Thursday, July 03, 2008

Scandinavia 2008 - Biking through Europe

When doing research for the trip I had seen that most of the cities we were going to used bikes heavily for transportation (All cities except St. Petersburg). This made me feel OK with using bikes to get around everywhere but I had no idea how good it would be. To give an idea of the integration bikes had we saw a bride and groom get into a bike taxi at a Helsinki wedding. Some cities even had free bikes for use around the city. (We never used them since we could never guarantee they would be there for ride back to the ship.)
Bike lanes: Not just a part of the road with extra strips for bikes. There was separate roads for bikes complete with traffic signals and lanes sometimes.
Bike rails on stairs: When we had to go up or down stairs there was a metal or cement ramp with a groove for bike tires. While so simple it is such an obvious idea that made using bikes so much easier.
Bike parking: We experienced this a lot, since so many people use bikes the huge bike parking lots full of lock up polls could fill up fast. Since our bike were small all we needed was one pole for both of them and we always found at least that.
Security: London was the only place we saw all bikes locked up. For the rest, about 35% had no locks whatsoever. 50% would just lock the frame to the back tire so someone could not just ride off. The last 15% actually locked their bike to something, usually with a flimsy chain. Since our bikes got so much attention everywhere we went we always locked our bikes up. Mainly out of habit but also it would have thrown a major kink into the works if one had been stolen.
Riding on cobblestone: I had to get the tallest folding bike because of my height. It just so happened that mine came with full suspension. L. was not so lucky and got a little more jostled than I did. However she was never sore enough to not ride the next day.
using maps: I had made sure to buy good maps of most of the cities we were going to. (I could not find Warnemünde or Tallinn.) I was the navigator for the trip so this meant lots of pulling over to look at the map. However it was much easier then a car since it is easy to switch from pedestrian to bike rider quickly if a wrong turn is made. I don’t know how many times we got lost last time we were in Europe because we got stuck on some one way road.
People’s reaction: I was expecting at least some angry people when we took the bike on or off the ship. That was not the case. I guess it was because they were unimposingly small and we rode them slower then normal bikes. We became known as the bike people on the ship. People repeatedly came up to us and asked us about them. In every city kids would say things similar to cool and give us a thumbs up.
Cost: Each bike cost us $350. We figured the cheapest biking, walking, and bus tours cost around $80. So after four days they were paid for. Since they folded up as one of luggage pieces it did not cost any extra to being them with us.

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