Beautiful Bicycles: Bakfiets (a real S.U.V.)

There are two types of bikes that look so odd, I had a hard time imagining how they worked: folding bikes and bakfiets. I experienced the magic of the folding bike while riding the Dahon, and now I have experienced the feat of engineering that is the bakfiets.

Since Mr. Dottie and I sold our only car in January, I’ve never missed it or needed a car for any purpose. Recently, I encountered a challenging situation: hauling a folding table and folding chairs for a fundraiser I helped organize. The bakfiets came to my rescue. I borrowed the folding table from Dutch Bike Chicago and, knowing that I am car-free, one of the owners offered me the use of his personal bakfiets. Yesss!

On the way to the event: me with a folding table

On the way to the event: me with a folding table

The bakfiets carried the folding table and the eight folding chairs perfectly – as two different loads, although if I really wanted to push it, I could have piled it all on together. Each load also included several bags of supplies.

Surprisingly, riding the bakfiets felt very similar to riding my Oma. They have the same swept back handlebars and similar slack seat tubes, which require the posture and pedaling that I’m used to. There was some slight reverse fish-tailing going on in the front when I first started riding, but I perfected the handling after a couple of minutes. Although the bakfiets is a hulking beast, it retains the basic manueverability of a bicycle, going pretty fast for the circumstances and sliding past stopped traffic on the right.

The bakfiets has 8 speeds in the internal hub, and the gearing is very forgiving of heavy loads. At stoplights I started out in 4th and then kicked it up to 6th or 7th when I got momentum. I never felt like I was hauling a heavy load and never had to strain.

My load at the end of the night

My load at the end of the night

Warning: Do not ride a bakfiets if you can’t handle attention. I am used to the occasional stares I get for riding Oma, but this new attention was way over the top. My dress and heels probably exacerbated the situation. The best example is when a guy took my picture while I was at a stoplight and yelled, “Awesome! You’re so going on facebook!” I should have asked him to tag the photo “Dottie,” because I’d love to see it.

Eight folding chairs, various boxes and bags

Eight folding chairs, various boxes and bags

One downside of this bakfiets is difficultly balancing the load when not in the saddle. When I walked or maneuvered the bike on foot with the box loaded, I felt like the bike would tip over if I did not keep a firm and strong grip. I rode the bike for less than a day, so this is probably an issue that I could overcome with more familiarity, but for this reason, I am interested in how a trike would feel. The increased stability of three wheels would be a major benefit, but likely would require sacrificing speed and maneuverability.

I could not let the bakfiets go without making a little video. Of course, I don’t have the same familiarity as I have with Oma, but hopefully the video will be helpful for people considering a cargo bike. Note that the kickstand latch is a little messed up on this old bike, but that could be fixed easily.

For more bakfiets cycling footage, check out the short video of me riding around the block back in February. I posted a video from the saddle on Saturday.

This is a WorkCycles Bakfiets from Dutch Bike Co. They are also sold at My Dutch Bike in San Francisco and Clever Cycles in Portland (see also, Full Hands and Totally Smitten Mama).

Other bakfietsen that I know of are:

I have no reason to own a bakfiets at this time, because I live walking distance to the grocery and pet supply stores. You can bet I’ll buy one when I have a kid, though! I’d love to hear from anyone who owns a bakfiets or any other type of cargo bike.

88 thoughts on “Beautiful Bicycles: Bakfiets (a real S.U.V.)

  1. Wow. I have never tried a Bakfiets. I find it very difficult to imagine balancing heavy loads on two wheels, especially in stop and go traffic, and especially when the “load” is children – who no doubt squirm and bounce on that bench en route. My admiration goes out to all those who casually ride these bikes!

    • Frits B says:

      The fatter the kids, the better the balance … These bikes ride best when heavily loaded. We have only a few here in Assen but you should see the angles they lean over at in corners, mom and two kids. Speed is like a normal bike, slower from stop but once the momentum is there they just roll on.

    • dottie says:

      I thought it would be difficult in stop and go traffic, but it was no problem at all. I simply put my foot down and the bike was perfectly and effortlessly balanced. I don’t know how everything works together so well, but it does. The only time I felt unsteady was walking the bike.

  2. Frits B says:

    “Surprisingly, riding the bakfiets felt very similar to riding my Oma”. Why, sure, same maker, the always invisible Azor. :-).

  3. 2whls3spds says:

    @ Lovely Bicycles

    Trikes are a whole ‘nother animal, they maybe more stable at rest, but are a handful when being ridden, more so that something like the Baks. I suspect my problem is that I have ridden bikes for so many years and I instinctively lean for turns, doesn’t work on trikes so the frustration level increases dramatically. I have also found them to be much slower and they don’t have the cargo capacity of the Baks.

    I do so want a Baksfiet one day, I have no real use for one, but that doesn’t matter.


    • Mamavee says:

      Oh I’d say the sorte equals cargo capacity!!

      I am confused though, why trikes are so popular in copenhagen b/c I know *I* like it b/c I am a new cycler and like the increased stability. I am not sure why experienced cyclists would choose it though. But I am super glad it was made available to me b/c I know I feel very comfortable on it and that makes me more likely to ride. But yes, it is slow, which sometimes makes me less likely to ride b/c I need to get someplace faster.

  4. Charlotte says:

    I want one and even have a plan for a crazy one, but I have no idea where to keep one in the city. My current thought is to try to find a parking garage that has an unused corner they would rent me, but what would you do in Chicago?

    • dottie says:

      My husband and I had that very conversation. We have a garage space that we rent out to a neighbor, so we would have to end that agreement. Our normal bikes co-exist with her car, but the bakfiets is too big. Another option is to install an Abus anchor in our side yard (between two condos) and park it outside. The owner of this bakfiets always parks it on the sidewalk at a bike rack, with a rain cover over the box. The WorkCycles is very well built and can withstand weather exposure. The O-lock, a heavy chain lock and the weight are strong theft deterrents.

      Now I’m curious about your plan for a crazy one :)

      • Charlotte says:

        Oh, if you have side yards that makes it much easier. I’m in a Victorian row house, there’s nowhere for it to go. If only we still had a carriage shed somewhere, like they did.

        My crazy cargo bike is still on the drawing board, but I hope to combine the child hauling capabilities of standard Euro ones with the cargo hauling capabilities of a Long John… I was telling my husband how I want a bike that could carry a child or food for my horse. He pointed out that those are the requirements usually set out to justify buying an F150!

  5. cratedigger66 says:

    Bakfiets are very cool. They would be perfect to haul kids in for sure.

    I would be challenged to park one as well. Ironic as it seems, I think that would be the biggest issue for me.

    Does not stop me from wanting one, though!

  6. Mamavee says:

    Sara at full hands should way in. I think you are right, a trike is slower and less nibble. I think I am a wider load than the Bakfiet. I tried to hop on Sara’s bakfiet during a visit to New Haven and I couldn’t do it. Granted it was night, pouring and her box was filled with two tired kids under a rain flap that never met me and I just did not want to tip them on the ground and so I couldn’t get past that beginning waver feeling and gave up. If it was filled with bricks or my kids ( eh actually not not b/c they easily get spooked) and you know daylight I’d have gone a few yards. I hope to try it on another visit!

    My trike has rear steering to that is weird. But the three wheels is nice b/c you never have to put your foot down in stopping. It never tips over. I did almost pop a wheelie once when doing joy kids with one kid in the box going down hill and turning at the end of the block. I had a dare devil in the box so I let it go faster than I normally do and one front wheel came up ever so slightly.

    For me I like the three wheels b/c of the stability. I do go slower and the biggest downside is I do not feel comfortable going fast down hill b/c the rear steering wigs me out and I feel a bit out of control. But I do cruise on flatlands.

    But you pro city cyclist- I def think a bakfiet is your kid tot-er. And yes, I bet the bakfiet is like the sorte in that it is happiest fully loaded down. The sorte rides smooth and lovely very heavy. I can handle a tantruming toddler swinging to and fro and I know Sara mention her kids playing and bouncing around too. Cargo bikes are the best bikes in the world I think.

    • dottie says:

      The stability is a major benefit. I didn’t know your trike has rear-steering, interesting. I rode the bakfiets for a few minutes before adjusting to the steering, so I definitely wouldn’t have gotten far in the rain with Sara’s children! :)

    • sara says:

      Mamavee– you must come back & ride it. ANYtime. Dottie– you are welcome, too, of course :).

  7. emm says:

    Go Dottie! We moved to Holland a year ago and bought a bakfiets to tote our two younger kids, ages four and five. The SUV comparison is apt; so many moms have them here that I think of them as the Dutch minivan. I love my bike and ride about 10 miles a day rain or shine. The optional hood seemed kind of expensive at the time, but it keeps the kiddos dry and out of the wind in winter, so it’s been worth the price. Even here in Holland I’ve had my photo snapped several times, maybe by American tourists;-).

    It is indeed heavy when loaded, but yes, you get used to it. My kids weigh about 90 lbs together and I’ve walked around with it a bit with no problems.

    As for kid safety, just on Friday a teenager riding pretty fast came out of a side alley and t-boned my front wheel. Down we all went. Everyone was completely fine. The kids had on their seat belts so no one flew out of the box. Also, the box is wide enough that when the bike is on its side there’s quite a bit of room between a child’s head and the ground, so no conked noggins.

    I’ve ridden a tricycle with the cargo container up front once (carrying two kids on a mile round trip, so not lots of experience), but here’s my two cents worth of comparison.

    Stability: the trike is definitely more stable when stopped or walking with it. I think anyone would get used to the two-wheeler at a standstill, though.

    Cornering: the cornering on the trike is tough. I felt like a mac truck making a turn and needed a wide berth. The bakfiets corners almost as well as a regular bike.

    Workload: I also felt like I had to work harder on the trike than on the bakfiets to push my kid cargo around. Since it’s mostly flat here, riding the bakfiets doesn’t require much more exertion than a regular bike. I felt that I was getting a little more of a workout with the trike.

    I will bring my bike back to the states when we return in a year or so because most of my errands back home are within a 2 mile radius from my house. I’ll miss the helmet-free riding and dedicated bikepaths of Holland, but the bakfiets will be safely rideable and useful back in the states.

    Great blog, btw!

    • dottie says:

      Thanks for the comparison! Sounds like you are living my dream. I’d be interested in hearing what it’s like being an American living in Holland.

      • emm says:

        I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about living here. I see you have an email addy on your “about” page. I’ll send you an email later today.

  8. Sungsu says:

    If I had known about bakfietsen when my kids were smaller, I would have bought one. As it is now, the younger ones are learning to ride in the streets on their own bikes, and we use trail-a-bikes. I haven’t ruled it out, but it’s hard to justify the expense, especially since we have a trailer for hauling cargo.

  9. Frits B says:

    And if you ever get old, and development on this contraption has made them somewhat cheaper, you might even try this:
    Found it on David Hembrow’s website. It’s all in Dutch, but the videos are self-explanatory. Electric hub motor in the rear wheel. Prices in the videos are still 6,000 Euro for the open version and 9,000 Euro for the covered one, but as this is money you can buy a used car for, they have already been reduced to some 3,000 for the naked version and 6.000 for the covered one. Very new, sales should start early 2010. The tilt mechanism at the front is the same as on the Feetz bakfiets ( which is probably also too advanced for us simple folks. I have never seen one.

  10. miss sarah says:

    I agree that trikes are weird. Like anything, I’m sure I’d get the hang of it over time, but the corners are rough. You have to take them really wide! And the cargo capacity isn’t as impressive as with cargo bikes.

    Still haven’t ridden the Madsen, but we’ve discussed a great design for the car seat adaptor. It’s going to be super safe and not at all, “I just sort of put the seat inside the cargo box.” Everything will be secured and anchored appropriately. I want to document the retrofit process but Don is worried that crazies in the internet will take up issue and then somebody will send him a hate mail. If you haven’t noticed, Don is the worrier in our relationship:)

    I want to get noticed on my cargo bike too!

    Soon. Hopefully.

  11. miss sarah says:

    Oh, and in bakfiets you don’t pronounce the s at the end, it’s silent.

    I realize this is so annoying. But my bike friend pointed it out to me and went into some huge explanation about it. I think he was just really excited that knew something I didn’t (eyes rolling). I stand corrected.

    So from what I’ve been told, it’s just “back-feet.”

    • emm says:

      Hi Miss Sarah. Nee, your friend is wrong, at least where I live in Holland. The “s” at the end is pronounced, and the word sounds something close to bok-feets. Dutch frequently drops the “n” when it’s in the last position, so bakfietsen (the plural) sounds like bok-feets-uh. Maybe this is what he meant?

      • Frits B says:

        You’re in the Randstad, obviously :-). Do you know the book Dubbel Dutch, by Kevin Cook? As the subtitle says: a practical guide for foreign students of Dutch,with numerous examples and comparisons. And very few errors!

    • Amsterdamize says:

      your bike friend is definitely mistaken, not a silent s, anywhere in NL :).

  12. Elisa M says:

    a new friend has a Bakfiets that he is letting me borrow. I can’t wait to use it for grocery shopping. I rode it (empty) up a big hill and it wasn’t too bad at all. Will report back if it is crazy to go uphill fully loaded.
    you looked adorable!

  13. Catherine says:

    Ack, we can’t access YouTube at work otherwise I’d link to this video (and will once I get home if no one else has found it)…but there’s a video out there of some sort of cargo bike Olympics in some park in Amsterdam (I believe…there’s a small chance that it’s Copenhagen). Anyway, it’s a bunch of mothers with their various different cargo bikes performing small feats of agility on the bikes (grape vineing through traffic cones while carrying an egg balanced on a spoon, collecting rings with a joust-like spear etc).

    Everyone looks like they’re having lots of fun and if I remember correctly, the woman with a rear-steering cargo trike was the one kicking bootie!

    Cool video, and I’ll post it later :)

    • Frits B says:

      Mama Bakfiets Race in Vondelpark Amsterdam, May 2008, here:

      • Catherine says:

        hooray! that’s the one! i sent this to a friend of mine who has an almost-old-enough-to-be-taken-by-bike baby and who lives on a military base (which tend to be very bike and ped friendly places–grocery stores, entertainment, gyms etc all on base and which have extremely strict and highly enforced traffic rules and speed limits).

      • Amsterdamize says:

        Thanks for posting, Frits, and glad you liked my video so much, Catherine! I’ll forgive you for thinking it was Danish :)

        • Catherine says:

          :) Amsterdamize. I was pretty sure it was from your fair city…but the librarian in me just had to keep the options open just in case I had mis-remembered. We like to keep search options open.

          But yes, I loved it. And I hope to have one of those full of Catherine Jrs. one day!

  14. Scott says:

    These things look so cool, I have to get one if I ever have a place to park it. Ps. The new iPhone site looks great!

  15. Cosmo says:

    I can only imagine how nice a real bakfiets rides with those 8 fancy gears. Or cheap knock-off only has 3 but it is still great to ride when we manage to find flat parts of LA. I can’t wait until I win the lottery and can upgrade.

  16. miss sarah says:


    Ha! I’m totally going to go rub this in his face! Thank you for giving me the upper hand:)

    Everybody disregard my inaccurate advice, clearly my sources aren’t that credible. And this is the same friend who talked me out of picking a silver-blue metallic (very retro) paint job for my road bike. I’ve regretted it ever since.

    Apologies from miss sarah!

  17. Hans and Teun says:

    Hey! we’re belgian bicycle lovers, and we can confirm that you pronounced bakfiets right :-)! that said, we really enjoy your website as we always think of americans digging suv’s and other big cars. keep up filming and cylcling, groetjes from belgium

  18. Deb says:

    Does anyone have a comparison with the xtracycle? Not that I have too much use for hauling big loads at the moment, but I definitely want a utility bike at some point, and I have mostly thought of the xtracycle. But then I see the Bakfiets and they look great! I like the video too. (Anyone a Yehuda Moon fan? I love that Thistle has a “box bike”!)

  19. Daniel says:

    We (Me, my Wife and our 15 mo. son) have owned a Bakfiets for a little over a year. We live in hilly Chattanooga, TN so a trike was not an option for us (tippy at speed). We semi-reluctantly bought a bakfiets to transport our son and have been loving it so far. In the future I see us going to a dual cargo bike setup like maybe having a bakfiets for the rainy days and a Surly Big Dummy for normal transport.

    We own an xtracycle but currently use it only for carting cargo. We do not like how unstable and flexy the xtra feels (center-of-mass is too high off the ground) with the little one on it so that will be something we’ll have to get used to before we move to that type of bike for regular transport; the Bakfiets just makes it so easy to balance HUGE loads!! We are hoping a Big Dummy will be a little stiffer as our xtra feels a little like a noodle but that may be due to the hills we have to hammer up.

    The downside to owning the ‘Fiets for us is going home. We live on top a big hill and have to gain 200’ fairly quickly, there is a short section of 10% grade road on our way home. The weight of the Bakfiets combined with its limited (for our area) gearing make getting home a little difficult. We could gear it lower by swapping out rear cogs but it is already difficult to balance the bike at such low speeds (hence our desire to move to a Big Dummy soon). I have to agree with Dotti about pushing the Bakfiets, sometimes it feels harder to push than ride and that is coming from a 225 pound man!

  20. sara says:

    Ohhhh, how did I come to this discussion late?! Must be all that work heating up at scchool & Halloween-costume making… Anyhoo, as a Bakfiets owner & rider, I could not love ours more. I feel so darn comfortable on the thing & I was FAR from an expert cyclist when we got our baks. In fact, it had been over ten years since I had ridden a bike at all before I started bike commuting with my sons on the bakfiets & I am far from the fittest, svelte-tist (not a word but I like it) person in the world. I am an overweight mama of three little fellas & I can ride this bike & get all around our city on it.

    It feels secure & very stable– more so with the boys in it. I read a review by a blogger before we bought ours that said his kids could do handstands in the box & he would hardly notice it was so stable. I definitely thought this was a bit of a crock but by our second week commuting, I realized pulling up to home that my sons had spent the whole riding messing around, nudging each other, throwing a toy, etc. (while strapped in, of course) & the bike wasn’t at all tippy & I didn’t waver one bit. Love our Xtracycle, too, but my guys’ actions on the snapdeck definitely affect my riding SOOO much more. I have to tell them to settle down & hold on which I don’t need to when we are in the bakfiets. I’ve only tipped the bakfiets once & it was completely my fault, making too sharp a turn coming out of a driveway onto the street. My three boys were in the box & I was the only one with any scrapes.

    Yes, the thing is heavy. Yes, there is one local hill in particular– where my youngest son’s school is located–that there is no way I could ride up in the bakfiets but I can’t ride that hill on a single, light bike either. I have pushed the bakfiets when I needed to but it is not often.

    Finally, if folks are wondering about the “shelf life” of a bakfiets– if you are a parent, at what ages do the kids grow out of it, I gotta say that my sons are ages 7, 7, & 4. The two older ones are great on their two-wheelers but we live in ‘an emerging bike-friendly city’ (ie. it has a way to go) & &there is no safe route to school for them to ride. That’s why I commute with them in the Bakfiets & I will be able to do so until at least the end of this year. I still have a younger guy but our plan is to keep our bakfiets for many more years for hauling & grocery shopping.

    I could say more about our experiences with our Bakfiets vs. our Xtracycle but I’ve written enough here. Anyone interested can send me a message through my blog & I am happy to have that conversation.

    p.s. MamaVee– you really need to come back to New Haven & try the Bakfiets again in far more optimal weather! You are welcome anytime.

    • dottie says:

      Thanks, Sara! Knowing how sturdy the bakfiets is even with wiggly kids is very helpful. I’m glad you mentioned shelf life, too. Some people may think the price is too much to pay for what they consider a solution to a temporary problem (carting small children) but it can carry a kid for at least ten years, and then function as a regular cargo bike. The owner of this bakfiets simply uses it as his everyday ride. The bike is well-built and feels like it would outlast me. I’m always tempted to compare bike costs to car costs, so I’ll throw that in here: people spend about 10x more on SUVs and minivans to carry kids, and those vehicles don’t last as long. :)

      • dukiebiddle says:

        Comparing car costs to bicycle costs is a slippery slope. Next thing you know, you be owning 10 pricey bikes and shopping around for competitive interest rates. ;-)

  21. I saw a lot of unbelted and casually belted infants riding around in bakfiets all over Holland. Almost nobody wears a helmet while biking there. It’s a much safer cycling environment than any American city. But I’d think twice before trusting a bakfiet to protect an infant on one of our roads.

    When it comes to cargo, I wonder how a bakfiets compares with a flatbed trailer, which doesn’t really change the handling characteristics of a bike that much, can be detached in minutes–and costs much less.

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  23. agatiszka says:

    Incredible machine!!

  24. I want one, plain and simple. I’ve no idea where I would keep it in our current apt (those Abus anchors seems like a good thing to keep in mind), but I know that I want one. If I could have a cargo bike such as this, alongside my regular bike, I’d get rid of my car once and for all (I barely use it as is).

  25. SarahC says:

    I just found your site a few days ago and I love it. I am in the process of saving up for an Oma and really can’t wait.

    For the past two years I have been hauling my two kids around in a Haley Trike in Portland, OR. It is the one featured here – I bought it after this posting and bought it used. I would have loved a Bakfeits but was able to get this trike used for under $500. I have done side by side comparisons with Bakfeits riders and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. The friends I bought it off of spent time in Sweden and they bought because they really wanted a Christiania Bike ( which most people own there for their errand running.

    I love my trike even in hilly Portland. Starts are slow and I can’t use the full momentum of hills to build speed like I do on a two wheeler but you have some of those limitations with a Bakfeits also. I love going to the store and just piling all my groceries in without any planning – I have managed to haul a lot of stuff in this thing. My kids outgrew the trailer so I know the planning that would take. Honestly, If I did not have kids to haul a trailer would most like meet a lot of my needs with a lot less cost.

    One advantage it has over the Bakfeits is that you do have the stability and can go slow. Strange to see it as an advantage but I am training my 8 year old to be a bike commuter. As the parent leading the way it is great to be able to slow down, block intersections, etc. so that she can safely make it on her way.

    So, I would encourage people looking to haul kids and stuff but can’t swing a Bakfeits to check out

    The other cool thing in Portland is that our local Bakfeits dealer, Clever Cycles, rents different bikes by the hour or day – including cargo bikes. It would be a great option for some that does not need it daily but just for the occasional load.

  26. I don’t see any American city as safe for cyclists. Putting an infant or small child in a wooden box out in traffic is not something I would do, despite the fact that I’m trying to live as car-free as possible. Yes, you’re saving gas and getting a workout, but you’re putting your kids at risk.

    If we want to carry our kids on bikes we need a safe bike infrastructure along the lines of Holland and Denmark.

    • dukiebiddle says:

      But putting kids in a bicycle of any sort is less risky than putting them in a car, even in America. If one intends to take their children further away from their house than one block there are only so many options… if one is unable to obtain an EU work visa.

      • Do you seriously believe that putting a child in an open bike box is safer than belting him or her into a properly installed infant car seat?

        • dukiebiddle says:

          Absolutely and without question. How many children passengers have died on bicycles in the past year… past 10 years in the United States? 0… and 0? How many children in infant car seats have died in the past year… past 10 years? Thousands? I don’t have the stats on hand, but I’m fairly certain my estimated figures are close to the actual ones. As will all safety matters, that facts are in the stats.

    • dottie says:

      Safety concerns are legitimate, but I trust that parents can determine what is safe in their individual circumstances. Lots of people with kids in the US carry them on bikes. Let’s not make this personal.

      • To clarify, Carry infants on a bike, if you must, but for God’s sake, not in downtown traffic. If we want to bike with babies, we have to set up a much safer bike infrastructure along the lines of Holland and Denmark.

        • dukiebiddle says:

          Respectfully, with the exception of New York, which has a very different vehicle/cyclist/pedestrian mass than other American cities, urban areas typically have a cycling safety rate far better than the national average of 2.5 fatalities per million population. Contrary to the understandable perception, cities are safer cycling environments than both suburbs and country.

          • Cycling in Los Angeles outside of a few parks and beaches is terrifying and on most Freeways simply impossible. San Diego? Better stay on bike lanes, if you can find one. San Francisco is better than most cities, but has a long way to go before it even approaches Dutch standards. Interior streets are filled with charging cars. Portland is the best of the lot, with a serious bike program; the mayor himself rides to work.

            Arcata, a small town, provides a much friendlier environment for cyclists than any of the big west coast cities. Still, we have a steady stream of tragedies. It’s dangerous out there.

            • dukiebiddle says:

              To cite cities as examples of dangerous environments, you have to show the statistics to measure the point. I’ve done that for us, and used 2007 as the sample.

              In 2007, the U.S. had 698 fatalities. Measured against its population that’s a fatal incident rate of 2.32 per million. San Diego had 4 deaths and a rate of 3.13. Now, I acknowledge that is higher than the national average, but lower than its own suburbs. San Diego county as a whole had 11 deaths and a rate of 3.67. Why? Because a percentage of San Diego is on an urban grid. Urban grids are straight, predictable and have a lower speed limit than the suburbs. They also have higher cyclist mass ratio and a lower percentage of children piloting their own bicycles.

              Los Angeles had 27 deaths and a rate of 2.74, but unlike most other American cities, it is its own suburb as well.

              San Fransisco, a city that is almost completely on a grid, had only 1 death and a rate of 1.24, which is consistent with eastern gridded cities. Alameda and Santa Clara counties, both far less gridded and with a >50% suburban population, both had higher fatality rates than San Fransisco.

              Portland, the big surprise, had 6 deaths and a whopping rate of 10.75, but in all fairness has much higher hours cycled and miles cycled rates than other American cities.

              Is it dangerous out there? Well, danger is a relative term. Measured against other modes of transportation, bicycling in the United States is quite safe. Cycling safety rates are consistent with train, air travel, and walking, and that is pretty darned safe. We should actually all be riding buses, which kick all other modes of transportation’s asses, safety wise. Is a child safer in a bakfiets downtown compared to a child in a safety seat in a car anywhere in the United States? Emphatically, YES. Even in San Diego and Los Angeles.

            • SarahC says:

              [from Dottie: comment moved directly below for ease of reading and formatting]

            • maxutility says:

              I test rode a Bakfiets in Los Angeles at the Flying Pigeon LA shop. They’re great. The owner uses it to run his business and rides his little girl around in it every day. I’m debating between getting one of the long john types like a bakfiets or building up an Xtracycle.

              Los Angeles has a long way to go, but riding there really is quite nice.

      • SarahC says:

        2007 was a horrible year in Portland. It was in part because the rate of cycling rose quickly in a short amount of time. Gas prices went through the roof and it seemed like everyone was jumping on a bike. While every death is significant and tremendously sad, the city’s response has also been an important part of the story. A troubled intersection was changed within hours of a second incident. The heavy duty trucking community came together to adopt better safety practices. Earlier this month the police released a video that they produced to better educate themselves on cycling. It is a constant process to improve both safety and education – fortunately we have not had another year like that.

        Even in 2007, I felt safe cycling in this city with or without my kids. It is rare that I am on the rode and I don’t see another cyclist – the last time I happened it was late at night. I work downtown once a week and if I get caught at the bike light coming over the bridge it is not uncommon for there to be more bikes waiting for the light to change than cars.

        With that said, my parents live in suburban Columbus, OH. I would never ride my bike there the way I do there. Heck, my partner walks one mile to work here – my mom was working a mile from home and I agreed she should not try to walk it. The roads are set up for cars and cars only.

  27. Doug D says:

    I had borrowed a bakfiets for 6 months while my friend was on bedrest. I really loved it. It really only has two things that I don’t like about it.
    I didn’t love the brakes. They are prone to getting overheated and start grabbing suddenly on long downhills.
    I did not love the rigid riding position. I would like to have the choice of choosing my own position – and the Dutch upright position is not a happy one when travelling uphill. Since I live at the top of a hill, this was a dealbreaker for me.
    I wound up with a Cetma cargo bike instead. It is almost as practical and quite a bit more versatile.

  28. Addendum: Many of the women who peddle around Amsterdam and Copenhagen with babies onboard (often in handlebar seats!) have no other way of getting around.

  29. We all love the beautiful Dutch bikes. I started on and R.I.H. years ago and still have it. But we can’t pretend we live in Holland. Biking in American cities is much more dangerous than Holland, which has thousands of miles of dedicated bike paths.

    • Frits B says:

      Does the Rih still give you a flying start when you tickle it at the center of the handlebars? This is the story the company’s website tells about the history of the brand. Rih was founded in 1921 by the Bustraan brothers in Amsterdam who needed a brand name as their own name in Dutch reads like a can of cod liver oil (bus traan). Being fans of the German Karl May’s books about the American Wild West and the Near East, they borrowed the name of the horse of the hero of the Oriental adventures, Kara ben Nemsi, who when under threat used to tickle his black stallion between the ears and whisper “Rih!”. The horse then took off at flying speed. Improbable story but since the company itself still keeps it alive it might just be true.

      • Frits,

        What a story–many thanks! I’d be grateful for a couple of links on my still glamorous white RIH Sport. When it was new it turned heads, even in Holland. Perhaps you can send info to me via my blog (above) so we don’t interrupt the conversation here.

        And thanks Trish and Dottie for making this happen.

  30. Amy says:

    I’m so glad you included this review. We had been eyeing this as a way to haul the pooches around the city. But, we also had questions about where to store it. Maybe we could design some type of outdoor lock-up situation.

  31. gwadzilla says:



    I am not sure I got that many comments this year!

    nice box bike

    cool to give it some use

    I am going through serious box bike envy!

  32. Capateto says:

    On the subject of reviews, I am hoping you and Mr. Dottie might try out one or more of the new Batavus bikes manufactured for the North American market — the Fryslan, BlockBuster, Breukelen and BUB, among a few others. I’ve got my eye on the 7-speed aluminum-frame Breukelen, but I haven’t found a credible impartial review yet. Theyr’e distributed in North America by Fourth Floor Distribution ( and I’m sure you’d have an easier time than I would in getting a test one for a few days. Thanks1

  33. […] Yay, trike! I’ve been wanting to test ride a three-wheeled beast for some time now. When I wrote about the WorkCycles Bakfiets a couple of months ago, I mentioned that I could not know for sure how I […]

  34. In my neck of the woods, Santa uses a bakfiets to deliver gifts:

    Seriously, I’ve had one for about a two years in Richmond, Indiana and love it. Recently I used it to take my daughter on a 220 mile bike tour.

    Now I plan to visit to Chicago soon to buy a dutch city bike, most likely the Workcycle’s Secret Service.

    Thanks for the inspirational blog!

  35. Josef says:

    If you’d like to try out a nihola, perhaps I can arrange a trial ride through Dutch Bikes Chicago. I’m getting a load of them in a few weeks from Europe, and I’d love to know what you think of it! Are you game?

  36. Milo says:

    I’m fascinated by the Dutch, pushing our ideas of what’s possible. The Bakfiets. From an Oma to a Bakfiets – an interesting migration. Your Oma is like a pelican. Curvaceous, slender, robust and how it soars! A big bird. Big wheels give big momentum: you peddle a little, pause, pedal again. But when I hear you talk of a Dahon in the same breath as a Bakfiets or an Oma, Dottie it’s kind of all over between us! My super-smart Brompton sits in its corner, sulking, weeping freely into its folds!

  37. jennifer. says:

    I have a Bakfiets and absolutely love it. My newest family addition is only 6 weeks old, so I’m working on adding an adaptor for the carseat.

  38. I know it’s been a long time since you posted this, but thanks to search engines anyone could find this review. I wanted to add a little something about pushing the bakfiets.

    I’ve been riding a bakfiets in Portland for over a year now, with 2 kids in it most of the time. We were lucky to find it on Craigslist at almost half-price of a new one. I took it into Clever Cycles to have it tuned up and looked over, but the one thing we didn’t do was adjust the fit for me, specifically the handlebars. After looking at many, many photos on Flickr (thank you, Amsterdamize!) I realized that my geometry was off because my handlebars were too high. After lowering them it was like taking 50 pounds off when walking the bike. And I mean that it was literally like there was one less kid in the box.

    If someone out there decides to make this adjustment themselves, beware that it’s easy for the stays (?) inside to drop to the bottom of the post. And it’s not easy to turn a bakfiets upside-down. We ended up finding a slender stick that we could put in the bottom of the post to push the stays back up so that they could engage the bolt that holds the bars on. DYI, for the win. (I have no idea if these are the proper terms, but still didn’t want someone out there to try without the benefit of what we learned.)

    PS – While it is rare to find people selling a used bakfiets, it does happen. In our case the gentleman’s daughter was tired of sitting and wanted to ride her own bike so he couldn’t justify having it anymore.

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