Sunday 2 April 2006

Stupid is as stupid does

My Bikeydes Benz
When my uncle visited Amsterdam a few years ago with his wife, as I picked them up from the airport, I also told them that I needed to collect my bicycle from the Central Station on our way back to my apartment.
Not being one who could read minds, it appeared they were both in a way crest-fallen about not being picked up by a car or some other exotic vehicle.
However, once they got top the Central Station and saw the population of bicycles including the 3-storey bicycle storage area, it dawned on them that bicycles are in fact the best mode of transport in Amsterdam centre.
Not to talk of the many variations of the use of the bicycle in carrying goods, carting kids, and the reckless abuse of traffic etiquette amongst other things.
So when my uncle was leaving he surmised that he dreaded having to tell people back in Nigeria that I did not have a big car but 3 bicycles. What do I need 3 bicycles for? I’m a 6-wheeler juggler – Only kidding!
Lanes for lames without brains
In my first year in Amsterdam, I had 5 accidents, all involving the tourists except one where I was blind-sided as a lady collided with me.
One thing about the Netherlands is that literally all town centres have dedicated cycle lanes and pedestrian walks too.
Usually, the bike lane is paved with red bricks and the pedestrian pavements are grayish and elevated. There are exceptions to this convention, but there are clear demarcations.
In many instances there are proper markings with the drawings of a bicycle indication the direction of travel and then traffic lights to serve bicycles which could be timed different from pedestrian crossings, since pedestrians need more time to cross than bicycles.
This however is of no import to many, you see oncoming traffic on your lane, and the traffic lights seem to be always green or let us assume everyone but me is colour-blind not seeing the difference between Red for Stop and Green for Go.
Stop look, listen then move
I always stop at the traffic lights; having astigmatism in the right eye, it is very difficult for me to judge distance and speed of approach, so I rarely cross roads without being certain that I have been given right of way.
This is frustrated completely by people who seem to have lost the brakes on their bicycles and tourists, yes tourists, who seeing the wide cycle lanes think it is a free pedestrian walkway even with the clearly drawn bicycles.
So, imagine the cacophony of ding-a-ling bicycle bells and an apparently hearing but pretending to be deaf tourist who gets run over by a speeding cyclist, well I have no pity for the tourist.
They should have read their travel guides and kept their eyes wide open – but then if stupid is as stupid does – then stupid is as stupid would get harmed.
Meanwhile, I have to take therapy for cycle-path rage and aggression suppression course just because some tourist who arrived on a cattle-truck with wings on bargain fares has not noticed what other tourists are doing – keeping off the cycle lanes.
The death of quality
Talking of those tourists; I could remember just about 8 years ago, the 45 minute flight from London to Amsterdam included a complete silver service. Nowadays, you have a sandwich flung at you it makes the job of air steward look like the lowest rung of courtesy and hospitality.
This is all because a new business model with cuts out the frills allows for air travel to be one of the cheapest means of transport that the taxes for air travel sometimes exceed the cost of the travel itself.
In this no-frills world, I have had my baggage utterly mishandled but baggage handlers because it not appears that fragile could easily mean – handle like a flight recorder – whilst, I do not want to pay over the odds for air travel, I think it is necessary to assess the quality of the service in general that allows you to seek appropriate redress.
If you fly cheap it is possible that when you need solutions you would be told that kind of service cannot be offered for the paltry sums of money you paid in the first instance.
In that sense, seeking quality at the right price is as good insurance as you will get anywhere, you are protected by the sense of ethical responsibility – hopefully.
Louts about
So, walk up a street from Thursday evening and it is probable that a number of my countrymen from England are completely drugged up and drunk to excess causing more than a stir.
They create a scene of shouting and singing tuneless and toneless football songs as they ogle at the windows shopping spectacle of prostitutes in the Red Light district.
Then again, another influx of tourists happens on Queen’s Day in commemoration of the Queen’s Birthday, though our Queen was born in January, you cannot get revellers out in deep winter.
She has adopted and retained the birthday of her mother which is April the thirtieth, just at the start of spring.
Then imagine the tourists who come for a pub crawl and the peasant folk who travel in to see the bright lights of Amsterdam.
Everyone seems to have a market stall selling all sorts of goods and wares, some of which could include bicycles which were stolen over the 2 weeks before the celebration because they were not attached to immovable frames with locks that should cost more than the total value of the bicycle.
Anyways, in the month of April, much care should be taken about how your bicycle is stored because; I once lost my bicycle to the Queen’s day pilferers who then sold on my bike to some lout for a bargain price – a steal.

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