I remember being astounded the first time I saw a 5 deck parking garage exclusively for bikes.
This is Holland.
In our little town the main thoroughfares have bike lanes and I rule the road when I sit astride my borrowed two-wheel vehicle. Cars must yield the right of way and even pedestrians stop before my lane to give way. This is the law. Where no bike lane exists, I boldly enter traffic between cars on the road expecting everyone (except for the numerous expats who are new to the country) to watch out for me.
I go to market every other day, buying only what will fit in my saddlebags and back-pack. I am watching the more experienced riders, how they signal, where they park, what security is necessary for my ride while I peruse the bakery or search for recognizable items from my list on the grocery shelves.
One feat I have yet to match is the stop-if-you-have-to-but-never-put-more-than-a-toe-down maneuver. Grab the signal post or nearby pole. Hold onto your buddy. Your chosen conveyance won’t even lean if you put that one toe down on the raised curb (see photo).
Unfortunately I have not mastered the most simple stop.
After storing a mental image from Mappy of how I would go from my house to Den Haag, I noted the time on my chosen cycle route (car, bus, bike or by foot are your choices–a great feature on Mappy) was 42 minutes. Would I beat that time? It’s been years since I spent regular hours on a Huffy. Perhaps more time would be required to make my afternoon appointment that I dressed for in a long skirt, sandals, calf-length spanks, and coordinating top covered with a barn-coat which would stow neatly in my saddle bags upon arrival.
I set out with barely a second glance for the sky which threatened rain by sending sprinkles (not enough to warrant an umbrella in the Netherlands). Twenty minutes later on the two-directional bike lane by the highway I wrecked.
Blame the skirt.
I braked with my right hand (always cognizant of slowing the rear tire before the front–I’d witnessed the other option going horribly wrong before) and with the same hand then reached for the post. I got a good hold in time to realize my forward motion was continuing. It swung me to the right as if I might circle the moon and shoot out the other side. My bike attempted to go forward with my bottom half, and I released the pole in time to topple into the cushion of tall weeds and grasses–no wrenching my right arm back.
You know how it is. The scramble back to your feet. Half shaking, fully embarrassed as a line of car drivers waiting at the red light watches to see if the strange woman would recover or was too seriously injured. Okay, maybe you don’t know how that in particular is, but I think most of us have been there and done that in some capacity.
You can image my relief when my light and theirs turned green and the onlookers out-paced me in seconds. I thought Hopefully no one I know saw me.
Further along through the trees to my right I saw the largest alpaca on the planet and a beautiful crane, some distant cousin of the heron back home, perched in the canal so close I could make out the patterns of his blue-feathered spots against his silky, white suit. No one in the cars even knew he was there.
God’s creatures great and small encourage me to take the long way home, the slower way, even though the buses are clean, efficient and less prone to embarrass or injure. From a perch on a tall bicycle I know I will see so much more of this land, and I feel a glow inside rain or shine.
Although, maybe next time I’ll stow the skirt and slip it on upon arrival.
Kristin King is an author, publisher, adoptive mother, military spouse, dog-lover, follower of Jesus, etc. currently settling into life in The Netherlands. She usually blogs about books and writing.