Btown, Bike Town

By Edo Steinberg

Irene biking in Europe.

Irene biking in Europe.

Graduate student Irene Van Driel hails from Amsterdam, which many call the bicycle capital of the world. Moving from a two-wheel city to a four-wheel town can have its challenges.

“Bloomington is bike-friendly, as long as you stay close to downtown and campus,” Irene says. “Last year I lived on the other side of 37. The bike paths just stop at some point. I will never forget the first day I took my bike out I was looking for a bike path to go over 37. After looking for a while I decided to ask some people. They started laughing and told me to just bike over it. They always walked it. I was baffled!”

“I have to say that bikers in Amsterdam own the street,” Irene adds. “People are friendlier in traffic, both bikers and drivers.”

Irene has what she calls “a true American Schwinn mountain bike” here in town. “Back home I had a bike without gears; no need for it in my flat country. The bridges over the canals in Amsterdam vaguely resemble the hills in Btown, though. And I had a road bike. It is unfortunately still in the basement of my old apartment. I miss it!”

She also had another bicycle at home. “I feel really bad about this. The bike that I got from my parents for my 13th birthday, the bike that served me well through high school and student life, I parked it outside of the racks somewhere not long before I went to Btown and the bike police took it away. For ten euros you can pick it up but I just didn’t make time to do it. So it’s either still in the depot, rusting away or destroyed. Sad story.”

amsterdam_bikes

Bikes in Amsterdam.

In Bloomington, Irene returned to biking after somewhat of a break. “The last few years before I came here I was lucky enough to live in the center of Amsterdam close to the train station (I took the train to work) so I mostly walked everywhere. Unfortunately the bars and restaurants were in walking distance too. But when I was a student I lived all over that city as did my friends so I biked a lot.”

Irene wants fellow bikers to know about the Bloomington Community Bike Project, a local cooperative offering repair services and bike recycling. “I had biked past it a couple of times. It was when my brakes didn’t work anymore and my feet turned out not to be the perfect replacement – plus somebody cared enough to drag me over there and made me repair them – that I made use of the place.”

She liked the place so much that when Ashley and Mona had bicycle trouble a week later, she took them to the community bike project. “It’s a great place,” Irene says. “Volunteers help you repair parts or build an entire bike. It’s mostly free or really cheap. The parts are donated by others.”

Irene, who is training for the Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis in less than two weeks, isn’t sure if biking helps with marathon training. “It only matters if you are a professional biker/runner, I suppose.”

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