Until I visited Amsterdam for the first time earlier this year, I hadnâ€™t realised that London wasnâ€™t the â€˜cycling cityâ€™ then mayor Boris Johnson had talked it up as being. Yes, the capital has come a long way in terms of its relationship with cyclists, but Iâ€™m not sure how anyone can paint a few parts of the road blue and grandly proclaim them â€˜cycling superhighwaysâ€™ knowing that just 50 minutesâ€™ flight away thereâ€™s a country where two-wheelers are the kings of the road, with their own roundabouts, traffic lights and segregated lanes. (Then again, if anyone has the nerve to do so, itâ€™s the man who boarded the â€˜Brexit battle busâ€™ and backed up Nigel Farageâ€™s claim that we were sending hundreds of millions of pounds to the EU each weekâ€¦ grr). But back to bikes.
Cycling in Amsterdam is almost compulsory – and unlike in London, itâ€™s a way of life, not a smug lifestyle choice or a manifestation of a mid-life crisis (in fact, I havenâ€™t seen a single MAMIL since Iâ€™ve arrived). Itâ€™s so much part of the mindset here that even Oscar has started parking his tricycle a la Netherlandsâ€¦
But despite Hollandâ€™s proximity to Britain, the Dutch cycling code is about as far from our customs as it is possible to get. I mean, they donâ€™t ride penny farthings backwards down the street in Amsterdam or anything, but there are quite a few practices here that, if not adopted, will instantly mark you out as a foreign cyclist. Here are the native rules of the road that Iâ€™ve managed to glean so far:
Never, ever wear a helmet…
I was quite fond of my BMX-style helmet which – as London helmet style standards go – I thought was pretty cool (lime-green colour excepted). Wanting to set a good example to Oscar, I diligently continued to wear it when cycling around my new city. For the first couple of weeks at least… I have never turned so many heads as I did wearing that helmet in Amsterdam; when a group of teenage girls openly laughed at me, I knew I was on the brink of succumbing to peer pressure – at 35.Â