Who indeed?

Portland Transport asks Who needs an SUV? in its continuing report from their city delegation to the Netherlands. The wonderment of their photos recalls my own in Amsterdam. While we probably agree violently about the overall significance of the Dutch achievement, I find myself bristling a little at any drift — perhaps not even there — that the Dutch are unique, and the implication that it can’t happen elsewhere. “It’s the culture” and “it’s the infrastructure” shouldn’t end any discussions. Isn’t culture made of personal choices, like water on the rock of institutions and their infrastructure?

Portland has a marvelous bike culture and the beginnings of great bike infrastructure. I had never heard the adjective “bikey” before settling here. Bicycles are our only family transportation in town, no car. Our son spends at least 70 miles every week in a bike seat year round — the very same Bobike Maxi Dutch seat shown in Portland Transport’s photos, and we have a trailer too. We’re not numerous, but we’re not lonely either, and the trend is favorable. In fact I think it’s unstoppable. If I have a point, apart from recycling some more photos and odious self-congratulation, it’s that there’s danger in framing an appropriately radical embrace of the bicycle as a curious foreign phenomenon instead of as something one just does. Be the change, etc.

One thought on “Who indeed?”

  • Joe

    Very thoughtful post, Todd. I would extend your optimism with this. Not only are things slowly improving, but the bicycle is by nature so flexible and adaptable, that it is fun and useful long before the infrastructure is complete. Much different than, say, a mass transit system. Part of the excitement of the bicycle is that we don’t have to wait!

    Keep up the good work. I’m glad to see you’ve started posting again.

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