Weekender Ride

Bakfietsen go mainstream

Posted by on May 17th, 2007 at 7:51 am

Bike Master Plan Ride #4

Scott Mizee aboard a bakfiets.
File photo

The Oregonian’s inPortland secion has a nice story today that will give a big boost to Portland’s awareness of and interest in bakfietsen (Dutch for “box bikes”).

The story focuses on how great the bikes are for kids and families, and even mentions a woman who uses one as a way to lose her post-pregnancy pounds,

“She knew the only way she could exercise would be to incorporate it into her day. Now she piles the kids into her bakfiets twice a day and rides to her daughter’s school and back.”

The article also says that June 1st will be the opening day for Clever Cycles, one of the first shops in the U.S. to sell the bikes.

Browse my archives for more Clever Cycles, Dutch bikes and bakfiets news.

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  • Scott Mizée May 17, 2007 at 8:17 am

    I guess I’m going to have to go buy today’s Oregonian now… Yay Bakfietsen!

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  • vanessa May 17, 2007 at 8:31 am

    My van is turning into “320,000 mile original toyota engine finally not passing DEQ” toast, and a bakfiet is on the brain as a replacement.
    I am happy whenever someone gets on a bike instead of a car.
    That said, I dont know how old the daughter is of the woman losing weight, but when my kids were 5 and 7 I had them both riding their own bikes behind me to their school, which was 2 miles each way.When we were all in yellow rain gear we looked like some happy ducks. The 5 year old had a teeny bike and had to peddle furiously, and she did it 4 times a day, as she was in half day kindergarten, and we would go back later to meet her brother.Cars gave us a wide berth whenever we were traveling together. The sooner kids get on bikes, the better, as far as I am concerned. Both my kids are avid cyclists, my son just finished bike mechanic school in Ashland, and he is racing now as well. I never had to schlepp them around anywhere in a car,(all those miles on the engine are from film tours)…they had their bikes and their riding skills I taught them, and when they were old enough, they made their trips on their own. I also lobbied for the school to get a bike rack (they had none), and got them one, and now I see there are 2 bike racks outside the school.

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  • Hollisimo May 17, 2007 at 9:30 am

    Vanessa, your story warms the cockles of my bikey heart.

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  • Jessica Roberts May 17, 2007 at 10:00 am

    I saw a bakfiets with kid cargo this morning while crossing Sandy and it made me so happy!

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  • Val May 17, 2007 at 11:47 am

    I know it’s been said before, and I hate to be a nitpicker, but education is always good: “Bakfiets” is singular (“bak”=box, “feits”=bike) and “Bakfietsen” would be the plural. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.

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  • Scott Mizée May 17, 2007 at 11:59 am

    so… are you saying to gramattically correct headlines would have been:

    “Bakfietsen go Mainsream” or
    “Bakfiets goes Mainstream”


    just to try and reduce the confusion?

    I like nitpicking… just ask those that have to work with me every day. 😉

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  • Scott Mizée May 17, 2007 at 11:59 am

    TWO! not to

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  • Steve May 17, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Since we all love sustainability..

    The center for Appropriate Transport in Eugene has been making bikes very similar to these imports for years now. Right down the road in Eugene.

    Where are the articles and praise for them?

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  • Carl May 17, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    I find that it’s easier to negotiate the singular/plural divide in the Netherlands where, for the most part, these bikes are simply called “cargobikes.” Exotic, eh?

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  • Richard Wilson May 17, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    If this keeps up Todd and Dean will sell all their stock before the shop opens 😉 Great article!

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  • Val May 17, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    Scott: Absolutely! Those would be too grammatically accurate headlines. Actually, I was mostly trying to point out that there is no such thing as a “bakfiet”, unless that refers to a dance derived from the Moonwalk.

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  • todd May 17, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Val and Scott, there are typos in your posts. Steve, I disagree that the CAT bikes are “very similar,” particularly in their suitability for family applications. But then, a lot of people will say that a Dutch city bike is very similar to an old Schwinn, or even a Bianchi Milano.

    Regarding sustainability, Steve, you’re vastly oversimplifying, but let me join you: I think a practical bike imported from Mars does more for the cause of sustainability than a locally-crafted bike destined for a car rack. And I think that two imported bakfiets do more for sustainability than one CAT bike.

    You’re kidding yourself if you think that local micro-manufacture of bikes from largely imported components beats industrial-scale manufacture of bikes overseas in total resources consumed, emissions, etc., per bike. Volume manufacture is simply much more efficient. Per bike, the fuel used in freight from the Netherlands is probably comparable to what most US households spend on gas in a week (segue about emissions toll of domestic vs. foreign: did you know that sea freight from Asia uses less fuel than trucking from east of the Rockies?). And after just a couple of months, before we’re even open, there are nearly ten times as many bakfietsen replacing car trips on the streets of Portland than CAT has been able to supply to Portland in 15 or so years. Availability matters. Service matters. Returning calls and emails matters. Even marketing matters. CAT?

    I think you’re right if you mean that ultimately, trade imbalance with manufacturing societies is not sustainable economically. I look forward with some perversity to when we simply can’t afford not to live more locally: it’s coming. Preparing for that time, to survive and prosper in it, requires culture change. I don’t have any qualms about importing bikes that can support that change, model a future beyond car culture.

    Meanwhile, we’re proud to carry the Eugene-made tikit folder.

    Richard, we have only one bakfiets left from our first container. More coming.

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  • Val May 17, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    Todd: You don’t like having the comma outside the quotations? I know it’s technically incorrect, but it makes more sense to me.

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  • Matt Picio May 17, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    todd, you’re conflating efficiency with sustainability.

    “Volume manufacture is simply much more efficient”

    but much less sustainable, unfortunately. It’s efficiency that got us into this mess in the first place.

    1,000 shoemakers making shoes is sustainable. One shoemaking plant which does the work of 1,000 shoemakers but can be run by 5 is 200x more efficient (in theory), but requires electricity to run, machinery that was manufactured and shipped from elsewhere, raw materials shipped from elsewhere, etc, etc.

    No current bicycle is sustainable. To be sustainable, they’d need to be manufactured with local resources, or shipped solely by renewable energy (like people or horses).

    The only truly sustainable transport is walking barefoot.

    I agree that in some cases, ordering from overseas is less environmentally damaging than ordering local. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to accurately determine the total environmental cost in any operation since nearly every business relies on products from other businesses in order to operate.

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  • tonyt May 17, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Just let me know when you have the not-so-super-secret Stokemonkey ready for the bakfiets.

    Or should I say Bakfietsensenssesseeses.

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  • tonyt May 17, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    by the “not-so-super-secret Stokemonkey ready for the bakfiets,” I mean the not-so-super-secret Stokemonkey ADAPTOR for the Bakfietsensenssesseeses.

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  • Jessica Roberts May 17, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    I know it’s bakfiets > bakfietsen because it’s Dutch but somehow it always kind of makes me think that hax0rs are involved (box > boxen). Which is kind of fun too.

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  • Alan May 17, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    I’ve been watching these bikes, sometimes with children payloads, cruising NE. They are a happy sight, but I want to caution owners: a box does not guarantee, or even enhance, safety in any way that I can see. Strap your children in and have them wear helmets, just like you would with a bike trailer.

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  • todd May 17, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    but matt, what if the sustainable barefoot walkers eat kandy korn trucked in from pennsylvania? what if, instead, they are hunter-gatherers who hunt them some animals whose skins they turn into shoes. UNSUSTAINABLE!

    the perfect is the enemy of the good.

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  • Matt M May 17, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    Matt P- “1,000 shoemakers making shoes is sustainable.” I buy this argument for the “buy local” ideal, but at the same time I don’t on the enviro side. Keep in mind that 1000 shoemakers each need to have their own set of equipment (most of it very heavy) which has to be produced and shipped to them. Also, they would all end up sourcing their materials from non-local sources (even in the past 100 plus years of shoemaking this was the cas). While it is nice to have things locally made, it sometimes doesn’t work out for the better. All of the sewing and shoe repair supplies that we use at Mountain Soles for repair/alterations are not at all local. However, we do try to buy from local suppliers to hopefully keep the money in the Portland area. I think it is all about balance. If you can’t source the actual materials that make up a product locally, then try to buy from a locally owned business that will in turn support other local businesses.

    I like what Todd and Dean are doing and I’ve read much of Todds blog over the last 6 months or so (and I’m starting to read his archive). I think that he is passionate about what he/they are doing, and in the long run it will make for more bikes and less cars on the road, especially as oil gets more expensive and less availible.

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  • Jonathan Maus / BikePortland May 17, 2007 at 10:13 pm


    I appreciate your nitpicking. seriously.

    I’ve edited the title.

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  • Scott Mizée May 18, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Jonathan says: “Val,I appreciate your nitpicking. seriously.I’ve edited the title.”

    And who says one person can’t make a difference. 🙂

    tonyt says: Bakfietsensenssesseeses

    I love it! Have a great weekend everybody. I gotta get outside and get on the bike!

    Jonathan! I love the preview button! Thanks for adding this feature!

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