I spent a week in Amsterdam this summer and, like I suppose every American who visits that city, was bowled over (nearly literally) by the bike traffic. Everybody is on a bike all the time everywhere. Pedestrians must watch out more for two wheels than four. It’s an old city built on a series of canals and so not super friendly to cars, yet super friendly to bikes.
The bike riders in Amsterdam are merely commuters. They’re riding upright on these Dutch style cycles with the handlebars curved back toward the rider, and nobody seems to be doing anything but going from point A to point B as they’re pedaling. Nobody save for a few small children wears a helmet.
This is a dramatic contrast from the bike commuters in my city, most of whom are helmeted and hunched over racing style or mountain style (or a hybrid thereof) bikes and probably outfitted with racing gear. They’re focused and breathing hard. They’re using fitness trackers.
It’s the difference between cycling as a practicality and cycling as a tool of physical fitness. I’d like to use mine for the former, but that feels impossible when everyone doing the latter is whizzing past me in brightly colored tops, legs a pumping. Yesterday somebody on one of those bike share units showed me up on Lawrence Avenue.
It’s not a race, I keep telling myself. I don’t have a personal best to beat. It’s just a commute.
I’m not very convincing.