Why Culture Matters: Do as Others Do, Whether In Eating or Cycling

<p>Why Americans don't cycle in the cold and rain, and why they do in Amsterdam.</p>
March 22, 2008, 5am PDT | Nate Berg
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"In this story of mine I talk about something perhaps mundane, why I don't make Spanish tortilla omelets, and connect it with another thing I don't do, which is ride my bicycle in the winter for purposes of transportation. I conclude that culture is important. I tend to do or not do what my fellow citizens do or don't do. The issue is important because it means that we may have to work toward 'tipping points' in working toward certain goals, like getting more citizens to use bicycles."

"I think about Spanish tortillas, and my lack of making them, when I have repeatedly chosen not to do something else these last few months, which is ride my bicycle around in the dead of winter. Somehow mounting my wheeled steed is just too big a hurdle when the air is freezing and the skies often gray. Very quickly over the winter, I stopped even thinking about riding my bicycle to work or to drop my son at daycare or to shop. I began walking and taking the subway more."

"But would I make these same choices if my fellow citizens here in New York were making different choices?"

"In December 2004 I spent the holidays in Amsterdam during an unusually cold spell. I marveled at how Amsterdamers of all ages and genders cycled through the streets in the bitter cold. Hands on the handlebars, heads held high, they seemed not only willing to cycle in such weather but enjoying it. Eventually I joined them, and I have a photo of my wife and I on bikes, our faces bright red."

Thanks to Alex Marshall

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Published on Tuesday, March 18, 2008 in Streetsblog
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