Cycling in Maastricht has made me realise just how unfit I am! It was a breeze cycling to school, but the same cannot be said for cycling back to the hostel. The hostel is located on a higher elevation than the rest of Maastricht. Ok, it’s really just a gentle slope and you can’t feel any exertion walking up, but cycling somehow accentuates the steepness of the slope! On the very first time I cycled back to the hostel from school, I gave up halfway and ended up walking and pushing my bike back. And I would probably have continued this pattern of commute, if not for a fellow Singaporean exchange student who happened to be cycling back with me at that time. Because of his encouragement, and partly because it would have been too embarrassing if I stopped halfway in front of him, I finally managed to cycle back all the way! And since then, I have had no problem cycling back to the hostel anymore. My timing is improving too. Initially I took 20 minutes (cycling at the pace my grandmother would have cycled if she could still cycle) but now it has improved leaps and bounds to a mere 10 minutes! #selfpraise
In fact, it’s not a bad thing that Maastricht is generally hillier than the rest of the Netherlands. After all, I could do with some exercise here, since I hardly ever exercise back home in Singapore, haha!
It is important to note that cyclists have traffic rules to abide by too. Even though we have separate cycling lanes on major roads, there are traffic lights for cyclists and these lights are clearly indicated. Always stop when the light is flashing red, even if the traffic is clear. It’s for your own safety! Also, most of these cyclist lights have little buttons that you have to press, otherwise it will not turn green. It’s pretty much like the concept of pedestrian crossings. In summary, these are the most important rules:
- Bike lights must be switched on at night
- Bike must have reflectors on it (most second-hand bikes come with this)
- Follow the traffic lights
- Do not cycle on pedestrian crossings (although I do see cyclists committing this) and on sidewalks/pavements
- Look at the markings on the road – if you see the white triangular markings at the end of the road, it means that you have to give way to oncoming traffic. Disobey this and you might just get yourself into an accident.
Although all other vehicles must give way to cyclists at roundabouts, I would advise cyclists to be careful when using the roundabouts, as some drivers might not give way to you if they think that they can drive faster than you. Again, be watchful and cycle defensively!
This article by BBC gives a good overview of the cycling culture in the Netherlands: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23587916 Do give it a read!