Enthusiasts v. the Rest of the World

A quote of the day from Mikael Colville-Andersen, Copenhagenize

There are stamp collectors who love everything about stamps and there is the rest of us who just lick ‘em and slap ‘em on envelopes because we have to send a letter.

What he’s talking about is a photo with a mom and her son riding past a yellow wall in Copenhagen. We posted the photo too and readers have noticed the bike tire is low on our blog and on the original Flickr upload page. Andrew and I responded, “that’s how they do it over there” and Mikael continued the dialogue by explaining that

it’s important to remember that while there are 500,000 daily cyclists in Greater Copenhagen, there are very few ‘cyclists’. Just regular people who happen to use the bicycle to get around. Sure, there are some ‘enthusiasts’ who are into ‘gear’ and ‘specs’ and what have you - which is nice - but for the rest of us a low tire is no big deal.

Henry said something similar the last time we visited WorkCycles in Amsterdam about how bikes in the States are marketed as fitness equipment, not unlike a Thighmaster. Even with the surge in urban biking and commuting, the Industry has yet to get a clear message out that bikes are transportation too. I don’t know if we’ll ever see that cultural shift in thinking, when I’m out riding and commuters want to race me or we’re mapping and applying metrics to our commutes and getting the latest gear from retailers.

We saw that in Portland too, earlier this year, when cyclists raced across the bridges and were in a hectic hurry to get where they’re going. The same ethos that built the highways we clogged to serve the cities we work in; the only 2-weeks-of-vacation-workaholic-live-the-American-dream belief system we have is likely never going to get to the point of just stepping onto a 50-yr old, 45-pound bike with a flat tire to take your kid to daycare.

That’s not a buzzkill and I’ve still got hope, but a realization after riding in various European cities and riding more this Fall, is that it’s just not who we are in the States. We’ve got this misplaced vicarious belief system that we can become Copenhagen or Amsterdam while marketing dollars are spent on convincing you that one company’s carbon layup is better than another. Meanwhile car/drive hate just increases.

I don’t know specifically what we can do about it, but we talked about it in my Are We Advocating Wrong? post.

A beautiful photo from Copenhagen demonstrated a cultural divide. What did you see? A fantasy from another world where bikes rule the road? A Euro MILF commuting? A near flat tire?


Uploaded by Mikael Colville-Andersen | more from the Bike Hugger Photostream.


Great post. I’m one of the slow, meandering bicyclists in the U.S. I take my time going where I need to go and leave plenty of time to pedal leisurely to work, to the grocery store, and anywhere else I need to go. I want to enjoy the journey and for me, that means riding so that i can take in my surroundings and think about what I’m seeing.

I think we need a national slow down. We need to ride, walk, and drive more slowly. We need to take longer, slower breaths and eat slower, more leisurely meals. We’re having a discussion on lowering speed limits on my blog, Reimagine an Urban Paradise now.

Euro MILF to be honest. I’d lend her my pump anytime.

Bicycle culture just haven’t reached critical mass here in the states. There’s still enough barriers to entry that people have to actively choose to participate. You have to be willing to put up with a lot, and it becomes a point of identity because of it.

But I do think it’s changing slowly. Picture Portland in 20 years, children growing up on bicycles, infrastructure everywhere… It could happen.

Even with the big red arrow… where is this poorly inflated tyre you speak of?? I even checked a few times but, nope, don’t see it. I do, however, see one heck of a beautiful lady riding a bicycle. No sir, not one thing wrong with that picture.

I’ve had a nagging clicking noise on my commuter, probably from my pedal.  This post, particularly the “50-yr old, 45 pound bike with a flat tire” comment, gives me all the justification I need to continue ignoring it.  It’s nearly a 30-year old bike.  I’ll allow it a click or two…

Nevertheless, I still suffer from a competitive surge any time someone passes me on my short commute to work and home.  I think it’s in our blood, and it might take generations to breed a new commuter who’s just riding a bike to work.

=v= I admit I’m enough of an enthusiast to have noticed that the tire needed air, but not so much that I didn’t notice the beautiful mom.  When I get that far gone, I’ll need an intervention.

I think the world is better for enthusiasts, unless they’re imperious about it.  I’ve read too many letters to the editor that started off with, “I’m an avid bicyclist, but ...” followed by some screed against other bicyclists, Critical Mass, or whatever else they themselves disapprove of in their authoritative avidity.

I’m an enthusiast myself and I’m painting with a wide brush here and focused more on the bike is a toy or fitness equipment in the States than transportation.

Having caused a bike traffic jam in Amsterdam and get the look and a few comments from cyclists, they’re not testing their fitness or personal best commuters there, but do not appreciate a tourist slowing them down. That city moves remarkably fast on bikes— buzzing around everywhere. You’re right on competition being in our DNA in the States; especially if you ride in a racer kit. That sets it in motion for those cyclists around you.

All I noticed was the flowers on the basket….................;)

No, sorry, North Americans, that style is strictly Scandiwegian, dream on.

Flower Hugger!

Great blog about the bike and the cultural differences in the USA.
However I totally was dismayed by your lack of respect, restaint, whatever when you refered to the young lady with a four letter word. She may be attactive but, she is someone’s mom, sister, wife, loved one and you want to F—- her. That is all that really stuck with me after this post.

I noticed that there were not a lot of ladies commenting on your post, yet!

The term was used to demonstrate the cultural divide between the US and Europe. We or I don’t think that no, so when I asked, “what do you see?” Like it or not, Americans would see a term that’s in pop culture to describe an attractive mom. The ugliness is the point of using it. That’s the op/ed of the post. Spend some more time on our blog and you’ll find we’re proponents for women in the industry and on bikes.

I’m a girl, and while I appreciate ktown’s sensitivity and respect for women, I took no offense to the “MILF” comment.  However, it would be nice if the bloggers objectified men and women equally.  More than just boys read this blog.  I’ve seen plenty of pictures of hot men on here, but no “DILF” comments…

Thanks and point taken—we do have [this post](http://bikehugger.com/2008/09/hey-ladies.html) and this hot [man on man](http://www.flickr.com/photos/huggerindustries/4089689373/) action and [this too](http://www.flickr.com/photos/huggerindustries/3498954661/). Last night out with friends and talked about the *MILF incident* and the women all that it was funny—Byron defending the term MILF for them—all of them said, “but haven’t you been to MILF Island?”

Not only did I immediately spot the flat tire, I also spotted the kiddie seat passenger with his hand to his helmet as if to demonstrate how ashamed he is to be riding with a pilot who didn’t check her tire pressure before leaving to avoid a pinch flat.

Say all you want about “Copenhagen this” and “practical, stylish cycling that”, but there’s nothing practical or stylish about changing a flat on the side of the road when you could be riding on tubbies or UST. Just sayin’.

Why yes, if Tubeless is to make it anywhere, it’s Copenhagen.

This is definitely one of my all time favorite bike photos. It epitomizes Copenhagen spring and summer cycling. I’m a Copenhagener too, and cycling is without a doubt the easiest, best and most enjoyable option when it comes to dropping off my kids at daycare. My daily commute is about 10k (6 miles) each way, part of which is with our youngest daughter (4) on the back of the bike and she actually prefers the bike ride as opposed to the occasional car ride. In fact she is known to throw a tantrum if she realizes that we’ll be taking the car. She has been riding her own two-wheeler since she turned 3 and as soon as she turns 5, she’ll be riding her own bike to daycare (next to me of course).

Now, one of the great new exciting initiatives from Copenhagen city council is the concept of “bike super paths” www.cykelsuperstier.dk, which aims at getting even more people to commute (I believe it’s now some 50% of all Copenhageners), particularly the ones having a 10-20k commute (6-12 miles) each way. Next year the first route will open going from Copenhagen West to the city center. There’ll be a focus on convenience or “spoiling the cyclists” as they’ve stated on the website, such as super smooth road surfaces, services (pumps, free water, maps) and no red lights. Cheers to that.

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