I remember that in my youth back in Holland in our village of 13,000 a teen called Sjaak (from ‘Jacques’) with Down Syndrome cycled by our house regularly. He had an upright bike with two enormous mirrors. His bike was his pride. The freedom for him was fantastic. He could go where he wanted, was sent out for errands by his mom and everyone knew him. Note that this was the 70’s, indeed over 40 years ago when Dutch bike infrastructure was probably not even 10% of what there is now. But Sjaak cycled on a busy road, with vehicles on one side and a canal on the other side of Sjaak.
Everyone can ride a bike
A couple of years ago, at Citizens for Safe Cycling, we decided to print a new banner. I suggested we added a slogan “Everyone can ride a bike“. Of course we knew that someone out there was going to comment on that. We are long enough in advocacy that we more or less know the reactions.
We put a pic out on Facebook and low and behold, someone out there commented something along the lines that not everyone can ride a bike, that we’d better be careful etc. Of course, not everyone can ride bike in the traditional sense of the concept of balancing on two wheels. But there are many options.
Think out of the box
Last month I spent nearly three weeks in the Netherlands, and I saw more or less confirmed that everyone can ride a bike. That is because the Dutch think out of the box and don’t see a bike as an upright thing on which you set new personal records (in fact of all sold bikes, racing bikes are less than 9%). They see it first and foremost as a practical means of transportation. That is why you see people from every layer of society riding bikes.
6 ft tall blonds
In the bigger cities, it is not difficult to take a couple of thousand pictures of 6 ft tall girls on oma bikes. But when you are 52, you better be a bit careful taking pictures of young women, else you find yourself thrown in a canal all of a sudden. To play it safe, I changed my focus on ‘all those others’ who usually don’t make it to bike blogs.
Below is a collection of pictures I took in July 2015. Remember, I wasn’t waiting for them nor was I watching out for them. I just bumped into them, passed them, spotted them when waiting for a light. Day to day situations in a nation of cyclists.
And what about Sjaak? My mom estimates he passed away about ten years ago. I am sure his bike added to his quality of life. Isn’t that what cycling is all about?
I debates, it seems that there’s always someone who (claims at least) to represent disabled people and state that cycling infrastructure would interfere in their mobility because the handicapped minibus wouldn’t be able to get through to their house anymore and therefore we shouldn’t do the cycling infrastructure project. (I suspect that this is just a red herring but probably some people buy it.)
This shows that with the right infrastructure and the right types of bikes, handicapped people would have personal mobility and not dependent on others as much.
That bridge with the cube outlines should have wisteria vines on it. That would be cool.
Not everyone likes change and the easiest solution is a “don’t rock the boat status quo”. However, change can also bring lots of improvements for others, making society more inclusive, as we saw in this particular post.