Bare fiets

This page gives a great idea of the variety and oddness of bikes (“fietsen”) here in the Netherlands. We have certain stereotypes of the Dutch (tulips, clogs, pot, and prostitutes, to name a few), but the bike really is a pervasive cultural element. The author of the page points out what they see as bikers’ questionable fashion choices. I’ve become so accustomed to seeing anyone and everyone on a bike, the comments really didn’t register at first.

Your average Dutch woman can bike, hold an umbrella, and talk on a cell phone while smoking a cigarette. A Dutch man probably wouldn’t bother with the umbrella, but would gladly ride a woman’s bicycle. I can bike with a bag of groceries in one arm, but the first time I tried talking on my cell phone I crashed into a sign post. The best Dutch bikes look like crap. A good used bike that looks like crap is worth more than the same bike looking new — less likely to be stolen. Mean lifetime of an unlocked bike on a Dutch city street: one hour. If you’re lucky. Bikes with barrows in front are for yuppies. Bikes with flowers in front are for hippies. Folding bikes are for the train (no fee!). Small bikes are for kids. Really small bikes are for really small kids. One Dutch bike can carry a family of four, plus the family pet. A Dutch mid-life crisis, no doubt, involves a bitchin’ new set of (two) wheels to drive all the ladies crazy.

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2 Responses to Bare fiets

  1. bmarts says:

    That’s a great link. It reminds me of all the motor scooters in Rome. I think in general the fact that cities in Europe grew up a long time ago compared to cities in the US makes these alternative transportation methods attractive.

    The Hungarian postdoc I’m currently sharing an office with rides a bike (doesn’t own a car). There is a bike shop here that gives away free spare parts for bikes (they do accept donations). It’s intended for easing repairs of bikes, but his bike was assembled entirely from free parts — he did make a $25 donation.

  2. bpt2 says:

    You’re right, cities with compact centers and narrow streets definitely make bikes a more practical choice. The Netherlands has this advantage, along with two more: a nearly featureless topography and mild weather year-round. You can get away with bikes with one gear and pedal brakes if there are no hills to climb, and although riding in the rain isn’t fun, it’s probably better than biking in the sub-freezing temperatures or 100% humidity you find in many cities at some point of the year.

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