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Amsterdam Bike Culture
August 26, 2007 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Amsterdam's bike culture is jarringly different than the U.S. A photo essay.
posted by craniac (148 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
I thought the comments by the Dutch at the end of the post were as good as the original essay. The complete lack of helmets was interesting as well.
posted by craniac at 8:27 AM on August 26, 2007


They have bike paths with cloverleafs at highway interchanges.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:28 AM on August 26, 2007


The Cambridge Cycling Campaign visits the Netherlands to examine the sorts of cycling facilities provided. Compare with the cycling facilities in the UK (previously on MetaFilter).
posted by grouse at 8:33 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Grouse: excellent link! Too bad I can't edit my original post or I'd add it.
posted by craniac at 8:40 AM on August 26, 2007


I'm having some stoners build me a used bike, and I started reading up about helmets. Couldn't find any good hard data that indicated that they were really any good or that bicycling was, say, an order of magnitude less safe than automobiling. (Now I get ready for all the silly anecdotes about how half the people here would be dead if they didn't wear their helmets.)
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:41 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


I love love seeing people in formal dress riding bicycles. I wish people here in the US did it more often.

A gentleman wearing a suit, and riding an English style bicycle is the height of class.
posted by splatta at 8:46 AM on August 26, 2007


re: helmets, I agree with the commenter's beautifully-worded phrase that the reason we have mandatory bicycle helmets here in America is due to "feral cars".

American drivers can be quite aggressive, even in San Fransisco (especially in SF, judging from my personal experience) and just don't understand WHY YOU CAN'T GET A CAR LIKE THE REST OF THE FUCKING COUNTRY YOU POOR BROKE ASS COMMIE HIPPIE GET A FUCKING JOB YOU CUNT, etc, etc.

Maybe peak oil will change all that?
posted by Avenger at 8:46 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you're a serious bicyclist who needs to ride on the sides of roads, at high speeds, I think helmets are pretty obviously important. But in a city, at low speeds, short distances? No helmet needed. I mean, pedestrians get hit by cars all the time, but they're not required to wear helmets. One thing I thought was interesting was that I expected all the bikes to be free-standing, without any security. But all of the bikes are secured by huge, thick locks.
posted by billysumday at 8:48 AM on August 26, 2007


Look at this man reading Metafilter -- riding a bicycle! This man is waving his hand -- while riding a bicycle! Hold on, I think the person in the next picture will be -- riding a bicycle!

Nice photos, terrible captions.
posted by schroedinger at 8:49 AM on August 26, 2007 [6 favorites]


Give me back someone's grandfather's bike!
posted by now i'm piste at 8:53 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Q: Where are all the fat people?
A: There are no fat people because they ALL RIDE BIKES!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:55 AM on August 26, 2007


I'm jealous.

(But I have also known of people who simply fell off their bike, landed on pavement and DIED, so I do kinda disagree on the helmet thing.)
posted by konolia at 8:58 AM on August 26, 2007


Man, there is *no reason* we couldn't have a bigger bike culture in America's major cities. Close down a few roads to create bicycle-only arterials. Maybe a few more bike racks. It would completely transform urban society.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:58 AM on August 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


now i'm piste: that is awesome.
posted by craniac at 8:59 AM on August 26, 2007


I think any reasonable person must come to the conclusion that either the people in Netherlands do not value the safety of their children, or San Francisco bicyclists are clumsy pansies with soft heads and weak minds that must be protected from hurting themselves no matter how much it infringes on individual rights.

Why can't it be both?
posted by escabeche at 9:04 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


I stayed with some elderly dutch people for a few days in rural Netherlands once. We biked most places. It was great--nice and flat, great weather, hemp fields as far as the eye could see. Loved it.

I think I've only ridden on someone else's handlebars once since growing to about my adult size. I remember it being easier and less scary than it looks. Can't speak for the guy who had to pedal with us both on there, though.
posted by lampoil at 9:04 AM on August 26, 2007


Cycling in Amsterdam is simply the easiest way to get around. I don't think it's any more complicated than that. I've never driven there but it looks like it would be hard to do. I'd done a lot of walking there in the past, and the last trip decided to rent a bike - it's really the only way to get around. No hills, temperate climate and a slow pace makes it a practical and unsweaty experience.

And, it's pretty obvious why people paint their bikes strange colours or adorn them in a unique manner if you've ever tried to find your black bike, the same one that everyone else has, at Centraal Station.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:05 AM on August 26, 2007


This is one of those things where, from my perspective, you learn more about America than Holland.
posted by Abiezer at 9:09 AM on August 26, 2007 [6 favorites]


I have also known of people who simply fell off their bike, landed on pavement and DIED

Does that happen often? I've never heard of such a thing.
posted by billysumday at 9:09 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


craniac: Thanks, I've been wanting to post it for a while but wanted to find some other material to go with it.

get ready for all the silly anecdotes about how half the people here would be dead if they didn't wear their helmets

I used to park my bike under a metal stairway. I bumped my head on that stairway a number of times. Luckily, I was always wearing my helmet at this point.

Other than that, the helmet has never been useful, including in two incidents where I was injured.
posted by grouse at 9:10 AM on August 26, 2007


Ooh, I take that back now I've got to the comments.
posted by Abiezer at 9:13 AM on August 26, 2007


This is one of those things where, from my perspective, you learn more about America than Holland.
posted by Abiezer at 9:09 AM on August 26 [+] [!]


Note: Abiezer has officially retracted this comment!

Although you do learn something about the US as well.
posted by craniac at 9:15 AM on August 26, 2007


I could re-instate it if it helps your case, craniac!
I never wear a helmet here in Beijing, which is sort of cycle-friendly despite the appalling urban planning, air quality and booming car ownership just because we still have the numbers and car drivers are reasonably bike-aware (compared to home in the UK). Also it's very flat. I've been car-doored a couple of time and had the odd prang, but still feel no great urge to get one.
posted by Abiezer at 9:20 AM on August 26, 2007


Amsterdam was the one and the only time I've ever rented a bicycle.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:20 AM on August 26, 2007


Don't these people know that "bikes are not transportation" ?
posted by Manjusri at 9:20 AM on August 26, 2007


I'm surprised there aren't any pictures of tourists on bikes, there's a huge lot them during the summer months and they're pretty much universally hated by the locals.
posted by snownoid at 9:23 AM on August 26, 2007


In the US, even in communities designed to be bike friendly, with nearby services and bike paths, most people still hop in the car.

On the good side, more people in the world use a bike as primary transport than do a car. Although this is changing.
posted by stbalbach at 9:24 AM on August 26, 2007


I've visited Holland and NW Germany (that has a bit of the same bike scene) for work in the past year, and really dug the bike culture. My hosts gave me a bike to use, and I got around to work and used it to go to dinners, etc. What fun!

I never realized that they have parallel road and traffic control systems for the cyclists. Quite astonishing to my American eyes (but not typical for Europe, in general, either). The only thing I had to watch out for was, as a pedestrian, I had to habituate myself to an extra two layers of looking both ways at every street crossing, otherwise I might get flattened by a cyclist!

One thing I will say, though: it's awfully flat there, and that makes it pretty easy to get to work or go to the theater without feeling like you need a shower and a change of clothes when you get there. As it is, you get just enough exercise to get the blood flowing in the morning on the way to work without much real strain.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:24 AM on August 26, 2007


Heh, fietsers! Very funny to see all this through the eyes of the US.

A few notes:

it's the most romantic thing when you're a student and you had a few beers and met a girl and you ride home with her on the back holding on to you.

Guys should be driving. Sitting sideways on the back is for girls.

Yes, the locks are more expensive then the bikes. And still the bikes get stolen. It's fucking annoying. And our bikes generally are crap.

Provided it's not raining or near zero celsius and you live in a city so everything is nearby it's great to do everything by bike.

I've heard of dutch aquaintances who lived in let's say NY for a while and thought they'd continue the dutch way of biking: having one child on the back, one on the steer and driving through NY. They had to stop because of angry NYers attacking them for being irresponsible parents.
Which, in NY, was probably true.

Driving a car in Holland in cities takes a high degree of alertness because people on bikes are whirring every which way generally ignoring the rules. Even at night they drive without lights and are extremely careless.
So I guess the risks of riding a bike in NL are extremely lower than in the US. We don't have memorial rides for the bikers who have fallen.

Wearing a helmet if you're not doing 45 km/h on a road bike is ridiculous. Unless you're less than 10 y. old.

American tourists renting a bike are cute when they're all whooping and hollering for having to descend a little curving slope. And can be annoying when they're obstructing me when I'm trying to pass at high speed. Kijk uit waar je fietst, sukkel!

Having to ride your bike 17 km to school sucks. It seems as if it's always raining and the wind is blowing in the wrong direction. There are huge trails of children riding their bikes making use of the tail wind of each other. Of course nobody wanted to be in front making it easy for the rest and plodding along themselves. So there were always
posted by jouke at 9:27 AM on August 26, 2007 [9 favorites]


This is fun! Looks all very normal to me. I have the same orange "grandma" bike. My son never wears a helmet because the other kids would laugh at him! We do decorate his bike for the Queen's Birthday.
posted by kudzu at 9:33 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Bikes are ok if you can use cell phones...and perhaps have a beer in hand too.
posted by Postroad at 9:33 AM on August 26, 2007


jouke: So there were always what?
posted by grouse at 9:37 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Dutch Granny Bike Equation: When does it make sense to spend more on security than on the item being secured?
posted by The Deej at 9:40 AM on August 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


grouse: ... so there were always these standoffs at the start of a ride to or from school. Everybody peddling extremely slow on their bikes waiting for somebody to become impatient and take the lead. Of course when this happened they did not want to take the rest along so they would speed away. With the rest in pursuit.
Heh, riding to school was gezellig though.
posted by jouke at 9:44 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


And I love the picture here, with all the kids scooped into a frontloader. Here in the US you'd be cited for child endangerment, have your kids put into foster care, and be thrown in jail. OK, I'm exaggerating. Maybe.
posted by The Deej at 9:45 AM on August 26, 2007


No one wears a helmet in Holland because bikes are never in fast car traffic. They only drive on the same road on quiet residential streets (max speed about 40 km/h or 25 m/h (same thing)) Anything faster, and there will be a completely separate bike lane, often separated from the car part of the road by a physical barrier (row of parked cars + cement barrier in the city, or trees and bushes where there is space) . In smaller towns there are bike routes that go where car streets don't go at all. Going to my high school (in a town of pop. 60,000) was a 20 minute bike ride across town, and it was all on a network of bike lanes where the only traffic was bikes: no cars anywhere near it, and no pedestrian paths either. The teachers that came in from other towns often took the train and rode to school from the train station on their folding bikes. More than 90% of the 1000 students rode their bikes to school, and there were enough bike stands for everyone.

And now I'm in Toronto and my friends bug me if I don't wear a helmet, I can't bike during the months with snow because the bike lanes aren't snow-free and the cars splash up slush, I can't wear a skirt while biking because I don't have the mud guards and "coat protectors" (literal translation for those things on the back wheel) that I'd need, I need to wear a backpack because I don't have the luggage rack on the back, I need to remember to take my electrical lights with me, and if I go somewhere by bike I'm always the only one who biked there: in Holland it was also a social thing ("Are you going to the party tonight, let's bike there together!" and then you'd chat the whole way there. My friend and I rode to school together for years) but you can't even bike socially in traffic so that's probably a good thing here.
posted by easternblot at 9:47 AM on August 26, 2007 [5 favorites]


Shorter version:

OMG GIRLZ IN DRESSES RIDING BKES! AND NO HELMENTS EITHER. (BUT THEYRE DUMB ANYWAY AMIRITE?)
posted by odinsdream at 9:48 AM on August 26, 2007


There's a bikeshop in Portland that imports Dutch bikes and I love their post about what makes the "Dutch" ride so good.
posted by mathowie at 9:48 AM on August 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


From the linked site: Now a note about the solid orange color -> I have two theories why Amsterdam bicycles are painted such bright and unique aftermarket colors: either 1) it is so their owners can find them when piled high in other bicycles in Amsterdam bicycle racks, or 2) as a security measure

Sorry, but what a douchebag for missing the obvious reason. They're Dutch, and they're proud of their country. Everything in the Netherlands is orange to celebrate the country's identity and even I know this as an ignorant American.
posted by mathowie at 9:52 AM on August 26, 2007


Yes, dynamos are terrible.
posted by meehawl at 9:52 AM on August 26, 2007


I actually know one of the CleverCycles guys from when he lived here in SF. He is one of my main inspirations for transitioning to a bike lifestyle.

I ride my bike in a dress and helmetless, most of the time, especially if I'm not dragging the kids in a trailer (the kids always wear helmets though, because I'm a hypocrite).
posted by padraigin at 9:53 AM on August 26, 2007


Nice post - thank you!
The casual ease of the Dutch riders reminds me of my comment when I first saw California - "Not enough cyclists and way too many people on bikes!"
posted by speug at 9:54 AM on August 26, 2007


Just for you, TheOnlyCoolTim:

Wearing A Helmet Puts Cyclists At Risk, Suggests Research

Science Daily — Drivers pass closer when overtaking cyclists wearing helmets than when overtaking bare-headed cyclists, increasing the risk of a collision, the research has found.

Dr. Ian Walker, a traffic psychologist from the University of Bath, used a bicycle fitted with a computer and an ultrasonic distance sensor to record data from over 2,500 overtaking motorists in Salisbury and Bristol.

posted by jamjam at 9:56 AM on August 26, 2007


I actually know one of the CleverCycles guys from when he lived here in SF. He is one of my main inspirations for transitioning to a bike lifestyle.

padraigin, would that be Todd?
posted by mathowie at 9:59 AM on August 26, 2007


Wearing a helmet if you're not doing 45 km/h on a road bike is ridiculous. Unless you're less than 10 y. old.

Tell that to all the people in North America who've been hit by cars or run over by large trucks on their bikes. Or, you know, yell at their graves a bit until you feel satisfied with yourself.

Hell, even without the helmet you have to watch out for fuckwits like this. A friend of mine got shoved off her bike and into traffic one night for the simple infraction of riding on the sidewalk (and YES I know you're not supposed to do that, but let's talk about what constitutes a reasonable response and what doesn't). Another friend has a biker friend who brushed an SUV with his bike; minutes later the driver parked his SUV, ran up to the biker a block away, and beat the crap out of him. That required quite a few stitches.

I agree that there's a continuum for helmet use, and I don't feel like I have to wear one all the time. Mandatory helmet laws aren't necessarily the way to go. But to say it's ridiculous for anyone to wear a helmet in an urban setting is to underestimate the dangers of riding a bike in North America. It's a much more hostile environment than bike capitals like Amsterdam.
posted by chrominance at 10:02 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


padraigin, would that be Todd?

Yep. Our kids used to play together. I owe my developing leg muscles to him.
posted by padraigin at 10:02 AM on August 26, 2007


On safety: In a car/bike accident, the car driver is assumed by Dutch law to be responsible, and has to proof it, if he was not. This is one way that makes drivers pay more attention.

*can't find a good link to this law, sorry*
posted by kudzu at 10:05 AM on August 26, 2007


Another vote for: pictures were great, captions not so much.

What does this guy think "formal dress" is? I agree it's slightly impressive that women can be adept at riding bicycles in short tight skirts, but just because people wear a nice blouse and a skirt doesn't mean they are dressed "formally." To me, a lot of the outfits looked like popping down to the store to buy some milk outfits.

but then again the sloppiness of usian style is one of my pet peeves, so i should probably let this one go...
posted by mosessis at 10:05 AM on August 26, 2007


Metafilter: YOU POOR BROKE ASS COMMIE HIPPIE GET A FUCKING JOB YOU CUNT
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:06 AM on August 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


meehawl writes "Yes, dynamos are terrible."

Nah, they're fine. Old, rusty dynamos suck (lots of excess friction, there), but a decent dynamo (I don't mean "expensive and fancy", I just mean "not ancient or decrepit") on a decent bike puts almost no drag on your bike. Complaining about the drag is like saying "Cars suck because they're too slow. I know, because I drove a Model T many decades ago".
posted by Bugbread at 10:06 AM on August 26, 2007


chrominance Tell that to all the people in North America who've been hit by cars or run over by large trucks on their bikes. Or, you know, yell at their graves a bit until you feel satisfied with yourself.
If you look at the title of this post you'll notice it's about Amsterdam Bike Culture. I described dutch social judgements wrt bike helmets.
I'm sure I'd wear a helmet in the US too.
Relax, you're ranting at perceived non-existent injuries here.
posted by jouke at 10:07 AM on August 26, 2007


jouke writes "Wearing a helmet if you're not doing 45 km/h on a road bike is ridiculous. Unless you're less than 10 y. old."

chrominance writes "Tell that to all the people in North America who've been hit by cars or run over by large trucks on their bikes. Or, you know, yell at their graves a bit until you feel satisfied with yourself."

Jouke is talking about wearing a helmet in Amsterdam, not in North America. Nobody wears helmets here in Japan, either, and I think they're a joke. I'd tell that to all the people who've been hit by cars or run over by large trucks on their bikes, but...I've never heard of any of them hitting their head, so I doubt they'd care.

Are they a joke in America? No, because drivers are fucking insane. But this article isn't about America, nor is Jouke's comment.
posted by Bugbread at 10:10 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Whoops, we just typed past eachother, there, Jouke.
posted by Bugbread at 10:11 AM on August 26, 2007


So there were always

My brain automatically read that as "So there were always more inside". Damn you, cutesy AskMe jokers!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:11 AM on August 26, 2007


Yeah, bugbread. Thanks for the explanation.
posted by jouke at 10:14 AM on August 26, 2007


I'm not sure a helmet is much protection if you are hit by a car anyway. They seem to be made to protect you if you hit your head directly top-center at under 12 mph. Which could happen I guess. I know someone who hit a post to avoid a dog and ended up with lots of neck problems, but the helmet probably saved him more grief.

Disclaimer: I am not anti-helmet, but I don't wear one on my 4.5 mile-each-way commute every day. Or actually... um... ever. I ride on side streets or paths at a leisurely pace, and don't encounter much traffic. I also ride as if someone is out to kill me, so paranoia helps.

I'll probably get a helmet soon, though. There is one thing they are PROVEN to protect you from: friends nagging you to get a helmet.
posted by The Deej at 10:20 AM on August 26, 2007


As a Brit living in Portland Oregon, it amuses me that on the weekend the place seems full of mid-lifers wobbling around on bikes dressed up in all the spandex and gear looking like Lance Armstrong with a beer-gut.

There, something about American recreational culture- You just have to HAVE to have all the gear, even if you're just going for a walk, erm, I mean "hike"...
posted by marvin at 10:22 AM on August 26, 2007


HI I'M IN SAN FRANCISCO AND I COULD CULTURESHOCK A PLATE OF BIKES
posted by cortex at 10:29 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


From the statistics I've read a large percentage of bicycle deaths are older people simply falling off their bikes, hitting their heads and die. I guess the elderly fall over and die all the time so biking is probably not much more dangerous than say, going to the bathroom.

And one thing related to helmets. 5 years ago the people wearing helmets while skiing was a small minority. Now everyone has them. There is pretty much overwhelming anecdotal evidence that helmets makes you feel more secure and therefore you go faster. A LOT faster. I'm pretty sure that wearing a bike helmet leads to more reckless driving. I wear one and I drive like a total idiot at least.
posted by uandt at 10:29 AM on August 26, 2007


Why do the locks seemingly cost more than the bikes? Apparently they've seen The Bicycle Thief.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 10:30 AM on August 26, 2007


To give you a (purely anecdotal) example of the difference in degrees of safety of bicyclists in different countries (apologies, this will be Japan and the US, because I know little of Amsterdam):

If you're a bicyclist in the US, you probably know someone who has been hurt by not wearing a helmet, or who has been saved by wearing one. If you don't, one of the people you know probably does.

Unless you're the head of a major bicycling organization in the US, I can guarantee that I know more bicyclists than you do. I'm in an office now with 40 people on the office floor. I'd guess that 39 of them either do or did use a bicycle extensively. There's probably one guy who lived right next to his high school, and now lives right next to the train station, and hence didn't need a bicycle. Add to that all the people who I've worked with in the past. Add to that all the students I had when I was a teacher. Add to that every friend or acquaintance I've had. We're talking 12 years of "99% of the people I know". None of them wore helmets (the only people who wear helmets on bikes in Japan are bicycle couriers and Mormons). And yet I've never heard a single tale of woe from not wearing a helmet, not even in a "friend-of-a-friend" way.

The reasons for the low "critical head trauma" bicycle incidence here may vary from Amsterdam (there aren't really dedicated bicycle lanes here: people ride on the street or on sidewalks), but the end result is the same: just because X happens in your own country doesn't mean X is universally true for all countries.
posted by Bugbread at 10:31 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


As a Brit living in Portland Oregon, it amuses me that on the weekend the place seems full of mid-lifers wobbling around on bikes dressed up in all the spandex and gear looking like Lance Armstrong with a beer-gut.

Hey! Portland has long lines of real bicycle commuters during the work week, and although it's not Amsterdam, it's probably as close as you're going to get in the U.S. Sadly.
posted by craniac at 10:34 AM on August 26, 2007


marvin writes "There, something about American recreational culture- You just have to HAVE to have all the gear, even if you're just going for a walk, erm, I mean 'hike'..."

The same is true in Japan, probably ten times more than the US, but it doesn't really apply to bicycles, because bicycles aren't recreation, they're transportation. Like Americans generally don't buy high tech gear to take out the garbage.
posted by Bugbread at 10:34 AM on August 26, 2007


There are more than a few suit & tie cyclists in DC.
posted by pwedza at 10:34 AM on August 26, 2007


There, something about American recreational culture- You just have to HAVE to have all the gear

Marvin, you mean you Brits walk about without smart shoes and smart pants? How terribly backward. I for one feel naked if I'm out in public without any carbon fiber body enhancements, nanobot metabolism boosters, or embedded cognitive processors.
posted by mondo dentro at 10:36 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Okay, so I understand the concept behind "A lock more expensive then a bike" but why get a lock heavier then a bike?
posted by delmoi at 10:37 AM on August 26, 2007


I moved to Cambridge, UK from Austin Texas about 9 months ago.


I've had to convert from a 100% car based suburban lifestyle to a 100% bicycle based lifestyle where they drive on the other side of the road.

Took a bit to get used to, but to be honest, there's no way I can go back. Ended up with a late 50's, early 60's BSA bike that looks like it got hit by a truck. My wife got a mid 60's Raleigh.

Terrible looking but great to lump around town.

Once you get past the "holy fuck I'm out of shape" bit, get a basket and some panniers, it's pretty cool. Sure it sucks in the rain and the wind is tiring at times, but you see the entire place at a different pace.

I'm in the best shape i've ever been and I buy less random shit, largely because it's always a question as to whether I can get it home.

I wear a helmet 100% of the time. Even though it's bike friendlier, people are not that focused on cyclists at time. It might be a crutch, but I feel better.

And even with sidewalks, bike paths, etc, there is absolutely no fucking way i'd do it in the states. Too many fuckheads in cars who are deliberately malicious towards cyclists. Even in Austin I wouldn't have cycled this much.


As for the cycling with helmets or without argument, my Dad is an ENT and had to deal with countless head injuries related to cycling. Time and time again, if you wear a helmet and crash, fast or slow, into a car or all by yourself, you're way more likely to survive with a helmet. Period.
posted by Lord_Pall at 10:37 AM on August 26, 2007


Are the folding bikes the same as regular bikes when it comes to riding one?
posted by quoththeraven at 10:38 AM on August 26, 2007


The locks don't have to be more expensive than the bike, I paid about 50 Euro for my three huge locks but found it impossible to get a decent bike for less than 70 Euros (so much for the $15 bicycles).

Also, from what I know, most cyclists who die in Amsterdam are killed by trams, I don't really think a helmet would really help there.
posted by snownoid at 10:38 AM on August 26, 2007


...but why get a lock heavier then a bike?

What I noticed while over there is that people don't really give a shit about the bikes per se. They are usually beaters. What they hate is having to get another one. They use their bikes all of the time, and it's just a huge hassle to have it swiped.
posted by mondo dentro at 10:39 AM on August 26, 2007


Interesting link Matthowie.
Yes, the cycling experience is quite different. Since you're more upright it's much easier to inspect your surroundings. It's also easier to watch for traffic coming from behind. Also some people like the upright seat better for sight-seeing bicycling; your view is much more geared towards the surroundings than on an MTB or road bike where you're natural direction of view is towards the road.
It's a bit harder to put force on the pedals though. Pulling on the handlebar boosts the force that one can exert.
Another thing is that your wind profile is bigger than on an MTB or road bike. Riding to school we solved that by riding with our elbows on the handlebar.
posted by jouke at 10:39 AM on August 26, 2007


The bikes are fine and all, but how do they air-condition them? (American here, tongue firmly in cheek.)
posted by NetizenKen at 10:39 AM on August 26, 2007


No hills, temperate climate and a slow pace makes it a practical and unsweaty experience.


The bolded adjective is key. I kept looking at the photos of guys in suits, in clean white shirts, of women wearing nice dresses and wondering:

whiskey tango foxtrot? aren't you worried about getting sweaty and dirty, about looking like a slob when you get to the destination that requires you to wear that nice clothing?
posted by jason's_planet at 10:45 AM on August 26, 2007


I'm in the best shape i've ever been and I buy less random shit, largely because it's always a question as to whether I can get it home.

I found when I was on a bike I'd buy more random shit (especially small electronics) because home was "closer" than it would've been if I had to walk, plus I could get to more stores on a bike than walking. Ah, the life of a weak-willed student.

About the helmet thing: fair enough. I may have been responding more to the tone of the article, which seemed to imply exactly that "the Dutch don't wear helmets at all, and in San Francisco you HAVE to wear one!" and assumed the "ridiculous" comment was a general one.
posted by chrominance at 10:48 AM on August 26, 2007


I spent a few days in the Netherlands a while back. I was struck by how wheelchair-friendly the sidewalks were - they were fairly smooth, there were curb cuts everywhere, and no one seemed bothered by having a guy on wheels there. Then it was pointed out to me that pretty much everyone there is on wheels at some point ... it was awesome.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 10:50 AM on August 26, 2007


No. Amsterdam is flat and small, requiring minimal physical exertion to get around.
posted by goo at 10:50 AM on August 26, 2007


quoththeraven: the folding bikes are generally pretty good. A lot of gears, well made. They're not cheap either though.
The small wheels make for a slightly different cycling experience.


By the way, dutchies and other people in the neighbourhood, shall we have a meetup in A'dam? I don't think you guys read metatalk a lot so this is probably a good place to get your attention: metatalk on Amsterdam meetup.
posted by jouke at 10:50 AM on August 26, 2007


^ to jason'_planet
posted by goo at 10:51 AM on August 26, 2007


Asking how much a beautiful, sensible, comfortable bike weighs is like asking a beautiful, sensible, easygoing person the dimensions of their sex organs. Especially if you ask in the first 30 seconds. It’s not that you can’t be curious, but it’s sort of a vulgar preoccupation whose real significance to happiness is vastly overstated.

From the Mathowie link above.
posted by craniac at 10:51 AM on August 26, 2007


aren't you worried about getting sweaty and dirty, about looking like a slob when you get to the destination that requires you to wear that nice clothing?

When cycling is as natural as walking, one simply doesn't sweat while doing it. There's nothing more to say about this.


posted by quoththeraven: Are the folding bikes the same as regular bikes when it comes to riding one?

For one, they have smaller wheels, thus aren't as stable or comfortable. They are okay, especially when you travel by train, since you can take them along as hand luggage. But, I wouldn't cycle one for more than five kilometers, or so, because if the lack of comfort. And because I would be wearing a suit, and don't want to sweat.
posted by ijsbrand at 10:54 AM on August 26, 2007


about that "cycling in fancy dresses bit" my mother cycled one of those big Hero bicycles - they're the standard equipment for workers etc in India, and not "ladies" step through style either - regularly in a sari. She taught me how to ride my bike and she could do stunts with it too. it all depends on how comfortable you are with the outfit you have on, and as many said bikes are standard transportation in Amsterdam, something you do as a matter of course and daily, of course you're going to be very comfortable doing it in your day wear or office wear. Moped and two wheelers come with sari guards in india so that the ends of cloth don't catch in the wheels.
posted by infini at 10:56 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hell, even without the helmet you have to watch out for fuckwits like this. A friend of mine got shoved off her bike and into traffic one night for the simple infraction of riding on the sidewalk (and YES I know you're not supposed to do that, but let's talk about what constitutes a reasonable response and what doesn't). Another friend has a biker friend who brushed an SUV with his bike; minutes later the driver parked his SUV, ran up to the biker a block away, and beat the crap out of him. That required quite a few stitches.

Not to derail, but alas, the utter selfishness of American culture is reflected in the utter selfishness American urban bikers. As a pedestrian in New York, I've been screamed at, cursed at, hit, and spat upon for having the temerity to cross the street when passels of bikers want to run red lights. A friend of mine was hit and broke her arm when a biker riding the wrong way rammed into her. He sped off after cursing her. Other cities, including San Francisco are just as bad. Walking my dog on the week-ends in Washington Heights was a daredevil act. The river path at riverside park is a no-go zone unless you want speeding bikers brushing past you with inches to spare, or biking three across taking up half of the pedestrian lane as well as the bike lane. It is disheartening to see bikers, who have legitimate grievances against car owners and SUV owners, act just like those same SUV owners towards pedestrians. It is especially disheartening in New York, with a robust pedestrian culture. I doubt the laid-back Dutch are as selfish - but this is a reflection of the American "me" generation grown up.

There's the biggest contrast right there.
posted by xetere at 10:58 AM on August 26, 2007 [7 favorites]


Linked article: Now a note about the solid orange color -> I have two theories [why the bikes are bright and unique colours]

mathowie: Sorry, but what a douchebag for missing the obvious reason. They're Dutch, and they're proud of their country.

Well, to be fair, Matt, the author was referring to "bright and unique" colours in general, giving orange only as an example. I would venture to say that he's basically right, it's a "It's the one that says 'Bad Motherfucker'" thing. The orange-as-national-colour motivation, if at all existent, is *very* secondary - at least outside of international football championships.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:59 AM on August 26, 2007


When cycling is as natural as walking, one simply doesn't sweat while doing it.

Well, that and having almost no elevation changes.
posted by mondo dentro at 11:02 AM on August 26, 2007


The "sweat issue" was the last thing I had to contend with before I started commuting by bike. I took an extra set of clothes to keep at work, along with deodorant, etc. I haven't needed them so far. I ride in wearing my regular (casual) office clothes. My ride in is at 6 am, and even in the worst part of summer, it's always pretty cool. And I just ride slowly. I usually arrive at work with a little forehead sweat, but not pitted-out by any means. I just cool down slowly as I go in to the office.

I take shorts and tank top for the ride home, since it can be over 100 degrees in the summer when I leave work, and it's slightly uphill. There is also a 2 block steep hill that I had to walk up the first couple weeks. Now I get up it fine, but it's definitely a workout. Many days after work, I run errands to the bank, stores, etc, which can add another 5 miles or more to my ride. I'm not the epitome of fitness or youth (middle aged and a little chunky) but it's been the best thing for me, physically and mentally.

I kind of envy the Amsterdam bike culture sometimes. But then, when I notice more biking here in my town, I get possessive. What's that guy doing on MY street! Actually, my biggest complaint about other cyclists is how many ride on the wrong side of the road, coming straight at me.

OK, as penance for my rambling, here's a video of a race between NYC bike messengers.
posted by The Deej at 11:05 AM on August 26, 2007


jason's planet: aren't you worried about getting sweaty and dirty, about looking like a slob when you get to the destination that requires you to wear that nice clothing?

ijsbrand: When cycling is as natural as walking, one simply doesn't sweat while doing it. There's nothing more to say about this.

Sorry ijsbrand, there is: rain. When I'm wearing a business suit I generally do not use my bike. Unless the weather is really fine and I do not have to drive far.
posted by jouke at 11:07 AM on August 26, 2007


aren't you worried about getting sweaty and dirty, about looking like a slob when you get to the destination that requires you to wear that nice clothing?
When cycling is as natural as walking, one simply doesn't sweat while doing it. There's nothing more to say about this.


A few things come to mind here. First of all, there are lots of places in the US where it is also too hot to walk to work without getting sweaty and dirty. Even way up here in Ottawa, Canada there are summer days when really even a linen suit is too hot, never mind California.

But also, there's a different kind of riding here. People on bicycles -- especially experienced riders who could certainly choose to do otherwise -- ride fast. I've tried to pay attention to riding at a non-sweaty pace on roads and bike paths, when it wasn't ridiculously hot, and I felt like a senior citizen. I'd say average experienced commuter bike speed is in or near the 20-25 km/h range.

How fast do cyclists ride in Amsterdam, on average? I'd expect it to be closer to 12-15 km/h.

(Of course I'd imagine North Americans have further to ride, too.)
posted by mendel at 11:10 AM on August 26, 2007


Summers get really hot here too. I mostly work from home, but do sometimes cycle to meet a client. I find I'm flapping along with my nice dress shirt open, sweating like a bastard, then spending ten minutes recovering at the other end hoping salt stains don't form before I get myself vaguely together and head up to their office.
posted by Abiezer at 11:30 AM on August 26, 2007


Lord_Pall writes "Time and time again, if you wear a helmet and crash, fast or slow, into a car or all by yourself, you're way more likely to survive with a helmet. Period."

Yes, but you have to look at the frequency, not just the percentage.

If you walk around with a lightning rod and a grounding wire, you will be way more likely to survive a lightning strike. Period. But you don't do it because it doesn't happen enough to make that worth it. It's the same reason you don't send your dinner to a lab every day before eating it, or carry aardvark repellant, or carry around a gasmask. Even though in the event of botulism, aardvark attack, or VX gas attack, you'd be way more likely to survive, period.

If you're in an area where riding a bike means I high incidence of bicycle crashing, then wearing a helmet makes sense. If you don't, it doesn't. It's not bad, by any means, it just useless precaution.
posted by Bugbread at 11:46 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Sorry, but what a douchebag for missing the obvious reason. They're Dutch, and they're proud of their country. Everything in the Netherlands is orange to celebrate the country's identity and even I know this as an ignorant American."


Orange bikes in Amsterdam are for rent, or are painted that way to deter thieves, or the owner just happens to like the color. I don't think national identity celebration factors in very much.
posted by aerotive at 11:47 AM on August 26, 2007


Another lady in a sparkling white dress - riding a bicycle.

Is "riding a bicycle" the new "in bed?"

*opens fortune cookies*

"You will meet an interesting stranger... riding a bicycle."
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:48 AM on August 26, 2007


Yes, dynamos are terrible.

They can't be all that bad or they wouldn't be on every bike in Amsterdam. They aren't stupid.
posted by pracowity at 11:52 AM on August 26, 2007


It's the same reason you don't send your dinner to a lab every day before eating it, or carry aardvark repellant, or carry around a gasmask.

Huh? It's just me then?
posted by The Deej at 11:52 AM on August 26, 2007


Metafilter: the elderly fall over and die all the time so biking is probably not much more dangerous than say, going to the bathroom.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 11:59 AM on August 26, 2007


I would imagine that in a city where there are SO MANY BIKES and cyclists EVERYWHERE, it's probably much safer to ride with no helmet. The biggest danger to cyclists is motorists.
posted by chuckdarwin at 12:00 PM on August 26, 2007


Ehm, pracowity, I'm sure we're not stupid, but these ramshackle bikes are pretty old generally. And since bike factories have been pretty much been selling the same kind of bike since the 1920s the reason can also be that we're plainly used to it.
The dynamo's have some advantages and disadvantages wrt battery powered lamps. But these are too boring to expound on.
posted by jouke at 12:04 PM on August 26, 2007


Matthowie: "Everything in the Netherlands is orange to celebrate the country's identity"
I guess you've been visiting on queens day matthowie.

btw do you think there'd be interest in organising a road cycling event in France or Italy for next year? I've heard that road cycling in France and Italy is pretty good. They don't have the seperate cycling lanes as much as the NL but car drivers are very considerate of road bikers. I know it's pretty far for USians but you people could tag an Italian or French holiday on to it.
posted by jouke at 12:12 PM on August 26, 2007


I love bicycling in Amsterdam. Of course I've only done it when the weather was pretty nice. Not sure what riding to work in sub-zero temps would be like. Someone upthread mentioned the flatness of the terrain for much of the differences in bike culture and I agree. Davis, CA is very flat and has a bike culture probably more in the direction of A-dam's. Comparing A-dam to San Francisco is not gonna work in general because of SF's many mountains, which make all the difference in how one dresses, the kind of bike one rides, whether one is inclined (heh) to ride a bike at all...
posted by telstar at 12:20 PM on August 26, 2007


do you think there'd be interest in organising a road cycling event in France or Italy for next year?

You mean like this?
posted by pwedza at 12:31 PM on August 26, 2007


Ehm, no pwedza. I meant just some mefites doing a few days of fun cycling in Italy or France. Driving on cobbles is gruelling. And it's a race.
I was thinking of nice tour area in for instance Tuscany that's a bit hilly but is manageable for the recreative road biker. There are colleagues of mine who go to the Mont Ventoux to climb it by bike. We'd have to do some research to find good tour areas.
posted by jouke at 12:39 PM on August 26, 2007


"Sorry, but what a douchebag for missing the obvious reason. They're Dutch, and they're proud of their country. Everything in the Netherlands is orange to celebrate the country's identity and even I know this as an ignorant American."

I bought my bike orange because I wanted a grandma bike and I like bright colors. The other option was black so the choice was easy made. The fact that it has "Maxima" on it I did not care for. I did not buy it to celebrate my country. I bought it to get shopping and my kid to his swimming lessons.
posted by kudzu at 12:41 PM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Nah, they're fine. Old, rusty dynamos suck (lots of excess friction, there), but a decent dynamo (I don't mean "expensive and fancy", I just mean "not ancient or decrepit") on a decent bike puts almost no drag on your bike. Complaining about the drag is like saying "Cars suck because they're too slow. I know, because I drove a Model T many decades ago".

That's true, it sounds like someone got a rusty one. Plus when you're not using the headlight, the flip away from the wheel so it only drags when in use. I found them about like the AC in a 4cylinder car, it does put a bit of drag but it's not overwhelming.
posted by nervousfritz at 12:55 PM on August 26, 2007


I cycle to work every day in Calgary, with the exception of extremely heavy snow days (five inches or more). I've biked in -40 (including windchill). It's really not that much of a big deal, especially if you account for the time taken to warm up the car, find parking spaces, insurance, gas, etc.

I think the biggest factor to "bike friendly" cities is not bike paths or public acceptance of bikes (although those are large factors), but having places small enough to make it make sense, or compartmentalized in such a way that biking or walking is easy. Part of this is up to the individual choosing to live closer to the city, and part of it is simply scaling the city not to cars but to people. Sprawl makes for bad cities.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 12:55 PM on August 26, 2007


When cycling is as natural as walking, one simply doesn't sweat while doing it.

Well, that and having almost no elevation changes.


No, I cycle-commute in the USA, including over hills so steep that most locals would be unable to bike up them (until spending more time on a bike and thus getting in better shape for cyclin), and it's quite natural to ride at what I call the speed of comfort, so I don't get sweaty. Whatever the temperature or weather, there is a speed at which you remain comfortable and don't get sweaty.

there are lots of places in the US where it is also too hot to walk to work without getting sweaty and dirty. Even way up here in Ottawa, Canada there are summer days when really even a linen suit is too hot, never mind California.

Actually, unlike walking, I find that on a bike there is a speed that is slow enough to not involve heat-generating effort, but fast enough to air-cool you.

In other words, on a really hot day, you stay cooler by biking than by walking. I wouldn't wear the black jacket in the sun in the Nevada desert though. Take it with you, but it'd be stupid to wear it.

But my real point is that the whole thing is done without thinking - basically, my body regulates its temperature via the cycling speed, so the temperature never leaves my comfort zone (unless I want SPEED and to hell with comfort :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:58 PM on August 26, 2007


I always wear a bike helmet. Force of habit. That, and the fact that I ride my bike over logs and rocks and piles of dirt, for fun, as often as I can - up until about a month ago, when I came up short on a jump and landed squarely on the left side of my face, neck and shoulder. Two ER visits, four CT scans, MRI, X-rays, one family doctor visit, and one thoracic surgery consult to date, plus I see a neurosurgeon tomorrow. Damage so far is a bad disk in my neck, pinched nerves to the right shoulder and upper arm, and (worst as far as I'm concerned) phrenic nerve damage that makes it hard to breathe when exerting myself. So, yeah, I wear a helmet, and now all of you know someone who can honestly say that a helmet saved them from ending up in a wheelchair.

Picked up a new helmet shortly thereafter, of course. They're only good for one crash after all. Given the standard conditions in the US, where cycling is an inherently risky activity, it's worth the $20 to $120 to buy a decent helmet. It's only unnecessary in the sense that seatbelts and motorcycle helmets are unecessary: you don't need them most of the time, but the one time you do need them and don't have them, well...

Granted, I hurt myself off-road biking, and I don't use my trail bike for general transportation. Around town, I ride my 14-year old beater with helmet (I still hit 20 mph or so on flat stretches even with the lung problems). It's decked out as much as I care to do - lights (LED, easy on the batteries), rack, small under-seat bag. Anything even moderately expensive detaches and goes with me when I park it.

I ride the old bike because I know first-hand how much it sucks to have your expensive bike stolen (x 2, as my wife's trail bike was lifted the same day as mine - we were out about $1400; we have new trail bikes now, and they don't leave my sight unless they're locked to the wall inside my garage.) The bike shop advice we got after our theft was that if we lived in a college town, and wanted to keep our bikes, we should pick up the "Amsterdam style" heavy chains. I weighed the option - literally - and decided that my old-ass bike, as much as I love it, wasn't worth lugging around 20 lbs of steel chain with me everywhere I go.

I didn't get the whole "Amsterdam-style" lock comment until seeing this photo essay. Could have used more photos though, and less essay, but I admired the writer's obstinate refusal to allow any single caption to end in anything except "in Amsterdam".
posted by caution live frogs at 1:19 PM on August 26, 2007


Not sure if anyone has linked this yet.

It says: "Lock your bike. This is the golden rule in Amsterdam, as there are more bikes stolen per year as there are bikes in the city! Use multiple locks and be sure to lock your bike to something solid."
posted by The Deej at 1:24 PM on August 26, 2007


I commute every work day from Northeast Portland, OR to downtown. It's roughly 6.5 miles, so I exert myself, both for fitness, and to arrive in a timely manner. As such, I wear cycling clothes, and change at work. I'm lucky enough to have a shower at the office, but with this length of ride you would also be OK just deodorizing and changing into fresh garments.

Portland has a lovely bicycling culture, although it does have a rather large contingent of reckless fixie riders who love to abuse the rules of the road.
posted by ladd at 1:26 PM on August 26, 2007


I like the idea of riding a bicycle while wearing a suit. But how do they keep their pant cuffs from getting into the bike chain or soiled?
posted by cazoo at 1:28 PM on August 26, 2007


I like the idea of riding a bicycle while wearing a suit. But how do they keep their pant cuffs from getting into the bike chain or soiled?

Bicycle clips, old chap.
posted by liam at 1:37 PM on August 26, 2007


Notice how many bikes there have full chain-guards. That helps prevent getting your pants dirty, or caught in the chain.
posted by The Deej at 1:37 PM on August 26, 2007


-harlequin- writes "Actually, unlike walking, I find that on a bike there is a speed that is slow enough to not involve heat-generating effort, but fast enough to air-cool you. "

Perhaps you live in a dry climate, where wind cools well. In a hot and really humid climate, like Tokyo or Houston, there is no cycling speed that counters the heat. I've never tested it, but at best I'd believe you could theoretically find a speed at which you'd still be sweaty, but slightly less sweaty than you would walking. But even that hasn't been my experience. The best I've attained is "just as sweaty as I would have been walking".
posted by Bugbread at 1:43 PM on August 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


How not to get hit by a bike
posted by snownoid at 1:45 PM on August 26, 2007


cazoo: The more modern, crushable accouterment, in lieu of a trouser clip, is a reflective, velcro-closing leg band. But yeah, your classic "Dutch Bike" has a completely enclosed chain, as Deej says, which both protects the chain from dust and grit, and your right leg from chain grease.

Also, re: not being sweaty at the end of a ride... like ladd, I live in NE Portland and commute downtown for work. I don't tend to break a sweat in the mornings—I'm completely dry at the end of the commute—but upon entering the overly climate controlled office building, the clammy perspiration starts. Bleah.
posted by mumkin at 2:05 PM on August 26, 2007


I wish I could still ride a bike.

Growing up in a small town in the 60s and 70s, all the kids bicycled everywhere. By the way, someone in the comments on that site mentions children being given training courses in bicycle safety—we did that in my small US town in the 70s, too. I remember it strongly because not only was there a safety certificate, there were some competitions for skill. I was a well-known highly skilled bicyclist as a kid, and I winning the competitions was a big deal to me.

I bicycled until I got my first car at 16. Then, after I lost my car and license after unsuccessfully trying to outrun the police in a dramatic car-chase, I again rode a bicycle every day, to school, until I graduated.

We never wore helmets. And, the thing is, it also has everything to do with knowing how to fall safely. Growing up as a crazy kid riding a bicycle my entire childhood, all over everywhere, I learned how to fall safely early on.

Later, in my late twenties in the mid-90s and before my disease started getting bad, I again lived in another small town (Socorro, New Mexico) where I went to university for a year or so after my divorce. I had only a bike for transportation, then, too, and I found that in a small town that was fine. It was a pain when buying groceries. Otherwise, though, I quickly got back into good shape and enjoyed riding around everywhere. I did have two bikes stolen, though. I didn't wear a helmet.

My hometown and Socorro are both pretty flat, though. Whenever I've casually bicycled anywhere where it was hilly, it was far more of a pain in the ass. On the other hand, the town I grew up in was very windy, and the wind always seemed to be against me. Also, by the way, the dynamos used back then really did greatly increase the drag. Maybe not double it, but they pretty much weren't worth the effort back then.

I'd bicycle again if I could. I really miss it. But my range of movement in my hips is extremely small, I can't raise my right foot high enough to climb stairs anymore. And of course if I did fall, I'd be hurt because of my inability to protect myself because I can't really move my limbs around because of very limited range of motion. That's a problem now just walking around in my home. I was always very agile and I still expect to be able to recover if I trip, or otherwise do something about falling. Instead, I flail around and fall like a tree. It's very scary, actually. So far I've only fallen in the last three years about four or five times and haven't hurt myself. So, anyway, the idea of falling off a bicycle is really scary to me now. I wonder if I'll comfortably be able to bicycle after I get my hips replaced. I hope so. That'd be cool.

Jouke, in light of my previous paragraph and because I was thinking about when I was looking at the photos, what's the handicap access like around Amsterdam and Holland in general? Are you guys good there about access for disabled people, or not?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:07 PM on August 26, 2007


Great link snownoid! I love this line:
"Look for the bicycles themselves, and try not to walk into a moving one. Bear in mind that a bicycle is not always in a bike path. It could be anywhere, even in your bathtub."
posted by The Deej at 2:10 PM on August 26, 2007


How my family gets around by bike. (P.S. Does anybody know of a bike helmet for 1-year-olds that they won't pull off it a fit of rage and tears?)
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:15 PM on August 26, 2007


Regarding dynamos having a reputation for not working, I bought an second hand bike once that had an awesome one. The drag was high, but that was because it was producing so much power. I spiffed up the headlamp with a shiny new reflector.

First time I used it, riding down the road, it lit up the street, a car pulling out 300m down the road stopped to give way, assuming the bright light must be a motorcyclist and thus travelling a lot faster than I was.

It was a great dynamo.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:20 PM on August 26, 2007


Like others, I've also noticed that bike theft is proportional to the extent to which they are used as transport rather than recreation. (ie, the extent to which average people use them) That's one of the advantages I've found to cycling in the USA. :)
posted by -harlequin- at 2:30 PM on August 26, 2007


But how do they keep their pant cuffs from getting into the bike chain or soiled?

Whatever is easiest/preferred.
- The people in the photos have full chain guards on their bikes. or
- Bicycle clip, or
- Tuck pant cuff into sock, or
- Wear boots

etc
posted by -harlequin- at 2:37 PM on August 26, 2007


Didn't Amersterdam have a blue bike project in the 80's? I seem to remember Edmonton's BB program advertising how they were inspired by Amsterdam.

For that matter, how did Edmonton's Blue Bike program work out in the end? Anyone know?
posted by five fresh fish at 2:41 PM on August 26, 2007


Yeah, I thought that the free bike for use public access thing was still the case in Amsterdam. Is there somewhere else that is famous for this? I thought it was a cool idea and now I'm sad that even this tiny little shiny happy utopian experiment didn't work out.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:45 PM on August 26, 2007


This is the sexiest thing I've seen on Metafilter
posted by niccolo at 2:47 PM on August 26, 2007


In America's capitol, As Web Fuels Bike Thefts, Victims Turn Vigilantes.
posted by NortonDC at 2:51 PM on August 26, 2007


Copenhagen has public bikes, which require a coin insert before use, which you get back when you chain it at public spots at the end of the trip (like some supermarket carts). Been running for years. The city spends a bit of money every so often to buy new ones since people have a tendency to keep the bikes.
posted by Catfry at 3:06 PM on August 26, 2007


I wonder what would happen if bikes were subsidized to the point of being nearly free. Not great bikes, just cheap bikes suitable for getting around town.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:08 PM on August 26, 2007


A pic i found. The bikes are partly sponsored by the adverts on them.
posted by Catfry at 3:10 PM on August 26, 2007


Nice post!
posted by serazin at 3:24 PM on August 26, 2007


Yes, dynamos are terrible.

I've got one on my bike, which I use on a daily basis for local shopping, errands, etc., and sure, there's a bit of added resisitance, but if you're just biking around a flat area (like Amsterdam, or, in my case, Tokyo) it's no big deal. And you're creating your own power for your light, so we're talking environmentally friendly here, too, which is a plus. One less battery for the landfill!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:29 PM on August 26, 2007


EB, handicapped access tends to be good even by Western European standards, but don't expect any miracles.

And the free bikes were white, and my understanding was that it was quite a hippie project. They're long gone, regardless. I believe there was a revival-ish thing planned a few years ago but I don't know whether it got any traction.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:32 PM on August 26, 2007


Rule of thumb about bicycle locks in Holland is that they should cost about as much as the bicycle. As for the weight, in such a flat country, it is not really a handicap. A standard Dutch bike is already pretty heavy as it is, to say nothing about the bakfietsen. In fact, because it is quite windy too, you may find it that a bit of ballast to increase your inertia isn't an entirely bad thing: on a fully-laden Dutch bike, the odd gust of gale-force wind will have about as much effect on your progress as on that of a heavy truck, even despite the upright posture.
posted by Skeptic at 3:36 PM on August 26, 2007


There's also a good reason for having multiple locks on your cheap bike, as it stops someone coming along and swiping one of your wheels.
posted by penguinliz at 3:40 PM on August 26, 2007


I am jealous. And fat.
posted by mullacc at 3:47 PM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


One of my colleagues spent the last couple of years in Amsterdam. We were talking about bike theft, and how everyone has cheap crappy bikes. He said: "after your third bike gets stolen, you break down and buy a dodgy one from a junky like everyone else."
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:57 PM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


[note to self: the blue loves the bike talk]

I have a sneaking suspicion that everyone in the thread lives in NE Portland, which has become the new SE Portland, I hear (I moved in '96).

I ride my cheapo recumbent to work in Orem, Utah and the biggest problems I encounter are people in trucks ("Git out a the road boy!") and the brutal Summer heat. And Winter. But those six weeks of bearable weather are awesome. The problem with the "Dutch position" is pressure on the spine and perhaps nerves down by the perineum (sp?).

Even though this is the reddest county in the universe, there is a free bike program sponsored by Dasani, down by the Provo river, complete with a nice bike locker.
posted by mecran01 at 5:03 PM on August 26, 2007


I bike almost every day here in the flatlands of San Francisco. It's usually the fastest way to get around, and like others have said in the thread, you can find a good pace that gets you moving, but not sweaty.

I find I can get to the office in 20 minutes in business clothes completly unsweaty. 15 minutes a little warm but nice. And if I forgot a meeting, in <10 minutes as big ball of sweat.

Why do I wear a helmet?

Most drivers are fuckwits, esp. if they are on the telephone.
Cabbies are the worst, always watch if you are near someone who might be a fare, if their arm goes up, a cabby rarely watches for bikes, I've seen my wife almsot get hit in the bike lane that way. Last month I came across a guy on the ground with a huge gash on hit head and a wonky eye having been knocked down by a cabby trying to get a fare. No helmet, natch.

Getting doored is a danger, always watch for heads in the drivers seat and ring your bell.

I wish we had more of a law which said, the bigger your mass, the more you had to prove it wasn't your fault when you killed or hurt someone.

And for anyone who thinks that bikers are the worst on the road, spend 5 minutes at any downtown red light and count the folks going 45 MPH against the red. On the phone.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 5:52 PM on August 26, 2007


Funny that. I do live in NE Portland now that you mention it. And I enjoy riding my bicycle. Small world, eh?
posted by friendlyjuan at 6:12 PM on August 26, 2007


Yeah, I thought that the free bike for use public access thing was still the case in Amsterdam. Is there somewhere else that is famous for this?

Copenhagen.

These sit in banks of a half-dozen or so outside major subway stops and such. You release one from its tether with a 20-kroner (about $4) coin, which you get back on return. Worked like a charm when I was there in late 2005.

Copenhagen's also got the only dedicated bike-lane traffic signals I've ever seen. Most bike-oriented city I've ever pedalled in, though I've never tried Amsterdam.

On preview, echoing Catfry.
posted by gompa at 6:14 PM on August 26, 2007


In the one bicycling accident I have had in the past 30 years, the helmet I was wearing clearly saved me from a concussion or worse. It was the only part of my body that didn't hurt after the accident. (accident entirely my fault as was the fact I was going 30 mph).

On bicycling in the Netherlands - there are frickin' entire parts of every road reserved just for bicycles. It is a bicycling heaven except that your bicycle will be stolen - it is a national obsession.
posted by bluesky43 at 7:05 PM on August 26, 2007


Jouke, in light of my previous paragraph and because I was thinking about when I was looking at the photos, what's the handicap access like around Amsterdam and Holland in general? Are you guys good there about access for disabled people, or not?

I posted briefly above about the ubiquity of curb cuts (I was there for a few days in 2002). Wasn't there long enough to get a sense for accessibility in general, but getting around European streets and sidewalks elsewhere tends to be tricky, what with all the cobblestone and the lack of ramps and curb cuts, so the Dutch sidewalks were awesome.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 7:43 PM on August 26, 2007


I am jealous. And fat.

Getting a bike will solve both problems!
posted by loquacious at 8:36 PM on August 26, 2007


The links in the security chains in the linked pics are made of square stock (instead of round) so that it's harder to cut with a bolt cutter. I'd seen that in catalogs, but never in real life, they really are hardcore about theft prevention. I'd love to have one of those front basket bikes for hauling kids around in.
posted by 445supermag at 9:05 PM on August 26, 2007


Paris has launched a bike rental scheme. I'll be joining a whirlwind study tour next month going to Amsterdam, copenhagen, helsinki etc - this has been a great topic and one I intend to follow up and observe, thanks, craniac!
posted by infini at 9:10 PM on August 26, 2007


When I had to dress up for work I would wear the pants to my nice wool suit while I biked to the office, but I had to switch to casual clothes when the seat of my pants started to get shiny.

Dynamos suck because the lights don't shine when you're stopped.

I had a job in college where I got paired up with a guy who was placed as part of his rehab program. He had mild brain damage--not from a bicycle accident, but brain damage is brain damage. He was a nice guy, a little older, but he had had trouble learning new things. Every day I had to retrain him on the cash register, and often after my break I'd come back to find him panicked, the register beeping, and a line of angry customers. At least once a week he'd tell me his life story and his personal philosophy. He wouldn't remember that he'd told me all this dozens of times. The gist of it was "Live every day to your fullest, 'cause you never know when it's going to end," but there was much more to the story. Before his accident he was the proverbial Big Man on Campus, Mr. Popular, captain of the ski team. You could tell he used to be really handsome, but now his square jaw was slack and clear blue eyes were had a permanent fog, and his only friends where the other clients at the rehab clinic. I always thought, "What if that were me freaking out behind a beeping cash register, and how sadder would my story be if it ended with 'It never would have turned out this way if I'd been wearing a helmet?'"
posted by hydrophonic at 10:14 PM on August 26, 2007


Ethereal Bligh sorry to hear about your disability. spaceman_spiff and gnfti already answered much better than I could: I don't know what handicap access is like in the US so I can't compare.
posted by jouke at 1:05 AM on August 27, 2007


Bugbread is right on the climate thing --- in a hot, wet climate like Houston, there is nothing you can do where you don't sweat if you're outdoors.

Even riding in a car with the top down at 60 MPH, you'll probably sweat.

It doesn't help that the air is basically sweating on to you at the same time (ridiculous humidity + 110 degree weather...)
posted by wildcrdj at 5:50 PM on August 27, 2007


I've had both old and new dynamos and they were enough of a drag to annoy. Plus, the whole extinguishment when stopped junctions is bad - especially turning across lanes. If battery waste bothers you use solar or house current rechargers. If anyone has the brand/name of a good dynamo that *they have used personally* and can vouch for, please share. A bonus would be one with some sort of capacitance to release energy during short stops.

When I lived there I cycled in the Netherlands, both in Amsterdam and in the rural areas, and it's a treat.
posted by meehawl at 10:05 PM on August 30, 2007


meehawl writes "I've had both old and new dynamos and they were enough of a drag to annoy."

To really tell if the dynamo is a drag, you need to do the walkman test: listen to some music on your headphones, and then turn on the dynamo. I used to think the dynamo was a drag, but I noticed that it was much less of a drag when I was wearing headphones, which pointed to the fact that they were a little drag, but they felt like a lot of drag because of the grinding motor sound. When that was blocked out, the drag was still there, but far far less, so a lot of it was psychological.
posted by Bugbread at 12:34 AM on August 31, 2007


Please don't wear headphones while you bike.
posted by hydrophonic at 5:57 AM on August 31, 2007


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