Canta libre
July 1, 2012 3:35 AM   Subscribe

You may have seen these small little triangular shaped cars riding around on the bicycle paths in Holland. Called Cantas, these are sold exclusively to people with disabilities, though there is a lively secondhand market in them as more people turn away from cars to much cheaper scooter mobiles. Only Cantas are legally allowed to ride on bicycle paths or pavements though and only Cantas have had a ballet designed for them.

The ballet is part of a larger project celebrating the Canta, which included tv and radio documentaries as well as a book celebrating the history of the car, written by Karin Spaink. It turns out that while the Canta is a Dutch design, it's been inspired by Ferrari race cars and hence its standard colour is Ferrari red. Perhaps this should not come as a surprise as the inventor, Dick Waaijenberg, was an ex-racing driver. His factory still makes them and is now "the largest car manufactory in the Netherlands", though that's more by default than anything else. Each Canta is hand made for a particular customer and they're not cheap, costing some 12,000 euros. But as Spaink explains they do give back mobility to people who can't walk, bike or sometimes even drive a proper car and they can be used anywhere, from the main roads to the pavement.

As important, if you're in a Canta, you're cool, not pitied. As Spaink says: nobody ever is jealous of your wheelchair or crutches, but they are of your Canta.

More Youtube Canta videos: Rehearsal of the Canta ballet, trailer for the televison documentary about it, the ballet itself, using a wheelchair adapted Canta.
posted by MartinWisse (27 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Anyone growing up in England in the 70s can't fail to remember those little light blue invalid carriages which apparently were called Thundersley Invacars.. Full history.

See also the Invalid Carriage Register.
posted by unSane at 3:50 AM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

With the tag "cloggiepride", I was expecting a post about André Kuipers and his safe return this morning... but this'll do. Very cool.
posted by likeso at 3:55 AM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

You may have seen these small little triangular irregular pentagon shaped cars...
posted by fairmettle at 4:48 AM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

The appearance more than slightly recalls the Isetta (most famous driver, probably Sir Jimmy Savile; how's about that then!). One can only hope they're more crashworthy.
posted by Talkie Toaster at 5:14 AM on July 1, 2012

The Reliant Robin was a very common sight on UK and Irish roads up until the mid 1980s.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:17 AM on July 1, 2012

What I like most about them is that they look like a child's drawing of a car.
posted by MegoSteve at 5:19 AM on July 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

Karin's a close friend of mine, and it was quite emotional seeing her in a pas de deux with the Dutch National Ballet's principal dancer, with herself as the Prima Canta.

What did come as a surprise to Dick Waaijenberg was the existence of the whole project. He knew absolutely nothing about it until January, when everything - book, tv programs, ballet - was already in progress.

The ballet is being broadcast in full tonight on Dutch television. It will be possible to watch the broadcast afterwards on Uitzending Gemist, depending on location.
posted by daveje at 5:28 AM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another possibly medically related small vehicle used in the Netherlands: Piaggio Apes (3-wheeled trucks) do deliveries for the Sensi Seed Bank and the Hash Marihuana Hemp Museum.
posted by Houstonian at 5:57 AM on July 1, 2012

I wish that affordable scooter-cars would arrive in my country.
posted by mecran01 at 6:48 AM on July 1, 2012

Yeah, I've seen those Piaggios on the ferry from Noord sometimes.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:54 AM on July 1, 2012

How do the bicyclists feel about this?
posted by Area Control at 6:59 AM on July 1, 2012

Vexed, mostly. Interestingly the local papers are always going on about the scooter menace, when the various scooter mobiles are much more awkward on a ferry. Especially when there are two or three on board.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:06 AM on July 1, 2012

I never saw any on the bike paths while I was living in the Netherlands. but I did see them parked in Amsterdam.

They must be a pretty tight fit on the bike paths. So would be rather annoying.

However the dutch don't seem to mind all the folk on motorscooters, motor bikes and motorised cycles loudly flying past on the bike paths so perhaps they wouldn't care. I found the motor scooters particularly unpleasant.
posted by mary8nne at 7:07 AM on July 1, 2012

@Area Control:

On bike paths, Cantas tend to be a bit quicker than bicycles, so you rarely get stuck behind one.

They're a lot slower than cars though so when you find one in front of you while driving, you'll have to wait for space to overtake. They tend to move over to the bike path the first chance they get though, so either way they're far from the Most Annoying Thing On The Road.

That spot is reserved for Audi drivers who are stuck half an inch from your rear bumper at 100 mph.
posted by Djinh at 7:08 AM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you! I was in Holland in May and thought these were just some neat supercompact Euro car. Great post!
posted by entropone at 7:10 AM on July 1, 2012

My small-car crush is reserved for the messerschmitt.

There's a face that only a mother could love. Plus, your own personal jet fighter!
posted by tspae at 7:30 AM on July 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

My favorite Top Gear episode: Jeremy drives the Peel P50
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:33 AM on July 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

I love that top gear too! The elevator!
posted by annsunny at 7:38 AM on July 1, 2012

Looks a lot like the Tango.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:07 AM on July 1, 2012

My favorite Top Gear episode actually is the one where Jeremy drives the Reliant Robin. Mostly I just like it when the big ape makes himself look foolish, I think.
posted by Scientist at 8:29 AM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are they battery powered?

If not, biking in the Netherlands now means breathing scooter exhaust.

No thanks.
posted by jamjam at 8:45 AM on July 1, 2012

You're breating scooter or brommer exhaust anyway, as most bikepaths are accessible to those as well.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:09 AM on July 1, 2012

An earlier car ballet, using the Isuzu Gemini. (Previously on metafilter).
posted by autopilot at 9:16 AM on July 1, 2012

I hope Richard Scarry's estate gets royalties.
posted by dhartung at 10:19 AM on July 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Le Spaink, indeed. Rwaarr!
posted by Xoebe at 1:37 PM on July 1, 2012

I've pointed Karin at the thread, and she tells me that "Dick Waaijenberg started to import the Reliant Robin, and *that* gave him the impetus to design a car for the disabled... It's all in the book, btw"..
posted by daveje at 2:44 PM on July 1, 2012

I foresee the rise of Canta-tipping.
posted by Twang at 4:14 PM on July 1, 2012

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