Unfazed And Nonplussed

22/11/2011 16:58 by Amsterdamize

In September BikeSnobNYC wrote about his family trip to this ol' continent, cycling around Amsterdam on Henry Cutler's Workcycles bakfiets & observing London's day-glow extravaganza on top of a Boris Bike. Go on, read that first, it's a good laugh. In his post he succinctly & humorously describes the differences between his own American/NYC bicycle culture and that of ours (and the UK/London's accordingly). It neatly amplifies and supports the 'cultural' context I elaborated on in my previous post 'Bicycle Cultures Are Man-Made':

WARNING: Do not attempt international travel. Leaving the United States may provoke thought and result in reflection, dissatisfaction with the quality of your social services, and acute Arby's withdrawal. The US Department of State shall not be held responsible for your imprisonment or death at the hands of a godless socialist foreign power. If you must visit another country, be sure to wear latex gloves at all times to avoid foreign currency-borne illness. Have a great trip!
"With that out of the way, I spent the bulk of my time in two (2) non-American cities, one of which was Amsterdam. When one thinks of Amsterdam, one thinks of the heady aroma of "Wednesday weed" wafting out of the coffee shops, the even headier aroma of human genitalia wafting out of the red light district, and of course the notorious feral cats that have taken to the canals over the centuries and evolved into strange flesh-eating otter-like creatures that have been known to bite off at the wrist the hands of unsuspecting tourists. But let's leave all that aside for the moment and look at that other hallmark of "the big A," which is bikes."
"Simply put, in Amsterdam people ride bikes to go places. More than this, though, they ride bikes to go places without making any sort of fuss about it."
"...and to say that riding around a city where cycling is a completely normal mode of transportation is to understate how pleasant it is to be someplace where you can simply get on a bike with your family without giving a shit."
"Ironically, while I was in Amsterdam a bit of a kerfuffle arose on Bikeportland about how Fred Armisen of "Portlandia" is too much of a "woosie" to ride in the most cycling-friendly city in America. In particular, he's afraid of the streetcar tracks: "Armisen is young and healthy. If he's too afraid to bike in the Pearl, what does that say about our city?"
"To me it says that the city of Portland should remove an entire mode of public transportation to make it easier for someone who probably hasn't been on a bicycle since he was 9 to move there and ridicule them. I wonder if anything will ever be enough for the people of Portland--who, were they to be liberated from their hated streetcar tracks, would probably find some other cycling injustice to rail against, such as the high cost of Stumptown coffee or an overabundance of low-hanging tree branches. It seems to me that focussing on streetcar tracks as an obstacle to cycling is like saying the problem with living in Antarctica is that there aren't enough Whole Foods. Anyway, Amsterdam is completely covered in tram tracks and it doesn't seem to pose much of a problem."

BikeSnobNYC...I mean Eben Weiss, has inadvertently entertained us with the notion how perception creates a certain reality. Many people with an equal interest for history and culture, aka the framework that entails describing and dissecting bike 'cultures', would agree with me when I say that it stems from a unprecedented decline in everyday cycling, fading from the public consciousness, shoved aside by prosperity, suburbanization and motorized transport, leaving one single vertical market for the sport cycling industry and ample growth of a zealous Health & Safety complex in a hostile urban traffic environment. However, at the same time his post bridges that cultural gap, one step of many, taking us back to that place, to the perception that so many people around the world have forgotten about: cycling is a perfectly normal activity. Thus creating a 'new' paradigm for 'perception creates reality'. Oh, the irony :). I know I'm working on it and, naturally, in an unfazed and nonplussed kinda way, I'm very pleased to see that many more are and that it's gaining ground & momentum around the world.
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