From NYT: Bikes in Holland
> In the Netherlands, Life Runs on 2 Wheels (Sometimes 3)--
> By JOHN TAGLIABUE
> IJMUIDEN, The Netherlands, Sept. 7 — With more than two bicycles
> per person and a landscape as flat as a pancake, the Netherlands is
> a cyclists’ Eden.
> That was evident one recent balmy afternoon as a gentle surf washed
> the beach and another wave, far more daunting, headed to the beach
> from the opposite direction. A stream of bicycles five or six
> abreast, some with a single rider, others with a parent and one or
> two children aboard, stretched as far inland as the eye could see.
> Parallel to it, also headed to the beach, was a puny single file of
> A generation or so ago, bicycles were popular substitutes for cars,
> which were too expensive for many people and wasteful, in a country
> below sea level and thus finely attuned to environmental matters.
> Now, with greater affluence, more free time and even greater
> environmental concerns, the Dutch are turning to bicycles in ever
> greater numbers. Sales are booming, and there is a proliferation of
> designs for all sorts of purposes.
> Take Hendrik de Buyzer, a retired patent office engineer in this
> fishing and steelmaking port of 15,000 people. Mr. de Buyzer, 61,
> explained that he owned two touring bicycles, plus a tandem that he
> rides with his wife. He recently bought an English Brompton folding
> bicycle that he can collapse and carry wherever he wants.
> As if all those were not enough, he recently paid about $3,000 for
> a Christiania bicycle from Denmark for his daughter, a kind of
> three-wheeled utility vehicle that she uses to transport her
> preschool-age children. “The kids love it for a ride,” he said.
> “She takes them out to the polder,” the land reclaimed by building
> His wife, he said, has her own bicycle, plus a Vespa scooter.
> “Whenever it’s not raining, which it does all the time, I’m on my
> bike,” he said.
> Bicycles were in decline as recently as a decade ago, Mr. de Buyzer
> said, as the Dutch increasingly turned to cars. “Now what you’re
> seeing are recreational bikes, and more expensive bikes,” he said,
> with a glance at his folding bicycle. He added sheepishly, “I take
> this one with me when I go sailing.”
> The bicycle vies with the automobile for space in bigger Dutch
> cities, like Amsterdam and Rotterdam; bicycle lanes and parking
> spaces reserved for bicycles are everywhere.
> Given the Dutch appetite for bicycles, it is little wonder that
> Frank van Oirschot joined two friends to open a business here they
> call Amazing Wheels. In a sprawling warehouse along piers where
> fishing trawlers once dumped their haul, Mr. van Oirschot runs what
> is arguably the largest wholesale bike dealership in the
> Netherlands, and possibly in Europe.
> Leading a visitor through the warehouse, he pointed out touring
> bicycles, the way the Dutch like them; electric bicycles, from
> mountainous Switzerland; recumbent bicycles, whose riders look like
> they are on a two-wheeled gurney; and all sorts of three-wheeled
> models, for hauling groceries or tools or children. There is even a
> bicycle that folds up into a suitcase, for carrying on planes.
> “We have house painters in Amsterdam who love the three-wheeled
> bikes,” he said.
> In neighboring Belgium, Coca-Cola recently ordered 13 SmartTrikes,
> three-wheeled bikes for carrying children or goods or both, which
> it plans to use to sell Coke at amusement parks. “Thirteen is not
> what I’d call an impressive investment, but it’s one way to bring
> the brand to consumers,” said Wouter Vermeulen, a spokesman for
> Coca-Cola. “It’s a bike-loving country.”
> Mr. van Oirschot, 37, a heavyset former software expert, said
> bicycles were increasingly seen as an expression of a lifestyle.
> “It’s, like, for hanging out, almost as a fashion statement,” he
> said, pointing to Phat Cycles from California, with their laid-back
> look reminiscent of the movie “Easy Rider.”
> Biking, it is clear, is a Dutch way of entertaining children or
> grandchildren. Michael Pronk, 31, and his wife rolled along a road
> leading to the sea, each with one of their 3-year-old twins on the
> back of their bicycles. “On a day like this,” Mr. Pronk said,
> motioning to the high scudding clouds, “instead of walking, we take
> a bike ride.”
> No wonder then, that on work days the train stations here and in
> nearby Haarlem look like buildings afloat in a lake of bicycles.
> At traffic lights, explosions of bicycles come forth whenever a
> light turns green. When day care is out, young mothers pick up as
> many as four children in comfortable wagons attached to the rear of
> their bicycles.
> Like all Dutch cities, Ijmuiden has bike lanes on the sides of all
> its roads and bicycle parking places at all public buildings. At
> any given moment in the downtown area, with its quaint red-brick
> buildings, there are more bikes than cars on the roads.
> Mr. van Oirschot said the increased use of bikes for recreation and
> for staying in shape fueled business. “People have more free time,
> and more people are trying to keep healthy,” he said. “And
> bicycling is a popular way of doing it.”
> Yet at bottom, he said, his success was a result of the Dutch love
> affair with bikes. The average price the Dutch pay for a new
> bicycle is $960, he said; the Danes come in second in Europe,
> spending an average $700 for a bicycle.
> “The Netherlands is primarily bike country; it’s something they use
> daily,” he said. “It’s no surprise that we’re having such a success.”