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Luud Schimmelpennink

Y-tech Innovatiecentrum  

Van Diemenstraat 190
1013 CP Amsterdam
Tel. 020-6250869 Fax 020-6226539
Email: y-tech@dds.nl

We first met Luud Schimmelpennink in 1974 when we invited him to a brainstorming session in a 900 year old abbey just to the north of Paris. We asked him to join a group search for immediately implementable ideas for more sustainable transport in the developing countries (as they were then called). In the latter 1960's as city councilor of the city of Amsterdam, Luud famously created the White Bicycle project, and a decade later developed the first technology based carsharing project, WitKar. He has never slowed down, as you can see from the following article from Newsweek.

But as you will shortly see if you keep your eyes on the international media and the news from Amsterdam, there is a lot more to his thinking and actions than metal, plastic and rubber. Bicycles on the street, yes. But more than that, an understanding of what it takes to make them find their place in the city and in our daily lives. Watch Amsterdam. Watch Luud!

"Sometimes it takes shiny new technology to update a good idea. Back in the 1960s, in a burst of idealism, the city of Amsterdam launched a fleet of white bicycles, intended to circulate freely among the population. People would pick up a bike, ride it to their destination, then leave it for the next eco-commuter.

In theory, the system was cheap, eased the pressures of car traffic and pollution, and didn't use any nasty fossil fuels. In practice, thieves had a field day.

Still, Luud Schimmelpennink, of Y-tech Innovation Center, hasn't given up on the idea. His updated white bike system, dedicated to same principals of reduced traffic and pollution, will be armed with smart card technology to outwit criminals and traffic patterns--or so he hopes. Y-tech's bikes look like a cross between a scooter and an old fashioned Schwinn with a banana seat. This means that they can't be stolen and repainted, or sold off for parts.

Amsterdam's commuters will access the bikes from a network of unmanned parking lots that are equipped with a main console and have racks that hold up to 10 bikes. When a participant inserts a card with an embedded microchip into the console, he or she selects a destination and books the use of a bicycle for thirty minutes. The central computer logs who the passenger is and makes a reservation for them at a parking lot near that destination point. The cyclist then has half an hour to get from point A to point B and deposit the bike.

All this comes at a price, much as a ride on the subway does, and if you miss your appointment, you pay a penalty. Commuters also have to jockey for appointments at popular destinations; if the slots are taken, the computer won't make a reservation for you at the receiver lot you want. Though Y-tech's system is not as utopian as the original, Amsterdam might have a solution to the problems of traffic and bike theft with which it has been struggling. And the people might just get back the quiet streets they've wanted for 30 years.

--Elizabeth Angell

This article taken from Newsweek, Nov. 10, 1998 is a temporary place saver as we wait for the latest English language coverage as Luud gets the Amsterdam project on line this summer.

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