The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'netherlands'
A new study has looked at why fewer women cycle in the United States than in the Netherlands, and found that it has less to do with an often stated Anglophone culture of cycling-as-macho-extreme-sport, and more to do with women in the US being too busy with domestic chores for the luxury of cycling:
In short, despite years of progress, American women’s lives are still disproportionately filled with driving children around, getting groceries, and doing other household chores – housework that doesn’t lend itself easily to two-wheeled transportation. It turns out that women may be more likely to bike in the Netherlands because Dutch culture is giving them more time to do so.Of course, the fact that in the Netherlands it is possible to carry anything from a toddler to a bag of groceries on a bakfiets is one factor, as is the fact that Dutch children are more likely to go to school by themselves (often on their own bicycles) than be dropped off in Mom's SUV; a lot of it, though, comes down to more traditional gender-based divisions of labour in the US and that hyperefficient Anglocapitalist labour market leaving those who get stuck doing the chores (i.e., usually the women) with less time for the luxury of cycling:
Dutch women can use bikes to get around because they are less pressed for time than American women, in three fundamental ways. First, thanks to family-friendly labour policies like flexitime and paternity leave, Dutch families divide childcare responsibilities much more evenly than American families. Second, work weeks in the Netherlands are shorter. One in three Dutch men and most Dutch women work part-time, and workers of either gender work fewer hours than Americans.Of course, this is a piece in the Grauniad; were it in, say, the Financial Times or the Economist, it may well say that large numbers of female cyclists is a symptom of an inefficient economy, one which fails to extract the maximum amount of productivity from its labour force; indeed, one can imagine a report from a neoliberal think tank claiming that women on bicycles are a drag on productivity.
There's a piece in BBC News' Magazine section about the bizarre upside-down world of the Netherlands, where the bicycle is king and cars are grudgingly tolerated; where bike lanes and bike parking are ubiquitous, cycling safety is a compulsory school subject, cyclists have priority at roundabouts and roads are labelled “fietsstraat: auto te gaast” (“bike street: cars are guests”). Consequently, near everybody cycles, and nobody wears a helmet or lycra like some kind of extreme-sports nut whilst doing so:
Cycling is so common that I have been rebuked for asking people whether they are cyclists or not. "We aren't cyclists, we're just Dutch," comes the response.Meanwhile, on the other side of the world (both geographically and culturally), there is gradual movement in Australia towards the acceptance of cycling as a normal activity, with infrastructure being slowly provided for cyclists. However, not all are happy with this; after the Melbourne City Council opened a bike lane on the Princes Bridge, right-wing shock jocks and the Murdoch press have launched a campaign against bike lanes, arguing that they take away the motoring majority's roads to pander for a tiny fringe of (radical/politically correct/trendy) inner-city hipsters in lycra.
Indeed, the limits of how bike-friendly Australia can become may be fairly low, as long as motoring is the default (and, in most places, the only practical) means of transport (one could, indeed, reverse the Dutch formula to “we aren't motorists, we're just Aussies”), and elections are decided by car-dependant marginal seats. They don't want large numbers of cyclists getting in their way and slowing them down when they drive to the supermarket, and certainly don't want some politically-correct latte-sipper lecturing them that they should leave the 4WD at home and cycle to the shopping centre, and they decide elections, so policy is designed partly around the goal of suppressing the rise of cycling as a non-fringe phenomenon. Take, for example, Australia's near-universal and strictly enforced mandatory bike helmet laws, which serve the purpose of raising the economic and psychological barrier to entry from cycling, marking it out as a moderately dangerous extreme sport that requires special safety equipment, and is only for the hardcore.
The latest craze among the yobs of Amsterdam: Smart tossing.
The so-called ‘Smart tossing’ takes place mainly during the weekend, when many youths are out for a night on the town.
Alongside most canals a low guard rail helps prevent cars from taking a dip, but the Smart car is small enough to be lifted and tossed.
The Dutch authorities have trained about 200 inspectors to catch people illegally smoking tobacco in marijuana cafes. Smoking tobacco indoors has just been outlawed in the Netherlands, as it has elsewhere, though smoking marijuana in Amsterdam's famous "coffee shops" is allowed, as long as the weed isn't diluted with tobacco.
A new advertising agency in the Netherlands has started offering advertising on zoo animals and hookers' thighs. The agency instoresnow.nl also offers advertising iin religious establishments and huge floating billboards off popular beaches. Unfortunately for those willing to buy, the agency doesn't actually exist, but is merely a satirical project by a design student, Raoul Balai:
"I was getting sick and tired of advertising everywhere," Balai told reporters. "But I don't want to preach, and I thought satire would work better."
Prospective customers phoning his fake agency are kept on hold and bombarded with sales pitches until they give up.Not all are amused, though; an Amsterdam zoo has threatened Balai with a defamation suit after Balai's site showed fish at the zoo inscribed with the brand name of a frozen fish company.
A Dutch filmmaker who made a controversial film about violence against women in Islamic societies has been murdered in Amsterdam. Theo van Gogh (a relative of the painter) was shot and stabbed to death whilst cycling in a park. A collaborator of his (liberal Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who fled an arranged marriage and is an outspoken critic of human-rights abuses in the name of Islam) also received death threats, and is under police protection.
Researchers in the Netherlands have isolated a new medical condition: leisure sickness. It afflicts about 3% of the population, who become ill if they stop working, commonly experiencing fatigue, muscular pains or nausea on weekends or flu-like symptoms during vacations.
"Relaxing can be very stressful for a lot of people. When they got off the treadmill of life their immune system collapses. Sometimes that is the only way they can relax. But leisure time can also be stressful because it means the day is unstructured, people have to re-establish relationships and spend time with their families."
Those most afflicted by this syndrome are those with a heavy workload or a high sense of responsibility. Another reason to repent, quit your job and slack off? (via FmH)
Could the Dutch experiment with liberalism be over? After winning power and ending the long reign of the left, the new Christian-right government of the Netherlands has outlined its conservative social agenda, which includes recriminalising marijuana, shutting down drug cafés, and laws against same-sex marriage and prostitution. Mind you, I wonder how much of the "failure of liberalism" spin of the article is due to it being from a paper in Singapore, a city-state that is the epitome of the philosophy of benign authoritarianism. (via rotten.com)