes. Off they go, swerving from side to side on a bike path. After a few minutes of cycling, they get the hang of things until a junction appears. In spite of the traffic lights displaying green and having the right of way, they remain stationary. “What shall we do Barb?” Asks a nervous Chuck. “Well, the lights are green so we should go. Yeah but goddamn cyclists are coming from every direction, and they’re not stopping.” While discussing what they should do next, other cyclists overtake and hurl abuse at them. “The locals are so friendly.” Says Barb enthusiastically. “Yes, Barb they are, and we’ve learned some Dutch words, you kut buitenlander.”
2. The Sexter
The sexter is so engrossed with their erotic exchange of text messages that they’re able to block out their surroundings completely, even if they happen to be cycling in the wrong direction on an Amsterdam bike lane. I’ve seen cyclists on busy bike lanes split apart like Moses parting the red sea to avoid colliding with someone probably typing “JA, JA, JA, Jeroen het was zo geil! Houd volgende keer je bruine schoenen aan.” (It was so hot, next time keep your brown shoes on).
3. The child carrying optimist
Optimism is a great thing. In fact, the Shallow Man believes greatly in its power. That aside, I still lock the door to my apartment, as well as the multiple chains I have on my bike. To me, that’s just common sense. The Dutch, on the other hand, are so optimistic that they see nothing wrong with cycling in one of the most densely populated cities in the world with multiple kids on their bikes without a crash helmet. After all, what could possibly go wrong with a baby on the front, and another on the back, while you cycle with a cigarette hanging out of your mouth and check messages on your smartphone?
If someone breaks the rules of the road and little Jeroen and Anouk end up cracking their skulls on the pavement, you can always take comfort in the fact that the law is on your side in the event of an accident. Doe maar!
4. Ladies Finishing School Graduates
Forget London or Gstaad, it’s well known that the finest finishing schools for young ladies in Europe are in Amsterdam. Decorum, elegance and societal savoir-faire are all on display on Amsterdam’s bike lanes as elegant young ladies cycle along with their skirts hitched up and their flowered Hema panties on display. Goed zo!
5. The Amsterdam Bike Lane VIP
The VIP cyclist is so busy. They have no time at all.
- Red traffic light? Irrelevant, “ik heb haast”
- Having an argument with a friend? The VIP is far too important to do such things in person. It’s much more convenient to argue loudly on a smartphone while cycling along a residential street at 3.am. “Yes but Moniek, I paid five euros too much when we split the bill last time, and now I had to pay the full price again, DAT IS NIET EERLIJK.”
6. The Asociaal Scooter terrorists
The noise they produce along with the unhealthy amounts of smoke. That’s enough about Dutch women. 😉
You’re cycling happily along, when suddenly out of nowhere appears the most hated frequenter of Amsterdam bike lanes, the asociaal scooter terrorist. These people don’t give a stroopwafel. You’re in their way. Move or risk being knocked off your bike by an overclocked vehicle that can easily ride at 50 kilometres an hour on a busy bike lane.
Scooters are the cause of an increasing number of fatalities and accidents on bike lanes in Amsterdam. Thankfully, this will soon be history as the Dutch government has finally given approval for Amsterdam to ban scooters from its bike paths.
7. The Happy Shallow Expat on Amsterdam Bike Lanes
If you’ve witnessed a well-dressed chap, cycling slowly along bike lanes in Amsterdam, annoying the hell out of Amsterdammers by actually giving hand signals before turning corners, you’ve probably seen the Shallow Man.
My motto when out cycling is ‘ik heb geen haast./I’m not in a hurry.’ I like to reach my destination looking and smelling good. So I take my time while singing along to Drake.
Anouk you used to call me on my cellphone,
whenever Jeroen was not at home.
I tell you what really hurts,
is that ever since I left the city,
you’ve stopped wearing sneakers and wear shoes and skirts
I’m a slave to the OV-chipkaart no more. I love cycling for the following reasons.
- No more paying “surge prices” to Uber for daring to want a taxi between 00.01am and 23.59pm.
- It’s the end of having to ride on metros smelling of saturated fat
- No more having to fight my way onto busy trams only to sit behind a woman that brushes her wet hair and applies deodorant in front of me
In spite of all the annoyances, I love cycling in Amsterdam. The sweet smell of freshly smoked marijuana, the piles of rubbish left uncollected on pavements. The dazed and confused looking tourists not paying attention as they wander onto bike lanes holding a map. A bloody map, made of paper! I just want to shout out “it’s the 21st century, buy a smartphone!”
I love the freedom that cycling gives you, along with the many laughs caused by the sheer recklessness and bloody-mindedness of people who would sooner risk being killed or maimed for life rather than wait for a few seconds to answer their phones or for a traffic light to change.
It’s wonderful. If you’re new to Amsterdam, get a bike and explore.
No employees of Hema’s underwear department were hurt during the writing of this post.
Till next time, as George Michael once sang, “Freedom, Freedom, oh Freedom”.