Since last week I have a bicycle! The first week of my internship one of my colleagues told me I shouldn’t get a bike unless I felt suicidal, but my Dutch roots were stronger. I found myself a bike, bought me a bright pink helmet and cycled to a meeting. Cycling is so common in the Netherlands that you might forget to appreciate it. However, after not cycling for more than two months these ten minutes felt like total freedom.
Wearing a helmet is compulsory when you are cycling in New Zealand. Even if you carry someone on the back of your bike, that person has to wear a helmet. In New Zealand they tend to categorize cyclists as slow, small cars, rather than as a different mode of transport. Separate cycle lanes don’t really exist in Wellington, so you cycle on the (LEFT!) side of the road, or in the bus lane. They created a special box for cyclists to wait for a red light in front of the cars. In these boxes there is a painting of a bike, with some diamonds next to it. You have to put your bike on the diamonds in order to send a signal to the traffic lights. In short, this is all a very different set up and attitude than what I have been used to all my life. Cycling in the Netherlands is more comfortable and safe, but if you keep an eye on the road and stay left everything will be fine. Now I am joining the group of New Zealanders that view cycling as a mode of transport. And the freedom is totally worth it.