A Thousand Words
First up, Amsterdam:
No helmets, no cycling gear. A person who did this in New York City would have their child taken by Child Protective Services. Most impressively to an American’s eyes is the casual “hang on” manner in which the kid is riding. The young girl isn’t even really using the child seat on the back of the bike and is so relaxed that she can look around and take in her environment. And given the fact that the streets are so quiet, with no drivers honking at them to get out of the way, mom and daughter can even talk. Simply wonderful.
I took a bunch of pictures on Istegade, the street where this was taken, and many of them were of parents transporting or riding with children. This isn’t an especially artful one–I’ll leave the real “cycle chic” photos to Mikael Colville-Andersen–but it does show so much about what makes Copenhagen special. Once again: no helmets, no gear. Just regular clothes as any dad would wear while pushing a stroller…or casually pedaling a nihola cargo bike.
While Copenhagen is famous for its separated bicycle lanes, what struck me about Istegade, or at least the stretch I was one, was that it had none. It didn’t even have “sharrows,” that cursed street marking in which Americans put way too much faith. But when drivers are used to seeing cyclists–and likely to be cyclists themselves–they tend to be patient and careful. Not only that, but when a city treats cyclists as equally deserving of space on the road, drivers have less of a license to squeeze them off of it. It proved to me that changing the culture will be as important a factor in New York’s evolution into a cycling city as changing the infrastructure.