Feargus O'Sullivan is a contributing writer to CityLab, covering Europe. His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. He has previously contributed to The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, and Next City, among other publications.
No more “groups of naked men or women with an inflatable penis,” say locals.
Let’s be honest: We all hate beer bikes a little. These cumbersome pedal trucks for drinkers act as holding pens for braying bachelor parties, specifically the kind that have decided their inane drunkenness would be even more awesome if broadcast to an entire city from the comfort of an overgrown child’s toy. In Europe’s older cities, they act as magnets for tourists who like to show their appreciation for historic architecture mainly by whooping at it and peeing on it.
In the past week, news has come from Holland that shows just how unpopular beer bikes are. The city of Amsterdam hates them, too, and now they’re banning them.
In most of Amsterdam’s Center at least. Starting in 2017, the pedal-powered bars will be banned from its city center, following numerous complaints and a 6,000-signature petition signed by annoyed locals. Inner Amsterdam suffers more than other beer-bike-infested cities because its central streets tend to be narrow. While it has an excellent bike lane network, these paths are designed for actual bikes. And as a mass destination for the more raucous kind of party tourism, Amsterdam already sees plenty of tourist vomit without seeing it projected off a trolley at full velocity. Els Iping, president of the Friends of Inner Amsterdam Federation told North Holland Radio and Television that:
"We find the beer bike a horrible phenomenon. It causes nuisance. They are often made up of hen parties [or] groups of naked men or women with an inflatable penis. People are forced to flee when a beer bike with screaming people comes off the bridge. The city is turned into one big theme park."
Amsterdam’s crackdown isn’t related solely to beer bikes, however. The city has been fielding complaints that its center is a shabby mess for years—bizarre complaints from an outsider’s perspective, given that the area is very well scrubbed by international standards. In response, there has been a somewhat controversial tidy-up of the red light district. This has been seen by some as the forces of gentrification simply concern-trolling the sex industry, but it hasn’t yet made the area noticeably more respectable. Amsterdam is also banning polluting old scooters (though not on weekends) as a way of improving surprisingly poor air quality in the city core, so the new rules can be viewed as part of a cleanup that’s both physical and metaphorical.
Aware that they’re under threat, the Beer Bike Tours have been trying to clean up their act, cutting the amount of beer they carry first to 30, then 20 liters; cutting the music; and riding a fixed route. Given that these are still bar tours where people dismount every five or so minutes for a drink, this hasn’t made a huge amount of difference.
Now, come 2017, the tours will be removed from the streets entirely. Some tourists may well be sad to see them go, to which the obvious answer is that the tours could still feasibly run beyond the center. This is still most likely the end of the road for them in Amsterdam. Pedaling drunk past some far-flung suburban bus depot surely has to be less fun that mooning people right outside the Rijksmuseum.