I squeeze on my brakes to get out of her clutches

I recently had a brief but pleasant break in Amsterdam: mostly work, unfortunately; but with people I respect and admire. This, I kept reminding myself, was why I went freelance. That and the evening’s entertainment of boat-trip pub crawls, snacking on stroopwafels and drinking amazing beers. And, of course, the cycling.

The Netherlands take in foreign cyclists and ruins them for cycling almost everywhere else. In some ways they’re much tougher on cyclist behaviour – for example, you really do have to keep to the cycle lane, if it’s there – but in return they provide so much more: strict liability, huge amounts of well-kept cycle provision… and a culture of cycling first and foremost that makes it in some ways a boring part of everyone’s life, utterly unlike its exciting (but marginalized) UK niche. As my host told me, most people in Amsterdam don’t have a bicycle: they have at least two; one for keeping outside and getting around; and one for best, for holidays and camping.

Along with a few friends, I actually cycled some of the miles there and back, linking up with the ferry from Hoek. On the way out, we caught the last of the country’s summer: overheating, desperate for fluids, feeling the sun on our faces at the end of the day. On the way back, we revelled in the first of its autumn: the unmistakeable varnished-wood smell of fallen and decaying leaves; the touch of the pervasive mist and damp, the fluidity of our movement through cold air.

Half water, half land; half summer, half autumn; half work, half play: liminal experiences in a liminal land.

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This entry was posted in cliques, commerce, cultural, cycles, diary, entertainment, experience, far_away, freelance, friends, industry, location, made_our_own_fun, occupation, society, tourism, transport. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to I squeeze on my brakes to get out of her clutches

  1. eleanorblair says:

    I so need to visit some day! We treat cycling like that as a family for the most part, but are still seen as a little odd even for Cambridge 🙂

    • smallbeds says:

      Yes, it was lovely to be somewhere that didn’t so much see me as unusual as a bit over-serious about my cycling! A bit too heads-down and “got to get there”, you know. And why wasn’t I sitting up in my seat?

      A number of my semi-colleagues (freelancers-in-arms? except they’re not all freelancers) did do the Cambridge to Harwich route by bicycle and I think really enjoyed it: certainly better than taking the A12 from London. So there’s an option. But really given the ferry prices are so cheap, I would really try to fit it in, if I were you. I’m going to drag K. there in the spring.

  2. 1looby says:

    I’m going there soon and can’t wait to be in a place where cycling is the dominant everyday mode of transport. I hope we get a couple of cold clear days — often the most enjoyable for cycling. Me and my eldest were also talking about doing the route along the inexplicably uprooted railway line between Dieppe and Paris.

    • smallbeds says:

      Yes, it was lovely. Although I’m not sure how much “cold” correlates with “clear” in Amsterdam: the coldest day while I was there, there was a thick mist that clung to every item of clothing. By the time I got to the conference centre, I was wetter than the morning it had rained, two days previously.

      • smallbeds says:

        I’ve set “yes, it was lovely” in reply to both of you now. But it really was. Such a charming way to get around. Not exciting, but lovely.

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