The Dutch and their Bikes

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Books about Dutch biking culture continue to grow in popularity, with more titles appearing on the bookshelves each year. Four years ago, American photojournalist and long-term resident in the Netherlands, Shirley Agudo, published Bicycle Mania, receiving rave reviews from international readers.

Continuing on this same theme, Agudo has recently released a new extended version of her first book, titled The Dutch and Their Bikes: Scenes from a Nation of Cyclists.

This new coffee table book exhibits about 700 photographs of Dutch people cycling – an activity intrinsic in their everyday lives. The images are loosely arranged by theme: transportation, colours, weather, age, animals, and special occasions.

The book opens with a section of well-researched facts about cycling in the Netherlands, including what happens to bikes parked in public spaces for long periods (that is, they are removed and taken to the Fietsdepot to await retrieval by their owners at a cost of ten euros, albeit 70% of these bikes remain unclaimed).

By adding a short list of cycling innovations supported by both local and national government, Agudo emphasises the importance of cycling to the environment and economy of the Netherlands.

Interspersed throughout the 352 pages of the book are comments from a broad range of people somehow involved in cycling culture in the Netherlands, including individuals working in various government officers, transport organizations, cycling bodies, bicycle manufacturing businesses, and online bike forums. Often information and views are repeated, providing reiteration of the benefits of cycling to both individual and community.

The Dutch and Their Bikes is a gift to the tourism industry of the Netherlands. The photographs portray the Dutch people as a free-spirited (sometime nude, pages 294-297), environmentally conscious, sturdy population who know the simple joy of riding a bike, and have adopted it as their preferred mode of transport.

Cycling is internationally recognised as an enjoyable as well as an environmentally-friendly activity. By identifying the bike as being integral to Dutch culture, Shirley Agudo has added another reason for visitors to come and experience what the Netherlands is about.

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Ana McGinley
books@dutchnews.nl