Salonanarchist | Leunstoelactivist

Amsterdam: Are cyclists’ complaints taken seriously

Cyclists’ organisation Fietsersbond has a website where you can report dangerous bollards, traffic lights that take ages to turn green, a shortage of bicycle racks, etcetera. A group of volunteers frequently check the status quo. For the good news click here: across the entire city, there are locations where the situation for cyclists appears to have improved.

Can we conclude that cyclists’ complaints are taken seriously? Not quite. Many reports are ignored and as a result, cyclists are being hindered or even put in danger. Some of these reports are about problems that can easily be solved, for example by adding a bike rack. In other cases, there are complicated tradeoffs, and the interests of cyclists are subordinated to the flow of cars and public transport. In any case, city and districts might put the bicycle a bit higher on their list of priorities.

Bubbles of inequality in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is booming, columnist Kees Kraaijeveld recently wrote, but it’s a ’tough meritocratic men’s world’ and ‘the booming life blows bubbles of inequality’. The middle class is shrinking and the share of high incomes is rising. «The big questions are: do we want this? And, if we don’t: what are we going to do about it?»

At the risk of stating the obvious: social housing obviously plays a role. Affordable, good-quality rental homes have always been the backbone of the Dutch housing stock. They contributed to the fact that social inequality in Amsterdam isn’t nearly as large as in many cities abroad.

In recent years, however, rents have been raised and many housing corporation-owned houses have been sold or demolished. In Amsterdam, the number of affordable rental homes has been slashed by tens of thousands. The chart above shows the results. Over the past years, Amsterdam consistently moved to the top-right: more expensive houses and more high incomes (the only exception being a dip in 2011, possibly related to the late response of the Dutch housing market to the economic crisis).


Plastic bags on bicycle saddles

The new OEK (the members’ magazine of the Amsterdam chapter of cyclists’ organisation Fietsersbond) features another cool investigation by Pete Jordan. This time, he looked into the plastic supermarket bags Amsterdammers use to keep their bicycle saddles dry. He counted them around the railway stations Sloterdijk, CS and Muiderpoort.

Naturally, AH leads (almost 70% of bags), followed by Vomar, Dirk, Jumbo, Lidl and Plus. The high score for Vomar is remarkable given they don’t have many stores in Amsterdam. My guess would be that Jordan counted Vomar bags mainly around Muiderpoort: there used to be a Vomar around the corner.

The OEK further has an analysis of the city’s mobility policy. There will be more bicycle parking space but also 2,000 additional parking places for cars. In streets like Weteringschans and Kinkerstraat, the maximum speed will be lowered to 30 kmph, but the cycle path will be removed: cyclists will have to share the road with cars. Johan Kerstens predicts that cyclists will be cornered: «Would they divert to tram and bus? Or revolt, just like they had to in the 1970s?»

The OEK can be downloaded here (in Dutch), but if you join the Fietsersbond it will be delivered to your home.


Amsterdam: raadslid wil informatie over besluitvorming toegankelijk maken

Een tijdje terug heb ik een analyse gemaakt van het stemgedrag over moties en amendementen in de gemeenteraad van Amsterdam. Het was makkelijk om aan de gegevens te komen: op de website van gemeenteraad kan je een Exceldocument downloaden met uitslagen vanaf 2013. Maar als je de gegevens wil analyseren stuit je al snel op problemen. De manier waarop stemmingen zijn beschreven is allesbehalve consistent, waardoor de gegevens flink moeten worden opgeschoond. Ik hou wel van een beetje knutselen met regex, maar dit is eigenlijk niet normaal meer.

Maar vandaag is er goed nieuws: raadslid Zeeger Ernsting heeft een voorstel ingediend voor «radicale transparantie». Hij beschrijft dat veel gemeentelijke informatie op zich openbaar is, maar dat die informatie vaak verstopt zit in pdf-documenten die nauwelijks te vinden zijn als je niet precies weet waar je naar op zoek bent.

Dat moet veranderen. Ernsting stelt daarom voor om zowel raadsinformatie als andere gemeentelijke informatie beschikbaar te stellen als makkelijk doorzoekbare open data.

Het Pythonscript waarmee ik de gegevens over moties en amendementen heb opgeschoond is hier beschikbaar.


Road bikes vs city bikes: how Utrecht portrays its cyclists

In the build-up to the Tour de France Grand Départ on 4 July, Utrecht is organising activities to promote cycling and to present itself as a cycling city. For example, they’re publishing a series of portraits of Utrecht cyclists. What kind of bicycles do they have?

Out of 67 bicycles portrayed so far, no fewer than 26 are road bikes, and only 13 are city bikes. Among both categories, about half the bicycles are made of steel. The steel road bikes aren’t the ones with rusty chains you see in the streets (for example in Amsterdam), but well-maintained classic road bikes, including a mixte women’s bike, and hand-made designer bikes.

There’s also a velomobile (I’m not really into recumbents but this one looks cool), a Pedersen floating saddle bike and a bough bike.

Utrecht could have chosen to show lots of old city bikes, and a few newish Cortina or Sparta imitation cargo and grandma bikes with brown comfort saddles, which is more or less what Utrechters use for their daily trips (check the videos by Mark Wagenbuur). But of course, the point of the portraits isn’t to show the average Utrecht bicycle. Rather, they paint a picture of Utrecht cyclists as diverse, generally sort of hip people with fast bikes.


Some portraits describe or show several bicycles. If they are of different types, I’ve counted them separately. The classification of bicycles isn’t always straightforward; for example, in a few cases it’s unclear whether a bicycle should be classified as touring or city bike. The analysis is based on portraits 100 through 40; the rest was yet to be published at the time of analysis. Download the data here.


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By Young & United, the Dutch youth movement fighting against wage inequality. Young adult workers in the Netherlands may earn as little as half the adult minimum wage. Companies like McDonald’s and Ahold boost their profits by dozens of millions of euros using low-paid young adult workers, but Young & United are determined to put an end to this.


GroenLinks, «lievelingetje van journalisten»?

Media hebben veel aandacht besteed aan het vertrek van Bram van Ojik als leider van GroenLinks en aan zijn opvolger, Jesse Klaver. Bij Telegraaf-columnist Paul Jansen viel dit verkeerd (paywall):

Het onderstreept wat iedereen aan het Binnenhof allang weet: GroenLinks is een lievelingetje van journalisten.

Klopt dat? Je kan die vraag op verschillende manieren beantwoorden. Ik heb geteld hoe vaak Tweede Kamerleden worden geciteerd in artikelen op de website van de NRC. De grafiek laat de resultaten zien.

De rode stippen tonen het gemiddeld aantal vermeldingen per fractie. Het lijkt erop dat de NRC relatief veel aandacht besteedt aan partijen die een sleutelrol vervullen bij het creëren van meerderheden voor regeringsbeleid. Daarnaast is er veel aandacht voor Geert Wilders (PVV) en Henk Krol (50PLUS). GroenLinks is bij NRC-journalisten niet echt favoriet; de krant noemt vaker Kamerleden van 50PLUS, PVV en D66.

De grijze stippen laten de score zien van individuele Kamerleden. Bij de PvdA en de VVD is de ongelijkheid tussen backbenchers en mediapolitici het grootst: daar is de hoogste score 50 keer zo hoog als de mediaan. Ook bij PVV en D66 is de ongelijkheid vrij groot.

Dan nog iets anders: De NRC noemt mannelijke Kamerleden gemiddeld bijna drie keer zo vaak als hun vrouwelijke collega’s. Bij de mannelijke Kamerleden zijn er enkele met extreem hoge scores die het gemiddelde omhoogtrekken, maar zelfs als je naar de mediaan kijkt worden mannen bijna twee keer zo vaak genoemd als vrouwen. Hier heeft de NRC iets uit te leggen.


Ik heb me op de NRC gericht omdat hun website relatief makkelijk doorzoekbaar is. Zoektermen heb ik opgebouwd als "voornaam tussenvoegsel achternaam" partij. Bij dubbele achternamen gescheiden door een koppelteken heb ik het laatste deel weggelaten (bijvoorbeeld Magda Berndsen in plaats van Magda Berndsen-Jansen). Als begindatum heb ik 20 september 2012 genomen, de datum waarop de huidige Tweede Kamer werd geïnstalleerd. Bij Kamerleden die korter in de Kamer zitten heb ik een correctie toegepast. Voor de overzichtelijkheid heb ik afsplitsingen weggelaten bij de analyse per partij. De scripts zijn hier beschikbaar.


Shell’s political connections

According to Alice Stollmeyer, the Netherlands is «EU’s worst performer» when it comes to renewable energy. In a response, Joris Luyendijk comments on the revolving door between Royal Dutch Shell and Dutch politics:

for while the [conservative] VVD is a slide for politicians to the banks, the [social-democrat] PvdA is such a slide to Shell

Or, if I interpret Luyendijk correctly: ties between Shell and politicians ensure that environmental ambitions won’t stand in the way of corporate profits.

It so happens I recently looked into connections between businesses and Dutch national politics, so why not do a quick fact check. Below is an updated version of the chart (sources and method explained here).

First of all, banks and Shell are indeed the most active companies involved in the revolving door. The large majority of politicians who have connections with banks are members of the VVD or fellow conservative party CDA.

I found three cases of politicians landing jobs with Shell after their political career: Wim Kok, Dick Benschop and Nebahat Albayrak, all PvdA. Of course, this is only part of the revolving door phenomenon: I found far more cases of people who first worked for Shell and subsequently entered politics (note that it’s plausible that publicly available information about what politicians did after their political career is less complete than information on what they did before). If you include people who became active in national politics after having worked for Shell, then VVD and PvdA are about equally dominant.

One could argue that the PvdA politicians among them are most relevant for the point Luyendijk is making (i.e. Shell’s powerful lobby being partly to blame for the Netherlands’ poor performance on renewable energy). One of them is Jacqueline Cramer, who was a non-executive board member of Shell until 2007, and subsequently became minister of the environment until 2010 (incidentally, the deputy prime minister of that government was Wouter Bos, also PvdA and former Shell).


Strava tweets II: after dinner rides and Sunday morning rides

The other day I posted an article about using Strava tweets to analyse road cycling patterns. I plan to do some more analysis on this but first I wanted to take another look at the time at which tweets are posted. Below is a chart that shows the number of Strava tweets per hour of the day.

Two things stand out: on weekdays, there’s an after-dinner peak, and on Sundays, many trips are finished before lunch. The pattern suggests that people tend to tweet pretty quickly after they finish their ride. This in turn seems to suggest that post times may well be a meaningful indicator of the time at which rides take place.


I used a variant of this script to determine the gender of people who tweeted their Strava rides, based on the first name of their Twitter screen name. According to the results, 9.7% are women. This is more than the 5.5% women in the SWOV survey among Dutch road cyclists, but then again people who use Strava (and tweet about it) are probably more likely to be young and young road cyclists more likely to be women.

For women the median distance of rides is 48km; for men 54km. The difference doesn’t appear very large.

In the chart above, you can select to see data for women instead of all riders (note that the scale changes). The main difference seems to be that for women, there’s much less of an after-dinner peak on weekdays. Perhaps something to do with the fact that women are less likely to have full-time jobs. But the numbers are relatively small so perhaps one shouldn’t read too much into it.