Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Biking in Amsterdam

When people asked me what my plans were for Amsterdam, I replied, not entirely joking that I was going to:
A.) Rent a bike
B.) Get higher than Jesus
C.) Cruise around town on said bike sipping some local beer and enjoy the sights.
Knowing that Amsterdam is a bike-oriented city, this seemed the perfect plan. What could be wrong with it? Seems to be a pretty laid-back relaxed place right?
Wrong. Upon leaving the train station with a slightly off-kilter, hungover gait, Darin and I were nearly dismembered maimed or nearly separated from life by: three trams, one bus, four cars and about 37 bicycles. This was in a span of 45 seconds. Safe at last in the hotel room, I collapsed.
Despite the deadly madness of Amsterdam streets, we did end up renting bikes. Imagine a ginormous sharp-angled cruiser geared like a track bike and thrown off a cliff. That's what we were issued. The Amsterdam standard.
At this point stoned-riding was out of the question and Darin and I learned the hard way the previous day that drinking on the streets of Amsterdam does not have the same legal protection as say, Germany, Italy, New Orleans. (Ironically enough, we were taught this lesson by cops on bikes.) Sober was the only way to navigate. Well, mostly sober.
The fast and light riding most of us are accustomed to in Chicago is certainly a product of our environment. A lack of, or ignored bike lanes with drivers hurtling their cars heedlessly down pot-holed streets makes us essentially fighter-pilots on the streets. Amsterdam bikers are more like...critical mass every day. But, imagine a critical mass in which if you stop paying attention for a split second, a Fiat and tram car will slice you in half.

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