What can a bicycle be used for? The answer would seem easy, and before I arrived in Groningen, I thought the same thing. Bicycles are used for leisure travel on trails, and in exceptional cases, to travel to work in some Canadian cities (most notably Vancouver). Wrong. In Groningen, bicycles are a way of life.
Each bicycle in Groningen has a personality that matches its rider. That is, some bicycles will have distinctive bells or sharp colours. Other bikes will be equipped with large baskets on the front of the bike. Still more will have sharply bended handle-bars or tires that squeak unpredictably.
Groningen is hailed as the World’s “Bike City” because biking is a way of life. In Groningen, you go grocery shopping and then carry your groceries back in a bike basket. You carry your laptop and your school supplies on your bike on the way to class. In fact, some even go shopping at IKEA with bikes: the store allows you to rent a “cargo bike” that can help you lug valuable purchases back to your apartment.
The regulations of the city ensure that cars must yield to bikes, and many of the cities roads are dedicated exclusively to bicycles. These measures have ensured that biking was adopted as the preferred mode of transportation in the northern Dutch city.
My experience in Groningen has meant that I no longer “watch for cars” on the roads when I am crossing the road. Instead, I watch for bikes! But in all seriousness, the benefits of biking are far too obvious: a healthier way of life, more time in the outdoors, and a ‘more relaxed pace of living’ which fits well with Dutch culture in general. What kind of personality would your bike have?
Submitted by Travis Moir