Going dutch…..

There are bikes……and then, there are bikes…………..

On a recent visit to Holland, in the town of Haarlem, I was dazzled by the immense variety of bikes, as well as the immense number. People cycled everywhere, carrying almost anything, and in all weathers. The Dutch attitude to cycling ensures that bike-design serves specific needs. If you need to transport 2-4 children to school, then design a bike that can do just that. If you need to carry unwieldy luggage, adapt your two wheel transport to cope.

The overall common denominator in Holland seems to be a universal element of ‘sensibility’ in design. You know what I mean: upright, sit-up-and-beg riding posture, big load-carrying basket on the handlebars, kickstand for parking the bike, built-in locking mechanism on the back wheel……………….. the sort of bike people ride, not to break into a sweat, but to break into conversation with whoever is riding near them. The Dutch look majestic as they ride through city streets in their organized ‘pelotons’, and other vehicles respect their presence and give way to them as a priority.

On a bike-buying sortie with my daughter recently in Cambridge (the cycling capital of the UK?), we found a little back-street business dealing in Dutch bikes, and enjoyed having a little ‘pootle’  test ride. Despite being a road cyclist of many years experience, this riding position did not come naturally to me, and I have to admit to a certain sense of insecurity. Although your riding posture is upright, to someone who is used to leaning forward over the front wheel, it almost felt like leaning backwards, and its relaxed magisterial style encouraged a relaxed pedalling cadence, ideal for general city riding.

But then in Cambridge, you don’t really get anywhere above a moderate pace………………

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About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on November 5, 2012, in Cycling UK, Miscellany and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Haarlem is my favourite small Dutch town – just an hour on the bike from Amsterdam and a little longer by the scenic route.

    A lovely town square, superb small museums (Teyler’s and Frans Hals) and beautiful hofjes.

    Glad you enjoyed it for the bikes too!

  2. Here is a link to a photo of a practical bike i saw in Charlottesville, Va
    Wicker bicycle

  3. I’ve not been to Holland, other than the airport, but Cambridge holds a special place in my heart; we went there frequently when we had first moved to the UK; I loved walking around the high street, exploring some of the university. And all the bikes, whoa!!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. 🙂

  4. I like the question mark in your little aside about Cambridge being the cycle capital of the UK. A recent issue of the CRC magazine described Cambridge as the nearest thing we have to ‘cycletopia’. Cambridge may be swamped by bikes but it has an awful long way to go before it becomes a truly cycle oriented city. Cycle tracks that come and go, or that are too narrow. Cycle tracks not having priority over side roads. Badly designed exits from cycle tracks onto main roads e.g. from the busway turning right into Milton Road. Then what about cyclists who ignore all the traffic rules by cycling wrong way in one way streets, or belting along with complete disregard for pedestrians?

    • You’re right Andrew, lots (and lots) of bikes, but no infrastructure to tell you this is a cycling city. And very little priority given to cyclists. But let’s celebrate the fact that thousands of people do ride their bikes daily.

  5. I too visited Haarlem while in Amsterdam. As you mention the diverse styles and sheer numbers of cycles is a bit mind boggling. The bike parking at the main train station was unbelievable! Also while walking in Amsterdam through a residential area where houses were “row house” style with no grass or car park area between door and sidewalk I happened upon laying hens (yes, chickens) that seemed to stick close to “home”.

    • It’s truly astonishing, Joe. Who wouldn’t want to ride a bike in a place like Holland. It is so cool!

      • Having said that about Holland I am leaning towards touring central Europe next year. Saw a bit of Slovak, Czech and Polish Republics in 2008 and might go back.

  6. Love this post, Frank! I lived in Holland for six months and had my own bike (named it “Pinky” because it was pink) The bike culture is so wonderful. Thanks for sharing and thank you for stopping by Travel Oops and liking the soccer post. Steph

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