Posts Tagged ‘Netherlands’

Total freedom… ‘Dam, this would never work in London

October 29, 2015
There's no limits.

There’s no limit.

A couple of weeks ago, to take a break from riding my bike, I travelled with Jen to a city that is synonymous with cycling. As first-time visitors to Amsterdam, we soon learned to walk in single file whenever a cyclist came towards us on one of the narrow paths by the canals. Here, the bike is king: cyclists aren’t bound by red lights, and every day we were doing the Tourist Safety Dance, stepping off the kerb and back on it again to avoid clusters of cyclists barrelling along the road, then repeating the steps a few times until there was a gap in the two-wheeled traffic big enough for us to reach the other side. We didn’t mind playing Frogger and it looked like no one else does either. Humans, unlike arcade amphibians, are natural adaptors. That’s why they’ve been around so long.

But bike culture, like any other type of culture, isn’t an exportable product that can be bundled on a plane and flown back to London. Almost every Amsterdammer rides shopping bikes, which means everyone travels at roughly the same speed, making it relatively simple for pedestrians to dodge them (even though they’re going somewhat faster than you might expect a clunky sit-up-and-beg to move). I think the speeds of London’s cyclists are simply too varied for this Amsterdanarchy to work.

Indeed, the Dutch capital is a million miles from the world of Britain’s serious recreational cyclist. I could count the number of drop handlebars we saw on the fingers of one hand, and a large newsagent we stumbled upon which stocked a considerable selection of magazines from every consumer sector you can think of – home and garden, music, video games, children’s titles, you name it – had only a tiny selection of titles covering cycle sport.

Riding a bike in London is an act of rejecting the limits placed on your movement by motor traffic and, to a lesser extent, public transport. It is expressive, individualistic, maybe even (in the most antisocial cases) transgressive. In Amsterdam, where I saw a beaming little girl perched on the front of her dad’s bike as we walked to the Hermitage museum, cycling is a shared culture. To get to that point, London cyclists would need to compromise the way they ride, which would be a change more significant than any road-building, law-changing or investment in infrastructure. Would we ever be prepared to make that leap?    

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The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #6

May 13, 2011

5 UP Alessandro Petacchi
Sound the conspiracy theory klaxon! The Giro d’Italia’s commissaires ruled in favour of their countryman Alessandro Petacchi on Sunday, even though the ageing fastman clearly weaved around like an inebriated pensioner for the final 200 metres of the second stage to edge out an irate Mark Cavendish. It’s their national race, so it stands to reason that them Italians would show no sympathy towards a foreigner, yeah? Well, not quite: leafing through The DYNAMITE! Files’ bumper book of bike facts, it seems Paolo Bettini was disqualified in similar circumstances at the 2005 Giro, although on that occasion the English-speaking sprint rival – Baden Cooke – actually ended up going ‘a’ over ‘t’. Well, Cav, if that’s what it takes for the race officials to make the right decision…

4 DOWN The Associated Press
Sound the conspiracy theory klaxon again! But a bit louder this time! The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the federal investigation into alleged doping carried out by Lance Armstrong’s US Postal team has uncovered “corruption to the core”. But don’t get too excited just yet: AP’s source is “a person familiar with the investigation”, which sounds like it could be any of us, depending on how you define “familiar”. Still, at least the news agency has uncovered a mystery that has long perplexed some of its more unintelligent American readers: apparently it was “in France where Armstrong became famous by winning the Tour de France seven straight times”. So that’s how the race got its name!

3 UP Caravans
And speaking of mysteries, The DYNAMITE! Files was left to ponder the possible purpose of a scruffy caravan which we spotted parked next to the VIP entrance of the Manchester Velodrome on Saturday evening. It must be there for a reason, because British track cycling is all about the aggregation of marginal gains, isn’t it? Our theory: when the pressure of all that aggregating gets too much, this is where Dave Brailsford goes for a bit of “me” time. With his spreadsheets and cocoa. And a clipboard.

2 DOWN Boris Johnson
Securing his record third appearance in our weekly rundown, Boris Johnson turned up half an hour late at a Hillingdon school for the launch of the latest Sky Ride cycling event because he, er, choose to take the tube instead of using his bike. Maybe the Mayor of London was afraid of getting a flat. The Uxbridge Gazette revealed: “A few of the children showed the mayor how to find and fix a puncture in an inner tube. Charlotte Masters, aged nine, said: ‘I think he understood it.'” Let’s hope so, eh?

1 UP Doutzen Kroes
After this week’s tragic events, the Giro needed some sort of light-hearted moment to soften the mood – and Cycling Weekly duly obliged yesterday with the romantic tale of the underwear model and the professional cyclist. If CW is to be believed, blonde hottie Doutzen Kroes and race leader Pieter Weening could soon be an item, chiefly because the two of them hail from the same Dutch city and she tweeted the word “lokwinske” – which apparently means “congratulations” in their native tongue. Now, the DYNAMITE! Files is a big fan of the whole romantical-getting-together thing, but is one word tweeted to a third party ample grounds to conclude that she’s likely to call him? Remember, CW: if poor Pieter’s heart gets broken, you will be the ones to blame.