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Living in a Dutch Fantasy Land… 30

Batavus Fryslan Dames bicycle  - Toronto

Photo by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

For the last eight days, I have been living in a fantasy land. Everyone around me has a smile on their face, dedicated paths are everywhere, and bicycle signals cater to me and the thousands of other bicyclists that surround me.

Instead of horns, I hear bells. Instead of exhaust fumes, I’m breathing in fresh, clean air – and when I arrive at my destination, there are thousands of bicycle parking spaces – mostly full.

I rarely encounter motorists, but when I do they always watch out for me. The only road rage I see is when a fellow bicyclist gets a flat – and even then it doesn’t go beyond a couple curse words followed by a shrug. After all, she only has to push her bike a few blocks to find a bike shop to repair her flat.

Traffic signals take me into consideration, and major bicycle arterial routes include timed lights so I don’t have to stop – as long as I maintain a pace of about 20km/hour. Left turns are easy and safe, and I never have to worry about getting hooked by automobiles when they turn right.

Of course, none of this is reality. But ever since I picked up my new sturdy Dutch bike last week, this is the fantasy world I have been living in.

Just like a maximum performance carbon fibre racing bicycle can make you push yourself harder, a Dutch-style bike can help you relax a little. Just like the performance bike will make you want more gear, the Dutch bike will make you want to feel the wind in your hair.

Just like a bike courier can make a driver curse, a Dutch bike can make a driver covet (well, maybe that’s taking it a bit far).

But the style in which you ride and the attitude you wear is contagious. Drivers who are impatient will make other drivers feel impatient. Pedestrians who cross on a red will lead others to do the same.

A restaurant with a long line-up will attract more customers than the almost-empty restaurant next door. People will follow others.

That’s why every time we ride a bicycle, we need to show others that it can be comfortable and convenient to ride a bicycle. Show them that they don’t need all the gear that they think they need.

Show them that riding a bicycle can be as comfortable as sitting on a La-Z-Boy couch in a city where thousands of others are transporting themselves around the city on their own La-Z-Boy couches.

A world where life moves slower, and you can smell the fresh air while experiencing the pulse of a city without being stuck inside a bubble.

This is exactly what urban transportation should be – comfortable, relaxing, pleasant, spontaneous, affordable, punctual, serene, healthy and cheerful.

Toronto waterfront trail - Dutch bicycle

Batavus Frysland bicycle in Toronto, Canada

All photos by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com.

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  • http://cecily.myopenid.com/ cecily

    Welcome to the Fryslan family! :-) I’ll be interested to read more reviews after you’ve spent more time with it.

    I’ve found that I relax more that I’m on a larger bike. I’m the same height as most cars except for the largest SUVs, and because they can see me better, they give me a wider berth.

  • Anonymous

    Great post, James!

    I can’t add much other than to say I too notice a difference in the way I’m treated on my Dutch bike by pedestrians, fellow cyclists and car drivers – and it’s for the better.

    Cheers!

    Paul Martin
    Brisbane, Australia

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15589492356827998591 Ryan

    I’m quite jealous.

    I’ve made quite a few changes to my hybrid bike, the most noticeable are the handlebars.
    I sit straight up (no more bending over), like Cecily I’m at the same height (or higher) then most cars.

    I refuse to ride a bike where I can’t sit-up straight.
    When I had a road bike, my neck was in utter pain after about 15 minutes of riding.

  • kfg

    I’d just point out that there is a “native American” bicycle that accomplishes much the same thing while being less expensive and more available to most Americans:

    The classic cruiser.

    You even see quite a few of them in the Netherlands these days.

    Not saying one or the other is better, just that for those that, for one reason or another, don’t see themselves on a Dutch bike have an alternative that does the job.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04454437680686627778 James D. Schwartz

    Agreed @kfg. Prior to this bike I was using a Trek city bike that I had gradually modified to become a “Dutch wannabe” bike (except for a fraction of the cost). There are also a lot of cruiser-style bikes here in Toronto, and you can pick up a used one for $100-200.

    Nothing wrong with that at all.

    For myself, I had always used inexpensive bikes in the city because I didn’t want to have to worry about theft. For the Dutch bike, I picked up a solid quality Abus lock, plus it has the rear wheel lock built in. I also put a cable through the wheels if I’m leaving it for an extended period of time. We’ll see how it goes.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09120845677047461745 Todd

    That’s a great ride. I’m a bit jealous ;-)

    What I don’t really understand is why we’re only seeing Dutch and occasionally British bikes of this style. There are a TON of them built in China (you can see many of them here: http://www.flyingpigeonproject.org/) and another large number of companies in India making roadsters as well (http://www.flyingpigeonproject.org/2009/02/indian-roadsters-part-2-the-bikes.html). From what I can tell they are pretty inexpensive where they’re sold relative to their European counterparts.

    I’ve been riding an Indian roadster now for a couple weeks and as a city bike goes, I really love it. It is *extremely* sturdy (read: extremely heavy. With heavy iron rack, lugged steel frame, and metal chainguard and fenders it weighs in at 65 lbs(!)) with a really comfortable ride. I do think that I may end up putting a multi-speed hub in eventually as a single-speed is a bit challenging – especially with the bottle dynamo engaged.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10269615938898501712 She Rides a Bike

    I’ve felt much the same way on my Breezer Uptown 8, which is ruby red and oh, so lovely. I sit up high and proud. It is simply a wonderful like. My little Dahon Eco 3, which I acquired in October, has attracted a lot of attention and questions. All part of leading. Still, I very much covet a Workcycles Oma. The the traditional Dutch bike is just the ultimate for me.

  • Amy

    Congrats! That bike is a beauty. Life really is more perfect on a Dutch bike ;)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17117125874097499674 Ms.Ding

    Great looking bike! Welcome to the Omafiets fan club! I too love riding my Dutch bike.. I’ve had it since September and I can’t imagine riding my mountain bike in the city ever again.

  • Anonymous

    “A world where life moves slower, and you can smell the fresh air while experiencing the pulse of a city without being stuck inside a bubble.”

    Sure sure, I bet you just ate a certain Dutch brownie before riding… Do they come with the bicycle? It would explain a lot about this posting – man. ;)

  • http://www.bikingindallas.com/ Chris

    Very nice bike and there is wisdom in riding a bike with a step-through frame (as so many do in Europe). I have a mixte that changed my life as far as no longer having to heave my leg over a frame.

  • http://www.lemab.ca/ lagatta à montréal

    Much as I love the Dutch bicycle culture, there are still too many cars and too much exhaust over there, especially on the highways.

    When I was over there recently for a short work trip, I was looking at reconditioned used bicycles at the bicycle parking, rental and sales centre (some kind of social or municipal project) at Timorplein in Indischebuurt, East Amsterdam. But they were all too large for me, as I’m very short by Dutch standards!

    I ride an old Raleigh Sprite, mixte frame. She is black and fairly stately, though you are right, Dutch omafiets rule.

  • ShelaghDB

    Luv the bike. I too have a Batavus. Actually its the second one. I dold my first and then regretted it and bought even a better one as the second purchase. Curious, did you stick with this bike or move on to another type?

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      Still have the Batavus, and still love it…

  • ShelaghDB

    Luv the bike. I too have a Batavus. Actually its the second one. I dold my first and then regretted it and bought even a better one as the second purchase. Curious, did you stick with this bike or move on to another type?

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    Still have the Batavus, and still love it…

  • Sandralcook

    Fine, if you like riding the lovechild of a tractor and a shopping trolley.

  • Sandralcook

    Fine, if you like riding the lovechild of a tractor and a shopping trolley.

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