If you ever visited The Netherlands, you noticed that biking is not only used for sports but as one of the means of transportation. According to the National Cyclists Federation there are 13,5 million bikes in this country for a total population of 16,9 million inhabitants.
We use them to go to work, weddings, concerts, shopping, etc., and to transport ‘batches” of kids in one go, by using a special bike made for that. I cannot forget to mention that there is a bike that carries coffins to funerals as well. So, you got the picture.
You will not find the same in any other country in the world with a similar level of wealth. The Dutch like the bike for the independence and flexibility that it offers; particularly to be always on time and for being a cheap way to move around.
You will see young and old, men and women, rich and poor, and even car owners biking. These are not just short rides. To put things into numbers, that is how it works in reality is: on average, a Dutchman rides each year 300 bike rides for about 878 miles. A quarter of all trips and one-third of all trips is up to 7.5 kilometers. This makes more than 4.5 billion annual bike rides and make 15 billion kilometers. And there are around 35.000 kilometers of cycle paths in the country.
What you perhaps don’t know is that there is a black market for stolen bikes. The last estimate made by the CBS Central Bureau of Statistics for the annual theft rate is this: in 2008 – 858,000 which increased by 4.5% in 2009 to 897,000. And that is why we use old and rusted bikes, and spend more money with bike-locks than the bike itself.
I gave you all these statistics to tell a story.
On one occasion I cycled together with my husband and daughter to meet Brazilian friends at the Central Station in Amsterdam. I recollect their age being around 70. They travelled with their granddaughter.
Later in that evening, when we met again for dinner, the granddaughter told me a very funny story. Granddad had been in shock to see us riding bikes in such poor state. He asked her if we were having financial difficulties!
If you also don’t know, besides being not a small and flat country like the Netherlands, Brazil is a country of real social discrepancy. Those who cannot afford a car, use old and rusted bikes, as perhaps the only means of transportation.
Until today when we meet them, we have a big laugh remembering that day.