Before my husband and I left for the Netherlands back in 1993, we sold our car in the States and used that money to buy bicycles in Holland. I had a bicycle very similar to the one above, only mine was a flashy maroon.
It was there that I learned to ride on the streets alongside cars (with no helmet). I'd have one kid in the front, and one in the back, and a stroller hooked onto the back, along with grocery bags and a basket filled with groceries. When my bike wasn't loaded, I'd be trucking down the street, and I'll never forget when it happened more than once that an old man would fly by on his bike as if I wasn't moving!
The above is what a typical bike path looks like in Holland. And yes, the road is right next to it (really, it was a part of the street, just a different color). It took me a while to get comfortable riding so close to cars--especially with my children on my bike. Yikes! We'd ride through all kinds of weather--even rain and snow. Boy, was that "fun."
I got used to riding on the streets after I took a job delivering pizzas. I was thrilled to find a Dominos Pizza in our home town of Eindhoven. It was managed by an American, and he spoke English to all his employees. English! Aaaahhh. That was nice. Oh, and so was the pizza! Anyway, I delivered the pizza on a moped. I'd always wanted a motorcycle, and this sort of met that "need." I was their first female driver, and it was GREAT!
Imagine busy city streets (something similar to New York City). Yes, that's very much what it was like, only on a smaller scale. Streets are smaller and so is the city, oh . . . and so are the cars. :-) This is a picture of Eindhoven, where we used to live. I've been on this very street! As you can see, this one doesn't have bike paths. Aaack! (If you click on the picture, you can get a closer look.)
When we moved to Soesterberg, we lived in a small village. That's when some of the bike paths were set farther away from the streets. To go shopping (not grocery shopping; each village had it's own grocery store) in the nearest town (Zeist), I rode 20 minutes through woods similar to the picture above.
Sometimes we found trails as beautiful as this photo.
I've got some silly stories to share about my biking experiences in Holland. But this post is long enough. I'll share some later.