In the City of Bikes: The Story of an Amsterdam Cyclist
Harper, 2013 (2013)
Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth
n the City of Bikes
is a love story. Not the love of one person for another, but rather the story of one man's love of cycling as well as his love for Amsterdam where he moved to indulge his passion.
ycling is the very breath of life to author Pete Jordan, not just a method of transport. Looking for a city that would welcome him and his bicycle, he settled on Amsterdam as his permanent address. It seemed to him that Amsterdamers were as obsessed with cycling as was he.
stensibly, he traveled to the Dutch city to complete a semester of studies, and was then to return home to help American cities cope with cyclists. Instead, he moved to Amsterdam to join the city that travels daily on their bikes. He notes activities on bikes that most Americans would never think of trying let alone doing.
uch as: talking on cell phones; babies riding in wicker baskets; dinking; the art of holding hands while riding; moving great quantities of goods by bike; decorating bikes with flowers; ignoring traffic signs; bike fishermen, etc.. Jordan also delves into the bike-centric culture of Amsterdam as well as the history of bike riding there from 1898 to today.
hat could be a rigidly boring text is, instead, the fascinating story of a man following his dreams. He takes us to the 1890s when biking was an elitist pastime; to the 1920s when cycling became a craze; to the Nazi five-year occupation when Amsterdamers did all they could to foil the Germans in their efforts to control bicycle traffic. We move on to the White Bikes of the 1960s when bikes were to be free for residents to ride.
hat truly baffled Jordan was the constant theft of bicycles. Three locks were needed to protect an owner's property. Even that was sometimes not enough. One could conceivably have a bike stolen in the morning and buy it back by night from the thieves. Hundreds of thousands passed through many hands through the years.
In the City of Bikes
is a very interesting book and a must for the cyclist.
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