Amsterdam, a city where wheelchairs are cars, cars are bikes and nobody wears a helmet.

As I drove home in an uber from my Alexander session, my body was busy confusedly exploring its new positioning in the world. ‘Your ankles have much more movement than you think,’ says Paul, my adorable teddy bear of a teacher who hugs me a lot, giggles like a buddha, and has fast become a highlight of my week in this crazy country we now call home. The car I was in, stopped to give way to a wheelchair. This, in and of itself is not really so strange, nor worthy of commentary, had he not given way, there would have been much to say. But he did give way, so that point is moot. Perhaps, I thought to my self, she is simply crossing the road and there is no pedestrian crossing anywhere nearby. But that was not the case either. What was unusual about it, was that the lady in the wheelchair was zipping along the road as though she were driving a car.

Up ahead the lights changed to red, and I swear, her break lights flashed on as she pulled to a stop. A bike pulled up beside her and then the cars lined up behind them.

Here in Amsterdam, bikes are akin to cows in India.

Read More

Biking in the Netherlands is Key to Survival

‘Ooh, I want one of those,’ I say, pointing at the screen of my husband’s laptop. A woman rides a bike with a cart contraption on the front where her children are sitting, smiling happily. ‘And maybe those kids too,’ my girls had been marathon tantrumming all afternoon. They can sense the change, it has seeped into our house, filled all the available space with a silent anxiety. ‘Is it wrong that the only thing that excites me about going to Amsterdam is that I can have one of these bikes?’

‘Whatever makes you happy, my love’ says my husband, shaking his head – but his smile goes all the way to his eyes.

‘I want one with three wheels,’ I say to my husband as a two-wheeled bakfiets (a bike with a tub at the front for children – or dogs, tools, the dozen plants you hadn’t meant to buy, the slightly too big christmas tree you have no idea where it will go once you get it home, the friend of yours who happens to be visiting and doesn’t want to ride a bike, oh, the possibilities really are endless), flies past the bike shop that we are currently standing in. I’ve never seen anything like these bikes. And even though I haven’t actually ridden a bike in more than 5 years, I want one, with the passion of a child in a toy store.

The very tall Dutch man at the store shakes his head. ‘The three wheel bikes, they are, different to ride.’

‘I’d still like to try,’ I say, my heart sinking a little. This was my dream. How hard could it be?

‘It’s like driving with a trailer,’ says the man, as I climb onto it. Having never driven a car with a trailer, all I offer a blank nod, which is clearly not what the man is hoping for. ‘The handlebars move from side to side, like this,’ he says, showing me how the handlebars arc out to the left to turn the wheels right.’

My eyebrows shoot up. ‘So I turn left to go right and right to go left?’ the quaver in my voice obvious.

Read More