Bicycling as Transportation

“Are you some kind of die-hard?”

I get variations on this question all the time, as I’m locking or unlocking my bicycle around town. It just seems weird, in this part of the world, for a person to be riding a bicycle if there’s any variance in weather conditions outside of sunshine and temperatures in the 60°s.

I’ll admit: I like being distinctive. “Weird” is not necessarily an insult, in my book. And if I can come across as “die-hard” or “bad-Asp” — so much the better.

Even so, I reject the premise that one must be a fanatic in order to choose the bicycle as one’s mode of transportation in less-than-ideal weather conditions. It’s really not as revolutionary as a lot of Americans seem to think it is. But even if that’s how it’s going to be — I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — Join the revolution! Bicycling is far more healthy, more economical, and more environmentally-friendly than most other forms of transport. So even if bicycling is going to be perceived as making a statement, I’m comfortable with making that statement.

Still, I wonder: Why does it have to be a revolution? Why does it have to be a statement?

For all my “Join the Revolution!” talk, it’s really not a big deal to ride a bicycle. It doesn’t take much more energy or time to take the bicycle instead of the car (a lot of times, it can even save time and energy, when you factor in parking and traffic). Of course the cold and the rain can be hassles, but they’re hassles with other forms of transportation, too. In the same way that they make windshield wipers and heating- and cooling systems for cars, they make jackets, pants, and gloves that mitigate the effects of weather for cyclists.

I don’t mind it if some people like to think about bicycling as “sport” or “hobby” — but, couldn’t we also just talk about bicycling as “transportation?” I’m glad to say that I’ve re-acclimated to American culture in most ways, over the last five years, but this is one of those areas where I’d like to stay “European” in my thinking. Maybe even act as something of a catalyst of contagion for others. Aside from the conspiracy theories put out there about the “Big Three” American automakers re-imagining the national landscape to snuff out all competition and drive up prices for their vehicles, why are people in this country so reluctant to consider bicycle as a legitimate mode of transportation?

When I was looking up the above photo to go along with this point, I found an article in which Brendan Leonard does a good job at dissecting some of the reasons “Why You Should Never Bike to Work,” but it’s still confusing to me why more people don’t give this more careful consideration. Why can bicycling trigger such bewilderment and even anger? Why can’t I wrap my head around this issue as an American, any more? Any other perspective here would be much appreciated!

This entry was posted in Amsterdam, Bicycling, Culture, Culture Shock, Europe, Introspection, The Netherlands, The United States of America. Bookmark the permalink.

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