Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cycling and the Dutch

I was reading this BBC article today, when this came to mind: 

"The one thing that this article didn't mention is: bike thefts. Despite their love of bikes, the fact that there are so many of them and that they are so easily and cheaply available at flea markets, seems to have made the Dutch a bit lackadaisical about cycle 'ownership'. 

Or at least some say so. My experience was slightly different. 

I remember when I visited Amsterdam in November, 2010 that I rented a cycle from a sullen young man at a bike shop next to my hostel; recklessly leaving my passport as 'security'. He warned me that I should be very careful about parking and locking the bike as otherwise: (a) in unauthorised areas, such as on one of Amsterdam's many bridges, the bike might 'mysteriously' find itself at the bottom of a canal or (b) it might find itself being sold for 25 Euros at a flea market. He reminded me that, if the bike was drowned/went missing/was severely damaged, I would not receive my security deposit back until I had paid a hefty recovery/repair/replacement cost. Not a tempting prospect for a Bangladesh passport holder on a Schengen tourist visa, who was due back in University in the UK at the end of the weekend. 

That evening, you can imagine my shock, and the state of my heart, when I stepped out of the Van Gogh museum to find that my bike had gone missing. The lock was there, pathetically clinging to a metal pole but was wholly intact. I stared at the pole for a good few moments, trying to comprehend how a heavy, lumbering roadster bicycle, with a reliable internal lock and a heavy external lock, could have simply evaporated. The dusk was gathering and I desperately scanned all the bicycles that lined the entrance to the museums, but to no avail. 

After a few, gut-wrenching minutes searching I discovered that, thankfully, some kind soul, simply had moved it to another side of the street. You can't imagine how relieved I felt when I saw its bottle-green frame, glinting dully under the streetlights, leaning against a row of other bicycles. To this day, I'm still not certain how the bicycle was moved."

Shared on FB on 08.08.2013.