Monday, October 1, 2012

Aan de fietspad

After hastily correcting my incorrect spelling (in German, actually, as noted by my friend Maaike) of the verb for "I am" in the title of my last post, I move on to tell you a very little bit about the wonderful bikepaths of Amsterdam.

The Dutch word for "bikepath" is "fietspad."  As I learned during my first Dutch bike excursion this past weekend, the word can undergo a slight transmogrification between the second in which you see it and the second in which your American brain makes meaningful use of it.  A number of times, most often when the path in question was 30 inches wide and occupied by meandering pedestrians, I processed the sign as "footpath" instead of "bikepath" and came skidding to a confused stop, with Ed skidding to a stop to avoid my rear tire.

After two 20-30 mile rides over the weekend, I've seen the sign enough times to understand where I belong when I'm pedaling.  I've also learned that motorized scooters also, somehow, fit the "fiet" category, and buzz along in the same lanes as bicycles.  Zoom, zoom.  A note on helmets and the Dutch, from two days observations:  They don't wear them unless they are going fast, and/or wearing spandex or mounted on a carbon-frame "racing bike" that make them appear as though their intent is to go fast.  New York Times explores this phenomenon here.  For general commuting purposes on non-motorized bikes, nobody wears a helmet.  So I've been wearing spandex a lot, and, of course, my helmet.  It generally improves the quality of my coiffure, anyway.

Back to those fietspads:  they are everywhere.  Paved, cobbled, with their own bicycle stoplights, occupying streets, occupying sidewalks, occupying dikes, occupying their own happy little spaces somewhere in between.  Bikes here are king, and the king announces his presence with a persistent ringing of his shiny brass bike-bell.  Tourists scatter.  I need one.

It goes without saying that I will be riding my bicycle as much as possible.  Where do people store their bicycles?  There are an abundance of bicycle racks, and, given the horrifying prospect of toting a heavy Dutch bike (which, fortunately, I don't have) up and down the mountain goat trails that pass as stairs here, many people choose to spray paint their bikes ugly colors and leave them chained up overnight.  After seeing the enormous Dutch garden spider that chose to nestle overnight on the underside of Ed's seat the other day, and having a shiny new bike see it here! and no desire to uglify it (or have it stolen, that would "de fiets" de purpose!), I will brave the stairs.

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