It’s that frosty time of year again and Amsterdam has been hit with more than a generous dusting of snow! From Friday to Monday, winter’s magic descended upon the city and disrupted travel across the country. Up and onwards, Amsterdammers cycled on, showing that neither rain nor wind nor snow will keep us off our bikes!
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.
We love the summer!
We dug through our archives to find a gem of a photo (taken by former ACC contributor Aude de Prelle) for a photo contest happening now until November. It’s sponsored by Mucca, the owner of the website Jak and Jil. The theme this year is Girl Power. What better than to enter a photo of young women taking an everyday bike ride?
Our description of the photo was this:
The freedom to move with ease, safety and joy – at any age & any background – is a reflection of a city that recognizes women as an integral part of its social & economic fabric. This photo captures a moment of freedom. We don’t know where they’re going or where they’re from, but we do know that these women are exercising their power & right to move. And the humble bicycle is a tool to get them there.
We know a lot of our followers and readers have their own blogs with fantastic photos of women on bikes – let’s populate this contest with these photos! To enter your photo, check out the Photo Challenge 2017 website. It’s super easy!
At AMS CC we like to celebrate all aspects of on the bike life in Amsterdam- from the old Dutch bike that clanks as it rides, to carting 3 kids, all the groceries and a puppy while making it home for dinner, to urban speed cyclist, and everyone in between. This past Sunday we met up with the women of the Rapha Club House Amsterdam who where headed out on their Women’s 100km ride through Amsterdam.
[Photos by Amsterdam Cycle Chic]
What started in 2013 as a small group of female riders in the UK, has grown exponentially ever year and expanded over 6 continents (Antartica has yet to report in). The best part of Rapha Women’s 100 is it’s not a competition; it’s about connecting a community of women cyclist around the world through a shared adventure and love of the road under two wheels.
According to Rapha’s website over 7,000 women across the globe joined in and rode together on Sunday the 23rd. More than 100 of those women were riding in Amsterdam!
[Photo courtesy of Maaike Steenwijk]
Unfortunately, my little Dutch bike wouldn’t have made it through 100km (yes, Im blaming the bike) so we only have photos of the beginning. Maaike Steenwijk followed the cyclist along the ride and was kind enough to loan us a couple of her photos. Thanks for letting us join the fun!
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.
Amsterdammers are so very happy to see winter behind them. The days are now longer, brighter, and we can wear less clothing. That’s always a good thing!
At Amsterdam Cycle Chic, we are constantly taking photos and we end up blogging or gramming only a handful. So we thought we’d give you a purge of our winter collection. Enjoy!
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!