August 15, 2016

Riding the green wave on your bike

Filed under: Bicycles by Orangemaster @ 11:06 am

The city of ’s-Hertogenbosch’ (Den Bosch) came second in this year’s Dutch “Traffic light region of 2016 Election”, after Helmond, both in the province of Noord-Brabant, and below you can watch a video shot in Den Bosch about how intricate and tech-savvy traffic lights for cyclists are. Den Bosch also features the country’s’ first Cycle-DRIP (Dynamic Route Information Panel) for cycling, an interesting read as well.

The video voice-over calls the traffic light button a ‘reassurance button’, which is mildly funny, but I’m guessing the contraption was taken over by pedestrian crossings. However, when you’re a visually impaired pedestrian, the ticking sounds the button makes after pressing it and when the light is green is very reassuring. Yes, the cyclist ‘reassurance button’ is possibly just for show and doesn’t make a sound, as it would be drowned out.

UPDATE: Wrong video, changed it.

(Link: bicycledutch.wordpress.com)

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July 26, 2016

A singing bike path gets its own sign

Filed under: Bicycles by Orangemaster @ 9:43 pm
Pink bike

The town of Drimmelen, Noord-Brabant has built a one-kilometre long ‘singing bike path’ (an official traffic sign), encouraging people to sing on their bikes and hopefully continue singing when they see another cyclist rather than stop singing.

The idea came from artist Mapije de Wit, a former columnist for the Fietsersbond cyclists union. The special bike path was officially opened by city council member Jan-Willem Stoop for which local troubadour Rinus Rasenberg wrote a song, saying he got some of his best ideas while cycling. In 10 minutes of cycling you can belt out three hit songs or maybe one or two if you keep forgetting the words.

The bike path is a comfortable three metres in width and is part of a nice 17-kilometre network of paths around the town.

(Link: www.waarmaarraar.nl)

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May 1, 2016

Inventor of bike sharing explains why his plan never caught on in Amsterdam

Filed under: Bicycles,Sustainability,Technology by Branko Collin @ 4:59 pm

white-bikes-hoge-veluwe-ellywaAlthough bike share systems are increasingly popular all over the world, they have failed to catch on in Amsterdam, the city where bike sharing was invented.

British newspaper The Guardian asked the inventor of bike sharing, Luud Schimmelpennink, about the reason behind this lack of popularity.

In the mid-1960s members of the Provo movement were asking all kinds of questions of the Dutch establishment (the name Provo stands for provocation) and they were not liking the answers they were getting. Young engineer Luud Schimmelpennink was tackling the question of personal transport. In 1965 he proposed and implemented an alternative to the “gaudy and filthy motor car”, the white bicycle.

Schimmelpennink envisioned bikes that weren’t locked and that would be left wherever their riders needed to be. Provo painted 20 bicycles white and left them in the city, but these bikes were promptly impounded by the police.

“The first Witte Fietsenplan was just a symbolic thing,” Schimmelpennink told the Guardian last week. “We painted a few bikes white, that was all. Things got more serious when I became a member of the Amsterdam city council two years later.”

“My idea was that the municipality of Amsterdam would distribute 10,000 white bikes over the city, for everyone to use. I made serious calculations. It turned out that a white bicycle – per person, per kilometre – would cost the municipality only 10% of what it contributed to public transport per person per kilometre.”

The council soundly rejected his plan and told him that they saw a great future for the private motor car. This inspired Schimmelpennink to work on his White Car Plan instead – still using clean(ish) energy.

There is a phrase in Dutch – de wet van de remmende voorsprong, meaning ‘the law of the handicap of a head start’. The fact that Amsterdam was the first to experiment with bike sharing perhaps helps explain why it is late in its implementation. Or perhaps Amsterdam doesn’t need a bike share scheme, because everybody either owns a bike or can readily rent one from OV Fiets or the many bike shops in the city.

Schimmelpennink’s vision wasn’t wasted though, as he inspired other cities throughout the world to implement their own bike sharing schemes. And even his own plan got implemented, just not in Amsterdam. The Hoge Veluwe nature reserve has bikes that have been painted white and that are free to use. The program started in 1974 with 50 bikes and exists to this day. It currently consists of 1,800 bicycles.

(Photo of white bicycles in Hoge Veluwe by Ellywa, some rights reserved)

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February 29, 2016

Amsterdam Central Station’s shared space is successful

Filed under: Bicycles,General by Orangemaster @ 1:06 pm

First the media complained about how dangerous it looked, with opinions ranging from ‘completely bonkers’ and ‘sign this petition’, which have now turned into ‘yeah, but don’t be in a rush’ (video) and ‘hey, it actually works for 39,000 commuters a day’.

After a major redesign of the space behind Amsterdam Central Station, where the many ferries take commuters across the IJ river to Amsterdam-Noord, cyclists and pedestrians need to navigate a sea of each other in a no-traffic-rules-figure-it-out-among-yourselves zone. The idea is that a shared space avoids using traffic lights, and if it had been a total disaster full of accidents, the city would have changed it, but now the shared space is deemed successful.

People coming off ferries on bikes and scooters are definitely to be avoided as a pedestrian, then again, if I’m in their way, it’s up to them to go around me. I’ve actually been there on roller skates at night and that went well. According to Het Parool newspaper, in three months, there has been one ‘incident’ where a cyclist hit a scooter and got back on their bike and buzzed off. They say that cyclists are a bit less aggressive and more polite to pedestrians there as well, and all the naysayers, including us, although we kept it down the pub, have been proven wrong.

Have a look at this time-lapse video and see for yourselves:

Timelapse van de shared space bij Centraal Station from Gemeente Amsterdam on Vimeo.

(Links: www.parool.nl, citinerary.net)

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February 19, 2016

A solar-powered bike with endless battery power

Filed under: Bicycles,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 4:21 pm

Dutch_Solar_Cycle

Dutch start-up Solar Application Lab (SAL) has developed a solar-powered bicycle in collaboration with the Eindhoven University of Technology, Segula from Eindhoven and E-Bike Nederland from Cuijk. The prototype, nicknamed ‘Sally One’, will be presented next week at the university after which it will be thoroughly tested to see if it holds up in different weather conditions and against vandalism.

“The Dutch Solar Cycle is our flagship application, an electrical bicycle with endless battery power. By applying custom built solar discs to the universal component of a bicycle, the wheels, we enhance the personal freedom of all cyclists. Founder Marc Peters explains that they have developed a technique that is 20 times more effective than current solar cells, making it possible to generate enough energy using smaller surfaces like on bikes.”

(Links and photo: www.bright.nl, www.tue.nl)

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February 5, 2016

Stainless steel 3D printed bicycle comes to life

Filed under: Bicycles,Dutch first by Orangemaster @ 2:02 pm

Arc-Bicycle

A team of students from Delft University of Technology have designed and produced a fully functional 3D printed stainless steel bicycle. It looks like a robot did some heavy metal basket weaving.

At the beginning, we noticed the project was being welded at MX3D in Amsterdam, the folks working on a 3D printed steel bridge.

The Arc Bicycle is apparently the first ever 3D printed metal bicycle to be produced using a welding process.

(Link: www.bright.nl, Screenshot: YouTube video by Arc Bicycle)

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January 31, 2016

Bicycle tunnel built in a single weekend in Utrecht

Filed under: Bicycles by Branko Collin @ 11:49 pm

bike-tunnel-utrechtThe Netherlands is known for taking better care of its cyclists than other countries, but this may be taking the cake.

The sign at the beginning of the video says it all: “Spinoza Bridge closed from 2 May 9 p.m. to 4 May 11 p.m.” Two days in 2014. That is how little time it took the city of Utrecht to tear apart the bridge, put tunnel parts in the gap and repair the bridge. And all this for cyclists.

The city then took 12 more months to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, which included placing tile murals by Louise Hessel. Why the tunnel had to be built so quickly is unknown, but a report from 2009 (PDF) mentions that traffic crossing the bridge would be seriously inconvenienced if the bridge had to be closed. The same report argues vehemently against building the tunnel. Apart from the effects on traffic it mentions that the bridge’s counterweight room would ‘conflict with’ the tunnel and that the costs of alternative solutions would be humongous.

In 2015 the city started its campaign Utrecht Fietst (Utrecht Cycles) and (the run up to) this campaign may have created the funds and the political will to improve the cycling situation around the Spinoza Bridge after all. Alderman Lot van Hooijdonk opened the tunnel on 28 November 2014.

A more recent cycling development in Utrecht is that the city has closed a lot of bike paths to mopeds, which aren’t allowed to go faster than 25 kph, but reach much higher speeds in practice.

See also: The city of Utrecht received 5,000 answers when it asked which traffic lights should go

(Illustration: crop of the video, link: Mark Wagenbuur)

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January 20, 2016

Emmen plans world’s first wooden bike path

Filed under: Bicycles,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 3:46 pm

After solar-powered bike paths, heated bike paths and glow in the dark bike paths, the next trend in bike paths would be wooden ones. The city of Emmen, Drenthe has announced that it is planning to renovate a 200-metre stretch of bike path using a biocomposite material made from woodchips and bioresin for its robustness and resistance to wear. Any new material for something like a bike path needs to be able to also deal with vandalism, the weather and last a long time.

If the test goes well, it could lead to the manufacturing of these sustainable biocomposite plates in a factory that would employ 75 people in Emmen. The entire idea is part of getting more innovation going in the region.

(Link: www.dvhn.nl, Photo of a Schwinn Tailwind Electric Assist bike by Richard Masoner, some rights reserved)

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January 12, 2016

Bike paths are too busy, cyclists take risks

Filed under: Bicycles by Orangemaster @ 12:54 pm

A recently published report by the Foundation for Traffic Studies (SWOV) on the use of bike paths in Amsterdam and The Hague has reached the major conclusion that bike paths aren’t wide enough, and extrapolates their findings to other big cities during rush hour. As well, 20% of cyclists fiddle with their smartphones while cycling, four out of five cyclists don’t look around them when passing others (something Dutch driving lessons hammer into you) and one of out 20 cyclists cycle the wrong direction.

The report points out that many bike paths are not wide enough to accommodate the flow of cyclists, although 90% of people cycle with a standard sized bike. It does say that scooters are bigger and tend to add to the traffic, but only account for a small percentage of bike path users. Half of the locations observed in both cities during rush hour are too busy and the risky behaviour mentioned above is not making cycling any safer.

In Europe The Netherlands is the king of ‘cycling usage’, with 84% of the population owning a bike, while Denmark takes top place for ‘cycling advocacy’. The legend of there being more bikes than people here – a unique occurrence in the world – is still true. The real threat to safety remains scooters because they go too fast. The effects of having moved them off the bike path in Amsterdam has not yet been observed and reported.

In this older video below, there’s a cyclist moving ahead of the green light, which is wrong but not a huge deal. There are people completely outside of the cycle lane going wide and that’s slightly annoying. And then there’s some freestyling that is risky and inconsiderate. I’ll admit to pulling some stunts while cycling, but I categorically refuse to do anything with my smartphone and don’t listen to music.

(Link: www.iamexpat.nl, www.swov.nl, Photo by Flickr user comedynose, some rights reserved)

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January 2, 2016

Amsterdam’s bike paths were not built overnight

Filed under: Bicycles by Orangemaster @ 2:28 pm

CyclingProfessor

Anyone saying a city is not like Amsterdam and implying that it can’t possibly have bike paths like a Dutch city has no clue what Amsterdam fought for and went through to get the world-class cycling infrastructure it has today. When I saw the bike lanes in London where people could get run over if they didn’t have eyes all around their heads, I was reminded of what we often take for granted in Amsterdam, despite it not always being that stress-free to get around, especially in the city centre.

In Brussels you need to wear a high visibility vest and except cyclists in both directions. In London and Paris, cycling is mostly done on the street and you need to take up your rightful space, which discourages many people from cycling. I’ve cycled in Munich and it was OK if you’re not travelling large distances. Although it may have changed, cycling in Barcelona was done on the sidewalk, which meant unwillingly terrorising pedestrians. Most of my experience comes from cycling in Montréal, which consistently makes the list of the world’s most bicycle friendly cities, but then I biked before the advent of bike paths and got hit by cars a few times.

The point is, all those amazing bike paths didn’t appear overnight, as many of these before and after pictures show.

The argument of ‘but there’s no hills’ is true, but then there’s wind and rain so bad that we get weather warnings with trees falling and people going to hospital. There’s scooters speeding by and hitting cyclists, wobbly tourists who don’t look where they are going and irresponsible parents with kids cycling while on the phone endangering everyone around them. However, we can get around everywhere without a cycling map by following proper road signs, and in many places we cycle separately from cars.

Bike parking is still a problem, but then there’s cities like Utrecht who will show The Netherlands how it’s done.

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