Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hazards of Biking.

I've been riding a bike as a main form of transportation for six months now.  Riding a bike in Amsterdam is not without its hazards.  Traditional hazards include trams, cars and mopeds.  But there are some other hazards that are not traditional.  Here are some non traditional hazards of biking:

1) Bike Tours:  These groups can be very dangerous.  Bike tours?  Yes.  The problem with bike tours are the tourists riding the bikes.  Since they don't want to get left behind, they will do whatever it takes to stay with the group.  This includes running red lights, pulling out in front of you and sometimes just stopping in the middle of the road to look at something.  And when you ring your bell at them, they panic and start to wobble left and right, thus making the possibility of them crashing increase.  For most of them, it is the first time in a 100 years they have rode a bike and the sites of the city is just too overwhelming for them.

They usually have matching bikes.  Beware of the matching bike gang.

2) Tram Tracks: The obvious reason these are dangerous are the trams.  If you don't pay attention, you could get hit by one, but these are also dangerous because they are deep. When crossing these on a bike, you need to make sure you turn your front tire at a sharp angle to cross them.  If you don't, you could end up on the ground and embarrassed.  I once saw a lady try to ease over these things. This was a bad decision.  As she merged over, the front wheel got stuck in the tracks and cause her to fall over and crash in front of everyone.  I will admit, I did laugh a little because I knew the error she made.  If that wasn't bad enough, the car she was in front of started honking and yelling at her.  Use caution when crossing these things.

Beware, these are deeper than they appear.

3) Tourists on Foot: These are the most dangerous "non traditional hazards".  This hazard has no regard for anything.  Like their biking counterparts, they do not pay attention to where they are going.  They will step right off the curb and in front of you without looking.They are constantly looking everywhere, but where they are walking.   They also think the bike lanes are really nice sidewalks and walk in them all the time.  You constantly have to ring your bell at them to get them to move and sometimes you have to buzz them so they will get the point.

Pay attention to where you're going!

4) "The Danger Lane": This is a common way around cars, but is very dangerous.  Once you commit to using this lane, you commit to dangers associated with it.  Car doors opening, cars swerving, hitting a bollard (or the penises as my wife likes to call them) or even hitting a pedestrian.  If something bad is going to happen on a bike, this is where it is most likely to happen.  I heard a story about someone going down this lane, but they went down it real slow.  The end result was falling on a car and not being able to get up.  Enter this lane with caution.  

Hold your breath, we could be in for a bumpy ride.

5) "The Chit-Chatters": My wife just cringed at this.  She hates that word, but that is the best way to describe these people.  These people are clearly not in any hurry to do or go anywhere.  They don't care that they are holding you up, they are not aware of anything but the conversation they are having. Because they are not paying attention to anything but their conversation, they are swerving all over the place making it impossible to pass them.  If you try to pass, you run the risk of hitting a parked car as they swerve into you. On this day, I finally had to ring my bell to get them to move so I could pass them. As I passed, the guy on the left gave me a "What's the rush jerk?" look.  I was tempted to kick him, thus knocking down and pushing him into the guy with a skunk for a hair do.  I would have called him a douche as I passed, but that translates into "shower" here and doesn't have the same insulting affect as it does in the States.

Blah, blah, blah.  We aren't in any rush.  We have all day.  This guy is clearly in a hurry to get home.  Blah, blah, blah.
With all these hazards you would think personal safety is a main focus.  Wearing a helmet is a must right? Wrong!  No one in Amsterdam wears a helmet, because wearing a helmet is for suckers and we aren't suckers.  Plus we don't want to look like tourist.  


  1. Replies
    1. Correct, but on bikes. You still get road rage.

  2. I was riding through Amsterdam for a year while a student at UvA. It's freaking terrifying! All the things you mention... and they're happening a few feet from a completely un-walled canal. Even my Dutch language coach here in Eindhoven -who is from Amsterdam- asked me if I wasn't too scared to bike through A'dam. He said there are actually a lot of accidents.