A nyone who has ever tried to make their way through the centre of Amsterdam in a car knows it: the city is owned by cyclists. They hurry in swarms through the streets, unbothered by traffic rules, taking precedence whenever they want, rendering motorists powerless by their sheer numbers. Cyclists rule in Amsterdam and great pains have been taken to accommodate them: the city is equipped with an elaborate network of cycle-paths and lanes, so safe and comfortable that even toddlers and elderly people use bikes as the easiest mode of transport.
The Dutch take this for granted; they even tend to believe these cycle-paths have existed since the beginning of time. But that is certainly not the case. There was a time, in the s and 60s, when cyclists were under severe threat of being expelled from Dutch cities by the growing number of cars.
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Only thanks to fierce activism and a number of decisive events would Amsterdam succeed in becoming what it is, unquestionably, now: the bicycle capital of the world. At the start of the 20th century, bikes far outnumbered cars in Dutch cities and the bicycle was considered a respectable mode of transport for men and women. But when the Dutch economy began to boom in the post-war era, more and more people were able to afford cars, and urban policymakers came to view the car as the travel mode of the future.
Entire Amsterdam neighbourhoods were destroyed to make way for motorised traffic. All that growing traffic took its toll. The number of traffic casualties rose to a peak of 3, deaths in More than children were killed in traffic accidents that year. I was very worried by the changes that took place in society — it affected our lives. The streets no longer belonged to the people who lived there, but to huge traffic flows. That made me very angry. Amsterdam is well known for being bicycle friendly. Nevertheless, though people outside of the Netherlands consider Amsterdam to be one of the most famous and important centres of bicycle culture worldwide, the city itself is actually not at the top in terms of bike-friendliness compared to many smaller Dutch cities.
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This is reflected in the fact that Amsterdam is not on the short-list for the Fietsstad BikeCity awards, announced by the Dutch Fietsersbond Cyclists' Union : the cities of The Hague , Eindhoven and Almere were nominated for the Fietsstad awards, while the Netherlands' most bicycle-friendly city of Groningen won the award back in As is common in Dutch cities, Amsterdam has a wide net of traffic-calmed streets and world-class facilities for cyclists. All around are bike paths and bike racks , and several guarded bicycle parking stations Fietsenstalling which can be used for a nominal fee.
In , there were about 1,, bicycles in Amsterdam. Amsterdammers ride a wide variety of bicycles including the traditional Omafiets - the ubiquitous Dutch roadster with a step-through frame - to anything from modern city bikes , road bikes , mountain bikes , and even recumbent bikes. Many tourists discover Amsterdam by bike, as it is the typical Dutch way to get around the city. Bicycle tour groups offers a guided bike tour through the city. Bicycle traffic, in fact traffic in general, is relatively safe: in , Amsterdam had 18 traffic deaths, of all types, in total.
Bicycle theft in Amsterdam is widespread: in , about 54, bicycles were stolen and every year between 12, and 15, bicycles are retrieved from the canals. This has caused some problems as, despite 35, kilometers of bicycle paths, the country's 18 million bicycles 1. Apr 11, Brady Dale rated it really liked it. This is an excerpt from a review I wrote on Forefront. Here's the first few paragraphs: To be a cyclist in America is to be hated by mostly everyone else. On one of my first commutes across the city of Washington, D.
I said I was, thoug This is an excerpt from a review I wrote on Forefront. I had heard that, in Amsterdam, the culture of cycling is so strong that cars actually defer to cyclists. I had also seen this photo and wanted to read about a magical place where the rules and people were so different than they are here. In the City of Bikes reveals that it is indeed much, much better to be a cyclist in Amsterdam — but not because the powers-that-be have embraced the way cycling benefits the city, nor because the city is so well designed for it, nor because non-cyclists have a respect for people on bikes.
The reason Amsterdam cyclists have it better is because so many people in Amsterdam ride bikes. Jun 21, Doreen Fritz rated it liked it. Selected due to our recent trip to Amsterdam, this book was a delight.
What is it about Amsterdam that makes one think that even after being there only 3 days that I can picture the settings described in this book? Place names evoked a memory, and so I could understand and appreciate the author's descriptions of the struggles the city has faced as automobiles invaded what was previously already a chaotic traffic jam of people and bikes.
And indeed, the bikes are among the first things one notice Selected due to our recent trip to Amsterdam, this book was a delight. And indeed, the bikes are among the first things one notices in Amsterdam. In contrast to so many scenes in this book, the traffic appears to run smoothly, with bikes, people, trams, taxis, and cars sticking in their own spaces, for the most part. A pedestrian must keep a sharp eye out, though, as there are separate traffic lights for the bike and for the car traffic, and both are coming from both ways!
This book may have been the result of graduate school work, as it is full of research, quotes, statistics, etc. The occupation years during WWII were most interesting. The author was a little fanatical in his focus on bikes. But he seems to have adopted the perfect city and lifestyle to fit him and his family. Apr 12, Marilyn rated it it was amazing Shelves: , 5-stars. This is the second book I've read this month by this author. I was completely liberated by the idea of someone moving to a foreign city and then proceeding to take the city's signature theme, research it to the hilt, and then write a completely delightful and engaging account.
Once again--we come with so few rigid instruction books! We can write out own life!! May 23, Macartney rated it it was amazing Shelves: best-of , streets.
In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist (P.S.)
Simply marvelous. An very engaging pop history and memoir. May 15, Fran rated it it was amazing. In the City of Bikes: Peter Jordan Traffic jams, overwrought motorists, cyclists and pedestrians trying to share the streets, the pathways and hoping to get to their destinations. But, what happens when all of these people converge and traffic gets bottled up and the end result is chaos or a bottleneck.
Peter Jordan takes us on his own private journey through the many cities in Amsterdam, to back in time when the first bikes were invented and allows readers to join him on his special journey. Ima In the City of Bikes: Peter Jordan Traffic jams, overwrought motorists, cyclists and pedestrians trying to share the streets, the pathways and hoping to get to their destinations. Imagine finding your way to Amsterdam and deciding to become immersed in the culture and the customs but first having to decide your mode of transportation.
Bicycling came to Amsterdam in the late 19th century. The city itself had many changes in urban development and become conducive for the cyclist and the bike use. Most cities at this time had seen a lot of suburban growth but the inner suburbs was better suited for bike riding.
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As we hear the voice of our author we get his reaction to seeing so many different people riding bikes. From women in long dresses, short skirts, men in suits and others in different attire you can feel the excitement within him as he takes us across the many streets, cities and routes in this insightful memoir titled In the City of Bikes.
Amsterdam is better suited for the cyclist than for cars. A network of canals and bridges spans the center of this beautiful city and the result of their urban renovations resulted in trying to widen their roads but that did not work. Congestion problems soared when more people bought cars.
Kids riding bikes, infants in little seats, some on the rear rack of a bike, these are the impressions related by the author to readers as we learn more about his yearning to live in this city and the fact that what he witnessed we would not here in America. Narrow streets, canals that could not handle car traffic and finding himself in need of a mechanic when he was in the bike lane just walking as he shares his experience on page 9 with readers.
He gives readers the history of bikes and describes the many people that he sees riding. But, the author decided to take his journey even further by learning Dutch and then hoping that his soon to be bride would join him. We learn that at the beginning of we would see bikes with high mounts, solid tires and even four huge front wheels. The author continues on pages telling everyone about what happened to Princess Wilhelmina and why she was not allowed to ride. In reading this book I decided to learn more and found the actual article written about this soon to be queen.
I need to state that Amsterdam is a bike friendly city the most friendly in Europe. Believe it or not it has about miles of cycling lanes. Most of the people living there ride bikes and as many as 43 percent ride them to work. Bikes are popular here and many of its city officials and planners would prefer their residents to ride bikes.
But, between and cars became more popular creating traffic jams. So, in those living in Amsterdam who were citizens voted in favor of bikes allowing the planners to invest more time and money creating a better and safer routes for cyclists. Bike lanes were created, and believe it or not they even have special areas for cyclists to park. But, of course those using cars or buses were not happy. The author shares some history with readers about German Queen Emma just before Wilhelmina would become Queen in Poor Wilhelmina was not allowed to ride a bike for fear she might have an accident and get hurt.
Challenging her mother she actually we learn she actually went to the Council of State, but they did not side with her. An advocate of cycling she did a lot to encourage others to do the same. Learn more when you read the chapter titled Lucky Few. This is the actual article and here is her picture. Amsterdam and the history behind cycling is exciting. They even opened up Cyclist Schools, which the author describes on pages He continues to enlighten readers with the many laws passed, the job of one man to control the traffic and next Bike Thievery.
The author shares stories about many bike thieves, the law passed that states that bikes must be properly secured and his own naivety causing the bike he bought for his wife to be stolen. He then continues with his search for the thief and to what lengths he would go to recover the bike. Throughout the memoir we learn more about the history of the bike, the regulations that were made, the laws created and his love for the cycle. Imagine trying to cross the street and some who wanted to rule the road. As the author takes us back in time to the first 2 decades of the 20th century and explains in detail why everyday transport was expensive and how it changed after WWI.
The book then continues with the history of that time period, German bikes of all sorts that were made and which firms received them. Every class of people wanted bikes and each person had a particular one that suited them. Read King of the Streets to learn more and understand why Queen Wilhelmina loved cycling. But, like everything else remember there are those that would be against it and that the author elaborates on in pages Okay, so they even instituted a bike tax law whose enforcement was transferred from tax agents to traffic police.
Read the chapter to learn more. Everyone has their own preference so as you will learn in Chapter 6 which focuses on Automobile vs. We learn more about Amy Joy and their life in this city in Chapter 7. He takes us inside their apartment, the renovations need and the new definition of Cyclomania and how it affected everyone. He even includes statistics for those who smoke and ride, those with two bikes and those that ride with beer bottles and even those that ride with their arms in a sling. Next, he shares Remembrance Day in Holland in Chapter 9 followed by Chapter 10 which is quite compelling and focuses on WWII and anticyclist measures and banning Jews in the country outside of Amsterdam from riding, renting or borrowing bikes.
The rest of the chapter you have to read for yourself to understand just what was done to so many. Nazi occupation described, the fact that Amsterdam was the home to about three hundred thousand bikes at the time including women and children. But, the Nazi decided it would be easier the author states to net bikes. The rest you can read including statements written by a diarist about how when the police took their posts most bikes were gone.
There is much more that is shared and what part the police played. Then the final years of the Occupation followed by The Mystery Rider where the author describes his life in Amsterdam, moving into his fifth apartment and hoping to upgrade his bike which his wife did as a surprise. Added in his some history about Theo Van Gogh the great-grandnephew of the painter and the fact that he used to ride an old, black bike with a wicker basket.
What happened and the attack on him is described and who did it was exposed. He even recounts events after his murder and an incident that happened to him. Sharing with readers the typical bike fisherman so why did he think Amsterdam did not match up to Copenhagen where he realized that a public-use bicycles program according to the author really worked. He describes their arrival at the Danish capital and shares with readers the difference in the cities on page Bike keys, bike thieves, keys in the locks and sharing the history with Amy Joy and his family we learn that upon being in Copenhagen for four days and further investigation that many bikes were secured by three locks where in Amsterdam only two.
There is much more that he shares within this chapter. So, why would you not need a car and what does Death to the Car mean? Conditions were changing for those who rode but the rudeness of many did not.
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So, the author shares on page what the police think and feel about cyclists and what they plan to do about their disruptive behavior. This book is filled with great stories, great history and will definitely make you want to go out and cycle in the park, on bike path or with your kids on a safe street that has of course very little traffic and very few cars.
He even shares fact that he still has the snapshots of bike repair shops and rental shops. The rest read it for yourself and take go alone with Peter Jordan and his family on this exciting tour, by bike through the city of bikes: Amsterdam. Mar 27, Sara Budarz rated it it was ok Shelves: histories , non-fiction , recommended-by-friends. First world problem alert: In the City of Bikes is a book I bought over two years ago with the intention of reading it right away, because in my mind, it was already a winner of a book: recommended by my local bookstore, about bikes, about the history of a city - all good things!
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I love cycling, I love cities But then after buying the book, in the two intervening years, other books took priority for a myriad of reasons, and so this book patiently waited. During that time, First world problem alert: In the City of Bikes is a book I bought over two years ago with the intention of reading it right away, because in my mind, it was already a winner of a book: recommended by my local bookstore, about bikes, about the history of a city - all good things!
During that time, I was so convinced it would be a good book that I lent it not to one, but two people. To those people: I'm sorry. I will never again pass on a book I haven't first read. I suspect at this point of the review you know where this is going. I finally got around to reading this book - and it is, well, 'not good' is the most kind thing I can say about it. In terms of first world problems, is there anything more tragic than reading a book you have been so excited about, for such a long time, only to discover it is crap?
So, in a nutshell, this book is about the superficial history of biking in Amsterdam. Which could be summed up like this: the people of Amsterdam love biking and their bikes, and especially in the context of WWII, cared little when people especially Jews were deported or murdered, but cared a great deal when their bikes were impounded.
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Their love of bikes does not however translate into them being kind cyclists: they break all traffic rules and are rude to each other, and unless you lock your bike up with at least three different locks, the chance of it not getting stolen are slim to none. Which is to say, if you are looking for a book that is not only dull and boring, but paints Amsterdam and its people in a terrible light despite the author actually being an ex-pat who loves the city , well, this is the book for you.
I literally often had to put the book down and remind myself that not all Dutch are unforgiving and xenophobic especially in the context of history, in which their soccer teams, for example, at least according to the book, taunt one of the local Amsterdam teams with a hissing sound, that is supposed to be a reminder of the Nazi gas chambers, since the team was traditionally Jewish. But I degrees. Now, here's the thing: many topics in the book could have been interesting if they were actually explored. But the book spent several hundred pages repeating more or less than same thing, always skimming the surface of issues, never delving down into the why of the topic.
For instance, why is it that a city we think of as a bike-friendly city is one of the only ones in Europe to not have a bike share program since all of the bikes, whenever they tried to create a program, were stolen. In general, why is Amsterdam, unlike almost any other European city, a city plagued by theft?
What is it about the city that allows for this sort of behavior to be seen as normal and acceptable? Why do cyclists there display such aggression, when they are such even-tempered people otherwise? These are questions that would have actually been interesting to read about, but they were never addressed. All around, fail. I enjoyed the book very much. I loved that the author decided to both write about the history of the cyclist in Amsterdam and also about his personal life not to much.
The historical facts are well documented and many quotes from papers, books, declarations etc were used to explain or show better the status back then.