Culture, Daydreams, and Hypothesis

I drove my bicycle to the grocery this morning.

That is a very odd statement. The statement is odd because I’m admitting doing something out of the cultural norm in the United States. It is also odd because I am deliberately appropriating language used and understood by motorists to refer to what they do with motor vehicles — specifically the verb “drive.”

One might argue that I am merely being accurate or factual in referring to the proper way the operator of any vehicle ought to move from place to place on city streets. And I would agree to a certain extent and then remind my interlocutor that facts are very often wispy things under the gaze of culture. An example I use with my students: They think the sky is blue. I prove to them — with facts! — that it is not. But none of them will pledge to refer to it in the future as anything but blue. Thus, the power of culture.

I was daydreaming a bit as I drove through the parking lot on my way home. I wondered what a Dutch person, specifically from Amsterdam, might think if they were whisked from home to that grocery parking lot (further assuming they had never been to the U.S. before) and saw me driving home on my European-style townie. Oh, and sans helmet, too, because none of my helmet-wearing criteria applied this morning. They would also have seen several other bicycles parked at the rack near the door. To be sure, they would have seen nothing like, say, the city market pictured below that was just outside the B&B apartment we rented in Amsterdam last summer.


But I assume the person might take note that, yes, a few Americans … what … what verb would a Dutch person use? Drive? Ride? I have no idea. So let’s go with “drive/ride” for the time being. So I assume they would note my bicycle driving/riding despite a lack of infrastructure. And I think it is possible, given the propaganda, that they might assume that more people hereabouts don’t drive/ride bicycles because it’s dangerous to do so without infrastructure.

I further daydreamed that the Dutch person talked to me about my bicycle driving/riding and was shocked, SHOCKED, to learn that not only do I feel perfectly safe and comfortable on city streets hereabouts but that the one time that I felt the most danger driving/riding a bicycle in my entire life was on the streets on Amsterdam. In fact, I was so frightened at the thought of driving/riding a bicycle in that city (after walking two miles from the B&B to the bicycle rental shop) that I nearly decided not to do it. Then the thought of admitting to Carbon Trace readers that I had been a big weenie frightened me even more 😉

I hear tell that bicycling in Amsterdam is safer than other cities. Maybe that’s true. So as I continued on my way home, a hypothesis began forming:

The system of bicycle lanes and tracks in Amsterdam is full of conflicts and manufactured dangers that do not exist in the system of traffic around the urban core of Springfield. But given that Amsterdam does have a system of sorts and people are used to it —  and further given their cultural propensity to drive/ride bicycles — it appears unproblematic to me to suggest that they have learned the system and know how to use it (and, perhaps, how to abuse it). Here in Springfield, I feel very confident claiming that most people do not know how to use the system of traffic when driving/riding a bicycle (or believe that cannot or should not use that system). That leads me to this hypothesis: If people in Springfield knew how to drive a bicycle in traffic — thus mitigating most motorist-bicyclist conflicts as taught by CyclingSavvy — and accepted it as a normal transportation method, then our streets would be safer than the streets of Amsterdam for bicyclists.

So what you would have is more people enjoying what I show in the movie trailer below. And, BTW,  the darn thing is almost finished. I’ll keep you posted 🙂

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Comments 40

  1. Ron Carreras wrote:

    I am a former student of Missouri State University. I currently live in Los Angeles, CA. In the six years I lived in Springfield, MO., I never owned a vehicle. I am convinced that driving a vehicle is a luxury, not a necessity. Most everyone can facilitate human-powered transportation in a town like Springfield. I encourage everyone who can, to do so- not just for the sake of the health of ourselves, but also, for the sake of the health of our planet. Thank you, Dr. Cline, for this most enlightening post!

    Posted 12 Mar 2013 at 12:40 pm
  2. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    I was reading this, then saw that there was a video and thought “It’s here!” Alas, on second glance, only the trailer.

    That makes me a sad panda. 🙁

    Wouldn’t want you to rush though, and cycling does help one to appreciate getting places (and even videos) at a slower pace. So take your time.

    Posted 12 Mar 2013 at 12:52 pm
  3. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    I really did most of my first real cycling – my first long-distance cycling – in Germany. There it’s called ‘radfahren’ (rad means ‘wheel’, fahren means ‘drive’). Not sure what the Dutch word is, but after cycling for so long in Germany, I never really lost the habit of referring to cycling as ‘driving’.

    Posted 12 Mar 2013 at 1:02 pm
  4. RANTWICK wrote:

    I always kind of figured that Holland wasn’t some sort of cycling utopia despite the high mode share and I suspect you are correct about riding in lots of North American cities and towns could be (and is)much more enjoyable. I look forward to the completed vid!

    Posted 12 Mar 2013 at 1:45 pm
  5. Tom Armstrong wrote:

    My commute to the bike shop where I used to work was roughly thirteen miles each way. I frequently stopped at a grocer along the route to get stuff for my lunch during the work day or stuff for that evening’s dinner, depending on which way I was going.

    Now that the bike shop is gone, I still do most of my day-to-day transportation stuff by bicycle, including going to job sites (I do handyman stuff) on my Big Dummy pulling a cargo trailer with my ladders and tools. It sure is cheaper than paying for a truck!

    Posted 12 Mar 2013 at 2:54 pm
  6. John S. Allen wrote:

    In Dutch, bicycling is “fietsen” — that which is done with the feet. . The closest expressions in English are “to play footsie” Or “to foot the bill.” 🙂

    Posted 12 Mar 2013 at 9:08 pm
  7. John S. Allen wrote:

    No, I was wrong, “foot” is “foet” and feet” is “voeten”. It’s derived from the German word for “vice!” .

    Posted 12 Mar 2013 at 9:14 pm
  8. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Ooh. I can’t listen to The Flight of the Valkyries without thinking of helicopter gunships.

    Maybe its because I’ve been *riding* bicycles and motorcycles continuously for 54 years (my stepdad taught me to ride my bike when I was 5), but “driving” a bicycle or motorcycle just sounds painfully contrived as language. Sure, I understand that the use of “driving a bicycle” is to try to make people, including non-cyclists, understand that the proper and safe way to ride (ahem) a bicycle (or motorcycle) in any traffic situation (including separate cycling facilities) is according to well established vehicular traffic principles: riding predictably, with the flow, keeping right in the US, obeying traffic laws, etc., etc.,…

    I think competent motorcyclists understand that, and so do bicyclists who have already adopted the ….ohmygodI’mgonnasayit…VC… mentality. Yes, VC is a politically incorrect expression nowdays due to all the bad blood, fighting, and misunderstandings between the various cycling camps and the fact that it seems a foreign concept to some motorists. To me, it means the same thing, but then again I bought Forester’s book over twenty years ago.

    “Driving a bicycle”, or for that matter, “driving a motorcycle” to me, has all the elegance of a cell phone conversation in the middle of the opera. You drive a car. You ride on a bicycle or motorcycle, and yes, proper vehicular operation rules do apply.

    End if irrelevant rant.

    Posted 13 Mar 2013 at 11:18 am
  9. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    I like to look at it this way:

    Technically, you steer a car or a motorbike. You ride a bus or a train. A bicycle is the only vehicle that you actually ‘drive’.

    Posted 13 Mar 2013 at 11:27 am
  10. Andy Cline wrote:

    There was an interesting tweet of this post out of Europe asking what the mode share in Springfield is compared to Amsterdam. I took it to mean that, given the 40+ percent mode share in Amsterdam, Springfield has nothing to teach the rest of the world. And that so doesn’t get the point regarding culture. Amsterdammers were bicycling in huge numbers long before their vaunted infrastructure was built. They were going to ride bicycles in great numbers — far greater than North America — no matter what.

    I contend that no amount of infrastructure will ever get the U.S. mode share much above the 7 percent seen in Portland, Oregon where they have an extensive network of lanes. The reason is simple: culture. Riding/driving a bicycle for transportation is considered odd here. All of us who do it know the looks and the comments.

    In a recent conversation following this post, I had to explain that the fear I mention had nothing to do with cars; I ride comfortably around cars all the time. My fear was sharing too little space with too many bicyclists who were, in my estimation, very unskilled (e.g. a near complete lack of scanning or signaling).

    Pointing out that Amsterdam has greater mode share is just more participation advocacy — as if numbers are an argument that trumps the safety that we know comes from everyone following the orderly rules of traffic.

    Amsterdam has largely taken cars out of the equation. So I suspect that, yes, there are probably few car-bicycle collisions. What I’d like to know is what the numbers are for bicycle-on-bicycle or bicycle-pedestrian collisions. While I suspect the death rate is low, I also suspect the injury rate is high. I could be wrong

    Anyone know of such figures for Amsterdam?

    Posted 14 Mar 2013 at 12:53 pm
  11. Robert wrote:

    You should go to Costa Rica….there are countless bicyclists on the roads, streets and highways all very skilled and confident in “vehicular cycling.” There are virtually no sidewalks and likely not any bicycle lanes, yet there are bicyclists everywhere even on narrow highways with high speed motor vehicle traffic.

    They all ride with traffic, often “taking the lane” and seemed skilled at scanning before turning.

    It’s literally your dream, Andy!! : )

    I have no idea what their bicycle fatality rate is per mile (or kilometer traveled) but I would be shocked if it isn’t multitudes higher than Amsterdams.

    All I found is that traffic deaths make up 4.8% of all deaths in Costa Rica and several news articles casually noting that bicyclists and pedestrians were being killed at alarming rates….with no real statistics that I could find.

    Posted 14 Mar 2013 at 1:27 pm
  12. Kevin Love wrote:

    I promise not to call you “a big weenie” if you have issues with cycling in Amsterdam. I imagine that it would not be too difficult to find a car driver in Springfield who would say something like “I am OK with driving a car in Springfield, but I once tried driving a car in New York City and it was just too much.” Cycling in downtown Amsterdam is like driving a car in New York City. The “big city” issues cause problems.

    A better comparison with Springfield would probably be the city of Groningen. It is much more comparable in size to Springfield and it is also a university city. Springfield will never be Amsterdam, but it can become Groningen by following the same policies that transformed the city from being dominated by cars in the 1960s to the far more pleasant and livable city that it is today.

    I would suggest that cycling will always be a tiny minority activity in Springfield as long as billions of dollars continue to be spent to make the infrastructure in Springfield such that driving a car is the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of getting from A to B. You can educate people endlessly, but as long as car driving is fastest, easiest and most convenient then that is what they will do. Particularly if they only have to pay for a tiny fraction of the cost of their car driving habit.

    Needless to say, spending billions of dollars making a city a paradise for cars tends to make it rather toxic for human beings to live in. I never cease to be impressed and amazed at the liveliness, activity and energy in the car-free zones of every city that I have ever been in.

    Car-free zones are where we find children playing, adults chatting, and all kinds of business and commerce taking place. Then when we leave the car-free zone we see that where cars are, the city is blighted and dead. Very saddening.

    There is a lovely video of Groningen. I will have to see if I can find it and post a link.

    Posted 14 Mar 2013 at 1:45 pm
  13. Andy Cline wrote:

    Kevin… Yes, making the Springfield-Amsterdam comparison is problematic as I have acknowledged many times. But you discount culture. Americans will never ride in numbers seen in Holland until the culture changes. It doesn’t matter how much paint you spill on the street.

    Robert… Have you ever driven a car in Latin America — our been a passenger? If so, then you know the cultural differences between motorist behavior there and here. I suspect that it is true that bicyclists take it on the chin there — but not because they do the VC thing.

    Posted 14 Mar 2013 at 1:54 pm
  14. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Regarding mode split. There are so many differences between the Netherlands (and Germany, etc.) and the States. The places are usually pancake flat. Distances are short. Gas is taxed prohibitively to reduce consumption. If Europe ever had a cultural aversion to cycling, its not there any more. So sure, people ride bikes. Its designed to be easy, distances are easier, and driving is designed to be hard/costly. All of which is fine with me.

    Our reliance on the Infernal Combustion engine and our cultural/advertising efforts to promote the individual car as essential to being culturally correct in the U.S. has given us sprawl, obesity, high CO2 emissions, and a lifestyle that is, ultimately, not sustainable. All of which will be painful to reverse. Germany had the advantage of being bombed flat sixty years ago, and the foresight to build sustainable transportation into its rebirth. Maybe we need a similarly traumatic rebirth?

    Posted 14 Mar 2013 at 2:10 pm
  15. Robert wrote:

    Yes, I have.

    I can’t imagine that there is anything or any place in the world that could shake your belief system. I’d vote you as Pope of the VC true believers if I could!

    Posted 14 Mar 2013 at 4:17 pm
  16. JAT in Seattle wrote:

    American Cycling is sadly too prone to accept there are certain doctrinal truths. You were afraid of being perceived as a big weenie because we ALL KNOW Amsterdam is cycling Utopia. Anytime there’s an injury crash involving a cyclist and a motor vehicle we ALWAYS HEAR “this is why we need Amsterdam-Style infrastructure!” Anyone who posits that we don’t need infrastructure we just need confidence and a slight cultural shift is ALWAYS BRANDED a “vehicular cycling zealot.”

    So thanks for venturing into heretic territory.

    Obviously there’s a difference between a big city and a small city, and we need big cities since we keep on making babies and we want a global economy and so forth.

    But given that the big cities we have are already built then any cycling infrastructure is going to be shoehorned in and will have an interaction/conflict with motor-vehicles and pedestrians every block (to say nothing of the possibility that pedestrians and motor-vehicles(scooters?!?) also using the bike facilities).

    Insisting that we have to have these lines of paint and bollards and chicanes installed onto our streets in order to make them safe seems like a cop-out when driver (and potentially cyclist) education would probably make so much more of a difference.

    Posted 14 Mar 2013 at 4:22 pm
  17. robert wrote:


    It’s damn hard….in fact, it’s been proven impossible (thus far) to get people to take bicycle education courses in any meaningful amounts.

    So the bicycle education point is practically meaningless at this point…..sadly.

    Posted 14 Mar 2013 at 5:54 pm
  18. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    It’s hard to get people to do anything related to cycling in any meaningful amounts. The harsh fact is, Americans don’t want to cycle. Sure, some of them want to cycle on holidays (as long as they can drive their SUV to a bike path) and maybe one day a year so they can get a Bike to Work Day T-shirt and pretend to be part of the environmental solution. These people aren’t cyclists and they never will be. They are poseurs. Sadly, they drive the populist cycling advocacy organizations which are, as a result of catering to the poseurs, working so hard to destroy meaningful cycling for those of us in this country who are something more than fair weather and weekend cyclists.

    Picking up trash one day a year doesn’t make one an environmentalist. Cooking a meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas doesn’t make one a chef. Neither does cycling a few days a year make someone a cyclist. being a cyclist requires a bit more commitment than that, and it’s about time cycling advocacy organizations recognized that fact.

    Posted 14 Mar 2013 at 6:21 pm
  19. Kevin Love wrote:


    So then the question becomes “how do we change the culture.” There are many examples of how culture has recently changed.

    I am old enough to remember when “Jim Crow” ruled supreme in Missouri. I also remember Alabama’s Governor Wallace and his blasphemous perversion of the Easter Acclamation: “Segregation yesterday, segregation today, segregation forever.” There were a lot of people who agreed with him that segregation would be forever. Yet that changed. A truly profound cultural change.

    Here is a video that shows several examples of other cultural changes. The one that impressed me the most was the scene in which a medical doctor is lighting a cigarette for a pregnant women.

    What is interesting is that Jim Crow was ended at bayonet point by federal troops at Little Rock and elsewhere. Education per se was not a major factor. Indeed, the school at Little Rock that formed the test case for desegregation did not go on to teach anti-racism as a subject.

    Jim Crow was ended by top-down use of force. When the world did not end, people came to realise that racism was morally wrong.

    The same is true for the recent laws banning smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places. There was tremendous resistance at first, but the world did not come to an end. My children are teenagers now and for them it is incomprehensible that people would be allowed to put lethal cancer-causing poisons into public places.

    The lethal cancer-causing poisons in car pollution are a major reason to progressively eliminate car use in cities. I predict that when the world does not end a future generation will find it bizarre and incomprehensible that car drivers were ever allowed into cities.

    I note that central Amsterdam’s bicycle mode share is now at 70%. Source:

    I suspect that almost all of the remaining 30% is walking and public transit with very little car use. Needless to say, the world did not come to an end.

    Posted 14 Mar 2013 at 6:46 pm
  20. Kevin Love wrote:


    Yes, this is very true. And bicycle education programs are cheap so lots of governments have pumped money into them. Without other supporting factors, education alone has a 100% record of failure.

    What has a 100% record of success is transportation infrastructure that makes cycling the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of getting from A to B.

    I am always amused when visiting Japanese cities to hear the occasional Japanese cyclist complain about how much he (and it is always a he) hates cycling. He only cycles because it is the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of getting where he is going. In my opinion, that is the mark of successful cycling policy.

    Posted 14 Mar 2013 at 6:56 pm
  21. Kevin Love wrote:


    Here is the video I referred to before.

    I see that you wrote in the comments “This could be the future for Springfield if we only had the political will.”

    I agree.

    Posted 14 Mar 2013 at 7:10 pm
  22. John S. Allen wrote:

    I don’t have data on pedestrian injuries in Amsterdam but I have anecdotal reports — Andy’s, and others, all to the effect that being a pedestrian in Amsterdam is no picnic, because of conflicts with bicyclists. This occurs where footways cross bikeways, and also on narrow streets without sidewalks. These are common in European and Asian cities, whether they were bombed flat or not. They result from the cities’ having grown up when most people depended on walking, and so compactness was at a premium and danger from other modes was only from the occasional animal or animal-drawn vehicle. I’ve seen some shocking examples, for example, that one of the main roads into the provincial town of Loches in France has no continous sidewalks leading to a public school along that street! More aobut this issue here: . An American example -with video — of a heavy mix of bicycle and pedestrian traffic and the occasional motor vehicle, here:

    Posted 14 Mar 2013 at 8:26 pm
  23. Max Power wrote:

    I can relate. I no longer ride when I visit Cape May, NJ. Cycling is common, but not in any kind of vehicular manner. People ride on & off sidewalks, against traffic, etc. Locals seem to have a common way of doing this, but it’s frustrating to anyone who drives a bike.
    It led to one of my few altercations with motorist, when I was brushed by an elderly motorist who apparently felt I should be on the sidewalk instead of the road. At the next traffic light, he actually got out of his car and continued the argument. I was actually hoping he would throw a punch, so I could press charges; there’s no way the police would bother with an unsafe passing complaint by a visitor.

    Posted 14 Mar 2013 at 8:55 pm
  24. Andy Cline wrote:

    Kevin… Thanks for the links. I have one quibble, although I agree that cultural change is possible (and I appreciate your optimism); I’m looking for ways to make that happen. The examples you cite required sizable populations of committed people to make the change. We have nothing comparable in bicycling. But that’s what I hope to change 😉 That’s part of the mission of I Am Traffic.

    Robert… As you are well aware, Kevin and I have large areas of disagreement. But I respect and value his participation on Carbon Trace. I NEVER have a moment that I think “oh, no, Kevin has commented again.”

    You on the other hand…

    You see, Kevin shares. I know what he thinks. Carbon Trace readers know what he thinks. When he critiques a post of mine, he offers himself as a part of that critique. And he offers evidence by way of links to appropriate material. He is engaged in a conversation here.

    You, Robert, have become a troll. You never share. All you do is offer snarky comments and simplistic/cartoonish characterizations of my positions. Anyone with the critical ability of the average college freshman can see that my positions are not simplistic and cartoonish. I am open about what I think, why I think it, and how I came to think it. And, as the public record here will show, I often change my mind or add to its conflictedness.

    I make this request of you because I still respect you as a bicycle advocate who cares to do the right thing (even though we may have areas of disagreement): Start sharing and stop trolling if you wish to continue commenting on this blog.

    Be like Kevin. Don’t agree with something I’ve written? Then tell me why specifically and tell me EXACTLY how you differ, i.e. what you think. Offer your own thinking for critique instead of hiding behind snark and cartoonish characterizations of me.

    If you cannot do this, then I ask that you stop commenting here. I hope, instead, you choose to participate in an intellectually honest manner.

    Posted 15 Mar 2013 at 10:49 am
  25. Kevin Love wrote:


    Thank you for your kind words. Here is another interesting model for cultural change.

    Posted 15 Mar 2013 at 10:29 pm
  26. Kevin Love wrote:

    Ian wrote:

    “The harsh fact is, Americans don’t want to cycle.”

    Kevin’s comment:
    It is my observation that Americans living in The Netherlands cycle at roughly the same rate as the Dutch.

    Some of them really, really enjoy it and do lots of recreational cycling. Here is one example:

    Some of them really hate it and only cycle because it is the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of getting from A to B.

    Most rather like it, but don’t do much recreational cycling. It just becomes the way they get around.

    The Dutch people have exactly the same attitudes. Some love cycling and do lots of recreational cycling. Some hate cycling and only cycle because it is the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of getting around. And most people enjoy getting around by cycling, but don’t do much recreational cycling.

    In other words, Americans “want to cycle” as much as the Dutch do.

    Posted 15 Mar 2013 at 10:51 pm
  27. Kevin Love wrote:

    Following up on my previous post, it occurs to me that the converse is also true.

    I know many Dutch immigrants to the USA. My observation is that their rate of cycling is about the same as native Americans.

    In other words, the individual decision about whether or not to cycle is not strongly affected by culture. If the transportation infrastructure makes cycling the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of getting from A to B, people will cycle whether they are Americans, Dutch, Japanese or any other nationality.

    Posted 15 Mar 2013 at 11:06 pm
  28. Andy Cline wrote:

    Kevin… I’d be very interested in hearing directly from Dutch immigrants to the USA who cycled in Holland but choose not to do so here. And it may be entirely true that they choose not to ride here because of a lack of infrastructure. Depending upon their age, they may have been entirely enculturated into the idea that one can only cycle safely with dedicated infrastructure. So you would have two powerful cultural hegemonic forces clashing: 1) the general Dutch love of bicycling and 2) 40+ years of cycling dedicated infrastructure.

    Given what I saw in Amsterdam, bicycling is not the fastest and most convenient way to get around there. Parking is a nightmare. For example, I attended an open-air market in the central city. The single biggest frustration for everyone involved was where to park a bicycle. Further, I was forbidden by my rental company to park anywhere near the central train station. Why that was: They didn’t want their bicycle destroyed in the ever-growing mound of bike litter.

    Let’s not forget that other great motivator of bicycling: the cost of gas — more than $6 per gallon there last summer.

    Posted 16 Mar 2013 at 7:10 am
  29. Khal Spencer wrote:

    Petrol is about seven bucks a gallon right now in the Netherlands.

    Current exchange, dollars per Euro = 1.31
    3.79 liters per gallon

    Posted 16 Mar 2013 at 10:55 am
  30. Robert wrote:


    Sorry that I didn’t respond sooner, I just saw your comment.

    I’m sorry that you didn’t find my Pope comment funny. I was referring to your dismissal of the Costa Rica infrastructure thing. A huge % of bicyclists (because of poverty) riding in the street with perfect VC technique (because they have no choice) and being mowed down in huge numbers.

    It is a great case study of VC because there is a huge bicycling population who are seemingly comfortable bicycling like this since they’ve been doing it their entire lives.

    The ease at which you dismissed it reminded me of Sunday school when some of the answers to really tricky questions posed to the teacher were, “you just gotta have faith.” Like why are their dinosaur fossils if the earth is only 3,000 years old?…..

    IMO it cant ALL be contributed to driving behavior and I don’t think Costa Rica citizens are more careless than Americans, I think they are dealing with poor infrastructure. For example, I only saw a few guardrails during a 90-minute drive. In the US if you run off a corner its a very minor crash. Basically you pay your insurance deductible and go on with your life. In Costa Rica you could very well roll your car and die. That’s an infrastructure problem.

    I would bet that if we could snap our fingers and suddenly every roadway in CR had two ten-foot shoulders (bike lanes) that bicycling fatalities would drop by huge amounts. I would also bet that a mother pedaling her four year old down the highway would jump at the chance to use that shoulder dispite bicycling that road every day of her life.

    I don’t expect you to agree with me on that, but that’s just where I’m coming from.

    I was being snarky but thought that you would find it funny….in other words my goal wasnt to piss you off and i thought you would get a chuckle out of it. But you obviously didnt enjoy it and its your show so ill either express myself differently or not at all.

    Posted 17 Mar 2013 at 8:28 am
  31. Andy Cline wrote:

    Robert… You misunderstood my comment about culture if you think I was assigning it as the sole determiner of the situation in Costa Rica. I’m an academic. I RARELY believe that much of anything is the sole determiner of much of anything. But that’s a qualification that would get boring if I appended it to everything written here. I did not mean to dismiss the situation (you should have asked). What I hoped for was EXACTLY the response you’ve just offered in further discussion of Costa Rica.

    (No, I did not find the Pope crack funny because it is one in a long line of such cracks and insinuations from you.)

    I suspect you are correct re: the CR shoulder example you site above. I think fatalities might drop in the short term, at least until motorists began using those shoulders as lanes — a frequent pants-wetting experience I had in Mexico. My contention is that the particular motoring culture of Latin America (if I may be so bold as to generalize) would make even your suggestion problematic in the long run.

    Let’s talk trails and dedicated routes instead. I saw wonderful stuff of that kind on the outskirts of Amsterdam — stuff that could be used to further the progress of our greenways here in Springfield.

    Let’s move forward here. You have much to contribute to the conversation on Carbon Trace. I simply ask that you be a bit more forthcoming.

    Posted 17 Mar 2013 at 9:19 am
  32. robert wrote:


    Serious question. Since you are a VC rider (as am I) why would you feel frightened when you suddenly encountered a motorists driving on the shoulder that you were bicycling on?

    Motorists in Mexico are probably expecting to see bicyclists in those lanes, whereas in many parts of the United States someone may drive for years without encountering a bicyclist.

    If that last sentence sounded extreme, I can tell you that probably the only time an adult has ridden a bicycle in Roscoe, Missouri (where I’m from) is when the Tour of Missouri went through town!

    Posted 18 Mar 2013 at 8:51 am
  33. Andy Cline wrote:

    Robert… I was in a taxi, not a bicycle. In one incident there were two left-turners ahead. Apparently the shoulder on the other side was blocked. So as my driver used the shoulder to pass on the right, an on-coming car also tried to use our shoulder to pass leading to a near head-on collision in the shoulder. The taxi driver informed me that traffic rules in Mexico were considered suggestions. That’s a function of culture. I would have hated being a bicyclist or pedestrian in the shoulder at that moment because both motorists were utterly unconcerned with the safety of others.

    I am not frightened by motorists in any circumstances in which, generally, there is a high regard for the rules as a matter of culture. A motorist using a shoulder to bypass a situation in which the proper course of action is to slow down or stop is being reckless with the lives of others.

    Reckless motorists scare me no matter what I’m driving.

    Posted 18 Mar 2013 at 10:02 am
  34. Michael wrote:

    My take on this.

    Amsterdam Population: 820,654
    Springfield Population: 160,660
    Amsterdam Population Density: 9,080/sq mi
    Springfield Population Density: 529/sq mi

    When you have mixed use zoning and the kind of population density that Amsterdam has you’re naturally going to get a high mode share of bikes and peds. With that kind of density everything you need on a daily basis is close at hand. When you have low population densities and single use zoning, like in most of America, you’re going to get low mode share of bikes and peds because you need to travel further.

    Personally, just the thought of 820K people crammed into 84.56 sq miles of city (Springfield covers 73.8 sq miles) gives me a migraine.

    Posted 18 Mar 2013 at 2:36 pm
  35. Robert wrote:

    I’ve heard officials from Amsterdam explain that not that long ago the city was no different than most others in terms of auto dependence. They say that they purposefully made the change by building dedicated infrastructure.

    To be honest, I can’t remember which officials that I’ve heard speak to this but they are often brought to the US to speak at conferences. Assuming that’s true, it’s not simply a matter of density although that clearly helps.

    I’ve heard VC advocates refute these officials claims and I’m sure there are readers here who will gladly do just that. For whatever reason, locals involved in these moves are very confident that they know why the changes are occurring. Just like Portland advocates…Davis California advocates etc.

    Posted 18 Mar 2013 at 4:29 pm
  36. Michael wrote:

    My understanding is that Amsterdam had a lot of bicycling prior to WWII, lost it after the war, and then regained it.

    If you look at a place like Portland OR, not only does it have a “bike culture” and a lot of cycling infrastructure it has good quality intact urbanism with decently high population densities and mixed use zoning. Oregon had some of the country’s first growth management laws as well.

    I think that to promote cycling as transportation you need all of these things. We need to promote good quality urban development, cycling infrastructure, and cultural changes that promote cycling and make it seem like the “normal” thing to do for short trips.

    Posted 18 Mar 2013 at 5:43 pm
  37. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    I think it’s unlikely, with the age of oil drawing to an end, that we’ll ever again see the amount of money necessary to ensure good quality urban development. As for cycling infrastructure, we have miles and miles of it – it’s called ‘the road’.

    When it comes to a cultural change that promotes cycling and makes it seem like the “normal” thing to do for short trips, I think that cultural change is coming to America very soon: it’s called $10 per gallon gasoline. It works great in Europe to promote cycling and it’s a lot better than installing the 4ft wide fearful cyclist ‘suicide lanes’ right next to the perfectly good and much safer infrastructure we already have for those of us who prefer not to be hit by cars.

    Posted 18 Mar 2013 at 7:59 pm
  38. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    Oregon shares something else with the Netherlands – mandatory use bike facilities. As a cyclist who enjoys life, I prefer the freedom to avoid government mandated death traps.

    Posted 18 Mar 2013 at 8:03 pm
  39. Michael wrote:

    “As for cycling infrastructure, we have miles and miles of it – it’s called ‘the road’.”

    And bike racks on busses, parking for bikes, and traffic signals that will pick up bikes. As far as “the road” goes not all roads are created equal. We need roads fixed up and thoughtfully laid out with peds and cycles in mind as well as cars.

    “with the age of oil drawing to an end, that we’ll ever again see the amount of money necessary to ensure good quality urban development”

    I disagree. We were much poorer from 1890-1930 than we are now and will be in the near future yet we were able to build the exactly the things that we’ll need in the not so distant future.

    Posted 18 Mar 2013 at 8:20 pm
  40. Chip Mefford wrote:

    Couple of things, I default to the first definition of drive from Mirriam Webster: ” to frighten or prod (as game or cattle) into moving in a desired direction.” of course, this -in time- came to mean many things, but most of them derive from this concept. For instance, one ‘rode’ upon a horse, but one ‘drove’ a team of horses. In short, I don’t drive my bike, and I don’t think it’s necessarily congruent to attempt, as is being done all over the place to get folks to think that riding a bike, and driving a car are the same thing. They aren’t. Nor, in my considered opinion, should they be. I don’t particularly like what the automobile-centric culture we have developed says about us, in general, and I see no need at all to attempt to emulate it with self-propelled vehicles.

    Good essay though, thanks much, I enjoyed it.

    Posted 19 Mar 2013 at 6:52 am