Photo by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country
For the last eight days, I have been living in a fantasy land. Everyone around me has a smile on their face, dedicated paths are everywhere, and bicycle signals cater to me and the thousands of other bicyclists that surround me.
Instead of horns, I hear bells. Instead of exhaust fumes, I’m breathing in fresh, clean air – and when I arrive at my destination, there are thousands of bicycle parking spaces – mostly full.
I rarely encounter motorists, but when I do they always watch out for me. The only road rage I see is when a fellow bicyclist gets a flat – and even then it doesn’t go beyond a couple curse words followed by a shrug. After all, she only has to push her bike a few blocks to find a bike shop to repair her flat.
Traffic signals take me into consideration, and major bicycle arterial routes include timed lights so I don’t have to stop – as long as I maintain a pace of about 20km/hour. Left turns are easy and safe, and I never have to worry about getting hooked by automobiles when they turn right.
Of course, none of this is reality. But ever since I picked up my new sturdy Dutch bike last week, this is the fantasy world I have been living in.
Just like a maximum performance carbon fibre racing bicycle can make you push yourself harder, a Dutch-style bike can help you relax a little. Just like the performance bike will make you want more gear, the Dutch bike will make you want to feel the wind in your hair.
Just like a bike courier can make a driver curse, a Dutch bike can make a driver covet (well, maybe that’s taking it a bit far).
But the style in which you ride and the attitude you wear is contagious. Drivers who are impatient will make other drivers feel impatient. Pedestrians who cross on a red will lead others to do the same.
A restaurant with a long line-up will attract more customers than the almost-empty restaurant next door. People will follow others.
That’s why every time we ride a bicycle, we need to show others that it can be comfortable and convenient to ride a bicycle. Show them that they don’t need all the gear that they think they need.
Show them that riding a bicycle can be as comfortable as sitting on a La-Z-Boy couch in a city where thousands of others are transporting themselves around the city on their own La-Z-Boy couches.
A world where life moves slower, and you can smell the fresh air while experiencing the pulse of a city without being stuck inside a bubble.
This is exactly what urban transportation should be – comfortable, relaxing, pleasant, spontaneous, affordable, punctual, serene, healthy and cheerful.
All photos by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country