When you arrive in Groningen, it might be the first thing you see: bicycles. They are everywhere in this city, the racks are loaded and it seems to be that there are more bicycles than people around here. Biking is fun, but it goes with a lot of rules which might be a bit overwhelming when you are new here. Dutch people like rules and we also like to correct people who don’t follow those rules. So, get ready and read these instructions to become a master in cycling!
Why are we Dutch people so keen on cycling? Well, there are a few reasons to think of. First of all before Dutch children are able to walk, their parents learn them how to cycle. Cycling is just a matter of culture in Holland. Secondly, Holland is a flat and small country and therefore the bicycle is a very convenient way to get from A to B. And finally, Dutch people don’t mind the fact that it is a very cheap way of transport.
To become a master in cycling there’s a few things you have to do and know. First of all you have to buy a bike. That may sound very simple, but there might be some snakes in the grass. For instance there are every night some homeless people who sell bikes on the Grote Markt and the Vismarkt, but it isn’t very wise to buy a bike from those guys. It’s illegal to buy a stolen bike, and in a lot of cases the guys on the streets sell stolen bikes. Thereby, the police is sometimes dressed like a homeless guy to catch people who buy bikes from them. After all not the best way to get a bike.
A better way to get a bike is just via a bike shop or a second hand store. Ask to make a little bike ride to check if everything is ok: the wheels, the steer, the chain and the pedals are the most important parts. It should cost about 70 euro’s and once you have a bike, don’t spare on a lock! Bikes are very wanted in Groningen and there’re a lot of bike thieves around here. Get a decent chain lock to protect your bike from stealing.
Once you’re the proud owner of a nice and decent bike, there’s another challenge: the Groningen traffic. To find your way by bike in Groningen, ESN, the Erasmus Student Network Groningen, can offer some help. ESN organizes a course in which international students are taught how to use a bicycle in this beautiful city. Groningen is with its bike paths a nice city for cyclists, in a lot of traffic situations, cyclists take precedence. Finally, it’s important to put your lights on when it’s dark outside. Not only for safety, but also to avoid a fine. Riding a bike without lights in the dark can cost you 45 euro’s! All traffic regulations are in this document.
So, enjoy the city, stay fit and be ecological and get a bike!
By Benjamin de Bruijn