Promoting Cycling Dutch Style

We’ve been working with ROC an Amsterdam technical college and a few other bicycle firms to create a new bicycle mechanic education program. There is already such an education track there but it’s primarily classroom based. This new program will be practice based, with interns working at each participating business for several months. In time the students will also work in and operate their own bike shop, similar to the student-run restaurants at cooking schools.

The problem we’re looking to fix may seem ironic; while cycling is Ă¼ber-hip amongst adults, it’s anything but amongst Dutch teens, especially the teens likely to follow a bike mechanic education track. The interns who periodically work at WorkCycles generally have no interest in bikes whatsoever. As soon as they’re old enough they dump their bikes in favor of scooters, and the bike education is often seen as a stepping stone toward a career as a car or truck mechanic. They’re generally also not the sharpest knives in the drawer and that’s part of the challenge.

Thus in order to fill this new education program with motivated (or at least willing) and capable kids the image of cycling and bikes has to be spiffed up in the eyes of our teenaged target group. In discussing these plans and tactics the organizer pointed us to the video above as a model. Though I doubt many of these kids have a long enough attention span to sit through this particular video it certainly is a great example of how to promote cycling amongst adults.

The video is from the BOVAG, the branch organization for businesses involved with selling and maintaining vehicles (including, bikes, mopeds, scooters, cars, trucks etc). It simply offers ten reasons to cycle more, with the emphasis on cycling instead of driving a car. It’s nicely shot, offers just enough facts to make the point, doesn’t take itself too seriously and is guilt free. The reasons…

    1. Cycling improves your fitness.
    2.Cycling keeps you slim.
    3. Cycling gives you a great feeling.
    4. Cycling reduces your chance of illness.
    5. Cycling is convenient.
    6. More cycling means cleaner air in your own surroundings.
    7. Cycling is quiet.
    8. Cycling improves access for short distances.
    9. Cycling is inexpensive.
    10. More cycling means less greenhouse gasses.

The title? “Natuurlijk pak ik de Fiets!” (Of course I take the Bike!)

15 Responses to “Promoting Cycling Dutch Style”

  1. Jochem Says:

    Cycling people are more connected with the world around them and they have a wider view đŸ™‚

  2. Amsterdamize Says:

    I agree, it’s a bit slow, but, aside from stating old bike path km stats (not 17.000 but 29.000 km), I like that they put the unique selling points in the right order, aka: the ‘green’ stuff last.

    Another note, regarding ‘you can park everywhere’, and I’m going to blog about it soon, somebody tell these crazy CDA wethouders (‘elderlies’) in the cities of Vught, Breda, Eindhoven and Maastricht that the rest of NL is actually trying to get more people on bikes and make it more convenient. Why do I say that? Well, these cities are banning bicycles from their pretty much car-free centers, because “the scattered parking is a security risk (somebody tripped) and our squares don’t look tidy”…[insert images of the complete opposite]. I’m not making this up. Sigh.

  3. henry Says:

    I’ve also seen some noise about CDA trying to remove those ugly, pesky bikes from city centers. It’s totally stupid of course but we’re talking about a bunch of people who mostly drive cars (or those chair on wheels with electric motor things) in towns that aren’t exactly known for promoting cycling.

    Meanwhile various studies have apparently demonstrated that if one must park their bike more than a couple meters from their destination cycling quickly becomes a less attractive means of transport. This is why mass bike parking facilities only work in situations where enormous numbers of cyclists must go to exactly the same place that cannot otherwise provide the bike storage; train stations for example… or rather almost exclusively train stations.

  4. Frits B Says:

    “…if one must park their bike more than a couple meters from their destination cycling quickly becomes a less attractive means of transport”. Seems a universal truth to me; read “car” for “bike” and “driving” for “cycling”, and you get the same reaction.

    The Bovag video could do with some more light touches; stats are not very convincing on their own. Bikes should be your extra pair of feet, always there, always ready …

    And as for the “Dutch teens”, careful in our wording aren’t we? But alles sal reg kom:

  5. henry Says:

    Frits, No, I wasn’t being careful in wording about “Dutch teens”. I wasn’t avoiding racial immigrant questions, for example. I really meant just that Dutch teens as a whole regard cycling as very low status. This seems to be just as true for the the wealthy kids as the lower educated teens.

    I’m not sure about the truth of your statement that traveling by car becomes less attractive when one has to park their car more than a few meters from their destination. Everybody already experiences incredible inconveniences associated with personal car use but continues to do so. When there’s no (apparent) alternative the choice of transport mode is highly inflexible.

  6. Frits B Says:

    Re “Dutch teens as a whole”: there is life outside Amsterdam. And from what I see elsewhere, teens are reasonably happy riding their bikes – girls more than boys, though. Making bike repair your profession is quite a different matter. Getting your hands dirty isn’t cool, but I would be a lot better off had I become a plumber or a mechanic. Such insight usually comes too late in life.

  7. henry Says:

    Frits, OK I’ll admit that I’m talking about “Amsterdam teens”. Aside from my monthly visits to factories and customers I’ve precious little idea what teenagers think and do in the rest of the country.

  8. Todd Edelman Says:

    Firstly, ever since I first visited Amsterdam in 1986 I have been wondering about how many krokets I could eat for each amount of cycling, so I glad that I finally have an answer for that.

    Second, one of the main reasons we picked a “floating” bike design for our OPENbike bikeshare design ( was so people could leave them anywhere they wanted.

    But perhaps most important WE need to think of a solution for those towns banning bikes from some pedestrian zones. OK? OK! (Please clarify: Do they mean just riding or a complete ban?).

    OK, last, how is this video used, exactly? As part of a some kind of training course? For immigrants?

  9. henry Says:

    Todd, It’s a little known fact that instead of kilocalories the Dutch use the Kroket as a laypersons unit of energy expended during physical exertion. Like feet and pounds it’s quite a convenient, human-scaled unit of measurement. For example a Dutch cyclist might say “I did rondje Ijsselmeer in force five wind today… was probably worth ten kroketten.” Or “I probably danced a whole Kroket away when Ajax beat Feyenoord.”

    For the record, those backward towns are not banning bikes from the city center, they’re banning cycling and bike parking from city centers. I’m sure one will still be allowed to walk their bike to the bike shop or home, as long as they don’t dare park it there. You see, we’re talking about Brabant and Limburg in the south of the Netherlands. It’s different there. Zeeland, the other southern province is the one pushing for helmet laws for cyclists.

    I’m not sure how the video is being used but I imagine it is or will be on TV during the commercials. That’s where I’ve seen other similar videos.

  10. Todd Edelman Says:

    Thanks for the kroket info.

  11. ed Says:

    Some thoughts on teens and cycling from Rotterdam (where I run the ‘Doe-het-zelf Werkplaats’, a free/donations-based bicycle workshop, see the link for info):

    Having a (working, cool looking) bicycle seems to be status symbol among lots of teen groups. There’s also a very practical aspect; teens who have a bicycle have an easier time travelling to soccer practice and distributing newspapers and advertisement-mail.

    A lot of neighbourhood kids frequent the workshop to fix their bikes, which generally break due to “improper” use (stunting, lots of friends/too much weight on the rear rack) and inferior quality (cheap bikes, hand-me-downs that were never cared for). This leads to a lot of frustration that kids have with their bicycles.

  12. Frits B Says:

    NRC Handelsblad today has an article “Fietsen wordt zeker zo lastig als autorijden” reporting on a conference at Delft University dealing with bicycle theft, and as a sideline, the growing problem of bicycle parking. A topic already hinted at by Marc from Amsterdamize. Can’t find the article on NRC’s website yet but it is an interesting read. Bicycles losing their absolute freedom on the streets because of their unmanageable numbers.

  13. gwadzilla Says:

    I love that list…

    too bad common sense is not so common

  14. feddo Says:

    Very interesting, especially details about front fender rust, etc.

    Use/remove at will, Henry….

  15. feddo Says:

    Just noticed that the pic in the place of the videoplayer is not even en Azor bakfiets, but a Fietsfabriek one….. I highly doubt the quality is the same as the Azor one.

Leave a Reply