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
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:
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!
I love seeing old photos and footage from back in the day. The Eye has a great collection of these old films and this one caught my attention.
A little history lesson: this was when about 80% of all trips were made by bike. Now about 60% of all trips are made by bicycle in the city center. Amazing right?
And look at the people. So simply chic with their hats and jackets. Sitting upright on their oh-so-Dutch bikes. Love it.
The top 3 loved photos on our Instagram this month are…
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!
We don’t need much gear for cycling in the rain – maybe a poncho if you remember to grab it as you rush out the door. Sometimes I see rainpants. Or huge capes.
Umbrellas are pretty common too – again, if you remember it. This little girl has it figured out:
- get comfy in the cargo bike
- shield yourself from the rain with a bright and super cute umbrella
- relax and let mom do all the work
In May the museo de los ninos (children’s museum) in Buenos Aires launched an exhibition called “Amo la bici” which means nothing less than “I love the bike”. The invitation was illustrated by one of my pictures featuring Joni, her son and my daughter:
Argentinian children could use one of the 10 Shimano bikes and cycle the route installed in the museum. There were guides helping the kids, especially the ones that had never ride a bicycle! Exactly the way Dutch children learn to cycle in the Netherlands:
There were pictures of cycling children all along the route. They were taken by us in Amsterdam and by Michael Colville and his cycle chic team in Copenhagen:
And there were of course some of our instant classic pictures: Back to the 80’s, children cycling side by side, Ed coolest Opa ever, but also an exclusive picture of my husband and our daughter on one of her first rides: The museum organised many workshops, games and other activities in the museum around the theme of cycling. For the ones speaking spanish, here are some fun facts about cycling in Amsterdam: The exhibition was such a big hit that it will be moved to the children’s museum of Rosario in October.
Thank you to Daiana and Silvia from the NIBA institute for this wonderful initiative, the feedback and the pictures.
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.