First watch this: Bicycle Rush Hour Utrecht

Then read this: Public Bikes Aims to Get San Franciscans Out of Their Cars

Ten years ago, Rob Forbes, the founder of Design Within Reach, visited Amsterdam. After days spent wandering the cobblestone streets, he was left with one prevailing observation: The city was dominated by bicycles.

A reported 120,000 SF residents (16 percent) regularly commute on bicycle—paltry compared to Dutch numbers. Forbes aims to change that with his newest venture, PUBLIC Bikes.

One thing to keep in mind: The Netherlands is FLAT.


Exactly. And much of the infrastructure was put in place when people still pushed carts by hand, i.e bridge approaches were gradual and still mostly flat. Getting across the drawbridge between my home and office is the biggest deterrent to my bicycling commute.
The other thing Daniel and I noticed about the Amsterdam is that no one wears helmets or cycling gear. I wish that would fly here.

Wow, Daniel’s right, no helmets at all! Maybe that’s because there are so few cars? You can certainly take a nasty tumble from a bike all by yourself, but I wonder if the motivation to get people to wear helmets in this country has a lot to do with bike+car collisions.

There’s multiple reasons why they’re not wearing helmets and people in the US do:

0) In Amsterdam, cycling is a normal activity. You don’t put on special gear to go for a walk, why would you put on special gear for getting on a bicycle?
1) The US has a powerful pro-helmet lobby willing to lie about the effectiveness of helmets.
2) Look at those dutch bikes. They’re upright, they have relatively few speeds, many are loaded with gear. Helmets don’t help in most collisions below 15mph and those cyclists aren’t going that fast.
3) Very little cycle-car interaction, both because of fewer cars and because of separate infrastructure.
4) History. In both countries, I believe there was a major amount of utilitarian cycling going on when cycles moved from penny-farthing to “safety” (diamond) frames. In Amsterdam there was largely a continuous chain of utilitarian cycling. In the US, utilitarian cycling largely died out due to very pro-automobile government policies and came back into existence in a culture of largely recreational cycling, especially racing. Bicycle racing is where bike helmets were invented, for good reasons.


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