A slow bike convert

Bakfiet

A kinder ride

Several  weeks ago (before the family was struck down with H1N1) I was pleasantly surprised during my commute into work.  Merging ahead of me was a bicycle with a decidedly “up right” riding style and full fenders.  I put on the “gas” to catch up and get a closer look.  As I neared the rider I was able to identify his bike as a Workcycle Bakfiet.  I also recognized the man in the saddle!  Roughly one year ago, the same rider, Paul, caught up to me and quized me about my own ride.    At that time Paul was riding a road bike, was wearing a helmet and reflective vest, and had an odd car battery contraption powering massive headlights and a powerful horn.  He was quite the site and not at all tuned into my own particular biking zen.  Still, we chatted several times when our paths crossed on our way into downtown Minneapolis.   After all, all bikers are brothers and sisters.

Now here he was again, riding a Bakfiet, without a helmet and with a big smile on his face.  He recognized me and proudly proclaimed “I just can’t put this bike down.  I’ve lost 7 pounds since I started riding it!  You inspired me to get a Dutch bike.”  We rode side-by-side for several blocks, chatting about the virtues of practical bikes.

Not only was I glad to have sent some business Stephan’s way at Dutch Bike Chicago, but I also feel proud to have “converted” a biker into a better cycling advocate.  I’ve always maintained that neon-orange clad combat bikers are awful advertising for everyday biking.  Paul’s new approach will hopefully breed more casual and relaxed bikers.  Welcome to the fold, Paul!

7 responses to “A slow bike convert

  1. What a great story!

  2. Tara Salyards

    Tad, that’s so awesome!! I am trying to convert a few to the idea of Dutch biking sans helmet and all that goes with it. It’s an up hill battle to say the least!

  3. Other than on this blog and with close friends, I don’t harp on people about helmet use. It’s a somewhat hostile topic for most folks. Americans are very irrational about helmets and their efficacy.

    While helmets can help in a slow speed fall/tip-over, they do virtually nothing to mitigate the effects of a direct vehicular collision.

    Annecdotal for sure, but I know for a fact that the bulk of riders who have been killed over the past year in the Twin Cities have all been wearing helmets.

  4. I have converted to a fabulous upright Dutch bicycle here in Australia and have been loving every minute of it!

    We have compulsory helmet laws and since riding my upright bike I have refused to wear one. It makes absolutely no sense to make them compulsory and all it does is discourage normal people from cycling from A to B.

    Cheers,

    Paul

  5. It was Paul who’s a left a comment above and who rides a Sit -up Gazelle, who alerted me to this great conversion story.

    I totally agree and indeed my blog is devoted to this sort of riding, hence it’s name; http://situp-cycle.com.

    The problem here in Australia is that we have a very strong sports cycle culture and these riders have no interest in going a bit slower and looking around.

    Even when commuting, they are in training and they often wear Lycra during the week. The result is that the image of the cyclist in the popular mind, is as you say, not appealing to the non cylist.

    The catch 22 is that we have to somehow get more people onto Dutch style bikes knowing that in doing so, each one “flies a flag” for this more appealing way of cycling.

    Indeed, I feel each such rider radically changes the roadway conversation, and what they effectively say to motorists and pedestrians alike is;”come ride with me.”

    How to do get these rolling billboards for better biking out there?

    I’m presently working on some local NSW councils who understandably are fixated on building better bike-ways since the conventional wisdom, and I accept it’s true, is that many don’t ride because they feel unsafe.

    But I hope to persuade these councils that unless people WANT to ride, there is not much point in having bike-ways. That it’s a bit like building lots of playing fields for a game few want to play.

    So, at the same time as you build infrastructure, you have to cleverly promote the seductive bike, which is the sit -up.

    I point out that if they have any doubts as to how seductive these bikes are, just note that the 60 or bike share schemes now in the world, including the big ones, like the Velibs in Paris the Bixis in Montreal, and soon to come to Minneapolis, are all sit up bikes.

    I am soon to post a video on my blog about Jill Charlton, partner of Dr. Ian.

    Jill rides carbon fibre in the weekends sleek in Lycra, and weekdays she’s on a sit-up.

    If we can get more people to see this as an option, we’ll get more converts.

    By the way, I soften up any likely prospect by getting them to watch; The Waltz of the Bikes, also on the bog. It’s just a dream

    cheers, Mike

  6. A little note from the Netherlands: it’s called a “bakfiets”, so with an s at the end. “Fiets” is the Dutch word for bike, and “bak” is the bin or box where you can put your kids or luggage in.

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