The cycling lessons organised by Erasmus University had been fully booked but perhaps due to the pressing dark clouds gathering above the Woudestein campus, only seven of the ten students showed up for the 11 am lesson. Despite the disappointing turn-up, the students seemed to be in good mood as they chatted outside the bike shop in the Polak building, waiting for the lesson to start and sharing their own experiences with biking.

Divyang was already comfortable on a bicycle. Image credit: Iida Riikinsaari

“The situation for cyclists is very different here in Rotterdam compared to home.” Divyang, a new master’s student, pondered. “Back in India, there just isn’t any respect for cyclists.” New Arts & Culture student Rodrigo nodded along; “In Mexico, there are barely any lanes intended solely for bikes.”, he said. “Everyone just uses public transport to get to places.” Divyang was rather comfortable on a bike but Rodrigo doubted his own cycling skills a little bit. Both of the students had signed up for the lessons primarily to learn Dutch traffic rules.

Rodrigo focused intensely on his pedaling. Image credit: Iida Riikinsaari

The lesson was given by a Fietsersbond associated instructor called Beer (yes, ‘Beer’ like the drink) who had recruited his son, Bo, to help out. Fietsersbond is a Dutch cyclists union that organises a lot of classes like this. Beer himself has been teaching cycling for years but this was his first time teaching international students.“To be completely honest, the students are much better at cycling already than I expected them to be”, he said. “But I am also surprised by how much variety there is in the level of cycling they have. Perhaps in the future we should have classes for different levels of cyclists”.

The instructor, Beer (in the foreground), had recruited his son Bo (in the background) to help out with the lessons. Image credit: Iida Riikinsaari

After about 20 minutes of zigzaging between traffic cones and learning how to signal your turns, Beer took the group to the open roads. Min Yang, an exchange student from Shanghai, stayed behind to practice some more, since this was her first time on a bike. When asked how it was going, she burst out in laughter. “It’s pretty difficult.”, she admitted, carefully focusing on the pedals as she tried to balance herself on the bike. Bo walked beside her, patiently guiding her with the bike.

For Min Yang from Shanghai, this was the first time on a bicycle. Image credit: Iida Riikinsaari

At the end of the lesson, the group returned to campus and Beer gave his final piece of advice: buying the right kind of lock. “A chain lock is hardest to cut through.”, he advised before the students went their own ways, now prepared to dive into the Rotterdam traffic.

Beer explained the students Dutch traffic rules. Image credit: Iida Riikinsaari