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.