Pump It Up

FietspompIf you’re new to the Netherlands and not used to the ingrained bicycle culture, you could be excused for seeing one of these barrels with a plunger on top and being a bit nervous. Visions of Wile E. Coyote may dance through your head.

Fear not, though, as these barrels are simply bicycle tire pumps (fietspompen). With 14 million bicycles trips made in the Netherlands each day — for work, school, shopping, and general transport — it’s not surprising that bicycle pumps are required from time to time.

Typically, most bicycle shops have a regular pump available for use if you’re out and realize your tires are getting a bit flat. However, the pumps are usually only available during opening hours. What do you do on a Sunday or when the bicycle shop is closed?

To solve that problem, Duco Douwstra, a successful taxi driver from Vleuten, has spent his own money to have these pumps placed around town.ย There are also tire repair kits attached to make them even more useful. To make them harder to steal, the pumps are built into barrels weighing close to 100 kilos/220 pounds.

To help pay for additional pumps and to keep them stocked, Douwstra hopes to raise funds by letting businesses purchase advertising space on the barrels. So far, I know of at least three on the eastern side of town: Janskerkhof, the corner of Biltstraat and Wittevrouwensingel (pictured), and another next to the Albert Heijn on Nachtegaalstraat. Have you seen more around town or in other cities?


11 thoughts on “Pump It Up

    • Thanks for tweeting the post! LOTS of RTs and views. Hopefully the info will be useful to visitors, incoming students, and expats, as well as locals. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • And it was just one person who organized it, not even the local government. Even better, it was a taxi driver who wants to make life easier for bike riders rather than complaining about them.

    • I can’t remember the last time I saw a bike with a pump. We’ve only purchased second-hand bikes, but I can’t even remember seeing bikes with pumps on display in shop windows. As Pauline said, I suspect they tend to be victims of theft.

      • A lot of more modern bikes tend to have them, those little black handpumps that click onto the middle bar of the bike. Oma fietsen/granny bikes always have a curved bar so they don’t tend to have a pump because they don’t fit (plus they clash with the old-fashioned design).

        But yes, sadly they tend to get stolen. Like plastic flowers and nice saddle bags/saddle rain covers. It’s a hard life for a pretty bike in this country ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. Finally! I’ve been waiting for something like this for years. The little plastic pumps that come with the bike (if it’s a new bike anyway, my 2nd hand bikes never had one) are pretty useless and get stolen within days anyway and bike shops only have a pump available when they’re open. I have been stranded more than a few times over the years with a near-flat tire so this is a great initiative.

      • I honestly don’t know how this hasn’t been done before, now that I’ve seen it. Free 24-hour available bike pumps, it seems such an obvious thing to have in a bike-mad country yet they didn’t exist until now. Hope this catches on everywhere!

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