Monday, August 22, 2005

Wheeeeee!, in Dutch

In today's Slate Seth Stevenson writes from Amsterdam, where he is absorbing the culture and wondering if he'd like to move there. The first thing he talks about is the bicycles.

One night, strolling in the evening air, I happened by a theater as a play was letting out. A crowd of distinguished Amsterdammers poured onto the sidewalk. The men wore blazers and ties, the women wore dresses and cardigans. Most of these theater-goers were in their 50s and 60s, with wrinkles and bifocals and graying beards.

It looked like a scene you might witness any night in Manhattan, when a throng of well-dressed New Yorkers emerges from a downtown playhouse. But there was a key difference: The New Yorkers would stride toward the curb with one arm in the air, hailing a taxi. The Amsterdammers, by contrast, were unlocking their bicycles from nearby racks, hopping up on the pedals with a little two-step, and riding away.

I can't tell you how absurd it looked—and how utterly gleeful it made me—as these older couples, in prim evening wear, mounted their bikes and rode side-by-side into the night. They whooshed past me, pedaling with ease, and their conversations carried on undisturbed. The women's dresses fluttered about their ankles; the men's cigarette smoke trailed behind them.

"There's something about riding a bike that makes you feel like you're 5 years old," my American friend Carey, who lives and works here in Amsterdam, said to me. Indeed, these proper Dutch couples outside the theater seemed to morph, before my eyes, into bouncy little children. I half-expected the ladies to shriek, "Wheeeeee!" as their bikes picked up speed and rounded a corner out of sight.

The full article is here. There's an accompanying slideshow with some bike photos in it, too.

I've never been to Amsterdam but I know the Koga-Miyata site, with their Dutch utility bikes (look under the Town and Country collection), has some intriguing utility cycling machines. The closest I've seen in this country are the Breezer Bikes, of which I like the Uptown model, though of course they don't make it large enough for the likes of me.

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