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Quick, end of 2016 bike news

  • Back in June, Anna Luten became Amsterdam’s (and actually the world’s) first bike mayor. She’s already moving on to better things–literally, NYC, where Luten hopes to set up a similar project to get more cyclists cycling.


  • A recent survey by the web app Waze found that the most satisfied and happy drivers in the world are in the Netherlands.  To quote Waze, “Despite the fact that the Netherlands is one of the most densely-populated countries in the world – behind Bangladesh, South Korea and Taiwan – the country performed best overall and outranked all other countries with the least amount of traffic.” Yep, bikes play a big role here in reducing traffic and keeping people in the city moving.

Other news? Well, we will see in 2017, when this blog will really kick off again!


Fun Between Your Legs



Just a thought for a rainy Monday morning because this poster makes me laugh. It edges on the sexist but I like to think it’s more worthy of the Situationist International…

The girly way of riding a bike

Copenhagen’s got it, Amsterdam and the UK, too. It’s cycling chic, those websites devoted to the idea that cycling doesn’t require special clothes (think: Spandex) and anyone can do it. While the underlying message is sorely needed—the more butts on bikes the better—there’s a danger lurking in those glossy photos of (primarily) young, hip urban female cyclists. Such photos celebrate (and ultimately sell) a with-it aesthetic, turning bicycles into consumerist accessories and women, once again, into eye candy.

According to the League of American Cyclists, in the USA only 24% of bicycle trips are made by women, yet most cycling chic blogs or sites feature beautiful women. Women’s lib was about fighting for economic equality and equally, for removing the objectifying male gaze the media favors. But cycling chic puts an old-fashioned focus back on women’s appearance, a global cultural norm we’ve struggled to overcome.

Historically speaking, femininity and biking go extremely well together. Bicycles were an important tool in the suffragette and early feminist movements and even in 2015, I can relate as cycling gives me a degree of freedom other forms of transportation simply don’t. I bike everyday, I bike as a woman, and I sometimes bike in heels. I don’t need to deny my femininity in order to cycle but I don’t need to put on lipstick to bike into town, either.

Here’s an interesting article in which dozens of women weigh in what cycling means to them. It’s a great, complex conversation to have and one that continues to develop.



Cycling Behaviour

How do riders ride their bikes? Amsterdam’s Urban Cycling Institute, a department of the University of Amsterdam (UvA), set out do research on just that. While Dutch city streets are much safer than, say, their American counterparts (due to separate bike paths), some local newspapers have claimed that local cyclists edge towards anarchic behavior.

According to research conducted by UvA Sociology students, who analyzed nine major junctions during rush hour—and the whopping 18,500 cyclists that sailed through them in one hour—there are three types of cyclists:

  • Conformists: those who obviously stick to the rules;
  • Momentumists: cyclists who adapt the rules to suit their own ends, without causing danger;
  • Recklists: those who recklessly ignore the rules, causing conflict with other road users.

Guess what? The majority of cyclists are conformists with recklists weighing in at a mere 5%.

Shoot that theory in the spokes….

As cycling keeps growing in popularity, the Urban Cycling Institute will hopefully keep making the news. It’s new summer program, “Planning the Cycling City was swamped with applicants—those on the wait list are probably looking at 2016 for their start date. The course will discuss amongst other things: Bicycle culture and effects from a social and geographical position.

To keep informed, please visit their blog. I certainly will!


Oh those tourists on bikes

Easter is a major weekend for tourists invading Amsterdam. For a capital with roughly one million inhabitants, Amsterdam attracts 250,000 Chinese tourists a year, not to mention British Hen party-goers, who never fail to make an impression with their offensive language and equally offensive matching pink T-shirts/tutus,/playboy bunny ears/boas or baseball caps.

I’ve often chatted about this to Dutch friends: should tourists be forced to use separate bike lanes? I’m almost willing to pay taxes for it. If you’re Dutch or have lived here long enough, you’ll see tourists riding chaotically into traffic with little understanding of how city cycling works. To the untrained tourist eye, there are no real rules here—bikes simply go wherever they want, clanking their little bells to announce their arrival. But Amsterdam isn’t a sweet, innocuous Disneyland despite its charming, cobblestoned appearance; there are traffic deaths here, too.

The rules here are pretty wonderful when it comes to cyclists: they always have the right of way, can often go the wrong way down a one way street, and have cycle lanes separated from traffic, ensuring real safety. But there are still rules and the rule of logic always applies, like looking both ways for oncoming vehicles, especially those made of tin, rather than assuming they will graciously stop.

Of course when it comes to cycling the Dutch flaunt the rules. But that’s because they know them. They have an engrained knowledge of the rhythm of the road, have had minor skirmishes themselves growing up and so, can navigate the streets quickly, dodging red lights, pedestrians etc. And yes, they can also SMS, smoke cigarettes, walk their dogs and Google something while above spokes. But that ease comes from having grown up in a cycling culture their entire lives.

My Dutch boyfriend often leaves me behind in traffic. “Sorry, but I don’t wait for the lights to change” he once told me, weaving his way through oncoming traffic with the finesse of a conductor performing Beethoven’s Fifth. This sounds a bit arrogant, but whenever I try to follow, I nearly get hit. For all my cycling experience on the streets of Amsterdam, I still have to take it slower than the locals.

So this has been a weekend of dodging tourists on bikes, those yellow swarms that suddenly take over entire intersections while failing to see the lights have changed. I curse at them like a local, but perhaps I’m worse for seeing them reminds me of all the times I also cycled lackadaisically through the city, smashing into confused pedestrians or other cyclists.


Bikes get a second life

Every few weeks, the news (Dutch or otherwise) seems to have an article about there being too many bikes in Amsterdam. Included amongst these are abandoned bikes, a good number of which are hastily dumped near Central Station. Dozens of studies have been conducted trying to understand why owners never come back, but with no real conclusions.

The local city government tends to remove bikes quickly, including illegally parked bikes, and even dredges the canals for them. This is referred to locally as bicycle fishing. According to city water authority Waternet, between 12,000 and 15,000 bikes are found in Amsterdam’s canals each year, victims of theft or vandalism.

What to do with these bikes? Bikes dredged up from the canals are made into scrap metal, yet another 30,000 bikes (useable ones) are left uncollected from the city’s central bike depot every year. Last year, the city sent 1400 bikes to the al Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, a camp full of 81,000 refugees. Arguably, another 28,600 bicycles could have also been shipped, but it’s a beautiful attempt to give both bikes and refugees a second chance.



Cycling in the Sun

I haven’t written a blog post since 2012–a thousand reasons for that. But I’m still cycling, still in Amsterdam, and the sun has encouraged me to pick up my efforts yet again. So Dam Bike Betty is back, this time with more air in her wheels….

It’s a sunny day, signalling the beginning of spring, so I’m heading out on a short trip along the Amstel River to Oudekerk-aan-den-Amstel, a nearby village. The lovely thing about being spontaneous in Holland is knowing you can cycle anywhere–it’s all FLAT, so no surprises. This is the kind of weather when everyone hits the streets, heads to the park (those with cars drive towards the beach, which is 10 km away) and on the route I’m taking, which is largely car-free, the little ones are out on their bikes, following their parents as they learn to cycle longer stretches.

As always, I love the freedom this machine gives me and wish readers a lovely day on their bikes!