By Mark van Engeland

Since writing this article, I've been informed that Koga Miyata is not Japanese, but is, in fact, Dutch.
I think the awkward Dutchmen opened a factory called 'Koga Miyata' on purpose, just to spoil my joke!

Back to the Grind

Ok, you lot are enthusiastically and relentlessly demanding more Dutch & Such; so here I sit, chained to my computer desk, trying to think creative thoughts...

<What Shall I Do Now? mode on>

    van Engeland :  {sits in front of the computer with his arms folded}
    {nothing happens, for several minutes}
    van Engeland :  {glares at the telephone on his desk}
    van Engeland :  Why do people only ever 'phone me when I'm busy?
    van Engeland :  {contemplates playing DooM, for a while}
    van Engeland :  {decides not to, because he doesn't want his readers to think he's behind the times}
    van Engeland :  ...
    van Engeland :  God, this is boring.
    van Engeland :  ...
    van Engeland :  {goes off to look for munchies}
    {various bangs and crashing noises issue forth from the kitchen}
    van Engeland :  {returns with a packet of stroopwafels (not to be confused with 'ofstroopwafels', of course)}
    van Engeland :  *Munch, munch, munch*
    van Engeland :  {finishes packet}
    van Engeland :  *sigh*
    {time passes}
    van Engeland :  Oh, to hell with it.
    van Engeland :  {leans forward and starts typing}

<What Shall I Do Now? mode off>

Hey, I've got a new bike!
Since I got here, and in true Dutch fashion, I've been tootling around Rotterdam and S-*cough-hack*-iedam on a push-bike, but a borrowed one.
I don't like to complain about the bike I had borrowed, but it was something of a 'granny-bike'.  In fact, I'm surprised that it was in Holland at all, but I expect there is a rational explanation...

<Germany is Your Friend mode on>

    Hitler :  Here, Hermann, dis is eine nice liddle Dutch bike vor you to take home to der faderland.
    Goering:  Vhat?  You must be makink der jokink mit me!  Dat bike iss not mein colour at all, Dearie!

<Germany is Your Friend mode off>

The two main countries, per percentage capita, which use bicycles are China and Nederland.  These two countries produce an immense amount of bicycles, between them.
I'm living in Nederland, so take a wild, shot-in-the-dark-type guess as to where my bike was made.
That's right.  Japan.
It's made by Koga Miyata, which is pronounced according to the following table:
Language Pronunciation
English Ko-ga Mi-ya-ta
Dutch Ko-*cough-hack*-a Mi-ya-ta
Italian Come suonano kappa ed ipsilon?1
van Engelish Ko-ga Mi-bum-'urts2

Now, I've already mentioned that there are as many if not more cycle paths in Nederland as there are roads; but what I haven't commented on is what these cycle paths are like to cycle on.
The vast majority of them are block-paved.  Block-paves are the modern equivalent of cobbles; the main difference between a block-pavier and a cobble-stone being that a block-pavier is flat, almost like a brick.  I'd say that almost a quarter of the roads, and more than three-quarters of the cycle paths, around Rotterdam and district are block-paved.
Block-paving is far more rare in England, but where you do see it, it's perfect. You can roll marbles in straight lines on it.  You'd think that the Dutch, having had zillions of square metres of practice laying the stuff, would have got the hang of it, by now, but Dutch roads are as bumpy as really extremely bumpy things.
That's all very well if you're in a car, with huge, steel springs and hydraulic dampers to protect you from variegated bumpiness but on a bike?  Yes, I have been known to growl and curse, watching cars shooting past me on their nice, smooth, Tarmac surface whilst I'm having my teeth shaken loose by the block-paved cycle path I'm stuck on.

I have two theories as to why the Dutch are so tall:

1: Almost the entire country is at sea level; gravity is weaker, here, allowing for pronounced vertical growth.

2: Riding several million miles on a push-bike (which they all do, at one time or another in their lives) on these incredibly bumpy roads and cycle paths loosens up the ligatures between your bones, so your body is free to elongate.

D'you think I should write that up and send it to New Scientist?

Incidentally, whilst we're on the subject of non-English-spoken people writing songs in English, I've very generously translated The Road Ahead a song by a group named City to City that was very popular here, last year from Dutch English into English English.  Click Here to see how much better it's come out.

It's a really cool bike, though.  It's got wheels, and handlebars, and everything.  It has me wishing I could be twelve years old, again, just to show it off to all the other kids at school.  I keep changing gears for no good reason, other than to use the super-epic-coolest-ever gear-changer.
How does the saying go?  Youth is wasted on the young?
I suppose that could be extended to include: Cool stuff is wasted on the silly old farts who can afford to buy it.

My watch is Japanese, too.  It's one of those with a built-in database (I am extremely good at forgetting telephone numbers, and none of the decent marques build databases into their time-pieces).  It struck me, the other day, that it's been years since I've had to remember to wind my watch, every day or so.  Modern technology is so insidious and habit-forming.  Scary.
Anyway, the subject of watches is reserved for my Swiss & Spotless column, so I'd best not say too much, here.

So, back to biking in Holland.
You can have great fun at some bus stops, if you're on a bike.
Rather than make cyclists go out into the middle of the road to circumnavigate buses, they build bus stops with a little island, further into the road than the cycle path.  This means that people have to wait for the bus on the normal pavement (sidewalk), then cross the cycle-path to get to the island and embark the bus.
If you time it just right, you can plough through a bunch of happy shoppers, replete with bags and shopping-baskets, to great effect ("Sorry"..."Pardon"..."Excuse me"..."Get out of the bleeding way!"...etc.).

That highlights one of the main advantages of using a bike, in Nederland.  You can go almost anywhere on a bike: roads, footpaths, shopping arcades, just about anywhere where you can walk.  Hell, you could cycle up the steps of parliament, if you so wished.

God knows, it couldn't be any bumpier than the cycle paths!
{exits, stage right}


If you came here from an external link, the Dutch & Such index page is Here











1 Translation: "What sound do the 'K' and the 'Y' Make?" neither 'K' nor 'Y' is in the Italian alphabet.  Back

2 Don't tell me you didn't see that coming.  Back

You have just been subjected to a page of