It’s official: Spring is in the air! My favorite day of the year. The first really nice day that you don’t need gloves or wool socks.
Lovely 17-degree sunny weather brought all of Amsterdam to the Vondel Park for some much-deserved sun-on-skin action. Ahhhh doesn’t it feel so good. The park was full of people and their bikes thrown anywhere. It’s like as soon as they got to a sufficiently grassy and sunny spot–the kickstands came down, pants rolled up, and blankets strewn. Dust off those sunglasses (or just squint like a real Amsterdammer) and pop the prosecco, because spring is here.
Last weekend I went to the Ij Hallen flea market over in Noord. Have you been? It’s fun to check out all the funky stuff people are selling–and of course to people watch. Hipster mania! But all types of people, too. Old and young, local and foreign, it doesn’t matter.
My favorite parts of the journey are waiting for the ferry to get there, and waiting for the ferry to go back. Then you get to see all the cool stuff people picked up — often tied to their bike in creative ways. I always end up saying to myself “What!? How did I not see that!” Ugh, next time. Next time.
I am lucky that the social enterprise JO Cadeau that I founded has its headquarters (and to be honest, only quarters) in this amazing building by Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck. It is an anti-squat arrangement; you pay very little and rent a space in a building that would otherwise be empty or occupied by squatters. It is great. It is in the city centre, in the old Jewish neighbourhood. The only disadvantage is that you can suddenly be ‘kicked out’ when the building is sold.
For lunch I love to go out to get some bread and nice Dutch cheeses that we eat all together (interns, freelancers and ourselves) in our office. When outside, I look at the cyclists. It is a diverse scenery at the Plantage Middenlaan. Check it out:
One thing I love about cycling in Amsterdam is the elegant chaos on the fietspad. Check out how nice and neat these people look while waiting for the light to change! Have you ever seen this? This looks more like Copenhagen, whereas Amsterdam stop lights are often a bit more chaotic. There’s always that one person who squeezes in the usual two-bike queue!
Where could this lady be going or coming from in this kind of weather? I could only guess the driving range … or she found a good deal on a couple clubs. Where is the nearest golf course or driving range?! Certainly not anywhere near the corner of Stadhouderskade and Van Woustraat!
On a Saturday afternoon at StarBikes, I met up with Pete Jordan, author of In The City of Bikes, to talk about his book, Amsterdam, and of course, cycling. In The City of Bikes is a memoir-like historical fact book telling the story of Amsterdam’s cycling history and culture. It takes you back to the 1890s, through the Nazi occupation, and to the city still filled with bikes we know today.
How long have you been in Amsterdam?
I came to Amsterdam in 2002 to take a one-semester-long urban planning course. 11 years, 8 apartments, and 4 bikes later, I’m still here. I blame the bikes.
Your book is all about the history of cycling in Amsterdam. What’s your favorite bit of history?
I found the war years (WWII) incredibly interesting. Amsterdammers showed a massive amount of resistance to the Germans. And it was something everyone could do: lolly-gag on their bikes in front of an impatient, waiting, honking German car.
What was the inspiration behind the book?
I was enthralled by all the cyclists from day I arrived in Amsterdam and I started asking around for books about it. To my surprise, I found nothing. Cycling is so normal in this city that no one has bothered to write a book about the topic!
And the best or worst thing about cycling in Amsterdam?
I’m still amazing that it keeps growing! Look at the Haarlemmerstraat, the best street in Amsterdam. You’d think all the cyclists going every which way would cause complete chaos–but in fact, it works. My least favorite is tied between the tourists and scooters. Yesterday I saw 2 tourists collide in front of the Rijksmuseum. It’s comical, but also just dangerous.
Any other plans with the book? A sequel? A photo exhibit?
The Dutch version of the book, De Fietsrepubliek, has an excellent photo section unlike the English version. I’m planning to extend the gallery into a book on its own. Now the website is also up and running, and I also offer private tours based on the book. And I’m working on a guide book for cycling tourists that will be out next year.
What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
A while ago, I started collecting all these loose, often broken bike parts from all over the city. In no time at all, I had almost every piece I needed for a whole bike. I wanted to put all the pieces together, but then I realized: a bike made from broken parts is just a broken bike. So I threw them all away.
For more information about Pete Jordan, his tours, and In The City of Bikes, head to www.cityofbikes.com
Have you been to Berlin? Wow, what a city. This weekend I was super impressed with the numbers of cyclists their chic style.
Though the cities are very different, Berliners and Amsterdammers have quite a lot in common when it comes to cycling, also a few new things to learn! So if you’re in Berlin, here’s how to cycle chic. Check it out:
PS. Berlin has their own cycle chic blog, check them out here!
Born in Afganistan in the 80’s, Massy and his family moved to the Netherlands more than 20 years ago. As a child he discovered the Dutch culture, he learned to cycle straight away and felt in love with this way of moving around. He likes the feeling of being independent on his bike, to be free to go everywhere and to breathe the fresh air.. He never went back to Afghanistan but he is pretty sure the bicycle is not as popular as it is here !
Massy is living in Utrecht. A few months ago, a friend inspired him to start a new business. His friend was selling ice creams on his delivery bike.
He couldn’t stop thinking this idea was very good and would be much appreciated by all the Amsterdammers !
So he just started with one of his mates a new company on wheels : bikeexpress.nl (site still under construction)
They have 2 ice cream delivery bikes, one is mostly cycling in Amsterdam North, while the other one goes around Amsterdam East. They offer our most beloved flavors : vanilla (in pole position !) strawberry and chocolate, or pistache, or lemon, etc
Massy loves selling ice creams. The reason is very simple: he is happy to make people smile. It is related to what makes him happy in life : « to help people in every way I can help ». He is already doing so since a long time as he has worked many years for Amnesty International and other NGOs. He also initiated this nice project ofoundation.nl. Massy’s dream is « to have a positive influence in the development of the human kind ».
I was happy to meet Massy and to taste his delicious ice creams while enjoying the Oosterpark with my little baby.
Let’s see what he will offer us in the winter : broodjes, soup ?
Giraffes cycling in the city, finally a good illustration of what we call ‘urban jungle’, don’t you think?
The Dutch take picnicking to a whole new level. Once the sun comes out, it’s like entire kitchens are brought to the park! And the best way to get to the park is of course by bike! The Vondelpark was packed with picnickers this weekend. Where were you picnicking this weekend?
by Aude and Willem
Yesterday was a whirlwind of parties all over the city and what was the best way to get there? By bike of course. How did you flaunt your flair on your bike? Here are six ways some Amsterdammers showed their orange pride.
Hey! Where are you going with that leek?! Come to my house and cook! Where ever this handsome chap is heading, looks like he’ll be sharing a lovely meal.
Any groceries in your bike basket today?
PS. Thanks to Joni for snapping up this pic!
You probably already noticed it on our blog, but to have a crate on the front of your bike is really trendy in Amsterdam! Hardly any cute baskets in the streets just cool and sturdy crates, in different colours, sometimes branded or full of stickers. What do you think of this trend?
Over the long weekend, I headed to Spain for some much-needed R&R. I found some super chic folks using Barcelona’s Bicing bike-share system. Then over in San Sebastian, great weather allowed for some smiling riders. What a fantastic city with cycle paths that rival Amsterdam’s for sure!
Please meet Vitor, a Portuguese bike fanatic who owns and runs Recycled Bicycles here in Amsterdam. He grew up in Lisbon and has been BMX riding since he could pedal a bike. I meet him at his workshop on Spuistraat one rainy day to chat about his shop and his passion for bikes.
How did you end up here in Amsterdam?
I came here for a visit in the early 90s and loved the cycling culture. In ’96 a friend of mine was living here, so I crashed at his place for a month and really got to know the city. I moved here shortly after.
When did you start up Recycled Bicycles?
In around 2002, I was sick of the menial jobs I was doing at the time, tired of working for someone else too. Since I’m a BMX rider I’ve always been around bikes–I love fixing up my own bike and I was already helping out friends too. So I started up the shop to build bikes in 2003. We’ll be celebrating 10 years next month!
Where do get all the parts of the bikes?
When I opened the shop, I built all the bikes from abandoned parts on the streets.But one day, the police came knocking on my door and told me I couldn’t use the abandoned parts from the street or in the trash–that it’s illegal to go through the trash and take home parts of bikes. So now I have to buy the bikes from the Gemeente, like everyone else. I wish they had a better system for the small businesses like mine; I’m competing with so many larger businesses that have much more money.
What is the bike culture like in Lisbon?
Different from Amsterdam, but growing every day. There are many more people on bikes now–not just for exercise, they are going from A to B. One day we’ll see some fietspad in Lisbon…
Do you have other hobbies besides BMX and building bikes?
I also play bike polo. It’s a tight-knit sport right now, just a small group of us here in Amsterdam play, but it’s gaining momentum. I also want to get more into long-distance riding. I did a ride from Paris to Lisbon, and it was an epic journey. I want to do it again, but on a fixed gear bike this time.
Thank you Vitor! Keep on building those bikes.
Now there’s a chic cyclist-in-training!
But really, Amsterdam, who’s ready for spring?! I know I am.
I’m always super impressed by what Amsterdammers carry while peddling a human-powered machine. Weaving through cars, alongside trams, riding with one (or no hands!), talking on their phones, listening to music–and schlepping all kinds of stuff with them at the same time, too. In the past few months we’ve seen people on their bikes carrying planks of wood, sleds, Christmas trees, and of course their babies. And despite the terrible weather, they all make it look so easy breezy.
There are all types of baskets out there. You’ve got the classic crate in wood or plastic. The Albert Heijn winkelmandje is always a nice one to see (how do you steal a shopping basket?!). There’s the removable baskets, too. I’ve seen some nice vintage wire baskets. And the huge wicker baskets that have a handy lid, those are fantastic.
The widespread use of the bike basket, to me, is yet another reminder of how utilitarian the bicycle is for Dutch society, and really for any society. It’s not only a means of transportation; it’s a way of life. It’s so ingrained into daily life that of course (!) we use our bike to get groceries, purchase planks of wood, take our kids sledding, buy Christmas trees, and for anything else we have planned for the day. In fact, it makes no sense to do it any other way.
Do you have a great photo of a bike basket, with something crazy in it? Post it to our Facebook page, we’d love to see it!
What happened to all the snow?! I was just getting used to the slip n’ slide riding on the snowy streets. Nevertheless, the terrible wind and rain didn’t stop any Amsterdammers today. It’s almost like nothing can stop these people from riding their bikes!
It’s never too late to go out there on your bike and get back home with the last tree from the very friendly Californian Christmas-tree-man located on Marie Heinekenplein.
Season greetings, the ACC Team.
Today our blog is 1 year old! Let’s celebrate it and choose the best picture of the year…all 4 of us (Joni, Else, Meredith and Aude) picked our 2 favorite pictures. Now it is your turn to choose your favorite one among our selection and enter the contest:
Have you made your choice? Please let us know (comment below) or on facebook.
You may be the lucky one winning this saddle cover! There are 3 saddle covers to win, we will pick randomly 3 people who shared their choice with us..so don’t miss it, you have until Friday 21st december!
Last weekend I took a ride through Amsterdam with Dr. Steven Fleming, an academic, theorist, and urban planning philosopher with a knack for cycling. His recent book Cycle Space, like his blog and twitter feed, closely inspects the relationship between architecture and cycling. He was in town for the (wildly successful) Rotterdam Urban Bike Night, hosted by the NAI.
We had a great ride from the Station to Java Eiland, to Brouwerij ‘t IJ, then around Oost, and wound up on Utrechtsestraat–at my favorite herring stand. The whole time we talked about bikes and the future of cities.
My favorite quote from him went something like this, and say it with a really thick Australian accent: “Cycling here is like a hand-me-down blanket from your Oma–it’s ancient, but you love it and you can never get rid of it!”