We just got back from Amsterdam and I cant stop thinking about bikes. Bikes as a form of transportation not just recreation. Bike culture is always so refreshing to see. The motorist-bicyclist relationship is one of equality, respect and safety. Everyone seems to be connected, supportive and abiding by an innate set of road rules.
Rain or shine, entire families are bicycling together. It is quite the Utopian sight. Happy Amsterdammer’s carting their kids from place to place. And the bikes are equally as interesting, coming in all sizes, clever configurations, and expressive colors. I am covetous bike culture. It appears simpler, eco-friendly, and family focused. On a rare occasion you can spot a Cargobike parked outside a daycare or school in NYC, but in Amsterdam they pepper the streets.
I grew up in California with Beach Cruisers center stage. Groups of scantily clad bicyclists lazily enjoying the winding strand, ocean’s breeze and sun’s warmth. We left the cranking of gears and pumping legs to the professionals. New York is a different beast. Bikes mean business. If you dare to share the road with oblivious drivers, road rage traffic, and taxi-owned streets, you should wear a badge of courage or more importantly head-to-toe reflective tape and strobe lights strapped to every inch of your body. Commuting by bicycle through Manhattan’s streets is far from a relaxing beach cruise.
Biking in NYC is not about recreation or transportation, it’s about survival. Getting from A to B unscathed. Bicyclists don’t seem to get the support they need from the public (but this is old news). They are not respected as road users and viewed more like pesky pedestrians. Where did the Old Amsterdam mentality go, when New Amsterdam began to grow? Have we become so disconnected from our fellow travelers? How can we mend the motorist-bicyclist relationship?
Why does this matter to me? Because I want to cart MY kid to school on my cargobike. I want to explore the city with my tot ‘n tow on wheels. I want to strap on our helmets and cut across Central Park to my kiddos doctor appointment. I want to raise my child in a Utopian bike culture. BUT I also want to be a New Yorker. There are 2 parents that I know that bike their kids to school over the Brooklyn Bridge, but the truth is…I’d be very apprehensive to do that myself.
It is my sincere hope that NYC’s bike culture changes (and yes, it is getting better). We, as pedestrians, drivers, bicyclists, and other motorists, must learn to share the road with each other and make the streets safer for our little ones.
Needless to say, I am intoxicated with Amsterdam’s bike culture and am jealous of their ability to hop on a bike and go.