I’ve always loved riding a bike and if pressed to say why, the primary reason I would choose is this: freedom. When I was a child, cycling allowed me to explore my neighborhood and what lay just beyond its edges, a mean feat in L.A.’s sprawling suburbs. I gladly rode without my parents and supervision, racing through empty school parking lots, parks and eventually, I would reach the beach to breathe in the endless, salty Pacific Ocean.
As a teenager, I ignored cycling in favor of cruising in my first car, fiddling with the radio. But cruising meant inching along at a snail’s pace, battling an overactive radiator, because the streets in L.A. may be paved in gold but they are also clogged 24/7. But this was a temporary glitch in my cycling history and I grew out of it.
I started cycling again in college in England, convinced I made better time to campus than the national rail service, and generally fell in love with the different ways of getting around. In the UK, unlike America, I could take a train, a bus, a tram, the underground, I could drive, walk or bike–they were all options. But cycling continued to top my list because all I needed were my two legs and a sense of direction, no tickets or timetables required. I cycled along England’s chalky coastline, taking in the scenery, free to explore and follow any path I wanted for any reason; I cycled through bigger cities, too, but the point was I cycled, gaining confidence and pleasure from the immediacy of the experience.
And now I am in Amsterdam, with its well-earned reputation for being a cycling capital, happy to be one of thousands of cyclists heading off on the daily commute–and may I add, unplussed about what they’re wearing (fashion statements are tres L.A. but mean little in this Calvinist country.) Being able to cycle everywhere has become a little routine now, I admit. But there are certain days when the light is just so and I am cycling over a narrow, elegant bridge that could be 400 years old and I realize where I am and how much freedom I enjoy, particularly as a cyclist. In that regard, Amsterdam continually surprises and pleases me. Yes, I do have it so good..