Steffi Buchler, pictured, took the LVI adult cycling course in April 2019 to gain confidence cycling in the City
Photo: LaLa La Photo
Before April 2019, the last time 24-year-old Steffi Buchler had sat on a bike she was 10. “I was never cycling very much when I was younger,” she recalls.
After completing her studies and returning to Luxembourg in 2018, the Luxembourger immediately saw the advantage of two-wheeled travel for getting to work. But there was one thing stopping her: “I didn’t feel that I could jump on a bike and be on the streets.”
Some say that you never forget how to ride a bike, but it was the thought of riding in rush-hour traffic that put Buchler off. So, she went back to school, cycling school.
The bicycle can teach you
The Lëtzebuerger Vëlos-Initiative has been organising two-week cycle classes since 2007, taking adults gradually through the stages of learning to ride a bike. “The first message I tell them, is not ‘I can teach you’ but, ‘the bicycle can teach you’, instructor Christian Burmeister explains during the last class of the year. “Here you get the time you didn’t have as a child. Then you can hear, a big stone falls from their heart.”
The intensive lessons are hosted in a high school courtyard, away from road traffic, where obstacles are marked using cones and Burmeister explains using chalk symbols on the tarmac.
“The first lesson we weren’t sitting on a proper bike, it was bikes with no seats, like scooters,” Buchler recalled. They then progressed to normal bikes through gradual exercises. “At some point the teacher said: ‘and now you just drive’. We all looked at the teacher as if to say ‘what? We’re not ready for that yet!’. But then we all did it. It was such a nice moment!”
Buchler was so determined, she began cycling around the city as soon as the course finished. “I was really proud of myself for accomplishing that!”
Despite buying a second-hand bike during the course, she says that today she mostly uses the electric-assistance Velohs city rental bikes because they are “a bit nicer to ride”, plus they are convenient.
“There have been a few times when I have been out in the city during the evening and I realised it was a weekday and there were no night buses but I still had to get home,” she said. “That way I could just get a Veloh and cycle home because with the distance it wasn’t too far.”
And, she is not the only one to appreciate the Veloh network. “Half the people I see on bikes [in the city] are usually on Velohs”, she says. “They are super cheap. An annual subscription is €18. A bus pass per month is €50 at the moment. I can’t believe it’s so cheap to rent a bike for a year!”
The system is almost becoming a victim of its own success as Buchler recalls how friends have sometimes struggled to find a Veloh or a station with space to return a bike during during rush-hour. “If you can get hold of one and it’s working, then it’s great!”
Buchler says that the course has given her no end of confidence, but she remains cautious and avoids some areas of the city, such as the central train station. “What they told us on the course is if there’s something we’re not ready for, we should get off the bike and walk or not go, listen to our gut feeling. That’s been quite valuable.”
On the whole, she says, the city is “doable”, especially with an electric assistance bike. So, what stops everyone from cycling? “I think it’s the weather,” she says, laughing. “But, then again Copenhagen and Amsterdam have the same climate as here and people cycle all-year-round!”