Archive for the ‘Child and family transport’ Category

Scooters and a Daycare Center Terrorizing the Bike Paths

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Kids Lodge golf cart kiddy bus train. Photo from Algemene Dagblad.

All is not perfect in the land of bicycles, tulips, cheese and more bicycles. In the middle of hyper bicycle friendly Netherlands sits Houten which was actually planned and built as the ideal bicycling town. Amongst probably many other honors Houten was as recently as 2008 awarded the prize of Best Bicycling City. In Houten auto traffic is directed all the way around the city on a ring road with limited access to the interior city. Bicyclists, on the other hand, enjoy a network of wide bike paths throughout the town.

Meanwhile “Kids Lodge” after school daycare center in Houten has introduced a novel concept: They bought ten old golf carts to ferry the kids from their elementary schools to the daycare. Behind the golf carts they’re towing trailers, also loaded with kids. Their explanation: It takes too long to drive the kids all the way around the city in buses so instead they ride directly through the city on the bike paths with their golf cart trains. Why not use special bikes such as the KDV Workcycles sells to dozens of other daycare centers in the Netherlands? “We’d rather cycle but that’s not possible with so many kids. Too dangerous.” Dangerous? We’ve hundreds of KDV’s in daily service throughout the country and have yet to hear of even a blister or pinched finger. Too many kids? The KDV carries eight kids, about as many as each golf cart plus trailer rig. Maybe “We got a great deal on the decommissioned golf carts. ” and “We’re too lazy to pedal.” are more likely explanations?
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The Latest Dutch Bike Innovations

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

A couple weeks ago I wrote about a pedal powered snow plow from the USA. Now I’ll make it clear that, as stodgy as they can be, the Dutch will not be outdone in the area of bike innovation.

Let’s begin with the Monsterfiets. That’s “Monsterbike” for those of you who haven’t yet noticed that “fiets” = “bike” in Dutch and that the Dutch have absolutely no problem with appropriating words from other languages, especially mighty, media-friendly Engels.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that every Burning Man and Kinetic Sculpture race features two dozen “bikes” more amazing than this one. However the Monsterfiets seems to have piqued the interest of the Dutch and the above YouTube video has been watched almost a million times. I suppose, a la South Park, builder Wouter van den Bosch must be headed to Canada to collect his You Tube popularity paycheck.

I suppose the most remarkable thing about the video is that nobody seems to find the Monsterbike remarkable. “Sure, whatever. I see a billion bikes every day. So what if yours looks like a kid’s tricycle with a bigger front wheel.” I guess we call that “nonplussed”.
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Snow, Amsterdam Style

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

amsterdam snow 5
Note the controlled slide with one foot as outrigger, as well as the smile and look that says “What’s the big deal?”. Dutch folks know how to ride bikes.

The coastal climate keeps it from snowing in Amsterdam as much as you’d figure for a place quite far north and with a reputation for considerable rainfall. Some winters it hardly snows at all while some winters it begins in November and snows regularly until spring. Still it almost never snows more than perhaps ten centimeters and then it usually warms up a couple days later, making a slushy, dirty mess and gradually disappearing.

This winter, however, it’s already snowed more in November and the first half of December than we usually see all year. No matter; we have our bikes to get around and today’s snowfall was just what I needed to remember that. This morning I had a plan to train at the Velodrome with my friend Toon. Yes, I still do that sort of thing and no, there is no conflict between being a cyclist for both transportation and fun/fitness. The Amsterdam Velodrome is great way to stay fit when it’s like this outside. It’s just warm enough to wear shorts and even in a snowstorm there are 30 or 40 riders in a training session paceline.
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Frozen Cable Time (Again)

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

snow-workcycles-bikes
Workcycles bikes demonstrating that they’re not spring flowers. They’re built to live like this.

This is a slightly updated repost: Winter is upon us somewhat early this year and this is highly relevant info for anybody who cycles through the winter, especially if your bike is stored outdoors.

By far the most common problem that the cyclist encounters with winter cycling is the brake or gear cables freezing. This is generally the result of water condensing or dripping into the cable housing and then freezing, effectively bonding the inner cable to the housing. It only takes a tiny bit of water to do this but we fortunately have a solution. Read below for an explanation.
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We arrived at work yesterday figuring that the sub-zero cold, wind and snow would keep most of the customers away, leaving us with time to work on some projects. The highest priority is reconfiguring our workshop after building a massive, floor-anchored, steel frame to hang our electric bike lifts from. It’s a great improvement but not entirely our own initiative. The lifts, you see, were bolted into the 150 or 200 year old wooden beams of our ceiling… and thus the floor of the neighbors upstairs. Though the lifts are nearly new and operate very quietly they do make some vibration. Standing on the concrete (over sand) floor we never noticed this vibration but it drove the lady upstairs crazy. Actually she’s complained very vocally and angrily about a lot of things, apparently calling and writing every possible authority on a regular basis. Most of her complaints have nothing to do with our activities (there’s another bike workshop next door and several apartments have been renovated), but the vibration was a legitimate issue according to the various city inspectors who visited to investigate.
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Cargobike (almost) in the Canal

Monday, November 15th, 2010

cargobike almost in canal 2

One morning about a week ago I walked outside with the kids on the way to their daycare to discover that our beloved bakfiets had disappeared. A number of Workcycles customer bikes have been stolen recently so theft was our first thought. Nonetheless I walked across the street for a closer look and found the bike hanging from its front wheel. The second lock, which I usually leave behind on that rail, wasn’t connected to the frame. I’m really careful about locking so this all seemed very strange.

A neighbor, headed to unlock his own bike, commented that he’d just seen some guys busy here. Probably they’d tossed the bakfiets over as a joke. He was kind enough to help me pull the 40kg bike back onto land and I continued on to the daycare and work. Aside from some scratches on the box and canopy there was no visible damage.

The bike had been sitting in the water past the rear hub so I asked our shop guys to open the hub, clean the taillamp and chain etc. They found surprisingly just a few drops of water in the hub but that’s still too much. Cleaned and re-lubricated, back in the bike, and the hub now actually feels much better than before. This hub, not uncommon for early Shimano Nexus 8 speeds, was noticeably rough in the fourth gear. Freshly lubed and adjusted, this has all but disappeared.

cargobike almost in canal 1

Fast forward a few days to Friday morning. A storm was passing through (as it often is) and the wind was blowing like mad last night. Bikes, scooters, branches, motorcycles are all over the streets and pavements. Kyoko looks outside and yep, the bakfiets has disappeared into the canal again. From our third floor (fourth to those counting American style) dining room perspective we can just barely see the bottom of the box and a parking stand leg poking into the air. As sentient beings we put 2 + 2 + 2 together and realize that it was, in all likelihood, the wind that tossed the bakfiets off the pavement and not some local, malcontent youths.

But why, all of sudden, does the bike get knocked over by the wind twice in a week when it’s never happened before in the last two years of parking it in the very same spot? Our new habit must be to blame: About a week ago we began leaving the canopy on the bike instead of bringing it inside every evening. It seemed more convenient… and I suppose it would be
if we didn’t park the bike in such an exposed location. Thus a word of warning: Don’t leave your kids in a bakfiets with canopy up in a windstorm next to a canal.

staten island criterium 1982
Staten Island Criterium 1982, I’m the kid with orange helmet, blue jersey, red arm pieces.

Speaking of windstorms my old bike racing buddy Chris sent me this photo from our bike racing days as young teens. It was March 1982 and I’d just moved up to the Junior category (ages 15-18) as District Champion in the Intermediate category (ages 12-14). The race was a criterium on a highly exposed course along the beach in Staten Island, NY. We did thousands of such, little races but I remember this one vividly because it was freezing cold and the wind was absolutely howling. Only those with glasses wore eye protection in those days and clouds of sand kicked up from the beach got in our eyes. Lots of it. At least half the field called it quits after it was too painful to continue. The wind and resulting echelons sliced up what remained of the field and finally only a handful of us finished. Our home was just a short drive away and my dad had lived on Staten Island so my folks came along to watch. Even given the awful conditions in such a meaningless race, quitting was not an option today. Instead I won a meal at a local Italian restaurant (or something like that) and washed sand out of my eyes for days. Those were the days.

Shopping Bike and Kid Stuff

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

shopping cart bike

Well, it’s at least thought provoking… especially if you can ignore such details as the radial spoked front wheel with disk brake and the lack of several important, practical details. Most notably, where’s the little fold down seat for a toddler?

From here on Designboom

Thanks to Sjoerd of Double Dutch in Switzerland.

Apologies for the lack of blogging action here at BeM. We’re just super busy with “business as usual” at Workcycles and taking turns going on holiday after lots of busy business as usual for many months.

What’s new? Well, speaking of toddlers, lots of things though the most recent proud papa moment was 26 month old Pascal suddenly deciding that the balance bike (loopfiets) is cool after all. So he just got on and pushed off. A week later he’s tearing around like he was born on the thing. It’s quite surreal to see a two year old riding a bike. I haven’t had a chance to snap any photos yet so here are a couple just a week earlier of P1 demonstrating his mad scooter skills. He’s been riding this little Micro Mini scooter (€70 at Workcycles!) for 8 months already so the balance thing is already second nature; riding the bike was just a matter of doing the same on a different shaped vehicle. Actually he pedals a tricycle around at the daycare so, in principle, he could already put the two skills together and ride a pedal powered bike already… except that I don’t think there are any bikes small enough for such young kids. It’s doubtful he could reliably operate either a handbrake or coaster brake, so this little bike would probably have to be a fixed gear like the antique Dutch kids bikes we’ve restored. I have to admit liking the idea of building a teeny-weeny fixie, complete with mismatched wheels, top tube pad and a couple Knog lights but really, riding a balance bike until he’s three won’t exactly stunt his development.

p1-p2-h-10-10-10 6

Sometimes he goes a bit overboard and takes a spill but thus far he’s never hurt himself. Mostly he laughs and just jumps right back on. I imagine it helps to have begun developing these skills at such a young age but anyhow, I suppose a toddler who’s trying to ride skateboards he makes from Lego blocks and wheels needs a little space.

p1-p2-h-10-10-10 9

I first wrote about P1’s little scooter, balance bike and baby bakfiets half a year ago: Pascal has a bakfiets too.

More importantly, what’s keeping us busy and me in a steady stream of proud papa moments is that we’re now a family of four. P1 is now Pia’s (P2) big brother.

snug as bug in rugs cargobike canopy

Here they are, snug as bugs in rugs, in the family Truckster (a.k.a. Bakfiets Cargobike). Pia’s napping in the Maxi-Cosi while Pascal no longer needs (nor wants) his toddler support seat (a Bobike Mini with its mounting equipment removed). Here they demonstrate that kid(s) can sit on the bench together with baby in Maxi-Cosi, all weather protected by the canopy. As far as I’m aware Workcycles’ Maxi-Cosi carrier is the only way to do this.

Sleeping in the Bakfiets (#3)

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

asleep in bakfiets

A Workcycles customer in Frankfurt, Germany sent this photo along; one more handy advantage of a bakfiets.

See also:
Slapen in de bak
Sleeping on het bakfietsbankje

Stretch Limo Bakfiets Ride

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

pascal rides in the big bakfiets
Pascal the little prince in his cool ride.

Last night I loaded our freshly refinished (in RAL 2004 “pure orange”) dinner table into one of our big, classic rental bakfietsen in order to bring it home. This morning I was then faced with the dilemma of how to both return the bakfiets to the shop AND bring Pascal to his “creche” (daycare center), both about a kilometer or two from home. Do I dare let an almost two year old sit in the 190 x 85cm box untethered, unhelmeted, unpadded, unrollcaged…? After some deliberation with Mama-en-meer we decided that it should be OK, particularly since Pascal has logged enough thousands of cycling kilometers to not have much urge to do anything stupid and terrible-twos-toddler-like. Besides, we figured, the bakfiets has a top speed of about 10km/hr and everybody (even taxis!) gives it a nice, wiiiiiiide berth.
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How the Amsterdam Papa Rolls

Monday, July 12th, 2010

eddy and kids fr8 09-07-10

Long time customer Eddy sent this pic of himself and his kids along. Shall we count the “That’s gotta be Amsterdam” elements?…

1. Workcycles Fr8 Crossframe with Massive Rack front carrier (150kg load capacity). The bike is one of two hot-dip galvanized examples in existence. It was such a pain in the ass to make that it’ll probably also be the last.

2. Child on saddle behind the handlebar with footrests on the downtube. Kids absolutely LOVE sitting here and parents enjoy being able to talk while cycling. The kids just have to be mature enough to stay put, awake and keep their feet on the pegs.

3. Giant lock: 10mm hardened steel chain with disk-type Abus lock (hanging from cross point of the top tubes). Virtually impenetrable unless the thief is bold enough to make a lot of noise and sparks.

4. Baby on the belly. Is it safe? That’s debatable but cycling is, in any case, very safe and one cycles very carefully with a baby like this. This setup is certainly better than carrying the baby with any bike other than a Bakfiets Cargobike with a Maxi-Cosi installed (Eddy’s wife’s bike). See my research on the topic: Carrying a Newborn on a Bike

5. Rider making a Fr8 Crossframe look small. It’s a big truck of a bike meaning that Eddy is a Dutch sized guy.

6. Teddy bear on the best seat in the house.

Perhaps most noteworthy is that this image will hardly turn heads here. Watch parents picking their kids up from an elementary school and you’ll see 20 variations on this theme within five minutes, and not a car in sight.

Thanks for passing the photo along Eddy!

m4s0n501

Fietsfabriek Colleagues Bankrupt

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Last Week of May
Photo by Marc of Amsterdamize

Some industry insiders, myself included, were at least suspecting things weren’t going smoothly at Amsterdam’s populair transport bike producer De Fietsfabriek. Yesterday their filing for bankruptcy got leaked and now the press is all over it like flies on poop. That’s not really surprising considering the uncanny knack those guys had for keeping the media’s attention. It is (or was) indeed a very charismatic story about a temperamental and driven Kurdish immigrant’s success with that most Dutch of products; the bicycle. I have to admit that it sounds far more exciting than “Highly educated industrial designer and ex bike industry guy from New York makes conservative, high quality bikes in Holland”. But I suppose the downside of celebrity status is that you’re even more newsworthy when things go wrong.
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