A history of bicycles and cycling in Amsterdam.
Jordan (Dishwasher: One Man’s Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States, 2007) begins with his move to Amsterdam, which he undertook in order to study urban planning as it pertains to cycling. Continually fascinated by the overwhelming number of people riding bicycles through the streets, Jordan eventually began to chronicle the city’s history of cycling. Pulling together information from guidebooks, newspaper accounts and other sources, the author pieces together a thorough history, from the introduction of bicycles in the 1890s to the present. Jordan clearly loves bikes and everything associated with cycling culture, which produces some truly laugh-out-loud moments, particularly as he embraces both the ridiculous and the commonplace. The author doesn’t ignore less-glamorous storylines—e.g., the general nonchalance of cyclists toward traffic laws or the fact that bike regulations sparked more public outcry than anti-Jewish policies during the Nazi occupation. The chapter dealing with the Nazi occupation is particularly interesting. Jordan mentions Anne Frank but spends the bulk of the section detailing how citizens were affected by German policies targeting bikes and cyclists. While this is no memoir, Jordan includes his own personal interactions with cycling in the city, which makes what could have been a straightforward history into something more special: history that doesn’t feel like history—just an enjoyable story from start to finish.
An excellent choice for bikers and those who appreciate how a city's history can be changed by the simplest of passions.