Some Danish guy on a WorkCycles rental bike in Amsterdam, originally uploaded by Amsterdamize.
I usually flip through the “VogelVrije Fietser” (literal translation: “Birdfree Cyclist”) in about 30 seconds and then pass it to my toddler son for shredding but this issue (January 2010) had a few bits worth sharing… before Pascal gets his way with it. The first interesting piece is the latest salvo in the imaginary Copenhagen-Amsterdam war of cycling supremacy. The Copenhagen ambitions to achieve or already have achieved the coveted, self appointed title of World Cycling Capitol are already all over the Internet and the BirdFree Cyclist even made the trek up there to the great white north to see what all the fuss was about. In a nutshell they made the great revelation in the previous issue that the crafty Copenhageners were just as busy improving cycling facilities in their city as in most Dutch cities, and that they’re being more vocal about promoting this fact. Whoopee, the Danes also see value in a city where many people cycle!
Now after a flood of backlash from indignant and competitive Dutch cyclists the BirdFree Cyclist interviews a number of Dutch lawmakers about the Great Copenhagen Question. Amongst other things they ask about the Copenhagen ambition to have 50% of all commuters on bikes by 2015. Being an Amsterdammer (OK a transplanted New Amsterdammer…) I’ll focus on and translate some comments from Hans Gerson, Amsterdam city Alderman from PvdA (Labor Party):
Hans Gerson (who’s sitting on a bike while carrying a folding chair in one hand in he accompanying photo):
“I know Copenhagen a bit. I think there’s much less cycling there than with us. But fine, let’s assume they want to compete with us. Fifty percent is completely no task. In the center of Amsterdam more than 50% of all trips are already by bike. I would want to set the bar higher. For the entire city already more than 38% of all trips are done with the bike. I find fifty percent a nice challenge for 2015.”
Gerson’s emphasis here seemed to have beeen missed by the interviewer: The Copenhagen goal is to have 50% of commuters cycling. This is certainly a worthy goal but commuters represent a relatively narrow segment of the population: working adults in their prime years. Thus we’re comparing apples and oranges. Which translates to more cyclists: 50% of commuters or 38% of all trips within the city by all people. I’d guess the latter but…
a. I’d have to dig through the CBS statistics to prove it.
b. Who cares anyway? The Dutch and the Danes are hard at work improving what are already the best cycling facilities in the world by an enormous margin.
But just because it’s fun to poke our Copenhagen friends I’ll add some more of Gerson’ comments:
BirdFree Cyclist: You totally don’t see Copenhagen as the winner?
I was there recently. It’s a really pretty city OK, but the number of cyclists there could be counted on one hand. Thus I can’t imagine that it even comes in the neighborhood of being a our competitor. And wherever I go in the world we’re always prized for our bike policy. But we’re not resting on our laurels. Lots must still be done.
Ooh, ouch Copenhagen! That hurt, and then to think that Amsterdam is only one of dozens of Dutch cities that take cycling so seriously. Darn, now I’m getting all into this competition thing too. Sorry folks.
But for those not so into this international intrigue there was also something fun for the tech weenies. The BirdFree Cyclist used an SRM power output meter to test the effects of various maintenance and component choices on the effort required to cycle. I’m assuming the test wasn’t executed to nano-precision standards but a few of the results are nonetheless interesting:
What can we learn from this?
Well, fixing flats in cold rain sucks so racing tires aren’t practical for urban use but pumping your regular tires up is worth the effort. Also the considerable difference between the tires suggests that smooth running tires such as Schwalbe Marathons are worth the small additional cost.
Ride a bike with a full chain case because not only does it not cause drag, your chain stays clean, lubricated and happy inside. But don’t pull that chain too tight. Still, I suspect that the chain test would have shown a much greater difference had he compared the new chain to a real Amsterdam chain.
Our feeling that Shimano’s Nexus 7 speed hubs are factory filled with crunchy peanut butter seems to have more scientific basis now. Early Shimano 8 speeds suffer from this problem in the 4th gear too but that’s a number of years ago now.