Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Maastricht: Bicycles

After one week in Maastricht, I can already say with certainty that I love it here!
One of the many reasons is the bicycles that are visible on every road, street corner or alley.

All Shapes and Sizes

In South Africa, cycling is more of a sport or pastime than it is a method of transportation. On Saturday or Sunday mornings at 7 am, we would go cycling at the Cradle of Humankind with its many cycle routes and few motorcars - a combo that slightly decreases the possibility of becoming roadkill. 

Cyclists would often head out for an "easy" 60 - 80 km cycle, take a short stop to spot the (caged) lions next to the road and eat an energy-bar and return 2 to 3 hours later, ready for a scrumptious breakfast and coffee and/or cream soda.
Cycling is an outing in the company of friends and nature, a way of staying active or train for an upcoming cycle race.

In the Netherlands, it is the opposite. Although I have caught glimpses of sleek and swift Bianchi bikes in the cobbled streets, their helmeted owners bent low over the handlebars, most bicycles are strong and sturdy. And noisy, with squeaks and alarming rattles. 
I also suspect that bending over your handlebars are "vorboden" as it would completely destroy the grace and style with which you are supposed to cycle in the Netherlands.

Crossing the Maas

Police Officers on their Bikes

Shopping Spree

Bike in Hand

Advanced techniques and gestures are constantly performed with a nonchalant elegance that makes me want to dive for my camera to capture the phenomenon that is the Dutch cyclist. After two years of cycling in Johannesburg, I have yet to master the lifting of my left hand from the handlebars (Yes, the cyclist at the Argus with the one arm-warmer pulled up in 30 C weather was me). Therefore I truly respect and appreciate the art of cycling that I get to witness here everyday:

In Maastricht I have witnessed the impossible: Students cycling in five inch heels. Girls getting lifts on the back of bikes, while waving with both hands at passing friends doing the same. Mothers carrying one child in the front of the bike, one in the back, and pulling the third with a flagged wagon behind the bike. A guy on a uni-cycle. With a backpack. On a cobbled street. In the rain.

Lending a Helping Hand


Rain, sunshine, wind, and probably snow - no matter the weather, you will find cyclists in Maastricht pedaling their way through town.

Cycling daily at a leisurely pace whenever you feel like it, is definitely a luxury for us Jozi-cyclists. 
Therefore I have decided that I need to get a bicycle.
And start working on my left hand's handicap.


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