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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June 12, 2015

Cor Jaring’s Magical Press Helmet

Filed under: Photography,Weird by Branko Collin @ 6:37 pm


Dutch press photographer Cor Jaring was best known for his association with the Provo movement of the mid-1960s when among others he covered the clashes between Provos and the police.

As Groene Amsterdammer writes: “Wearing a polyester shield underneath his clothes for protection, Jaring climbed on top of cars, stood on window sills, lowered himself into manholes and walked backwards in front of demonstrations” in order to get his shots.

Jaring designed and wore what he called a ‘magical press helmet’, but whether it was part of his personal protection is unclear. “The helmet had everything a photographer could need”, Groene Amsterdammer paraphrases Jaring, “an automatic subject finder, a flash installation, a semi-automatic activity alarm, a flip-flop switch, a radio installation and an escape device which could produce a 30 metre smoke screen in three colours, red, white and blue.”

Provo had a strange relationship with the Telegraaf newspaper that was both antagonistic and symbiotic. Every time Provo organised a happening – an event for which provoking the police into a violent response to an innocent trigger was a requirement – Telegraaf would report angrily to its conservative readers. Telegraaf’s reporting would in return help spread Provo’s ideas.

Provo’s sense of publicity resonated with Jaring, who was considered part of the movement. It is just possible he wore the helmet as yet another thing for people to talk about.

Huis Marseille hosts an exhibition of Jaring’s work until 28 June.

(Photo (1968) by Jac. de Nijs / Anefo, some rights reserved)

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February 27, 2014

The white bikes of the Hoge Veluwe, 40 years of loyal service

Filed under: Bicycles by Orangemaster @ 11:49 am


On 27 April the Hoge Veluwe National Park in Otterlo, Gelderland will be celebrating 40 years of free-to-use white bikes for visitors, originally suggested by members of the mid-1960s Provos, a Dutch anti-establishment cultural movement whose co-founder passed away in 2009.

The Hoge Veluwe, a three Michelin star tourist attraction and the biggest nature reserve of the country, features 5,400 hectares of green and forest. When cycling through it on your white bike, you may catch a glimpse of animals like deers to rabbits. Also on the grounds of the park is the world-famous Kröller-Müller museum, featuring works by Van Gogh and Picasso indoors and with sculptures and paintings outdoors – a great place to spend the day. There’s also a nature discovery museum for kids and of course, white bikes for kids and even for parents with small children.

At the celebration, five of the white bikes will be painted by artists and auctioned off, and there will also be a photo competition, the winners of which will have their pictures enlarged and placed around the park.

(Link: , Photo of White bikes, Hoge Veluwe by 123_456, some rights reserved)

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February 3, 2014

Witkar, a car sharing project from the 1970s

Filed under: Automobiles by Branko Collin @ 4:30 pm

A computerised car sharing system from the 1970s was way ahead of its time and a product of the Dutch precursor of the hippie movement.

witkar-instituut-beeld-geluidThe video shown here from the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision contains a short news item about the Witkar (literally White Car) invented by famous provo Luud Schimmelpennink. Witkars were battery powered and available to members for a small price. A PDP-11 computer acted as a central control system and swipe cards gave you access to one of the two-seater Witkars. Their action radius was limited, making them suitable mostly for urban areas. Originally 1,000 vehicles were planned, but the project never got beyond the first 35 cars and 5 charging stations.

A problem that plagued the Witkar was that the battery drained quickly and had to be charged often. As a result not all of the Witkars were always available, as they were busy charging. Another issue with the Witkar was that some destinations were more popular than others. The project ran until 1986.

The Witkar was the product of one the White Plans, a series of plans by provos from Amsterdam that tried to improve daily for everybody. White Bicycles were a bike share project, White Housing promoted squatting, White Kids tried to tackle the daycare problem and so on.

A recent car sharing program called Car2go by Daimler (which had Witkar 2.0 as a working title) tries to prevent these problems by giving bonus minutes to people who actual bother to park the car at a charging station.

Somebody made an English translation of a part of the video.

(Photo: crop of the video)

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March 7, 2009

Grootveld funeral

Filed under: Art,History by Branko Collin @ 5:12 pm

Today Robert Jasper Grootveld was buried in Amsterdam. The day started with a ‘happening’ at Spui square, followed by a service, after which Grootveld, one of the leaders of the 1960s Provo movement, was sailed to the Zorgvlied cemetery on top of a styrofoam raft for burial. 24 Oranges was present at the happening and also took photos of the boat ride to the cemetery.

At the Spui Grootveld was carried around the Lieverdje statue three times while people shouted “hi – ha – happening” and “uche uche uche” (cough cough cough). In the mid-Sixties Grootveld, self-proclaimed ‘anti-smoke magician’, would hold happenings in the square in which he would circle the statue that had been put there by cigarette manufacturer Crescent .

Later today I will upload more photos to our Flickr stream.

Update: photos have been added to Flickr.

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March 1, 2009

Robert Jasper Grootveld, co-founder Provo movement dies

Filed under: Art,General,History by Branko Collin @ 10:54 am

On Saturday evenings their parents were watching the TV with their left eyes, and the cars in front of the houses with their right, seated on refrigerators and washing machines, with mixers in the one hand and copies of De Telegraaf in the other, and the children went to the Spui. […] When the electrical clock on the Lutheran church indicated it was midnight, the high priest appeared from an alley in full regalia, sometimes with painted face, sometimes masked, and started to walk magical circles around the nicotinian demon, his disciples clapping and singing the Cough Cough song all the while.

Thus describes Harry Mulisch in his book Report to the Rat King the happenings of self-proclaimed ‘anti-smoke mage’ Robert Jasper Grootveld who died last week at age 76.

I’ll just say it: Grootveld was instrumental in harnessing the counter-culture movement of the 1960s and helping decide its course, and as a result the course of the Netherlands. BN/De Stem calls him (Dutch): “the man who put Amsterdam on the map,” and Marijuana Library holds the Provo movement responsible for the Netherlands’ current drug laws.


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