Totcycle | Family Biking

Tots on bikes, kids as cargo, family cycling, and other high-occupancy velo goodness.

Not caring how much our bikes weigh since 2008.

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Jan122009

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Adventure

One of the best reasons to bike rather than drive is that it makes mundane trips and routine errands an adventure. It's been almost a year since I got my first upright "city bike", and I still leap at the chance to jump aboard for a trip to the store (my wife has enjoyed having such an eager bike courier at her beck and call).

Why? Day or night, it's an adventure: swoopy turns on empty late night boulevards, fancy mounts and dismounts, riding through the park to watch the skate bowl shenanigans, playing "find the moon" with our toddler, riding along with tugboats in the canal, dodging potholes, experiencing the weather (good or bad), lighting things up on dark streets with a bright headlamp, sitting up, leaning back and pulling on the handlebars, feeling pedal powerful ... there's just nothing mundane about cycling. Every Day Adventure TM, indeed.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the holy land of family biking (the A above is in the museum square there). I can't count the number of family/practical cycling folks that cite a trip to Amsterdam as their conversion experience. This is a city with a highly evolved, safe, and easy cycling infrastructure, where bicycles are the most widely used means of transportation. The average Amsterdammer is said to ride over 7 miles by bike per day, with 40% of trips made by bike (it's 1% here in the US). I could blather on about what makes Dutch (and Danish) cycle culture so attractive (and probably will, with the letter D), but let's just start by blowing your mind. This video by David Hembrow (an English basketweaver who lives in the Netherlands) illustrates a typical school drop-off in a normal little Dutch town. OK, it's not Amsterdam, but it's in Assen, so I'm going with it:

If this is your first time seeing such a scene, you may be wondering, where are the helmets? Or, where is the minivan traffic jam? Or, a wee city in the Netherlands gets that biking infrastructure and all we get in Seattle are impotent "sharrows" (how sad is it that reminding drivers that bikes can ride in the street is a cornerstone of our "bicycle master plan")? It's no wonder that progressive urban planning people flock to Amsterdam to see how it's done. It's too bad that they can't come back and get a "do-over" on what's already happening with our streets. But god forbid we lose any parking spaces ...

For local expertise on cycling in Amsterdam, check out Amsterdamize and Bakfiets en meer ... my first introduction to this culture was through this page, which is an incredulous view of the Amsterdam biking scene by a visiting American (excellent comments and rebuttals at the bottom). 

Ant Bike Mike

Since I grew up in Boston, I feel the need to point out this custom framebuilder, who makes sexy practical bikes, including an upcoming Boston Roadster, which looks to be an American update on classic European city bikes (and should cost less than his full custom work).

Attitude

One of the nice things about biking with kids is that there's just not so much attitude in this niche of the biking world - cyclists from all walks of life appreciate wanting to share it with kids. And one of the benefits of switching to upright, heavier, and slower bikes is that I don't get into as many impromptu "races with roadies" on the trails anymore. Maybe it's because I used to ride a recumbent. Now that I'm the slow guy on the funny upright bike, it's easier to just be doing my thing while they do theirs. And my attitude on a city bike vs behind a wheel? Worlds apart. I like not being a Boston driver in a Seattle-driving world anymore ... 

Azor Bikes

Azor is a small Dutch bicycle company that makes the Dutch city bikes and bakfietsen that Workcycles in Amsterdam supplies to a few bike shops around the world. They made my Azor Transport bike, which I love dearly. It is thing of practical beauty, and was made durable enough to be enjoyed by my grandkids as well. Watch the salt & steam bath used to test new components, and other fine manufacturing details on this tour of the factory.

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Reader Comments (6)

Thanks for the mention and the kind words!

Here's another little nugget: Groningen (up north, not far from Assen) is the most bicycle-friendly city in the Netherlands, with an almost completely car-free city center. It's cycling rate stood at 50% for a good part of the last decade, until last week...when figures showed it jumped to 60% in 2007/2008. Unheard of. Planners and policy makers alike are scratching their heads as I type this.

Maybe you can use this when you get to the letter G. ;)

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteramsterdamize

60%! Of commutes to work or all trips? Either way, wow ... we saw an increase in ridership with higher gas prices, but I'm not sure how that impacts things your way.

Thanks for the nugget, and give my best to Mr Freight ... I ♥ FR8's.

January 12, 2009 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

Of all trips!
The average price for gas went up to over $10 a gallon this summer, but this rise was relatively low (compared to the US) as gas has always been excessively / progressively taxed. The Dutch Cyclists Union reported that it had hardly any effect on the cycling rate. The main reason for Dutch to cycle so much has always been about practicality. Well, a close second are all the combined measures put in place over the decades to keep us away from the car, being expensive and increasingly limited parking and less routes to get into town.

Cheers for that, I'm sure that will make his olive green paint shine a bit brighter. ;)

PS: did you read about Amsterdam's recent epic achievement?

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteramsterdamize

Imagine that - discouraging driving. It takes historic gas prices over here to do that (or the threat of a dusting of snow, if you live in Seattle), since we lack the political will and public support. Congrats on your milestone - I added it above.

January 12, 2009 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

Thanks for featuring my videos of the school children and the Azor factory. Assen, where we live in 40 km north of Azor's factory and 30 km south of Groningen. Assen is the capital of the cycling province, Drenthe, and an especially nice place to cycle.

As another poster said, Groningen has the highest cycling rate in the world at 60% of journeys. I've made videos there too, such as the one showing the cycle parking at Groningen Railway Station ( http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2008/10/groningen-railway-station-cycle-parking.htm ) or one showing a cycle ride from Assen to Groningen ( http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2008/10/assen-to-groningen-on-folding-bikes.html ) which has a few Groningen streets near the end of the video.

See also a video of parking in the centre of Nijmegen (or perhaps save it for N): http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2009/01/visit-to-nijmegen.html

We don't just have a few cycling cities in the Netherlands. The whole country cycles, and Amsterdam's cycling rate is actually not exceptional within this country.

BTW, there are also a lot of recumbents here. Probably more are made and ridden here than anywhere else.

January 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Hembrow

Thanks for the additional videos! Looking forward to more posts and videos on your blog about family biking, kids on bikes (like the recent photo of school bike parking), and other things for us to aspire to over here.

January 16, 2009 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

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