As an Amsterdammer visiting the northern Spanish town of San Sebastian over the weekend I was amazed at the abundance of bikers throughout their small city. Many locals and also visitors to this beautiful beach town sported their wheels and even zoomed along the sand! As the town has 3 beaches the best way to travel to each is by their beachside bike lanes….go San Sebastian for having the number one way to work off those delicious pintxos!
Biking doesn’t always need to be a solo venture. So grab a pal and take them along with you on the back “baggage drager” style, mentor your little one or simply walk back from adventures side by side with your royal steed and best friend.
Because cycling is a way of living here, bikes are used for all purposes. So if you need to deliver several cartons or a huge amount of dresses, you just climb on your bike and look concentrated, or not !
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!