A Question of ‘Cycling Cultures’?

Background Reading


Bicycle Cultures In Conflict?

I’ve been saying for years that we don’t have bicycle culture in Copenhagen. We just have vacuum cleaner culture. We all have one, we all have learned to use it, we use it. End of story.

Mikael Colville-Andersen

When compared to other countries The Netherlands has a unique cycling ‘culture’. Three years ago I showed you some typically Dutch cycling traits. Mannerisms you certainly won’t see in countries with a more ‘racing’ type of cycling culture. Even in Denmark or Germany, however, the countries with a culture that comes closest to the Dutch, you will not find people who are always cycling side by side, or together on one bike, holding up an umbrella, or with a dog running alongside of them. To open this new year I would like to show you new peculiarities that could be seen as typically Dutch.

Dutch couples do not only love cycling side by side, they like it even more to cycle hand in hand. And what about cycling with a suitcase in tow? That’s what those suitcase wheels are for, aren’t they?

Bicycle Dutch Blogger

I will leave you to decide what is meant by the English term ‘culture‘. What I am sensing though is that here in the States things are quite a bit different.

This video is one of the few instances in which I have seen depicted what is described as part of the Dutch cycling ‘culture‘. These two riders are actually holding hands while riding their Easy Racers Tour Easy recumbent bicycles. Connie and I have done the same thing on occasion.

One of the reasons I ride an Easy Racers recumbent is because it affords you the chance to in fact ride that way. Many recumbents require two hands and a good deal of balancing skill to attempt this.

But on a Tour Easy it is as natural as breathing. I wish more of the kind of cycling done here in the States was typical of what this video depicts. Instead we seem ‘hell bent‘ on exhibiting destructive behaviors that are more akin to those exhibited by junior high school students than intelligent adults.

Tandems do afford a measure of togetherness on a bicycle. But even tandems do not seem to allow to people to share an umbrella while riding.

A Kinder Gentler ‘Cycling Culture’

It would indeed be nice to see more waving and chatting when folks ride to work. Instead what we seem to have are people who are constantly fretting about the fact that someone slipped ahead of them at the stop light (shoaling) or approached them in the bike lane from the opposite direction (salmon-ing). Of course it would not be some comical if it were not for the fact that American Critical Mass riders perform the latter maneuver against automobiles in the oncoming lane when riding as a group.

We are far too brash to ever hope to win over the 99% who do not ride bikes. We are far too busy ‘making a statement‘. Maybe we can outgrow that temptation to be ‘important‘ just because we ride a bike. I would imagine that in the early days of the automobile it too was an activity that brought notoriety to those who did it.

But today mentioning that you drive a car would evoke a ‘huh?‘ from the listener. Bicyclists get the same thing too but only when they do that kind of ‘back of the hand‘ bragging that begins with ‘it was a very cold ride in the sub-zero weather and three feet of slow on Milwaukee on my way over to this party‘.

So who gives a flipping care?

Every homeless person walks around carrying all of their belongings on the coldest day of the year without ever bragging to anyone. Only a self-indulgent Urban Cyclist would think more highly of themselves than the homeless.