Category Archives: bike culture

Dutch cycling

Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.  —World Health Organization

Cycling culture is universal in the Netherlands.  It is part of the national consciousness.  They embrace all things bicycle.  In a country with less than half the population of California, they have many of the worlds top cyclists including Chantal Blaak, winner of the Amstel Gold Race and World Road Race Championship, and Tom Doumalin, winner of the Giro d’Italia and World Time Trial Championship.  Just as Norway’s love for winter sports was on display in the Winter Olympics, the spirit of the people of the Netherlands expresses through cycling, in sport and everyday life.  Cycling is a principle value the Dutch have built their communities around.  [I usually use my pictures for this blog, but the photos in this post are from the public domain, mostly of the Amstel Gold women’s race which takes place every April in the Netherlands]

The bicycle was the traditional vehicle for transportation in the Netherlands in the early part of the 20th century, accounting for about 80% of trips in Amsterdam.  Car technology changed that in the 1960’s, just like it did here in the U.S.  The Dutch decided in the 1970’s to comprehensively plan for providing service to people cycling, and that has made a big difference.  Cities are built for people on bicycles.  75% of secondary school children bicycle to school.  The Dutch educate their children to travel by bike with a traffic certificate program, which most kids complete by age 12.  This is part of the planning process, to instill confidence.  There is a public expectation that kids will be cycling.  The urban planners work with the traffic department and local communities to ensure that the roads, paths, and trails are safe for bikes.  This is very similar to the travel culture that I experienced in Japan–bikes and walking are thought through and planned as completely as other modes such as trains, buses, and cars.

The results are pretty incredible.  By no means perfect, but they go a long way towards a happy, healthier and more sustainable society.  We have all the seeds in America we need for this.  Our Safe Routes to Schools programming started as a safe streets movement in a country nearby the Netherlands, Denmark.  We have many assets we can leverage including wide streets, space and our hallmark of ingenuity guided by science and a high regard for all people.  Our Constitution seeks to form “a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”.  Bicycling aids with all of these things, the American way.

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

When we celebrate cycling, I like to remember how it brings together the highest aspirations for our healthiest possible future.  It is about justice, equity, inclusion, freedom, equality, and building strong and responsible communities.  We can tell our young cyclists when they push those pedals the possibilities are unlimited.  You very well could end up on top of the world.

BERG EN TERBLIJT, NETHERLANDS – APRIL 15: Arrival / Chantal Blaak of The Netherlands and Team Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam / Celebration / Lucinda Brand of The Netherlands and Team Sunweb Women / during the 5th Amstel Gold Race 2018 a 116,9km women’s race from Maastricht to Berg En Terblijt on April 15, 2018 in Berg En Terblijt, Netherlands. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Photo Credits, and References:
http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/amstel-gold-race-women-2018/results/
http://www.tdwsport.com
https://www.theguardian.com/travel/gallery/2016/may/18/cris-toala-olivares-netherlands-tulip-fields
http://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/racing/world-champion-chantal-blaak-wins-2018-amstel-gold-race-376513
https://santanaadventures.com

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/may/05/amsterdam-bicycle-capital-world-transport-cycling-kindermoord
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycling_in_the_Netherlands

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Doing what we love matters

When you have a better sense of the way the environment flows through your own body, you’re liable to work harder at taking care of the environment.  –Richard Nelson, “The Way of the Hunter

Cycling is a creative act.  Everyday when we practice what we love, we weave together a sense of our own health and the environment we draw our life from.  In this way culture emerges.

The most important things for human beings are clean air and clean water.  —Akira Kurosawa, “Dreams”

My cycling journey took off 21 years ago in Reno, Nevada when I sold my car and bought a bicycle.  I rode out of necessity to work and to live–errands, chores, and exercise.  Reno offered clean air (for the most part), fresh mountain water, and enough places to ride to help me get started.  The sense of renewal, authenticity and simplicity cycling brings to my life is special.

The best predictor of whether we are happy or not is our social relationships.  –Meik Wiking, “The Little Book of Hygge”

I was (and still am) amazed at the intimacy cycling creates, both with people and place.  Somehow cycling expands our in-group, we just feel more humane.  I think it has something to do with being in touch with our vulnerability, which is at the core of our human state.  Accepting this helps us build intimacy with all of our neighbors and changes our expectations regarding the terms we put on nature.  We recognize and respect limits, experiencing ecstasy from ordinary things, like being outside for sunrise and sunset, easily swayed by each season’s grace.

And so it goes, and cyclists know!  No matter how you get started cycling, the physical habit immediately delivers positive spiritual experiences–freedom, adventure, the power of will and action.  Bicycling is emancipation in action.  Feel unbounded freedom every day, real freedom within life’s constraints.   Everyone who has experienced it can’t help but wish all could experience the freedom of cycling personally.  Our wisest policies would encourage as much cycling as possible to help people flourish.  Cycling increases confidence and self knowledge, improves daily social relations and decreases disparities, nurtures health, and fosters the invention of culture that both expresses and educates us, affirming care, love and co-creation.

Bike culture

The thing you learn from being a cyclist is you don’t give up, you keep fighting and it’s funny how that transitions over into other things in life.  John Tomac, rancher and mountain biker

From the simple form of the bicycle springs a variety of culture.  Cycling, like music, fosters vital expression of the human spirit.  It allows us to move abreast with our days, creates meaning and helps us make sense of our lives.  The experience of cycling brings us together with place through the application of our skills with an elegant, purposeful, and artful technology.  We can trace all the variety in cycling back to this original experience, the exquisite freedom and sensations of cycling reverberating contagiously deep in the inner oceans of our unconscious.

A bike ride always feels worthwhile.  Somehow it unlocks our perceptions and gives wings to the art of becoming.  It’s a creative act, bringing us into a powerful state of joyful relations.

The preamble of thought, the transition through which it passes from the unconscious to the conscious, is action.  —Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

Cycling puts our ambitions in check with our practical abilities.  There is no shame in living cycling.  It’s a way of reading the land, celebrating with nature.  In a world of pop culture and groupthink, cycling is a way of living directly.  An unmediated way of caring for yourself.

All things real are so by so much virtue as they contain…I see the same law working in nature for conservation and growth.  Power is in nature the essential measure of right  Nature suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot help itself.  –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self Reliance”

Cycling is really something wonderful to celebrate!  It’s a discipline that is dictated by our nature and follows truth.  The truth is our body’s health is integral to our mind and wellbeing, and we must take care of it.  By developing cycling skills, we are enacting an understanding of the value of our health, and practicing responsibility to all life.  Cycling is a beautiful gift, a part of our heritage.  Cycling extends our powers and lives in a joyful way.  The variety cycling is generating is amazing.  John Tomac’s example in the video below shows how cycling is part of the fabric of a larger American culture, something that is fixing itself in the soil for good.  We are seeing the love of cycling connecting vital elements of sustainable culture around the globe.  Cycling runs deep, through our legs, hearts, and lungs, through our hard work, through generations across time.  It’s simple really, oxygenated blood pumping through our bodies is good for us.  And rolling on wheels with our family, friends and whole communities is unabashed fun!

American mountain biking is fun-based and grassroots, and it’s always been that way.  —J. Tomac

Cycling to work and beyond

This week in May many cities celebrate cycling with a “bike to work day.”  Here in Albuquerque it’s Friday May 19.  I’m a believer in cycling everyday, and aligning a ride around work or school is a good way to get started.  That’s how my cycling began 20 years ago in Reno, Nevada.

There are more benefits than we can imagine in cycling to work.  We get to know our cities better.  We see life from a new perspective.  And we develop our cycling skills as we navigate through varied infrastructure to get to where we need to go.  Cycling to work is a healthy habit.

The key is making cycling a routine.  Transportation is a lifeway, just like eating.  When we try changing with a short term fix, like going on a diet, it usually doesn’t stick.  And cycling to work is going to be the same way.  The idea is to make it a habit that becomes integral to your routine.  We can celebrate cycling everyday!  Bike to church.  Bike to the store.  Bike to open space.

The amazing thing about cycle commuting is how much you accomplish outside of the trip itself.  First of all, cycling energize our lives.  We arrive to work fresh, and if the weather was bad outside, actually relieved to be at our desk.  Free shelter!  Many employers reward cycle commuters with health bonuses, and you become an example for your colleagues.  You boost morale and your enthusiasm is contagious.  People are proud to work with you!  And when you arrive home, you’re already refreshed and replenished with a happy and clear mind.

As a student of cycling, the bike commute is a masters course.  It gets us on the bike twice a day.  The preparation it takes commands concentration and mindfulness.  And we get to practice our cycling skills without having to carve away free time.  There’s an interview with our national hill climbing champion, Leroy Popowski, on the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado.  They ask him what he does to get fit, and he responds that most of his training is riding to and from work with a backpack.  He’s not kidding.  You can look him up on Strava.  Same route twice a day.  That’s ten rides a week.  Of course, then he goes off on the weekends and does more exploring.  But the bike commute is the core for a joyful cycling life.  I hope you seize the chance to begin this May!

Resources:
Find out more at Albuquerque’s member-driven volunteer-run not-for-profit, BikeABQ:
http://www.bikeabq.org
Check out Santa Fe, New Mexico’s bike to work day events:  https://www.biketoworksantafe.com
The League of American Cyclists bike to work month page: http://bikeleague.org/bikemonth

Quiet energy

The standard of beauty is the entire circuit of natural forms, the totality of nature…nothing is quite beautiful alone…but beautiful in the whole.  A single object is only so far beautiful as it suggests this universal grace.  —Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”

On Saturday Mai and I headed south to two beautiful places–Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, and Quebradas backcountry byway.  The roads at Bosque del Apache are open to cycling this time of year, when the Sandhill Cranes are in their Arctic habitat.  The Bosque’s wetlands–engineered in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps to mimic naturally occurring flood plains, and incorporated in 1939 by Roosevelt as part of the national system of lands dedicated to wildlife–nurture wildlife year round, and are surging with Spring runoff.  We saw Snowy egrets, Great egrets, a wild turkey, ducks, and many smaller birds.  With the new greens leafing out and wildflowers shooting up, it is serene and spectacular this time of year.

Bicycles are a perfect vehicle for exploring the refuge.  We stopped often to get a closer look and listen.  Details of the landscape appear and register with us the more time we spend there.  Gliding by bicycle, wide open to the world, with the warm sun caressing our skin, is sensational.

We came home through Quebradas, and stopped often to walk.  Flowers are opening, intricately timed for pollinators.  The Ocotillos are not quite out, still waiting for hummingbirds.  But the Creosote, Scarlet Beehive Cactus, yuccas, agaves, Indigobush, Lechuguillas and more are setting the desert afire in color this Spring, a time of quiet anticipation and emerging possibilities.

It’s amazing to be outside and see how it all fits together, and experience nature flowing into our lives.  These places are so healing.  Our civilization’s future depends on better including nature when designing places for people.  Each is a part of each, and our species requires great habitat too, like all forms of life on earth.  If our civilization–the things we do, build and make– invests more in ecosystem services, natural capital, and wildlife, that’s an indicator of progress.

Travels in Japan

Japan has a well-tempered travel culture, thank goodness, because tourism is soaring.  Travel elicits curiosity and wonder, and emphasizes our mutual interdependence.  If we can treat everyone equally in public travel spaces, and honor each person’s value and dignity, we are on our way to a better quality of life and facilitating stronger global citizenship.  Japan has a good blueprint for treating everyone like we deserve to be treated, like we’re one big human family.

Osaka has amazing shopping districts, with streets made for walking

Kagoshima in Kyushu has bike share and street greening initiatives

Japan’s traffic system is one of the safer systems in the world.  The photo below shows a few reasons why.  The intersection has huge crosswalks, and the stop bar on the street lane is way behind the crosswalk.  This creates space for pedestrians.  There is no left turn on red in Japan (the U.S.A.’s equivalent of right turn on red), and that reduces possibility for conflict and eases pressure on people walking.  The sight lines at this intersection are open, too, so there is good visibility for all users.  The light gives a pedestrian signal automatically, so no one has to push a button.  The speed limits are also very low (30-40 kph, or 18-25 mph) to increase safety for all.

the van in this photo is a driving school van. Driver training is very intensive in Japan!

Safe streets and lots of good transportation choices makes it easy to relax and access all the good amenities a given place has to offer.  In the the shopping district in Komyoike, where Mai’s parents live, we encountered this country western line dancing gig.  It was cool, upbeat, friendly.

I really love the contrasts and continuity in Japan between historical and present culture.  We went to an Ikebana (art of flower arranging) exhibition in downtown Osaka, and saw this shrine on a rooftop pictured in the photo above.  The photo below is of Osaka’s famous walking mall.

In Japan people are walking everywhere so you get used to it.  Crosswalks, like the one below in Komyoike, are clearly marked and signed.  And the neighborhoods in the newer suburbs have dedicated pathways, mostly off street, to connect to markets, work, parks, schools, and transit.

It’s not all about infrastructure for sure.  Many towns and streets were laid out and built a long time ago, and the car was introduced later.  This is where manners and respect is even more important.  The street pictured below is definitely a “yield street”.  I bicycled this street several times.  There is a transit stop on the left.    People get off the bus and walk on the street.  Bicycles and cars yield to pedestrians and share the road.  There are also other hazards you can see, like open drainage and telephone poles on the side of the road.  These close quarters cultivate cautious users and a culture of sharing!  Courtesy, respect and skills guard our dignity.  Japanese cars are smaller, and pedestrian safety measures are designed into the vehicle.

I experienced travel in Japan from many perspectives, by foot, bicycle, train, plane, automobile, bus, subway.  They were all valuable experiences.  Cycling was a special joy.  The vending machines in Japan are so well positioned, just where I needed them on excursions.  Some machines offer an hot espresso drink, hot or cold, at the base of a long mountain climb.  Thoughtful touches for travelers in Japan make it welcoming, rewarding and inspiring!

Celebrating Steve Tilford, a cyclist and communicator

It takes a certain amount of discipline to allow yourself not to get caught up in the adult world so much and see the world through the eyes of a child. When you do that, it makes life much more enjoyable.  —Steve Tilford, from his blog

The first NORBA Mtn Bike National Championships, 1983, Santa Barbara CA. left to right John Loomis, Steve Tilford, Steve Cook. From Ned Overend’s Facebook post on Steve’s passing

I was sad to hear Steve Tilford’s life tragically ended in a highway crash.  Steve was the first US National Mountain Bike (MTB) Champion, a seven time World Champion (5x MTB Masters, 2x Cyclocross Masters), and all around world class rider who shared his cycling experiences daily through is popular blog.  I didn’t know him personally, but his work has been a source of inspiration for me.   The photos in this post without captions are from my recent travels.  And here’s a song that has been playing in my head that seems appropriate for this moment.

Steve was an American original.  His beautiful writing shares the essence of a cycling life.  By reading Steve, I learned more how cycling grants a better life, and creates a better society and world.  His understanding was deep and rich, and he was honest and willing to talk about what he believed.  As a communicator he did naturally what George Lakoff teaches.  Steve framed facts in moral terms (Steve called out cheating cyclists, for instance) and activated our empathy and sense of social responsibility.  He showed us what cyclists go through, shared the cycling spirit, and made the community cycling generates more visible.  Steve evoked the joy, love and adventure cycling brings, and taught us how cycling connects us with our own humanity.

It’s the humanity that Steve communicated that stands out.  More than a bike racer, he was a good person.  Cycling is communicated as a way of life, of being, that brings fulfillment, meaning and discovery, if you’re not afraid to work hard, keep moving and get your hands dirty.   And what it brings, we see by reading Steve, are friendships and a sense of community that is absolutely incredible.  The prosperity cycling brings spills over into every life area.  Steve brought the great traditions of cycling forward, and adapted cycling to our times.  He had so much knowledge and understanding.  I’ll miss reading his blog and hearing about his racing experiences, and being surprised on which neighbor he was helping, what was happening in his hometown of Topeka, Kansas, the people he was meeting, and history and outlook of one of the world’s best cyclists and greatest teachers.  He blazed a new path and left us a trail.  Stevetilford.com