In deference to my helpful comrade @amsterdamized, the word “Holland” has been replaced with “The Netherlands”. I do hope he’s not pulling my leg.
Dutch cycling is wonderful, an inspiration, and if I could wrangle it, I would move to Rotterdam and live in the Breitner Hotel—for a whole week. But bicycling lessons from
Holland The Netherlands have to always be taken with caution. Calvinism in their heritage, has led to a national fondness for inverse status symbols, hardly so popular in more overtly consumer driven societies.
To the American, or Australian bicycling pundit, a practical city bike would be a fixie, built on a collectable frame bought for a small fortune on eBay, with very particular wheels and supple non-durable rubber. But a practical urban bike, to a Kaaskop, will have beaten-up mudguards, buckled wheels, and ten years left in the rubber, at least. The only way to increase that style of cycling, outside of
Holland The Netherlands, would be to swell the ranks of the poor, and I’m not sure that’s on our stated agendas.
What we call “Dutch” cycling, in consumer societies, is typically pursued on top-of-the-range classic roadsters—the only models worth putting on ships—sold at a premium outside of Europe, for their fashionableness. Their owners wouldn’t dream of leaving those bikes overnight on the street. A revolving red velvet plinth in their long-gallery, is where they imagine keeping their beater.
As architects, we are left to find ways of celebrating bicycling culture, without precedent in the world’s model bike transit nation. We’ll be designing bicycling equivalents to those googie style drive-in milk bars and cinemas from the 50s and 60s, conceived for car lovers, as places to play with the pieces of tin they so cherished. We’ll be catering for populations of cycling enthusiasts, who, no matter if they’re into pretending they’re Dutch, or pretending they’re Lance, or whoever, will see their bikes more like GUCCI handbags, than simple tools.
I don’t believe in importing, exporting, or critiquing bicycling cultures, but rather allowing each and every one of them to blossom from the culture around them. Looking at all these bike cultures, I feel a little like Andy Warhol, gazing in starry-eyed wonderment at every new wave, only this time it’s bikes, not cars, providing the gel for all of these cultural trends: ecological awareness, individualist narcissism, cultural pluralism, a desire for authenticity in the age of cyberspace, anti-capitalism… not all related, or even compatible, but again, that just adds to the wonder.
This line of ranting, I must confess, is in reaction to the whining I hear from people whose complaint with the world, goes beyond the barriers it presents to us cyclists, but to every last aspect of our consumer society. You know, a dint in car culture would be sufficient. There is no aspect of bike culture, in our culture, no matter how vain, that I’m not finding absolutely marvelous darling.
As an addendum Mr @amsterdamized reminds me that Holland has cycling enthusiasts too. The difference, is in Holland, you can leave your enthusiasm at home, and roll your beater bike 3km to work on a bike track.