Just consider your children as little more than cargo

©Barry Sandland/TIMB - Man w his cargo bike taking a rest in Place Flagey, Brussels

©Barry Sandland/TIMB – A cargo bike that started as a child carrier.

“This is an Amsterdam bike. A transport bike because you can load a lot of stuff on it. It is very robust. I got it in Holland when I lived there and I have had it for five years now. I bought it to bring my daughter to school. In Amsterdam, everybody uses the bike like that. But I am here now for a new job.”


Notes: The overwhelming presence of bicycles in Holland, along with the incredible infrastructure, has given rise to aspects of riding that would shock a lot of North Americans. Children are ferried to and from school on bikes, sitting on rear carriers, cross-tube seats, handlebars, or in the cargo bay of the larger cargo bikes. Its is not limited to  children. One of the most common images is two people on one bike, the passenger sitting casually on the rear carrier, chatting with the rider.The other great shock is the near complete absence of helmets. If North Americans think helmets are an essential aspect of their dress, the Dutch have turned in the other direction. In the city, with commuters, speeds are rarely that high. The greater threat has always been from drivers in cars and trucks whose actions are life threatening. Get the drivers to be part of a cycling culture and safety leaps ahead.

To be clear, helmets are easily found in Holland. Get out on a racing bike, ride with a club where speed is present and you are constantly in the presence of the wheels of your small peloton, and just about every rider has a helmet. Many clubs insist on helmets if you want to join the club rides. And that makes perfect sense.
Slowly, the world is shifting. More and more bikes are on the road, more and more cyclists are demanding safety. Not a way to make themselves safe from what motor vehicles can do to them, but safer in terms of how they can travel on the roads without being required to be the cautious potential victim trying to limit the harm that can be done under current systems. You only have to read the reports to see that cyclists are often killed by impact with cars that are travelling at speed, and not from a slower speed solitary fall from their bikes. Change the way cars/drivers behave and you have a very different safety scenario. One that embraces the presence of cycling, rather than one that demands cyclists make themselves safe from unfettered vehicular speed, presence and priority.
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