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Dutch cycling culture: too ordinary to be funny?

Utrecht1News that Utrecht will be starting point of the 2015 Tour de France seems highly appropriate for a city that is in the process of building the world’s largest multistorey bicycle park. But I was quickly reminded that the omnipresence of cycling in the Netherlands does not equate to the same fascination with cycling culture. As one Dutch colleague pointed out, “bicycles have no reason to be funny for us — they just are”. Otto Beaujon, secretary of De Oude Fiets, very kindly showed me around his collection of historic bicycles, memorabilia and documents: while there are examples of play, humour or even satire to be found, these have never been especially prominent in Dutch cycling culture outside the world of children’s bicycles incarnated by Piet Pelle.

Obvious in retrospect, this was one among several useful points to emerge from the 2014 International Society for Humor Studies conference, my first attempt to present the “Jeux cyclistes” project to an international academic audience. Many thanks to the colleagues who provided useful feedback and suggestions for material, with interesting perspectives from as far afield as Macedonia and Japan. If humour is most often associated with concepts like incongruity, surprise and anxiety, bicycles are most obviously humorous when they represent a new and disruptive social phenomenon. Continuer la lecture

Velorama Museum, Nijmegen: Piet Pelle and other treasures

A fascinating visit to the Nationaal Fietsmuseum Velorama in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, home to an extensive bicycle history exhibition (including Europe’s largest collection of Draisiennes, getting ready to celebrate their bicentenary from 2016) as well as the archives of Royal Dutch Gazelle. It was a great privilege to meet museum volunteer and former Gazelle advertising director Cees van Wijk, who introduced me to the work of illustrators Ko Doncker and André Vlaanderen, patiently translating and commenting their cartoon strips and other prewar advertising material. A big thank-you to Cees and the rest of the teem for their time, generosity and warm welcome! Continuer la lecture