Portland needs to invoke the lifeboat rule

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
kid on bike

Amsterdammers are made, not born.
(Photo in Amsterdam by J. Maus/BikePortland)

America's Next Bicycle Capital

Part of our series, America’s Next Bicycle Capital, where we share community voices about the future of biking in Portland. This week’s guest writer is A.J. Zelada, who chaired the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee from 2011 to 2013.

The lifeboat rule needs to be invoked: parents and children first.

I returned from the Netherlands a few weeks ago and I was struck, of course, by how different it was. I admit, I am not so sure it is reproducible here as much as I’ve hawked it in the past. My partner and I bicycled from Bruges, Belgium to Amsterdam up the North Sea coast line but catching Ghent, Delft, Leiden and many other towns along the incredible segregated bike lanes that simply connect everything. [Publisher’s note: Follow Jerry’s adventures here.]

What struck me was that Americans have a missing childhood developmental stage of being an infant, a toddler, and a child on a bike before they get on a bike independently. And even though little Americans are propped up in a baby trailer or behind the rider’s seat, they still miss what parents in Belgium and the Netherlands teach their kids.

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Cycling is social in Amsterdam

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
Amsterdam June 1-122

If your city’s bike riders look like this,
you’re doing something right.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Like I mentioned in my last post, I had a few “free” days in Amsterdam after my time in Copenhagen and before the official study tour began today (more on that later). Since I’ll be back in Amsterdam to do all the wonky stuff later this week, I spent those free days doing what I like best: wandering around and observing people on bikes. I think you learn a lot about a city’s bike culture simply by watching how its residents use their bicycles.

What I saw in Amsterdam was the most sociable (and stylish) cycling imaginable. It was really astounding to see how the bicycle is such a key element in the social fabric.

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