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Bakfiets on Broadway

Posted by on August 18th, 2006 at 7:27 am

Bakfiets on Broadway

A few weeks ago I was on NE Broadway and 15th when I looked up and saw this woman and her peculiar bike. After a moment or two I realized it was an authentic “bakfiets” (Dutch for container bicycle) straight from Holland…and so was the rider, given her strong, confident, blond, helmetless style.

Not surprisingly, she told me she imported the bike from her former home town in Amsterdam.

Bakfiets are common in Holland for cargo, family, pets, whatever. I think they’d do very well in Portland and I have a hunch we’ll be seeing more of these around town in the future.

In fact, judging from this recent post in the Portland Bike Forums, at least one is already on its way.

[A bakfiets in its native environment.]
Flickr photo: Breigh.com

According to resident euro know-it-all Todd “Bakfiets” Boulanger, there’s finally a U.S.-based distributor for dutch bikes.

I think there’s a good business opportunity for someone to sell these in Portland. Can’t you just picture a Bakfiets Boutique in the Pearl District?

[*Editor's note: Yes, I realize the people in these photos do not have helmets. If you comment, please resist the urge to point this out. Thank you.]


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  • Ethan August 18, 2006 at 7:37 am

    Pretty funny . . . I saw her at NE Broadway & 33rd the other day, launching a quest for info which led to Todd and then to Dan Sorger at Dutch Bicycle Company.

    Apparently Todd has the longer wheelbase model, which can haul 3 kids, or four hound dogs, or a piggy . . .

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  • Anonymous August 18, 2006 at 7:40 am

    Christiania (from Denmark) also make a super-cool bike like this:
    http://www.christianiabikes.com/

    Good for pirate children, it seems. I like the idea of three wheels with heavy and/or fidgety cargo.

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  • Dan Sorger August 18, 2006 at 7:55 am

    Thank you for posting the bike!! It truly is nice to see the bikes being used. I am looking for a dealer in the Portland area, if any one is interested in selling Dutch City bikes please contact me.

    Thanks,

    Dan Sorger

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  • Curt Dewees August 18, 2006 at 8:17 am

    Imagine a world in which everyone was either walking or riding a bicycle for transportion. Streetcars and MAX lines were predictable and safe, like they are now. No one would feel any need to wear a bicycle helmet, because riding your bike for transportation would be safe all the time. The only bicyclists who would need to wear helmets would be bike racers. These folks without helmets are just living the dream, ahead of the rest of us.

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  • Rick Wilson August 18, 2006 at 8:57 am

    I live in Irvington and often find myself staring longingly at that very Bakfiets as it sits out in front of various Broadway shops… Have also been researching a Dutch bike purchase as it seems that NE and the inner city is flat enough for even the classic single speed version. I love the idea of a bike that doesn’t require special shoes or look silly w/o spandex gear. Other appeal is that Dutch bikes are “done” – no need to get into the viscious cycle of endlessly switching out “les components du jour”.

    Jorg and Olif in Vancouver, BC also sell some lovely North American adapted Dutch bikes that are custom made to their design. They don’t yet ship to the US, but are planning to make their bikes available over the border in the beginning of 2007. I just emailed them this week and they are taking orders for the current October shipment until Sunday, so you could order now and make a autumn weekend of it and pick up your shiny new steed in Vancouver.

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  • John August 18, 2006 at 9:47 am

    I lived in Sweden for a period and fell in love with Christiania bikes–the two-wheel forward trikes with a box in front. They’re great a alternative to urban car commuting, because our two boys can fit in front with a bunch of groceries too. Christiania trikes even have optional bench seats inside with seat belts. Unfortunately, the Danes don’t sell in the U.S. due to liability laws.

    When my family and I moved to Portland, we were going to bring one back with us, but we couldn’t fit one in our container. I thought of retro-fitting a Worksman tike, but instead I found a fantastic independent trike builder who just moved to Philly. Check out Stephen Horcha’s super cool trikes at http://www.haleytrikes.com. He built us one in custom colors with dual front disk brakes, a parking brake, and a three-speed internal hub. They’re really affordable too. I’m trying to help him get exposure here on West coast, and I think Portlanders would love them.

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  • brettoo August 18, 2006 at 10:07 am

    It’s a nice dream, but I’d still wear a helmet. A friend’s dad toppled on a veloway (helmetless) and suffered a traumatic head injury that he never fully recovered from. No cars on the veloway, obviously.

    I spilled recently making a turn (rear wheel slid on some rocks/gravel) in SW Portland and was lucky not to land on my head. I did have a helmet on but it made me realize how easy it is to lose it even on safe streets and when no cars are involved. Head injuries can be horrendous; would hate to see it happen to any of my fellow bikers .

    I like the rest of the dream, though.

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  • Ian August 18, 2006 at 10:18 am

    There were two types of riders I saw in Eindhoven.

    1. Everyday riders. No-nonsense three-speed bike, street clothes, no helmet, no-sweat pace.

    2. Bike club members. Tweaked road bikes, racing jerseys (matching), helmets (matching), fast pace, travel in packs.

    There’s no real need for a helmet when you have right of way over cars and all the road infrastructure is built around that premise. Also, everyone has been biking since they were old enough to walk, so you get fewer accidents due to inexperience.

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  • West Cougar August 18, 2006 at 10:20 am

    I’m going to mention this to my neighborhood bike shop propreiter… he already carries Breezer. Bakfeits would be the perfect compliment.

    BTW, one complaint I’ve repeatedly heard against Bakfeits is they are too heavy/not properly geared for hilly Pacific NW.

    Dan, can you comment on that complaint? Do you think the complaint is warranted? Are you making any special gearing modifications to the stock Dutch offerings to better adapt Bakfeits to a more hilly region? Thanks,

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  • Randy August 18, 2006 at 10:39 am

    Like stock Raleigh 3-speeds, the Dutch bikes probably need to be geared down a little for Portland’s terrain. It’s very easy to switch the stock rear sprocket for a slightly larger one (3 to 4 extra teeth on the gear).

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  • Agent Bunny G aka Nickey Robo August 18, 2006 at 11:27 am

    I’ve seen her hauling her kids around! I’m always amazed. I nanny for a family in Irvington and I always wish that they had something like that, too.

    As for the helmets, the idea that you don’t need a helmet if you have the right of way is ridiculous. [Safety concious] Skateboarders wear helmets in skate parks, where there are obviously no cars… It’s not just about cars. Obviously there is less danger without cars, but many people are injured very badly without cars involved. I’d imagine the force of just falling off your bike at a high speed would be enough to crack a skull if you fell the wrong way.

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  • Ian August 18, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    All I can say is helmets are not the norm for everyday biking in Holland. Anyone have any bicycle accident statistics for The Netherlands?

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  • vj August 18, 2006 at 1:55 pm

    Viva la difference, I say. I’m just glad Dat was wearing his helmet yesterday. When he went down, it broke in half. Better that than his head. And I think no cars, pedestrians or dogs were involved.

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  • patrick(db) August 18, 2006 at 5:08 pm

    we have a christiania trike. it is great for carrying stuff/kids/pets, but it is hell on hills. Good training though. ours is 3-speed, though I don’t think more speeds would really make a difference. It’s still a 75 pound vehicle, empty.

    Our Bikes at Work trailer is the more efficient choice for hauling heavy cargo over long distances, but for carrying a living being somewhere safely and pleasantly in rain or inclement weather, the Xtiania can’t be beat.

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  • Random girl August 18, 2006 at 9:20 pm

    I think the rule of thumb, according to god, is you need a helmet anytime you’re going more than 3 miles per hour. This seems a little extreme since runners probably go faster than that, but apparently that’s all our skulls were designed to withstand. This was according to the Emmanuel Trauma nurse who did an assembly at my school. After seeing their most convincing presentation, I will not ever go without a helmet and neither will my kids. But hey, you have a good chance of being lucky most any day and I’m all about personal freedom. Just make sure you have good health insurance if you choose to ride without a helmet.

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  • Duane August 18, 2006 at 9:51 pm

    I’m a C3-4 incomplete quadriplegic. Many of my co-residents in rehab in Colorado were brain injured (BI) and I can tell you that a BI is a tragic condition that can be adapted to with a lot of hard work and good health insurance but your best insurance is a helmet.

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  • NeRf August 18, 2006 at 10:54 pm

    *shakes head* sigh….

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  • Cate August 19, 2006 at 7:49 am

    Thank you, Duane. I think every bicyclist who doesn’t want to wear a helmet (and every potential motorcyclist) should make a visit to the neurology floor of a local hospital or a rehab center before making any decisions. It’s kind of like having kids who want to smoke visit people with lung cancer.

    Taking this step isn’t meant to stop people from doing what they want to do – it’s meant to ensure that the person is making an informed decision.

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  • Dan Sorger August 19, 2006 at 10:21 am

    Hello West Couger, We are using the Shimano Red Letter Nexus 8 speed hub on the Bakfiets, which has a very low end. Some were imported directly from Holland with 5 speed gearing: we don’t sell them in that spec as the range is not great enough for most of the US. I have found when using the bike loaded(With about 200lbs in the box and an additional 75lbs over the rear wheel) it handles and rides very easily. The Dutch got this one just right! We have the Bakfiets and our City bikes in stock for immediate delivery.

    I hope this answers your question, if you have any others you can contact me directly, someone is here 7 days a week!

    Thanks,

    Dan

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  • shawn. August 21, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    I like how a discussion about Dutch bikes has turned into one about helmets. Yet again.

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  • Joe Planner August 21, 2006 at 8:51 pm

    I would love to test drive one of those puppies to check out the balance and feel, but I’m afraid I couldn’t even afford the front wheel til I graduate from school, in about a year. It’s overstuffed backpacks and frequent trips to the grocery store for me..

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  • Jessica Roberts August 22, 2006 at 12:31 pm

    Jorg&Olif is considering opening a shop in Portland…more info on the BTA blog!

    Jessica Roberts
    Metro-Area Advocate
    Bicycle transportation Alliance

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  • Paul August 22, 2006 at 12:54 pm

    Human Powered Machine has a good option – I haven’t used one but seen a couple around town:

    http://www.catoregon.org/hpm/longhaul.htm

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  • Brad August 22, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    Even in the perfect little bike utopia some of you are fantasizing about here in PDX, we still have often wet pavement and hills aplenty. Throw in a few Type A stress cases running late for work and some “I can only ride fast!” types and the potential for accidents is still there. Wear a helmet!

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  • Randy August 22, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    Helmets are a matter of personal choice, quit preaching about it already, this isn’t the place for that.

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  • Ian August 23, 2006 at 9:07 am

    Just for the record, I never meant to advocate for or against helmets. I wear one every day for my commute. I just wanted to point out that the social norms in Holland are different that here.

    That said, this led me to do some research. First, bike accident rates in Holland and Denmark are lower than in the US. Also, the studies linking helmet use to reduced head trauma are not as clear as one might think:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_helmet#Research_evidence

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  • [...] I love Todd’s set-up, but what if you’re kids aren’t big enough to pedal yet and you need more cargo room? After my post last week about bakfiets I got an email from a reader inviting me to check out his cargo trike. [...]

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  • Down Low August 30, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    Cigeretts and Bike Helmets

    Living in PC PDX, it is nice to see pictures of the progressive European models were are meant to emulate. On the entire Bakfiet website there is not one helemet. On my recent trip to the continent, I saw an amazing amount of smokers and cylist a plenty with out helmets, and realized how represive our “open, tolerant and progressive city” is. I would challenge all of you to try to evaluate your own level of open mindedness and tolerance before you make value judgements of others.

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  • Ben September 14, 2006 at 9:47 am

    Thats a pretty cool bike. I thought about building one of those as I like to build bikes, but I’ve already good one. If you are interested in building your own, I think you can do it for about 300 dollars and a couple of weeks with a welder. It took me 8 months to build one, but there aren’t a whole lot of DIY sites out there that I could find, and I ended up running into a lot of problems.

    http://toadworks.org/CargoBikeJournal.html

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  • Carlos September 14, 2006 at 10:22 am

    also nice for children transport:
    the nihola family bike. Realy common in Berlin, copenhague and amsterdam.

    http://nihola.de/

    Carlos
    P.S. nobody use a helmet in Berlin

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  • [...] As you may have realized from some of my previous posts, I have a major love-affair with Dutch-style city bikes. They’re just so dang simple, elegant, well-made, and I can’t help but think of all the cool Dutch people that ride around with them (sans helmet) on cobblestone streets with their healthy, bright-eyed kids hanging from the top-tube. [...]

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  • Mary October 22, 2006 at 9:00 pm

    We visited Amsterdam and north Holland last spring and took a lot of pictures of Dutch bikes, including a number of Bakfietsen. They’re posted at http://www.velomobiling.com/gallery/TransportationStrategy/FIETSEN/ . I’ve thought of trying to import a Bakfiets, or at least a Dutch city bike. They are wonderfully practical. I did bring back a Clarijs pannier set that just lights up a rainy day ( http://www.velomobiling.com/gallery/TransportationStrategy/TransportSolutions/HPVVariety/Standard/ )

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  • [...] Richard’s motivation is not just from bike lust, he’s also expecting his second child next month and he’s looking forward to blogging about how well babies and bakfiets mix. Richard recently took delivery of a new bakfiets from The Dutch Bicycle Company, a Florida-based company I mentioned back in August. [Can’t do this with a Burley] [...]

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  • [...] Richard and Jonathan have been heralding the rare but growing presence of a certain kind of Dutch workbike (Bakfiets) on the streets of Portland. Want a bike that seats five kids, with weather protection? No problemo. Many commenters are quick to point out that these bikes are quite heavy, and dismiss them as unsuitable outside of the flat, dense, flat Netherlands. Enter Stokemonkey: [...]

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  • Todd Boulanger November 9, 2006 at 6:07 pm

    Perhaps we need to get all (4?) the local bakfiets together in the Vancouver-Portland area for a party and mobilty bike parade. (Hopefully near some sort of family area – Jamison Park, etc.)

    Or a parade leading to the opening of the new bakfiets store in PDX. (When will that be?)

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  • Todd Boulanger November 9, 2006 at 6:11 pm

    And….perhaps the Alta office needs one for local errands and client pick up at the MAX stop?
    Mia,
    I know Jessica would work even harder if her Xmas commission were a bakfiets. ;’)

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  • Scott Mizee February 3, 2007 at 3:58 am

    I’m still sitting here waiting for CleverCycles.com to open their shop. twiddle, twiddle, thumbs, twiddle, twiddle, twiddle… Yeah, give Jessica a Bakfiets as part of her compensation package!

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  • Ethan April 26, 2013 at 11:54 am

    This is now (looking back) a pivotal event/post in Portland’s bike history.

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  • Anne Hawley April 26, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Saw your tweet referring to this post, Jonathan. A great look back to the dark ages before I personally became bike-conscious. A bakfiets doesn’t even raise an eyebrow now.

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