Junk in the Trunk

bicycle basket
Wednesday, I showed you a bakfiets, useful for carting around kids, groceries, pets, household goods, etc. The ability to transport more than just yourself from place to place is an important part of making cycling an everyday mode of transport, rather than just a sport. Of course, if a regular bakfiets is a bit too big for your needs, you can always go with something a bit more streamlined. Plenty of space for groceries and small pets in that plastic bucket on the bike above.

However, if you’re regularly transporting large items, you might need something with a bit more storage space. Fortunately, there’s a bike for that. Who needs a truck when you’ve got the bakfiets XL!
bike transport
I’ve seen these used for a variety of purposes. Cornering might be a bit more difficult, but you can certainly fit plenty of stuff in there!

However, many of us make do with a normal bike and a regular basket up front and/or saddle bags on the back. It’s surprising just how much you can get on a regular omafiets. And for the slightly bulkier or more awkward items like brooms and storage containers? Well, just hang on to them like these women are doing.
bike transport

The Importance of Bike Lanes

Urban Utrecht
Last night, while scrolling through Twitter, I came across a post with a picture of a bike lane in New Orleans. It was a post celebrating Bike to Work Day. Great, right?

Noooooooooooooo!

As I looked more closely at the photo, I realized that the very wide bike lane was in fact meant for both bicycles and buses. Yes, buses. And it turns out the lane can also be used by cars turning right at an intersection or driveway. It seems it’s the first combo bus-and-bike lane, but that implies that there might be more in the future. I hope not.

In looking at other photos of New Orleans bike lanes, there are a few lanes that are strictly bicycle lanes, but they do stop and start and it looks like they often are right next to street parking or have no separation from regular car lanes, presenting its own issues. For proper safety, they should be more consistent and they should never combine with buses! That seems like the worst combination. Ever! Big buses and little bicycles are an accident waiting to happen.

As you’ll see in my picture above, all of the lanes in the part of Utrecht near the theater and shopping mall are strictly segregated. One of the times in life when segregation is a good thing. Bicycles have their own wide lanes on each side of the road, with plenty of space separating them from the bus/vehicle lanes.

It’s not like that on every street here, or even exactly the same on that same street as it continues. In some areas where the street narrows, there isn’t the same gap between road and cycle lane, but there is still clear/raised definition between the two areas.
Street Life
On other streets, such as Voorstraat, there’s a segregated bicycle lane in one direction, though in the other direction, bicycles share the space with cars and deal with parked cars. Not ideal, but cars generally make way for bicycles.
Voorstraat
Of course, car traffic is also discouraged in much of the city center here in Utrecht. Many roads are one way or generally limited primarily to buses. But that’s not the case everywhere, and even just outside the city center, where car traffic is heavier, you still have separate bicycle lanes to keep cyclists safe and encourage them to keep cycling along major roads.

It’s great to see bicycle lanes showing up more frequently in New Orleans, as it would be a great city to cycle in. It’s a doable size in terms of distances and terrain, especially if there were consistent lanes to speed up the trips. I do hope the city continues to add more bicycle lanes, but I hope they rethink combining them with buses and other vehicles. They really should look to other countries where cycling is more integrated to better understand how to make it safe for everyone involved.

As always, if you’re interested in learning more about Dutch cycling, check out Mark’s blog, Bicycle Dutch. He’s got plenty of details, history, and information about how it all came about and how it can and does continue to improve.

Earth Day|Bike Life

Fine-art Fiets
As today is Earth Day, what better time to celebrate the oh-so-useful bakfiets. Obviously, it’s environmentally friendly, requiring only pedal power. No fossil fuels required for daily running. More importantly, for anyone who complains about cycling not being convenient when you have to do lots of shopping, carting around kids, etc., here’s a handy solution. (Although, anyone who does complain hasn’t seen just how many people and shopping bags the average Dutch person can fit on a regular bicycle.) One day I saw a family of five and a dog on one bakfiets. It can be done.

The bakfiets is used for everything from the daily school run to moving home. Seriously! With a bit of rope and some extra hands, the bakfiets is surprisingly useful when moving just about anything, judging from some of the things I’ve seen carted around town on one, including potted trees and mattresses.

And as the one pictured here shows, you can add your own personal touch to the paint job, making it easier to find and perhaps less likely to be stolen. Plus, it just looks so much cooler than a minivan.

Happy Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas
Today is St. Nicholas Day, when all the Sinterklaas celebrations come to a sugar-filled finale. I missed the Sint’s intocht (arrival) this year and I think I’m being punished for it with a cold that won’t go away. No gifts for me this pakjesavond, except maybe a neti pot. If you’re celebrating, I hope you get some lekkere pepernoten or kruidnoten or a chocolate letter.

(Correction, 6 December is St. Nicholas Day. The Dutch celebrate St. Nicholas Eve, so to speak, on 5 December.)
Red BalloonPepernoten

Wild Bicycle Parking in Utrecht

Bike Parking Along the DriftDespite the number of official spots for bicycle parking in the city, ranging from indoor parking to your typical outdoor bike rack, wild parking (I like the literal translation of wildgeparkeerde) is still the norm. It’s not surprising, considering the number of bicycles in the Netherlands outnumbers people, not to mention the whole point of cycling is the convenience it offers. If you’re out running a quick errand, you don’t want to park your bike blocks from where you’re going, just to park in a designated spot. Of course, there aren’t always that many designated spots, either.
Bike Parking Along the Drift
The Drift canal runs is lined with university buildings, including a library, so it’s no surprise that it’s a popular destination for people on bike. Students and faculty alike spend plenty of time in the area. However, offhand, I can’t think of that many convenient outdoor bicycle parking areas nearby. I think the newly renovated library probably has some underground parking now, but there’s still plenty of wild parking happening up and down the canal. So much so, in fact, that signs have to be put up on some of the bridges to prohibit bikes being parked there. With varying degrees of success.
Bike Parking Along the Drift
Some people really dislike the mass of bikes that pile up and they can be inconvenient at times, but overall, I don’t mind them. I’ll take huge swathes of bikes over cars any day! Plus, it can be quite picturesque in its own way. A row of lamps, a sea of bicycles, charming buildings, and a Gothic cathedral to top it all off.
Bike Parking Along the Drift

Now Where Did I Park My Bike?

Fietsenstalling
Just a small section of some of the bike parking near the station. They’ve added new indoor bicycle parking since I took these photos in January. That holds approximately 4500 bicycle parking spaces in a three-storey, automated lot under the station. They’re building more bicycle parking to hold roughly another 12,500. All of this is to help get rid of this “ocean of bikes“, though it sometimes seems that as soon as a new parking garage is built, it’s already full. Still, imagine if all of these represented cars. You can see a small overview of the area I photographed in this photo. The massive above-ground parking is partially seen on the right.
Fietsenstalling
Fietsenstalling
Fietsenstalling
Fietsenstalling
Fietsenstalling
Fietsenstalling
Fietsenstalling

Utrecht One of the World’s Most Bike-Friendly Cities

Bike Paths
A couple of days ago, CNN posted an article listing the most bike-friendly cities in the world. As they point out, the majority of the cities are found in northwest Europe, with the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark among those with the largest infrastructure to make cycling a safe, daily experience.

Obviously, the Netherlands was bound to have a city or 20 in the list, but amazingly, they focused on Utrecht, rather than Amsterdam. As they rightly point out, Amsterdam may often top these kinds of lists, but the number of tourists — on foot, and on wobbly bike — make cycling in Amsterdam much more challenging. On the other hand, Utrecht, which has no shortage of people cycling every day, doesn’t have quite the same influx of uncertain tourists. We do, however, have an extensive system of spacious, segregated bike paths, not to mention a reduction in the number of cars driving in the binnenstad (city center) itself. The car is being phased out and more support for bicycles is being developed.

As the article points out:

In its center, up to 50% of all journeys take place in the saddle and local authorities are building a 12,500-space cycle parking facility billed as the world’s biggest.

That 12,500 bicycle parking garage is hardly the only one in town. It’s going to be by the train station where there are already a number of massive bicycle parking lots. There are others located throughout the city, both indoors and outdoors, as I’ve posted about in the past. I think tomorrow my Wordless Wednesday post will be some of the outdoor parking by the train station. After all, many people take the train to work, but cycle to and from the station to their home and work.

As the article also mentions, people of all ages cycle here. Going to school, going to work, going shopping, going to see friends … everyone rides a bike. Men in suits, women in skirts and heels, and everything in between, with not a helmet to be seen. The system is set up to make cycling safe and easy, and obviously it works if half of all journeys here are by bike, rain or shine.
Convey Motion
Bike Lane
Winter Sunlight
Pretty as a Picture

Happy Fourth, America

Stars and Stripes
Between working two jobs and preparing for the Wittevrouwenfeest tomorrow, American Independence Day has gotten a bit lost in the mix. Yet being able to celebrate multiple holidays and important events is one of the perks of being an expat/immigrant. Although we won’t be doing the traditional barbecuing this year, I have made some potato salad (a traditional July 4th side dish) for lunch today. It’s the little things in life. :)

One of the things that stood out to me on my trip back to the US last year was the number of American flags I saw everywhere — homes, businesses, churches, etc. This is nothing new, but after spending a number of years here in the Netherlands where the flag is only flown on specific dates, it really stood out. Just a short walk through my parents’ neighborhood revealed a number of flags, and this motor inn up in the mountains of North Carolina certainly wasn’t going to have anyone questioning its patriotism!
Stars and Stripes
So, Happy Fourth of July to my fellow Americans and happy Friday to everyone else! By the way, if you’re in Utrecht this weekend, Biltstraat and the Wittevrouwen neighborhood are having a big block party. We’ll be representing Vino Veritas there, so come by and say hi, and try some of our Italian wine and food. Or come by today and enjoy the sunshine on our terrace (or cool off inside). Either way, I’ve really enjoyed meeting so many of my readers so far!
Stars and Stripes
Stars and Stripes
Stars and StripesStars and StripesPatriotism and ConsumerismPatriotic

Dutch Window Seat

DSC06291Things have been a bit quiet around here, haven’t they. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, I’ve just been a bit busy. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get a chance to explain more. For now, as it’s Wednesday and I usually just post a photo anyway, enjoy this shot of a sight you’ll see quite often in many cities, not just Utrecht.

You may be familiar with traditional window seats — the kind where you sit inside, next to a window. Here, you’re just as likely to see legs dangling out from windows high and low. If the weather if nice, the windows will be open and you won’t have to look far to see someone taking advantage of it all. In this case, it was a nice day and there was a rowing competition taking place. This guy had an excellent view of the action taking place on the Oudegracht.

Here are a couple of other photos I’ve taken over the years of people sitting in windows.

ETA: Oh, yeah, it turns out today also marks six years since the day we moved to the Netherlands. We had nicer weather that day. Gefeliciteerd, G! Bedankt voor de avonturen!
Window Seat [Day 63/365]Watching the Arrivals