Amsterdamn It’s Nice Here

No hills. So the town is filled with beautiful, rickety, cruiser-bikes with coaster brakes. But filled with them. Every little tree and post. Each bridge and fence, with parked bikes. Baskets lashed to their fronts. Saddle bags. Some with two extra seats attached for kids. Some with front end boxes fitted with glamorous baby seats. A family of five coasts by on two bikes.

The city street has never felt more right, more sane. Yet somehow all the green transport–the bikes, the silent streetcars–make for a faux-harrowing cross. Forever in a bike lane or quiet cobblestone road, it is impossible to lose the impression that you are on a pedestrian lane, and not about to silently intersect with one or another form of silent transport.

A teeny little electric car can come out of nowhere. A bike lane feels as soft and warm as cinnamon toast. So Hatbox Louie keeps pulling me to safety. Not out of the way of anything, but away from a potential collision. The cars politely stop. and the bikes slow, and gently-expertly swerve. Most every lane is a vehicular lane, but the vehicles are green and safe.

Hatbox Louie and I have not needed to pull out our trump card. In La Paz and Mexico City, we developed a formal method for safe street crossing. We began by letting locals be our guides. They crossed, we crossed. Then necessity dictated a variation on the theme. We allowed, nay demanded, of our local friends not merely guidance. We learned to position ourselves such that they became human shields.

They cross, and we cross–four feet from them on the non-oncoming-traffic side. An impact of vehicle with them would hurl them toward us, and by way of warning or actually thrusting us out of the way, these locals would live on in our future lives as legend.

We have not needed human shields here. Just a wake up from complacency. Since even in the most wonderful, canal-striped, dream of a city you can die violently. And that would be a bummer that niether of us could countenance.

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Published in: on December 28, 2006 at 1:24 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Ah, a city filled with bicycles. Sounds so much nicer than a city of cars spewing carbon.


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