Cycle Chic Spotlight: Author Pete Jordan
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