(82 pictures of bicycles taken during 73 minutes on 9/12/06 in
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Background & Explanation:
I stopped in Amsterdam, Netherlands on my way back from a
During a 73 minute period on 9/12/06 at one corner of Nieuw Markt (a nice open
square in Amsterdam), I took the following 82 pictures of bicycles. Why?
Because sitting there I noticed how remarkably different the whole Amsterdam bicycle scene
was from my home, and at the same time certain very clear “Amsterdam Bicycle Trends” appeared I thought might be
interesting to point out. I am from the San Francisco area,
Categories that Show Differences between Amsterdam Bicyclists
and San Francisco Bicyclists:
Here are a few of the differences I wanted to point out, with
||1. Formally Dressed Bicyclists – A whole set of
Amsterdam bicyclists can be seen dressed very formally, like suit and
tie for men, and dresses for women. NOBODY in San Francisco ever
bicycles in a suit and tie, or in dress. But during this one hour
photo shoot, I saw 20 or more incredibly well dressed bicyclists meander
|2. Multiple Riders on One Bike – With or without any
extra seats or foot-pegs for the extra riders, you will see 1 or 2 or
even 3 extra passengers side-saddle, balancing precariously, standing,
sitting, whatever it takes so they can hitch a ride with a buddy or
parent. This is so common I had to stop taking pictures of it
because it would prevent me from capturing some of the other trends.
Almost 50 percent of the bicycles I saw had more than 1 person on them.
In San Francisco the only time you would ever see two passengers is a
small child on the back in a $300 government approved safety chair, and
the child would be wearing a helmet (because it’s the LAW).
Click here for an unrelated rant on
helmet laws. Which brings us to the next difference……
|3. No Helmets EVER – It is amazing to me coming from
San Francisco, land of 100 percent helmet covered heads, but in all of
Amsterdam (population 750,000) there is not one bicycle helmet found
anywhere in the city. Not ONE!! Contrast this with San
Francisco, for anybody under the age of 18, there is a
Mandatory Helmet Law,
and everybody above 18 wears helmets anyway. Now faced with this
shocking disparity, 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.
Click here for an unrelated rant on
|4. Dogs on Bikes – Amsterdam bicyclists seem to
commonly bring their furry friends along with them on the bicycle rides.
I think that’s nice.
|5. Human Powered Generator (Dynamo) Bicycle Light –
This one really does mystify me, some of the other trends more more
sense to me. EVERY bicycle in Amsterdam is outfitted with a dynamo
powered head lamp, where the rider has to pump extra super hard and the
head lamp shines dimly. If you are younger than 35 years old, you
probably have never seen one of these in the USA, we have very bright
headlamps for bicycles that add much less weight and do not increase
resistance. I haven’t seen a single dynamo powered bicycle in San
Francisco in over 20 years. Once I saw a “Simpsons”
(animated comedy) episode where Bart turned on his dynamo bicycle
headlamp and could barely make forward progress-> in the USA these
dynamo powered headlamps are considered a JOKE, but almost a quarter
million bicycles in Amsterdam all have them.
|6. Spectacular Gigantic Unbreakable Security Chains –
Almost all of the bicycles in Amsterdam are what I would call “beaters”,
which means they are beaten up, scraped, bent, out of tune, and have bad
paint jobs. At the same time, all these beaters have these
GIGANTIC security chains that look like they should be the chain on the
anchor of an oil tanker ship. The ton of high tensile, military hardened
steel in each security chain must be worth more than the bicycle it is
keeping safe! The only other type of bicycle lock was a type of sliding
circular rear wheel lock that was once sold in the USA (I owned one when
I was 10 years old). The circular sliding read wheel locks lost
popularity in the USA because they offer almost no security at all: 1)
the criminal can always lift the bike and walk away with it, and 2) it
is always easy to “guess” the combination. Strange dichotomy of
lock choices in Amsterdam.
|7. ….And More… – Several other trends are shown in
the pictures below, including bicycles are commonly painted one big
bright aftermarket color, Amsterdam residents like using their cell
phones while riding their bikes, many bikes are outfitted with big
buckets on the front for serious industrial deliveries, and there is a
whole trend of this “small frame” bicycles with “untraditional”
proportions (very small wheels and then very tall seats to make up for
it). You can view the pictures below to get an idea.
Location the Pictures were Taken in Amsterdam:
In all the pictures below, you will see the same background over
and over again, because all the pictures are from the same corner of Nieuw Markt
(a nice open square in Amsterdam). This is marked with a red “B” in a
circle on Amsterdam_Map. This particular 3-way corner is
INCREDIBLY busy with bicycles, cars, and pedestrians, and the traffic pattern is
completely random. There don’t seem to be any clearly defined rules of
engagement -> from all directions bicycles and cars just whiz into the
intersection and deal with whatever happens the best they can. The
panorama below shows the intersection from the perspective of the cafe right in
front of it. You will need to use your horizontal scrollbar to pan to the
right to see most of the intersection.
So Now, the Pictures:
Below are the 82 pictures I took in 73 minutes, showing how
interesting and different the Amsterdam, Netherlands bicycle culture is from San
Francisco’s bicycle culture. Click on any picture to see extra details on
an ENORMOUS high quality zoomed in version.
The first picture below is just a normal scene of parked
bicycles in Amsterdam. There are always lots of bicycles around, this is
Many, MANY people, both young and old seem to ride bicycles in
Amsterdam. The youngest rider I saw during the 73 minutes is shown below.
Below is the oldest guy I saw riding a bicycle in the 73
Formally Dressed Bicyclists
Below are some of the formally dressed bicyclists I saw all
during the one 73 minute period I stood in one spot taking pictures. You
will see the same background over and over again in the pictures, they are all
from the same corner of Nieuw Markt (a nice open square in Amsterdam).
Below is a man in a suit and tie going for a bicycle ride.
A woman in a gleaming white dress, pearl necklace, and purse who
is going shopping – on her bicycle.
Another guy in a suit, this time with a briefcase – on a
This lady has a long flowing dress that looks like it might get
caught in her wheels – on her bicycle.
Women in tight dresses riding bicycles seems slightly awkward to
me, but like the woman below, in Amsterdam they act as if they have done this
thousands of times before, no big deal.
Lady with skirt and purse – riding a bicycle.
Another lady in a sparkling white dress – riding a bicycle.
Another woman in a skirt riding a bicycle.
Two women in black dress skirts – riding bicycles.
A lady wearing a backless evening dress, holding flowers, and
riding a bicycle in Amsterdam.
The long dresses like the one below seem like they would be
avoided, but apparently not.
A guy in a nice sparkling white dress shirt, wearing a nice tie
– riding a bicycle in Amsterdam.
A lady in a sparkling white jacket and skirt combination –
riding a bicycle.
White seems to be a common dress up color, like the woman below
with a shopping bag – riding a bicycle.
Multiple Riders on One Bicycle
Below are some of the people I saw with multiple riders on one
bicycle all during the one 73 minute period I stood in one spot taking pictures.
The first one shows a common “3 person bicycle rig” I saw a lot. You’ll
notice the kid in back is just sitting on the bicycle freight rack, feet
dangling and looking bored. Also looking bored is the kid in the suicide
position in front of the bicycle. Mom of course is wearing a stunning
white dress (see “Nicely Dressed” above) and lipstick and has a nice purse over
her shoulder, and *NONE* of them are wearing bicycle helmets.
Again, standard suicide position child in front, this bicycle
looks like in a pinch it could carry 4 passengers, or maybe 5 based on what I
These two bicycles are carrying a total of 5 people, and they
are clearly a nice Amsterdam family. If you look closely at the front
bicycle, the smallest child in the family is riding side saddle with her butt on
the bicycle’s metal frame and yet the child is wearing an enormous smile.
The back wheel of the front bike shows almost completely flat, probably because
the bicycle is carrying somewhere in the 350 – 400 pound range. The back
passenger is just sitting on the back luggage rack feet hovering in air.
The woman below is buying some flowers from a street vender, and
I assume will carry them in her arms as she rides her bicycle home – with her
cute little blonde girl in the passenger seat looking bored.
Different from the pictures showing larger parents giving their
smaller children rides, I saw a lot of bicycles in the 73 minute period like the
one below -> one friend giving another bored looking friend a lift through
Another friend providing a passenger a ride. Notice how in
the previous picture and in the one below the WOMAN is doing all the work, and
the guy is getting the free ride? I don’t know what that means. 🙂
In the picture below, the guy is riding side saddle on the bicycle’s luggage
rack. The back tire looks a little flat for this load. Also of note,
the woman is wearing dressy white SPIKE HIGH HEEL SHOES – on a bicycle through
I really like the picture below showing that this bike has an
approved child safety seat, but the child is standing vertically up in it to get
a better view. No child helmet, just a child (and mother) who isn’t afraid
of a little adventure. Remember, this is a busy complicated 3 way
intersection with cars whizzing through it and as far as I could tell no clear
signs or any clear pattern of traffic, just quick witted and dexterous Amsterdam
natives – on bicycles.
Here the guy is peddling the bicycle, and the woman is hitching
a side-saddle ride on the luggage rack. The thing that is hard to capture
here is how relaxed and well balanced these passengers are without anything to
place their feet on -> this is *NOT* the first time they have done this, most
look slightly bored as the bicycle driver swerves through this crazy
intersection in Amsterdam – riding a bicycle.
I added some red annotations to the picture below, because it
showed so many Amsterdam Bicycle Trends in one picture. First of all, the
lady is wearing a nice dress. Second, there are two people riding on this
bicycle. Next, she is talking on a cell phone while swerving and
navigating through this busy intersection and it doesn’t bother her at all.
(See below for another 20 pictures of Amsterdam natives chatting on cell phones
while riding bicycles.) Next, she is sporting a generator bicycle
headlight (dynamo human powered bicycle light, see below for more examples).
There is an enormous “work basket” configured on the FRONT of the bicycle, and
she has one of the circular rear wheel slide security locks for when the bicycle
is parked. Spectacular! If she had a dog along it would be a perfect
clean sweep of Amsterdam Bicycle Trends.
I watched this cheerful girl hop onto the bicycle freight rack a
moment before I took this picture, so I saw how “The Launch” is done. They made
it look smooth and easy, but I have a feeling it takes a little practice.
The picture below is also a good example of several Amsterdam
Bicycle Trends: a woman in a tight dress skirt and dress shoes riding a bicycle,
with 3 people loaded onto the bicycle somehow, plus another industrial work
basket mounted on the front (this work basket would draw TONS of attention in
San Francisco, we have never seen anything like this).
Below is a picture of three Amsterdam natives on a bicycle built
for one. So relaxed, the girl on the back isn’t holding anything with her hands,
and rests her feet naturally in a bag meant to carry groceries, I think she has
spent her life growing up in this position – on a bicycle in Amsterdam.
In the picture below the child is in the normal suicide
position, but this parent has decided to help protect the child a little with a
windshield, very considerate! But also notice the parent is riding on
cobblestones without holding the handlebars – while riding a bicycle through
The picture below shows a variation on the standard “three
people on a bicycle built for one”. In this version, no child is in the
suicide seat, instead both the children are behind the adult.
In the picture below, we go back to the standard setup for a “three person
bicycle rig”, where there is a child in front in the suicide position, and a
child behind on the bicycle freight rack. Look closely -> the ride isn’t
interesting enough to keep the child in the suicide position entertained, so she
is provided with a basket of toys to play with as they hurtle down the
cobblestone road through this intersection – on a bicycle in Amsterdam.
The Amsterdam bicycle taxi in the picture below is another
variation on the “many people, one bicycle” concept, but in this case there
really are enough seats for everybody to be comfortable.
I was only standing on this corner of Nieuw Markt, in Amsterdam,
for 73 minutes, and this is the second bicycle taxi I saw go by.
Dogs on Bicycles
Amsterdam bicyclists seem to take their furry pooch canine dog
friends along on bicycle rides. Remember, I was only standing at one
street corner in Nieuw Markt, Amsterdam, and I only stood there for 73 minutes,
yet I saw these riders with dogs (and more I just wasn’t fast enough on the
camera or taking another photo at the time). Below is a pooch on the
bicycle freight rack – bicycling through Amsterdam.
The dog in the picture below is going for a bicycle ride through
Amsterdam in the basket on the front of the bicycle.
The unfortunate dog in the picture below has to motor along
under his own power, but his owner holds the leash – while bicycling through
The dog in the picture below is riding in style in his own
outdoor roving kennel – pulled behind a bicycle in Amsterdam.
Human Powered Generator Dynamo Bicycle Headlight
EVERY bicycle in Amsterdam is outfitted with a dynamo powered
headlamp, where the rider has to pump the pedals extra super hard and the head
lamp shines dimly. If you are younger than 35 years old, you probably have
never seen one of these in the USA, so here are some close ups. You can
also look at any of the OTHER pictures on this page to see more examples.
The first picture shows the system which is the big green painted headlight has
a squiggly electric line down to the “dynamo” which pushes up against the front
wheel of the bicycle. This puts a HUGE drag on the rider of the bicycle
(maybe doubles the effort of pedaling) so during the daylight hours there is a
hinge to tilt the dynamo away from the bicycle wheel (which turns off the
headlight). There are several important implications of this horrible
system, the most dangerous drawback is that when you stop at a stop sign your
head light goes off. The most annoying part of the system is that it tires
out the poor slob peddling the bicycle. See the picture below.
Below were three parked bicycles in Amsterdam showing three
A close-up of the dynamo on one particular Amsterdam bicycle.
The dynamo powers the head light on the bicycle through human pedal power.
Spectacular Gigantic Unbreakable Security Chains
The most beat-up, crappy, worthless bicycles in Amsterdam are
secured to bicycle racks with these INSANELY gigantic hardened steel security
chains and locks as big as the bicycle seat made of solid metal. Even if
theft is a big problem in Amsterdam, I think these chains are overkill. I
think you could cut the BICYCLE FRAME faster than cutting through one of these
heavy duty chains. For example, look at the two pictures below. The
second picture is a close up from the first picture.
Check out this Amsterdam bicycle security chain and industrial
grade Amsterdam bicycle lock below. That chain looks like it could lift a
railroad boxcar full of lead weights without breaking! I have this image
in my mind of a bike thief with an acetylene cutting torch and welder’s mask
sitting out in the open on the street in Amsterdam for 2 hours trying to cut
through one of these chains to steal a bicycle worth $15. 🙂
Amsterdam bicycle thieves have to be starving to death in the face of such
industrial grade theft protection.
The guy who owns this bicycle is truly a security nut-case.
Look at the picture below, and tell me how two GIGANTIC REDUNDANT Amsterdam
chains and locks are helping security on this $15 bicycle? And my
goodness, could those padlocks be any more gigantic or secure or solid?
On the bicycle below seen sitting in a public place in
Amsterdam, you can see the large security chain locking the back wheel, and then
for added protection the circular sliding O-lock lock to *ALSO* lock the rear
wheel on this bicycle in Amsterdam. The O-lock circular sliding wheel
locks were also popular. I had one of these when I was 10 years old, but
my friends could easily walk away with my bicycle so I got a different lock.
The picture below is of the same bicycle, just zoomed out to see
the whole bicycle. 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, so that if
somebody steals their bicycle the thief would be worried it is too easily
The picture below is annotated in red to show some classic
Amsterdam Bicycle Trends. One I haven’t pointed out before is marked “A”,
and is a type of bicycle fender that also has covers on the side of the wheel.
This is VERY common, scroll around and look at most other bicycles which have
this same side covered Amsterdam bicycle fender. Next is “B”, a type of
bicycle stand that rotates under the back wheel, also very common in Amsterdam
and is visible in many other pictures on this page. Next is the dynamo
human powered bicycle head light marked “C” in the picture below. Finally
is “D” the circular bicycle wheel lock or O-lock found on many Amsterdam
Below shows a picture of one of the massive steel chains that
are standard for Amsterdam bicycle locks.
Intermixed big locks on bicycles in Amsterdam.
Notice the red circles on the picture below. That’s a
Kryptonite style U-lock, plus a circular O-lock rear wheel lock, all to lock up
this bicycle, which I estimate to be worth less than $10 if you tried to sell
A honking big Amsterdam bicycle chain secures this rear wheel.
The picture below shows how Amsterdam bicyclists carry these
gigantic chains when underway. The blonde Amsterdam woman in the picture
below wraps the gigantic chain around the handlebars and lugs it along until her
The picture below shows a big thick special high security cable
on the front wheel, and a back wheel circular bicycle lock O-lock rear wheel
bicycle lock thing on the rear wheel, on one flower power printed cheap
multi-color bicycle in Amsterdam.
A double wrap on this gigantic huge chain securing this bicycle
in the picture below. And nice padlock too, the padlock alone is worth as
much as the bicycle it is securing here in Amsterdam.
I like the picture below because it shows both a nice hefty Amsterdam bicycle
lock chain, plus the dynamo from a human powered bicycle light.
Industrial Work Buckets on the Front of Bicycles
One Amsterdam Bicycle Trend that would look pretty different in
downtown San Francisco is that many Amsterdam bicycles are outfitted with these
large, industrial looking work buckets mounted on the front of all shapes.
Below is a picture of one variation – bicycling through Amsterdam.
Below is another type of industrial work bucket front loader
thingy on the front of an Amsterdam bicycle. This one with a child mounted
in the suicide position on the bicycle.
The picture below shows another custom work bucket mounted on a
bicycle in Amsterdam. This one has a blue tarp covering it.
Here is another big box freight container on a bicycle.
This one required that the “bicycle” become a “tricycle”, the locker on the
front of the bicycle is mounted between two bicycle wheels.
This is a good time to bring up a previous photo (this is the
only duplicate in this collection). In the picture below again is a great
example of multiple Amsterdam Bicycle Trends, including a large metal work
basket welded on the front of a bicycle.
Amsterdam Bicycle Decorations
A common Amsterdam Bicycle Theme is coloring the entire bicycle
one color, or possibly a couple colors, but NEVER a good paint job, always
hacked together. The bicycle below is a good example as a solid red
bicycle. Notice the spray paint bled over the tires AND EVEN THE BICYCLE
CHAIN also, so the person who painted this didn’t even take the wheels off, or
mask the tires, and the bicycle chain probably doesn’t work quite right anymore.
Below is the same sort of thing but the highest quality paint
job I saw in Amsterdam. The wheels are chrome, so are some of the bolts,
and there is some fine white detailing, so much care was taken to produce this
day glow orange Amsterdam beater bike.
The bicycle below is decorated with flowers and streamers in
The paint job on the bicycle below was clearly done at the same
time, you can see both purple and blue on the rear wheel rim from spray paint
bleed over. And of course a massive Amsterdam bicycle chain securing the
bicycle from theft. Who would steal such a bike?
Cell Phone Use on Bicycles
One Amsterdam Bicycle Trend was that many MANY people liked to
chat on their cell phones as they zipped along the cobblestone streets on the
bicycles in Amsterdam. Below are some examples.
Woman in black talking on cell phone riding a bicycle in
Lady with purse, white pants, on a pink bicycle talking on her
cell phone while riding a bicycle through Amsterdam.
This woman has music headphones *AND* a cell phone while riding
her bicycle through Amsterdam.
The woman pictured below is dressed well (high heels and all)
while riding her bicycle through Amsterdam, and is talking on her cell phone
while dodging pedestrians on her bicycle in Amsterdam.
This guy swerved around this van while talking on his cell phone
and riding his bicycle in Amsterdam.
Another well dressed woman talking on her cell phone while
riding her bicycle through Amsterdam.
The guy below was TEXT-MESSAGING while riding his bicycle
through a busy intersection, with motorcycles on his right and another bicycle
on his left and oncoming cars, this man can multi-task while riding his bicycle
through Amsterdam city streets!
Small Wheels, Tall Seat Bicycles in Amsterdam
There was one particular type of bicycle I’m not sure I
understood why it was so popular, but really stood out as a trend. These
bicycles have smaller wheels than a typical bicycle, and a taller seat to
compensate. Below is a picture of one of them to show you what I mean.
Another one a few minutes later.
And another, you see what I mean? What are the advantages
of this design? Also notice there only seems to be one bar reaching from
the pedals/seat area forward to the handlebar and front wheel (instead of a
traditional triangle of at least two bars). That seems very specific to
all these bicycles, I wonder if it helps the bicycle fit somewhere or fold up
Another bicycle in Amsterdam with small wheels and a tall seat
to make up for it.
And another one.
I’m not sure this really counts, but it was interesting so I’ll
include it. In the picture below, the wheels aren’t any smaller, but the
seat sure is taller, and I’m not sure I understand how this guy stops and puts
his feet down. He must have good visibility bicycling through Amsterdam.
Another guy on a bicycle with small wheels and tall seat to make
up for the small wheels in Amsterdam.
San Francisco Spandex Racer Guy – with No Helmet
I end this web page collection of Amsterdam Bicycle Trends with
a picture of a bicycle you MIGHT actually see in San Francisco. Hidden in
thousands of other riders, the guy below is riding a 10 speed curved under
handlebar style bicycle, and wearing bicycle clothing (not dress clothes), and
his shoes clip to the peddles. He is not riding side saddle, and he does
NOT have a dynamo human powered headlight on this bicycle. No fenders on
the bicycle (very San Francisco), and there is no gigantic unbreakable security
chain to be seen. The only thing that gives him away as a true Amsterdam
bicyclist -> no bicycle helmet. Very interesting, there must be a
Amsterdam wide ban on bicycle helmets.
Thank you for finding the end of this webpage, if you have read
this far you obviously have way too much time on your hands. 🙂 I
hope you enjoyed reading this page, I had a very fun time creating it. Now
send me an email and let me know what you think!
FEEDBACK from Readers!! (Added 3/21/07)
Everything below here are emails from readers who took the time
to email me comments and explanations. I thank them all! Email
addresses are removed for privacy reasons. Not all emails to me are
included here, just a sampling. IF YOU FIND YOUR NOTE HERE and WANT IT
REMOVED, just send me an email and I’ll remove it.
—- Below this line is from Nathalie Roland (San Francisco, CA,
USA, 9/22/06) ——
This is great. I loved it. I am so jealous of Amsterdam’s
wonderful separated bicycle lanes. And it’s bicycle using population. If more
people here used a bicycle instead of a car it would be funner to ride around.
Still riding a bicycle around the city of San Francisco is a delightful way to
get around on a nice day despite all the crazy car drivers who do things like,
honk at you for no reason other than they are annoyed that the have to go around
you when there is no bike lane.
I would like to note a few things about your page. I often wear a dress or a
skirt on my bicycle. I know one person with a dynamo light here in the city. I
think a lot of the small wheel bicycles are foldy bikes, that can fold up into a
cute for easy storage and movement through a tight corridor or stairway in a
—- Below this line is from Lise Waring (Telluride, CO, USA)
I miss those generator lights that you give such a bad rap. I
had one of those as a kid. They’re cool. And those fenders that go all the way
around are skirt guards, designed to keep all those dresses and skirts out of
—- Below this line is from Chad West (San Francisco, CA, USA,
I’m guessing that since there are so many people on the roads riding bikes makes
it much safer to do so. Because, car drivers are more aware of them.
I love how the bikes are fitted with after market parts to make them
specifically for people to wear nice clothes. You would never get a spec of
grease on your pants on those jobs. The real issue is they are single speed
bikes and one would be soaked with sweat or never make it up hills in SF. I love
A friend of mine lived in Amsterdam for a few years and had 3 bikes stolen.
Which is one reason why they are all beaters. It’s crazy that they find the need
to have the NYC bike locks in tote, but maybe it’s to help get it locked up to
what little space they have. My bike lock is the smallest U-lock you can buy,
and it pretty much is only big enough to fit around a parking meter and my
frame. If I had to fight for a spot to lock it up among the mass of bikes, I
would have to upgrade.
I don’t get the bike lights at all. I had one growing up and they suck, not only
do they hardly produce light, but they also get locked up and ruin you tires. I
have two LED lights which wrap around with a rubber band. One white one for the
front, and a red one for the back. They cost 15$ total, and attach and detach
quickly with a rubber band. These produce much better light and those darn
With all that said, Americans love their cars. (I’m no exception) If you had
landed in New Delhi I would guess you’d have a ton of pictures of families of 5
riding on Vespa rip offs all w/o helmets…
This is a great page, it must have been a long flight back to the States. 🙂
—- Below this line is from Nate Leon (Cupertino, CA, USA,
Also, here is the answer to why the bikes w/ the small wheels:
and a few of the links at the bottom of that article w/ better pictures:
—- Below this line is from Maggi Hacker (Kansas, USA, 10/8/06)
Laurie Chipman shared your website and trip review to Amsterdam. I went there 4
years ago last month. I didnt think of taking pictures of the all bizarre bike
stuff so I am glad you did! I was actually on a bicycle trip in Friesland, but
we went through Amsterdam both coming and going to do the self-guided bike trip.
Those bikes with little wheels, I think they are folding bikes. They would be so
popular because of what you pointed out. The fear of losing your bike! No matter
what kind of bike. But the folding ones can go in a bag probably with wheels so
you can roll it into the office. PERFECT!
And the locks! Wow! I never noticed that. Dont know if it is new since I was
there. I really didnt ride in Amsterdam. I rode the train. But I am not
surprised. I bet its a sellers market. The locals are amazingly agile and
multitasking on the bikes. The women especially.
Thanks for sharing that! I will have to look for more possibilities in the
future for great photographic bike fare.
PVYC Prairie Village Yacht Club
Johnson County Bicycle Club
—- Below this line is from Mike Jenkins (Barrington, IL, 10/9/06)
Great web page! It brings back a lot of good memories. I’ve had a beer or
two in that very square.
When my daughter was purchasing her used bike in Maastricht, she asked the
shop proprietor what the best lock was, he replied, “Many locks!” She spent
fifty euros on the bike and 38 euros on the locks. I was told by a local
that bicycle theft is second most popular sport after speed skating.
More than helmets, I think the biggest difference in bike culture between SF
Amsterdam are that bikes are rarely used for sport or exercise in the
Netherlands, it’s all transport. The other differences are speeds are
slower, distances traveled shorter and the terrain much flatter in the
Finally, “bottle” generators are cheap and the cops hand out tickets to
cyclists without lights which explains their popularity. What’s really bad
though, is that the tail-light goes out when the bike stops. I don’t
understand how more cyclists are not rear ended at intersections on rainy
—- Below this line is from Mark Scrivner (Kansas, 10/11/06)
I was sent your Amsterdam photos by a third party and found them fascinating.
Thank You for posting them.
As a coincidence I am making my first visit to San Francisco
Hmmm…..maybe I’ll find a busy intersection and snap photos of the local
cycling scene. It
would be refreshing to see everyone in a helmet. I reside in the Kansas City
area and it’s very
common to see cyclists, especially children, without helmets. Then again, they
are not even
required on motocycles on the Kansas side of the state line.
President, Johnson County Bike Club
—- Below this line is from Jon Sharratt (Unknown Location, 10/11/06)
Interesting perspective Brian, and I wish I was there.
Your incredulous tone proves you are obviously from a motor-driven suburban
culture; not a bad thing but a typical American perspective. I thought your
obsession with bashing bottle generators was humorous; granted, I wouldn’t take
one on a cross-country tour but for the most part, they are delightful and
reliable little gizmos.
Your “trends” as you call them (useful racks, lights, mudguards, skirtguards,
spoke locks, etc) have been around for 80-90 years. It’s odd that you have never
seen a freight bicycle before; many are made in the USA. See
http://www.bakfiets.com/ for examples.
Continually referring to Dutch bicycles as cheap and wondering why they used
big security locks was tiring; these people use these bicycles every day (read:
no car) and theft is a big problem in Amsterdam. Imagine having to run to the
day care-grocery-hardware-video store and finding your beloved (and expensive)
All-in-all a very encouraging lookabout at a culture that has embraced the
bicycle, indeed, it won’t be long before this level of enlightenment will be
seen in the USA.
Thank you for posting the photos.
—- Below this line is from Mark Robson (Sydney, Australia, 10/16/06)
Great photos of Amsterdam cyclists.
My comment is about generator powered lighting.
I have tried both types, I went to a dynamo because my batteries would only last
2 hours on one charge and I wanted to ride longer at night.
I found that with the dynamo I didn’t have to plan ahead or think. With the
dynamo always on the bike, when I needed a light I just switched it on. I ride
home from work around dark or just after 3 or 4 nights a week, and I still find,
even with the advances made in rechargable batteries that I still need to
remember to have them charged and have access to a power outlet.
The down side of dynmaos is of course the lights go out when you stop at
intersections. I aslo found out the hard way that the light goes out when you
lock the rear brake as the wheel stops. The you can’t see what you are about to
After spending a couple of years with a dynamo and a couple more years with a
battery powered light I say it’s a line-ball decision between the two. The
dynamo clamp attatchments tend to damage the frame so on my new frame I have
gone with a battery light for that reason alone. I still prefer the sheer
convenience of a dynamo powered light.
Great photos and well done.
—- Below this line is from Jan Henk Keijzer (Sweden, 10/28/06)
As a native dutchman currently living in Sweden I enjoyed your site about
bicycles in Amsterdam.
Also in sweden helmets are obliged for children as in most other European
countries. However not in Holland. The Bicycle is a standard in daily live in
Holland. Most people own at least 1 (There are more bicycles then people in
To answer your question about the bicycles with small wheels these are foldable
bicycles very convenient when you want to go by train. Not surprisingly Holland
has one of the most dense populations and railtrack density in the world.
Jan Henk Keijzer
—- Below this line is from Gilgamesh Nootebos (Unknown
Very entertaining to see such common sights (to me) through the eyes of a
foreigner. As you might guess I’m a dutchman although I don’t live in Amsterdam.
As one of your photo’s shows we learn to ride a bicycle as soon as we can
walk(our daughter will get her first on her second birthday in 2 months).
Especially in the cities like Amsterdam it’s more practical to do everything on
a bike. Until recently you could even see the prime minister(not our current
Harry Potter lookalike but his predecessor) and other politicians riding a bike
to their work. The funny bikes with the small wheels are indeed folding biks,
for easier transport in buses, trams & trains. Very few people use helmets here,
it’s just not done.
I could tell you much more but i realise dutch bicycle culture is way too much
for a simple email and I’m not even near being an expert.
—- Below this line is from Ilja Nieuwland (Amsterdam,
Hi Brian (if I may),
I just spent a nice half-hour browsing through your page on bicycles in
Amsterdam, which I accidentally stumbled upon. Generally I found it very expert,
but I would like to add some comments (as an Amsterdam citizen and bike-rider):
– Cycles with small wheels. These are quite terrible to ride; the reason that
they’re that popular is mainly that, when folded up, they can be take on board
trains for free. This makes them an obvious choice for commuters. The Dutch,
being a notoriously scrapy bunch, won’t pass up on that one, even if it means
riding a very unpractical bicycle (no place to put your bags, friends, or
– Cycle helmets. The reason that no one wears these is mainly that
they’re perceived as *very* uncool – and with coolness being the end-all of Amsterdam culture, that settles it.
– The coolness problem kicks in with the industrial racks with
children at the front of bicycles. These are very much en vogue right
now, and the problem is that the people driving them tend to focus
more on their mobile telephone conversations than actually looking
where they’re going. The alarming crash rate of these vehicles (and
the fact that due to these bicycles’ larger bulk the consequences of
these crashes are usually more severe than they’d be with normal
bikes) has led the authorities to review their safety.
– Finally, I need to defend the bloke riding on the back of the
girl’s bike on your page. The rule of thumb is that the bike’s owner
always does the pedalling, *unless* the passenger is much heavier, in
which case (usually) he will do the work. Many people don’t like
others riding their bikes.
—- Below this line is from Tuco Rides (Unknown Location, 2/16/07)
Hi Brian, I found your “Amsterdam Bikes” page on the net and
wrote about it quickly on my blog (address below) today.
I’ve never been to Amsterdam – I might have to move there! Chris
Story of a bike and a stubborn cyclist
—- Below this line is from Val (Unknown Location, 2/16/07)
Brian: I greatly enjoyed your photo essay on the Amsterdam
scene. You have a good eye for interesting subjects, and your notes were
thorough and amusing.
As someone who spent a little time (one month, that is) cycling
in the Netherlands, and most of my life cycling in the US, there are a number of
thoughts that occurred to me that I would like to share with you, some of which
may possibly answer some of the questions you had.
1. I love your helmet rant. If you like, I can direct you to any number of
similar rants about the bicycle helmet laws. In the bicycle industry (where I
work) it is crucial to loudly proclaim that one is NOT against helmet use before
even beginning to explain why helmet laws are a bad idea (and there are many
good reasons, besides the ones you point out in your rant). In the Netherlands,
people seem to be quite amused by the concept of bicycle helmets, until you
explain that your experience is in the US. “Ah, Americans,” they say, nodding
profoundly, “well, perhaps they fall a lot more there…” It’s not just
Amsterdam; everyone in the country rides a bike (even the quadriplegics ride
bikes), and none of them wear helmets, because they know how to ride, and they
know that it is not dangerous. Based on my experiences in both countries, I
would say that this is also due in large part to the fact that we have more
feral cars here. The automotive traffic in the Netherlands is much more
domesticated and docile. What it adds up to is a nation of helmet less riders who
almost never wind up in the hospital with head injuries.
2. The reasons that all bikes (well, most bikes) in the Netherlands have
generators are: simplicity and reliability. With a generator system, you ride
the bike. If it gets dark, the bike has a light. You do not worry about whether
the battery is charged, you do not take the light off when the bike is parked
for fear of thieves, you do not have to worry about being out longer than the
run time of the battery, and you do not have to remember to take the battery off
at the end of the ride to charge it up. You will not blind any oncoming riders
or light up the night like a beacon, but with a decent system you will have a
beam that allows you to see when there are no streetlights, and allows everyone
else to see you; just enough, in other words. Unless they are very old or rusty,
generators do not actually impose much resistance (Bart Simpson notwithstanding
– that must be the first instance of exaggeration on that show, eh?), and most
riders would not even notice them if they didn’t make that annoying humming
sound, thus creating the appearance of extreme resistance. They definitely do
not double the effort required of the rider – at most, they add 2-5%. I have
been using generator systems for many years, because I know that I cannot trust
myself to keep a battery charged, and I will admit that the older ones were
barely adequate, but they have been improving all the time, so that the modern
systems are quite practical.
3. The monster security chains on low end bikes have more to do with time and
logistics than with protecting an investment. The bike itself may be cheap, but
it is your transportation, and if it is not there when you come out of the
store, that sucks. You want to avoid that, and you want to frustrate the
universally hated bike thieves, who are as plentiful as mice in a granary.
4. At first glance, it may seem that all Dutch bikes are beaters, but it is
important to remember that you are seeing the workhorses. Most families have two
or three of these “omafietsen”, or grandma bikes, but they also have a stable of
other bikes, usually including a mountain bike or two, a road bike for Dad to
train on on the weekends, and a really fancy touring bike for vacations. The
same lock would be used for whichever bike was in use at the time.
5. The seemingly chaotic traffic patterns you observed are coming to be a new
paradigm, and can function quite well (
). As an example, did you see any collisions while you were watching?
6. In reference to all the long skirts and flowing dresses that you noticed, you
missed a connection: the “fender that also has covers on the side of the wheel”
is, in fact, a fender with skirt guards. Now you know why.
7. The main reason that you see so many people dressed up and riding bikes is
that riding bikes is how they travel. As a businessman, you do not change into
special clothes to ride the bus or subway, or to drive your car to work or home,
and neither do the Dutch when they go to work – they just do it on bicycles.
8. The sidesaddle passenger position is wonderfully practical. I first saw it in
the Netherlands, and have found that it works quite well. It is easier for the
passenger to get off than if they straddle the bike, and it is also easier for
them to balance. It is usually more comfortable, too, and it allows the
passenger to see past the rider without leaning to the side; they do lean, but
the feet counterbalance, like leaning back in a straight back chair.
9. As I mentioned, I truly enjoyed this whole essay, and I hate to criticize,
but I must take exception to the use of the term “suicide position” to describe
the child seat in front of the rider. This position is actually much more
practical and much safer than having the child behind. It keeps the combined
center of gravity between the wheels of the bicycle, for safer handling, and it
allows the rider (usually a parent) to surround the child with their arms, a
very protective stance. It also allows the rider to keep an eye on the child
without having to compromise their balance.
10. The long cargo bikes with the boxes on the front are known as “bakfietsen”
and they are being imported into the US ( http://clevercycles.com/
), so you may see some in SF before long. Cool, eh?
11. Just a small quibble, but at one point you indicate an instance of “three
people on a bicycle built for one” that is actually a case of one adult and two
kids on a bicycle built for one adult and two kids. If you look carefully, you
can see that the wheelbase is extended in the rear, and there are two purpose
built child seats back there. There are several brands that make this style of
bike, including: http://www.fietsfabriek.nl/index_eng.htm I think it is
interesting that there is enough of a demand for such a specialized design to
support more than one brand.
12. The bikes with small wheels and tall seat posts and handlebars, are, indeed,
folding bikes. They are very convenient for traveling on busses, trains, and
trolleys, all of which the Netherlands has in abundance (
13. As far as the spandex clad racer is concerned, he is only atypical in the
heart of the city. This is not the place for speed. A vast number of folks in
the Netherlands do dress up like this regularly, and then they go out of town to
the bike trails, where they can ride for miles without having to interact with
cars at all, and they put the hammer down. I have heard it said many times that
the Dutch ride much more slowly than we do here in the US, but anyone who says
that has not tried to keep up with a pace line of them on the open trail. They
will maintain 20-30mph for miles, riding in a pack only inches from each other,
wearing only cloth racing beanies on their heads, and they don’t wind up
paralyzed for life, as I am constantly being told that helmet less riders will
(not might, will).
14. The other tall bike you saw looks to be a homemade example
of what is known (no one knows why) as a Tallbike. You can see various examples
of them at: http://tallbike.net/index.html ,
, and http://www.chicagofreakbike.org/
, among others. There is even a
commercially made one: http://www.fietsfabriek.nl/index_eng.htm They are fun,
and much safer than most people would imagine.
And, as a bonus, here’s a well documented, thoroughly researched, anti helmet
law (NOT anti helmet, all right?) article form the British Medical Journal, no
less: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/321/7276/1582 Compelling stuff, with a
plethora of footnotes. Have fun!
As you can see, some of have more time on our hands than you may have bargained
for. Once again, I truly enjoyed this page, and I hope my comments may have
helped to enhance your appreciation of the scene you found yourself immersed in
at that cafe. Personally, I dream of going back there, and in the meantime I try
to make any place that I am at least a little bit more like that.
—- Below this line is from John Huizenga (Unknown Location,
Having looked at your pictures of bicycles in Amsterdam,I find
your pictures great, but your comments are ignorant and typically Yankee rude.
It would serve you well, if you would first find out why things are done the way
they are in foreign countries rather than making stupid comments,
you might even enjoy other cultures more than you do presently.
—- Below this line is from Vivien Shotwell (Unknown Location,
I lived in Holland for two years and your pictures of bikes in Amsterdam brought
back some great memories. I just wanted to point out, if no one else has done so
yet, that the miniature bikes are popular because they fold up and are portable.
So you can take them on the train with you for no extra fee. They’re harder to
ride than regular bikes, because of the small wheels. Here’s a link to one:
The lack of helmets baffled me, too. I always wore one when I rode my bike and
felt completely dorky. People would call out “Mooi helm!” to me — “Nice
—- Below this line is from Donald (Unknown Location, 3/19/07) ——
I ran across your page on Amsterdam Bicycle Trends on the Internet. It seemed
that you glossed over a very interesting trend I noticed from the pictures, that
just about *everyone* rides a bike *everywhere.* Is this true for all of
Amsterdam? Or just this one block where you were taking pictures? I live in
Tampa, FL in the US so seeing a majority of the population bicycling is more
like a day dream than something I can believe. Incredible pictures though, and a
very good analysis. You made my morning!
—- Below this line is from Peter Bancroft (Unknown Location,
I stumbled across your page earlier today, and just wanted to say thanks for
your pictures, and your article.
The orange bikes that you see everywhere are the Amsterdam equivalent of the
yellow cab – they’re hire bike, and the hi-viz paint job makes them stand out.
Ugly, yes, but they do have two benefits – the people who hire them can’t lose
them, and no bugger would want to steal them!
With regards to the helmets, and this being only personal opinion, they seem to
only be truly beneficial in high impact crashes – low speeds, and without other
high-speed vehicles involved, a person would react the same way they would if
they fell over. That is to say, protect their head by bracing the impact with
their arms. Not many folk wear a helmet when walking!
Amsterdam has the benefit of being very cyclist friendly – many more bikes than
cars mean less high-speed impacts. Even the cyclists tend to trundle along at a
sedate pace. In San Francisco (in fact, almost anywhere else) cars rule the
road, and so helmets become a necessity.
I do feel I have to disagree with you about the dynamos, however. They’re not a
joke – I had one on my bike as a child, and never noticed them making it any
harder to ride. In fact, as a poor kid I saw a great deal of benefit in them –
no expensive and wasteful batteries to replace several times a season! Nowadays
I do more riding off-road than on, and so the dynamo would probably not last
very long after a few knocks.
Anyways, I have probably rambled far too much. Keep up the good work!
All the best,
—- Below this line is from Marlies (Eindhoven, The
Netherlands, 3/20/2007) ——
I just stumbled upon your side concerning the 82 bike pictures taken in
Amsterdam, and I wanted to tell you that I liked it very much. It is exactly the
kind of site you (I) hope to find on ‘the net’: personal, funny, informative and
the impression that the writer knows everyone is different without being in
I can imagine you receive tons of e-mails of dutch people telling you that’
yeah, that is how we are’, but just in case I am the first: ‘yeah, that is how
And now for some additional (though probably useless) information:
– It is ‘common knowledge’ that ‘real dutch people’ have bike locks that are
more expensive than their bikes. (Especially in student cities).
– If you have ever been transported on the back of a bike, you’ll know that the
one cycling generally will have the best deal. Those panniers really hurt your
sitting utensils after a while (generally 5 minutes)
– The ‘expressive colours’ is supposed to defer people stealing your bike. After
all, when it looks personalized, it is easier to recognize and therefore
(slightly) less likely to be stolen by an ‘impromptu’ thief. Of course, the bike
lock is more efficient here.
– Actually, small children (while learning how to cycle) will tend to have
helmets these days. Basically because that is actually the age where falling
down with your bike is likely, and therefore a helmet usefull. Also ‘speed
cyclists’ will tend to have helmets as well, also because they might indeed go
fast enough to fall.Generally, it is seen here that a bike helmet is pretty
useless when a car is driving into you (and I believe that resent research in
the UK showed that cars are driving nearer a cyclist wearing a helmet), so why
wear one?I myself only wear my helmet ‘abroad’, when I am on holiday in the
mountains (’cause there falling is more likely). I must say though that if I
would ever cycle in America / San Francisco, I would wear a helmet.
– The bikes with an ‘industrial work basket’ are called ‘bakfiets’ (‘bak’ is
‘crate’). It is a recent (5 years or so) that (especially in Amsterdam) loads of
parents have discovered that this is a neat way to transport some children. As
far I can see, you missed out on the ‘children in a cart’ variety. It is like
the doggy cart, but they are (officially)made for children as well.
– And finally: the small wheels, tall seat’ variety: those are ‘foldable bikes’.
You can fold them up to some square, compact parcel, so you can take them on the
b) Free (you pay EUR 6 to take a ‘normal’ bike on the train)
OK, enough information. And like I said, you probably have been told all these
things many times before.
But maybe not 🙂
Anyway, I liked the site, and I enjoyed reading your stuff.
And if you are ever in the Netherlands again: I recommend renting a bike. It
is not very expensive, and a rather good way to spend the day.
Have a nice day!
Eindhoven, The Netherlands
—- Below this line is from Netty Mathews (grew up in Holland,
Somebody sent me a link to your website with pictures earlier today.
Enjoyed the pictures and your observations.
After reading your observation of Dutch cyclists not wearing helmets and
possibly not taking safety of their children seriously, I thought I would
send you some additional information.
The Dutch do take bike safety seriously. They’ve just taken a different
approach. When growing up in Holland, in first grade, we all went through a
full week of safe bicycle riding classes. At the end of the week, police
officers put together a course where each child was presented with traffic
situations for approximately 30 minutes while police officers observed.
Depending on how you did, you received your “safe bicycle” certificate.
Over the next few years, you received refresher courses. Additionally, when
you work on obtaining your drivers license, there is a strong emphasis on
driving around bicyclists.
Here I am constantly amazed how parents teach kids to ride their bicycles.
Kids are taught to ride on the wrong side of the road (am fairly certain
that’s illegal) and kids ride on bicycles without lights in the dark
constantly. Signaling is never taught it seems like. (actually, almost the
same can be said for drivers).
There are many bike lanes in Holland, allowing bike riders to be safer.
Here’s an interesting statistic:
U.S. cyclists are three times more likely to be killed than German cyclists
and six times more than Dutch cyclists, whether compared per-trip or
per-distance traveled. (Reuters, Aug. 28, 2003, by Maggie Fox)
—- Below this line is from Becky Baxter (Antwerp, Belgium, 3/38/2007) ——
I recently moved to Antwerp, Belgium, which is about an hour and
a half away from Amsterdam and am delighted by the bicycle sensation as well. In
America, we don’t ride bikes after the age of 10, unless you live in a big city,
and even then… I had to buy a bike last Wednesday and guess what…Wednesday
night it was stolen, or more like thrown in the river by a vandal. Even worse,
it was locked to 2 other of my friends bikes. I was devistated! You make fun of
the bikes that are “worth $15” but I guarantee that those bikes were bought for
no less than $300 and spray painted the next day. That’s what you have to do,
because apparently people here steal bikes everyday, it’s too common. When I
went bike shopping, the bikes were around $500-$600 for a so-so bike. Hard to
find a cheaper bike that is not a total piece of crap. Those big “gigantic locks
you were laughing at…yeah, they may look tough, tough enough to deter someone
maybe, but to cut? easy.
Anyways, its a week later, and we fished for our bikes and rescued them from 6
meter deep water. They were nasty.
oh yeah, and those bikes with little tires are fold up bikes…hilarious!
Last year we went to a house party and instead of seeing cars parked down the
street, you see a driveway full of bikes reflecting back at you. Too funny for
Nice website, I liked it, but all too normal here…
—- Below this line is from Evalien Ruiter (Utrecht,
Holland, 6/5/2007) ——
This morning I found your photos on bicycling in Amsterdam. It’s very funny to
see your point of view, wondering about such common things like gigantic locks,
skirts, hiking etc. Riding a bike in this small (and totally flat!)
country is like breathing. Everybody does it. That’s why I’m sending you this
picture of our former queen:
She was the mother of Beatrix, our present queen. Even with
dress and child (looks like Beatrix to me) she fits right into your series. So
even our royalty!! In those days you had saddles for skirt-wearing women,
which where oval-shaped. My mum still has one of those, although they are
considered old-fashioned now.
And by the way, the man on the racebike, the one you thought looked the most
familiar to you, is most likely using this bike exclusively for recreative
riding. That’s why there’s no big lock; he never leaves his bike unattended. In
Holland it’s wiser to use a scrappy undesirable bike to visit a towncentre, and
lots of people today have a second one they use for tours, holidays and sports.
These bikes are kept inside. Theft of bikes is a extremely common thing,
especially in the larger cities of Holland. I think I’ve lost at least 5 or 6
bikes that way.
Maybe it’s nice to know that the city of Amsterdam once tried to launch a
brilliant plan to supply the streets with free bikes. The idea was that you
could take one of these 2000 -all white- bikes, use it, and then leave it
behind, so that someone else could do the same. This was in 1967 (‘course) and
it never made it. In 1999 a kind of similar idea did make it, with 250 bikes,
but proved unsuccessful.
—- Below this line is from Harry van Veen (Amsterdam,
The Netherlands, 9/6/2007) ——
You have obviously not looked around very long, otherwise you
would have seen far more outrageous cyclists in this town. I am 62 years
old and I cycle every day 30 km. to my job in a factory, on a Racing bike with
rain covers on the wheels and bags on the back. But I’ll send you a
picture of me and our three grandchildren and two dogs on one working bike.
Greetings, Harry van Veen
—- Below this line is from Mirjam Vonk (Amsterdam,
The Netherlands, 9/12/2007) ———-
—- ON THE ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THIS WEBSITE!! ————
Dear Brian Wilson, hi!
September 12, 2007.
Today it’s exactly one year ago that you took all the pictures of bicycles in
Amsterdam! The weather looked better one year ago! than today. I just had a long
look at all the pictures you made and I have enjoyed all of it, your great
comments included! My name is Mirjam and I am living in the Northern part of
Amsterdam, that’s a little more quiet and not so hectic as the city center. Just
wanted to share with you some memories that came back to me while going through
1. We really were a cycling family especially in my childhood. My Dad didn’t own
a car until I was about 18 years old, so just about everything was transported
on his and our bikes. Like the large pan of soup that my Mom made and had to be
delivered at my Grandma’s a few streets further away, because lots of people
would come and visit to eat there. Well, my Dad put the very large pan on the
back of his bike and started to walk at first along the bike holding the pan
with one hand. Of course! he felt that this didn’t go fast enough, so he thought
he better just cycle and holding the pan with one hand in place behind his back.
Arriving at Grandma’s frontdoor putting his one foot on the ‘stoep’ (pavement)
to stand still, he forgot to swing his leg really high after that to get off the
bicycle. 😉 Result: one big content of soup all over the ‘stoep’ (pavement) …
2. I remember having my feet in the ‘bags meant to carry groceries’ sitting at
the back of my Dads bicycle lots of times during my childhood. He always told me
I had to do that, so that my feet wouldn’t get in between the ‘spaken’, spokes.
3. Going to handball practice one night as a child with my Dad cycling next to
me because he was taking me there, I was too late to avoid an ‘Amsterdammertje’,
that’s the Amsterdam little ‘paaltje’, pegs or pickets, you see all over here
and also on bicycle roads. I crashed frontal against the peg of course, not
being in time at my Dad’s warning shout: ‘Watch out!’. My bicycle fork all
twisted etc. You can already guess 😉 what I had to hear for the rest of my
childhood and many more years, when I was about to come close to an
4. Seeing your site also brought the bit old Dutch song back into my head:
“Spring maar achterop” , Jump on / take a seat on the back of my bike.
I really loved your concept of taking all the pictures in a certain space of
time and putting them all together on a website with your personal comment and
foreign eyes and view! and am thankful for the friend living in Northern Holland
who made me aware of your site!
I haven’t been able to visit the city center for many years because of my
handicap, but your site brought me there for a while, thanks!
Groetjes van Mirjam, Amsterdam
—- Below this line is from Mick Savage (The Netherlands, 11/19/2007) ———-
I just saw your site on bicycles in Amsterdam and I enjoyed it
very much. You were surprised to see formally dressed people on bikes, so I
wouldn’t want you to miss this picture.
It’s our minister of social affairs who always rides a bike when coming to
parliament. I know this is not in Amsterdam but in The Hague, but it’s typical
for our bicycle culture in The Netherlands. Maybe it’s a nice addition to the
site. [Note from Editor BrianW: above is picture of “Piet
Met vriendelijke groet,
—- Below this line is from Nate Groadie (USA?, 12/23//2007) ———-
My mom sent me the link to your Amsterdam Bicycles page. I read it over and I
thought I could share some things with you.
I read all the attached comments and thought that a few points had been missed:
Helmets: Most incidents where a helmet would be useful are between cyclists and
cars. One thing to note about Dutch car drivers, there are no such thing, they
are just cyclists that are behind the wheel of an automobile. Here in the
states, I wear a helmet every time I ride. Its come in very handy before. Once
while in a bike lane I was hit head on by a driver making an illegal turn. My
head hit their windshield where it meets the right side of the car at appx 30
MPH (combined speed of my bike+car). My helmet smashed, I rolled over the car
and stuck a two point landing on my Chuck Taylors. My glasses had broke and cut
my nose a bit, but otherwise I was A-OK. Without the helmet it would probably be
a much different story. Incidents like that (called a “left-hook”) happen much
less in countries like Denmark, the Netherlands, etc. etc. etc. and make helmets
much less needed. That being said, its probably a good idea to also wear my bike
helmet whenever I travel by *car*.
Folding bikes: small wheels don’t really have too much do with a quality bike
ride. Frame design around those small wheels DOES. I have a Bike Friday (
http://bikefriday.com/) that rides like a dream. I can’t determine any loss of
handling quality/efficiency from my more standard road/touring bikes.
“Cheap” Bikes: These may seem like beaters to you, but that bike may be 20-40
years old. Seeing a bike of that age in daily use in the US is rare because most
of the bikes we are sold are either department store grade bikes that cost $200
or less or “performance” bikes that are meant to be replaced every couple years.
Neither of those make good commuter bikes anyways. A new fully equipped (full
mudguards, dynamo lighting, carriers, etc…) Dutch bike is definitely not
cheap. Expect to pay several hundred Euros for even the lowest quality. A used
bike can always be had for cheap, although it probably needs maintenance and/or
has been stolen.
Locks: Its an arms race. If you want to keep your bike all you have to do is use
a better lock than your neighbor. Even if replacing your bike wouldn’t be a huge
financial set-back, not having a ride back home would be no fun. Might as well
carry around a 10 pound lock (doesn’t make a big difference if your bike weighs
50 pounds and you’re carrying another 40 pounds and you yourself weigh 140
Slide locks: pretty handy if you are in a cafe about 10 feet from your bike, but
if its going to be out of your line of site, better bring out the big guns.
Dynamo lighting: There are several choices for lighting, they all provide their
own benefit and all have several draw-backs.
“CatEye” style halogen/krypton headlights: They’re almost dead to the world,
thankfully. The light they give out is decent, but the rate of battery depletion
is totally unacceptable. 8-15 hours of decent light, with about 2-8 hours of
insufficient light. Always a bummer when your batteries die at 2AM and you are
still 6 miles from home. Very cheap up front, but expensive in the long run due
to battery costs.
Modern LED battery powered headlights: We sell these hand-over-fist at the shop
I work at. $10-$40 for most of them. They offer a blinking (battery conserving)
mode and a solid beam mode. Many US states (and European countries) don’t
legally allow flashing headlights though. The battery life on these are much
much better than the older Halogen/Krypton style lights but still suffer of
inadequate light levels when the batteries start to die. Every night on my way
home from work I see people riding down the street with lights that BADLY need
new batteries. I see them because I’m also riding a bike. If I was in a car with
a car stereo, a dirty/fogged windshield, a ringing cell-phone and a couple
passengers, who knows….
The other problem with both the lights described above is that they mount to the
bike with a quick-release style clamp. You are supposed to remove the lights
every time you lock up your bike and go inside. Some people, and some people
have to buy new lights. People steal bike lights that have a QR system, just
because they can. The other downfall of the QR light is, well, lights get lost,
fall out of bags, turn them selves on in pockets/bags, etc. Most of our LED
headlight sales are “repeat” customers, some people replace their $40 headlight
a couple times a year due to theft/loss. Sadly, some people downgrade to a less
visible light because of replacement costs.
That brings us to another style of light:
The rechargeable hi-wattage lights. These things are incredibly bright, they
quite often have an exterior battery pack that attaches to your frame or fits in
your water-bottle cage. They have a charge life of generally a couple hours
(which should be adequate for most peoples to-work-from-work commuting routine,
but might not work for the people that ride to work, from work to an evening
event, which turns into a bike ride, which turns into another bike ride to
somewhere else, etc etc.. For me, it wouldn’t work. I would not always remember
to charge it/not have access to charging it (such as a cyclotour/randonneur).
They are also espensive, about as expensive as a nice dynamo setup.
Two choices really: standard side-mount “bottle” style or a hub dynamo (such as
the Shimano or Schmidt options).
There is really not that much resistance in a decently designed/properly set up
dynamo. With a hub dynamo, its not noticeable. I leave my light on all the time.
Many modern dynamo powered lamps (both front and rear) have “stand lights” which
is a lower powered LED lamp that stays on when the main light is off when the
bike is stopped. They get charged while the bike is rolling generally stay on
for several minutes after the bike is stopped.
Even without a standlight, the large reflectors that are mounted to the rear of
most Dutch bikes (either on the mudguard or carrier, or both) are more visible
when illuminated by a car headlight than a standard bicycle rear light.
—- Below this line is from Noortje Jacobs, FEATURED IN ONE OF THE PHOTOS,
(Amsterdam, 3/29/2008) ———-
I really laughed my ass off when i saw your website about the dutch bicycle
culture, and i’m on your site myself!
Today I received an email from a friend who said I had to search for “amsterdam
bike” on google images. I was surprised to see myself and my boyfriend on a
bike! She found it by accident because she was searching where she could rent a
bike for an american friend who was visiting. I started to read your website and
it is really funny to read stories about our bicycles because it is so normal
for us. I am the girl with the white high heals and I’m carrying my boyfriend on
the back of my bike, something that was really surprising for you but normal for
us. I guess dutch woman are really emancipated and that also comes with the hard
work! Anyways, it was fun to see your site and I’m definitely going to recommend
it to all my friends!
Noortje Jacobs, Amsterdam
—- Below this line is from Mirjan Alsema, (Amsterdam, 5/30/2008) ———-
You might like this one for your collection. I was so incredibly amused by your
awe about the bicycles in amsterdam. I have never thought about it that some one
might be wondering about that. Even our politicians go to work by bike. The
folding bikes are not only to take to work, they are free in the train, while
you have to pay for a normal one (and besides, those won’t fit in during
Good luck, Mirjan
—- Below this line is from Reka Hegyi, (Romania, 7/12/2009) ———-
I visited Amsterdam a month ago, here I have a picture you might enjoy,
this is my favorite family bike:
Here is the complete album:
Greetings from Romania!
— Below this line is from Willem (Netherlands, 1/29/2011) ———-
Funny to have a look at these pictures from a different (US) perspective…:)
Yes, very normal for us to see….but can imagine it to be strange for
Another picture you might like, our prince and future king (Willem-Alexander),
and his wife (Maxima) together with their daughters on a bike…and wearing no
helmets and in a work basket.
— Below this line is from Jet (Netherlands, 5/20/2017) ———-
I thought you might like this bit of info:
This is my son Minco during his bike exam last week. He is in 7th grade (he is 10
years old). First a theoretical exam and a few weeks after he, and all his class
mates, had to bike a certain route individually, watching the traffic signs
(some of them especially put there for the exam), giving ppl from the right the
right of way, keeping enough distance, etc. And all along the way ppl from the
exam committee are watching them (even some undercover ppl). Note the rain
trousers; it was raining cats and dogs that day… Many, many Dutch children
do this exam (nearly 203.000 kids in 2016 alone). I still remember when I did mine!!
BTW he passed and so did all his class mates!!
— Below this line is from Marjolein (Netherlands, 5/20/2017) ———-
A thing that you might have not seen 10 years ago are these double bike storage
places. When a Finnish friend came to visit me in Utrecht last year he was very
amazed by this system. Hahaha I still remember him lifting up his bicycle with
his own arms and trying to put it in the higher rack, while there is a simple
system where you can slide out the thing you put your bike in and then lift it
up again haha. Silly tourists 😉
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