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NYC Field Trip

Posted on 12 May 2009

Editors note: for several years we spent as much time travelling to Europe sourcing vendors as we did developing the market across North America. Perhaps under the influence of the old adage, "if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere," we spent a great deal of time developing stores there. The first was Hub Station in the West Village who sold a ton our merchandise and the other later became Adeline Adeline (loosely based on Curbside). We worked the sales floors of these stores on every trip, getting a real sense of the retail environment. These were hot times in New York, the New York times called our Dutch bikes "the first status symbol of the Great Downturn," bike lanes were being paved, ridership was up, and the need for real city bikes was tangible. Today, Citi Bikes has caused many of these stores to shutter while many bike stores still refuse to jump into the city bike market. As a result, many of the bikes seen on the street are often from internet companies - an interesting disruptive phenomena that we would have no problem with if (a) they were quality bikes, and (b) they have quality assembly. 

- February 2016

 

Recently took a trip to NYC to visit our two dealers ModSquad bikes and HubStation. We also went to participate in the 5 Boro Ride, and to see how NYC is celebrating its 400th anniversary, officially entitled “NY400, Holland on the Hudson”. From a large selection of Dutch painters on display at the Met to the 200 bright orange Batavus bikes donated to the city, NYC is outdoing itself, especially with its bike lanes.

Recently, NYC hired Janette Sadik-Khan to analyze transportation flow in NYC. Sadik-Khan realized that the streets in NYC belonged to cars, not neighbourhoods - and most of these cars were from outside Manhattan (only 25% of Manhattanites actually own cars). The problem? Pedestrians and cyclists were not ‘guests’ in their own neighbourhoods. From bike lanes to more benches in public spaces, Sadik-Khan has turned Manhattan into public space for multiple transportation users, rather than just a motorists racecourse. It appears that Manhattan is learning things from well planned cities like Groningen, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen.

Bike usership in NYC has increased 35%, as has its lanes - over 420 miles. What’s still missing, however, is the critical mass of cyclists. We talked to George Bliss at HubStation NYC, a legendary store in the West Village that sells Batavus bikes. George is an industrial designer and a professor at the Pratt Institute. Bikes, he says, still have the stigma of the lower class, and that will only change, he says, if the bikes can outdo the status of car ownership - which up to now has symbolized life, liberty and freedom to the American psyche. This is a hard paradigm to shift. But, with the advent of real European city bikes that can endure an NYC winter and keep the haute couture clean, the new status symbol not only shows off your legs better, but also your commitment to ideals that lie beyond car choked cities. As the New York Times stated, the Dutch bike may be the first status symbol of the Great Downturn”. And, as Leah McLaren stated the same week in the Globe and Mail, “the more stylish cycling becomes, the safer and more practical it will be”.

The 5 Boro ride was a soggy affair but spirited affair. We were  excited because this was our chance to try two of our prototype Batavus bikes, one of which was named the Breukelen, after the small town in Holland (and a well known borough in NYC). The Breukelen is Dutch bike designed for North America, where issues like sprawl, climate, and hills are a bigger issue than Holland. Batavus already makes bikes for the hilly and cold regions of Scandinavia, but we wanted something a little sexier, a little grittier and very urban. We rode the 7speed Breukelen all 70k of the 5 Boro Ride in luxurious comfort and were impressed with its astonishing efficiency. There was a feeling of sweet victory in this. We had designed the Breukelen with Batavus for the North American market, and riding the Breukelen through Brooklyn was a defining moment. The Dutch are reclaiming NYC again, one bike at a time.

For more info about Janette Sadik-Khan and the NYC DOT Strategy, check out their street design manual.

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