What defines Dutch cycling?
January 13, 2015 4:01 AM   Subscribe

 
That first vid, yes, yes, yes to all of them! The second though, disappointed that cycling with large objects didn't include a kratje bier (maybe not large enough?)
posted by moody cow at 4:28 AM on January 13, 2015


That's a real alternate universe. In Sydney you would find the bike lane taken up with parked cars, which would subsequently open their doors on you as you tried to go around them, get arrested for not having a helmet and then have your children taken away for endangerment. Nice to see how other places can make it work.
posted by CaveFrog at 4:29 AM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


That was charming as heck. Just what I needed this morning.
posted by Sokka shot first at 4:33 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


And nobody writes angry letters to the editor about all those damn cyclists who don't follow bike safety rules, wear helmets or yield to cars? Not to mention all those taxpayer dollars spent on those useless bike lanes for when all those cyclists don't even pay gas tax. Think of all those valuable parking spaces being taken up.
posted by octothorpe at 4:35 AM on January 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


Not just Sydney. Imagine the culture shock when I moved to Melbourne from The Neths. But I have to say, in the last ten years or so biking has become increasingly more common here, and not just limited to the "lycra set". I see plenty of parents ferrying their kids around on bikes in my suburb (have yet to see anyone trafficking a slab though).
posted by moody cow at 4:38 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wish we had those lanes here! ! I miss the Netherlands.
posted by carter at 4:53 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's also a charming blog by the maker of these movies. I'm swelling with civic pride like an allochtoon.

And nobody writes angry letters to the editor about all those damn cyclists who don't follow bike safety rules, wear helmets or yield to cars?

There's a lot of discussion at the moment around the proliferation of bike traffic in Amsterdam city centre, specifically around one particular black spot. Not sure what the outcome of this will be, but at certain times of day it's a perfect storm of blasé cyclists, speeding scooter kids and clueless tourists.

So yeah. Dutch bike culture is a wonderful thing, but like anything else it's not without its problems.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 4:57 AM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've been living in the Netherlands for well nigh 5 months now, and I'm still working on most of these skills. I was an avid biker in Chicago, Paris, and Berlin, but that was mostly "vanilla" biking, compared to what I see here. Every day I'm stunned afresh at what Dutch people are able to carry/roll/drag with them as they cycle around town.
posted by LMGM at 4:59 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Where do I get one of those Dutch-style tandems? Seriously, I'll put money down on one right now.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:09 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dutch bicycle classes

Age 2: Basic classes - Riding while tall.
Age 5: Advanced classes: "How will you ride if you lose your hands?"
Age 7: Sex Education: "How will you ever get a boyfriend or girlfriend if you cannot cycle with them on your handlebars?"
posted by biffa at 5:19 AM on January 13, 2015 [21 favorites]


I have never been to the Netherlands, but I love seeing the photos and videos of how they have configured their infrastructure. Not everything would work here, but a lot would, and I wish more of it would enter the standard practice for street design.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:27 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Age 9: Media Literacy: "How many texts, vines, and tweets can you send/receive while riding to and from school, and how well do you grasp their subtext" (pre-requisite Advanced classes)
posted by anthill at 5:41 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is jumping on a moving bicycle a Thing?
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 5:56 AM on January 13, 2015


Fun fact: when I moved to The Netherlands at 27 years of age I didn't know how to ride a bike. My (now) husband had to teach me in Vondelpark on a now-discontinued Gazelle omafiets designed for elderly women - the wheels are extra small so you can put both feet on the ground.

Five years later I bike absolutely everywhere, but I'm still quite slow and nervy. I get super nervous when one of my Dutch friends casually rides next to me to have a conversation.

I couldn't imagine biking in another city, though. The thing about biking in the Netherlands is that there are no non-cyclists on the road - you can bet that every driver on the road has a bike (or two, or three, or four) that they regularly use to get around. This means that drivers are super aware of people on bikes. I've never even heard of someone getting doored here.
posted by nerdfish at 6:01 AM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


My favourite thing about cycling in Amsterdam is when I coincidentally cross paths with a friend, and we both divert our routes slightly so as to be able to ride with each other for as long as possible before the moment of truth comes and we go our separate ways again. It's so beautifully natural and transient, it really makes my day every time it happens. Fucking poetic, I tellya.

Oh yeah, also riding my bakfiets with the kids in the box in front of me. That's straight up magical.

On preview: @nerdfish — I got car doored once, but it was by tourists getting out of a taxi. Thankfully I saw it coming, so I was going super slowly by the time it happened.
posted by ZipRibbons at 6:08 AM on January 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


When I become consort to Imperatrix Vombatus Maxima*, Ruler of All Things SubEquatorian, I shall gently but persistently press a single agenda.

No moped license until you can show 1000kms on a bicycle.
No Motorbike license until 1000kms on a moped.
No car license until you have either two X chromosomes or 24 summers.

Traffic fatalities will plummet and we will have better communities.

And fewer dead wombats.

*almost there - only a few more billion to convince to bow to her inevitable rule.
posted by Combat Wombat at 6:17 AM on January 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


Is jumping on a moving bicycle a Thing?
Absolutely!
posted by neushoorn at 6:35 AM on January 13, 2015


Actually the big debate here now (well, at least where I live) is about eBikes on the bike lanes. Every eBikes get lighter and faster, and some of them can now do 50Km which is pretty darn fast on a busy bike path. They are actually (gasp!) talking about requiring helmets on eBikes which, I've got to say with two very fit but not young parents-in-law who ride eBikes everywhere, does not strike me as a bad idea.

What was a bad idea was finally getting rid of my beater and buying a far-too-heavy-for-me "transport" bike. Yeah, I can carry anything on it, but damn that thing is heavy.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:51 AM on January 13, 2015


This is wonderful, and instantly recognizable, but, it's an idyllic picture. I saw some pretty awesome movies about cycling in specific American cities as well. Once you're outside of the Randstad, cycling infrastructure is not always as great. If I'm thinking about cycling here, one of the things that springs to mind is "closed cycling roads" because of road work. But you're not allowed on the main road either. If you're lucky, there's a detour (of a km or so, while the cars can go over your cycling road so that they don't lose time), if you're unlucky the road just stops and you can figure out how to go on.

Children are expected to ride their bicycle to middle school, alone (starting at age 11/12, many children go alone to elementary school too after a certain age, but that's usually closer to home). They have to cross busy roads, railways, and even though we do have those nice bicycle paths, and on some of them bicycles have priority, there is still a lot of cycling through car traffic. Around here, young children on bicycles share the small side-road next to the main road with huge agricultural vehicals that are driven by 16 year olds who are not allowed to drive normal cars and love to race (or older people - who still love to race). It's good here, way better than in other countries, but it's not great yet, at least not everywhere, and there's a lot that could be improved if local governments really took cycling seriously.
posted by blub at 7:19 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


God, that looks heavenly. Can't wait to visit some day.
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:20 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


@Ik ben afgesneden: you've clearly never tried to start cycling with a friend sitting _already_ on your blasted omafiets, which in itself weight 2 1/2 tons.....in the rain....not necessarly sober....with one semi-flat tyre....
ah, memories.
posted by MessageInABottle at 8:02 AM on January 13, 2015


Two near death experiences this morning in the space of a mile. I'm so insanely jealous I don't even know where to begin.
posted by vbfg at 8:03 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


The cops keep stopping me for biking while Dutch. Total profiling. I'm half-Belgian, for fuck's sake.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:13 AM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


The not-wearing-helmets thing is mind-blowing - yet that was the norm when I was growing up (late 70s/early 80s). (I've never been in a nasty bike accident, thank God.)

I left the states for a while and when I came back everyone was wearing helmets whilst bicycling and I was all 'whaaaa?' Talk about culture shock.

This is a fun post - thanks!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:25 AM on January 13, 2015


Does anyone in Holland use a recumbemt? I've never seen one there in person or video.
posted by Dreidl at 8:42 AM on January 13, 2015


I've seen a recumbent bike or two, but they're kinda rare, because everything about biking in the Netherlands is practical.
posted by monospace at 8:50 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


They should have shown the big bicycle garage by the train station. Nothing says bicycle culture like a dedicated garage filled with thousands of bikes.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 8:55 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


In the English-speaking world*, cycling is a dangerous sport for macho dudes who love risks and have something to prove to themselves or others; hence the Lycra and helmets; this is a positive feedback loop, as people who aren't macho dudes who might otherwise cycle to the shops or to work dismiss the idea as too dangerous/hardcore; meanwhile, the presence of cyclists on the road stays small and identifiably other; motorists are less familiar with sharing the road with them, and in many cases less inclined to share with someone who's not a regular person like One Of Us. This manifests itself in the culture war, i.e., right-wing talk radio in Australia regularly beating up on cyclists (cheap point scoring, no vilification laws to cover them) and populist politicians like Toronto's Rob Ford making photo opportunities out of ripping up bike lanes.

* well, the U.S. And Australia; some places such as London are part of the way towards a Dutch/Danish cycling culture. Here even the right-wing politicians have photo ops riding bikes rather than tearing up bike lanes.
posted by acb at 9:11 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


every time i see videos of people biking in the Netherlands (or think back to my trip there), i think i should just give up and move there already. sometimes i'm just so tired of fighting with cars (parked and moving) for space to just fucking get to work without dying.
posted by misskaz at 9:12 AM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


The funny thing here in Pennsylvania is that almost all bicylists wear helmets but almost zero motorcycists do.
posted by octothorpe at 9:16 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love the guy riding really fast with the wheelie bag behind him; it reminded me of a tiny dog running to keep up with a big one. "I can go fast like you big bike even though my wheels are teeny! I THINK I CAN I THINK I CAN I THINK I CAN ...."

It would probably take me a long time to get that blase about my kids riding standing on the backs of bikes, or helmetless, or grabbing rides on each others' bikes. Of course they'd take to it like ducks to water so I'd be constantly trying to decide how much hysteria to allow into my parenting ...
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:16 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you want to wear lycra and helmets and go on big rides on your $2000 road bike are there places to do that as well? As much as I love casually cycling to the bar or to a friend's house or to the park on a nice sunny day, I also really enjoying putting on my kit and riding 30 miles around the city, hitting all the hills and getting a major workout, even if it means riding in areas without bike lanes (which doesn't bother me, but I'm young, so...)

In Portland there are definitely a lot of casual riders, especially in the summer, but there are also people who really enjoy riding through Skyline and Germantown Rd. where you don't have a bike lane, the roads are curvy and hilly, and cars regularly come speeding through (maybe not necessarily going over the speed limit, but it's harrowing to see a car come around a blind corner at 25mph). It's a bit dangerous, but I'm willing to risk my life to bike through the beautiful west hills. It's enchanting to go from urban cycling to a partial wilderness.
posted by gucci mane at 10:18 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've seen a recumbent bike or two, but they're kinda rare

I always had the impression that the recumbents I've seen in the Netherlands are actually hires.

Given how everybody rides those old fashioned sit-up-and-beg bikes that look as though they were made circa 1900 but were built yesterday and cost a thousand euros, I've always presumed the cycle culture changes slowly there?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:18 AM on January 13, 2015


Another thing I noticed about these videos is that cyclists seem to be riding at a reasonble, safe speed that in the States might even be called "leisurely." Sort of explains why there isn't as much fuss about helmets compared to the road racer culture we have in biking circles over here, and perhaps there would be less antagonism between bikers and pedestrians in the States if we adopted this style too. Riding at a leisurely pace still beats walking by a mile.
posted by Pfardentrott at 10:28 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


It would probably take me a long time to get that blase about my kids riding standing on the backs of bikes,
My kid has done that a couple of times in a somewhat safe area because they do find it lots of fun, but I would never do that in the city, and it's not a common occurence at all. You do see it, as on the video, but I don't normally encounter lots of kids standing on the backs of bikes when I'm cycling in the city. Plenty of Dutch parents find that way too dangerous too.

If you want to wear lycra and helmets and go on big rides on your $2000 road bike are there places to do that as well?
Sure. Racefietsen is a thing. You have to stay on the bicycle road/lane though, or on a 80km road. You're not allowed to cycle on a road if there is a bicycle road next to it, and you're not allowed to cycle on roads that have a speed limit of 100km/hour or higher. That's not like "well, technically not allowed, but who cares". People do not cycle on those roads. But if you're just looking for a 30-mile ride that's not a problem, there are enough roads where you are allowed to cycle. There is some friction between "regular" cyclists and "speed" cyclists. Some people feel that speed cyclists go too fast to go on the bicycle lane and that that is dangerous for other people. Where I live, I find that people usually overstate the speed of those cyclists, as if everybody is going 30mph at all times. There are some voices that say that fast cyclists should be allowed on the road instead of the bicycle lane in some places. (It's really strange that people are super concerned about those fast bicyclists, see also the comment above about fast e-bikes that people feel should not be on bicycle paths, and absolutely nobody at all seems concerned about those huge agricultural vehicles that I mentioned that are an actual danger to children on bicycles)
posted by blub at 11:01 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Does anyone in Holland use a recumbemt? I've never seen one there in person or video.

You are more likely to see velomobiles.
posted by ijsbrand at 11:11 AM on January 13, 2015


This makes me want to live in The Netherlands almost as much as actually being in The Netherlands does.
posted by cmoj at 11:57 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Those roads look so amazingly smooth. Also, their street cleaners do not apparently have the modus operandi of "sweep debris into a block that stretches across the entirety of a tiny bike lane, no one will care"
posted by halifix at 12:16 PM on January 13, 2015


Velomobile, recumbent, they're all douchemobiles where I'm concerned. Impractical, too fast for normal bike traffic and not visible enough to see coming, they're a danger to themselves and proper bikes and always are driven by the kind of hipster douche with too much money and not enough sense.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:27 PM on January 13, 2015


What? Recumbents in my experience are dad-mobiles, they're mostly older dudes who like the comfort and aren't easy to embarrass.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:34 PM on January 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


And just today I learned that someone is spraypainting tacks black and leaving them in the bike lane here in "bike friendly" Portland, OR.
posted by idiopath at 1:44 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are indeed a lot of nice, smoothly-paved bike lanes here, but I've also been really struck by how even the cobblestone streets here are not so bad to ride on. This is probably because those streets aren't true cobblestone but rather smooth bricks, usually laid in a herringbone pattern. It's completely different from the teeth-shattering experience of Kopfsteine in Berlin or pavés in Paris.
posted by LMGM at 1:46 PM on January 13, 2015


The speed is a marked difference, but in my experience it's hard in the States not to go fast on your bike. Not because of a culture thing, but because you're mixing with cars and sometimes they honk and drive aggressively at you and make you feel like you're in the way, or you're trying to get ahead of a line of cars so you know they see you and don't right-hook or left-cross you. After that, even when you're on a separated bike path, going at a leisurely pace just feels slow and wrong.

My winter tires on my bike are pretty knobby and heavy compared to my fair-weather tires, and it slows me down a lot. I'm also getting older and less fit despite my best efforts. I'm just starting to get used to sitting back and letting people pass me but it's still an internal struggle that requires a lot of "slow down, chill out" silent mantras.

Oh, and those dutch bikes are heavy beasts that would be difficult to ride fast even if you wanted to. There's a big difference between that and riding a bike that can, even wants to go faster but forcing yourself to slow down.
posted by misskaz at 2:18 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


As much as I admire Dutch cycling culture, running your dog while you're on a bike seems really unsafe to me. Helmets, whatever. Just don't run over your dog please.

In the English-speaking world*, cycling is a dangerous sport for macho dudes who love risks and have something to prove to themselves or others; hence the Lycra and helmets

Heh. Not in the SF Bay Area... it's for paunchy middle-aged guys (and skinny middle-aged guys) and numerically fewer women who ride because it's enjoyable and who wear lycra because it's actually kind of practical when you're on a long ride.

Maybe they seem macho to you, but knowing a lot of cyclists... macho is honestly one of the last words I'd use.
posted by GuyZero at 4:46 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Recumbents in my experience are dad-mobiles, they're mostly older dudes who like the comfort and aren't easy to embarrass.

Exactly. If you see a recumbent rider ask him about his kids and/or his esoteric hobbies. Which may mostly be talking about recumbent bikes.
posted by GuyZero at 4:47 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Heh. Not in the SF Bay Area... it's for paunchy middle-aged guys (and skinny middle-aged guys) and numerically fewer women who ride because it's enjoyable and who wear lycra because it's actually kind of practical when you're on a long ride.

I do feel like it's pretty mainstream here but we've got some of the crazy bike messenger culture people too.

I grew up in one of the absolute top bike towns in the US so the Dutch are nothing extraordinary to me (except we had helmet laws) - what is is how much it comparatively sucks to ride a bike almost anywhere else in this country, even SF.
posted by atoxyl at 4:58 PM on January 13, 2015


it's for paunchy middle-aged guys (and skinny middle-aged guys) and numerically fewer women who ride because it's enjoyable and who wear lycra because it's actually kind of practical when you're on a long ride. ... Maybe they seem macho to you, but knowing a lot of cyclists... macho is honestly one of the last words I'd use.

Perhaps; though there still seems to be the thing of cycling being a Feat Of Strength, or a challenge one sets oneself, rather than a practical way of getting between A and B which one doesn't give a second thought to the implications of.

Or in other words, in the US/Australia/the UK, someone who cycles is, and would identify themselves as, a cyclist. In the Netherlands/Denmark, few people would say “I am a cyclist”, any more than they'd say “I am a pedestrian”, as that's the default, or at least part of it.
posted by acb at 5:12 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


all those damn cyclists who don't follow bike safety rules, wear helmets or yield to cars?

Is there anywhere where the road laws require cyclists to yield to cars on principle (as opposed to declaring them to be road traffic bound by the road law which, in its majestic equality, treats pushbikes, cars and semitrailers equally)? Because I can't see how such a law would make any sense unless the objective was to discourage cyclists from using the roads at all without going quite so far as to explicitly ban them.
posted by acb at 5:14 PM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Perhaps; though there still seems to be the thing of cycling being a Feat Of Strength, or a challenge one sets oneself, rather than a practical way of getting between A and B which one doesn't give a second thought to the implications of.

The same people frequently wear different clothes when riding bikes for different purposes, or different distances. Many people are also accustomed to wear different shoes when driving a car for more than a few minutes at a time, or different clothes based on whether they're walking or driving somewhere.

People who are out running for exercise usually dress differently from people who are walking to the grocery store or whatever, and we don't think that's weird, do we?
posted by asperity at 5:27 PM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Cycling with umbrella always impresses me. (I tried, and broke my umbrella).
posted by kjs4 at 5:40 PM on January 13, 2015


I love my fast 40 mile rides on my road bike, out on country roads.

But when I was in Chicago last year, I tried the Divvy bike share bikes. Wow, heavy and slow, weighing maybe 45 pounds and 3 low speeds. Immune to all but the deepest potholes. That's perfect for browsing around the South Loop historic skyscraper district on a weekend. It's great to just hop on, see an interesting spot, then park it and forget it.

I've heard there's a big problem with stolen bikes in the Netherlands. It was weird to leave my bike share and not have to worry every minute it was out of my sight.
posted by jjj606 at 6:26 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Civilised bike riding is not just a Dutch thing - all over Germany (including my current home town, Paderborn), Denmark etc. it is normal to have bike lanes that cars don't touch, drivers that give way to bikes, everyone riding properly etc. A real mind bender if you have been living in England and Australia.
posted by Megami at 1:06 AM on January 14, 2015


I've heard there's a big problem with stolen bikes in the Netherlands.

A Dutch colleague told me (i) everyone has a cheap sit up and beg as bike theft is a big problem (ii) in his city if you lose your bike you go to one of the big squares, hold out a €20 note and someone stops, gives you the bike they are riding and walks away with the €20.
posted by biffa at 3:08 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow, I had no idea they made studded snow tires for bikes!
posted by buzzman at 4:23 AM on January 14, 2015


A Dutch colleague told me [...]

And you not only believed him, or her, and find this story plausible enough to relay?

The days that local heroin addicts sold more bikes than the bicycle shops are long gone.

I have a bridge for sale you might be interested in, though.
posted by ijsbrand at 4:54 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


These days, it's the city council that's more likely to steal your bike, due to a lack of biking spaces around e.g. Amsterdam Central Station (not helped by the decade long rebuild), as they're quite thorough in removing illegally parked bikes.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:47 AM on January 14, 2015


I have a bridge for sale you might be interested in, though.


Is it the one at Arnhem? Because I think that might be going a bit too far.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:48 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have a bridge for sale you might be interested in, though.

Is it perchance modeled after a fictional bridge on Euro notes?
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:24 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I feel so stupid not to have realised my colleague might have misled me due to his nostalgic pining for the lost junkies of Delft.
posted by biffa at 6:14 AM on January 19, 2015


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