Amsterdam’s love affair with bicycles goes back to practically the invention of the pneumatic tire. Pete Jordan explains In The City of Bikes, that the city embraced two-wheeled transport nearly a century ago. Shortly after World War I, the Dutch were able to import German bikes at a steep discount which led to a boom in cycling.
Jordan’s weaves together his personal experience as a American transplant to the Netherlands with the city’s cycling history. The author’s passion for bicycles leads him to count cyclists at intersections throughout Amsterdam while classifying each rider. He recounts his observations of the ways people ride bikes as passengers (aka dinking), the types of rain gear bicyclists use, and a catalog of large objects transported by bike.
The book shines in its detailed recollection of Amsterdam – especially the chapters on the Nazi occupation years. Jordan vividly describes the horrors that the Dutch faced during World War II while keeping the focus of his book on the unique role of the bicycle.
The author calls special attention to places where conflicts over cycling became heated – in particular he recounts the various efforts to close the bike passageway under the Rijksmuseum and the protest parades in Dam Square. I find it interesting that these spaces were flash points in the city’s transportation debates for decades. However, Jordan’s detailed history of the multiple failed attempts to launch bike sharing in Amsterdam were perhaps the most fascinating to me.