Archive for the ‘Practical cycling’ Category

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!)

Onderwater triplet tandem… decorated

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

onderwater family triplet planted

It takes some cojones to give your brand new €2000 family triplet tandem a spray can paint job and then cover it in cheesy plastic flora… but the results are certainly unique and effective.

onderwater double tandem planted

Why does the Amsterdammer do such a thing? Simple: Making it crazy and unique wards off thieves. Your bike is critical to getting around but at the same time not an object of obsession. The same family has ridden a similarly decorated Bakfiets Cargobike for years, probably appearing in thousands of holiday photos and blogs as a result. Now the kids are older and it’s time for them to contribute some locomotive force.

astroturf cargobike

Thanks to the kind WorkCycles customer for stopping by with the bike.

In case you want a more subtle way to make your bike undesirable to thieves you can also check out WorkCycles High-Tech Antitheft Bicycle Spray.

Eddy’s galvanized Fr8 again

Monday, June 15th, 2009


Eddy de Bruyn’s WorkCycles Fr8 (pronounced “freight”) and his son Jimmy have graced these pages before. But now Eddy’s bike sports a child’s saddle and footrests behind the handlebar so Jimmy can sit between papa’s arms. Both “gezellig” and “stoer”!

Slapen in de bak

Monday, June 15th, 2009
Jimmy sleeping in the Cargobike box

Jimmy sleeping in the Cargobike box

Some time ago I posted a photo of a child sleeping on the bench of a Bakfiets Cargobike. Here customer Jimmy de Bruyn in Amsterdam naps in the Cargobike box amongst the day’s picnic gear. Yeah, there’s a lot of space in there.

Development of curvilinear, polymer, anti-precipitation shielding systems for biped powered two and three wheeled vehicles

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

bicycle rain canopy

A while back I wrote this post about Bicycle rain protection, showing a new bicycle rain canopy from France. While perhaps effective it just seems a tad bit overkill, not to mention nerdy as hell. I mean, how often do you actually ride in the rain? Here in Holland there’s an expression “Je bent niet van suiker.”, roughly translating to “Quit yer whining and just ride yer bike”. Here we see that the Dutch indeed don’t make much fuss about some water drops falling on your head. See: Dutch ride in rain. Germans are sugar.

Dutch Bike with Rain Visor, originally uploaded by Dapper Lad Cycles.

Nonetheless some people are clearly charmed by the above contraption and have even mounted it on our bicycles, knowing full well that it might incite my critical wrath. My evaluation?… “Dorktastique”

Amazingly Veltop has not been alone in pursuing this avenue. Last weekend I visited the Spezi Rad Messe (means “dorks and their insane bike inventions” in German) and happened across these people reinventing the wheel:

folding bike with rain protection canopy

In the case of this gentleman’s creation not only does the canopy fold up, but also the bicycle. It remains unclear why one would fold a 40kg electric bicycle, though. Certainly not to fit it into a car, given the text “one fewer unnecessarily large automobile” printed at the bottom of the canopy. Perhaps not, but one more unnecessarily large rain canopy

folding chair recumbent notebook bike

das notebok under der drieradern

This trike is also headed down the same slippery path, with a similar looking rain shield offered as an option on his “Das “Notebook” unter den Dreirädern” (means “I have much more spare time than sense”)

But wait. That’s not all. This creative soul thought to add it to their single passenger recumbent rickshaw. Single passenger recumbent rickshaw? Why not just take them on the rear carrier of a regular bike? Hello? Must you people always think of the most complex possible solution to a simple problem?

zox one person recumbent rickshaw

By the way, the scooter world has been plagued by these things as well:
BMW C1 Scooter

Dutch ride in rain. Germans are sugar.

Thursday, February 5th, 2009


Photo by “AmsterDame

According to the Fietsersbond (Dutch cyclist’s union) only 18% of Dutch will be deterred from cycling by rain and that makes them real bad weather cyclists. “Surely in comparison with the Germans. They are of sugar since at least 40% leave their bike in the shed with the appearance of a rain cloud. The Danish are somewhat tougher, there 25% let the bike stand in bad weather.”

Of the Dutch about 63% sit on a bicycle at least three times per week. Amongst the Germans and Danes that is 45%. A third of the Dutch cycle 10 to 20 kilometers per week. The Germans ride slightly less distance but more than the Danes.

No sources are given for the study but I found it in print so it must be true.

Some Americans do “get it”

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

jill keto rides her workcycles omafiets with style

If the rather unglamorous background of a Ford Econoline box van with Washington state license plate didn’t give her location away you’d think Jill Keto was in Amsterdam or Copenhagen. WorkCycles Omafiets: check. Personalized with red fenders, basket and flowers: check. Stylishly dressed in heels, skirt and scarf: check. Mobile phone glued to ear: check. Child seat on the rear carrier: check. See Working Girl’s tips for Saving Money.

Her blog Practical Chic (“chic” rhymes with “geek”) and book “Don’t Get Caught With Your Skirt Down” aren’t about Dutch bikes; It’s about living well on a budget, something a lot of people, especially Americans are thinking about right now.

And Jill has a (funny) video about her visit to Dutch Bike Seattle.

Jill and those who think along these lines will get more people on bikes than all the “hairshirt green” martyrs in the world.

Thanks to the tip from Stephan from Dutch Bike Chicago.

Cambridge Talk: Bicycle Planning in the Netherlands

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Bicycle Planning in the Netherlands
Thursday Nov. 20, 7:00 – 9:00 pm

by Hans Voerknecht, International Coordinator of the Dutch Bicycle Council

At LivableStreets, 100 Sidney Street, Central Square, Cambridge, MA, USA

Free and open to the public, donation suggested beer/sodas provided compliments of Harpoon Brewery! Note: FREE BEER!

Simply copied from the Livable Streets site to promote their event, which vaguely promotes my goal of promoting utility cycling, Dutch style.

Learn about bicycle planning in the Netherlands from the International Coordinator of the Dutch Bicycle Council (Fietsberaad).

The Dutch rely ever more on the humble bike for transport as pollution concerns and high petrol prices give new impetus to traditional pedal power in the only country with more bicycles than people. The Netherlands, home to just over 16.3 million people, actually boasts some 18 million bicycles– 1.1 bikes per person.

Not even the wet climate seems able to put a spoke in the wheels of the Dutch, who weave through city traffic shrouded in plastic on rainy days, transporting anything from pets and children to groceries, musical instruments and plants on their bikes. Many a parent can be seen negotiating traffic with a child secured to each end of a bicycle with shopping bags and even a briefcase secured to the sides.

This event is cosponsored by LivableStreets Alliance and MassBike. Many thanks to Anne Lusk and the Harvard School of Public Health for bringing Hans to Boston.

I hope some Boston area WorkCycles / Azor / Bakfiets/ Dutch bike riders will attend and proudly show off their fine machines! I’d love to hear how it went. Thanks!

Sleeping on het “bakfietsbankje”

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008


I can’t remember where this adorable photo of a child sleeping on the bench of a Bakfiets Cargobike Short from WorkCycles came from but its just too nice not to share. I hope nobody minds.

Cycling in Amsterdam is…

Sunday, May 18th, 2008


Cycling in Amsterdam, that is on Sunday morning along empty streets to the city center, falling on a slippery bridge, €30 fine for cycling on the sidewalk, moms with bakfietsen, regardless bakfietsen, and childless neighbors complaining about bakfietsen.

Cycling in Amsterdam is a citation from the Fodor’s Amsterdam travel guide: “If you weave on the bike or regularly stop to take photos, care stay out of the way of the locals who use these paths to get to work on time.”

Cycling in Amsterdam is 11,500 engraved bikes en 33,905 bikes checked on the street, of which 255 are known to be stolen by the police.

Is designer bicycle stores, and a toothless junkie who, for €10, “sells” an old wreck.

Cycling in Amsterdam is a white matter, and therefore reason for the Amsterdam Office Traffic & Transport Service to ask itself: “Is cycling for cheese-heads?” And: “Do highly educated foreigners, in fact, cycle?”

Is 50,000 bicycle thefts per year, and 27% bothering to report the crime.

Cycling in Amsterdam is the Multiple Year Bicycle Plan 2007-2010 for which a budget of €69.3 million is estimated.

It is also: 550,000 bicycles, on average 5 accident deaths and between 325 and 600 wounded cyclists per year, a bike network with a length of 400 kilometers, 8 manned bike parking garages and one multilevel bike parking structure by Central Station.

Excuses for the repetition but I’m just translating here: These are titles from a recent photo series in the Volkskrant magazine.

All in all it paints a pretty accurate picture of my world of bikes from the locals perspective. My first thoughts:

  • Those junkies approach us regularly with whispers of “fiets te koop” (bike for sale).
  • Educated foreigners definitely cycle, probably as much as “cheese-heads”.
    Lower income/education level foreigners mostly don’t cycle and what can be done to change that is a constant discussion in the press.
  • Its not clear whether only 27% of the 50,000 bike thefts are reported to the police or the the 27% that are reported total 50,000. In any case a lot of bicycles get stolen and its widely regarded as just a fact of of like taxes and death.
  • The major cross-street near my house is a giant construction site. The street and tram line were in fine condition by most standards but had wide car lanes and no separated bicycle path. As a result auto traffic traveled quite fast here. It was decided to rebuild about 2km of this street to incorporate separated bike paths and tram tracks. Auto traffic will run through narrow, single-lane chicanes on either side. This street project alone will probably cost more than the entire cycling infrastructure budgets of most big cities. It sucks to drive here and that makes me happy except for the rare occasion I get stuck in a car myself.
  • Of course that five deaths per year should be zero but five is still a remarkably small number for a city where about 500,000 people ride (or passenger) on a bicycle daily, almost none of whom ever wear a helmet and most of whom largely ignore traffic signals.