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!
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!
“In Paris, people care a lot about the quality of food. In Amsterdam the price or quantity of food is sometimes more important. But it seems to be changing. Amsterdammers care more and more about good ingredients and are happy to pay a bit more for high quality food or drinks. That’s why I opened my patisserie here last year. I want to introduce Amsterdammers to the art of French pastry making. ” Parisian Audrey Krief is the owner of ‘My Little Patisserie’ in De Pijp. ‘My Little Patisserie’ is a small café with the best éclairs I have ever tasted. Audrey learned to make patisserie in the French capital and now cycles every day on her VanMoof bike to her own cafe to make these little delights for Dutchies. We asked her to be our Cyclist of the Month.
Paris in Amsterdam
When you enter My Little Patisserie, you feel like being in Paris. French magazines, a map of Paris on the wall and often you hear people speaking French. Audrey: “It’s nice how many customers start speaking French to me. Almost all Dutch people learned it at high school and here in this little French place, they like to practice. Often my conversations go from French to English to Dutch without us even noticing that we spoke so many different languages.”
“I started my career in the movie industry. I worked for 4 years in Australia and New Zealand. When I came back to Paris, I wanted to learn something new. I wanted to make something instead of sitting behind my computer.” That’s why Audrey decided to learn the art of patisserie making at the Ecole de Boulangerie et de Pâtisserie de Paris. After that she worked in a famous Parisian patisserie. “It had always been my dream to start my own business. This dream came true last December, when I opened this place in De Pijp.”
Amsterdam vs. Paris
“I love living in Amsterdam. Amsterdammers are more relaxed than Parisians. I think cycling really contributes to this relaxed lifestyle. In Paris you see people during their long commutes sitting unhappy in full metros or buses. In Amsterdam people spend their energy on cycling instead of on being frustrated or angry. The smaller size of the city and the more relaxed atmosphere makes the quality of life in Amsterdam higher than in Paris. I do miss the great shopping in Paris. Clothes, food, patisserie, there is so much choice there!”
Thank you Audrey for bringing this sweet part of French cuisine to Amsterdam. Eating an éclair au chocolat or choux vanille fraise et rose once in a while, definitely makes the quality of life in our city even better!
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
“There are more and more tourists in Amsterdam. And what I see quite often is that the kids of tourists are playing on an IPad or checking their phones, or they are simply bored when waiting in a restaurant. That’s why Charlotte and I decided to make the book ‘Hotel Kids Only’. With this book we want to activate the creativity of kids and at the same time ‘teach’ them something about Amsterdam. It is the perfect book for young children who visit Amsterdam for a holiday, for the kids of expats and as a nice souvenir to bring home after an Amsterdam visit.”
Hotel Kids Only
The book ‘Hotel Kids Only’ is filled with fun things for kids to do; Game of the Goose along Amsterdam’s canals, a colouring picture of Rembrandt’s famous Night Watch, a map of the city for kids, amongst many other things. It is the perfect way for children to spend hours in their hotel rooms, on the plane to Amsterdam or waiting in restaurants or cafes. Ingrid: “Of course there are many bikes in the book too; there is a game where you have to count all the bicycles, there are bikes in the memory game, and in the ‘Game of the Goose’ you miss a turn when you stand on the ‘bike fell in the canal’ field.”
Ingrid the designer
Ingrid Robers (ingridrobers.com) is an illustrator and designer, she does a lot of illustrations for children. Ingrid: “I had not always planned to do so many children’s illustrations. I don’t have kids, I like kids just as I like other people, but I like the creative and pure mind they have. When I make illustrations for children I always think of my own childhood. What did I like when I was a kid? When making this book I also looked at the city imagining I were still a child. What would draw my attention?” The other author of the book ‘Hotel Kids Only’ is Charlotte Borggreve, she founded the well-known ‘Kinderkookkafé’ (restaurant where children cook), and together they wrote another book ‘Kookologie’ (a playful cookery book for kids).
Amsterdam city centre
Ingrid lives in the city centre of Amsterdam, just a 5 minute walk from the Central Station, in a ‘red light alley’ near Spuistraat. “I live in this apartment for almost 17 years and I love the neighbourhood. Even though the area is becoming more and more touristic, it still has a local feel. I actually became friends with quite a few neighbours. When the weather is nice we take chairs out and sit in front of our houses with a glass of wine. One neighbour lives on a typical Amsterdam house boat, that is also a great spot to hang out in summer. The ladies who work in the red light district are my next door neighbours. Most of them work in this alley for many years. So in these past 17 years, I really got to know them.”
Ingrid’s Amsterdam tips
Ingrid does most of her grocery shopping at the many markets in de Jordaan (the Lindengracht, the Noordermarkt and the Westerstraat). Another area she likes is the Zeedijk (Amsterdam’s Chinatown) “There are great Thai and Chinese restaurants in that street. My favourite store is the Chinese department store Dun Yong, a three story building full of Chinese food and other products. I love to go there and try food I don’t know. The nice thing is that they have little cards with information about each product.” When Ingrid has meetings for work she mostly goes to café Kobalt, where they have nice coffees and a relaxed atmosphere. Her favourite bar in the area is ‘Café In de Wildeman’: “It is a typical brown café with many different beers. There is a nice mix of locals and tourists and always when I go there I end up talking to new people or neighbours, it is a place I even go alone, because there is always someone to chat to.”
Wieger and Anne Marie love to go out for dinner, visit art galleries, and look for nice boutique hotels or B&B’s for their next city trip. So why not turn their passion into their work? That’s what they did, they started their own B&B in a typical Amsterdam house in the popular neighbourhood De Pijp. It is called Ollies Bed and Breakfast. The breakfast is lovely, they have cool photography in the rooms and they made their own mini-guide of the city so that their guests can enjoy Amsterdam as much as they do.
Food and Art
Wieger and Anne Marie love art. The museum district is only a 5 minute walk from their B&B. Wieger: “The Rijksmuseum is really a must see, both for the art and for the cool designed building. It is amazingly done.” Anne Marie: “But we actually prefer to visit art galleries and especially photography galleries. In weekends we love to walk around de Spiegelkwartier. We always pay a visit to Jaski Art Gallery and the Yellow Korner.” The Spiegelkwartier has been the heart of the art and antiques trade for the past 80 years with over 70 specialised art and antique dealers.
Their other hobby is to go out for dinner. Anne Marie: “We love restaurant Sent just across the street. It is a small and lovely place where they cook with a Green Egg. But we have so many other favourites like Vis aan de Schelde [Close to RAI. “Michelin-star quality food, and a very relaxed atmosphere”], Toscanini in the Jordaan [a very popular Italian place, so make sure to make a reservation], ‘French-bistro-style’ restaurant Rijsel in a side street of the Amstel, fine dining at Fyra just off Vijzelgracht and Bar Americano [along the Amstel, where you can eat Italian food and stay till late at night for drinks at the bar].”
What to do in Amsterdam
Wieger calls himself an Amsterdamophile: “Amsterdam is the best city to live in. The size is perfect, everything is walking distance. And after living here for almost fifteen years, I still enjoy the beauty of the city.” Anne Marie: “There is always something nice to do in Amsterdam; concerts, expositions, new pop-up stores opening and there are many festivals. I am not that much into electronic music festivals but I love food and art festivals like De Rollende Keukens in the Westerpark, the Food Soul Festival and the Affordable Art Fair in Amsterdam-Noord. For shopping I recommend the 9 Straatjes and the Pijp. Just a few minutes’ walk from our B&B you have the Gerard Doustraat. Since a few years a lot of nice stores have opened there. It is becoming very trendy.”
Bikes and Boats
“The best way to see Amsterdam is by bike or boat”, says Wieger. “My favourite cycling spots are the Vondelpark, the old canals and the cycle path under the Rijksmuseum.” Anne Marie: “On sunny days we take a boat, bring some food and drinks, friends and nice music and sail through the canals.” They would both recommend tourists to rent a bike and go through the city like locals do. Wieger: “I think it is recommendable for tourists to plan their cycling trip a bit before they start cycling. Cycling can be quite hectic. But there are nice routes and neighbourhoods like the Jordaan are great to discover by bike.”
Ollie’s Bed and Breakfast
Ollie’s Bed and Breakfast has got three rooms. Anne Marie and Wieger live on the first and second floor and the rooms are on the third and fourth floor of a typical ‘de Pijp’ building with steep stairs in a cosy street. “Working together is going really well. We have a good division of tasks but we also work a lot together,” says Anne Marie. Wieger: “We have the same taste of style and paid a lot of attention to detail when furbishing the room. We would love to have guests over who share our taste for interior design and our love for photography.”
“Why do we have so many different pairs of shoes and just one pair of glasses?” asks Camiel, our cyclist of the month. Camiel founded Ace&Tate to democratise eyewear. The Amsterdam startup has been named one of the “TOP 100 HOT STARTUPS” by Wired Magazine. So we decided to interview Camiel about his company, cycling to work and his bike.
Cycling to work
Ace&Tate is located on the Overtoom – city centre Amsterdam. The team of around 20 people all cycle to work. “We stay in the city centre, because we want to cycle to work. My colleagues all live in or close to Amsterdam’s city centre. My commutes leads me through the Vondelpark, my favourite cycling spot. I love cutting through runners, skaters and other cyclists. The chaos is what makes Amsterdam the lively city it is.” Ace&Tate’s office is located right above Amsterdam’s first bike café.
Camiel has lived and worked in London and Dublin, in those cities he never cycled: “In Dublin I could have cycled but I lived so close to work and the city centre that I walked everywhere. In London I didn’t feel safe at all on a bike. There is a lot of work to be done in London to make it as bike friendly as here in The Netherlands.”
Camiel cycles a traditional opafiets (Dutch bike) and recently upgraded his bike with a crate on his front carrier. “I use it a lot to bring around our glasses to events or concept stores.” Besides glasses and groceries, a lady’s handbag is often to be found in Camiel’s crate: “When me and my girlfriend go out, we always take one bike. She sits on the back carrier and throws her bag in my crate.”
Ace&Tate eyewear is made by hand in Italy. They sell for: 98 euros (or 89 pounds) per frame, including prescription glasses. Camiel: “Our trick is to cut out the middlemen. That makes our glasses affordable. So you can have different frames for different outfits and occasions. Our dream is that in a few years every European thinks of Ace&Tate when thinking of eyewear.”
– More information on: aceandtate.com.