Upright, Slow-Speed, Zero-Sweat Cycling
I’ve become addicted to Dutch cycling videos on youTube. Their infrastructure and utility-bike designs are lightyears ahead of ours. So I’m incredibly jealous every time I ride. And since discovering the joy of their philosophy, I ride a whole lot more!
The Dutch have a lot to teach us about how to build infrastructure to make biking convenient, and how to build bikes for utility and travel (as opposed to exercise, which is also good, but not the same).
I learned about their philosophy as a result of stumbling across Dutch Cycling videos on YouTube. And I’ve become a big fan. (Check out Not Just Bikes for a great collection.)
Since converting to upright, slow-speed, zero-sweat cycling, I find that I enjoy it a lot more, and am more inclined to use the bike to run errands. And even though I am moving at super-slow speed (for a cyclist), I notice that I’m still moving about 3 times faster than someone walking, while expending even less effort. (A really good runner has no problem keeping up with me. But they’re working a lot harder and are a heck of a lot sweatier when they arrive.)
Dutch Cycling vs. U.S. Cycling
After watching a ton of YouTube videos on Dutch street design, I must say that I am totally envious.
- It takes a lot of effort to get a bike moving, but little effort to KEEP it moving. And a bike is at it’s most wobbly and most likely to swerve when starting. So Dutch traffic lights are timed for bicycles, and motion detectors sense you coming BEFORE you get there.
We have detectors at traffic lights here in Silicon Valley, too — right at the lights. Today, I came to a full stop twice, with the signal turning immediately afterward. They were low-traffic roads, fortunately, but with no bike lane as a result, so there I was laboriously starting up my bike from a standstill, trying not to swerve into the way of the few cars that were there, when a second earlier I was riding easily on a stable vehicle.
2. It takes a lot of effort to climb a hill, so Dutch roads go under or over the bike paths. Here, bike paths came later, so they invariably go over railroad tracks and highways, under freeways and some roads. Either way, you have to climb hills. That’s easy in expensive athletic bikes, but then you have fast moving cyclists sharing the path with slow-moving pedestrians. For heavier utility bikes without a lot of gears, they’re a pain.
3. The Dutch have separate paths for cycling and walking. Paths and bike lanes also go straight through, instead of suddenly ending, or having horrific right-angle turns at intersections. (I’ve only had a couple of accidents. Both of them were on American “bike” paths.)
Because they can ride safely, conveniently, and with minimal effort, the Dutch ride their bikes. A lot. Most family have multiple bikes, so they have more bikes than people. They run errands on their bikes. They commute to school and to work on their bikes. They go to social gatherings and to meet friends on their bikes. And a large percentage of them bike in the rain and snow. Because they can. All because of the infrastructure that Dutch cities designed and invested in.
That’s the kind of city I’m looking for.
The free Rethinking Streets for Bikes PDF available at RethinkingStreets.com is a great resource for anyone interested in how streets can be designed to make biking safer and more convenient. (They have other PDF’s relevant to street design, as well.)
Eric Armstrong is the author of Bench Yoga (volume 1 of the Subtle Energy Yoga series) and the creator of the “Instant Alignment” Yoga Meditation Bench. A former volleyball coach, martial arts instructor, and “internal yoga” practitioner, Eric Armstrong has spent 30 years studying the internal energy arts, with practices as varied as Ipsalu Tantra Kriya Yoga, Ananda Raja Yoga, traditional Kriya yoga, Taiji, and Korean Jung SuWon. He works to convey his deep understanding of the subject in a series of workshops, online articles, and in his books, available in print and eBook form at Amazon, or wholesale from Ingram.