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Posts from the "Amsterdam" Category

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How Children Demanding Play Streets Changed Amsterdam

The above video, excerpted from a Dutch television documentary series, shows how children helped catalyze the fight for safe streets in Amsterdam more than a generation ago.

The documentary examines the conditions in a dense urban neighborhood called De Pijp, from the perspective of local children. In the film, neighborhood kids energetically advocate for a play street, free of cars.

Bicycle Dutch recently shortened the episode and added English subtitles. The documentary originally aired in 1972. That very same year, several play streets were installed in the city. In the 1970s, traffic fatality rates in the Netherlands were 20 percent higher than in the United States, but thanks to grassroots efforts like the play street campaign in De Pijp and the “Stop de Kindermoord” movement (“Kindermoord” translates to “child murder”), the Dutch changed their approach to street design. Today the traffic fatality rate in the Netherlands is 60 percent lower than in the U.S. — 22,000 fewer Americans would die each year if we had kept pace with the Dutch.

Here’s a look at one of those play streets in De Pijp today — a stark contrast from the streets pictured in the video:

StreetFilms 23 Comments

Bicycle Anecdotes From Amsterdam

Here we present our final — and most informative — Streetfilm from Amsterdam. It provides a nice cross-section of commentary on life in the City of Bikes. If you’d like to skip directly to a certain section, use this table of contents:

0:17 Rejecting the Automobile
2:15 A bike system that works for everyone
4:05 There’s a science to what looks like “bicycle chaos”
5:55 Coming to The Netherlands from the United States
7:33 Dutch Bicycle Culture

Make sure you check out our other Streetfilms from Amsterdam: No, Amsterdam is Not “Swamped” By BikesAmsterdam Draws Bike Boxes to Organize Bike Parking, and Some Things You Might See While In Amsterdam.

I still find it amazing that a five-year-old in Amsterdam can ride straighter and with more confidence than the average U.S. adult!

StreetFilms 12 Comments

Amsterdam Draws Bike Boxes to Organize Bike Parking

Amsterdam cycling advocate Marjolein de Lange regales us with this tale about how in 2006 cyclists came up with a very simple solution — draw bike box outlines directly on the pavement! — to better organize the bike parking outside a popular supermarket. It’s so simple and shows how sometimes engineers might over-think a problem.

Marjolein tells us these are now common in many shopping areas in Amsterdam and other cities. Although I will add that this only works well in cities where nearly all bikes have kickstands.

StreetFilms 29 Comments

No, Amsterdam Is Not “Swamped” By Bikes

In June, the New York Times published a story headlined “The Dutch Prize Their Pedal Power, But a Sea of Bikes Swamps Their Capital” that instigated much debate (over 365 reader comments in one day) and a torrent of emails to the editor. The Times followed up by seeking a “dialogue” with its readers about the supposed “swamping” of Amsterdam by bicycles. Then came all the echoes of the Times narrative in other media.

So, are there really too many bikes in Amsterdam? On a recent trip to the Netherlands, I got to experience this “sea of bikes” first-hand, and I saw no true problems other than pockets of less-than-ideal bike parking accommodations.

Over 30 percent of trips in Amsterdam are done by bike, and many locals have decried the Times article as hyperbole. See what some of them have to say about the situation in this Streetfilm.

StreetFilms 22 Comments

Some Things You Might See While In Amsterdam

I’m currently on a European junket, and ahead of the more serious Streetfilms that will come out of it, I thought it would be prudent to put up some everyday street scenes of bicycling in Amsterdam.

Enjoy! Make sure to check back for more extensive coverage in coming weeks.

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European Parking Policies Leave New York Behind

Grosvenor Square, London, the site of Europe's first parking meter, shows how putting a price on parking clears up the street and makes parking available. Image: ITDP.

Grosvenor Square, London, the site of Europe's first parking meter, shows how putting a price on parking clears up the street and makes parking available. Image: ITDP.

Flashback to Europe, sixty years ago. Just emerging from the ruin of total war, the continent was in the midst of a nearly unprecedented reconstruction. Over the next decade, industry finally was able to turn toward consumer products, from stockings to refrigerators and, of course, the automobile. Italians owned only 342,000 cars in 1950, but ten years later that number had increased to two million, according to historian Tony Judt. In France, the number of cars tripled over the decade.

With mass car-ownership fundamentally new for Europe, parking policy was practically non-existent. The first parking meter — an American invention — only made it to Europe in 1958, arriving in front of the American embassy in London. In most places, cars could park not only for free but wherever they wanted: on the sidewalk, in a public square.

When they realized that simply giving drivers free rein to park anywhere was untenable, Europeans attempted to build enough parking to meet the population’s galloping demand. Public space, from sidewalks to canals, was turned into parking space. Zoning forced all new development to use money and space for parking. All these concessions, however, only made European cities friendlier to cars and further drove up demand.

Today, however, all that is in the past. As outlined in the new report from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, “Europe’s Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation,” the continent is now leading the world when it comes to innovative, intelligent and sustainable parking policy [PDF].

Across Europe, cities have come to understand that oversupply or subsidy of parking leads to too much driving. The effect is considerable. In Vienna, for example, when the city began to charge for on-street parking, the number of vehicle kilometers traveled plummeted from 10 million annually to 3 million. In Munich, the introduction of a new parking management system has resulted in 1,700 fewer automobiles owned in the city center each year since 2000.

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Should I Wear a Helmet Today?

bakfiets_naparstek.jpgThe Naparstek boys riding last year's Summer Streets event... wearing helmets.
Sarah's "Too Much Emphasis on Safety" post yesterday brings up the question in the headline above.

A Canadian Broadcasting TV crew doing a documentary on biking is filming me as I take my two sons to school on our Dutch cargo bike today. While the kids always wear helmets, and I do too when I'm commuting or riding longer distances, I often don't bother to wear one when I'm taking the kids to school in the bakfiets (also known around our house as the Cadillac Bikescalade). 

There are a few reasons why I tend to go helmetless. First, I'm a pretty careful, slow-riding cyclist in general, and even more so when I'm carrying kids. The ride to school is a short trip on residential streets marked almost entirely with bike lanes in a neighborhood where motorists are relatively respectful and aware of bikes. Walking across a street at an intersection with two young kids in tow often feels more dangerous.

Second, getting the kids out the door in the morning involves quite a bit of schlepping and hassle as it is. My own helmet sometimes just gets lost in the shuffle (as does my four-year-old's lunch). If the two-year-old is whiny or we're running late I'm not turning back to get the helmet. It's all about momentum.

Finally, I just don't like the way the helmet looks when I'm riding the bakfiets. This is less and issue of fashion (because lord knows I have no fashion sense) and more, I think, an issue of public perception. The bakfiets gets a lot of attention out there. We almost have to build in an extra ten minutes to every trip to account for all the passersby who stop us and ask questions about our unusual bike. Even though I know that I am putting myself slightly more at risk by not wearing a helmet, a part of me likes the idea that I'm showing that it is possible in New York City to walk out your door, hop on a bike and run a neighborhood errand without having to suit up like you're getting ready to play tackle football.

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Can There Ever Be Too Many Bikes?

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Submitted by Eric Britton:

Here's a thought experiment for you. If you and I hate to see lots of parked cars dumped on city streets for which we have other and a lot better uses, should we love it when we see lots of parked bikes? Or might that be a sign of some kind of deeper systemic inefficiency to which we could usefully give a thought or two?

How do you feel when you see hundreds, or thousands, of bikes parked in one place? As a sustainability and bike person I always in the past found it a combination of wonderful, hopeful, and somehow vaguely scary. (And just about always for the very big lots or structures, extremely ugly.)

But now that I know a bit about shared city bikes, I look at them in an entirely different way. Now, above all, they give me a great feeling of waste. Unnecessary waste.

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If You Build It With Less Parking, They Will Still Come

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We're nearly a couple of weeks into baseball season, and fans of the Washington Nationals are enjoying their new transit-, bike- and pedestrian-friendly stadium. The DC complex, with its transit links, shuttle buses and valet bike parking, is so accessible -- and city efforts to encourage fans to get there by alternate means so successful -- that on Opening Day its relatively few parking lots weren't even full, reports Greater Greater Washington:

Good for DC for resisting the warnings from team owners and various commentators that the world would end unless the entire neighborhood were converted to parking as New York did to the South Bronx. Looks like parking demand is elastic, after all.

The Yankees, while we're at it, are in Kansas City tonight; the Mets host the Phillies. 

Photo: ShepDave/Flickr

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On Potato Omelets and Winter Cycling

amsterdam_winter_bikes.jpg

A Spanish tortilla, unlike the Mexican version, is essentially a potato omelet. You fry some diced-up onions and potatoes in oil, and then pour in some beaten egg. Flip it over, and voila, you have a tasty, round golden thing to cut into slices and eat.

Back when I was living in Spain some 25 years ago, I made them all the time and my American friends and I marveled at what a tasty, nutritious and cheap food it was. We vowed, when we returned to the states, to make them often. When I returned to the states, I made a Spanish tortilla probably once, maybe twice, and then never again.

Why? I still love Spanish tortillas. The ingredients are readily abundant. And I love to cook. But something about the context I’m in, the culture to use the C word, does not induce or encourage me to do so.

I think about Spanish tortillas, and my lack of making them, when I have repeatedly chosen not to do something else these last few months, which is ride my bicycle around in the dead of winter. Somehow mounting my wheeled steed is just too big a hurdle when the air is freezing and the skies often gray. Very quickly over the winter, I stopped even thinking about riding my bicycle to work or to drop my son at daycare or to shop. I began walking and taking the subway more.

But would I make these same choices if my fellow citizens here in New York were making different choices?

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