Sunday, April 29, 2012
Bikes, Bikes and More Bikes!
I knew before we went to Holland that bicycles are very popular there, but no one could have prepared me for the sheer scope and number of them! 85 percent of the population own at least one bicycle. They use it regularly, most on a daily basis. There are about 16 million bicycles in Holland, slightly more than one for every man, woman and child in the country. It's cradle to grave biking; Whole families with the youngest child in a seat in front of the rider, and another child (or two!) in seats at the back. Business men and women in smart suits. Teenagers. The elderly.
From the first day of our holiday, I was fascinated and started taking pictures of bikes.
I didn't see anyone, old or young, wearing a bike helmet the entire time we were in Holland. The laws there are very strictly in favour of the biker. In all cases the law says that if a vehicle is involved in an accident with a bike, it is ALWAYS the vehicle's fault for insurance purposes. Thus, drivers in Holland are extremely careful of the masses of bicycles around them. Also, there are numerous safe biking paths everywhere. We found that it's the pedestrians, who share the narrow streets with the bikes, who need to be especially careful. The first few days it was quite daunting. I clutched Ariana to me tightly at every step. Later, though, we became more comfortable and learned to nimbly and swiftly step out of the path of passing bicycles without a second thought.
One lovely evening Gem called me out to the balcony of our hotel room in Haarlem. From there we watched as a couple, a beautiful young woman in a summer dress, her hair in a blonde chignon, and a handsome young man in a suit and tie, arrived at a restaurant from two different directions. They waved at each other and then got off their bikes. He greeted her with the bouquet of flowers which had been resting in the basket at the back of his bike. Obviously a date. It was like a scene from a movie, only it was real.
"Can you believe, we're really here?" Gem and I had said to each other at various times since our arrival in Holland. The romance and beauty of that moment spilled into the fragrant night and remains etched in my heart.