Our European Vacation: What Genuine “Bike Culture” Looks Like

Seattle likes to tout itself as being “bike-friendly.”

I’ll admit that it’s better than it used to be. When my husband and I bought our house in North Seattle back in 2009, I wouldn’t have been caught dead riding my bike around here, because, well, I was worried that I would, in fact, be caught dead.

In the last 7 years, though, I feel that the ambience has improved a bit. There are more dedicated bike lanes. I think car drivers are more watchful (though I ride defensively and yield to cars until I’m sure the driver sees me) and willing to share the road.

But Seattle’s hilly geography does not encourage casual bike riding, by normal-looking people wearing normal-looking clothes.

Not so with Amsterdam.

Everywhere, people on bikes. Mostly one-speeds, some pretty beat-up-looking. No racing bikes with curved handlebars and hunched-over riders. No spandex. And no helmets. But when you’re only going about 5 miles an hour and there are more of you than there are cars and you have your own dedicated lanes and traffic signals, what’s the big deal?

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All ages.

Even your dog.

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And everywhere, bikes chained up on racks and fences and railings.

And they always seemed to be there. It was like their people never came and got them and took them home. Kind of weird.

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