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 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.
Google Netherlands has finally released it’s much-talked-about self-driving bicycle. “It’s the best invention since the bicycle itself,” says the director of the Dutch bicycle advocacy group, the Fietserbond.
Check it out for yourself:
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!
Although some Amsterdammers are brightening the urban landscape with their turquoise delight, on this dark and stormy Friday others are more into keeping it dark and classic. We can’t have enough black coats, jeans, and boots to match our black bikes.
While most of us are swearing at the rain and then the wind (and then both together at the same time), some people are completely and elegantly fine with it.
I don’t know about you, but I have something to learn from this take-it-as-it-comes girl. Get on those heels, grab an umbrella and go. Simple as that.
Last night these two were speeding down the Weesperzijde – with smiles of course – definitely in a hurry to get to their destination, which likely had beers and bitterballen awaiting them.😉
A little bit of leg during the morning rush hour doesn’t hurt anyone.
Last Saturday, I bumped into these guys in the middle of the night. They looked so fantastic and were so happy to take the pose for our blog.
Did they you inspired by the concert of Kiss, last week in the ziggo dome, or did you just choose this look like I am choosing my boring little black dress? In any case, it was nice to meet you in the middle of crazy Amsterdam!
Flip flop for the driver, wedges for the passenger. Logic you would think. Maybe but I promise the opposite is also possible! In this case full confidence as you can see her hand in pocket, just chilling on the bike luggage rack