Calling all students! Ever wanted to learn about how Amsterdam (and other cities in the Netherlands) became the cycling cities they are today? Every year many study abroad courses include Amsterdam in their program and focus specifically on bicycling.
It’s fair to say that creating these bicycle-friendly cities didn’t happen over night, and it wasn’t easy. There also wasn’t just one single plan that paved the way. History, policy, culture, social movements were all parts of the equation. If you want the 6-min version, check out this video by blogger Bicycle Dutch. Coming later this summer is a mini-MOOC (massive online open course) produced by the Urban Cycling Institute at the University of Amsterdam.
But if you want a more hands-on experience, then following a course could enrich your perspective. Each course seems to have its own distinct flavour and style, and focus. Many of the courses focus on infrastructure and design perspectives, such as the courses offered by University of Oregon, DIS Copenhagen, Northeastern U (closed), and UW-Platteville (closed). The course offered by Texas A&M provides a unique political and knowledge-building curriculum. These courses spend from 1-2 weeks in the Netherlands, and some (like DIS) are based in both Copenhagen and Amsterdam.
While the above focus on infrastructure and design, another one focuses on the social science aspect and an immersive experience – Planning the Cycling City – also known as #PCCAMS. This is a different course and much longer than the others (3 full-time weeks – June 19-July 7). It’s also not “taught” in the traditional format. Participants use the city of Amsterdam and specific curated experiences (laid out by the directors) to inform their learning, then come to class each day ready to apply their experience to academic theory. About 23 top cycling experts are the course leaders, and every day an academic and practitioner lead the course discussion topic. This course is for graduate students and entry level professionals. (Application deadline: 1 March)
Finally, if you’re looking for a more quick and dirty experience then a Masterclass might be a better fit. These are usually 3-5 days and are aimed at professionals and politicians. To our knowledge, the 3-day Copenhagenize Masterclass based in Copenhagen is the closest you can get (next class: June 19-21). Of course you can stop by Amsterdam and give us a shout on your way in or out. We’re always up for a ride and a coffee!
(Know of more courses? Tell us in the comments and we’ll add it to the list!)
(photo: Copenhagenize Design Co.)
Here in Amsterdam, it’s getting pretty darn cold. It’s a biting, bitter, wet cold. This is the kind of cold that creeps into every crevice that is exposed and then laughs in your face.
No, there’s no snow on the ground – and it’s not even THAT cold, according to the thermostat (or Northern Scandinavians, for that matter). I’ve read -4C (25F) as the lowest temp recently. But for some reason, and maybe that’s the Californian in me, it just feels cold.
We’ve gotten a few emails recently asking about the cold weather and cycling: “What do Amsterdammers do in the winter?” So, Henri and Maria: this is for you.
It’s a habit.
You see, when you live in Amsterdam, you become so used to your bicycle as your main way of getting around. Your whole life starts to revolve around your bicycle. Your routes become habits. The grocery stores, cafes, shops along your routes become daily destinations. Out of habit (and probably laziness, too). On your daily routes, like to and from the office, you get used to being able to zone out, to think about other things, and to let your mind wander. You know your route that well. It’s that predictable, and dare I say, boring but relaxing at the same time.
You probably even know small, particular details about your route, things that you think only you know. (Like the small patch of uneven pavement that you knowingly swerve around.) You’re so used to it – the route, the swarm of cyclists around you, the mind-wandering thoughts – that you need this time, even if unconsciously. It’s the moments of your day you get to just be, and you even sort of forget that you’re peddling. It’s this critical nothingness in your day, and at the same time maybe the best part of the day, that becomes a deeply ingrained habit.
Next to the ride itself, you are used to your “usual” stops – for groceries, bread, coffee to go, the corner post box. You have different preferred places for different routes and directions. You know where you like to park your bike at these places. You have your favourite part of the bike rack or sidewalk (remember, Dutch bikes have kickstands!) and you park there almost every time. It’s second nature.
So what happens when it gets cold? When it rains? Snows? When the streets are frozen? In extreme conditions like snow or frost, the City ploughs the bike lanes at 3am – before they plough the rest of the street. That happens a handful of times every year. So that’s helpful for safety reasons.
Other options exist – tram, bus, walking, even car – and some do people opt out. (Stats show only a small percentage opt out in the winter.) But for the most part, Amsterdammers are only continuing their time-honoured, ingrained habit: using the bike.
We all know habits are hard to break. So Amsterdammers are no special species when it comes to cycling in the winter. There’s only one thing we do: wear a warm coat. After all, there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.
Amsterdam Cycle Chic
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!
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!
Christmas isn’t over yet!
The People’s Poncho is a fast-growing UK-based rainwear brand – and their specialty is, yes, you guessed it: the poncho.
It’s all about the details with these ponchos. 100% waterproof, lightweight, high-quality Japanese fabric. Reflective piping. Zippered front pocket. Three-button sleeves. Peaked hood.
Best bit: handy handlebar straps that fit any bike. Bam.
Want to win this beautiful, bike-friendly poncho? Of course you do.
Just tell us your favourite thing about the rain (in the comments below) and you’ll be in the contest. Contest ends Friday, December 30.
It’s that easy.
Here’s to a happy (and dry) 2017!
Amsterdam Cycle Chic and The People’s Poncho
Jonathan is an Amsterdam based designer from the UK with a passion for all things retro. He loves working with his hands to make his creative visions come to life – whether it’s designing shoes for international fashion brands, reconstructing vintage furniture or working on his collection of vintage bicycles.
Welcome, Jonathan! We’re glad to have you as our December cyclist of the month! To get started, tell us a bit more about how you ended up in Amsterdam.
I’m originally from the UK, more precisely from where Hobbits live. Yes, that’s right. Lord of the Rings was actually written in my hometown. After visiting Amsterdam for a long weekend, I fell in love with the city! One month later, I found myself moving over. That was about two years ago… and here we are now, enjoying a crisp, cool day in the lovely Nine Streets neighborhood.
As an expat, what was your first reaction to the Dutch cyclists here in Amsterdam?
At first, it was all so unique and quite startling!Now, cycling has become a major part of my day-to-day routine here in Amsterdam. The Dutch are known as the kings of cycling but it was a totally new concept for me after living in London for 10 years. Unfortunately, in London there’s a lack of forward thinking towards cyclists which makes it quite unsafe.
In your opinion, what makes Amsterdam so special for cycling?
Now that I have adapted to life-on-bike, I absolutely love it! Cycling around the Jordan with friends is one of my favorite areas because of course, the scenery is lovely. Plus, it is more peaceful and less crowded than the rest of the city center. Riding my bike has become a bigger part of my life. Cycling in Amsterdam really inspired me to start buying vintage bikes and do them up, which is now one of my favorite hobbies.
How did you get into collecting vintage bikes?
I love the hands on process of fixing up vintage bikes. Plus, of course the bike loving vibe of Amsterdam is an inspiration. A few years ago, I bought a bike black, vintage Peugeot. It was from 1975 in like-new condition, just beautiful! Once I got my first vintage bike there was no looking back, I was in love! Now, I’m a vintage bike enthusiast. At one point, I did have seven vintage bikes so, perhaps you could call me a “collectomaniac”? At the moment I am down to only three, including the Carlton pictured here.
My other prized bike is a 1982 Peugeot Centennial Edition PH12, this was one of the first bike to consider aerodynamics, it has only been ridden twice since 1982! At the moment, it’s hanging on the wall of my apartment. My third bike is a Peugeot that my dad bought brand new in 1975, when he was 13.
What’s the story behind the unique, vintage Carlton that you’re riding around the Nine Streets today?
The one pictured here is a Carlton criterium custom which I built myself after bringing it over from the UK.The bike was owned by a family friend who bought it new. He was a long distance rider so, I have had it the bike has undergone some changes and I still want to change it further and make it into a single speed.
This is the first bike I built myself and added a Basil bell and Brooks seat. I’m very proud of it!
Carlton is up there as one of my favourite brands. My dream is to one day I have a Bianchi Pista too, they’re absolutely beautiful. So far, I have yet to find one the is in good enough condition… Hopefully some day!
What’s your favorite aspect about cycling in Amsterdam?
My favorite aspects of cycling in Amsterdam are the people you run into along the way. When biking around town, I often spot a friend cycling by and we wave or shout, ‘Hello!’ You often see the most random scenes pop up out of the blue. It’s fun to capture a quick snapshot of wacky moments on my phone and share them with friends for a laugh. I get so much enjoyment from riding my bike everyday in this wonderful city. Thank you, Amsterdam!
And a big thanks to you Jonathan for joining us here at Amsterdam Cycle Chic! You can follow along with his vintage bike adventures via Instagram. ‘Til next time…
Interview & photos by Lily.
The Bicycle Film Festival is coming to Amsterdam – only the second time ever!
From October 6 until October 8, Amsterdam will celebrate the bicycle with films, art, talks and drinks. A wide range of 30 films, each telling a unique story about the bicycle in the broadest sense of the word, will be shown.
The Bicycle Film festival found its roots in New York in 2001. Brenda Barbur started the festival after he was hit by a bus while riding his bike in New York City. He insisted on turning his negative experience into a positive one and, 15 years on, the festival has been a major catalyst for the rise of city cycling internationally. Check out www.bicyclefilmfestival.com to read more.
Here are a few trailers to entice you!
We look forward to seeing you at the Bicycle Film Festival Amsterdam!
Little brings me more joy while riding along the cobbled streets of Amsterdam than seeing other cyclists with flowers nestled between their handlebars or in their saddlebags. These bloom-laden riders carry an act of love, kindness, congratulations, an apology, or a welcome home. I find myself imagining that their cycle journey will end with a huge smile and hug from the recipient, be it a special someone or a longtime friend.
Seeing the flowers that are carried by bike creates a rippling effect of this act of kindness. They are a visible reminder of the caring and compassion present in the city. They bring joy to other riders and remind us to continue our journey in love.
The beginning of September signals the end of the holidays and a return to school. In Amsterdam that means a return of kids on their bikes traveling to and from school. In fact, in the Netherlands the percentage of primary and secondary school children that walk or ride their bike to school is staggering at around 75 percent. Is it a coincidence that Dutch children were ranked the happiest in the world by UNICEF? Take a look at the scenes of children riding to and from school and you decide.
Some of the contributing factors that lead to this beautiful scene of children on bikes are the national Dutch cycling culture, the fact that most children live close to their schools, and the dedicated bicycle infrastructure.
When kids bike to school they show up more awake and alert, ready to learn. They are more aware of their surroundings and where they live. In secondary school, the bike gives them a sense of independence and autonomy where they can control their path. I often bask in the independence that young teenagers experience riding around with their friends after school, often behind a group of young girls giggling along, hockey sticks in hand on their way to practice.
Amsterdam summer is in full swing and this month, we caught up with local resident Gertjan. He’s a freelance advertising creative who loves taking his black Veloretti bike for a spin through Vondelpark.
The Dutch are known worldwide for their love of bikes. As a Dutchie, did you also grow up cycling around town?
For sure! I grew up in a small town in the south of Holland and like many Dutch people, I learned to bike from quite a young age. It was more out of convenience, cycling was the only way to get from point A to point B in that town.
Tell me more about your experience cycling in Amsterdam.
Cycling in Amsterdam can be tricky because people are constantly on the go! During my morning commute everyone is heading fast in different directions and ringing their bells… You can really feel the rush of energy! Everyone here rides bikes but does everyone know how to cycle properly? Well, that’s a different story…
What’s the story behind your lovely zwarte fiets?
Before getting this trusty black stallion, I had a bike that was clinging on to life until it finally broke down on my way to a party. Afterwards, I received this bike as a gift.
You live and work in the city center. What is a typical day on two wheels like for you?
I moved here four years ago and cycling in Amsterdam definitely took some getting used to. Streets are very narrow and bridges can be a challenge but it’s worth the view! Cycling from work to meetings is a fun way to have a breather. I always try to leave a bit earlier and pace myself. That way, I arrive fresh instead of sweaty, looking like I just finished the Tour de France.
Do you have a favorite route pass by?
Maybe it’s a bit cheesy, but I love going through the Rijksmuseum tunnel! There are always musicians playing good tunes and people buzzing about. I’m so glad they reopened it!
In your opinion, what makes Amsterdam so special for cycling?
The scenery and the socializing! Amsterdam is a beautiful city and perfect to be enjoyed by bike. Amsterdam is also a very a small city so, I often run into friends along the way! On the down side… finding a spot to park and tram tracks can be tricky with your wheels. There is always someone on the look out for a new bike, so be sure to lock it up well!
Thanks Gertjan, tot ziens!
Interview & photos by Lily.