The other day I was riding down Vijzelstraat towards the city centre. As I was approaching the Prinsengracht (a one-way and precisely here), I slowed down, looked for on-coming cars and bikes from the left and right… and kept riding.
Yes, I knowingly rode through a red light. In Amsterdam. The capital of red-light-running. I know, that doesn’t make it ok.
A police car followed me, pulled me over, and proceeded to lecture me about how it’s unsafe, especially “because a police car was parked at the intersection.”
And then he actually asked me if he could give me a fine of €97. I had already argued my side by saying I felt safe, so I didn’t argue further. But could I have said no? I wonder.
So watch out Amsterdammers. They’re out to get ya!
Just when the bike wasn’t practical and stylish enough..they go and make cool packable.
Because cycling is a way of living here, bikes are used for all purposes. So if you need to deliver several cartons or a huge amount of dresses, you just climb on your bike and look concentrated, or not !
His great grandfather had a bicycle shop, where his grandmother spoked wheels in the cold Dutch winters and his father ran around as a little boy. At the age of 3 Elian learned how to cycle, when 15 years old he started to work in a bike shop and now he has designed the ultimate city bike, the Minute. In short; Elian’s life is all about bicycles!
The ultimate city bike
Elian is a bike designer. He makes handcrafted bicycles; “the process of designing a bike starts with a blank paper, I talk to the customer, what does he/she want, what is their ideal cycling position, where and how will they use the bike, I take their measurements and then I start.The result is the perfect bike for that person.”
While designing these bikes, Elian realized many people were looking for a bike that would solve the typical urban biking problems many people face: “It should be a bike that they could leave in their apartment (not to get stolen on the street). Not too heavy, not too big, easy maneuverable in the busy city centre’s of Amsterdam and Utrecht and easy to park in the full bike parking’s. Also most people want to sit upright, cycle comfortably and they want to be able to carry groceries and kids on their bikes. When I kept hearing those same requests for a bike, I decided to design the Ultimate City Bike. And we just launched it: the Minute.”
Great grandfather’s bike shop
Elian’s great grandfather had a bike shop in Maarn (close to Utrecht). Elian’s father still remembers being there as a little boy: “His grandfather was a typical bike repairman. He always wore a blue overall, his hands were black of all the repair work and he was always smoking. He still remembers the smell of his workplace.” In the village of Maarn almost everyone had a Fongers bicycle. “The winters were much harsher then, so in winter people couldn’t cycle because of all the snow, in these winters there were no repairs to do. In those months my great grandparents and grandparents had another task: spoking wheels for Fongers. That is how it went in those days.”
Elian lives in Leersum, a village in the green Utrechtse Heuvelrug. His workplace is in the shed of his parents in Maurik. Every morning he cycles to work through the forest and the fields. He has a little son for whom he built a walking bike. “I get a lot of support from my family; my wife moved mountains to get the Minute launched, my 16 year old brother helps building bikes, and my father brings technical knowledge – which often comes in handy.” Even Elian’s grandmother offered help: “Let me know when I can help, I can still spoke wheels like in the old days!”
Since December passed us by so quickly we are just now getting to share some big news. US-based urban cycling mag, Momentum Magazine, featured our very own Amsterdam Cycle Chic girls in their December issue. Joni and I wrote a brief article with tips about the best cycling city in the world, including a few pointers on “how to cycle like an Amsterdammer”. In the 2-page spread they also featured photos by us — and Aude’s shot of me for last year’s Cyclist of the Month was chosen for the cover! You can still download the December issue here.
We love opportunities like this. Sharing Amsterdam’s unique and amazing — and all so normal at the same time — bike ‘culture’ with the world is one reason this blog exists. So keep on cycling chic, Amsterdam!
Hi Amsterdam Cycle Chic team,
I never had a driving license and I have never missed it because my bike brings me everywhere! Cycling is freedom.What is nicer than discovering the city by bike? I cycle a Bub by Batavus now but years ago I had a real old omafiets, and… a very sweet Jack Russell puppy. Maybe a nice picture for your blog?
We love it to receive an email like this. People sharing their bicycle stories with us. In that way we get to know our readers a bit. So thanks for sharing Louise!
After seeing Louise’s picture I went through our own photos and selected a few dogs in baskets (or crates) for you, something you see a lot in the streets of Amsterdam. And you see, big dogs, small dogs, they all love to go for a ride!
Where could this lady be going or coming from in this kind of weather? I could only guess the driving range … or she found a good deal on a couple clubs. Where is the nearest golf course or driving range?! Certainly not anywhere near the corner of Stadhouderskade and Van Woustraat!
On a Saturday afternoon at StarBikes, I met up with Pete Jordan, author of In The City of Bikes, to talk about his book, Amsterdam, and of course, cycling. In The City of Bikes is a memoir-like historical fact book telling the story of Amsterdam’s cycling history and culture. It takes you back to the 1890s, through the Nazi occupation, and to the city still filled with bikes we know today.
How long have you been in Amsterdam?
I came to Amsterdam in 2002 to take a one-semester-long urban planning course. 11 years, 8 apartments, and 4 bikes later, I’m still here. I blame the bikes.
Your book is all about the history of cycling in Amsterdam. What’s your favorite bit of history?
I found the war years (WWII) incredibly interesting. Amsterdammers showed a massive amount of resistance to the Germans. And it was something everyone could do: lolly-gag on their bikes in front of an impatient, waiting, honking German car.
What was the inspiration behind the book?
I was enthralled by all the cyclists from day I arrived in Amsterdam and I started asking around for books about it. To my surprise, I found nothing. Cycling is so normal in this city that no one has bothered to write a book about the topic!
And the best or worst thing about cycling in Amsterdam?
I’m still amazing that it keeps growing! Look at the Haarlemmerstraat, the best street in Amsterdam. You’d think all the cyclists going every which way would cause complete chaos–but in fact, it works. My least favorite is tied between the tourists and scooters. Yesterday I saw 2 tourists collide in front of the Rijksmuseum. It’s comical, but also just dangerous.
Any other plans with the book? A sequel? A photo exhibit?
The Dutch version of the book, De Fietsrepubliek, has an excellent photo section unlike the English version. I’m planning to extend the gallery into a book on its own. Now the website is also up and running, and I also offer private tours based on the book. And I’m working on a guide book for cycling tourists that will be out next year.
What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
A while ago, I started collecting all these loose, often broken bike parts from all over the city. In no time at all, I had almost every piece I needed for a whole bike. I wanted to put all the pieces together, but then I realized: a bike made from broken parts is just a broken bike. So I threw them all away.
For more information about Pete Jordan, his tours, and In The City of Bikes, head to www.cityofbikes.com
Before your baby is big enough to travel in a baby-seat on the front of your bike, take him out this way and keep on cycling!
Imagine: you are with two people, you have one bike, and you want to go to a friend’s birthday party. What would you do? You could of course leave the bike and go walking, go by car or take a tram. But you can also be inspired by these Amsterdammers and go together on one bike.
We show you five different ways to share a bike (also called doubling). No special seats or cargo bikes needed!
Sitting on the back carrier is the most common way to cycle together. Men normally sit with one leg at each side
This is the version that women like best.
A very popular way amongst Amsterdams youth. (Don’t try this with a heavy person).
For a good view. Like this son on the back of his fathers bike.
Not a very clear picture. They went too fast and I don’t see this way very often. We actually do not know why you would do this. Maybe when the person cycling doesn’t smell too good, or you prefer looking at the streets instead of looking at a back?
There are a lot of other ways to cycle together on one bike (sit on the crossbar, on the handlebars, or on the saddle). Take a look at more pics in this Cycle Chic Republic post.
Now, after being inspired by these cyclists from Amsterdam would you take a bike together?