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
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
Coat tails are flying.
Getting in the zone.
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:
Saw this lovely burst of colour whizzing by, delivering a parcel, and I just had to stop him! He spent the day riding through snow, sleet, rain and finally some sunshine. Didn’t seem to phase him 🙂
Get ready for the rainy season (here that’s every season) with a bike poncho! Thanks to The People’s Poncho for working with us on this giveaway.
This poncho has it all: slick waterproof shell, sheltering hood with drawstrings, snap clasps at the sleeves, and even handle bar grips to prevent flying away with the wind and rain! There’s a little waterproof zipped pouch for valuables. And the piping is even reflective. Retailing for €75 – but worth every penny.
The only thing you need to do is comment below telling us your favourite thing about biking in the rain.
Comment by Thursday, we’ll announce the winner on Friday!
small print: only open to UK/EU addresses – sorry!
Yep it’s Monday alright. If you haven’t had your coffee yet, I also would love a little boost like this.
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!