VeloViews for July 8, 2022 – European Cycling Culture

Photo Credit Maria Orlova at Pexels

Although the Tour de France is currently going on at the moment, I thought I would again switch gears for this week’s post. Instead, I thought I would talk about the prominence and wide acceptance of bicycling in Europe, not only as a sport but as a form of transportation.

Probably one of the reasons that cycling as a sport and activity has become so popular is its early adoption by Europeans. In many of the major city centers throughout the continent, especially the Netherlands (Amsterdam, specifically) and Denmark (Copenhagen, for example), cycling is prevalent and prominent. For Europeans, bicycles are not just a form of recreation but a significant, affordable, and essential form of transportation.

The easy observation about bicycling is that it’s good for the climate and one’s health. However, the use of bicycles for transport can also save money. In 2010 alone, statistics show that 7.4% of Europeans selected cycling as their primary mode of transportation. In the European Union, bicycling overall has benefited society by saving $232 billion.

While bicycling has caught on in America over the last thirty years, the number of cars on its roads still far outpaces that of Europe. That is especially true in places like Copenhagen where 50% of its dwellers choose bicycling to get to work, school, and other activities. 90% of Denmark, in fact, own bikes whereas 56% own cars.

In Amsterdam, the number of bikes almost equals the number of residents at 800,000 thousand, the population number being just slightly lower. Overall, 63% of Dutch people ride bikes while just 22% use other vehicles

Photo of Amsterdam by Adrien Olichon at Pexels

Still, there is hope for the United States with cities like Portland, OR, and other major western American cities and states, such as Colorado and Utah.

In the eastern part of the country, cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, and New York also have growing bicycling cultures. But in America, the reason the populace chooses a bike over a car can be tied to economic factors, although health and the climate impact have become stronger concerns in the last ten or so years.

The truth is that lower income populations are more likely to cycle for commuting. Wealthier parts of the population, however, see cycling strictly as a leisure activity and won’t brave the modulations in weather. In Europe, cycling cuts across age groups from young to older and gender groups.

Wherever a bike can be ridden, it is the choice versus a personal vehicle or even public transportation. And Europe’s modes of public transportation are many. Think trains, trams, buses, taxis, and it makes no sense to use or own a car. Plus, the cost of gas (petrol) is very high, something we are once again seeing here in America.

European infrastructure also supports the bicycle lifestyle whereas in America bicycling is still considered a subculture. Not only that but many still see bicyclists and bikes to be a nuisance. Basically, America is clearly addicted to its cars and Europe is not.

For an American view about bikes and their importance to Europeans, read this piece from my favorite travel guide to European culture, Rick Steves. Do you use a bike not only for exercise but to commute to work, to school, and to run errands? Do you ride your bike more than you use your car? Do you even own a car? Have you ridden a bike anywhere in Europe?

Please like, comment, and share this blog if you found this blog useful and let me know about your use of your bike beyond a mode of exercise. Until next week, I hope you can ride your bike to school, work, the grocery store, or wherever you need to go.

Author: Doug McNamee

Freelance Content Writer, Travel Writer, Editor, and poet.

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