Human Subjects: New Video on Bicycling

Here is a video of selected clips from interviews that I recorded. I took the advice from the professors and edited the material to make it easier to understand and visually appealing.

I plan to use this in our presentation and in our wiki to help portray our analysis of the interviews.

If you watch it, you will notice a general theme for concern for safety and the desire for freedom while riding bikes.


Post: Project Update

Our project took huge leaps and bounds this weekend which involved several interviews, working on the Google map tagging, and a discussion about our project. On Friday, we met with our professors and illuminated a whole new area in our research project. Ever since the beginning, we were focused on the materialistic values of our observations and research but never bothered to discuss the cultural relationship to bicycling in Amsterdam. In other words, bicycling infrastructure was the only thing on our minds and we thought that we could come to a conclusion with numbers, figures, and pictures. But our meeting revealed the cultural aspect of our project and how in many cases outweighs the infrastructure aspect. Our question “ What are the most important conditions that allow bicycling to be a viable form of transportation in Amsterdam?” definitely involves the physical aspects of the city that influences bicycling such as signals and bike lanes, but it also includes the emotional link between the citizens and their bikes. Do people ride their bikes because they watch the Tour de France and feel motivated to ride their bike, like to breathe fresh air as they go to work, or because it is accompanied with more freedom? These are the types of questions that need to be asked. Discovering this aspect of our project was very relieving because we were at a mental block about how our data and observations could lead to an effective conclusion. Now our project is two parts in methods and analysis, one involving bicycling infrastructure and the other involving bicycling culture. Our plan after the meeting was to use our interviews the following day to research the cultural part of our project.

On Saturday we set off to interview a few bicycle shop owners with a list of questions already written out for easy access. Our first interview was very informative and comical. Here is a short video of a few clips from the session.

Although it was hilarious to hear about his stories, we did not know at the time how his response could be analyzed and lead to a conclusion. We needed more data and we set off to do more interviews.

Sunday was the day before presentations and we were working hard to put a PowerPoint together. While we were meeting in the courtyard, we were fortunate to run into Clifford. He just finished his run and had a thought that he really wanted to share with us because it was related to our topic on bicycles. He talked about the duality between bicycling and individuals and juxtaposed it to the duality between individuals and society. For example bicycles give people more freedom and opportunity but also constrains them to bicycling lanes and bike racks. He told us this to help stimulate our thinking when we analyze our data and later posted a link to the article that he was referring to. The article is titled, Of bicycles, bakelites, and bulbs: toward a theory of sociotechnical change and was written by Wiebe E. Bijker.

We were second to present on Monday and we received helpful feedback from the panel and from our professor’s comments sent via email. We learned that we needed to focus on what’s important and relevant to our analysis and conclusion, for example, next time we should not focus on taxonomy of bikes, manage our time better, and include a brief history.

Today we had an interview with the Amsterdam branch of the Dutch Cyclists’ Union (Fietsersbond). This was very helpful and really pushed our project forward. They are a national organization made up of employees and volunteers. They are an independent organization and are responsible for giving traffic advice to municipality. They work closely with the citizens and the government to help make cycling better and easier in Amsterdam. A few interesting things that they talked about was how they are against the obligation of using helmets while riding bicycles because they believe that it would decrease the number of riders and therefore increase the number of cars and thus lower the safety of the rider. He also alluded to the paradigm that safety comes in numbers. Also, they mentioned a study of how cars gave more room to riders without helmets than to riders with helmets. I’m beginning to think that a large part of the answer to our research question involves the safety of the bicycle rider and how Amsterdam creates a safer environment for cyclist.

In the near future, I plan to make a documentary video of certain parts of the interviews that factor into our analysis and possibly have clips of us discussing them. I may use it in our presentation to make the cultural aspect of our project clearer.

New Question and Possibly the Last Revision

The revision this time was relatively small and addressed the specificity and clarity of our previous question. Our new question is: What are the most important conditions that allow bicycling to be a viable form of transportation in Amsterdam? Although we decided not to included Seattle in the question, we still intend to compare Amsterdam and Seattle in our project. We also substituted the word successful with viable because we felt that viable is more specific and better addresses our topic. We also decided to use “most important” to give our question more focus and make the project more feasible.

In the next few days we have multiple interviews on schedule. These include visiting numerous bike shops including WorkCycles and Henry Cutler. We also plan to interview regular people who ride their bikes around Amsterdam and will try to include different age groups, gender, and other attributes. On Tuesday we have an interview with the Dutch Cyclist Union.

After meeting with Rob and Clifford today, we found a new direction for our project. Throughout our research so far, we’ve neglected the culture component of our project but our professors gave us many suggestions on how to research that aspect of our topic. They also recommended ways to organize our data and how to effectively present it in our wiki.

This next week will be very busy for us as we continue to gather more information and try to organize it in a creative and effective manner.

Video about biking in Amsterdam (for my group)

A summary about biking in Amsterdam:

Revised Question, Getting Closer…

Once again, our group has a new question that is quite different from the last revision. Our new question is: Using Seattle as a reference point, what are the conditions in Amsterdam that make its bicycling infrastructure successful or unsuccessful? With help from our professors, we decided that this question most accurately describes what we really wanted to study in the city of Amsterdam. Our last question was missing a key essential ingredient for a good question—relevance. This new question, unlike the previous one, has relevance. It focuses on what Amsterdam has that Seattle doesn’t in regards to the bicycling infrastructure. It is important because Seattle is pushing for a more prevalent bicycling culture and by studying how Amsterdam has become so successful in developing their bicycling community, it may shed light into ways on how Seattle can achieve their goal.

New Revised Research Question post-arrival

Our new research question presented this week on July twenty-second has already undergone multiple revisions. This question was: How does a bicycling population affect the developing infrastructure of Amsterdam specifically in the relationship between the inner and out city. We decided to drop the topic of public health because seeing the city first hand made us realize that our initial question was almost trivial. Instead we decided on a new topic about cycling and infrastructure. After receiving some feedback from other students and from our professors, we found that our question needed further revision. We needed to clear some assumptions that we made and make it more focused. Our new question is: What are the differences in the bicycling infrastructure between the inner and outer city?

Here are some pictures we took as initial efforts for our research:

Inner City Sidewalks

Farther out from the inner city

Ben has methods posted on his blog, for example, we can look at bicycling density, size of bicycling dedicated pavement, number of bicycle racks, etc. Nathaniel has a google map posted where we can categorize our data.

Daily Diary 7/23 Friday

Here’s a video of Friday’s travels:

Short Summary

Today was day four of our expedition in Amsterdam and we were fortunate to have Rob Corser’s experience and knowledge to lead us today. In a short summary, we traveled to the Eastern Docklands and more specifically Java eiland. Rob led us on a tour of the island and gave us the background and history. After taking a coffee break, we traveled to central station where we hopped onto a ferry and rode to Tuindorp Oostzaan. During this transition we also visited a gallery that displayed and explained the construction of a new tunnel being built in Amsterdam for a new metro line. In Tuindorp Oostzaan, Rob explained the future plans for the area and its residential potential. Before leaving, we all had lunch at a Northern Lights café.

Today’s Subject

The title of today’s agenda is Derive: X-Form Amsterdam. I eventually came to conclusion that it was related to today’s topic about old, current, and future housing development; and how the use of space and urban planning was and still is very important. X-Form is short for transformation and we saw today a before and after picture of urban development. Java eiland represents the after picture while Tuindorp Oostzaan represents the before picture of the redevelopment. As we explored the two different sites and compared them, it is possible to see the urban transformation happening in these parts of Amsterdam.


Java eiland

In the last twenty years, Amsterdam has experience rapidly developing residential areas especially in the Eastern Docklands. These islands used to serve as places where ships can unload their cargo and store them in warehouses. Until recently these islands were mainly industrial. Eventually the shipping industry moved to a different part of the city and the islands were left with vacant warehouses and were prime candidates for a residential overhaul. But as with all new development, there needs to be prior planning and objective. If I remember correctly, city planners wanted the residential density to be more than thirty living units per hector, which is the average in Amsterdam.  Architecture and design is key in order to accomplish this objective. Amsterdam architects and city planners have to consider many aspects of urban development such as capacity, public transportation availability, bicycling lanes, canals, outward appearance, and interior design. Therefore it is important to consider urban spacing and planning in the Eastern Docklands. By analyzing the architecture and other aspects of the buildings on Java eiland, we can recognize the feats and decisions that were made in order to achieve the objectives set by the city.


Although the Eastern Docklands have very high desirability, living units come in all shapes and sizes as well as affordability. All levels of wealth can be found in these areas. After observing various buildings and architecture in Java eiland, I noticed that many of the buildings are dissimilar and many are repeated. The repeated buildings are aligned in a pattern with a different looking building to make it more appealing. And even so, the repeated buildings have small but distinct differences among them. The only thing that neighboring buildings seem to share is their height. Skyscrapers are few and scattered and Rob explained that they are located in certain places to serve as landmarks so that people can orientate themselves. I thought it was interesting that the city did not allow most buildings be higher than a certain height. When I first arrived in Amsterdam I was surprised not to see more skyscrapers but I now understand why.

Repeated Building Units on the Eastern Docklands

The superblocks on Java eiland are an example of how urban planning is fluid and dynamic. Java eiland has a mixture of superblocks and townhouse like buildings. Superblocks are large residential buildings that usually cover most if not all of an enlarged city block. Much of Java eiland and many parts of Amsterdam consist of superblocks. According to Rob, the urban planners decided to stop building super blocks and instead move towards other designs such as townhouse like buildings. These design changes symbolize the different periods of construction in Amsterdam. At one point, the architects may of decided that superblocks was the best choice and a few years later in a different location, townhouse and apartment style construction was used instead. When Java eiland is compared to its neighboring islands, Java eiland has enormous super blocks compared to the others. Borneo-sporenburg is one of the neighboring islands and only has one superblock known as the Whale. I enjoyed learning about how the architecture of the buildings can be very different from island to island. It inspires me to look at the building designs in Seattle to see how dissimilar they are and try to speculate reasons why architects chose a specific layout or density.

The Whale on Borneo-Sporenburg Island.

Eastern Docklands history can still be found on the islands. On Knsm-Laan Street, there is a huge brick building with an opening in the middle that we walked through. In that walk though, we could see the original infrastructure of a shipyard. The pavement was made out of steel and concrete and was created in a way that allowed it to be moved. Also the building itself seemed to have a slight resemblance to a warehouse with steel windows and bricks. I thought that it was amazing that I was able to learn about this example of the architect’s efforts to preserve the history of the island. Without any kind of guide, I would of never been able to notice or realize the historical value of the building.

This superblock holds some warehouse characteristics.

At one point, Rob had us imagine in our minds that the place we were in was in the 1950s and that the tall building next to us was vacant. Surrounding the building were run down empty warehouses. He describes it as an “urban industrial wasteland”. Squatters inhabit the vacant building, some illegally. The city decides to redevelop the area and to clean it up. One of the first things they do is remove the illegal squatters and allow artist to live there for very cheap. This allowed the city to start changing the area for the better. This is the usual step-by-step process that the city uses to help redevelop different areas of Amsterdam.

Right before stepping onto the tram, Rob talks about how interwoven and efficient the space is used in Amsterdam. There are train and tram lines overlapping each other at different levels combined with the roads, bicycling lanes, and buildings. The City also didn’t leave out parks and sports fields from the equation and the canals also play a significant role. Rob concludes with the statement that it would be very challenging for us to pull off a feat like this. I believe Amsterdam is unique because of how integrated their public transportation system is with the city. It feels like it is at one with the buildings and the with people, as if they were not separated but a whole single unit.

Urban Transformation part 1

Java eiland served as an end result to a big residential development project of transforming a previous industrial desert to a booming housing expansion. Construction had to be thoroughly planned out and historical preservation, spatial optimization, and appearance were all taken into consideration. Many new or recently developed parts of Amsterdam look like this and have a similar timeline where the area was previously an industry site and was then transformed into residential zones.

New Metro Line

On the way to the ferry we stopped by a small gallery displaying the new metro line project. It had a three dimensional model of the new metro line showing what parts were under construction and what parts were not. It also had an interactive board that used LEDs to demonstrate that the new metro line will be able to get you to your destination faster than by car, bus, or bike. To me, seeing projects that have yet to be finished is awesome because it gives me a sense of the future for the city.

Tuindorp Oostzaan

To get to our last destination, we had to cross the Het IJ. We hopped onto the correct ferry, free of charge, and arrived at Tuindorp Oostzaan approximately fifteen minutes later. The ferry, like many other modes of public transportation, was very busy. The public transportation system has proven to be very handy for us today.

Tuindorp Oostzaan Ferry Landing

Tuindorp Oostzaan is the northern part of Amsterdam and is basically a warehouse wasteland except for some recent renovation and inhabitation by MTV near the ferry dock. It used to be an industrial center but is now almost vacant. Similar to the previous redevelopment in the Eastern Docklands, the same thing is happening here. The whole area is scheduled for redevelopment and the method to which they will accomplish this is first by attracting artist and other groups to start to settle or temporarily inhabit the warehouses before they are razed for other development. We currently see MTV here using the warehouses for various projects.

Urban Transformation part 2

Tuindorp Oostzaan represents the beginning phase of urban redevelopment. Compared to the end result at the Eastern Docklands, Tuindorp Oostzaan is an empty desert. But at one point in time, the islands also use to be lifeless and rundown. The city was able to transform the islands into a bustling part of Amsterdam through a step-by-step process that first involved finding temporary inhabitants and then utilize effective urban and architectural planning. Tuindorp Oostzaan is currently recruiting artist and others to inhabit the warehouses in order to prepare for the next step. One day it may look like Java eiland.

Final Thoughts

I found that today’s subject stood out more to me than the previous days because of how related it is to my group project. My research project involves comparing the outer city with the inner city or in other words new development to old development. In particular I want to look at urban planning and how it changes area to area. Today we looked at how recent residential development was laid out and built to achieve a certain density in population and other requirements. I thought that was interesting and also visualizing first hand the before and after picture of urban development was very intriguing.

Exploring a new area of Amsterdam that is totally different than the inner city was new and exciting. It broadens my perspective on the city and it gives the sense of high organization and a bright future. Today’s experiences encourage me to come visit Amsterdam in the future when the city has finished the redevelopment project in the areas we visited and the new metro line has been completed. Much of the current development is geared towards the northern part of Amsterdam so it would be awesome to see that area in the future.

How to ride a bike successfully in Amsterdam

Top Ten Tips for Bike Safety in Amsterdam Link

Before merging your bike onto traffic in Amsterdam, it may be helpful to read this first.

Bicycling and Public Health in Amsterdam


A tourist visiting Amsterdam will notice right away the numerous bicycles filling the avenues and streets. Bikes can be seen at every block, intersection, building, and home; and passengers range from mothers with children to a young man in a suit and tie. The bicycling culture of Amsterdam is unique to their society and proves to be successful in allowing people to get to their destination. Many countries, such as the United States, lack such an integrated bicycling society and rely on cars or other modes of transportation.

Preliminary Questions:

What are the benefits and consequences of having such a prominent bicycling community?

How does bicycling affect the quality of one’s health, how people live, and how people interact with one another?

Definitions and Terms:

Youth of Amsterdam
• Ages ranging from eighteen to twenty-four

Physical health
• Wellbeing of the body of an individual

Social interaction
• How people collaborate with one another as a result from riding bicycles

Mental health
• How people think differently because of riding bicycles

Healthy Environment
• “…one that provides a range of opportunities for its inhabitants to shape the conditions that affect their lives” (Lindheim & Syme, 1983, p. 388).

Research Question

Objective: This study aims to see if Amsterdam’s unique bicycling culture is a factor that contributes to a healthily environment. If so, it is possible that other cities could adopt a similar attitude towards biking, which could become a valuable tool with planning and designing urban environments that contribute to healthy living.

How does Amsterdam’s unique bicycling culture affect the overall health of the city’s youth?

• Do the frequency, duration, and intensity at which the youth living in Amsterdam ride bicycles affect their physical health?
• Does bicycling affect the number of meaningful social contacts of Amsterdam’s youth or their interaction in groups with strong social ties?
• Does bicycling in Amsterdam have an effect on the mental health of the city’s youth?


In order to gather a large volume of personal information from individuals among Amsterdam’s youth bicyclists, we have decided that a standard questionnaire and/or personal interviews with individuals would be the most effective method of inquiry into this topic.  We would take this questionnaire to high bicycle traffic areas (like bicycle parking areas) and attempt to get young people to quickly respond to them.

Person’s background and how frequently each individual engages themselves with bicycling:

“How old are you?”

“How long/far do you travel by bicycle on average each day?”

“How long/far do you travel by motorized vehicle on average each day?”

“How long/far do you travel on foot on average each day?”

Physical Health

“How many illness-related doctor’s visits have you made in the past year?”

“Have you ever been injured in a bicycle related incident?”

Mental Health

“On days on which you use a bicycle does your mood tend to vary from days on which you do not use a bicycle?  If so, how?”

“Have you ever experienced a strong change in your own mood as a direct result of a bicycle related incident?  If so, what was/were the change(s)?”

Social Health

“Have you ever had a problem with another person as a direct result of a bicycle related incident?”

“Have you ever made a new friend while bicycling or as a direct result of bicycling?”

“Do you frequently bicycle with family/friends?”

“In your opinion, do your bicycle related habits improve or worsen your relationships with friends/family?  If so, how?”

Ethical Issues

Because of the questionnaire format we are using, we should have relatively little problem with ethical issues related to consent.

Our biggest problem in that respect will probably be just getting people to respond to us.  Another useful resource may end up being personal interviews with people within the Gemeentevervoerbedrijf, or GVB, (Amsterdam’s public transit authority) or the Stadsregio Amsterdam, however we have no specific plans for such interviews at this point.

Research Schedule


Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 Begin Questionnaires @  Amsterdam Bike Ramp by Centraal Station 27 Questionnaires 28 Questionnaires(Vondelpark?) 29 Questionnaires 30 Questionnaires(Flevopark?) 31 (Interviews?)


Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
1 2Questionnaires 3 Questionnaires(Other locations? 4 Questionnaires 5 Questionnaires(Other Locations?) 6 Questionnaires 7 (Interviews?)
8 9Last-Minute Interviews and Analysis 10Last-Minute Interviews and Analysis 11Last-Minute Interviews and Analysis 12Last-Minute Interviews and Analysis 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Refined Research Question 2

How does the bicycling culture in Amsterdam affect the physical, mental, and social health of an individual in Amsterdam?