Let’s be clear: I could have titled this post “crazy biker habits that might get you killed in Amsterdam,” but I’m trying to be optimistic here.
After a few months living in the Venezia del Nord (the Venice of the North, as they call it in Italy), I started getting used to the insane things I see almost every day while biking to go anywhere (to work, to get my groceries, or to simply get around town).
However, these habits might be new for you, who are coming to visit Amsterdam for the first time: if you are a biker, you might need to learn the biker etiquette, while if you are a pedestrian, you might want to avoid some behaviors that appear extremely annoying to us bikers.
To avoid acting like other careless visitors and getting yourself hurt while going from one side of Dam Square to the other, here are some real-life examples of how bad things might get when you give a specimen of a human a bike.
Holding electronic apparel while on a bike
I kid you not: once, I was waiting for the traffic light to turn green to get on the other side of Damrak (the long street that connects Dam square to Central Station), and next to me, I saw a guy carrying a literal tv screen, holding it with one hand in front of him.
A small one, to be clear, but still a tv screen. I didn’t even want to wonder how heavy that might have been, or what he would do if he had to use both hands. These are things I will probably never find out unless I try–and I don’t even what to think about trying to do that.
Musicians carrying their heavy-ass instruments
The Conservatorium von Amsterdam is right behind my office, right next to the public library (the OBA, of which I talked in my other blog post a few weeks ago), right in front of one of the most visible canals. Musicians of all kinds enter and exit it at all times during the day, and to do so, they carry their (apparently very) heavy instruments by bike.
Although you get used to it after a while, you never stop wondering how uncomfortable that might be, especially with the fear of potentially smashing your expensive instrument against something and ruining it for good.
People shamelessly holding their phones in their hand in the busiest parts of town
The idea of getting a 95-euro fine if you bike with your phone in hand doesn’t seem to discourage some people from… well, doing just that.
Every time I wonder why the person biking in front of me is moving so slow, I’m never surprised to find out, when I surpass them, that they are actually looking at their phone and just occasionally gazing at the road.
But that’s not all.
I know some people think it’s a good idea to record a video of how amazing the world looks from a bike, but it’s not the safest thing to do, especially if you’re scrolling at full speed in one of the busiest parts of town. (And believe me, I personally met somebody who actually did that, so that’s no exaggeration.)
Just stop that. If you are sure to be completely alone at night on the lane, fair enough, but when there are other people around who might be going or coming back from work, it’s unacceptable that you’re putting their life at risk like that.
Stop it. Get some help.
People biking in tandem on a bike that is clearly not a tandem
Since nowadays people seem to have money to go to Starbucks twice a day but not to rent a proper bike to ride in pair, they think that it’s okay to carry another individual behind them, which makes the bike heavier to move for the person on the front, who has to put twice the effort to go at half the speed they would normally go.
Not only that, but you might also lose balance and potentially hit another biker who’s trying to surpass you right at your left. If your bae is riding you, I don’t care how cute you guys look. It’s a dangerous behavior that should be stopped.
Tourists sight-seeing on a bike
Though not as recklessly dangerous as the categories mentioned above of phone addicts and tandem dates, tourists renting bikes to sight-see the city at their own pace might be equally frustrating at times.
If you have been living in Amsterdam for a while, you might be able to recognize tourists from miles away by one characteristic only: how slow they bike. That’s not because they’re bad bikers, but because they have absolutely nowhere to go and can take the luxury to just move however slow they like.
Compare that to the almost Fast-N-Furious nature of bikers risking to be late at work or accompanying their kids to school. The difference is pretty sharp.
Pedestrians literally looking at the opposite side of that lane’s direction when they cross
If you think that only us bikers were the issue, ha!, think twice, mi querido e iluso amigo. Pedestrians are just as inconsiderate and, if I may, dumb as the average human specimen on a bike.
Some pedestrians are fully aware that there are bikes coming, but still decide to chill on the lanes, forcing me–the exasperated biker–to slow down and sometimes even stop to accommodate their walking pace.
Dutchies carrying their kids with a special accessory I don’t even know how to call
Last but not least, I want to draw attention to actual Dutch people getting around on their day-to-day, who are arguably much more experienced than us expats.
They have this, dare I call it, thing (like a cart) that they hook? (I guess?) to the front of their bike to carry their children. I guess the best way to describe it would be as a bike-friendly shopping cart that is also kids-friendly.
I’ll just insert a picture down below so that you know what the hell I’m talking about:
Now that you know how to NOT be a danger to society while renting a bike, go out there and be… Just anything you want. BUT what I just described.
Enjoy y nos vemos a la próxima!
Cover image credits: @amsterdamworld / Instagram