Why cycle alone, when you can do it together?

After all the recent serious posts it is time for a light hearted look at people cycling again. What better place to look for people on their bicycles than the cycleway through the Amsterdam Vondelpark?

With a bit of effort you’ll see this is actually a family of five. The two little red boots (one is visible on the back of each bike) belong to the two older sisters of the little boy enjoying the ride with dad.

On a Saturday afternoon in August I positioned myself on the viaduct that spans the width of the park at its narrowest point, to look at the people passing below. It had been a cold and rainy afternoon. But the rain had just stopped and the sun was almost winning from the clouds again. It was August, so there were still many tourists out and about on their rental bikes. And because it was a Saturday there were many families on their way as well. Coming back from grocery shopping or from doing errands in the city centre.

I have filmed in a park before, but that was in Utrecht on a weekday. That looked a bit different. There, everybody was clearly going from A to B. Here, on a Saturday in the summer holidays, many people were also cycling as a leisure activity.

What struck me when I looked at all the footage, is that most of the people are not cycling alone. There is a whole lot of human interaction going on there with all these people on their bicycles. They are cycling with their friends, lovers, colleagues, children and quite a lot of them are cycling in groups.

With that identical outfit these guys must be co-workers. And they seem to have a good time!

Indeed, cycling in The Netherlands is really a sociable activity. With some rare exceptions, all infrastructure is built so people can ride two abreast. That gives parents the opportunity to ride next to their children, but everybody else can do it too of course. As a result, cycling side by side is something the Dutch find the normal thing to do.

As you can clearly see in the video, that makes the interaction very easy. People talk and laugh together. Some seem to be having more serious conversations, but most of them are simply having a good time while they ride.

I hope you enjoy looking at all these people passing by as much as I do.

Video: People cycling together in the Amsterdam Vondelpark. The opening still shows a young family. Note that the infant (behind a plastic windscreen) is already practising to hold handle bars!

Some stills from that video:

What is going on here? With that peculiar look on her face it sure looks like she making fun of him. What happened in the country’s biggest supermarket chain? (They are both carrying a bag of groceries.)
And she sure has a suspicious smile as well. While he is all serious.
He is doing all the work here, pulling her. But in her condition that is okay. Because if I am not mistaken, this is a family in the making.
Here she is doing all the work. The Dutch can be emancipated at times.
He is alone, but I am sure he won’t be for long. Not only is he carrying a bunch of flowers, that plastic bag is from a liquor store! It seems like a celebration is imminent.
Talk about celebrations. These girls cycle a bit faster than the rest of the people. Are they on their way to a fancy dress party?
These two may be cycling tourists. And of course you need proof that you cycled in Amsterdam. Time for a selfie!
This is most definitely a group of tourists! The identical rental bikes are a dead giveaway!
Father and son, a very common sight. But that boy is really a lot bigger than usual for kids in the front seat! The reason might be that the back seat is already taken as well.


13 thoughts on “Why cycle alone, when you can do it together?

  1. Police officers riding bicycles in Amsterdam. We have cops who also ride bicycles in north america, but their outfit looks closer to someone who is trying to race than someone who is trying to search for crime. Like this picture https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/67/TO_bike_Cop.jpg. In Amsterdam, the best police of all would be a bicycle with a 45 km/h motor and a hat with a siren and flashing light on the top, so that if they need to chase someone down, they can get everyone else out of the way and can ignore yield signs and red lights.

  2. When I lived in Amsterdam, waaaaay back in good old 1985, one of my favourite things to do was just sit in the Vondelpark and watch all those beautiful people cycling by. I’m glad that’s one of the things that hasn’t changed, and isn’t likely going to change.

  3. Hallo Mark

    I have been watching your videos for a number of years. First time to comment. It is always a pleasure, you make a fantastic case for cycling and proper cycling infrastructure. Having passed on links to your videos to people in various positions of leadership I wish I could say it has had effect. Very slow process here in Canada.

    That said, it would interest me greatly to know more about your techniques of filming from your bike (equipment used etc). As I would like to start a similar idea to show what is and hopefully will be, in the city I live.

    many thanks

  4. One of the most important skills of a Dutch cyclist is to be able to synchronise your conversation so that it ends exactly at the point where the routes of you and your conversation partner diverge. If you finish your topic too early, you end up having to awkwardly ride in silence, and if you don’t finish in time, you end up finishing your conversation perched on a traffic island on a street corner.

  5. The two guys in the identical outfits belong to the Straatcoach project, a sort of neighbourhood watch.

    The reason why in one picture a woman is doing all the work is not because of emancipation, but (probably) because it’s her bike and the front seat is by far the most comfortable.

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