Archive for the ‘Bike Friendly Cities’ Category

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!

This is Amsterdam and This is My Bike!

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

A little bit of bike rap courtesy of the City of Amsterdam who is finally waking up to the fact that bicycles are one of the Netherlands greatest attractions and one of the strongest reasons it’s just such a darn lovely, peaceful place to visit or live. The incredible cycling mode share enables very high population density without the typical urban noise, danger and stress. Much of the 17th and 18th century city remains not as a museum but as a living, breathing, charming city as the city was once defined: a place for people. We love riding our bikes here… with our kids, dogs, SO’s, to work, to the pub, to school or just for the sake of riding!

A Trip to Limburg

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Hoeve de Schoor in Baexem, Netherlands

This past weekend we took our first little holiday as a family of four. We loaded the kids into their safety certified car seats in a rental Renault and headed south. Despite the documented danger of driving automobiles we chose not to wear helmets. First stop was our friends’ wedding party at a tranquil old (“old” as in dating to at least the mid 1300’s) farm complex in Leudal township in Limburg, the southernmost province of the Netherlands. The farm, called Hoeve de Schoor, was very similar in format to some old farms I know in France; a continuous ring of buildings forming a sort of walled complex with an inner courtyard. One or more of the buildings are residences for the family, workers and guests and the others are for the farm: barns, storage areas, workshop and so forth. As is typical with these places the encroaching nature combined with the “patina” of curvy thatched roofs, wood- and stonework rounded and polished by hundreds of years of feet and hands is utterly charming and relaxing.

Volvo introduces helmet to protect against Volvos

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Volvo XC90 Ocean Race

In News & Events on the Dutch Volvo website:

Bij Volvo staat veiligheid voorop. Niet alleen van de mensen in een Volvo, maar ook van iedereen eromheen. Daarom introduceren we nu de POCito: de Volvo onder de kinderfietshelmen.

Translation: At Volvo safety comes first. Not only for the people in a Volvo, but also of everyone around it. Therefore we now introduce the POCito: the Volvo amongst the children’s bike helmets.

Am I being simplistic in seeing this as essentially the same as Smith & Wesson introducing and promoting children’s bulletproof vests to protect them from the guns they make?

Promoting Cycling Dutch Style

Monday, April 12th, 2010

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 über-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!)

Close Encounters of the Amsterdam Police Kind

Friday, March 26th, 2010


My occasional encounters with police have generally been rather strange. I suppose it must be very strange to have a job that puts you in constant contact with some of the worst things happening in the city at any given moment. Do cops just lump the whole world into criminals and victims, and trust nobody in the process?

I’m musing about cops because I had a strange experience while cycling through the city Sunday afternoon. I was waiting with a couple other cyclists and couple cars for a light to change at a wide intersection. The pedestrian signals in the direction I was headed turned to “walk” and the coast was very obviously clear. I rolled through the intersection, thinking I’d already behaved “better” than a cyclist would typically do in such a situation here. Everybody knows that cyclists in Amsterdam generally proceed with caution but ignore traffic signals. One waits only when it’s either unsafe or the police are watching. Like it or not, that’s the practice.

I suppose it would have been wise to have first looked around before proceeding to see who was watching. Thirty seconds after crossing the intersection without incident or inconvenience a police car pulls up to my left, window rolled down. The two agents in the car look at me as if I have “Cops are Dicks” written in bold letters across my back and motion for me to stop and talk. They don’t get out of their car nor do they want to see my ID or anything official. The driver, obviously angry, leans over and asks some pointed, rhetorical question to the tune of “what the heck was that, asshole?!”. The female agent in the passenger’s seat is giving me that “Yeah, duhhhh!” look… though I was thinking approximately the same in reverse.

I’m no genius but I can put two and two together; It’s pretty obvious he’s referring to my riding through a red light a few meters back. A quick assessment of the situation suggests that admitting guilt and feigning embarrassment is my best approach. But the cop continues before I’ve had a chance to test my acting skills: “How do you think it makes us feel when you ride through red and everybody giggles and looks to see what we’ll do? You show no respect!” They don’t seem to have a problem with a cyclist breaking the law. The problem is that I did it in front of a police car. Oh, now how do I react? I can’t exactly say “Sorry officer, had I seen that you were there I wouldn’t have continued.” Likewise, admitting guilt to jumping a red light is a pointless since he’s already noted that it’s accepted.

A couple moments later they still hadn’t stepped out of their car so I figured they’d no intention of giving me a ticket or fine unless I did something stupid. I played it safe, sticking to “Yes, that was dumb of me.” and “I see your point… Understood.” Then they drove away, apparently satisfied that they’d made their point.

Lesson learned: Only run red lights in Amsterdam when the police can conveniently ignore it.

“Bicycle Mania”… Great book about Dutch cycling

Monday, January 18th, 2010


Every fan and promoter of urban cycling simply needs a copy of Shirley Agudo’s “Bicycle Mania”. You can regard it as a photo book, with probably the best collection of Dutch cycling photos ever assembled. Even as an Amsterdam resident and amateur(ish) photographer I marvel at the shots in these pages. Have a peek at a few examples here at the Eduard Planting gallery.

Copenhagen-Amsterdam War in the VogelVrije Fietser

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

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!

Finally: A Real Winter in Amsterdam

Friday, January 8th, 2010


The last few winters have been pretty wimpy; hardly any snow and not even particularly cold. Actually that’s not entirely true since there’s nothing more bone chilling than a rainy, windy day just above the freezing point. The Dutch call it “waterkoud” meaning “water cold”, though it doesn’t prevent them from cycling like their water soluble cycling neighbors.

This winter began in November. It rained for weeks and weeks and weeks, right through much of December. It was apparently the rainiest November since the Golden Age… or something like that. Fortunately we were in Japan enjoying perfect weather. Then in late December it got colder and the rain turned to snow. Of course we’re talking about Amsterdam here so it’s never very much snow, but at least it’s been snowing regularly and the snow’s been sticking around for long enough to have some winter wonderland. Cycling in the snow is fun, especially in a city where the distances are short and you can largely avoid cars. I’ve always loved the quietness and lightness of a snowy city, I assume the result of the snow absorbing sound and reflecting light far better than most of what’s under the snow.

This afternoon poked my camera out the door to snap the above picture. Good thing those bikes aren’t spring flowers but no takers for a bakfiets rental this evening?

Paul Steely White again

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Yeah, I feel like I’m becoming Paul’s repost bitch here but this one is too good not to add. Check out the director of New York’s Transportation Alternatives riding his WorkCycles Opafiets around my beautiful hometown explaining how the conversion of New York from car-centric to human-centric will simply benefit everyone… or at least the vast majority of people. Against all odds they’re making great progress there. Beautifully filmed, eloquently spoken and plain old positive. Paul even manages to wear a helmet without looking like a dork. Thanks for the hard work TA!

ps: What happened to your bike’s chaincase Paul?