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Why We Fall In Love With Bicycles: 7 Reasons to Get On And Ride

Bicycles aren't just more eco-friendly; they're a joyous, human, romantic way to travel.
 
 
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 Traveling the world’s great bicycle cities, I fell in love with cycling. The ease, safety, convenience… (dreamy sigh)

But as my six-month love affair came to an end, I began to realize the reason for my infatuation: cities like those in Denmark and Holland simply make themselves lovable. They don’t just build cycle tracks; they inject fun, whimsy, compassion, and even romance into cycling.

Certainly, many Americans love their bikes, but more of us would if we learned these lessons on cycling’s soft side from the world’s active-transport capitals.

 

1. Human powered is romantic. 
 
I bike home from work with my boyfriend almost every day, and it’s one of the best parts of my day. We talk about what we see along the way or what smells are coming from the Hostess Cake Factory. When it’s sunny, we sometimes stop for a beer along the way. When it’s a crisp winter night, we stop and watch the ships pass under the Fremont Bridge.
 

Two-wheeled romance. Photo by Shannon Donegan

When it’s raining, we talk about what kind of soup we want to make for dinner. Biking together through the elements bonds us in a way that would never happen if we were strapped into a car. Throughout my travels, I saw all kinds of romance on the cycle tracks—teenagers kissing at stoplights in Paris, older couples holding hands while pedaling in Amsterdam, and a post-wedding getaway bicycle in Copenhagen.

"Just Married" couple on a bike.

A wedding party in Copenhagen.

The average US worker now spends about  48 minutes commuting each day. Despite the billions of hours we collectively spend commuting, we don’t often talk about the way our transportation choices make us feel—physically or mentally.

Maybe we should.

2. You don’t have to be a “cyclist” to ride a bike. 

Recreational sub-cultures have owned cycling in North America for a long time. That’s starting to change and it’s an important cultural shift. “None of these people consider themselves cyclists,” Andreas Hammershøj from the  Danish Cycling Embassy explained to me last June as we stood on a sidewalk watching swarms of Copenhageners pedal across the  Dronning Louises bridge, as 10,000-30,000 do daily.

“These are just people getting to work, school, or the grocery store, ” Hammershøj said. It turns out there are Cascadians who, like Copenhageners, would like to get from A to B on their bikes but don’t ever want to ride a century. (They might not even care to know what a century ride is.) That’s fine. You don’t have to identify with the recreational side of cycling to use a bike for transportation.  Just ask Blake Trask, the Statewide Policy Director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington. “I’m not much of a cyclist. I just ride my bike to work most days.”

A Portland kid in a cargo bike.

This Portland kid doesn’t consider herself a “cyclist.”

Neither do these Seattle siblings. Photo courtesy of Julian Davies.

3. Remember kickstands? 

Henry Cutler, the Dutch-American owner of WorkCycles in Amsterdam, is convinced that urban cycling will explode once Americans get off high performance bikes and on to bikes that are  upright, comfortable, and utilitarian. “Americans ride bikes that are like race cars; Dutch bikes are like Honda Civics and mini-vans,” Cutler joked last July as I admired his fleet of practical bikes. They come outfitted with child seats, baskets, bells, chain guards, and front and rear lights powered by your pedaling. Oh, and kickstands: Why don’t bikes have kickstands anymore?

Losing the clip-in pedals and riding on fat tires changes everything about city cycling. The basket is nice too.

 
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