Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Holland America


No, this is not about the once proud vessels that aeons ago ferried businessmen in hats between Rotterdam and Hoboken but now drag gluttonous suburbanites from port to port, occasionally poisoning them.


This is about the new and awesome Dutch import - the bakfiets.


A bakfiets, or box-bike, is a bicycle used by Dutch families to do the job of the station wagon, the minivan, or the SUV. Apparently, the bakfiets was once king of the road in Dutch cities, until everyone got a car. It has been coming back in a major way, fueled by small builders like Fietsfabriek, who offer amazing quality and a spiffed-up look.



Fietsfabriek is now in Chicago, and there is even a local website - www.defietsfabriek-usa.com or the ever so topical www.defeatsthecar.com


Jon of Fietsfabriek USA, the brilliant businessman and trusting soul that he is, lent a bakfiets to my family for a weekend.


That weekend, we were here, we were there, we were everywhere with our shiny new fire-engine red bakfiets, We were in the park, on the bikepath, and on the streets. It became fun to go to faraway playground, because we no longer had to be stuck in traffic, or look for parking.


Most importantly, the girls loved it. There were even minor tantrums when we tried to take them out of it. There must be something about being out in front that makes the ride so much more fun. It's like the passenger is in control without having to do the work.


The Netherlands is a small waterlogged country where doing more with less is part of the culture. Nowadays, when we are running out of space for driving and parking in our cities, it only makes sense to turn to a Dutch invention. Chicago, with its flat terrain, is a perfect place to start.


Keep your eyes peeled for a promo event for Fietsfabriek at Stella some time in September.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, this thing is almost as big, heavy and and expensive as a car... Have you tried a front-mounted child seat on a regular bike? Not as much Euro charm, but does the job for 5% of the price. (http://weeride.com/)

Pavel Yusim said...

I guess I did not elaborate on these points in my highly non-technical review.

I eschew the car here in the 'Vienna of the Midwest' largely because of traffic, parking, and tickets. These factors really encroach upon my mobility here. But with the bakfiets, they are gone.

Child seats are awesome (I have a Bobike), but things get exponentially more complicated as you start adding more rugrats and groceries.

DrMekon said...

I've had a wee-ride, and it's nothing like the bakfiets experience. The wee-ride(+child) makes for a really high centre of gravity. This alone makes them unsuitable past about 2 years old, whereas I've carried my 30 year old sister in my bakfiets. Also, it provides little to no protection for the child.

In contrast, the box and child is down low on a bakfiets, so the movement of a child barely affects the handling. They are good for about 200lbs, so a kid moving around barely affects the. Moreover, the box affords a good deal of protection, particularly the De Fietsfabriek version with its metal frame. Finally, the box is sufficiently comfortable that the child can fall asleep safely. Whenever our boy fell asleep on the weeride, it was really hassle to stop his head lolling about.

Sure they are big, and pretty heavy, but the price is less than the running costs of an average car for a year (in the UK, at least - our petrol is well over $7 a gallon).

Car-free Dad said...

Hi-
I would have to agree with drmekon and pavel. While the bikes are expensive, they more than make up for it due to the money that you save on gas.

My experience with the Dutch bikes are as follows. Jon also is sponsoring a car-free challenge - to go without using our car for 1 month. My family was lucky enough to be chosen to do the challenge. We are about half-way through the challenge and so far we are loving it. The Dutch bike is really wonderful. I haven't even thought of using the car at all. We are maintaining a blog about our experience - both good and bad. You should check out at:
http://www.defeatsthecar.blogspot.com/

Let's hear it for being car free!
-CFD

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