It’s that frosty time of year again and Amsterdam has been hit with more than a generous dusting of snow! From Friday to Monday, winter’s magic descended upon the city and disrupted travel across the country. Up and onwards, Amsterdammers cycled on, showing that neither rain nor wind nor snow will keep us off our bikes!
Anoma is a working mum and Creative Producer who landed in Amsterdam with her family after living in London and New York. When she isn’t exploring other corners of the globe, you can find her cycling around the city, often with her two silly, adorable kids in tow. I met up with all three of them along the canals to chat about raising a family in our bike-friendly city.
How did you and your family end up Amsterdam? We’ve been here for nearly three years now and time has flown by in such a good way! We have hosted so many of our friends and family from around the world, introducing a lot of them to Amsterdam. My husband, Damian’s work brought us over for a period of time and then we decided to stay for a bit longer. We lived in Brooklyn, NY for many years before this chapter and have a deep-rooted love for New York. Amsterdam has been a healthy and fun place to live.I’m a nature loving city women, so Amsterdam is a great place to live in and raise a family. I don’t compare the cities, as we live different chapters of our lives in different places.
Tell us a bit about your family and how you make the most of Amsterdam’s bike-friendly lifestyle. We love cycling together here! They love it less when it’s raining. Sometimes, we drive and Damian has a motorbike, but my go-to choice is always to cycle first. We never got a bakfiets because I like to take up as least amount of space when moving.
Isa is five years old and she has just conquered learning to ride her own bike. It’s such a prideful moment for her and us! Etienne is eight years old and learned to ride a bicycle quite early on while we were living in Brooklyn. He has a BMX and he wants to do tricks all the time, he also loves skateboarding. The kids enjoy going to the skate park on Olympiaplein. We also have a big dog named Lake, who wants to be out and about with us at all times, but she is a bit slow when running alongside the bike, and I like moving fast.
For us, the kids are a bit too young to cycle alone at this point, but it’s great to see so many children independently cycling to and from school. The bike rules the road and nearly all drivers drive with that in mind.
How does cycling fit into your daily commute as a working mom?
My life in Amsterdam involves the bike, rain or shine (or rain and rain!). I do most everything on my bike and ride super fast from place to place. In the morning, I head to meetings, yoga or my studio to get some computer time in before squeezing in another meeting. As a Creative Director, I share a studio space with a film director in the Jordaan, which is not only centrally located but also a wonderful bike ride! Of course, there are challenges such as trying to look presentable for a client meeting when it’s a 20-minute cycle and dumping down with rain. That can be a bummer, any day.
In the afternoons, I ride quickly to the grocer to grab food and usually end up getting way more than I actually can fit into the bike basket. Then, I head off to school to get the kids and we go park for more wheels and playtime and walk the dog.
Do you have a favorite area to cycle through?
Anywhere at night, when the sky is clear, is stunning! I try to cycle through the Rijksmuseum tunnel as often as possible, as it’s magical! I don’t scream at the tourists, instead, I ding my loud, happy sounding bell, and say, “Look Up” nicely.
How does cycling contribute to your life?
There are moments when I am really grumpy or pissed off about something and then, after seven minutes of riding my bike, I start feeling absolutely happy and energized! Cycling allows me to shake off all the internal negativity, it’s that simple.
Interview and photography by Lily Heaton
Amsterdammers are so very happy to see winter behind them. The days are now longer, brighter, and we can wear less clothing. That’s always a good thing!
At Amsterdam Cycle Chic, we are constantly taking photos and we end up blogging or gramming only a handful. So we thought we’d give you a purge of our winter collection. Enjoy!
Happy New Year!
2016 was a wonderful year of bicycling in Amsterdam and we can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store.
This year Amsterdam Cycle Chic is celebrating our 5th year. We want to specially thank you, all our followers, for inspiring us to keep sharing the Amsterdam love for cycling.
Are you following us on Instagram yet? Last year we had 214 posts and over 34,000 likes from over 5,000 followers!
Check out our top 9 posts of the year!
We were lucky enough to take a ride and have a coffee with esteemed Professor, lecturer, and researcher Ruth Oldenziel, co-author of the latest and greatest book “Cycling Cities: The European Experience.” It’s 200 pages are carefully researched and thoughtfully describe how cycling came to be (or not so much) in several European cities – with Dutch cities as a backbone story of cycling decline, automobility, then incremental change towards what are now urban cycling “success stories.” Of course every city has its own story, culture, and responses to change, and this work delves into those stories from 14 cities in 9 countries. From Budapest’s bicycling revival to Manchester’s “standstill”; Lyon’s corporate enterprise to innovations in Malmö – we can read about diverse trajectories in urban cycling but all with the same goal: to get more people on bikes. Ruth tells us more…
RO: I was in NYC in 2009 – the year that marked the 400-year anniversary between New York and Amsterdam. I was going to give a speech and then take a group ride down the Hudson. I rode up to the venue on my Batavus granny bike with high heels and they just looked at me like, what are you thinking? Everyone was wearing Lycra and riding fancy bikes with helmets. I didn’t have any of that stuff, so they didn’t let me go on the ride! I was shocked. But what was interesting was that we were both shocked – at each other’s cycling cultures. I couldn’t explain it to them; I couldn’t explain why I was on this type of bike and why it was ok that I was wearing everyday clothes and high-heels while biking. I couldn’t explain Dutch culture around cycling. That was when the first thoughts about this book started.
ACC: Are there other books like this?
RO: Not really, no. In 1999 a book [by the co-authors] was published in Dutch, called “Fietsverkeer” (or bicycle traffic). And in it was a graph showing cycling levels across several European cities. The graph became quite famous, but because the book was only in Dutch it didn’t take off in the same way. So one of our goals was to translate the book and incorporate the most relevant research in the new book – and update the graph. The other main goal was to create a narrative through lots of images and graphics in order to make is as accessible as possible to everyone – policymakers, advocates, the everyday reader.
ACC: What surprised you most during the research for this book?
RO: When we looked at the cycling data – the numbers – it varied so much. Especially within the Netherlands. Variety suggests that the Dutch are not special people when it comes to cycling – really, it was just a perfect storm of events that lead to this “success story” – if you can call it that. Factors like the car coming a bit later, mediocre public transport systems, the oil crisis, and the social movements of the 70s – all these events came together and created a perfect storm for cycling.
ACC: Is there another city’s story that sticks out in your mind?
RO: Basel is an interesting case. The percentage of trips by bike hasn’t changed in decades. Everything is done so well there – the highways are pristine, the historic city centre is car-free and walking is a high priority, public transit is flawless, efficient and affordable, and bicycle infrastructure is also good. All these modes compete, so one is not really better than another. That makes it difficult for the city to push forward the bicycle share. Biking there is nice, but no where near as fun as in Amsterdam.
ACC: What’s your favourite thing about cycling in Amsterdam?
RO: I love the Weesperzijde (where we are now). Not only have I lived here a long time – I was born and raised in Amsterdam – but I love that this street has no cycling infrastructure and yet it’s a preferred route to and from the city centre. And of course it is – look around, it’s just beautiful.
ACC: Tell me about this bike of yours.
RO: I’ve always had 2nd-hand bikes, but this is my lucky bike. I’m a klutz with bike keys, always losing them. I can’t even tell you how many bike keys I’ve lost – it’s pathetic. I’ve had this bike for six years and never lost the keys!
For more information and to purchase her book, see the website: www.cyclingcities.info
After visiting Amsterdam a few times as a tourist, I came back in 2009 to work as an au pair for a year. That’s when I first learned how to ride a bakfiets! Through the ups and downs, something kept pulling me back to Amsterdam…many adventures and one master’s degree later, I’m still here, cycling around the city on the same yellow bike.
What’s the story behind your colorful bike?
I love that the Dutch cycle as part of their every-day routine and suspected it would become a passion of mine too. So, I figured that a sturdy Dutch bike would be a smart investment and a fun souvenir of my time in Amsterdam. It was winter time when I first arrived and the bright yellow reminded me of the sunshine I desperately missed back home in Orlando.
So far, I’ve encountered plenty of adventures with my trusty omafiets but funny enough, she never made it back to Florida permanently and neither did I! At first, I added various colorful, flowery accessories but everything was stolen over time. Now I keep it simple with a colorful bell, flowery panniers and of course, a huge lock.
How do you find living in Amsterdam?
I absolutely love Amsterdam! My expat chapter became longer than expected but now that I’ve completed my master’s degree, finished Dutch integration and launched my freelance creative business, it’s really feeling more like home.
Name three things you love and one thing you loathe about cycling in Amsterdam:
- The convenience! Getting around the city center is faster by bike and fortunately, safe too.
- The scenery! Nothing beats cruising along the historic canals on a quiet evening or passing over the Amstel with a warm breeze in my hair.
- The weather! Let’s be honest, it’s never fun to get pummeled by hail, blown over by wind or caught up in a surprise rainstorm (Confession: I eventually gave in and purchased that typical HEMA rain suit out of necessity).
Why did you want to join the Amsterdam Cycle Chic team?
Amsterdam is a utopia for everyday cycling and while living here, I’ve adapted to doing as much as I can by bike. Growing up, I loved riding my bike but unfortunately, Florida doesn’t have the safe, organized cycling culture that we’re so lucky to enjoy here in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam Cycle Chic showcases the city’s bike friendly initiative offering a view of how convenient and fabulous everyday biking can be! I hope other cities are able to learn from Amsterdam and offer both safety and scenery for everyday cyclists in the future. Plus, I’m often snapping photos around the city to share on Instagram and my travel blog so, joining the ACC team is a perfect fit.
I always love a trip to the other cycling capital of the world – Copenhagen. While leading a urban cycling study tour, I was able to spend 10 days in the city, exploring many new streets, restaurants, and bike bridges. But there’s never enough time, right?
I noticed many differences between the Dutch and Danish bike culture. For example, the Danes, it seems, tend to take care of their bikes – I don’t think I ever saw one rusty old bike with barely any air in the tires. The bikes in Copenhagen are clean, shiny, and well-maintained. The Danes also ride much faster than the Dutch. Biking in this city means business – a serious trek from A to B. No messing around and no chit chat. There were even signs all over the city saying “Keep to the right and look over your shoulder if you want to overtake.” Wow! Yes, sir. Nevertheless, it’s still great fun to cycle in this city. Here’s our top 4 reasons we love Copenhagen.
1) The city is a magnet for gorgeous people. Seriously, gorgeous people. With impeccable style. People-watching is taken to a whole new level here. Anywhere you go, at any time of day, people take care to look effortlessly stunning. It’s like, “Oh this rag? I just woke up and grabbed the first thing I could. It’s nothing, really.”
2)Food is incredible. The Danes know how to eat well. Every meal I had was designed with such care and attention to detail. Fresh fish, heirloom vegetables, perfect sauces, poached asparagus – all was delicious. Favourite restaurants included: Vespa, Madklubben, Marv og Ben, any vendor at the Torvehallerne or Copenhagen Street Food, and Nose to Tail.
4) Danish details. I love biking in this city for all the little details, like angled trash cans and foot rests for cyclists. The lovely Cycle Snake bridge that seamlessly flows through the urban fabric. How nice and civilised! They don’t call it Danish Design for nothing.
I love seeing old photos and footage from back in the day. The Eye has a great collection of these old films and this one caught my attention.
A little history lesson: this was when about 80% of all trips were made by bike. Now about 60% of all trips are made by bicycle in the city center. Amazing right?
And look at the people. So simply chic with their hats and jackets. Sitting upright on their oh-so-Dutch bikes. Love it.
Best wishes for 2016!
2015 was a great year. As an ode to all the fantastic shots our team captured in 2015 and all our loyal followers, we’ve put together a short list of the top 5 things to look forward to this year in Amsterdam – doubled up with our most popular blog and Instagram posts of 2015.
1. Several days (at least) of non-stop sun sometime between March 23 and September 17. Otherwise, don’t forget to smile while you squint and bear the rainy weather.
2. Doubling up with a lover (or a stranger). The best part about getting around in this city is pairing up – on one bike is cozy, but side-by-side works just as well. Our cyclists of the month from February love doubling!
4. Spotting adorable children and their (stylish) mamas. This black and white made waves on Facebook and Instagram. And photos of our own Aude (who now has two little ones) was the most-seen post of the year!
5. Discovering a new favorite corner in this fantastic city. By bike, of course! Maybe a new cafe or a nice view – where ever it is, let it be all yours.
A huge thanks to all our readers and followers this year! We are grateful for your loyalty and we wouldn’t still be around if it wasn’t for you. From all of us at Amsterdam Cycle Chic, happy new year!
Grab your bike and your love and head out to your favorite vista for tonight’s sunset. It’s bound to be a good one.