A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Friends, romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. The tragedy that is liable to befall every one of us who finds themselves on Leiden’s far-flung shores has stricken me with the most devastating of consequences. I am, you must already have gathered, without my bike, and contrary to what Robyn has mentioned elsewhere, my life has been irreparably torn to shreds in my short time without it.
Although non-integrationist city-slickers like Robyn believe that due to a mixture of well-placed housing and their rabid fear of a) their sense of balance and b) public embarrassment, that living in Leiden without a bike is a real and available option to many students, I can assure you here and now, that frankly it is not. No amount of public shaming or the emotional intensity of deep-seeded childhood phobias would make me part from my two-wheeler, it is my lifeline, my lifeblood, and my saviour. Not having my bike is terrible. It’s like working out for the first time that Zwarte Piet isn’t real. I feel stressed and unwell, I think I’m getting stomach ulcers. Maybe I need a massage, no, damnit, I just need my bike! Come back to me! I beg you!
…OK, I’ve calmed down now…
Leiden, admittedly is a small place, but often deceptively so. To get from my student accommodation to the Humanities department at the Lipsius building takes 20 minutes walk, the University Library is another minute or two from there. I even did the calculation in the infallable Google maps ‘directions’ function, and it said exactly the same thing. At 26 I’m no spring chicken anymore, and I don’t get the sheer joy of trudging other members of this blog might. I’m a fast-paced guy in a fast-paced world, so infact the time to get to class might be even longer still if I were ever to try walking, but why would I? I have a bike, and that saves time.
And time is everything to a student. Time is those few extra minutes you can have gelling your hair and straightening out your best velvet jacket to impress all the cute girls at the library (I’m looking at you Minerva boy), time is the difference between eating that piece of fruit that makes your brain work at the morning lecture. Time is having the opportunity to get from university to the supermarket and back home BETWEEN classes, so that you don’t have to do your shopping when you’re exhausted in the afternoon. Time is, believe it or not, even being able to do more study! Yayness!
But before the naysayers start ranting back, let’s do the maths. Google, the arbiter of the truth, tells me that it takes me only eight minutes to ride to class each day. But given my sneaky backstreet shortcuts, and putting my bike in a gear higher than even Justin Beiber can get, I can thrash the cobblestones to class in more like five. If I was walking every day to class, I estimate I would on average be losing an hour and a quarter every week from my precious downtime. Who is going to eat the stroopwafels, watch the latest episode of your favourite HBO show, and have enough time to make a huge pot of amazing tea if I lose that hour?! When you walk into your house, dripping with the cold and the wet of a blustery autumn/winter/spring day, and all you want is to sit around and do not much at all, you’ll be huddled up next to your radiator wondering why you walked for twenty minutes in the rain. Trust me, the 50 euros is worth it then, don’t be such a cheapskate, not having a bike is ruining your life.
And finally, non-bike ownership is not only offensive to the Dutch, who cannot live without them (when in Rome peeps) but it’s also just simply absurd to not want to feel the delights of riding around Holland, a country festooned with bike trails, and working your glutes into the toned buns you, and those girls at the library, always wanted. As the countryside of windmills and tulips passes you by, you will feel new levels of liberty and inspiration that Walky McWalk face couldn’t feel if they walked to Spain. So I highly suggest you get a bike when you get here, your life will be just so much easier. To prove it, I can say I have only just discovered that my bike is broken and its an emergency agenda item to be dealt with immediately by a visit to the fixie.
So it’s a pretty simple equation for the sceptics: Get on your bike.