Falling down

Well, it was bound to happen. The life of a cyclist in the Netherlands is a delicate balance. You need enough caution and attention to get safely to your destination, but a healthy dash of assertiveness and daring doesn’t hurt. In the past months, I’ve gotten more comfortable on my city bike, learning how to navigate some tricky intersections and find my way around new neighborhoods. I’ve had a close call with a tram and a few near-misses with fellow commuters coming off the Centraal Station ferry. Nothing serious yet, although in some ways I’ve been holding my breath waiting for the inevitable to happen…

So who would have guessed that my first bike crash wouldn’t be in Amsterdam at all, but in Utrecht? We took a day trip on Saturday and rented bikes, which we knew from the get-go were not in the best of shape. The tires were a bit wobbly and the brakes were terrible, even though we had both hand brakes and coaster brakes. We managed as best as we could. For the most part we had no problems, since we were biking outside of the city center on new bike paths with little traffic.

But then. On our way back into the city, we were riding on a bike path in a relatively active neighborhood. Up ahead of me, I saw a woman and a dog coming towards the path from the left. My husband was in front of me and came to a hard stop to avoid hitting the dog, which had run into the bike path. And then I came to a hard stop, first into him, then down to the ground. Damn the rental bike and it’s crappy brakes! A very kind bystander helped us out and made sure I was ok, before assuring me that, “it happens to everyone!”.

Thankfully I survived with nothing more than a few bruises. The bike was no worse for wear, and I also managed to protect the jacket I had bought only hours before. I’m moving a little slower, but that didn’t stop me from biking again today – on my own bike, with brakes that I trust.

Oddly, there’s some measure of relief to having this first crash out of the way. Of course, it’s not as if we each only get ONE crash. I could have another one tomorrow. But I know now that I can survive a tumble. And, at least while the bruises are still fresh, I will be a little more alert to my surroundings, and pay more attention to what’s in front of me.

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