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Why is cycling so popular in the Netherlands? (bbc.com)
211 points by jseliger 175 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 361 comments



    > If anything, having a tatty, battered old
    > bike affords more status as it attests to
    > a long and lasting love.
As an Amsterdam resident: What a romantic characterization of our high crime rates! Yes, the reason I still ride a shitty old beater of a bike is definitely my long lasting love for that piece of shit, it's not because I know that if I buy anything fancy I'm going to have to never take my eyes off of it, least it be stolen in under half a minute in certain parts of town[1].

1. http://www.iamexpat.nl/blog/culture/amsterdam-wins-european-...


As a fellow dutchman, duct-tape the shit out of everything on your new bike. If you're really brave even partially paint it in a hideous color (purple or something).

You'll still have a bad looking bike, but at least it will be mechanically much nicer than your fifth-hand rusting omafiets.

Since I started doing that I never had a bike stolen in 15 years, despite living in Rotterdam and Utrecht (big cities) and buying 3 new bikes in that time.


There should be vinyl wrap for bikes that provides a paintable, duct-tapeable substrain for camo tape and radioactive fuchsia and orange also camo ejaculation. Flat (no shine) paint makes a bike even less attractive.

PS: I had a old/ugly bike that I had for 16 years in Davis, CA that I still locked and it was stolen from an apt complex the one and only time I forgot to lock it. There are thieves whom ride around in cargo trucks stealing bikes wholesale, in addition to people whom just "borrow" bikes and dump them whereever.


The idea for Amsterdam is to make the bike look unique, not always unnatractive, the more homogenous looking and mechanically sound, the more attractive to thieves.

Amsterdam is a smalll place so having a fluro green bike with a number plate of your name welded to the frame is a good deterrent.


Take care with welding - not every material likes welding, and especially not home-made welding without proper stress relief.

Drilling for rivets is also dangerous when done incorrectly. You do not want to be riding at full steam when the frame cracks, it's nasty.


Really though it's probably mild steel which is not heat-treatable. Mild steel fairly weak (for steel) but it doesn't get much stronger or weaker from heat exposure and isn't brittle.

High carbon, stainless, and fancy stuff is where you can run into problems. In general you won't see this on car or bike frames, too expensive in bulk.

If it's a newer bike it's probably aluminum which you can usually still weld with impunity. If it was high grade alloy the heat could matter, but as far as I know nobody cares that much about bike frames. Heat treatment, or "seasoning" in the case of some aluminum is expensive.

Source: used to cut up old bikes and weld the frames into crazy chariot contraptions we would tow around


> frame cracks

Steel is real, man. It'll bend, not break.

But in seriousness, yeah, I was following very closely behind a fellow who snapped his fork jumping over a bump in the road. I almost went over him. Despite the helmet, he lost memory of the accident. I called an ambulance for him and left my number. He called me the next day asking what had happened.

It was a nice aluminum frame, looked in good condition. Always check carefully for hairline fractures when buying a used aluminum bike.


There's a specific brand of bikes that does just that (welding plates with an ID to it) from production, like https://www.fietsenwinkel.nl/bsp-bold-2016-heren-sale and https://www.fietsenwinkel.nl/batavus-quip-heren


Maybe that's why my filibus cargo bike keeps not getting stolen. I'm often fairly sloppy about locking it to something. It's heavier than a regular bike, though, you a thief can't easily pick it up.


Protip: "Plasti Dip" spray paint is like vinyl wrap on a spraycan, it comes in all sorts of matte (or even sparkly!) gaudy colors. I think they even sell a desert camo tri-pack. I've seen it sold in car part/accessory shops in Europe.


There is also hydro-dipping"[1] It's usually used to add complex graphics to irregular surfaces, but I imagine they could make "ugly' irregular patterns for something like to this to make it unique and unwanted.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrographics_(printing)


Kind of surprised that bike manufacturers don't offer new bikes painted to look old and crappy, as an option, or as an after market service


Like jeans!


I think it still is most important to make sure you can't carry the locked bike away. It's mostly tool-less homeless people roaming the streets at night looking for an opportunity imo. Only bikes I got stole were not locked to a pole because I forgot or assumed I would be back in a minute and wasn't.

I agree about the shitty-ness, it is less likely to attract attention and you feel less bad leaving it out on the streets but I think most people would prefer to ride a nicer bike if only people with keep their hands off your property.


There are also professional thieves with good tools and a van they quickly load up with everything that's not sufficiently nailed down.


Anything goes, as long as your bike doesn't look like it's the most expensive bike in the rack.

Some people, particularly teenagers and students, can be quite creative in dirtying up their bike. A friend in school had glued sand to her bike, and then painted it. Quite a unique look. But it got stolen anyway, and when she found it, the thief had scraped all the sand off.

But there are many reasons why a bike might look ratty. The owner really could have had that bike for a long time, it could be second-hand (or more likely fifth-hand or something), it could have been stolen, it could have been found in the trash and refurbished, it could have been ratty'd up to prevent it from getting stolen, or it might be someone's artistic expression.

But in big cities it's certainly not unusual that the lock is the most expensive part of a bike.


I used to believe my ugly old cheap bike would never be stolen. I was wrong.


There's the other part of theft; if someone got their bike stolen or lost, some people just steal another.


Fair point, althought some people told me a third option: metal frame reselling; apparently it's worth a few bucks; that was the only valuable part on this (everything else was plastic or lowest quality possible)


Bike theft figures in the NL are indeed horrendous - and it is by far not just Amsterdam. (In fact, the other cities - Utrecht, Rotterdam, Groningen - are in many factors already "ahead").

We actually started an initiative to tackle this issue. So, in case you HATE BIKE THEFT as much as we do, give our FB page a like (https://www.facebook.com/AgainstBikeTheft/) and sign our petition (bit.ly/bikes-petition) aiming on getting more focus on the problem. It'd be a huge help for us.

We're also building an active solution - again, check the website and FB.


Sure beats paying for a car, insurance, road tax, gasoline, parking... did I forget anything?

Yeah, having your bike stolen sucks, particularly if on your way back home from a night at De School but whatever... still cheaper (and healthier and fun)

Get it over, or you can go live a couple years in Rome and learn what it means to live in a hideous car-infested city.


How is De School? I've been meaning to check it out and I heard it's from the people that ran the club in the Trouw building, which I kind of liked by the (relatively) mediocre Amsterdam club standards.


I've only been once (for FourTet/Floating Points) but it was spectacular. Very good vibe downstairs; super dark/minimal light effects, excellent sound, diverse and respectful crowd, spacious. Except for all the broken glass. The concrete floor was absolutely strewn with shattered beer bottles.

The small open garden is really pleasant, though unfortunately it closes early (maybe 3-4am?). It's a nice respite from the steamy floor.

I like the art installations too.


I really like De School, went there for their Weekender during ADE and it was one of the best parties I've ever been to, good enough to compare to some days I had at Sisyphos in Berlin...

Out of ADE my last time there was back in December, wasn't really fond of many clubs in Amsterdam but De School is definitely one of the best, definitely worth checking it out and I'm going again now in the end of June :)


I love Sisyphos so that's good news! I take it they don't have chickens running around at De School though?


Yup, those guys. Never been yet, I heard they have a weird - haphazardly applied - door policy that boils down to "we'd like to be like Berghain", so don't go if you're a group of more than three not-so-sober men.

You've got to admit that the Trouw was good on its own merits, not just because of the poor alternatives (but then go check out the OT or the Bunker. Have you been there?)


I was in Rome 6 months ago. I was surprised at how little traffic there was in the centre (I assume they have some laws in place to limit it only to taxis). I guess that only happens in the centre proper?


In the center there is ZTL, which is restricted to residents and enforced by number plate recognition cameras at all entry/exit points.

Take a trip anywhere outside the center during rush hour and it's a completely different story.


Can anyone explain why police don't do a huge crackdown on bike theft in Amsterdam? I heard repeatedly when I was there about how bad the theft is. Is there something stopping cops from putting out a dozen fancy bikes without locks every day and arresting everyone who grabs one and rides off? Is the legality of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrapment different in the Netherlands?

Because it seems like a relatively small policing effort could enable a massive improvement in quality of life.


Police doesn't do much, because it is low on their priority list (despite the terrible numbers in the NL).

In case you HATE BIKE THEFT as much as we do, give our FB page a like (https://www.facebook.com/AgainstBikeTheft/) and sign our petition (bit.ly/bikes-petition) aiming on getting more focus on the problem.

We're also building an active solution - again, check the website and FB.


They do decoy bikes, e.g. here's a news article about a thief being caught by police stealing a decoy bike for the second time in 6 months published just 3 days ago (in Dutch, but it Google Translates):

http://www.nhnieuws.nl/nieuws/207931/Fietsendief-in-Amsterda...

The problem is that the police have other stuff to do, and they might as well be pissing in the wind with the amount of bike theft here. They could do a huge crackdown, but that's unsustainable and after the crackdown we'll be right back to the same theft rate.

Interestingly there was a case this year (currently going through appeals) where a judge ruled that a man stealing a bicycle in a residential neighborhood should be found not guilty because the police had created the circumstances of the bike's theft:

http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2016/01/decoy-bikes-sh...

It's unclear what that means for bicycle entrapment in general, but an article in Parool (again, in Dutch) suggested that this may have implications for the methods of the Amsterdam police depending on how it goes:

http://www.parool.nl/parool/nl/4/AMSTERDAM/article/detail/42...


>They could do a huge crackdown, but that's unsustainable and after the crackdown we'll be right back to the same theft rate.

Actually, there's evidence that a sustained crackdown can succeed in changing norms. I believe that the biking rate in Copenhagen is almost as high as Amsterdam but the theft rate is far lower. Norms matter. Here's an example:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2012/10/15/buenos_aires_...


> "The problem is that the police have other stuff to do, and they might as well be pissing in the wind with the amount of bike theft here. They could do a huge crackdown, but that's unsustainable and after the crackdown we'll be right back to the same theft rate."

How about using CCTV at bicycle locking points? Combined with satellite imagery it should be a relatively non-resource intensive way to catch the thiefs. Of course, there's still the question of whether a surveillance-based solution is worse than the crime it's meant to address.


Let's not turn Dutch cities into another example of the horrifying panopticon that UK cities have become.


Dude, they already are. Cameras everywhere


CCTV is heavily restricted in The Netherlands, and you need to post a prominent sign in any public place that's under CCTV surveillance, this would obviously make it ineffective to catch thieves.


>How about using CCTV at bicycle locking points?

Now you have two problems -- and a freezing cold wind coming in from the wide open Overton window.


I left the Netherlands 15 years ago, but if I recall correctly, entrapment is mostly illegal, and cops usually don't care very much about bike theft, which is very low on their priority list. From what I understand, rampant bike theft is less of a problem outside of Amsterdam (and maybe a few other "big" cities).

(I never had my bike stolen, living in an urban area in the south of the Netherlands. That doesn't mean that it didn't happen there... if you leave your bike standing in odd places, it may well be gone when you come back. One way employed by thieves was to drive around with a van and just pick up any bikes that were standing around, locked or not, in broad daylight or not.)


What would you do with the bike thieves you catch? Fines mean nothing to the career petty criminals, and jailing people for petty theft leads to hopeless US style mass incarceration.


There is plenty of middle ground, from community service to light jail time, maybe even rehab for some of them.


Yes, I think community service (like picking up trash) is quite feasible.


I think there is a lot of bike theft, but people also keep this alive by buying a 3 AM Special from a junky in the center of town.

I've lived in Amsterdam for the last 9 years and the only bike I've had stolen was one that I didn't lock.... I even still have a bike sitting in a rack outside my house that has been mine for 18 years.

I'm riding a fancy looking €1000 bike daily, have been for the last four years, I lock it with just the default ring through the back wheel when I go into a shop or something, and use the chain I have to lock it to a bike rack. It's even insured if I just use the simple lock.

Thanks to some nice tax breaks (meaning you can get a bike for up to 49% off though your employer (look for 'fietsplan')) I am actually on the hunt for a new bike. :-)


They do crack down on bike theft, but you can never get rid of all theft, and the police has plenty of other priorities.


Don't you folks have chorbazar's [1,2]? Virtually every big city in India has one. Your stuff gets stolen, you go to the chor bazar, it'll be on sale, buy it back after some haggling over price.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chor_Bazaar

[2] http://www.indiatimes.com/culture/who-we-are/14-reasons-you-...


Sounds familiar! In Berkeley and North Oakland potted plant theft is a big thing. I've had neighbors who, multiple times, had to go to the local flea market and retrieve their beloved plants.


The dutch version of this for bikes is 'go to a certain part of town late at night and someone will sell you a bike (by cutting the lock off one they stole) for cheap.


Phnom Penh has one too but I'm not sure how reliably you can get your stuff back. Two bikes stolen here for me, but only 40$ a piece.


I don't get it - that competition is of bike thefts for unguarded and _unlocked_ bikes. Surely it means nothing. Do people not buy bike locks in those regions?

Is it typical for a 13mm+ Ulock in Amsterdam to get broken?


U locks don't deter thieves at all. If they want a bike, they will get it no matter what. Almost everyone commutes on beaters for good reason.

https://www.citylab.com/navigator/2014/10/your-u-lock-is-bas...


I always heard that a small U lock[1] is always better than a larger one and I never understood why. Now i know, that modified carjack is something else.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Kryptonite-Evolution-Mini-Bike-U-Lock...


Also just a crowbar can be used instead of that jack. Small ulocks do help. But they have their own problem: they increase the chance of you being unable to lock your bike at all. Sometimes your destination doesn't have great bike racks, and you have to make due with something a small ulock won't fit on.


> If they want a bike, they will get it no matter what.

There's a god-botherer in my city who gets old bikes, attaches a placard with how you're all going to hell if you don't let jesus into your life, and then leaves them around the city... locked with homemade steel u-bolt locks filled with concrete, so that authorities have more trouble getting rid of them. Admittedly they're not valuable bikes, but I've never heard of one being stolen...


I'd be willing to bet those bikes don't meet the "want" part of the equation. They sound interesting though, any links on them?



I believe the best locks are the heavy chains of 8 mm hardened steel. You see them everywhere.

Thinner chains are easily cut, as I experienced when my son list his keys. Proper ring locks are also impossible to cut, but they only lock the rear wheel and don't lock the bike to an object, so it can still be carried away.


I've had three bikes stolen in about three months time. Each time, I used what was considered a high-end lock. I was usually more bummed out at losing the lock because they cost me more than the bike.

The best strategy, I find, is to avoid leaving the bike in theft 'hot spots', especially in the weekend. If that can't be avoided, make sure to put the bike behind another bike, preferable a fancy one or one with a shitty lock.


The weirdest thing happened to a friend a long time ago (not in the Netherlands though). He had a fancy lock on a crappy bike. The bike was there, but not the lock.


I did that too. Back in university, I'd refurbished a white granny bike I found in the trash. The thick chain lock was the most expensive part of it. It got stolen one of the few times I parked it at Oude Manhuispoort (an infamous bike theft hotspot at a central location of the UvA).

Ever since, I try parking my bike near one that looks better and is locked worse than mine.


Yes. Another point is that even when you lock your bike, thiefs often carry the bike in its entirety or just screw off one of the wheels. Just don't buy a new bike when you're frequently in a hot spot.


Locking just a wheel is a rookie mistake, of course! Always wrap it around the frame and something that is solidly rooted in the ground.

It's just that even all that isn't always good enough if the homeless guy or professional bike thief has a power-cutter thingy.


My sister locked her bike to a pole through the frame in San Diego. When she came back literally every other part was gone, and the frame remained locked to the pole. They even took the cranks, the forks, and the brake cables. Who steals brake cables?


I had the quick release clamp stolen on mine (after taking the seat off). Twice in one week, because i happened to have a spare. And the window wipers from my car one time.


I saw a bike chained to something once, little foldable bike, with the saddle missing. It dawned on me later that the owner probably took it with him, to make it less attractive to be stolen.


That, or the seat got stolen. Some people have an odd sense of humor.


A good leather bike seat can be pretty valuable on its own.


Especially if said thief had previously stolen a seatless bike.


The people who steal a frame somewhere else. Otherwise they can not finish their bike...


Yeah I left my bike at work and someone decided he had more use for my rear lights than me. Who steals 5€ lights?!


Somebody who needs it and has a criminal attitude. It's 5 Euros for free, like a banknote on the sidewalk.


Also use 2 different locks, like dLock and a cable lock.


Create bike Safezones, by adding a small plasti foil bag with fish-oil beneath the saddle, which rips if not removed at ride-start. Even bike-thiefs do not want to stink.


Reminds me of that 'prank' video where they left a bike on a steel cable, which the thieves found out the hard way (e.g. after leaving). Oh and another one where they put a tazer in the saddle.


Greasing the handlebars and seat may work well :-)


It's not competition with unguarded/unlocked bikes. In order to minimize chance of theft you're competing for least desirability and most effort to steal. Most if not all Dutch bikes are by default fitted with an O-lock, which is a good first line of defense, combined with attaching your bike to a railing/bikestand/tree with a decent hardened steel chain lock.


I heard 2 horrible things about O-locks. 1 - Every bike has them in europe, 2 - you can open them by jamming a flathead screw driver through the keyhole and twisting. Any truth to that?


O-locks are pretty much just a nice place to keep your keys while you're biking. Everyone I know goes for separate chains, usually on the pricier end. From what I hear the ones that look like round padlocks are ridiculously easy to break, and the ones with the square lock part with two pins is considered among the best (but sadly also annoying to use).

But that's what multiple bike shop owners told me and they all wanted to sell me a lock, so I don't know if this is true.

Edit: Oh, I forget. O-locks are also very convenient if your bike is still within eyesight and you just want to avoid run-by-thefts. Perfect if you're popping into a shop for food or cigarettes or whatnot.


The thing with an O lock is that is locks the rear wheel. A chain lock then can lock both the frame and front wheel to a pole. Although not 100% safe, most thieves will look for easier targets.


The old style ring locks from 30 years ago were trivial to open with a screwdriver. Modern ones are not. You need to grind through the hardened steel to open those.


That's the very old style one, you could also just open it with a piece of wire.

You can't easily open the lock, but as people can still walk away with the bike it isn't a real deterrent either.


The old models you can just bend open, the material is very weak (just keeps out honest people).

It's not hard to break a modern lock but it requires more than a screwdriver.


1 is a myth, 2 is probably true.


> Is it typical for a 13mm+ Ulock in Amsterdam to get broken?

Yes. One thing that still works is to get two different high-end locks and to always use both. Most thieves specialize in one lock only. But I'd still not leave a decent bike outside over night.


Here in the UK, savvy bicycle commuters buy an extremely heavy chain [1] and leave it locked up outside their office. Bicycle locks are a compromise because they need to be light enough to carry. If you don't carry your lock, you can use a massive lump of metal.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lDcViM1EKc


Then UK thieves are clueless. The recommended padlocks (SS50C or SS65C) can be picked (search for model + "picked" on youtube) in less than 30 seconds. For bystanders picking the lock looks like you are just too stupid or drunk to use your key.


I would imagine that an angle grinder works equally well with all locks regardless of brand.


Cold spray and a hammer is faster and much less noisy and does not come with a free pyrotechnics display.


There's a video where a guy breaks a bicycle lock with a angle grinder, in the middle of the day in a city center. Nobody bats an eye. Breaking the lock doesn't have to subtle.


Does that work? And what do you mean by cold spray exactly? Ralgex?


If it wouldn't work I wouldn't write it.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=cold+spray+bike...


Second to that. Metall becomes brittle at -20. Bing.


Because clearly, when stealing a bike, you want the entire neighborhood hear you for ten minutes, emitting sparks everywhere, while you had to bring an angle grinder.

You're supposed to be somewhat discreet when doing that, not warning everyone.

Most people's locks can be cut with a strong set of shears. The other ones are usually not worth spending your time on unless it's everything there is. In which case, like @jacquesm said, freezing temperatures are an excellent solution. More of a middle of the night thing though. Shears work 24/7.


I have 'stolen' my own bike after losing the key. It was in bright daylight in plain view with a ton of people walking by. No one said anything.


Yeah I think the main benefit of using two locks is that a thief will just go for an easier option. IIRC similar rules apply to home security. It's not only about deterrence; making your house more of a nuisance than other houses is important too.


I agree - you don't need to outrun the bear, you just need to outrun your friend.


It does, but it requires power and time, and makes a ton of noise. Most thieves prefer something quick and quiet.


welp, if this entire thread taught me anything, is that I need to lojack (or whatever it's called) my bike.


> Surely it means nothing

Well I guess it means that you can't leave your bike unlocked in parts of Amsterdam, which is a shame.


You can't leave your bike unlocked anywhere. Ever. At anytime. How come this isn't the initial reasoning? In fact, you can't leave anything unattended or not secured. This goes for cars, bikes, luggage, homes, i don't know what else.


There's still quite a few places on this earth where people don't even bother to lock their front doors, or don't worry about leaving their bike lying around somewhere unsecured.

What you said is mostly for true for major cities though.


Places where paranoia is still a disease..


I was surprised to see hundreds of unlocked bikes in Japan. Sounds like it's common over there: https://www.reddit.com/r/bicycling/comments/3loaqx/bikes_par...


Bike theft is also common in Japan.


Interesting, since the discussion talks about bikes laying around for 9+ months, and gathering and tagging "abandoned" bikes every 6 months.

When I was in Tokyo I saw hundreds of bikes unlocked. There was a poster with a security photo saying "bike thief." My wife mentioned it was likely that person had just grabbed the wrong bike.

I'm not saying bike theft doesn't happen in Japan, it just seems to be significantly more rare in Japan compared to most other places.

I remember hearing San Francisco was trying to cut down on the secondhand market as a way to reduce bike theft. I see Japan has a registration system for bikes. I wonder how much that contributes?


That being true doesn't mean I can't lament the fact that these shitty people exist and are able to get away with it.


our brave total surveillance future does have this silver lining!


I've lived in a 250 people Swiss mountain town with 500 bed tourism and nothing was locked ever.


I remember Tokyo in 1998, almost every bicycle was unlocked. I hope it's still like that.


It's clearly meant to be humorous.


For Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and The Hague; yeah, just get a beater. In the rest of the country, just lock your bike to something stationary (lanterns, fixed bicycle stands, bridge railings, etc.).


Maybe this is a naive question but why doesn't the local police care about solving this issue? It would seem easy to setup a few honeypot bikes and arrest the people that steal them. Do it for a few weeks a year and it would seem like the crime rate for bikes would quickly plummet.

It's sad to me that people take this for granted. I've lived in place that don't and they are wonderful to expect that petty theft is rare. In many countries though it's so common that there's generations of people that seem to just think "that's the way the world is". It's not, it's the way we let it be.

This is similar in SF. I don't know how quickly a bike will be stolen there but cars are broken into on such a regular basis that often you can walk down a street and see broken glass every 3rd or 4th parking space from someone breaking into all the cars on that section of the street. Again it seems super solvable with a few honeypot cars and seems like it would do much to make people's lives better (have had my cars broken into 7 times in California)


That's exactly what they do. They place 'lokfietsen' (lure bikes) at hotspots, but still it's no panacea.


In Rotterdam I used to "buy" my bikes from the homeless by offering a €5 kapsalon [1] in return for a bike. As a result, I didn't care too much if this bike got stolen and never bothered locking it, allowing others to take my bike. And then I would do it all over again.

In hindsight I realize I was probably wrong to contribute to this ecosystem, but the way I saw it, I was feeding the homeless to provide a social good.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kapsalon


> In hindsight I was probably wrong to pay homeless people to steal bikes. :D :D :D

You don't say?


Just to provide context (without justifying it!): in my student days it was completely socially accepted to buy junkie bikes. The justification, to the degree that we bothered having one, was that we all had bikes stolen multiple times.

Most people I know stopped buying junkie bikes once they started making a bit more money though, so it's still generally frowned upon. It's just culturally not quite the same as outright theft (again, I don't approve of this personally but even I once bought a probably-stolen bike once).


> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kapsalon

I've never heard of that, and it even has its own English Wikipedia page! How can I be so out of touch?


Obligatory classical film reference:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_Thieves


It would be so awesome to have a central EU-wide bike number system, like Denmark has nationally: https://secondhandbikes.dk/en/how-to-check-if-the-bicycle-yo...


I'm wondering how much of that crime can be attributed to the following circular thinking:

> the bike crime level is so high, no sense in buying half-decent bike

> no way I buy a lock that costs more than bike

> [the lock can be cut by bolt cutter in a few seconds]

> [the lock gets cut, the bike gets stolen]

> omg, they stole my bike! Gotta buy another cheap one


Funny. In Japan, there are many places where people don't even bother locking their bikes.


My pretty average (yet new and beloved) $75 city bike was stolen on an Osaka University campus when I left it unattended for a few days (it was locked)..


Osaka is definitely not one of those places :)


Is something preventing foldable bikes (that can be taken indoors) from catching on there?


You can't carry a foldable bike inside everywhere you go...


They are very popular, primarily because you can take them with you on the train. They're not as fast or comfortable as a regular bike, though. And very expensive.


Is it atypical to bring your bike inside at work/home?


I have a rusty old steel frame. Three nice wheels and a hubs on it so that it rides great.

15 years, noones touched it... San Francisco, which probably doesn't come far after Amsterdam in terms of bike theft.


Just came back from a week in Netherlands and stayed in Amsterdam. What a cool place to hang out and take in the sights. Cycling there is huge indeed. The big difference I noticed from Canada was the dedicated infrastructure they have in place. Dedicated cycling lanes everywhere, it's a proper form of transportation. As a tourist, this was weird, I nearly got mowed down a few times but because I was in the wrong and not paying attention. You quickly adapt and realize bike lanes are just as important to watch out for as vehicle lanes. The people are very friendly and nearly all speak English without issue.

I don't agree with cycling on the roads and highways here in Canada, it's chaos and frankly, dangerous. I don't really see if implementing what they have because it's already built in.

The thing that really jumped out at me was when I was waiting for a bus around zaanse schans, about an hour outside of Amsterdam in the country, there was an elementary school that just finished up for the day and every single student came out on bicycles. Myself and a group of Canadian's couldn't believe it. They all happily were socializing on their bikes tightly packed together while riding on the bike path in the country to their homes. Here in Canada nearly everyone takes a giant yellow school bus.

Very nice place, highly recommend checking it out if you have chance. Aside, saw the outside of the Atlassian Amsterdam office too ;)


> I don't really see if implementing what they have because it's already built in.

It is worth remembering that it wasn't built in 40 years ago. Cities can build the infrastructure, they just have to systematically make that choice for years. It is just many cities outside the Netherlands prioritize expanding car infrastructure rather than bike. Many places will push developers to add underground car parking, Netherlands pushes you to have the 10,000 bicycle underground parking garage mentioned in the article.

The main difference in the Netherlands is its consistency of commitment to cycling infrastructure over decades as roads naturally came up for renewal.


Happy to hear you had a nice experience!

I'm generally not too 'patriotic', but I can't help but feel a certain pride when I see the insane amount of bikes, especially around rush hour, and especially when I see the variety of cyclists: pregnant women, the elderly, people in suits, a father/mother with a mind-boggling three kids strapped to the bike and a little kid wobbling alongside, and then of course the occasional 'weird' bikes (The tall bikes in Amsterdam are my favorites[1]).

There's plenty to criticize about our society, but I love the bikes.

[1]: https://hansfoto.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/bikewar2.jpg


Have you seen this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xjTJUCMTZg

Video is in The Hague, I've seen it in Amsterdam though, a couple of times.


That's a great one and while I've seen a bunch of weird bikes, I've never seen that one. I love the pointlessness of it!


The impression I got from Amsterdam is that the city (and by extension the Dutch) has simply accepted all the behaviors that cyclists will do in a less cyclist friendly environment (run stop signs, ignore pedestrians, turn without signing and so on), and then just built infrastructure to support that natural behavior. As a pedestrian unfamiliar with the city, at first I found it hugely annoying that so little space was left to pedestrians, but once I figured out where not to stand, I started to have a much better appreciation for how it contributes the functioning of the city. In fact, I was kind of surprised at how little boat traffic there is these days.

Having read and watched some videos on how the Netherlands does road planning for safety, the approach seems to be a much more "descriptive" approach to adapting road shapes and forms and cycle lanes to the natural behavior of people using those modes of transportation. For example, squeezing the width of lanes down naturally causes car drivers to slow rather than covering the area with signs telling drivers to slow down. This approach is slowly being adopted elsewhere (http://thecityfix.com/blog/naked-streets-without-traffic-lig...).

Lots of thought also into mixed-mode junction design

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpQMgbDJPok

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlApbxLz6pA


> I don't really see if implementing what they have because it's already built in.

Amsterdam, as city, is hundreds of years old. Bicycles weren't around then. They have had to put bike infrastructure in.


School busses are very rare in Netherland. Almost everybody goes by bike. And in rural areas, it's not unusual for high school students to ride 10 km or more to school.


> As a tourist, this was weird, I nearly got mowed down a few times but because I was in the wrong and not paying attention. You quickly adapt and realized bike lanes are just as important to watch out for as vehicle lanes.

You can also get mowed down in pedestrian area, on the pavement by impatient cyclist that don't like traffic jams and custom courtesy like stopping to let you cross a zebra crossing is non-existent with cyclists.

A definitive win for the environment, but terribly stressful with a pregnant woman or a toddler. There is just nowhere safe at all, even between the stall of art market.

Bicycles were the biggest disappointment of visiting Amsterdam.


This fear of cyclist seems very odd from my point of view since I often see strollers on bike lanes with parents that have no problem that bikes has to stop and go around them. I occasionally also see people in wheel chairs using the bike lane.

The fear would make sense if all that caused yearly deaths by cycling crashing into toddlers and people, but its is surprisingly rare. I have yet to hear about a single case here in Sweden, and we are almost as happy to use bikes as those in the Netherlands. The only thing that explains it is that the statistical risk of taking a stroller and walking against bike traffic seems similar to being in the park in a lane where joggers are running. The speed that people bike in a city is so low that they can react and slow down, similar to a jogger who is running. In contrast, cars driving on the road is going much faster and as such, it is significant more likely to be hit by a car than a bike. I would take a guess and say that it is even true in the Netherlands.


Is lethality the only criteria that can justify fear ? My cyclist colleagues are constantly afraid of pedestrians ( reverse problem than Amsterdam, in London, where infrastructure is inconsistent and pedestrian quite oblivious of cyclists ), they drive on the open road and regularly reach 20 mph speeds. The assumption that because they are cyclist they can brake instantly is the main cause they bump into pedestrians. There are very little genuine accident ( like wet road marking ) with pedestrian, always problem that could be avoided by not stepping in front of a 90 kg mass cycling at over 15 mph.

Amsterdam was supposed to be the example of integration (pedestrian / cyclist / car ) done right. It wasn't, just that the position of power between cyclist and pedestrian was reversed compared to London: instead of entitled mum with a stroller in the bike lane, you get entitled cyclist that blaze through a pedestrian area ringing his bell and shouting rather than controlling his speed.


20mph is an interesting speed since a electric bike here in Sweden would be illegal if it reached those speeds. And as a owner of a legal electric bike I can say that regular bikes do not pass by at 20mph in the city. Even 15mph, which happens to be the legal max speed for a electric bike, would be unusual to see for a regular bike. Of course an open road would be different but pedestrian that walk against traffic there has a much bigger problem than the few cyclists that can reach 20mph unassisted.

Lethality is not the only criteria but accidents between pedestrians and cyclist is exceptional rare in relation to all the fear people feel towards cyclists. The opposite is true for cars. Ironically the fear towards cyclists seems to go down during winter (since bike lanes tend to be more free from snow and ice than the side walks) so during the time when the bike lane is the most dangerous it is also the time when most people are walking on them. There is thus a strong correlation between fear of bikes and lack of conveniences.


I recently learned from a guy in a wheelchair that, at least in Germany, wheelchairs are legally equal to bikes, and have to use the bike lane. (It's usually not enforced of course.)


It seems like one could solve this problem by also hopping on a bike.


One thing the article doesn't mention is how long the bicycle trips are. Surely the relative compactness of their cities are a major contributing factor!

I live in America and commute on my bicycle almost every day. For me the biggest obstacle isn't the hills (which there are plenty of) or even sharing the road with cars (which is admittedly extremely unpleasant) but the fact that in the quasi-suburban area in which I live, everything's so damned spread out that bicycling is very impractical.


It does mention that:

> The famously flat Dutch terrain, combined with densely-populated areas, mean that most journeys are of short duration and not too difficult to complete.

The problem in the US is, in no small part, due to zoning. I've been making my way through this:

http://amzn.to/2tkSbsH - "Zoned in the USA"

And the detailed look at how other countries do things is interesting - they're certainly no "libertopia", but far more typologies of housing are allowed, as well as commercial uses in primarily residential areas.

It's worth a look for those who are deeply interested in the topic.

I actually have quite a collection of articles about this stuff, as it's been one of my main interests lately:

https://bendyimby.com/2017/06/12/yimby-reading/



I love the way he describes the pedestrian in the artist's impression as "theoretically possible".


Looks cool, but I don't really do videos... not enough time.


I live in Brazil and commute by bicycle daily, 10.5 km each way (6.5 miles, mostly cycleways).

Not without problems however: the air polution in Sao Paulo recommends against physical activities, the cycleways are of very questionable quality and the Pinheiros river stinks as hell.

I can spot some capybaras (they are like giant guinea pigs) in the morning, have to dodge their excrement in the cycleway (they shit like a horse, no kidding).


Kudos, you are a brave man.

From what I know from Florianopolis, moving on less than four wheels (including walking) is just plain dangerous unless you have a physically separated lane. I know several people who got injured and I see many white bikes attached to posts on the road as a sign of "someone on a bike lost his life here".

Of course, the physically separate lane still has many wholes and occasionally a 30cm high "cliff" at its two ends but it shouldn't get you killed.

Florianopolis is made for cars and it feels like all attempts at allowing for bikes are half-assed at best.


Well, I used to cummute by motorcycle before and yes, everything in Brazil is brutal, traffic is not an exception.

Two motorcycle riders die in in Sao Paulo EVERY SINGLE DAY on average - this statictic is not counting the ones that die a week later in the hospitals. There are more than 1 million motorcycles registered in the city (1 for every 10 citizens) but still a lot of meaningless deaths.

Previous mayor Haddad made a lot of bicycle lanes all over the city but they are of very poor quality, some are plain dangerous or are in areas where they are not used (poor planning).

That said, I would trade Sao Paulo by Florianopolis any day of the week - in Sao Paulo I'm 50 miles from the sea, in Florianopolis you can surf before the work.


I'm hoping for a possible future in which there is massive rezoning in the U.S. so that mixed neighborhoods (residential, business, etc) within reason, like bodegas and offices and apartments and row houses together, not cement plants next to kindergartens, are universal. I just bloody hate driving and the less I have to do it the happier I am. Would rather be outside getting exercise.


The Japanese have the perfect answer. They don't zone by use. They zone by nuisance level.

You can build whatever you want in the cement-plant-district. But you have to deal with having that kind of nuisance nearby. You can also build whatever you want in the no-nuisance district. But you can't impose any kind of nuisnace.


Do you have a source for that? According to this article[1] which is summarizing an official Japanese zoning document [2] they have 12 well-defined zones.

They're overall more relaxed about mixed-use zoning, but they do have exclusively industrial zones, and exclusively residential (with small shops & schools) zones.

1. http://urbankchoze.blogspot.nl/2014/04/japanese-zoning.html

2. http://www.mlit.go.jp/common/000234477.pdf


How do they deal with the tension of having bars/clubs in residential areas? Or do these areas just not exist in Japan?


We happily walk to the bar from our houses and then walk back after having a few drinks.

One of the advantages of having bars in residential areas is that you don't concentrate them in one area. Unless you live in a big metropolis, the bars are not large, are not noisy and don't cause many problems. To be fair, I don't know how dance clubs are zoned. I have never seen one outside of a reasonably sized city. But, you can definitely hear people croning away in the karaoke clubs at night.


Probably the same way SF deals with it: by not dealing with it because it's not an issue. I lived in an apartment building on the same block as at least one club and multiple bars, all open till at least 2am and it was never a problem. Some of the sound will leak into the street, especially with bigger clubs, but it's not loud enough to be a problem inside apartments because air is a terrible conductor of sound. Also, a city is already noisy and that's to be expected 24/7.


I live in a "small" Japanese city (pop 300,000). I've only seen clubs in the central entertainment district. There are lots of small neighborhood pubs interspersed among houses though, but they don't cause any nuisance.


If you want silence at home, move to the country. The notion that urban spaces should be free of human voices at any hour is ludicrous. No loud music after midnight is reasonable, but other than that if you can't sleep install better insulation. No one is forcing you to live in the city.


> The famously flat Dutch terrain, combined with densely-populated areas, mean that most journeys are of short duration and not too difficult to complete.

> Few Dutch people don lycra to get out on their bike, preferring to ride to work, the shops or the pub in whatever clothes they think appropriate for their final destination.

> Of course, the cycle paths lend themselves to sauntering along in summer dresses in a way a death-defying, white-knuckle ride in rush-hour traffic does not. It is also partly because of this that people don't need showers at work to be able to commute by bike - it's a no-sweat experience.

So, reading with some context clues, the answer is "not long enough to work up a sweat."


People usually bike quite leisurely in the Netherlands. You can easily bike 10-15km in reasonable time without sweating, especially if you're used to riding a bike.


One difference between the NL, and most US cities, is climate. There's a large portion of the US that gets much hotter, and much colder than Amsterdam. My town gets 10 degrees F hotter, and 30 degrees F colder.

I ride in regular clothes during the summer, but it takes some planning, notably starting early in the morning and riding slowly.


I lived some time in Amsterdam. I was not fit and almost couldnt ride a bike. I was sweating like hell first two months. After half a year you will learn to ride pretty fast without sweating.

You wouldnt believe how fast some if the dutch natives are - in suits and without hands of course. They can even turn without holding a bike.


"Fietsen" stands for "riding a bike", leisurely. Fitness racing is called "wielrennen", running on wheels, totally different thing.


Dunno, I used to ride the bycicle to the school in the city which is 25km away from where I lived. So 50km (31 miles) a day at least. In the village where I grew up that was pretty common.


In my experience, every school kid who lived ~10km or more away bought a moped (scooter) the instant they turned 16, when they were allowed to drive one.


Interesting. In my experience this wasn't common, but I was part of geekier VWO. Scooters were slightly more common at HAVO and very popular with VMBO. And while there might be a connection with education level, scooters were also stereotypically owned by Turkish/Moroccan kids.

I always felt a bit sad that it wasn't more normal for 'my crowd' to have scooters. I would've loved a scooter.


Some bought mopeds/scooters, most did not. There was a couple of teenagers living another 5km further away and still riding a bycicle.

Now when those turned 18.. that's a different story, it did not take them very long before the driver license was there.

When I look at my nieces/nephews now, then it is mostly still the same story. Except that indeed the number of mopeds is higher, but still under 50%.


I didn't. And I know many who don't. Though it's true that many do. Still, there's a couple of years of school before they turn 16.


The difference then is probably widespread access to cars. With suburbs being so spread out, most people would rather drive rather than bike more than 5 miles per trip, despite the big environmental and personal health consequences.


Not necessarily. Lots of people have a car and live more than 5 kilometers from the city center or their work. But a decent amount of people take their bikes when it is under 15 kilometers.

Grocery shopping is often less than 5 kilometers, but me and my neighbours often use the car for that (eventhough often it could be done by bike).

I think the biggest reason is purely cultural. It is normal (almost expected) that kids and teenagers go to school, sport and clubs by bike. You grow up riding a bike and it is your first real "liberation" from depending on your parents for everything.

It kinda represents freedom to go where you want to go before coming of age and being allowed to drive a car. (The minimum age to get your driving license used to be 18, though recently you can get a "starters license" at 17 as long as you drive under adult supervision).

And later on you realise that often taking the car, whilst great, isn't that more practical (and certainly not as economical) as taking the bike now and again.


I think the main difference is due to a number of reasons, an important one of them being cultural. Every kid can ride a bicycle and has a bicycle.

Another reason is our infrastructure, it is pretty safe with all those bicycle lanes, so parents do not worry too much.

Also if you live in the city then for shorter distances (under ~3km) it is just the fastest way to get anywhere and no parking problems.

Add things like that the Netherlands does not have a hot and moist climate, so normally not sweaty. Pretty low crime rates especially in regards to violence. Car drivers being used to have lots of bicycles around.

There's just a lot of factors down here that make riding a bicycle more attractive as in most other countries that I have seen.


> everything's so damned spread out that bicycling is very impractical.

The solution: e-bike.

Where i live in the Netherlands many people use them (not just elderly.) Just this week i saw a 15 year old kid drive back home from school on an e-bike. If you have to drive a long distance, an e-bike eases makes it much easier/faster...


E-Bikes are a good idea, but they're pretty expensive. Like, you could buy a car for the cost of one.


Cars have exceptionally high ownership costs: parking, licensing, maintenance, fuel, insurance.

Even an expensive bicycle pencils out very quickly relatively.


Perhaps, but both still have pretty high, prohibitive to some, up front costs.


The responses which occur:

1. Current eBikes are generally small-scale prototypes. Prices should fall with volume.

2. They're generally comparably priced to a small motorbike, for which they're a near substitute.

3. Financing of large consumer purchases turns out to be a fairly frequently-occurring (and solved) proplem.

I don't think this will be a showstopper.

4. Actually, checking Amazon, eBike prices seem to be on par or lower than what I'd pay for a decent standard bike: ~$750 US or so. Kits as low as $250 for wheel conversion.

https://www.amazon.com/s/?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywo...


Length does play a role but I would definitely trade the 15% grade and 300ft climb at the end of my 4mi trip in the Oakland hills for an extra 3-4 mile of flat/gentle rolling terrain.


what would be the kind of distance you're talking about? When growing up in the Netherlands it was common for kids from my town to cycle 20 km every day going to school.


That's an hour each way at a fairly decent clip on a bike[1]. In my book that's a long commute.

[1] At roughly the speed I can bike in moderate to cool temps without getting excessively sweaty.


20km is ~6 miles each way. Unless there are significant obstacles (hills, many stoplights, etc), an hour to go 6 miles seems excessive.


If it's 20km round trip that's not too bad. 20km each way is a bit much.


I read it as 20km each way, 40km total. I agree that a 10km each way trip is far more reasonable. In fact that's only slightly longer than my 5 mile bike commute, and I bet they have fewer 90F (32c) and 80% humidity days than we do here.


I read it that way, but then, that would mean there is no school within 20 km, so an empty space where schools around are separated by 40 km. I think there are very few possible spaces like that in Netherlands, or in most Western Europe. Or then we are talking about high-schools, which are more sparse.

So I guess 2x10 km is the most likely answer. And that's already a lot.


I ment 10km each way, 20km each way would feel excessive to me as well. For those cases (in dutch rural areas) there would almost always be some kind of bus service to take kids.


I think it should be shorter than an hour -- 10km is 6.25mi. I can easily walk at a 4 mph clip for a long time without getting sweaty or tired. 10km on a flat bike path should not take more than 25-30 min. Maybe add 5 min for traffic lights if there are many.


This is definitely a major factor, although even in less dense areas, biking can be useful if there's protected bike lanes/paths.


What do you consider a long trip? In my case I cycle 6.8km each way everyday, which is probably slightly above the average.


Anything longer than 30 minutes each way is probably beyond what many people would like to spend commuting. So, that's about 4-7 miles (depending on variety of conditions). Which, I gotta say, is not very far for most Americans. Most of us commute around 15 miles each way.


> Most of us commute around 15 miles each way.

The really crappy part is how much of that 15 miles is caused by car infrastructure. Imagine how much closer one might be to work if the distance were compressed, removing about 80% of all street and highway width, the entirety of all road buffer zones (highways often have several times as much of this as they have actual road), front yards (= mostly to keep house back from busy road and allow space for cars on driveway), parking lots (often several times as large as the place they're meant to serve), and so on. I'd be surprised if such compression didn't shave about half the distance off.


Just take a couple more steps, and stack things into big buildings. You'll save even more space, and get things even closer together. It would certainly be more efficient (although, also more similar to a lot of places I've chosen to avoid living in...)


I commute about 4.5km by bike(each way) twice a day, in London. It's much quicker than public transport. 12-17minutes by bike, with traffic + stop lights. I'd be looking at 30~ minutes by public transport. Even a taxi/car is likely 20 or more. Cities designed before cars are (imo) - so much nicer.


A 4 mile trip is definitely not very long. In Chicago, a fairly dense city (for the US), that would hardly get you across the central core where many many people cannot afford to live.

I have what I consider a fairly easy bicycle commute which is double that.


I regularly bike 65 km roundtrip 130 in a day, it is a good workout but nothing extreme. Flat ground really helps.


I've always enjoyed my cycling trips when I've been in the Netherlands - its just so calming and relaxing, and good for me - but without much stress. There aren't many hills, its for the most part very safe and bicyclists have a place in the transit system that feels very comfortable and, indeed 'right'. There really is something quite right about the feeling - you are getting fit, and going somewhere, and .. well, its just so easy to ride around.

After a month in the Netherlands, I always feel like going back to a car-based society is a huge step backwards. Like, there is a wall of concrete and asphalt and metal and fumes and busy-ness, and we're all just so trapped in it. Like prisoners.


I agree completely. I didn't even ride a bicycle there (I only learned how to ride recently), yet simply walking the streets of Amsterdam felt so right that I've decided to move there at least for a year. A decently-sized city without many cars is fantastic.


I had watched about a million Dutch cycling videos before I went to the Netherlands, but it's even better than the videos make it out. Cycling in the Netherlands is safe, easy, and fun. I rode around with a four-year-old and an almost-two-year-old in a cargo bike and not for a second felt any stress or fear (and my kids absolutely loved it as well, fresh air and no carseats). I can't go half a mile in Seattle without worrying about getting run over. I basically gave up on cycling in America because I can't handle the adrenaline hangover anymore.

One more thing, as great as cycling is in Amsterdam, from what I can tell, it might be the least best place to cycle in the Netherlands, so if you only cycle in Amsterdam you're not even getting the best experience.


Bike traffic in Amsterdam can be really tense at times. There are few places in the world where you get bicycle traffic jams, but Amsterdam has a few of them. And some cyclists really try to push the limits (students mostly), as do some taxi drivers.

But at other times, and especially outside the city centers, it can be very relaxing.


Cycling in Amsterdam is fun in a sort of stressy rollercoastery way. Utrecht is even worse.

If you're in the area though, I can highly recommend taking one of the many bike routes, in particular one that leads to the dunes near Amersfoort. From Amsterdam/Utrecht it's a perfect distance for a day trip and really beautiful.


The only stress I had in Amsterdam was "There are a lot of bikes here" and "Hard to pay attention to the road with all the great architecture." None of the "OMG that guy honking is going to murder me" stress you get in America.

I biked with the kids from Haarlem to Bloemendaal aan Zee. It was the best! Took me a while to figure out Bloemendaal aan Zee and Bloemendaal are different places, so there were some wrong turns, but it was fun all the way.


Why wouldn't it be?

It's faster than the tram; a bike is cheap and cycling is free; its way easier to park than a car; its healthy; there are cycle paths everywhere (inside and between cities); and everyone else does it, so you usually have company.


While cycling is obviously much, much cheaper than a car, I'd argue its a myth to say it's 'free'. Start commuting a _reasonable_ distance regularly by bike and you are going to incur running costs, as well as often not insignificant investment in essential accessories you might need depending on where you live - clothing, panniers, lights, helmets, locks...

There's a fair amount of things on a bike that, like many other mechanical things, can need looking after to keep running well - new tires and tubes, CO2 cartridges if like me you are too lazy to manually pump, chains, cassettes, lubricant, wheels (eventually), brake pads/discs. If you don't have maintenance skills for adjusting things like derailleur cable tension/brakes you will probably need to budget for shop servicing too. It's often considerably more than non-cyclists expect, and often scales with use. If you ride regularly in foul weather, many of these items need attention much more often - there's nothing like road salt to prevent ice for causing just about everything on a bicycle drive train to rust if not cleaned off.

Not doing essential maintenance like chain replacements usually just increases costs in the long term - worn chains in turn accelerate wear on the cassette etc.


I bougth a second hand bike for 40eur 5 years ago, and I only had to fix the wheel once (5 eur). Never had to buy clothes, special locks or anything fancy... I use it daily...


I think for most cities, locks and lights are unavoidable costs, if you want to stay safe and still have your bike be where you left it... Some would argue a helmet should be too, but experienced cyclists know better than to open that debate up!

Unless you live somewhere with a great climate, foul weather clothing inevitably ends up needing bought if you intend to commute all year round by bike.


I think you underestimate how much a bike is more like an umbrella or coat to us than it is a transportation vehicle. But I do agree that in places where it's more like the latter, your comment applies. The nearest equivalent I can think of in Holland is the 'scooter' (moped?).

That said, you're now making me curious to what degree this applies to other cities, even just cities that are known to be bike-friendly. In how many cities is it normal (or even possible), like in Holland, to use bikes in this ways?


I've visited Amsterdam on several occasions, and I am always amazed at the low prices you guys pay for bike stuff, especially compared to the US/UK prices I am most familiar with. I found it similarly cheap in Copenhagen as well - I guess greater demand helps drive prices down.

The style of bikes that are popular in Amsterdam and other relatively flat European cities often aren't that commonly found in many other countries in my experience - the incredibly popular in Holland 'coaster' brake design (where you stop pedaling/pedal backwards to brake) is borderline dangerous on very steep hills, but works great in flat areas, making it pretty uniquely suited to cities like Amsterdam. Similarly, you guys rarely need to bother with gears, or need so few you can use much simpler to maintain hub gear systems rather than finicky external derailleurs. I've almost never seen a new bike sold in the UK with coaster brakes, largely due to safety on hills. Similarly, it's pretty rare to see a coaster brake equipped bike in the US. I sure wouldn't want to try stopping at the bottom of a long 30% grade in San Francisco on coasters...


No one uses helmets. Most people don't use panniers either; small loads are attached to the back of the bike by the default "snelbinders" (elastic straps). Or what's really popular lately are plastic crates above the front-wheel. Locks and lights (and reflective strips on the wheels) are standard on all bikes. In cities you'd get a second lock, but that's really about it.


As for the foul weather clothing; you would need a raincoat anyhow and a pair of rain pants won't set you back that much.

I spend about €15 a month on my bicycle if I spread out the cost of purchase, clothing, and maintenance (mostly parts, I do my own maintenance, which isn't uncommon here). That's for a high quality, extra tall bicycle (I'm 2m tall) that looks presentable enough for my daily commute to work.

A student could probably manage with €3 to €8 a month.


I live in the SF bay area now which has amazing climate and I still need rain shell and pants to bike all year. Better than the snow where I grew up but you still need gear to arrive comfortably and ready to work. When I went through all the costs, bike maintenance, lights, locks, pannier, rack, it was about $300 to get setup for comfortable bike commuting.


a lock is 10 euro and a front + rear light 3 euro in a dutch supermarket. About the weather, it snows in winter and rains a lot during the year, you dont need special clothes, just whatever you would wear daily


I feel this doesn't describe my experience and that of most Dutch people I know. I'm not saying you're wrong, just that it doesn't really apply to my particular context which I think is pretty common over here. Let me elaborate:

> clothing, panniers, lights, helmets, locks...

The lock is the biggest expense for most people: in my case the lock was usually more expensive than the bike! Panniers are dirt-cheap, as are lights (if we bother, which I believe we should, but many of us don't). Helmets are not very common except for kids and high-speed cyclists. And some tourists. And nobody except for aforementioned high-speed cyclists buy special clothes. We just wear what we're wearing that day.

> There's a fair amount of things on a bike that, like many other mechanical things, can need looking after to keep running well - new tires and tubes, CO2 cartridges if like me you are too lazy to manually pump, chains, cassettes, lubricant, wheels (eventually), brake pads/discs.

It's a kind of point of pride, especially for men traditionally, to fix your own bike if you have a flat. Generally speaking the same goes for tires and chains, although we sometimes go to a bike shop for that. Often though we just keep going until the chain snaps or the bike gets too slippery on wet roads. That doesn't seem to happen much though, which perhaps has something to do with the kinds of bikes we ride and how we use them. And of course the fact that there's a decent chance that the bike will get stolen or we buy a nicer, cheap, second-hand bike in the interim.

As for brakes: most bikes don't have the squeezy-hand-style brakes that do seem to be annoyingly needy. We generally have the back-pedal style that I've never ever had to replace.

And pumps are so ubiquitous that I've never had to own one myself.


I spent less than 1k on a bicycle that I rode for about 15.000 km within the first 18 months within the city only. It was always serviced in a shop.

That makes 6ct/km (1.6 if we don't consider the bike itself) at what is still the early stage of a bicycle's lifetime.

I think that qualifies as virtually "free".


That may be true for finicky road bikes with skinny chains and tires, but a single speed/internally geared bike with a coaster brake and wide tires is pretty much maintenance free.

People in the US obsess about how many gears they have, but a bike with a straight chainline is just so much simpler and more reliable.


I completely agree, but not all of us have the legs for single speed in the places we live - 20% inclines and a single speed with something like the typical 46/17 style ratio is not going to work for a lot of riders.


Yep, I ride 48:17 (fixed gear, too) but I would never do that without clipless pedals or pedal straps.

AFAIK, most Dutch bikes are internally/hub geared with chain cases to protect it from the elements. It's a shame hub gears aren't more popular in the US.


I strongly prefer hub gears. I never could get the hang of derailleurs.


> essential accessories - clothing, panniers, lights, helmets, locks, new tires and tubes, CO2 cartridges, chains, cassettes, lubricant, wheels (eventually), brake pads/disks.

Mine came with a lock and lights. Tires last 10 years and aren't that expensive. Pumping tires has to happen a few times a year, come on. Never replaced a chain before the rest of the bike was due for replacement anyway. Never heard of anyone replacing cassettes. Lubricant is not expensive for how much it's needed (a euro a year maybe). New brake pads aren't expensive and they last years, disks last decades no idea how expensive they are (my bike from high school still doesn't need to have them replaced). Never used a pannier. Never wore a helmet that I can remember (I've had this discussion before here... I don't know anyone who wore one, nor anyone who sustained serious injury due to not wearing one). And special clothing, huh? What's wrong with the clothes you're wearing?

You're greatly exaggerating. The only expensive part is buying a good one when it's new.


You've edited my post rather substantially to suit your own end in your "quote" - at no point does my original post describe that entire list as essential - I merely gave examples of the kind of things that _can_ need maintenance.

> Tires last 10 years and aren't that expensive

> New brake pads aren't expensive and they last years

Ride 20 miles a day and lifespans like these are nigh on impossible. Especially if you have inclement weather to deal with.

> Never heard of anyone replacing cassettes.

Cassette lifespan is entirely dependent on maintenance, but if you abuse your bike you will find the derailleur starts 'jumping' on shifts after 400-600 miles or so. For me, this is every 3 or 4 months. They are designed as consumable parts, not unlike car brakes. This is one of several reasons why single speed bikes make great commuters if you can push a reasonable sized gear.

> And special clothing, huh? What's wrong with the clothes you're wearing?

What you are wearing is often not great if cycling in rain, snow or ice. Sitting at my desk in rain drenched, puddle stained clothing is never much fun. Similarly, many people understandably don't want to wear the clothes they sweated in for 10 miles on the way to work for a full day at the office...


I think the issue here is that other posters are describing things that I have no doubt are factually correct in Holland or wherever they're from. Your perspective is biking in a broader sense, and I have no reason to believe you're wrong about that. It's just very different from the specific situation in Holland: we rarely have snow or ice, and while it might seem like a rainy country, it's usually rain showers interspersed with dry periods. We take that into account in our bike rides, just as we do the public transit timetable.


> Cassette lifespan is entirely dependent on maintenance, but if you abuse your bike you will find the derailleur starts 'jumping' on shifts after 400-600 miles or so. For me, this is every 3 or 4 months.

Uh? What? :-)

I've done 10.000 km with my current cassette and chain, and it is still working OK. One gear starts sliding a bit when I put too much power, so I might check the chain one day, or maybe next year. I have a spare cassette sitting somewhere (it's been sitting there for a couple of years already), but I cannot be bothered to change it yet.

That's 10 to 15 times your numbers. According to them, I should have had troubles with my cassette after a 3-day trip with 200 km per day :-)

And compared to many people, I am not very cautious with my bike.


I commute daily, and I can count the number of times I've put on my rain pants in any year on one hand. A bit of rain just means my jeans get a bit damp; nothing that won't fix itself long before lunchtime. Other than that, what special clothing is there? I have a raincoat, and a winter coat, but I would own them even if I didn't ride a bicycle.

Most modern Dutch commuters bikes are either single speed, or three/seven-speed without a derailleur; instead the gears are housed inside of the rear wheel's nave. This makes them well protected and very durable. My seven year old bicycle is still on its first three-speed gear set.

Come to think of it, all I've replaced thus far is the chain (which will need replacing again in a year or so) one light bulb, the elastic bungee cords for luggage, and a spring for my saddle.


My impression is that Dutch city bikes are designed to not need much maintenance. They have hub gears so no derailleurs or cassettes. They have chain guards and internal gears mean less need for lubrication. They have drum brakes so no brake pads.


You should be getting 10x that mileage out of a cassette - replacement after less than a thousand miles sounds awfully unusual.


If you ride a racing bike (which is more common in the US), all of that stuff actually is necessary. Also, in the US, a bike is seen either as a kids' toy or as sports equipment, not as an appliance.


this is kind of ridiculous. most people in NL commute on shitty cheap bikes just fine. obviously, not much maintenance will go into such a cheap bike. Sure, in America it's more common to "ball out" on your commuter rig, but that's not necessary.


Helmets? This is the Netherlands we are talking about. Not a low bicycle nation like the USA or Australia. All the other stuff is superfluous also and tends to be limited to places like the USA (you don't see a lot of people in Netherlands with special biking clothes, for example, and they are definitely commuting!).


I'm guessing you don't live in a bike friendly country.


None of these costs have anything to do with location. It was the same when I lived in Copenhagen - arguably doesn't get bike friendlier than that!


One thing I (a Dutchman) noticed while in Copenhagen is that all the bicycles I saw were quite fancy! I spend less on bikes than I do on my shoes, and I don't spend a lot on shoes. Of course, you can splurge, but it's very doable to do what I do: buy a second-hand bike for about €50 every two years, and now and then spend a few Euro's on a repair kit to fix a flat tyre. (Or a few more to have someone do it.)


My bike was about €60 in Copenhagen, and other than some ~€4 supermarket lights (after I accidentally smashed the built-in one into a bike rack) I haven't spent anything on it.

It looks roughly the same as most of the bikes in the racks at home, at work and around the city.

If you visited people in the suburbs, it's more likely they own nicer bikes. Or, you might see people riding nice bikes at the weekend.


In general, the better the infrastructure is, the easier it is to get away with a crappy, crappily maintained bike. And the less you need bike-specific clothing, too.


No one in Netherlands use helmet and they bike in ordinary cloth - exactly the same they use in office.


The cycle paths aren't there by accident, they represent a decades of investment cycling.


> its way easier to park than a car

On the other hand it’s also easier to get a bike stolen than a car.


Anecdotal: I've had more cars than bikes stolen (6 cars, two bikes if you include my daughter's).


I found some data for the UK: each year, ~2.7M cars are sold [1], and ~70k stolen [2]. In the same time, 3.5M bikes are sold [3], and 400k stolen [4]. In France, there are ~1.8M cars sold [7] vs ~110k cars stolen each year [5]; 2.8M bikes sold [7] vs. 400k bikes stolen [6]. Meanwhile, in Montreal, half of all active cyclists have their bike stolen [8].

    [1]: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-38516247
    [2]: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/transport/11558743/Number-of-cars-stolen-in-the-UK-falls-to-48-year-low.html
    [3]: http://www.cyclinguk.org/resources/cycling-uk-cycling-statistics#How many people cycle and how often?
    [4]: http://www.cyclist.co.uk/news/412/bicycle-crime-statistics
    [5]: http://www.lefigaro.fr/automobile/2015/10/29/30002-20151029ARTFIG00145-en-france-300-voitures-sont-volees-chaque-jour.php
    [6]: http://www.veloperdu.fr/statistiques
    [7]: http://transports.blog.lemonde.fr/2014/04/07/10-chiffres-meconnus-sur-leconomie-florissante-du-velo/
    [8]: https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2014/04/these-8-depressing-bike-theft-statistics-show-just-how-bad-problem/8890/


Lived in Montreal off and on over the years, mostly summer. 4 bikes stolen, the first two were pretty nice road bikes; lesson learned. Now I just pick up a beater off of Craigslist along with a thick chain link lock.

If you leave a bike out over night there's a good chance it will be gone in the morning.

Great biking city, however.


6 cars stolen! You live in Mogadishu or something?


I recently bought an electric "bakfiets" [0], While in the city I never use the car anymore, the bakfiets is faster (24 kph + bike routes are always shorter in the city), can carry all groceries and 2 kids (1 in a Maxi Cosi) and I'm outside getting some exercise. It gets about 100 km on 1 charge (the less lazy you are the more km you get) and I can park it anywhere for free. It also lets me bike with my 4 y/o anywhere, when he gets tired he and his bike go into the bakfiets easily. These things are getting insanely popular nowadays, for good reasons. Now if only I would pay car taxes based on my mileage (kilometerage) instead of the weight of the car it would be a nice financial solution as well.

[0] https://www.keilerfietsen.nl/product/keiler-bambini/


Its a combination of reasons:

- Netherlands is compact (10km from town to town, bikable)

- Netherlands is flat

- Cities are old, and are not easy to navigate with cars

- Cars are expensive

- Infrastructure is in place (everywhere!)

- Bikes are cheap

- Biking is healthy

- Biking is often faster in cities for <10km distances (better routes, no searching for parking place)

Note: If you want bikelanes in your city/country: Just start biking, the more and more people are biking, the more politics is forced to build infra. This is happening in Paris, Latvia, and more!


The climate is pretty convenient as well. No snow storms or heat waves, you only need a good rain suit :)


There's a heat wave happening right now though, 30 degrees+ (celsius) and damp, really not pleasant weather to go cycling.


Bicycles are an amazing transportation tool. Why are they so unpopular everywhere else?


Bike infrastructure in most countries is generally very bad compared to car infrastructure, or even walking infrastructure. This leads to not many people cycling, which gives you a chicken and egg problem: few cyclists mean little political support for biking.

For cars in the US it's the opposite: even when major cities get big enough to where cars clearly aren't scaling well anymore, cities are often reluctant to refactor car space for walking, biking, or transit, because a majority of current travelers go by car.


>Bike infrastructure in most countries is generally very bad compared to car infrastructure...

My city just created a law that motorists who don't leave a 1m gap between their vehicle and bike will be fined.

The problem is the "bike lane" is just a picture of a bike on what used to be the paved shoulder, the 30cm wide paved shoulder. And the biked lane can narrow down to nothing in some places. And it often includes vehicle parking in the same bike lane.

The roads here are very narrow here too so much that you have to drive into the other lane to get that 1m gap. If there is traffic coming the other way you as a driver of a vehicle have no choice but to crawl along behind a bike, even worse if it's two bikes side-by-side.

I am a bike rider and a vehicle owner but I can't agree with the law there is just no room. It absolves the bicyclist of everything and blames vehicle drivers for everything.


No, it absolves the forward operator of everything and blames the rearward operator for everything.

You often can't pass another motorist without going into the oncoming lane either.

The fundamental question is whether you see the road as a way for all people, or if you see it as primarily a resource for the wealthy, with the poor allowed provisional access based on their degree of disturbance to the flow of money.

You seem to see denying wealthy motorists the right to travel at their preferred speed as a more serious issue than denying the poor the right to safe travel in any form.


Wealthy? I don't see how that got into the discussion. In the winter when it's -20C and snowing here nobody bikes.

Actually no my concern is there is no room! The width of the road is barely enough for one vehicle leaving maybe 30cm on either side. Making a law to demand 1m (100cm) separation seems to ignore reality, and math.

Also, I could be ahead of a bicyclist and he can overtake me but I am now required by law to make room as he overtakes to my right. Even if there is a vehicle to my left I have to move over or be fined.

I understand the purpose of the law but it is poorly written.


I agree with your reasoning about preferential road usage, but would have preferred it without the economic diatribe. Two unpowered wheels does not necessarily imply poorer than four powered wheels. Relative wealth is an irrelevance to your main argument about preferential speed.


I would also bet, the the average car driver on a road is less rich than the average bike rider on a road.


I am guessing you are in Melbourne. Melbourne has very wide roads, perfect for cycling, much better than Sydney. Now that places has narrow roads.

It also has awesome weather for cycling all year round.

People are just hard to change.


No. The chicken and egg problem existed when cars where the new thing and roads where designed for people on feet, bikes, cable cars, trams and horses.

Then car companies did a lot of lobbying.



You are correct, but that doesn't mean we don't have also have a chicken and egg problem now. The thing is that there's a lot less of a bike lobby in 2017 than there was a car lobby back in those days.


There are many factors, but IMO it has a lot to do with urban sprawl. I'd never consider living somewhere where I'd have to own a car to be able to do my groceries and to go work. In the same idea, I'd never take a job that requires me to do more than a 30 minutes commute by public transportation/biking distance. That makes me a perfect candidate for biking, unfortunately I'm more of an outlier. Most people, including my own family, would think that this way of thinking makes no sense. They all own a car (or two) and have an hour commute each way to be able to afford a bigger house/different lifestyle than they could in the city. Just look at any suburbs: the inhabitants clearly disagree with me.


> Just look at any suburbs: the inhabitants clearly disagree with me.

Some of us just have kids and have noticed that all the city housing is either incredibly expensive or in slums, and the schools in the city proper are dangerous and terrible so we'd also have to pay for private school[0]. And we're not made of money.

I'd much rather live in the city—I hate the car-centric lifestyle—but living there if I have enough money not to but not enough money to also pay for private k-12 schooling would be irresponsible. Plus there's the issue of having to balance commutes for two people in a dual-income household—one of us would almost certainly need a car anyway.

[0] This is true for my city at least. YMMV.


It's definitely a choice and I wasn't implying it's a bad one. Everyone has different priorities, like you said it could be kids or something else. All I'm saying is that it's those choices that make urban sprawl a thing and reduces the effectiveness of living car-free. I'd buy a car in an instant if I had to, and I consider myself lucky not to have to right now.

Not all suburban cities are equal either, some makes it possible not to have to commute by car (at least near where I live).


That's a chicken-and-egg problem too... inner-city schools suck because everyone with money took their taxes to the suburbs (for better schools).


Well, more to the point they took their bound-to-be-good-students-on-average children to the suburbs. If you do it right (i.e. you don't make a bad choice and get ripped off) you're buying your kids' peers more than anything else by paying to live in more affluent districts or (more directly) by paying private school tuition. This is why pouring money into poor districts rarely does much to educational quality—the money's coincident with other factors that make rich(er) kids easy to teach and relatively unlikely to seriously disrupt class on a regular basis, miss large numbers of school days, et c, and just giving the schools more money doesn't fix all that other stuff.

So it's still a chicken/egg problem but a much tougher one to resolve than if schools having too little money were even a large part of the trouble. It's even a shitty situation for people who can afford to get their kids into better schools because there's pressure under this system to spend absolutely as much as you can on these things, because you will definitely be improving your kids' chances in life by doing so.

It's a craptastic coordination problem that's so bad things would kind of be better if we just assigned schools based on some combination of parental income and education level, since that'd put most kids more or less where they are when we use willingness-and-ability-to-spend-money as a proxy for those things (i.e. the current system) while keeping everyone from having to waste tons of money competing over blessed zip codes or paying private school tuition.


That's a well-put perspective.

... however...

I can't even picture the political shitstorm that would happen if someone suggested (openly) segregating schools by parental income and education level.


Oh, I know it's not politically feasible and is fairly horrible. It's damning of our current system, though, that it's de facto very nearly the same thing and also incredibly expensive/stressful.


There are competitive admission public high schools in some cities but this isn't a very common concept.


> That's a chicken-and-egg problem too... inner-city schools suck because everyone with money took their taxes to the suburbs (for better schools).

Well, yes, but more to the point inner city schools suck in outcome terms because outcomes are driven more by parental educational attainment and other non-school factors (income is mostly irrelevant except that it correlated with parental education, and tax base is irrelevant as shown by the fact thst the problem is not particularly attenuated in states that equalize per pupil spending statewide, so that taking your tax money elsewhere has only a very weak effect on school funding) than by anything schools do, and no one has found (and most of the efforts of standardizing what schools do in the expectations of consistent outcomes detracts from the search for) interventions that address deficiencies in this area.

To fix inner city (or “poor rural” or other “problem” schools) you have to either first fix or, at least, find interventions that break the cyclical nature of the underlying social inequalities that actually cause the poor outcomes.


To add to that, and as an example, I live in a (moderately) low-income immigrant enclave in a (very) expensive city with (very) poor school outcomes. There are lots of families with little kids on my block. Just about every night, weeknights included, those kids are out in the streets/sidewalks playing until 12-2am.


Money spent on education correlates very poorly with educational quality at k-12 level. (This may be different a the college level.) Parental involvement and other factors are much stronger indicators.


As a sibling of yours pointed out, the presence of affluent peers makes a big difference.


Look, I know you don't know me as some kind of education expert, but I homeschooled my gifted-learning disabled sons for a lot of years and I was Director of Community Life at TAGFAM for a brief period and I know whereof I speak here. Those peers are almost certainly not just affluent, they are almost certainly also well read, well spoken and well educated.

Money easily grows out of being well educated, assuming there aren't other barriers to accomplishment. You have the cause and effect relationship here backwards.


Really not trying to disparage you, but I think there's room to allow the cause and effect to go in both directions.

Since parental involvement is a really good proxy for wealth, and, as you point out, parental involvement correlates strongly with educational outcomes, wealthy children tend to have better educational outcomes.

However (and take it from a gifted and learning disabled person) the presence of better-educated (and more academically invested) students in a classroom can be a rising tide that brings up the more marginal students.

Overall, I don't think we actually disagree. Education is well-correlated with wealth. Parental involvement (given that parents who are able to be involved are more likely to be able to do that and stay financially functional) effectively "counts" as money spent on education, especially since it indirectly helps the entire cohort.

It takes a village.

Sidenote: > assuming there aren't other barriers to accomplishment

In my neck of the world, poverty counts.


Actually, parental involvement tends to correlate to the middle class. Some studies show there is as much neglect and drug abuse in upper class neighborhoods as in the ghetto. Two career couples do not necessarily do a good a job of finding time for the kids. It is solidly middle class families that tend to do a good job of covering essentials while also having time for the family.

It is more complicated than that. Some other factors are: Schools in "college towns" tend to be better and "neighborhood schools" where less than 5% of the kids are bussed in and the rest live in walking distance also do better than average.

I am not saying poverty is not a problem. I am saying that spending per capita on students in public schools does not have a good track record for correlating well to student outcomes.

Also, if you look at "The Tipping Point," it indicates that poor neighborhoods where middle class and better people are a certain percentage of the population fair much, much better than poor neighborhoods where those people drop below a certain percentage of the population. The lack of adequate "wisdom" being readily available seems to do more harm than lack of money per se. When it falls below a certain threshold, things rapidly come unraveled and you see crime and other problems shoot through the roof.

We are not doing such a great job of creating community in the world today.

I am not saying money doesn't matter. But I do believe that there are a lot of things that matter more and that cannot be solve by simply throwing money at the problem. Hopefully, that makes more sense.


"inner-city schools suck because everyone with money took their taxes to the suburbs (for better schools)."

Let's not beat around the bush; this happened back in the day because they took their taxes to the suburbs for mostly white schools.


Or maybe they're just not rich. Because you have to be rich to live--and especially to buy--in most cities' walkable parts in the US. Not even just middle class but upper class. And even if you can afford it, it often doesn't make financial sense. For less than a studio or one bedroom, I can get a 5 bedroom house 20 minutes away by car. And I don't have to pay extreme HOA fees, essentially private taxes. I hate driving / would love to walk places too. I just can't afford it.


I agree with you 100%. Owning a car is a horrible solution for me.


In the US, the problem is nationalism.

See, we have a national costume that happens to be a 2 ton motorized suit of armor. And if you aren't wearing it, your loyalty is suspect.


I live in the bay area and I mostly hesitate to use my bike more due to theft and/or some areas where there are many cars and stoplights. I have a big thick U lock which will probably keep it fairly safe at least in the suburbs. It takes some of the enjoyment out of it to carry the 5+ lb. thing though.


Car makers indoctrinated a lot of people.


The (unconscious) ideology is so strong that publishing "Why aren't all cities optimized for public transport plus cycling?" would be considered too edgy.


Not anymore though. Today cities are trying to push back.


I wish that were true here in the Denver area. Unfortunately we have to deal with stuff like this: http://denver.streetsblog.org/2017/06/08/greenwood-village-v...

And this: http://denver.streetsblog.org/2017/06/05/broadway-redo-sidew...


That's just stupid. Looks like these people are paid by car makers.


Search YouTube for "rolling coal", and see how many videos involve cyclists.

Like many things in life, douchebags tend to ruin good things.

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