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Last week the City of San Francisco adopted a new bicycle plan that will launch 45 new projects to improve biking in the city and add almost double the number of existing bike lanes to the city streets. None of this would have been possible without a growing movement of people willing to get out of their cars and brave these roads that were built and designed around the automobile. The SF Bicycle Coalition now has over 10,000 members and has played a significant role not only in lobbying politicians but in helping to make biking a more vital part of our culture. From Bike to Work Day to Sunday Streets during which entire sections of town are closed to automobiles, these activities have shown residents that the bicycle is not only a means of transportation but a community builder. By getting out of our cars we're starting to see each other in real time again.

To ride on your bike in the U.S. often feels like you've been inserted into a video game and you're dodging targets thrown at you from all directions: abruptly ending bike lanes, getting cut off, and the mother of bicyclist nightmares, the opening car door. Starting with just a few brave souls during the 80s and 90s, there are now enough bicyclists on any given day or street in San Francisco that you cannot drive a car without being conscious of the changing traffic patterns. Like ants on an elephant, bicyclists have slowly tipped the scales to a place where pedaling on a little piece of metal doesn't feel like an insanely dangerous odyssey your parents would have warned against, but a normal and recommended activity that combines commute, workout, and lowering our carbon footprint all in one.

While we've come a long way from bicyclists being viewed as an exotic species, much more needs to be done. And while San Francisco certainly can serve as one example and inspiration for other towns across the United States to build an infrastructure that encourages residents to hop on their bikes for short trips, it's worth looking across the ocean for some inspiration on what a city with more bicycles than cars might look like.

Of course, European cities generally evolved long before the advent of the automobile, and thus much of the pre-car infrastructure was still intact when people realized that they couldn't all be driving at the same time without the consequences of pollution, congestion, and a warming planet. Thus, this photo essay from Amsterdam should not be seen as a judgment of our own progress and achievements. Rather, by showing a town where getting on a bike is as second nature as getting out of bed in the morning it can hopefully provide a little inspiration — for those of us who've been taking tailpipe bong hits for years — to keep on pedaling, and for those folks who've thought about dusting off that old bike — to actually do it. Biking is a political act, and each additional cyclist opens the door to safer and saner roads just another crack.

So without further ado, allow me to take you on a little trip to the Mecca of Bicycle, Amsterdam:

Rule #1: You don't need a fancy, expensive bike...

bike graffiti

any old beater will do...

bike model

Sometimes you'll even find one in unexpected places...

Ivy bike

Always make sure you have plenty of storage...

bike barrow

and of course, a passenger seat for the little ones...

green bike

and if you don't have one, there are other ways, like this, for example...

woman on bike

or like this...

bike daddy

When you go to work, make sure to wear a suit

bike suit

and if you forget to bring your jacket, let your boss know beforehand...

bike phone

never a parking problem...

bike on bridge

canal side parking...

canal bikes

Yes, we pretty much own this place...

alley bikes

Meet you all at the bar!

bike youth

Look like fun? Getcha hamstring runnin'!


POLL UPDATE: So sorry I left out the choice of "multiple bikes," but I'm heartened to see how many kossacks are so passionate about their pedaling that they have bikes for every occasion. You guys won the poll in my book!

cross-posted at A World of Words

photos by Sven Eberlein

Originally posted to Ecomusings by Sven Eberlein on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 03:43 PM PDT.


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