Today, I experienced it all as a bicycle passenger. And I don't mean on a bicycle made for two...It is quite common to see a person sitting on the back of bike, ankles crossed, hanging on to the person pedalling. I've wondered at this from afar, marvelling at the apparent ease. It makes sense: bicycles are used more than cars, buses, and trains (and possibly even legs...), they have the right of way in most situations (which, if you don't know the rules, can make crossing the road an adventure...). So, for example if a young man comes to pick up his lady friend, where does she go? On the back of the bike, happy as can be, even when dressed up in high heels!
Well, it isn't easy, however it may look, and it is TERRIFYING. I think if you've been doing it since age dot, then it isn't, but to a newcomer, it is a type of thrill seeking. Move over roller coasters! Like many Dutch people, I have long legs, and I thought there was no way I would be able to sit on the back of the bike and avoid a) dragging my legs along the road or b) killing us both by getting my feet caught in the spokes.
And this was all before I even hopped on. Here is how it works: the pedaller, whom we will call Person A, sets off. The passenger, Person B, trots along behind and then jumps on, holding on to Person A. (White knuckled, in my case). Person B must cross their ankles and balance, trusting that Person A will not run them into any other cyclists, cars, lorries, buses, small children, dogs, trees, and/or signposts.
The other Dutch cyclists don't just cruise leisurely past either. None of this, "oh it's a beautiful day, let's take the bikes out" - no. It's a mad rush of hither and thithering, bicycle bells and squealing brakes. There should be speed limits, honestly.
|A quiet crossing on my street|
Anyway, I think it didn't help that my pedaller had never had a passenger before, so it was a very wobbly ride in which a lot of small screams kept erupting (and not just from me). It isn't particular comfortable either - a lot of balancing is going on, and each bump leaves you rather sore.
This is just as a passenger. Tomorrow, I'm taking the bull by the horns and going to see a possibly suitable bike. (Do you know, I'm rather hoping it is awful so I can prolong this "not having a bicycle" thing.) I've put it off for two weeks fairly successfully, but now I'm getting strange looks.
Someone said to me today, "How long have you been in Groningen?"
Er, two weeks or so.
"And you haven't got a bicycle yet?"
Um, well, no, I, er...
Wish me luck.