Just in time for Le Grand Départ of the Tour de France in Utrecht in early July, tree-shaped bike racks called ‘Rack & Roots’, designed by award-winning student Esther Bergstra will be placed around the city.
“By parking your bicycle against these strong roots, you’re reminded of the world under the tree. Trees are a special addition to the urban landscape and together they form an urban forest.”
In the mean time, there’s still much construction downtown Utrecht as the world’s biggest bike garage dominates much of the construction landscape near the train station.
This week there was a woman in Bloemendaal, North Holland who went grocery shopping with her bike and was about to load her saddle bags only to discover that an entire swarm of bees had moved in. The queen bee apparently decided to park it there and her entire buzzing entourage followed suit. They called in a beekeeper and he got them to move to a box.
Recently there was a woman in Oirschot, Noord-Brabant who noticed twigs in her saddle bags and kept forgetting to remove them every time she got on her bike until one day she decided to clear them out and noticed a bird’s nest with five robin eggs in it. She left her bike alone until last week when five baby robins emerged from the eggs.
Using a modified cargo bike named the Poopymobile, inspired by the Popemobile, pet shop entrepreneur Thomas Vles cycled to London with his two cats Mushi and Cheesy last month. Owner of pet design company Poopy Cat in Amsterdam, he knows that cats hate to be locked up in small cages or fly and decided to cycle with a typical Dutch ‘bakfiets’. Mushi and Cheesy are apparently used to going everywhere by bike since they were kittens.
On YouTube Vles said that, “the cats were priority number one during the trip. Should we even remotely think that they were not comfortable, we would stop. There was driving an accompanying car with in which they could always go. Our trip was supported by two veterinarians and we kept an eye on everything 24/7. We have noticed that Mushi and Cheesy were really enjoying their time in the ‘kitty mobile’ – they wanted to stay in there even when we had to get out to sleep!”
After a few cities in Canada, it’s now the turn of the United States to embrace the building of a ‘woonerf’, a typical Dutch construct from the 1930s, an area where drivers, cyclists and pedestrians have to share the same space, but where pedestrians always have the right of way.
Ithaca, New York is building what they call a ‘living yard’ (‘woonerf’), with a low speed limit of no more than 10 or 12 mph (16 km/h to 19.2 km/h). Today in the Netherlands the woonerf speed limit is 15 km/h, although a few years ago it was still referred to as ‘stapvoets’, which is a old term from when people rode horses at a slow pace, which would be 6 km/h if it was really a horse, but not actually possible by car or bike without consequences. However, 15 km/h is still slower than what Ithaca has decided, which to me sounds too fast.
“The whole point is to encourage human interaction; those who use the space are forced to be aware of others around them, make eye contact and engage in person-to-person interactions.” As a North American, the car is always king of the road, but the woonerf forces drivers to realise that it’s not always their space just because there’s a road, which I think is a good thing to learn.
Cycling is an everyday mode of transport in most of the world, but nowhere do people choose to ride their bikes to work, school, football practice and bars as much as in the Netherlands.
This preponderance of cycling has led to many habits that have become a part of the fabric of life in this country. In the video above, Mark Wagenbuur shows examples of cycling hand in hand, of cycling with suitcases, of rear rack rides and of transporting large objects with your bike.
The video is part two of a series of two, so if you cannot enough of this sort of thing, part 1 is here. In a separate blog post Mark Wagenbuur talks a little about the background music he uses for the two videos.
A 70 metre bike path in Krommenie, North Holland was fitted with solar cells, protected by a glass surface ‘strong enough to drive a truck over it’, but apparently not strong enough to deal with a bit of frost. Granted, it was a pilot project, but it is important to show people what failure looks like before the Dutch government spends tons of tax payers’ money on something that doesn’t work.
The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) has developed a smart electric bicycle prototype to help the elderly avoid causing accidents when riding their bikes. The new bicycle features a forward-looking radar mounted under the handlebars and a camera in the rear mudguard.
“The forward and rearward detection devices on the test bike are linked through an onboard computer with a vibrating warning system installed in the bicycle’s saddle and handlebars to alert cyclists to impending danger. The saddle vibrates when other cyclists approach from behind, while the handlebars do the same when obstacles appear ahead.”
Available in two years, the bike isn’t cheap at a price of between 1,700 euro and 3,200 euro and currently weighs 25 kilos. The smart bike sounds interesting, but it is ridiculously expensive and too heavy. And if it is to be a fancy bike, it will get stolen regularly in the big cities. Oddly enough, the Dutch media hasn’t been talking about it, which leads us to believe the smart bike is not being taking too seriously or it is being ignored.
The elderly have accidents on bike paths because they get startled. Let’s get rid of scooters, racing cyclists and morons on their mobile who startle everyone and learn to communicate when we pass an elderly person so they don’t have accidents as a result of being startled.
A bit of a buffoon at home if we believe the media and quick to call Amsterdam ‘sleazy’ as the Mayor of Amsterdam and King Willem-Alexander were visiting London (which was nice), the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has no qualms about calling upon Dutch business expertise from Amersfoort to build proper bike paths so that cycling in London becomes safe for all road users.
London’s bike paths are found on busy roads and are dangerous, as London Cyclist points out and has filmed during a ride. The goal is to build bike paths in London along quieter roads, parks and the likes, a bit like we do in the Netherlands.
Cycling in major Dutch cities feels quite safe to me, but the zooming scooters, mobile using morons and inattentive tourists make it a bit stressful. However, it’s nothing compared to this video that I find difficult to watch.
And Johnson, the biggest tourist nuisance as of late in Amsterdam are British stag and hen parties. Mayor Eberhard van der Laan invited you to check out how your fellow Brits behave in his ‘sleazy’ city, so what’s the hold up?
Sending hundreds of bikes to Syrian refugees in Jordan sounds like a great way to clean up the clutter caused by abandoned bikes in Amsterdam. The idea isn’t new, as the city of Amsterdam said this summer that it wanted to send 10,000 bikes to Jordan. Bikes are useful for transporting large objects and can be converted into many things.
Having tens of thousands of abandoned bikes in a city of some 813,00 inhabitants makes it sound like we grab a bike and leave it on the street every time we go out. The bike depot, a ‘refugee camp for bikes’ that were parked illegally yet often removed incorrectly by the ‘bike police,’ is so far away that people cannot be bothered and just use another bike. It’s not a very green attitude, but it does save time and money.
If the city would just lay off people’s bikes unless they were really abandoned carcasses with no wheels left, that could be a good start. If the city would build more bike racks, that would help considering the current depot system apparently runs at a loss. If that depot wasn’t so ridiculously far away or there were a few smaller ones, that would help. So go ahead, ship a bunch of ‘abandoned’ bikes to Syria (or talk about it for months) instead of fixing the real urban problem, that’s the ticket.
Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Bob Schiller has launched Epo bicycles with the hopes of seeing bicycle manufacturing make a come back in the Netherlands. His goal was to design a bike that could be both built and used here. “Even our prime minister uses his bike to get to work. Cycling is part of our culture and it has been for centuries. However, an affordable, contemporary Dutch bicycle disappeared from our streets.”
True, most mass-produced bicycles are manufactured in Asia as labour costs there are lower. Gazelle and Batavus brand bikes are Dutch and there are more, but yes, the fancy new ones are usually expensive designer bikes like Vanmoof or BlackStar Bikes and not the kind you ride to work every day for fear of them being stolen for starters.
It’s a nice idea, but unless labour costs go down, which they won’t, many designer Dutch bikes will continue to be a luxury item.