Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dutch Cycling Embassy

Fresh from the womb is the Dutch Cycling Embassy, a coalition of private companies, NGOs, universities, research institutions and governments. And as their name would suggest, they're both Dutch and into cycling. Indeed, the goal of the group is to "facilitate cycling worldwide as the most modern, efficient and sustainable means of transportation by sharing [their] expertise and technology as the world’s number one cycling country."

With their launch comes this video;

The first section of this film is stylised as a hard-hitting historical documentary. The remainder of the film comes across as a sort of weird commercial showcasing everything that is great about riding in the Netherlands. It doesn't all make sense to me; why is this young woman only buying a bike now? Surely she's had one her whole life. Especially since she's a member of the Cycling Academic Network. And they clearly made it look like that Saab was going to hit her. And that man with the flat tyre? You can't just inflate a flat tyre, you need to fix the hole.

But pedanticalness (that doesn't look right does it? Well it is. I checked) aside, this film makes me swoon. Those facilities and infrastructure actually exist and they make so much sense to me. What's more, and as the film shows, the Netherlands weren't always a bike mecca. It took protests, time and the development of infrastructure and policies to make the place what it is today.

So to all the cities out there that are talking pedalling but are really peddling cars (see what I did there?), I say give the Dutch Cycling Embassy a call (+31 (0)30 230 4521). Go on, pick up that phone...


  1. hi Laurence,

    thanks for posting about the film, much appreciated. I wrote and produced it for the Dutch Cycling Embassy.

    Let me shed some light on your questions.

    The shop scene: people buy new bikes. That doesn't mean she didn't have one before, far from it. It's also very common for people to have a 'rat bike' (bc of bike theft) and a nice one.

    The car scene: we didn't make it look like it was going to hit her. The driver made a wee bit of a jerky stop, but that's left to circumstances of this prepared scene (timing of different takes). In the other car scene (junction with lights) where she has right of way over the white Volvo (not staged, but real traffic), you see that the driver anticipates her right of way, slows down and then drives on again.

    The 'flat' tyre scene: the man was is staff of the Dutch Cyclists Union, stranded on his Measure Bike. We thought it was a nice touch that the girl would help him out, instead of the predictable other way round. We intended it to look like just a deflated tyre, not flat. Call it creative freedom.

    Re: the 'commercial' vibe: of course it's a promotional video of what Dutch cycling policy * know-how stands for, so this is really a typical style for that. Story-wise, the synopsis entailed that the girl's journey is about taking the viewer on a trip along the objects & routes that typify (in a constrained way, there's so much more) Dutch cycling (provisions).

    I'm happy to see you do appreciate the overall intent of the film, particularly the historical context, which doesn't get told often enough.

    Thanks again & best,

    Marc van Woudenberg
    Bicycle Ambassador

  2. Dear Marc,

    Thanks for your response. I must admit I was being a bit facetious in my post, but of course you have every right to respond to the rantings of a smart arse.

    I am happy that you recognise that I see the film in a positive light. It is beautifully shot, has a nice vibe and espouses a view that should be shared as widely as possible.

    Cheers and keep up the great work.

    The Weekly Cycle