Margarita is a transportation planner and cycling advocate who has headed the blog Palm Beach Cycle Chic for a number of years all the way from West Palm Beach, Florida so naturally she was a great fit. Welcome to the team!
How did you end up in Amsterdam?
I’ve been to Amsterdam a couple of times before and fell in absolute love with the city and its various cultures, including of course the cycling obsession. I saw a great learning opportunity so I finally made the big jump across the pond to get a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Amsterdam focusing on bicycle mobility. Loving every minute of it.
What’s the big difference between Amsterdam and South Florida when it comes to cycling?
For one thing, cycling is still mostly seen as either a fringe subculture activity or as purely sport. It’s pretty popular for roadies and recreation, but abysmal for developing cycling as a utilitarian transportation mode. Florida continuously ranks the absolute worst in the U.S. for pedestrian and cyclist casualties, owing to decades of intense growth, land-use development policies favoring suburban lifestyles, lack of leadership, and a natural dependency on automobiles for mobility that’s hard to break because of all the above. Though it’s as flat as the Netherlands, almost all cities in Florida (especially South Florida) are night-and-day compared to Amsterdam. There are a lot of advocacy groups now and interested politicians who are interested in encouraging cycling and are devoted to developing the infrastructure changes needed to make it safer. I worked for a small city where I got to see this firsthand and pushed it through, so I’m excited to see the progress!
Were there any surprises when you started cycling in Amsterdam?
I am absolutely blown away by what people can carry on a bike here. Additionally, I am always amazed by the renegade-nature of the cyclists here, going every-which-way in direct defiance of traffic controls. Cycling is so efficient here as a transportation system that it naturally dominates. Reading about the history of Amsterdam cyclists, I definitely have an appreciation for it. The laws here also protect the most vulnerable users, which also owes to the cycling culture developing here the way it has. I hope that will start to develop in the States as well.
Tell us about your bike.
I bought this bike in Amsterdam last year, actually, and took it back to Florida with me. I’ve always loved Dutch bikes and since they are fairly rare back home, they always spur dialogue from curious people. I’m fairly short, so I wanted a smaller frame bike than the larger one I already had. So of course I brought it back to Amsterdam with me. It’s like it went on holiday to Florida for a year! I outfitted it with a front rack and some rear panniers I got for cheap so I can carry loads of stuff! I wrapped some cute battery-operated lights around the frame for pizazz and slapped some stickers on the rear fender so I can find it in the seas of parked bikes. I have 2 seat covers simultaneously on it because I don’t want a wet butt. It’s also got a wobbly front rim that nobody but me notices, but that’s part of its charm.
Klara got in touch with us a few weeks ago and we knew immediately she would be a great fit with our team. She’s been an ACC follower for years – but from her home in London. Now, she is living and working in Amsterdam. We’re thrilled to have her on board!
How did you end up in Amsterdam?
I originally moved here from London for a job, a great opportunity came up with an airline alliance and as I love travel in all forms, from two wheels to airplane wings I jumped at the chance. When I came to visit during my job interview a friend (who already lived here) picked me up to show me around the city. Immediately I was told to jump on the back of his bike. Despite my protests, it was made clear that we weren’t going anywhere unless I got on the bike. My love affair for Amsterdam and its cycling culture started right there.
So what’s the big difference between Amsterdam and London when it comes to cycling?
Cycling in London is growing and in the five years that I cycled in the city I saw a considerable change, with more people riding on the roads, investment in cycle lanes and some great initiatives starting to form. But as soon as I moved to Amsterdam I realized that it’s about more than just cycle lanes, it really is a way of life. Everyone is more relaxed, the pace is slower, and you don’t need to change into Lycra to charge across the city. I love that it starts from a very young age here, and that it’s the most inclusive form of transport, young old, rich and poor, all hop on their bike – making this city accessible to all. Who wouldn’t love that?
Was there any surprises when you started cycling in Amsterdam?
After being in London you think I would be used to the rain, but I’m not, especially when you add strong winds into the mix. My first few weeks in Amsterdam were gloriously sunny but then I learnt the hard way, although the stronger winds are great for the thighs. In Amsterdam it’s all about that perfectly timed cycle dash to the shops, that quick trip from café to home. And even when locals are caught in the rain here, they carry it off with such style and grace, whereas I still very much look like a drowned rat.
Tell us about your bike.
My bike, known to me as Betty, made the journey with me across the channel. Like me, she suffers a bit in the rain, a few rattles here and there but I think she’s holding up quite well. She’s been the best companion for exploring my new home and I hope she’ll be with me for a while. There’s nothing like discovering a new city from the cycle point of view. You have the time to soak in the sights around you and experience all that this city has to offer. The absolute best thing about cycling in Amsterdam is how close everything is, that and the wonderful people you see and experience. I’m so excited to join the team at ACC and start documenting the amazing culture and lifestyle I’m experiencing from the saddle.
Where are you from and why did you move to Amsterdam?
Im originally from the East Coast of the US and my family lives in the middle-of-no-where Mexico. For the past 5 years I was living and working in Baltimore, MD at Under Armour as an Apparel Concept Designer. This January I relocated to the European HQ in Amsterdam and have no plans of looking back. I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of the world and I can finally say ‘I’m home’.
What do you love about cycling in Amsterdam?
This is going to sound so cliche but literally, everyday I see or experience something that makes me smile, I truly can’t get enough of this city. I love the intimacy that cycling gives; you’re at life level with everything and as you whizz by you get just enough of a glimpse to see into someone’s story- Or just enough to create a new one in your head.
I also love seeing the city’s style up close. I’m constant in awe of the women who are flying past me in the morning rocking 5″ heels, meanwhile I have to concentrate to keep my boots on the pedals. Amsterdam is so effortlessly chic and cycling never seems to get in the way of someones outfit; just enhances it.
What is your bike like?
She’s just a classic, used, back pedal bike. It says “Roady” in some peeling off letters on the frame but I’m not a brand name kind of girl, I chose this one for the color. I love adding little bits of pop; I was secretly thrilled when my original bell, just a plain silver one died because that meant I got to buy this new minty fresh one! I just found this new bike paint that promises a “no drip, no professional needed” coating, so who knows what color or colors she’ll be by the end of the year.
Is there anything you don’t like about your new no-car life?
Aside from the fear of my wheel involuntary flying off while I’m cycling at great speeds; I haven’t figured out the best cupcake transport system yet. I love to decorate and share cupcakes co-workers and friends, but the Amsterdam roads are not so forgiving. So in the mean time I’ve started the #BikeNowFrostLater movement. If anyone has any possible op de fiets solutions- please send them my way!
Why did you want to join the Amsterdam Cycle Chic team?
I love how engrained biking is in the city, from toddlers learning on the balance bikes- to the guy doing wheelies under the Rijks Museum Tunnel, everyone is equal when in the bike lanes. And there is something so magical about the morning commuter rush, like a flock of swallows, each an independent being but the flow never falters. I want the opportunity to share those moments with the rest of the world.
From a professional standpoint part of my job is sending street recaps of things I’m seeing in Amsterdam and other travels back to our US based design teams. I’m already cycling about admiring the city’s finest and freshest, sneaking photos of anything that catches my eye. I’m known for leaving a friend mid sentence to chase someone/ something down the street snapping away, trying not to crash my own bike.
Pictures of Mérida by Lily.
Meet Awura, a 29 year Amsterdam local and law student turned creative entrepreneur. She joins us on International Women’s Day to share more about life on two wheels and the inspiration that led her to found the Creative Women Collective.
What is a day on two wheels like for you?
I cycle everywhere so, the morning starts with me jumping on my bike heading to the gym, the market or making my way to the office for a meeting. At lunch, I love getting outside for some fresh air. After a little break, I either head back to the office or my next meeting. It’s easy to do errands on my way back home because I have a basket on the front of my bike. I like to grab something fresh to make a delicious dinner at home.
What’s your take on cycling here in Amsterdam?
In Amsterdam we can do so much by bike I cycle every day for work and leisure. Overall, I love it but cycling can be hectic during rush hour traffic and I’ll be honest, sometimes that brings out a bit of my aggressive side (sorry, tourists!)
Cycling can be a relaxing experience too. When the weather is nice, I love cycling around the city in the early evening with my friends. We always bump into the most interesting people – young and old- along the canals of Amsterdam, have a chat and learn something new. Cycling opens the city up to us!
Aside from the quintessential scenery, why did you chose the Bloemgracht as the the location of our shoot?
This area is great source of inspiration, the logical reason being that my workspace is located here but I also experiences a really impacting internship during my time working in entertainment law. Every time I ride my bike along this canal, I take a trip down memory lane. This reflection on the past, makes me super grateful for the life I am living today. That includes my current work space at Ide Fix where I am often working on new plans for the Creative Women Collective.
Tell us more about the Creative Women Collective…
Based on the idea that we are stronger together, the philosophy is to create your own opportunities by growing your network and knowledge. I wanted to create a network that will help motivate women to share their strengths and challenges with each other. The Creative Women Collective is a network of ambitious, energetic women from different creative industries – from food to fashion, media and the arts. The aim is to motivate dreamers to get off the couch and keep professional entrepreneurs hungry for growth no matter how well their businesses are already going. We launched in September 2016 with our first event and it’s been amazing to see how many women are excited to join us!
What inspired you to launch the Creative Women Collective?
I started the Creative Women Collective after three years of practicing law and prosecuting for creative individuals and companies. I was ready for a change and began CWC because I was inspired by the women in my life, especially my amazing mother who is also an entrepreneur. My best girlfriends we are also an inspiration, I see them as epitome of collective strength and creative power. Without them CWC would not be here today!
You were born on International Women’s Day (March 8). Tell us more about why that’ s significant to you.
My birthday wasn’t a coincidence but is a part of my purpose in life. I discovered the desire to start CWC through my experiences and when I tapped into this desire, everything started to make sense, like a puzzle on it’s way to completion. Even my birthday was a piece to that puzzle.
Due to the changes in the political climate, recently a lot of women marches have taken place around the globe. Women – but also young girls and men – collectively stood together to let their voices be heard in favor of women’s rights. Although the circumstances which have caused these marches are unfortunate, these marches have sparked hope and promise for the future. On international Women’s Day a lot of amazing events are organized to put a spotlight on women, in order to stimulate female empowerment and to address female inequality.
The past couple of years, this day has become more and more important in The Netherlands and around the world, and I am glad to see it!
How does it feel to be a part of a group that supports and inspires hard working boss ladies?
The first word which comes to my mind is fulfillment. This experience is fulfilling in ways I could not have predicted. The energy during our events is full of inspiration, purpose and determination. The collaborations which roll out of our events are the icing on the cake, and the continued support afterwards amongst our women is the cherry on top!
What advice would you give to other women who want to follow their passions but aren’t sure where to start?
Start with self-reflection: why do you do what you do? The “why” is important because it is the foundation of your business. The foundation these women will need to fall back on in times of struggle, or during times of lack of inspiration.
Also, surround yourself with entrepreneurs and inspiring people. These people have knowledge and experience to share. They have been there and can help you get started or be there for you when you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.That’s exactly what the Creative Women Collective events are made to do.
Thanks so much for sharing your story with us Awura! Happy cycling and Happy Birthday!
Wishing you all a very happy start to 2017! We have an exciting line up of Amsterdammers to share with you in our Cyclist of the Month series. So, let’s get to it!
Jen is a 26-year-old Scottish lass who has loved living – and cycling – in the Netherlands for the past five years. When she isn’t out and about searching for that perfect vintage skirt, you can find her managing the team at Amsterdam’s legendary and delicious Greenwoods English Tearoom.
Welcome, Jen! We’re excited to kick off 2017 with you as our January Cyclist of the Month! To get started, tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up in Amsterdam.
Wow, I can’t believe that I’ve actually been in the Netherlands for five years! After finishing my childcare studies, I wanted to do a bit of traveling so, my adventure in the Netherlands actually began in The Hague where I spent a year as an Au Pair. That year, my favourite bike adventure was to cycle to the beach during summer. It was so surreal to spot all the families with the kids stacked on their bikes. Learning to balance with kids on the bike was a big step for me, it was at that point that I felt integrated. After a year back at home, I hopped on a plane because Amsterdam was calling! Luckily, I found a job quickly in a quaint tearoom called Greenwoods. Then and there that I knew that I’d stick around for a little longer than expected!
In your opinion, what makes Amsterdam so special for cycling?
The fact that you can cycle everywhere here is incredible and in my opinion, extremely luxurious! Coming from ‘the gateway to the Highlands’ in Scotland, my memories of cycling at home include beautiful scenery but, boy, oh boy, is it hilly! Those big, rolling hills makes cycling tricky.Holland is flat which is the obvious factor for easy cycling but Amsterdam is something else…
The historic scenery and canals really make it so special for me. Cycling everyday along the Keizersgracht on my way to work is so stunning that sometimes, I have to pinch myself! That’s why cycling in this city is so amazing!
Tell us more about your experience cycling in Amsterdam. Do you remember your first day(s) cycling here?
Oh yes, I can remember my first day cycling in Amsterdam as clear as mud (excuse the pun)… because I landed in it! Yes, that’s right. My first bicycle journey included me getting trapped in the tram tracks and face planting into the ground, on a cold winters day none the less.
Yikes! I think we’ve all been there at some point. Do you have any advice for newbies? My piece of advice to all new cyclists in Amsterdam: Watch those tram tracks! Once that lesson is learned, it becomes pretty straight forward. Also, get yourself a beautiful, big bell (which I don’t have at the moment, oops) to help avoid becoming passive aggressive at other cyclists. Last but not least, learn how to fix your chain. It’s the most important skill in my book because there is nothing worse than racing to work when you’re already late and then the chain flies off! Everything else can either be fixed by professionals at one the hundreds of bike stores everywhere.
How to you stay stylish – on a bike – during the cold winter months?
One of the greatest things about Amsterdam cyclists is that everybody remains extremely stylish, even while biking. You’ll even see girls wearing ball gowns and five-inch stiletto heels while cycling. Every girl in town knows how to survive with the hair band trick to gathering her dress, and avoid that pesky dress-stuck-in-the-chain problem. Actually, that happened to me once. I was wearing my friend’s lovely chiffon dress and it got stuck to the bike until, eventually, I had to cut my way free. That’s a night I will never forget!
My style is all about clothes, I’m not much of an accessories girl but scarves are crucial for wintertime. The scarf I’m wearing here is one of my favourite winter accessories! A good friend brought it to me from scarf from South Africa. It’s real Mohair and so cosy. I wear a lot of red and I’m never seen without my lipstick so, the colours of the scarf are very me.
As for clogs, the Dutch have done it right! I love my clogs and they are so practical that I can wear them during summer and winter. This red skirt is another favourite of mine, I love how it shimmers when I move or bike.
I like to think that I have my own style. I follow fashion closely and take different trends here and there and tend to recreate it in my own way. I’m a bargain hunter and a very quick shopper. I love digging through vintage stores and the IJ Hallen flea market too.
Your backpack is adorable! Where’s it from?
My backpack is my absolute favourite thing in the whole world! I was able to choose the fabric outside and inside, it’s wonderfully handy to use when cycling. This backpack was designed for me by my incredibly talented friend Olga who is a designer and seamstress who now lives in Australia.
Tell us about your typical day on two wheels. Do you have any special routes or routines when you’re cycling?
My favourite street has to be the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, the chosen location of our photoshoot. I love the stunning view leading up to the grand Rijksmuseum and all the little shops and galleries along the way. My love for that charming little street grown over the years since most days I’m cycling along Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, on my way to Greenwoods which is nearby along the Keizersgracht.
Tell us what you love (and loathe) about cycling in Amsterdam…
One of my favourite aspects of cycling here is the freedom that a bike can give you. The city is your oyster, day or night! Another is the time becuase you arrive at your destination in half the time compared to public transport. I also love that cycling is such good excercise too!
My least favourite aspect about cycling… wet seats. And that sometimes you can’t wear your favourite little dress because you might end up flashing the lovely people of Amsterdam, ha! Of course, finding out your bike was stolen is for sure the absolute worst thing that can happen but I suppose it’s a right of passage around here too.
So, have you experienced many stolen bikes during your time here in Amsterdam? What’s the story of your current bike?
This is by far my favourite bike that I’ve had! I bought it from a dear friend who moved to London. I promised to take good care of it and I’m sure that he will be very happy to see his dear old friend again in these photos. You try not to get too attached to your bike in Amsterdam because they are so easily stolen but its hard when you have a really good one.I think that I’ve had about 7 bikes in my 4 years in Amsterdam. That’s actually not too bad!
Thanks again Jen for sharing your life on two wheels with us! Tot ziens!
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
I caught up with American Amsterdammer, Breean, on a typical February afternoon – rainy, cold, and generally miserable outside. But her energy and enthusiasm made up for it. She took me for a ride in her Johnny Loco cargo bike and we had a nice chat about everything from bikes to love, dancing, and yes, Gyrotonic.
Breean used to dance professionally in New York City; she was trained as a classic dancer and danced with a contemporary dance company. But then she fell in love with a handsome Dutchman (a doctor with curls, no less). She moved to Utrecht in 2011, and then Amsterdam in 2014. She’s a mom of 2 kids, an entrepreneur, and a busy, busy woman. Here’s a snipet of our conversation.
What do you like about living in Amsterdam?
Compared to New York, life seems so easy and much slower. I’m still very busy of course – with two kids, a clothing line, fitness instructor – but somehow there’s time for everything. And I still manage to spend plenty of time with my family and friends and just exploring this gorgeous city.
Do you ride this [cargo] bike every day?
For sure. This is my SUV. I love this bike. It’s falling apart, but I love it. I take my girls to school in the morning, and our new thing is stopping to get croissants and a latte (for me obviously) before the bell rings. They sit in here and eat their croissants and play with their fake cell phones. It’s ridiculous but I love it.
What do you like about cycling in Amsterdam?
In New York everyone is looking for a fight – and New Yorkers are known for their screaming matches. Why they like yelling, I have no idea. It doesn’t help anything. Here, people just mind their own business when they’re on the bike. If I accidentally bump their bike – which happened to me a lot at first – they just glance over and smile, or they don’t even do anything at all.
How long did it take you to ride like an Amsterdammer?
I’m glad I started out in Utrecht, where it’s a little calmer on the bike path. Amsterdam is totally different. It’s busy and stressful – there’s a lot of people on bikes here! At first it was terrifying. Every time I’d get on my bike I’d tell myself: Ok, just DON’T die. I wouldn’t look at buildings or anything else but the bike path. It took me probably a good two months to get confident. Now I absolutely love it. I can’t imagine any other way of life.
Ok, so tell me about this Gyrotonic stuff…
The Gyrotonic method was developed by an injured dancer who healed herself by developing this method. It’s an amazing combination of rhythmic, circular movements flowing with your breath. It’s a very adaptable exercise, so anyone can do it, but it’s more of an experience with your body. Come try it out at Full Circle Studio in Amsterdam!
We’re a small little company with a big vision. At BuBae we design and produce girls’ clothing and give a percentage of the profits to organisations that empower women and girls who are less fortunate than we are. Our fabrics are designed by women from all over the world and then produced by women as well. We’re all about radiating beauty from within. Right now our current line is available on the website.
Thanks for the ride Breean!
Amsterdam is a great city for cycling. But in the tourist high season, the city centre becomes crowded like the queues at Disney World. Which is why sensible people then head out to the outer boroughs. Such as ‘the Rivierenbuurt’. There, we spoke with Ice Cream and Pancake Guru Jason – owner of IJsland.
“You can get pancakes and ice cream everywhere in Amsterdam, but we want ours to be a special experience.” says Marieke (who owns and runs IJsland with her husband Jason). They took a chance by setting up shop outside the centre, but their enterprise is now one of the most popular spots in the neighbourhood.
‘IJs’ in Dutch means ice cream. Jason tells me about theirs: “Our specialty is making soft sorbets. It is made in a similar way as the soft serve ice cream you see in every snack bar in the Netherlands, but we make it with fresh fruit and in a special machine. We are the only ones in the Netherlands with this soft sorbet machine – the only place using fresh fruit to make it.”
Jason continues: “To be honest, the Dutch cuisine may not be the best of the world. For example: the French are pretty good. But we are definitely good at making pancakes. At IJsland we work with our own mother yeast. That makes our pancakes special. We serve the typical, bacon and cheese and apple and cinnamon pancakes. But we also do pancakes with coq au vin, boeuf Bourguignon and Mexican chicken.”
Marieke and Jason live with their two kids in Haarlem, a 15 minute train ride from Amsterdam. “Haarlem is a lovely city. It is smaller than Amsterdam, which makes it a very relaxed place to live as a family,” says Marieke. “In Haarlem we mostly get around in a cargo bike, to get the groceries and bring the kids to school or the swimmingpool. It’s great for cycling. Also in the tourist high season.”
“Dutch kids are the happiest kids in the world, and our bike friendly culture certainly is one of the reasons for their happiness. That is why my mission is to promote cycling and make sure it stays the preferred mode of transport in the Netherlands.” Maud de Vries is one of the initiators of Cyclehack Amsterdam and a bike culture expert. Cyclehack is a global movement where people get together to address the barriers to cycling and come up with creative solutions. “With Cyclehack we wanted to give Amsterdammers a wake-up call. We Amsterdammers are so used to cycling every day, that we do not always fully appreciate what we have. When I ask an Amsterdammer to look at cycling through the eyes of a tourist, people start talking about what cycling means to them and how it influences lives, here and in other parts of the world.”
Amsterdam is an example of bike friendliness, but still we encounter some barriers. Can you name some of those barriers?
According to the city council the important barriers that need to be addressed are bike parking, bike theft, too crowded cycle lanes and connecting cycling to public transport like the metro and the train. We, as the organisers of Cyclehack, see two other important challenges; innovation and marketing. We want to claim the bike like Scandinavia has claimed fashion. Amsterdam should again be the number one cycling city in the world.”
Cyclehack took place in 40 cities around the world in the weekend of the 20th of June. What are the ideas with the highest potential that came out of Amsterdam’s Cyclehack?
We are already working on putting some ideas into practice: Cycle Space (a space about cycling in the city), LinkLock (a lock attached to a pole that indicates when a bike was parked, to help address the problem of bikes gone a stary), and the ‘bike-back-crate’ (a foldable bike crate that you can take with you on your back) amongst others. But there are many other ideas that came out of Cyclehack that we are talking about with the city council and Dura Vermeer, one of our sponsors.
Beside organising Cyclehack Amsterdam you do a lot more to promote cycling, can you tell us something about your other projects?
I am a creative strategist working mostly on bike to work projects. I address the issue of how to get people on their bikes (and out of the car). I am looking at creative ways to change people’s behaviour. I work a lot on ‘Toury’. Toury is an bike to work app, it is a game that triggers people to get on their bikes. For some people losing weight could be a trigger, other people are triggered by environmental reasons, health reasons or because cycling is very relaxing after a day of work. The app addresses all those different triggers. We work internationally with this app with big companies and organisations.
Why do you love cycling so much?
Cycling gives me a feeling of freedom. It immediately relaxes. I can stop wherever I want, I see things that I don’t see from a car or public transport and it is social, you connect with other people. I just love it!
What bike do you have?
I have a Workcycles FR8. It is a great bike! It is the first bike that I spent quite some money on. I bought it when I had my first child. It is great for short and long distances and I can carry my two kids and the groceries on it. When I arrive home, I ride the bike into my house and put the groceries in my kitchen. I have recommended this bike to many friends and everybody loves it.
Fadi Hindash directed the short documentary ‘Mama Agatha‘. This heart-warming film is about migrant women in Amsterdam learning to ride a bike. Cycling means more freedom, and integration in Dutch society. Women of all ages and nationalities are taught by teacher Mama Agatha. Most of his life Fadi lived in car dominated Dubai, but three years ago he moved to Amsterdam. He was not able to cycle, but learned it from Mama Agatha herself. The premiere of ‘Mama Agatha’ will be on the 2nd of May during Leiden International Short Film Experience. Reason enough to make Fadi our cyclist of the month!
How did you come up with this topic for the documentary?
I was having coffee on my friend’s terrace overlooking a park where a group of Moroccan women were learning how to ride a bicycle. Immediately I was struck with how much that image said about integration and the life of migrants. I personally moved to the Netherlands 3 years ago but I have grown up with the identity of a migrant long before. I was raised in Dubai where my family and I lived as outsiders in our own home which is why the issue of integration is one that is very close to my heart. So when I saw the group of Arab women learning to cycle in Amsterdam, I immediately knew there was a story there for me. The fact that it looked so sweet and humorous set the tone for the film. Plus, I also never learned how to cycle because Dubai is a city of cars, which made the film even more personal as I was going through what the women were going through.
Why is it important to learn to ride a bike?
Because it gives you freedom, not just physically but also emotionally. Cycling feels like flying, on wheels.
I don’t see any men in the documentary, are these cycling lessons just for women. If so, why do you think that is?
I had the same question during filming. As far as I know there aren’t similar courses for men. It could be because men tend to be more proud about admitting they don’t know something so basic or they would feel more embarrassed about falling in the street. I was lucky to have Mama Agatha as a teacher, she taught me behind the scenes while making the documentary.
What do you like about Amsterdam?
It’s the perfect combination of a city and a little town. It’s cozy when you need it to be but also cosmopolitan when you need it to be. There’s also the other factor that cannot be put into words: it has this magic quality to it. It looks so pretty, almost like a dollhouse. I love things that seem unreal with a touch of fantasy, that’s the filmmaker in me.
- The premiere of Mama Agatha takes place on the 2nd of May at The Leiden International Short Film Experience at 14:45.
- The documentary will also be screened at Shortcutz Amsterdam in May
- Interested in organising a screening of ‘Mama Agatha’ yourself?
Contact Marek (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Follow ‘Mama Agatha‘ on Facebook
- Visit the Mama Agatha website for more information