Monday 20 October 2008

Preventing bicycle rage

The ride of note

Bicycles are the main mode of transport around the city of Amsterdam and I once had a good few. In fact, when my uncle and aunt visited years ago and heard I was going to pick up my bicycle as I collected them from the airport, little did I know that my uncle felt I was living a pauper’s life – after 13 or so years in Europe, I was riding bicycles.

By the time we walked past the 3-storey bicycle storage rank and they saw bicycles being put to such ingenious use, they realised that there were better practicalities for bicycles than the ostentation of cars and outrageously exorbitant parking charges.

Flattened from movement

One late night I rode into town and got a puncture, the regular public transport had closed and I did not have enough to get me home by taxi so I half rode the bicycle as close as possible to my bike repairer’s shop and then got a taxi back home.

I had the feeling that I might have damaged the tyre rim much as I was quite embarrassed that riding a bike making such a flat tyre racket was not the dome thing.

Meanwhile there were people riding bikes past me which were more ramshackle than a bone shaker or a rusty penny-farthing.

Note that bad at all

In fact, I thought the bicycle was a write-off, I visited the repairs shop to get a new bicycle – I had before purchased the owner’s mother’s old bike many years before and then the one I had parked just about a kilometre away with a puncture.

When I told him of it, he insisted on repairing the bike than my purchasing a new one, so I went to get it and left it for repairs over the week.

When I collected it on Saturday, the whole cost of repairs came to a might 10 Euros, along with the advice that one could really right bikes with punctured tyres for quite a distance before the tyre of rim became irreparable – but the discomfort and embarrassment was enough for me not to want to ride any further.

Locking up my bicycle

The use of bicycles does leave me a candidate for an extreme anger management course, one of my pet hates is with bicycle locks.

The received wisdom is to have good locks that probably cost more than the bicycle and then attach the bicycle to some rigid and firm supporting frame, the idea being, if bikes get stolen, your would be the last to be taken because the others have easier to break locks.

However, you should never have your bicycle outside in the weeks running up to the Queen’s Day celebrations because thieves prowl the streets with trucks picking up bicycles to sell at that the flea markets that have become representative of that day.

Locking up my anger

Dotted all around the city are bicycle ranks in which to place and lock bicycles to the frame, a lock of ample length allows you to set the bicycle in its section an allow space for adjacent bicycles taking account for the handle bars and other attachments.

The accepted generalisation about the Dutch is that they could be a bit miserly and that translates in this case into smaller bicycle locks that make it difficult to place in adjacent bicycles – the inconsiderate import of this is the first bicycle is secure and no care is given for the community spirit of allowing other bicycles to be properly secured.

Stop anywhere and ignore others

This lack of community spirit extends to people who could very well get off the bicycle path at junctions or intersection if they have to converse before parting – people just have a tendency to stop in the middle of the path – very much like stopping your car in the middle of the road and popping out for some emergency shopping.

My anger is aggravated by those who do not stop at the traffic lights, having wheeled themselves forward but yet unable to cross the road are then beyond being able to notice when the lights turn.

What then happens is those who have been patiently waiting to go now have to ring their bells to get the impatient people out of the way.

Traffic violations in a lawless town

More anger points are those who ride up the wrong way or ride on the pedestrian pathways, I am beginning to think Amsterdam is as lawless as the Wild West of old, apart from the occasional fines for not having lights for night riding, I have not seen the police come down tough of poor bicycle conduct.

This is frustrating considering it is the most prevalent form of transport in Amsterdam.

Now, this explains the animosity between drivers of powered vehicles and pedal-powered vehicles, the ones on bicycles seem to be as daring as super-human people who can come to no harm as they risk life and limb to cars, buses or even trams.

Considerate road usage

However, when it comes to the tussle between cars and bicycles, the road markings are important, sometimes, the cyclist does have right-of-way, it does not matter if the cyclist is coming at speed or slowly, once observed, the car driver has to stop and give way – no road or passage is the exclusive reserve of the vehicle.

Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers all have to be aware of the other, respect traffic rules and be considerate of other road users – maybe then; I do not have to go on an anger management course after all.

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