This post is dedicated to normalcy in everyday cycling. Albeit, one that's derived from my genetically altered cerebral cortex, but this is a pretty common phenomenon on the continent that is known as Europe.
I'd like to use a real life image of everyday cycling as a point of reference, so that nobody, and I mean anybody that lacks the aforementioned cortex tune up job, cries foul play.
Location: the Netherlands, downtown Amsterdam, along a busy shopping street.
Weather conditions: 31 degrees Centigrade, high % humidity, no wind.
Cycling speed: approximately 15 km/h.
Both subjects appear to be adult.
Both subjects show a more than average sense of confidence and/or self.
The male subject wears flip flops, shorts and shirt.
The female subject wears a lovely dress, drapes a matching handbag and could easily attend a cocktail party, if it wasn't for the flip flops dead giveaway.
The subjects ride side by side.
The subjects ride on bicycles that seem to enable a very comfortable and upright position, contrary to mountain bikes.
Neither of the subjects wears either a so-called bicycle helmet, lycra bicycle clothes, other gear such as bright yellow fluorescent vests or feel worried about getting.
During the observation the subjects were engaged in a conversation.
Observing this and their posture, it's safe to say the subjects were not intimidated by the cyclists up ahead or the ones behind them. The highly visible bicycle traffic lights up ahead show a green signal.
These observations can be explained, both empirically and by way of common sense:
There is an extensive, mostly segregated bicycle infrastructure put in place. Segregation from both the sidewalk and the road.
Both inside and outside urban areas this infrastructure has nurtured cycling as the most practical form of transportation for short and long(er) trips.
Mountain bikes are not the norm, quite the opposite, people mostly ride bicycles that come standard with chain and spoke guards, no need for.trouser clips or any other add-on which needs to masquerade deficiencies in cycling. It's utility for style & convenience, baby.
Historically, the Dutch start riding bicycles before they can walk properly…and don’t stop at the age of 11.
People of all ages and any social status use their bikes to go to school, to work, to the supermarket, to go out, etc etc, every day. Come rain or shine.
Cyclists don't consider it a culture. It's just there, they don't know any better.
There's absolutely no need for bicycle helmets. Alright, don't be scared, I'll throw some science at ya. You'll see it's more dangerous for a pedestrian to cross the street.
Leave the science for what it is when you have generations of people in a nation being one with the bicycle, using a segregated cycling infrastructure, you DON'T need helmets. Not the young, not the old. Yeah, but what if shit just happens? You know, how about leaving the fear-mongering to less enlightened people and trust us. We also learned to just get back up and go. (Psst: it means we're not very anxious about riding and/or accident-prone)
Car drivers are also cyclists.
If you don't give way to or ignore cyclists during your drivers test, you fail immediately. And it doesn't come cheap here.
Netherlands: 16.5 million inhabitants, 18+ million bikes.
These are outdated statistics, NL cycle death rate has dropped since
Besides these practical observations I can tell you, dear reader from presumably a car-dominated culture, that this is not at all an isolated case for Amsterdam. All over the Netherlands you'll encounter this phenomenon. However, it's not something of late or something that's been there for centuries. This infrastructure was built and improved over the last 45 years. Through public(!) and political will and determination, coorporation and vision (and a big bag of pragmatism). Nothing is easy, but it sure isn't impossible.
The same developments can now be seen all over Europe (besides bicycle friendly countries like the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany), even in some cities in the US. Paris transformed into a bicycle friendly city in just a year, for instance.
Bicycles are not suited for all commutes or purposes, obviously. But short trips (largest share) are. Having public transportationoptions i.e. alternatives also helps. Cutting down on car use has so many advantages, I don't think it needs an explanation. In Amsterdam over 40% 55% of all trips are done by bike. Nationally, it's 27%. Again: of ALL trips. That last figure has politicians and cycle organizations shaking in their boots, it's too low to them. So a new national cycle campaign has just started.
If you live in a country where cycling is marginalized or demonized, and you're thinking of joining or starting a cycle advocacy organization, please do me, and more importantly, yourself a favor. Don't make it more fringy, cultural or political...and certainly not 'the green thing to do'. That's just a by-product, it shouldn't be promoted as such, there's enough greenwashing going on already. Bicycling is normal, like how it started it out. Just do it, in normal clothes, comfortably. Have others join/follow your lead, inspire. If you currently can't count on political vision or will from your town/city council, sheer volume will get you there. Indeed, safety by numbers.
Ps #2. I'm not against helmet wear, I'm all for personal choice. But I'll go ballistic when people or politicians push for mandatory laws, trying to legislate something that doesn't need or isn't helped by enforcement. So all you zealots, ill-informed and scared fellow human beings, read this post twice if you have to, challenge me and this basic concept of cycling, but let's do it with putting thought into it, ok? Cheers.