25 June, 2007

In Europe, "An Attack on Car Culture" says WSJ

After my post about a car, I thought I'd better write something about how bikes can replace cars. But those consummate liberals at the Wall Street Journal have beaten me too it. Check out this article and slide show about bike transportation in Europe. The WSJ waxing poetically about bike culture---have I fallen down the rabbit hole?

The WSJ also gives a nice plug to The Dutch Bike Company, which sells a nice selection of heavy, but sturdy, Dutch cycles here in the US.

The idea of free or low cost loaner bikes has really taken off in some European cities. Read this post from TreeHugger that reports the Barcelona bike program has had some 30,000 users in three months.


David in DC said...

I've been following this for a while, wondering how to get one to this area (I'm in DC). Would you be willing to bring one in, Chris?

David in DC said...

Ah, one of what you ask?


David in DC said...

Sorry for multiple comments.

The loaner bike program is coming to DC. DDOT announced it a few weeks ago. Pretty rad.

nv said...

I'm heading to the Dordogne in a few weeks - flying into Bordeaux. I know Bordeaux has a free bike loan program but I think their use is limited within the city itself. I'll have to find a a rental to take with me into the smaller towns...

ps - Chris, I promise I'll get some decent pix of the built up Orange VO to you - just waiting to get my hands on a decent camera.

Mike C said...

Also bringing the revolution to this country are Clever Cycles (formerly Clever Chimp), up in Portland, OR: http://clevercycles.com/

Scroll down a bit for Todd's entry on May 4th "A fresh assault on car culture", also referencing the WSJ)

Anonymous said...

Now that's "successful" mass transit!

Anonymous said...

The basket wagon is successful if you get 3 pint size girls to ride with you. They should have had helmets on :-(

JoelMatthews said...

This middle aged professional has been bike only in Chicago for going on four years now.

Works for me. Not sure why our politicians need to spend tax dollars to go gawk at the Dutch to figure it out.

Anonymous said...

I was reading an article in Bicycle Retailer at my LBS a few weeks ago, and the author argued that white bike programmes are a bad idea. He made a convincing case. His thesis was (I remember poorly sometimes--I blame all that model glue as an adolescent) that they are expensive to run, take dollars from LBSes, and generally don't work. Maybe this is archived somewhere. I know the ones in Victoria and Vancouver fizzled out due to theft, abuse, and lack of continued commitment on the part of the volunteers.
M Burdge

Joel said...

I am inclined to agree about the White Bike programs.

To me the gravaman of the article is more the idea of a major city where the primary personal transit infrastructure is the bicycle.

It really bugs me to read about local businesses pushing against measures to increase bike use. You need cars to get to dicount mega malls, not to local specialized retailers.

Anonymous said...

about dutch bikes:

I love them. When in Holland, I have been overwhelmed with love for the bikes and the bike culture. Sometimes I think about getting me a Dutch bike here, but I hesitate, because to be honest, my cycling is different here. I am more likely to be out on a fitness ride here. I commute to work too. but I don't ride everywhere I go, as I would in Amsterdam, because it's too difficult. I am careful riding with my six yr old daughter. Around the block, sure. But American streets and drivers are much more dangerous than in Europe. I'm not sure how to get around that. So my bike collection here reflects a cultural difference.

Dutch bikes are made to last, first of all. They are made to spend 30 years outside locked to railings. They don't come in. Maybe the saddle gets a bonnet. Heavy is good; light is bad. No one would ever in a million years use a Velo Orange bike or Jitensha bike or Rivendell the way a normal euro utility bike is used. No one. They are not made to carry wine and chocolate to the park; they are made to carry heavy loads, the kids and work and groceries, heads up, through city streets and winding country paths. They are not made to ride long distances into a headwind, with a club. There are no special shops or clubs because there's no need; everyone's in the club. They are not made for suburban life. What I miss about Dutch bikes is not even the bike so much, but the life. We don't have it. You can't fix that with a bike.

mike white

Chris Kulczycki said...

David, I'm afraid VO won't sell Bakfiets; it's simply not our mission. But we will eventually sell a less expensive and simple city bike.

Anon, The three girls don't need helmets. Bike helmets are rarely used in European cities. People bike carefully instead.

Regarding white bike programs, they need to be established and regulated as part of a government effort, though the implementation can be outsourced. If left entirely up to non-profit, or for-profit, private groups they will have the same astounding efficiency as the US health care system. The other thing to consider is that we need to learn how to make them work. The failure of a few half-hearted effort is not a reason to abandon a brilliant idea. Just look at Barcelona and other European cities that have made such programs successful.

neil berg said...

I think bicycles are wonderful transportation where they are practical - flat terrian, compact cities and moderate temperatures. Joel is tougher than I am. I use a bike to get to work on dry warm days, but a bicycle in rural Minnesota as primary transportation is not feasible, at least not for me. I guess I'll have to move to Chicago for better weather.

Yann said...

my friend here in philly started a company building 3 wheel 'cargo' bikes, he really does a nice job of it too. Apparantly because of the total lack of anything really like his trike he has been getting orders from around the country.


Yann said...

I'm sorry if my last post came off as an advertisment but I really didnt mean it as such.

Chris Kulczycki said...

Neil, Of course you are right. Bikes can't be the only vehicle for many Americans or for many Europeans, though we should applaud those who make can make it work. That's why folks like you and I need a bike and a 2cv ;<) My own goal is simply to make most trips on foot or by bike.

Anonymous said...

a little while ago I was a meeting with some earnest young folks wanting to construct a multiuse path thru our town, on the path of a current bike route. I bridled at the idea. I already avoid the bike route, because to me it has so many stops, so many points where it yields right of way to crosstraffic, that it actually feels less safe than the thoroughfares. I told the guys I didn't want to avoid cars, I want them to see me and get used to me biking on the road. I'll feel safer when cars use their brakes. I feel that these efforts to create semi-safe paths can be an end game, where you end up with a culture that no longer recognizes the cyclist's right to be on the road in town. It's the opposite of the situation in a city like Amsterdam, where bikes go everywhere and it's the cars that are constrained. Even the streetcars are required to stop if a bike crosses their path; this is embarrassing for the cyclist, knowing he/she just stopped over a hundred people dead in the tracks because of his/her carelessness. But the streetcar driver usually just waves, is not mad. The culture is the real difference, not the bikes. It makes me feel even less hopeful when earnest souls, like the multiuse guys, feel they can improve things by keeping bikes out of sight, which I feel just contributes to the problem.


nei berg said...

I don't find bike related "advertisements" offensive, particularly for a trike that is in the porteur tradition. This is someone who is contributing to a more reason culture.

lee.watkins said...

From WashCycle:

"DDOT Director Mr. Emeka Moneme said DDOT this autumn will begin building a "futuristic, efficient and well-designed" bike station on the west side of Union Station -- a $2 million, glass-enclosed structure that will feature 150 parking spaces, a maintenance shop and bike rentals.

DDOT also is considering a "smart" rental system of 10 bicycle kiosks located around the city, he said. Each kiosk would measure about 6 feet by 30 feet and would allow registered users to rent bikes at an hourly rate.

That's a slip for the bike station [In February construction was to start by August]. 10 kiosks for a city of 500K+ and a metro area larger than 5 million. Meanwhile Paris (5 times larger city, but only twice as large a metro area) is putting 10,000 bikes at 750 kiosks. OK, so DC is starting small. "

JoelMatthews said...


I agree bike only is not a practical option for the wide open rural plains area.

A well equipped rider and bike can function in all seasons in Chicago, and from accounts I have followed on-line, even in Minneapolis and Grand Rapids.

As Lee points out, what would really help is more bike parking facilities and other modest accomodations.

Going a little further, I am not a firm believer the government can solve all these problems. I look forward to the day when there are enough middle class bike commuters that parking garages and other businesses start setting up facilities that provide for the bike commuter just as they do the auto commuter.

neil berg said...

There are a handful of winter riders here in the small town where I live. After heavy snows they ride attired in snowmobile suits on mountain bikes with tire chains. I admire them, but I think I'll pass on actually doing it. In Minneapolis, Peace Coffee is delivered year round by bicycle, so obviously it can be done there.
We own two small vehicles which burn E85, but now I'm having second thoughts about that. I think we'll soon retire, get down to one fuel efficent vehicle(hybrid?), and do as little damage as possible.

Anonymous said...

Any update on the VO bottle cage?

Cameron said...

In Boston my family lived happily with no car using bikes and public transportation. In Annapolis we felt we needed one car but we are also using bikes on a daily basis (commuting and running errands.) In my mind the car is replacing the robust public transportation we left (and miss!)

Anyway, I don't think the goal has to be going 100% car free in all settings. Many people could replace one of their household cars with a bike, but just don't realize it (yet!) I'm hopeful that it will catch on.

ek said...

I've had the pleasure of consulting on the solar PV portion of the bike station; hopefully that stays in DDOT's budget. Nevertheless, look for some wonderful bike-related initiatives coming from the District government. (Plug for my employer, who always gets a bum rap.)

As for bakfiets and outrageously heavy European bikes, I prefer them to the lighter cousins. My stable has or has had a fixie, an 18 speed road bike, mountain bikes (really used in the mountains), and tons of vintage bikes. The vintage bikes are much better, IMHO. Not that a Velo Orange wouldn't be nice, but living in the District a bakfiets would be awesome.