Pete Jordan, author of the wildly popular Dishwasher: One Man’s Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States, is back with a memoir that tells the story of his love affair with Amsterdam, the city of bikes, all the while unfolding an unknown history of the city's cycling, from the craze of the 1890s, through the Nazi occupation, to the bike-centric culture adored by the world today
Pete never planned to stay long in Amsterdam, just a semester. But he quickly falls in love with the city and soon his wife, Amy Joy, joins him. Together they explore every inch of their new home on two wheels, their rides a respite from the struggles that come with starting a new life in a new country.
Weaving together personal anecdotes and details of the role that cycling has played throughout Dutch history, Pete Jordan’s In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist is a poignant and entertaining read. (from Amazon)Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
I’ll be honest. If I hadn’t been offered In the City of Bikes for review, I’d probably never have read it on my own. I’d never have known what a good read I’d have missed out on. I’d never learn about Amsterdam and its history with bicycles and why that history is so frickin’ cool! And that’d have been a shame, because I feel about ten times smarter from having read this book.
Through a lot of hard work, dedicated bike lovers, and lots of cultural and geological advantages, Amsterdam has become the biking center of the Netherlands. In the City of Bikes explores the history and development of Amsterdam’s biking culture, while also talking a bit about American biking culture in comparison (basically it sucks). I appreciated how in depth Mr. Jordan went when talking about differences between American and Amsterdam and why those differences lead one country to become car-centric and another to become bike-centric. It made sense, it was fascinating to read about, and it made me appreciate how different people are in other culture (and why those differences are really neat!).
Amsterdam’s bike culture wasn’t always fantastic, though. Throughout the last hundred years, Amsterdam has transformed the biker from outsider to insider and back again multiple times. Biker lovers have beat high bicycle prices, rubber shortages, Nazis, overzealous car owners, government officials with personal vendettas, thousands of bike thieves, and more. It’s a fascinating history and one that’d interest people who aren’t into bikes even a little bit.
I’d never wanted to visit Amsterdam before reading this book. Somehow, though, the images of happy Amsterdammers sitting regally on their bikes with the sun shining and flowers growing and whatnot has wormed its way into my brain. I want to see that for myself! I want to TRY that for myself, though I haven’t ridden a bike since I was a young teenager. This book, and especially Pete Jordan’s writing IN this book, has created (or unleashed) a desire for bikes that I didn’t even know I had.
I really liked how Mr. Jordan wove in his own memoirs with the history parts. I loved the personal touch it gave the book, and I liked how it tied together the past with the present. Plus, as I’m currently not brave enough to live abroad myself, I admire anyone who does just that and for such a lighthearted reason: because he loved bikes so much!
Read: April 1-3, 2013
A video about bicycling in Amsterdam: