Much of the world is now (re)discovering the joy and practicality of cycling for transportation, often blissfully unaware of how it’s been done elsewhere for a century. So, to use an obvious expression, they’re reinventing the wheel with, as a few examples…
Thus the photo above of Stephan, Workcycles shop foreman and generally amazingly handy guy… carrying a small tree in a box a few kilometers home after work. His bike of choice? A filthy but perfectly functional, pre-war Magneet Opafiets. Not only is no special bike or carrier necessary, Stephan didn’t even bother to secure the tree. Nope, just like the Dutch carry a crate of beer balanced on the rear carrier Stephan rode home with one hand on the handlebar (Yay for coaster brakes!) and one hand steadying the tree. I was cycling the other direction to pick up my son at the daycare but I imagine Stephan just rode a little slower than usual. I’m sure the time “lost” by cycling slowly was more than compensated by the time “saved” in skipping the special preparations… if those couple minutes are even relevant.
Perhaps more relevant is that riding that tree home by bike was the only imaginable transport solution. Had it been bigger he would have borrowed a bakfiets for the evening. Every Workcycles employee cycles to work every day, not out of idealism or self-sacrifice but because that’s just the best way to get around. Actually from our perspective its the only way to get around. In a town where it’s as normal as day and night to ride bikes one hardly even knows how to go about their business by another mode of transport. I’d rather just get wet on a rainy day than search out the best way to go by tram. I find driving a car annoying only partially because of the traffic. The bigger issue is that I just don’t know which routes to take, what the parking rules are in various districts or even how to operate the strange parking ticket machines. All that and we don’t have a car anyway. My morning route consists of cycling my son two kilometers to the daycare and then continuing on about a kilometer to work. Evening is the opposite. We do this in sun, rain, snow and winter darkness and I’ve never really considered another way to do it. Why would I? Cycling with Pascal is one of the highlights of the day.
Another difference between an established cycling culture and the emerging one is that people don’t look for excuses to ride, nor do they often gather for the purpose of riding (a certain type of) bikes. Critical Mass, Tweed rides, Cycle Chic rides, bicycle house moves etc are certainly all harmless fun and, depending on your perspective, good or bad for the promotion of cycling. But for me there’s just something artificial or staged about them. Take the tweed/cycle chic rides for example: I totally understand and respect the reaction to the dominant male, techno-equipped lycra/carbon/helmet cycling look and attitude of the emerging cycling culture. But isn’t there a danger that the tweed chic costume thing just makes cycling from A to B to C too elitist and class stratified in the other direction?
In any case tweed/chic rides, critical masses and the likes are irrelevant in the Netherlands, perhaps much in the same way fixed gear bikes won’t catch on here; These are artifacts of an emerging cycle culture.
This doesn’t mean you won’t see groups of cyclists riding together or just headed for the same destination in an established cycling culture. Actually you do all the time:
Come to think of it it’s very common for one to move their furnishings from one apartment to another by bike, more specifically with a big bakfiets. However it’s just called “moving” and not a “carfree bike move”.
The difference in the examples above is that riding bicycles is being enjoyed but not celebrated; it’s just the means to another end.