BikeCommuters.com

Commuter Profile: Frederick Lippens

Coming to us all the way from the port city of Antwerp, Belgium…meet Frederick Lippens:

Frederick

How long have you been a bike commuter?

I have been commuting on and off for most of my life (it all started when I was 5 and I got a Raleigh Chopper), but consider it to be more important now than ever.

Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?

Bicycle commuting has become my new ‘faith’ and I try to reduce my energy consumption in every way I can (it’s quite radical because I have been a convinced gearhead for years!).

My ride to work is just 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) so most of the time it’s an easy ride. The climate here is comparable to Britain (so it gets windy and wet), but you learn to live with it.

path

I ride my bike to work every day of the week except on Fridays when I have to pick up my kids from boarding school (can’t put three kids on my bike and the distance is too big).

What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?

I am 40 years old and just like a lot of people that visit the site I work in (surprise!) IT — I work for a Belgian hardware distributor and handle all of their communication (mailing, website, print, etc.). I commute in and around Antwerp, Belgium.

path2

How does Bike Commuting help you with your lifestyle (economics, health, relationships)?

Every week on my bike is 50 Euro (about $47.00) in my pocket, which is already a big incentive but I also want to make the effort to reduce my carbon footprint. Another advantage is the fact that my wife and kids really appreciate a healthy dad.

It’s also a great way to relax, to get rid of the daily stress, despite the adrenaline rushes caused by near-accidents with cagers (speed limits for cars are higher here).

I often get home from work with quite a few miles more than the actual commute, just checking out the region. My itineraries can vary a lot because our roads were not planned in a grid but have evolved naturally for centuries, so you get these meandering (often illogical) roads.

What kind(s) of bike do you have?

Well at the moment I have two bikes; one is an archetypal Dutch men’s bike (black), which is very dependable but quite heavy.

opafiets

The other (which I use most) is an old workhorse, a Schwinn Series 90 PDG MOS (mountain oversized).
These are the specs:
– chromoly frame – Michelin 26″ knobby tires – 21-Speed Suntour XC Pro – Dia Compe 986 pad brakes fore and aft – front suspension fork (RST Capa TL)
– Safety: rechargeable Cateye light front & Leader Red Alert magnetic back light (flashes every time a magnet attached to one of the spokes passes)
– Comfort: Brooks Champion Narrow B17 saddle & adjustable Satori EZ handlebar
– Security: Kryptonite U-Bar lock

schwinn

What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?

My co-workers find it quite weird, but a few of them are considering to do the same (in summer).

How about bicycling advocacy? Are you active in any local or regional advocacy groups?

It is organised nationwide (Fietsersbond), with local and regional chapters. You pay a yearly fee and with your membership you receive legal insurance, discounts in bicycle shops and and the monthy newsletter.
These are a few of their achievements:
– 2004: made special mirrors on trucks obligatory to prevent ‘dead angle’ accidents – 30 km per hour speed limit in school areas to protect young commuters.
– 2006: regulation of the safety of bicycle products – etc.

I personally don’t have much to say in these matters, but I do realize the more members they have, the more pressure they can exercise on politicians.

Anything else that you want to share with us?

Some local facts:
– the weather changes sometimes so rapidly you are wet to the bone before you can brake, open your backpack and get your raincoat on.
– bicycle theft is a huge problem, but every municipality in Belgium has a service where you can get your bike registered and engraved for a small fee and often for free.
-Thieves are interested in complete bikes, seldom parts (eg. in NYC you also have to lock your front wheel and saddle)
– until about thirty years ago every bike on Belgian roads had to have a license plate attached to its fork, not for identification purpose but jus to make sure you paid your road tax
– three languages are spoken in Belgium: French, Dutch (Flemish) and German

multimode
(a true multi-modal transportation sign…this reads “Warning: Altered Traffic Situation”)

We’d like to thank Frederick for sharing his experiences with us and for giving us a glimpse into cycling life in Belgium. Frederick has volunteered to write a couple of guest articles as well — and that is a welcome asset; it will be very interesting to compare European and American bike commuting styles and concerns! Stay tuned for those.

10 Comments

  1. Stuart M.

    Hello Frederick!

    Belgium is beautiful and those bike lanes look great (a bit narrow though). Do you ever see any “Twikes” on the road? They are electric/pedal two seat cars made in Germany. They sound perfect for Belgium: weather protection for two, exercise and speed up to 80 km when one needs it. Unfortunately one also needs to rob a bank to afford one!

  2. Frederick Lippens

    Yes those bikelanes can be a bit narrow in some places and the older ones often feature potholes.
    About those “Twikes”, I never heard of them, but I’ll have a look and find out what they are.

  3. Neil Ziesing

    Great to read your article! I became interested in bicycling as a way of reducing my carbon output after visiting a friend in Boom, which I believe is quite local to you.

    I use my bicycles for errands and transportation. I only use the car to drop off and pick up my wife and daughter to and from work/school.

    Be safe and keep on cycling!

  4. Stuart M.

    Hello Neil! My wife also demands to be driven by car everywhere. No amount of guilt tripping about global warming seems to help. She has an old bicycle that her first boyfriend gave her, but it is a single speed which she has trouble pedalling up the hills. I have offered to buy her a new one with gears, but she says know. I guess she still has fond memories of her boyfriend…

    Frederick, you can look at the http://www.twike.com homepage.

  5. Jack

    Hello Frederick.
    I was in Belgium three Years ago and it is very Beautiful, the People are very laid back and friendly. I was in Brussels and Bruge but I did not use a Bike unfortunately to get around. There are some very steep Hills in Brussels that suddenly ascend and you do not have enough space to make a run at it to get up them. I was in Amsterdam as well and was sorry I did not use a Bike, perhaps next time I am there. I was so impressed by the Scene over there that I bought a Dutch Bike and sent it over to Dublin. I bike for Transport and to help to keep the Weight at bay,I have been Cycling all my Life since 3 Years old and it is in the Blood Good Luck , Dublin Ireland 12.55 Am .G.M.T.

  6. Iron Man

    Belgium eh? Now we’re talking cycling! Flèche Wallonne, Amstel Gold, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and now gearing up for cyclocross season. EDDY MERCKX!

  7. Frederick

    Hello Stuart, I had a look at the webpage on those twikes you were talking about. I must say it is not my cup of tea, I prefer a bike over those anyday. But I can see how they can be useful for certain people. As you said they are expensive but once you have one it is really cheap.

  8. Frederick

    Hello Jack,
    Never been to Dublin but I have a friend who worked for Oracle in Dublin for a while and he was really positive on Dublin. I must admit that his stories were mostly about pubs and lots of Guinness! So I don’t really know what the bike scene is like in Dublin.

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