Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Living in a Bicyclists Paradise

We don’t hide our ardor for bicycles. They are the most efficient form of transportation known to humans. They don’t take up a lot of room. They are relatively affordable and make us fit and happy. But we admit, they simply aren’t practical in a lot of places. Amsterdam is not one of those places. As this short movie called “Bicycle Anecdotes from Amsterdam” attests, bike culture is simply culture to Amsterdamers.

One thing we learned watching the movie is the city’s history with the car. In the 50s and 60s, regulation and urban planning were supportive of cars. But a subsequent increase in congestion and automotive fatalities–coupled with the 1973 oil embargo–led to the car’s decline and the bicycle’s ascent.

There are many reasons bicycle culture flourishes in Amsterdam. The pancake flat city has vast networks of bike lanes, bike parking and bike-friendly laws. The scenes from the movie make cars look anomalous. Dutch bikes are very utilitarian, lacking the fanfare they do in the States; they are heavy, somewhat anonymous and have an upright position that prohibits high speed. Amsterdamer children begin riding young and by adulthood are very competent riders.

There’s the suggestion in the movie that the Dutch’s adoption and subsequent rejection of the car might influence Americans, who are still pretty tethered to their cars. We think this parallel holds up to a certain extent. Amsterdam is a historic city, whose core was conceived long before cars or even bicycles. For older American cities like New York, Boston and San Francisco, which were planned prior to the advent of the car, a widespread adoption of the bicycle as primary transport seems feasible. But for other cities like Houston and Los Angeles, who came about in the age of the automobile, this adoption might prove more challenging. Like most things, necessity will be the key factor–when gas becomes prohibitively expensive, many people will discover a love of the bicycle as deep as the Dutch.

Via Treehugger

  • gokathymac

    We visited Amsterdam 4 summers ago. It is a very vibrant, energetic city. One thing we did notice was there appeared to be many bicycles that had been abandoned for years chained to railings and light posts. We wondered what must have become of the owner and if the city every had a clean up campaign to clear through the long abandoned bicycles. We also experienced a couple of other amusing things — a bicyclist smoking and talking on the phone while pedaling along. Parents transporting two kids at a time — one in front the other in back….not to mention almost getting run over a few times by stealth bicycles pedaling along in the bike lane when we went to step off a bus. The bicycles are very quiet and move very fast so you have to be cautious! It was a very memorable visit.

  • Paula from Germany

    Great film. Thank you for sharing it.

  • jon

    Older Los Angeles, the areas within city boundaries south of the Santa Monica mountains, were actually developed pre-war. Will all of Los Angeles County ever be completely bike friendly? Not as long as gas is relatively cheap here. But the older neighborhoods and the flat coastal areas (also developed before the 2 car friendly) most certainly can be.

    • Jon

      *2 car family