Beautiful people passing by on their bicycles

Posts in which I give you the opportunity to watch ordinary people cycling are usually very popular. They form an attractive balance to the posts about infrastructure and they show you – quite literally – what all that cycle infrastructure leads to: cycling for everyday purposes by a very wide range of the population.

A grandfather with his grandchild on a leisurely ride in town. You can see how much this very young child enjoys being on the bicycle. Most of the Dutch don’t ever lose that love for cycling anymore.

The summer of 2014 is warmer than usual. The whole year is one of exceptionally high temperatures. That has reasons I won’t go into here, but it would help if there was more cycling worldwide. These higher temperatures don’t stop people cycling in the Netherlands. It never really gets too warm to cycle. Just as it hardly ever is too cold or too wet. Once you are used to cycling in all weather conditions, weather does not so much influence your decision to cycle or not. That said, summer is a time that more people cycle, for recreation for instance.

These two guys are going somewhere, that is for sure. They use the bicycle as transportation, not as a means in itself. And they’ll need what’s in those bags at wherever they are going. There may even be shoes in there…

On a Tuesday afternoon in the summer holidays I pointed my camera at people cycling by on a main square in the centre of Utrecht. To focus even more on the variety of people who chose to cycle that day, I really followed individual people with my camera. This gives you slightly more time to look at them. Some of the people were a bit startled by the camera following them as they whisked by me, ‘whatever could be the reason’ you almost see them think. Others smile, some wave and some remain completely oblivious. They keep on doing what they do: using the bicycle to get from A to B easily, in a fast and appealing way, whilst enjoying the sun and the good infrastructure.

Good cycling infrastructure makes it possible that people of all ages and backgrounds use the bicycle for everyday purposes and for recreation. There’s no telling why this man cycles. He could have groceries in those panniers or he could be out and about just for fun. Whatever the reason, it’s good that he can cycle safely when he wants to.
Cycleways make cycling more relaxed for everyone and that includes the young fit men racing in lycra!
Using your mobile phone on a bicycle is technically not illegal in the Netherlands (unlike Germany and some other countries) but it is not recommended. Fortunately, even with that bus passing by at a very close distance, it is not too dangerous here because of the separate cycleway.
A girl and a boy cycling together on one bicycle. It’s almost certainly her bicycle and that is why she does the pedalling. If it were his bike he would probably do the work, but not now.
In general cycling is safe from 8 to 80 in the Netherlands. It is great that people can be independently mobile from an early to a very advanced age. True freedom.
This post wouldn’t be complete without a dog on a bicycle. So here it is!
Cycling in a suit. It’s perfectly normal in the Netherlands. But cycling to and from work is only a small percentage of all the cycling going on in this country (16% to be precise).
A friendly wave by someone who noticed that he was being followed by a camera.

Video: beautiful people passing by on their bicycles in Utrecht.

All the footage was filmed within 40 minutes on Tuesday 5th August 2014, from 12:50h to 13:30h. That day the temperature was 24.3C and the sun has been shining for almost 12 hours.

Janskerkhof Utrecht. The cycleways are only protected from the carriageway by a small height difference and kerbs (curbs). The lane on the right hand side is for buses only. The lane on the left hand side may be used by private motorised vehicles.

The cycleways are of an unusual style. They are only separated from the main carriageway by a slight height difference and a kerb (curb). That is usual in Copenhagen but not so usual in the Netherlands. It has to do with how narrow the streets leading to and from this square are. Not best practice for the Netherlands, but it works here because motor traffic on the street is not too busy. It is really a bus only street, and that is why it is red. It can be used by buses in two directions, but motorised private vehicles are also allowed use this street in one direction: to leave the centre. “Shared use” Dutch style: a bus lane that may be used by private motor vehicles.

27 thoughts on “Beautiful people passing by on their bicycles

  1. It’s interesting that in the countries where it’s the norm not to wear a helmet i.e. Denmark and Holland, they have the lowest rates of death and serious injury among cyclists, have more cyclists of all ages, and both genders, and make more trips by bicycle than in countries such as Britain and the US where helmets and lycra-clad sport cycling is the dominant culture. Segregation from motor traffic does far more for safety than helmets ever could or ever will. Just read the standards for design and manufacture for cycle helmets. The amount of protection offered is very low, especially when involved In a collision of several tons of metal being driven at speed.

    In the States and the UK many people state they feel unsafe cycling on the roads and are put off cycling for that reason. With ever increasing rates of obesity and related health problems on both sides of the Atlantic, perhaps the impact of putting more people off cycling has a more serious impact on the mortality and serious injury rates caused by the resulting cardiac and other ill health problems.

    I am all in favour of our “right to ride on the road” but also in favour of having the right to not being forced to ride on the road if we want to cycle in our towns and cities. To put it bluntly, segregation of bicycles and motor traffic means segregation of cyclists heads and bodies from car bumpers and lorry wheels.

    1. Once you have a good cycle network that has a cycle path next to a road or close to it if it has something that you might want to go to, then there is no need to think about the fact that a motorway sign in the Netherlands or a no cycling sign is no trouble for you. Unless you are a tourist who has not read a guidebook on road signs.

      1. The percentages are percentages of a totally different whole: The 16% says that 16% of all bicycle trips are for going to work; the 25% says that 25% of all trips to work are by bicycle.

        1. @Klaus, your link to that Fietsberaad figure 2 shows the same:
          Of all trips to work 25% are by bicycle (as André Engels explained) but
          of all trips by bicycle 16% are to go to work
          That is two different things.

  2. Transportation is quite different in Los Angeles. It’s so easy to go anywhere you want by car that it is by far the first choice for most trips by adults that are not poor.

    I live less than a mile from the subway entrance that is across the street from Universal Studios in North Hollywood. Yet there seems to be very few people who live in the immediate area who walk, ride a bike or take a bus to this subway station. If the car parking lot is usually full, then they probably are not going to use this subway station.

    I do know several people who would drive a car less than a block to get some water at a convenience store and one individual uses a car to go across the street to get to work.

    One of the Dutch traffic engineers who participated in the Think Bike workshop in Los Angeles about three years ago was amazed to find that there are people in Los Angeles who drive somewhere that is only six blocks away.

    I was surprised that the lead of the Dutch group, Hillie Talens, asked everyone to ride a bicycle when the three Think Bike project teams went to their assigned sites for pedestrian and bicycle improvements. I asked her before they headed out to the locations if this was the normal way of figuring out how to proceed with a cycling infrastructure project in the Netherlands. She stated that she always had the engineers under her ride a bicycle at the cycle projects that they were going to work on in order to get a grasp of the situation from the cyclists point of view.

    There is a recent management change at the department of transportation that may improve the cars have priority way of thinking about the movement of people in Los Angeles.

    Seleta Reynolds became the new general manager of the department of transportation this week. Seleta previously worked for the much more transit, walking and bicycle oriented city of San Francisco–one of the top five large U.S. cities for bicycle commuting mode share.

    Here first day on the job here she rode a bicycle to work.

    On the second day she dropped her daughter off at school and then rode a bus to work.

    This may not seem out of the ordinary for the Netherlands, but its rather eye opening for Los Angeles.

    She attended a Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meeting on Wednesday. The chairman of the committee asked the audience for a show of hands if they commuted in the last week by bus, train, bicycle, walking or skateboard. Seleta raised her hand for everything but skateboarding.

    In a recent interview she stated: “People encounter bad behavior from people on bikes because there is no system set up for you when you’re on a bike. We have treated people on bikes as either fast pedestrians or slow cars when really they are neither of those things.”

  3. Fantastic post! (and seemingly a response to the comment I left in the last post regarding warm weather). I am coming to the conclusion that the biggest enemy to the cyclist during the warm weather months are red lights. Catching successive red lights on my bike commute does 2 things that make me sweat more than I should pedaling at a “no sweat” pace: 1) It forces me to stop and sit in the sun. In my city we don’t have many tall (sidewalk oriented) buildings or mature street trees to provide shade at intersections. As a result, I sit in the sun for 30 seconds to a minute just taking in the sun as I wait on baked black asphalt. 2) The constant stop-and-go makes me work harder as I need to get going from nothing (and my work to home ride has an ever so slight incline that becomes all the more noticeable when I am repeatedly starting and stopping).

  4. An amusing observation. Lycra-Man would probably tell you he was ‘training’, yet he is doing less exercise than anyone else in the video, even the pedelec riders! In all, it’s a mesmerising slice of paradise to any of us stuck in less enlightened countries. I’ve forwarded a link to my local Council’s cycling team.

  5. If I visited the Netherlands, I think I wouldn’t want to leave. I grew up cycling with my friends in Colorado: we’d cycle to school, to the park, and to each others’ houses (all of which were only 5 minutes or less away), and occasionally a little farther to our local shopping center- just for fun- exploring our neighborhood, all without helmets because our destinations weren’t far and because we weren’t riding fast. Drivers didn’t speed in our neighborhood, either, in the 90s, unlike today.

    Where I live, now, in the south, people aren’t used to seeing an adult ride a bike. I think they think that cycling to places, even if they are nearby, would be too slow, too physically demanding with hills, and take up too much of their time, as opposed to driving a faster vehicle.

    It must be nice to live in a country where cycling is seen as normal, not weird or something to be laughed, or shouted at by people in cars.

  6. They certainly love their bikes over there! My partner is dutch and we visit the netherlands every year. We just returned again but this time noticed many more children wearing helmets. This time we had our baby with us and bought her a helmet. Each shop we asked all said in years to come all children will be wearing helmets over there and that the culture is slowly changing. We also visited Denmark and Germany on this trip and saw a much higher number of both adults and children using helmets than. I’m all for no helmets for adults casual riding but I do like to see them on children. But what I like most in these countries is that people have the choice.

    1. As someone who commutes around by a bicycle everyday in the US it saddens me, in a way, to watch how these other bicycle-friendly nations gradually buying into the paranoia that is ever present in my country. Certainly, helmet-wearing should remain a personal choice. But the problem is when it comes to “safety” matters, people are quite easily swayed or downright scare-mongered into behaving a certain way, regardless of the actual merits. It may be a very free choice as of now in the Netherlands to not wear helmets. But if one day almost every child starts wearing one, who’s to say that that safety-first mentality won’t carry over into adult life? Culture is largely dictated by normality and what the masses do, and if most start doing something, then it may become abnormal for the minority to not also partake in that same activity. As you said, the culture is slowly changing. Change can be good, but it isn’t always necessarily so.

      Obviously this is all conjecture at this point since it’s only starting to take root in the Netherlands. But I’ve been to Denmark twice (2005 and 2012). The first time I hardly saw anybody wearing helmets and the second time, it really was around the 15-20% (adults) that you read about. Their official stats from the cycling embassy state that 2/3rd of all kids in Denmark wear a helmet. And just two years ago, some members of government proposed a mandatory helmet law for all kids under 16. I’m not aware that this came through, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if it ever does considering most kids are already wear one. So they’ve gotten to a point where there are some people who feel that it shouldn’t be a choice any longer. And how long before it’s expected of everyone to do the same? Just to give an example, my good friends in Denmark already started wearing helmets by my 2nd visit, and would even do so when riding on quiet roads (on separated infrastructure) down to the shop a couple minutes away. They eventually convinced their sons (both in their 20’s) to wear one at all times and even tried to convince me to wear one! One of their sons was unfortunately hit by a car a year or so ago and suffered a broken hand, and they were so glad he was wearing a helmet. I didn’t realize helmets offered any protection for hands and wrists, but you see where I’m going on this.

      Getting back to my main concern about helmet promotion. The other risk, which is pervasive in the US, is that when that something like that becomes the norm, there will inevitably be a shifting of some responsibility towards the vulnerable users. Probably every single article I’ve ever read about a bicycle crash in the US has always pointed out whether a helmet was used or not, as if that’s the bottom line and the root cause for a collision with a motor vehicle.

      1. Yes. I wonder whether cyclists’ helmet use would also eventually encourage drivers to drive around them faster, like drivers in the U.S., thinking that even if they crash into them, they’ll still be alive.

    2. I *hate* seeing helmets on children here in the Netherlands. It’s not as if their parents are making a educated choice. It’s just that they watch British tv and American movies and MTV, and they see helmets being worn in English speaking countries, and they see tourists with their helmeted children, and then suddenly a few shops offer these helmets for sale and BAM! the Dutch parents are suddenly convinced that if *they* don’t put their children in helmets, they must be BAD PARENTS! Point in case: the Dutch parents who put helmets on their children are typically yuppie and more affluent than others. Yuppie parents are always competing with eachother who is the ‘better parent’ with the latest ‘protect your child from it’s evironment’ gadget.

      Problem is, it might be the yuppie parents *now*, but give it a decade or so and everybody will have followed them. These gadgets and trends tend to trickle down from the most affluent to the rest of the population.

      What annoys me the most is that the Dutch, as a rule, don’t even know that they have the best cycling infrastructure and the highest percentage of cycling in the world. They think everybody has these things and are mortified when they go, say, on a cycling holiday with the children to Great Britain, only to find that they are instructed to cycle on the motorway, alongside 60 mph traffic.

      I live in The Hague (Hagenees born and bred). The City Council has turned the City Centre in a ‘shared space’. Cars are not allowed (but trams are), there is not clear designation of pedestrian and cycling space and therefore you can’t walk there without being nearly mowed down by an irate cyclist and you can’t cycle there without some pedestrian stepping under your front wheel (and acting all disgruntled when it’s *them* who suddenly step in front of you without looking!). Suffice to say that I really *hate* walking there and you wouldn’t catch me dead cycling there. And I know, I just *know*, that the Councillers who decided on this stupid ‘shared space’ thing were all exited about “this new thing, it’s the hottest thing in America and Britain! Everybody is talking about it!” without understanding that it is the ‘hottest thing in urban cycling’ because the English speaking countries believe that ‘shared space’ is what we Dutch cycling is about and they want to have the cycling percentages *we* have!
      And I just know, I just *know* that these yuppie parents who buy their yuppie offspring bicycle helmets are convinced that these helmets are good for their kids and won’t do them harm and will protect them, because ‘helmets are all the rage in the States and surely these American parents will know what they are talking about, right? Because there are lots more people in the US than in the Netherlands and therefore much more parents who cycle and I’m sure that the Americans have lots and lots of evidence that helmets are safe and effective, otherwise they wouldn’t be wearing them, right?’

      Poor, deluded, yuppies. Poor, deluded, Dutch.

      1. A little while ago a litlle boy of about 3 years old was riding a tricycle and wearing a helmet. He was riding on the pavement in a very quiet residential street. I asked his father if his son had some kind of head injury and if not why he let the poor child wear that stupid helmet. For safety and mind your own business! So, I asked if the child was wearing a helmet ALL the time because the wordl is full of dangers, he could fall on the edge of a sharpe table in the livingroom, he could fall while playing outside. ( although, children of parents like that don’t play outside anymore only on childproof, fenced-in, rubber tiled playgrounds.) And all this in cycle friendly Groningen. And I keep seeing more and more of those idiots. Yes, but the the traffic is so busy, all the cars! And instead of getting rid of their own cars they give their poor children a helmet. bah.

      2. Just a few days ago I saw a woman with a couple of kids, all with helmet and high-viz (on a sunny day) riding their bikes without really paying any attention to their surroundings or traffic rules. They should have yielded to some other cyclists on a roundabout, but they obviously didn’t see a need to, just ignoring them a if they weren’t there.

        1. Ah, but you see Har, those other cyclists didn’t wear high- viz or helmets, so they were invisible. Just like in the U.K.

  7. Do you know of any other Copenhagen-style cycle paths in the Netherlands (preferably made from asphalt)? Sometimes I try to show examples of Dutch infrastructure which could be implemented at not very wide (about 12-14 m) main streets in my town, where there’s no space for cycle paths separated by a wide verge.

    1. The Rijksstraatweg in Haarlem was rebuilt 20 years ago into a road with separated bike paths between the parked cars and the footpaths/pavement/sidewalks. And I truly HATE it! There is no room to overtake the slowest cyclists riding 2 abreast. So in the peak hours you see a very long throng of cyclists riding at about 10 km/hr and a few people like myself risking life and limb trying to overtake them by riding on the road. I’m no lycra clad speedster, just a middle aged commuter on a classic Dutch bike, but 10 km/hr is too slow, even for me.

      1. Cyclists blocking one way cycle paths can sometimes be a problem indeed. To mitigate this, in Copenhagen they paint “conversation lanes”:
        I wonder why it took them so long to invent this (on dual carriageways for cars it’s used for decades – why not use it on dual carriageways for bikes?) and why the Dutch don’t use it at all. Apparently even on wide cycle paths painted lanes are helpful, but maybe they are even more needed on narrower ones (“only” 2×2), because they are easier to block.

  8. I noticed the Copenhagen-style paths before coming to your writing about them. I’d be quite interested to read a blogpost about the cycling infrastructure in that city should you happen to visit it.

    Thanks for another great explanatory post and wonderful images. Enjoy your summer and make lots of hay while the sun shines!

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