You may say that cycling is just cycling: you get on a bike and starts pedaling. But I say that your cycling experience can be really different, depending where you are. Let’s take a look on how cycling in Holland is different than cycling in Albany, NY. (I’d love to share about cycling in Manado-Indonesia as a comparison, but unfortunately back home I didn’t bike as the roads are too hilly.)
1. Bike Lanes
You know that in Holland it’s always easy to find a bike lanes (fietspad). Bigger roads even have bidirectional cycleways. In Albany, however, you’re lucky to be able to find this sign. This is the bike lanes. As you can see it’s really close to the cars, thus chances are you’d have to settle to using the uneven pedestrian pavement if you don’t want to keep feeling intimidated by those huge American cars.
I’m so used to be cycling without helmet, just like the Dutch. Here in Albany, kids under the age of 14 are required by law to wear helmet (the fine is $54). But most bicyclists, even adults, always wear helmet too. I guess safety is a big issue here because one, we don’t have a specially designated bicycle lanes, and two, those car drivers are not so patient with bicyclists! Compared to Dutch car drivers, they are really not used to cyclists.
3. Time to Cycle
It is true that both in Holland and in Albany, the most comfortable time to bike is from April to September. But when in Holland, it was possible for some of us students to bike throughout the year. With extra layers, jacket, gloves, and a good hat that covers your ears, you can still bike even in December! You won’t feel alone as there are a lot of Dutch people who are still riding their bikes too. In Albany, however, biking is only possible for around half of the year. With its long winters, it’s only feasible to bike starting from April to September or October. You could bike in November, but only if you bike during the day when the temperature is at its warmest. Before 8am the temperature is usually below 0 degree Celcius. Not fun.
4. Repairs and Spare Parts
In Holland, you can find bike shops in almost every corner. Stores like Hema even have a small DIY repair kit. In Albany, it was a headache to find a store that sells levers, patch, and glue to fix my punctured tire. Sporting store like Dicks sells bicycle, but strangely they don’t have the repair kit. Ordering online from Amazon can be an option, but then you’ll need to wait a couple of days and pay extra for the shipping. When I finally found a bike shop located at the outer city, the store was out of stock for one of the things that I need! How do people here fix their bike?!
In Holland, you can find cyclists in many different kinds of outfit… from a sundress to three-piece suite. In Albany? When I bike to work I often feel that I’m overdressed. A lot people are biking with their Lance Armstrong bicycle apparel, always looking sporty.
If you’re studying in Holland, you really should be biking. The only problem was the overwhelming cases of bike theft, but with good padlocks you’ll be safe. It’s still the place where you want to bike, both for day to day transportation as well as for leisure or sporting activities. I feel that my experience in Holland would be less-Holland if I didn’t bike there. So, good luck with your studies and happy biking!!