The Missing Nave

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This is a different view of the St. Martin’s Cathedral than I usually get, but it does give you a better sense of just how big the cathedral was when it was complete (or close enough). The part that remains is the transept (the part that essentially forms the arms of the cross of many churches) and the apse (the usually rounded bit at the top of the cross/church). As I’ve explained before, the nave (or main body of the cathedral) was destroyed in a storm in the 1600s. It reached all the way to the Domtoren, which is just out of sight on the far left of the photo. Seeing the church from this angle really does give a better sense of just how big it was and just how much was lost in the storm.

Plus, bonus bakfiets (the sort of wheelbarrow bike) on the right!

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

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.

Is It Legal? Dutch Cycling Raises Eyebrows in London

Bakfiets
Every once in a while, I’m reminded that the cycling culture here really is different to many (most) countries. Things we take for granted raise eyebrows elsewhere.

Just last night, I was watching the Travel Channel and saw a short segment between programs, with a motorcyclist going on about his love of bicycling and how if he’s not on his motorcycle, he’s on a bike. As he rode around a picturesque village — in Lycra, wearing a helmet, and on a more race-style bicycle — it struck me how different things are here. No one thinks twice about cycling and it’s not just for pleasure or exercise; it’s a valid form of daily transportation. As for the mode of dress, Lycra, et al. are only worn by people who actually race or at least ride for sport, often with groups of friends. Here, people of all ages, in all types of clothing, ride for a variety of purposes.
Convey Motion
The differences were driven home yet again this morning when I saw an article about how a man in London was pulled over while taking his two girls to school in a bakfiets (see top photo). The police questioned the legality of the bicycle and the Daily Mail (admittedly, not a surprise that they’d not exactly get the story straight) referred to the bicycle as a “rickety wheelbarrow bike”, ignoring the fact that the bikes are sturdy, specifically designed, and cost more than €1000 easily. This is not a thrown-together mishmash of bike and garden tool.

The man, who has been taking his girls to school in the bakfiets for four years, was allowed to go on his way, but it does drive home the differences in how bicycles are viewed in other countries. The stop came about because of a crackdown on unsafe drivers and cyclists after six cyclists were killed in just two weeks in London. A bike that is taken for granted here and used by thousands of parents is viewed as something alien and dangerous in other countries.

There’s a push in many countries for better and safer cycling infrastructure, and not surprisingly, many of these proponents look to the Dutch cycling infrastructure as a good example. For those who say there’s too big a difference and it can’t be done, it is important to remember that the Dutch system didn’t really come about until the 1970s, after people started protesting the number of bicycle deaths. Pretty sure I’ve linked to it before, but it bears repeating: read this excellent post by Mark at the Bicycle Dutch blog about the development of the Dutch cycling infrastructure.

Systems can change and I think encouraging more cycling would be a change for the better for a variety of reasons. Certainly, cyclists need to ride responsibly, but given the proper infrastructure, they’re less likely to be put into difficult situations. More importantly, drivers of all vehicles need to be respectful of cyclists. Too many drivers treat cyclists as a nuisance and seem to forget that their heavy vehicle can kill or seriously injure. By encouraging the development of proper infrastructure, drivers will benefit as well as cyclists. The result is that neither should hopefully be quite so angry or combative.

No system is perfect, and I’ve heard complaints even here in the Netherlands from both drivers and cyclists, but the reality is that the system works well enough for it to be generally safe for cyclists everywhere, from small villages to the largest cities.
Bike Lane

Take the Long Way Home

Less Traffic
They really don’t want you to drive in the city center of Utrecht. Besides every road being a one way never in the direction you want to go, half the time you can only turn in one direction onto the next street, no matter that the traffic goes both ways on the street. And then there are the random streets that are just blocked off all together.

We went to deliver some wine to Casa di David today on the Oudegracht. I think we need to consider a boat for future deliveries. It’s got to be much easier in the long run. First of all, just getting there was a bit hit or miss in terms of legalities of how we got on each street. There might have been some turns and backing up that were a bit questionable. Then we had to wedge the car into a spot that just left enough room for other vehicles to pass, while we lugged six boxes of wine down some steep stairs. Have I mentioned that I get a bit nervous going down stairs and like to have something to hold on to? Yeah, that first trip with two boxes made me a bit nervous, to say the least.

Once we actually had the wine delivered, we then had to get back home. That’s when things got really interesting. We thought we were doing ok, until the road suddenly ended, with metal posts blocking the road. Midday on a Tuesday? Sure! Excellent time to close a road off to traffic. And no, it wasn’t for construction. It was just closed. So then we tried to turn left, across the canal. That didn’t go particularly well, as the continuation of the road was also closed. We could turn left again, taking us back down the canal, but there was a truck blocking the road, as five workers were involved in cutting loose broken/abandoned bikes from the railings.

Let me rant on a tangent here for a moment. I’m all for the removal of these abandoned bikes, and I’m all for people having work, but when they’re cutting money for the arts and cutting the amount of money to help immigrants with the required assimilation programs (especially when you’ve got people like Wilders in office who are so bothered by immigrants), it seems a bit excessive to have one person driving the truck, two people cutting lose the bikes and putting them on the truck, and two other people riding along on separate scooters writing down the info and tagging the bikes removed. I’m pretty sure that task could have been cut down to just three people. I don’t think it would take that much longer to do the job with fewer personnel. I could totally be wrong, but at first glance, it seems a bit excessive.

Anyway, it turns out we could have probably turned right, but that would have lead to more questionable areas, so we just ended up turning left once the truck moved on. Eventually the truck reached a spot where it could pull over and let the following traffic pass. But then we got to the end of the Oudegracht, thinking we could turn left onto the main road, but no! More metal poles blocking the way! We’d forgotten about that! So that’s when things got a bit iffy and turns were made that may be a bit grey in their legality, but eventually we made it onto the road we wanted. And then took the long way around — because it’s the only way around — to get back home, despite passing our street on the way.

Don’t get me wrong. As a frequent walker and a rare cyclist, I appreciate that they’ve limited the amount of driving that goes on in the city center. It certainly helps keep the city more attractive, as well. Up until the 1970s or so, there was a lot more parking, a lot more cars, and narrower sidewalks from what I’ve seen. It’s much nicer now and I appreciate it all. I’m just glad I’m not the one ever having to drive here, despite my friends’ encouragement! I told G we should get a good bakfiets for any future deliveries. It’s got to be easier in the long run. They even have “trailers” you can attach to your bike. Perfect!