Author Topic: Lazy North Americans?  (Read 14135 times)

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Offline prairiedog

Lazy North Americans?
« on: November 18, 2006, 03:12:44 pm »
I'm sorry but I can't contain myself. Yes I am from Canada. No I don't ride as often as I could for various reasons but we sure don't make it easy on ourselves. I'm in Holland at the moment and every time I travel here I'm thrilled and amazed that, every morning, I witness at least %20 of the population cycling to work. In Amsterdam as well as Rotterdam, where I spend most of my time, the bicycle paths are amazing. Cyclists here come in every shape and size. From the young to the old, white collar, blue collar, students ect.. ect.. It's beautiful to watch every day. I've been wanting to whine about this for awhile now and after spending two weeks in Florida at Disney I can't contain myself. I never even saw one cyclist there. The land is flat, there's plenty of room for bike paths, the weather is great year round and everything around Disney is easily accessible by bicycle and we keep complaining about the obesity problem in America. Am I missing something here??

Offline Sailariel

Lazy North Americans?
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2006, 05:23:47 pm »
I don`t think it has to do so much with laziness as it has to do with the price of gasoline. My sister is an Austrian citizen and pays a ton of money for gas--something like $6.00 for 4 liters. She comes here for a visitand thinks she has died and gone to heaven when she sees our prices. In Vienna she bikes. Our streets are really not that bike friendly. We have to use flashing lights in daylight and wear garish colors just so we don`t get run over. I live in Maine, which is hilly, has bad roads, and some pretty inconsiderate drivers. I still manage to ride every day. My rule is that where I have to go is 5mi or less, you bike it. I average 10 to 15 miles a day. Now I have a new problem. My jeans have not changed in the waist or length, but are sure tight above the knees. Will have to try relaxed fit. Enjoy Holland. It is a great place, and ride lots. Regards, Alex

Offline urbancoyote

Lazy North Americans?
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2006, 08:01:15 pm »
The car culture is very strong in the U.S. and most Americans are unable or unwilling to think outside the (metal) box. In Los Angeles we have a fair number of adults out on bicycles on weekends, but not many who see the bicycle as more than a recreational tool. A pity, since the weather here is optimal for year-round bicycle commuting.

I've been commuting year-round by bicycle since 1987 and it's one of the best lifestyle choices I've ever made.  

Offline HONDO

Lazy North Americans?
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2006, 08:07:00 pm »
wow. what an open ended topic! and a good one.This lazy north american believes there are many reasons for our lack of putting our feet to the pedal, too many to list.Many years before I was really into biking I often thought if only the shoulder were 2ft. wider I could bike almost anywhere! well I still feel that way.We simply are a motorized culture and not enough people care.Only when enough people care will anything be done as it is with almost everything. good luck.

Offline intothewild

Lazy North Americans?
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2006, 08:35:55 pm »
all good points.  I especially agree with Sailariel.  The price of gas in some European countries is so high that it almost forces people to think of alternative ways of commuting.  When our gas prices soared after Hurricane Katrina, many people (in my area) cut down on driving considerably.  I don't think that any really changed to commuting by bike but many simply stopped going out a lot or consolidated multiple trips into one.  A decline in restaurant business really testified to this.  Another reason for a lack of cycling in the US is that our cities and suburbs are very different than in most countries of Europe (suburbs practically don't exist in most).  Our suburban areas that we have created and are allowing to sprawl farther and farther out simply aren't set up to support cycling.  In an attempt to maintain aesthetic appeal and maximize housing, everything is very spread out with few sidewalks and cycling lanes between destinations (peep this site for more on suburban sprawl  It has all come together to produce a culture that doesn't support cycling, a culture that wants instant gratification and favors speed and efficiency (i can simply get more done quicker if i drive mentality).   It is unfortunate but until something forces lifestyles to change in the US (such as permanently high gas prices) it will remain this way. but enough ranting from me

Offline wolverines

Lazy North Americans?
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2006, 09:29:59 pm »
I cringe whenever I hear a politician say Americans are addicted to oi. No, it's not oil we're addicted to. It's the private automobile. No other invention is responsible to the extent the motorized vehicle is for the sprawl that has overtaken city after city after city, ruining natural countryside, impoverishing inner cities and degrading and destroying fish and wildlife habitat. Now a great percentage of us live in places that are unsustainable. Let's face it, there is no chocolate nougat of oil deep within the Earth. We're going to run out. The sooner Americans who can get back onto their feet and cycle or find a way to get around that doesn't entail driving themselves in a crate of steel and plastic, the better off we'll all be. Among the Marhsal Plan initiatives that ought to be moving ahead right now: Restoring the nation's passenger train infrastructure. We subsidize highways and highway builders, yet politicians bitch about having to kick in a few billion for Amtrak while spending gazillions on Cold War-era weaponry. I'll stop there. I just bought a new Bianchi Eros and that plus my Trek hybrid will help me save money while restoring some bit of sanity to my corner of Pennsylvania.

Offline BrianCM

Lazy North Americans?
« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2006, 04:19:16 am »
Ever hear of "America's love affair with the automobile"?

The phrase has been in vogue since Henry Ford.  The car is a really great thing, but most planners seem to have forgotten that any other mode of transportation can possibly exist.  As the price of gas stays high and goes up, people will have to start looking at other transportation.

I just wish that the bus service was better.  For some reason they have reduced it, and made some of the route schedules a bit wierd.

Offline litespeed

Lazy North Americans?
« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2006, 11:43:17 am »
I live in Florida and would love nothing more than to see the price of gas go to $10 a gallon. It would thin out the auto traffic nicely. I drive about 4000 miles a year but would probably do about half that if gas were really expensive or the roads were more bicycle-friendly. Most of my driving is for building supplies (You don't haul cement or lumber on a bicycle) but I could get smaller stuff and groceries on a bike without much effort. I ought to put an plastic crate on the back of my old Trek and use it for small stuff like groceries.
    If everyone spent 3 to 6 months a year (or at least their vacations) bicycle touring around the country as I do it would make the US a better place.

This message was edited by litespeed on 11-19-06 @ 7:43 AM

Offline Sailariel

Lazy North Americans?
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2006, 06:04:02 pm »
My wife and I were carless for 14 years when we were full time cruisers on our sailboat ArielIII. The boat was almost totally self sufficient generating power with photovoltaic panels. Our six batteries lasted 14 years. We also had a reverse osmosis unit on board which supplied us with pure water the entire time. We even had a mini sewage treatment system. Edible garbage was ground up in a meat grinder and sent overboard to feed the fish. Other trash was kept aboard and either recycled - if they did that where we landed-or disposed of properly. We used rechargable batteries in our flashlights,cameras, etc. For transportation we had a pair of DAHON folding bikes. We moved ashore two years ago and bought a house large enough to accomodate my wife`s elderly parents who need lots of care. We now ride real bikes. In retrospect it was a carefree and healthy lifestyle. We still have our boat and hope to resume cruising at some time in the future..We only drive when it is absolutely necessary.

Offline DaveB

Lazy North Americans?
« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2006, 06:33:19 am »
The Netherlands are small, flat, have a relatively mild climate and have a huge population density. (The Netherlands are 1/3 the land area of Pennsylvania but have 50% more people).  

There are very few areas in the USA or Canada that have these characteristics and even other European countries that are similarly configured don't have anything like the bicycle use that the Netherlands do despite similarly high fuel prices.  

The Netherlands are unique.  In the developed world, there is no other country in Europe, Asia or the Americas where bicycles are used as much for daily transportation.

Offline RussellSeaton

Lazy North Americans?
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2006, 06:36:32 pm »
Lots of good points expressed.  I ride my bike for recreation, leisure, health.  Never transportation.  Never commuting.  I could, but I like to arrive at work clean without messed up hair.  I also don't want to carry clothes so I can shower at work.  There is a shower in the bathroom where I work.  I probably burn more gas because I bike.  I haul my bike to most rides.  I drove to Colorado for two rides this year.  On one of them I had my car driven as a support vehicle for 750 miles.  I might be the poster child for wasteful bicyclist.  But in redemption, I did ride my bike to the RAGBRAI start and rode it home.  No gas transportation for me.

It was brought up that Netherlands are unique for bike riding.  I was in Portugal and Spain in 2000.  I saw minimal to no bikes.  Lots, and lots, and lots of SUVs.  And lots of fat people.  And lots, and lots, and lots of trash on the side of the road in Portugal.  It was amazing the amount of trash.  Don't think Europe is a utopia.

In SE Asia the motorcycle and scooter are becoming more and more prevalent.  Fast and motorized.  But cheaper than the cars the people really want.  I recall an article from somewhere written by a person living in SE Asia and riding his bicycle with other foreigners for recreation.  The natives teased, ridiculed, questioned him for riding a bike instead of driving a car that he could easily afford.  They could not understand why someone would ride a bike when they could drive a car.  Sounds similar to the rest of the world.

The only way people are going to reduce their use of vehicles is by making it cost prohibitive.  The price of gas must double or triple or quadruple and remain so for ever.  The cost of vehicles must go up considerably.  Although this seems to have happened already.  Yet I see lots and lots of new $30-50,000 pickups and SUVs being driven by everyone.  Auto use in Europe is probably less than in the US due to high gas prices and high taxes on vehicles.  The same vehicle is more costly in Europe than in the US even though both are imported from the same place.

Offline prairiedog

Lazy North Americans?
« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2006, 04:45:07 pm »
Nice to hear the various opinions and comments. I'm not suggesting that we can achieve what they've achieved in the Netherlands due to our land mass but for the most part we don't even try. In a couple of Canadian provinces, Alberta and Saskatchan where I've lived, both have quite a few highways with shoulders so, for the most part, it's feasible to have some safe trips. Some of the bigger cities in Canada do have some pretty good bike paths for recreation but commuting within cities is still somewhat of a hazard. I've worked in the Southern States a bit and in some cities you're lucky to find sidewalks never mind bike lanes. I agree that fuel prices dictate people using other modes of transportation to some extent but I believe that it more has to do with their attitudes and lifestyle here than anything else. Today in Rotterdam I was watching for obese people when I was about town today and I calculated that less than 1% of the people I saw today had a weight problem(yeah I've got too much time on my hands these days). I think that we need incentives in place to change the way we look at health and fitness. Our kids desperately need us to do this for them!!

Offline fleutz

Lazy North Americans?
« Reply #12 on: November 26, 2006, 07:09:16 am »
Sure people are addicted to the automobile because I got to be at places FAST! So people like us suffer because slower pace bicyclists always get the same answer here in Northeast Ohio and that is "Get off my F---ing roads". Strange isn't when you confront him he's 300 lbs overweight with a need for cigarettes, beer and don't forget to gas like he's got plenty of that. I asked him why he cursed at me he said "You're an adult drive a car not a children's toy besides cars own the roads not bicycles tree hugger" I told him I was legal on the roads but still didn't believe me as this overweight redneck drove away.

And That's All There Is !

This message was edited by fleutz on 11-26-06 @ 3:13 AM
And That's All There Is !

Offline Sailariel

Lazy North Americans?
« Reply #13 on: November 26, 2006, 12:41:39 pm »
I guess the great poet, Schiller said it best; Translation-"Against stupidity, even the gods are powerless..."

Offline pmonko

Lazy North Americans?
« Reply #14 on: November 27, 2006, 03:26:35 pm »
I think it all depends on your own personal situation. The city where I live, Chicago, has tons of bike paths and is relatively flat therefore I see a lot of people riding their bikes to work, even on the coldest days. Probably not the 20% that is seen in the Netherlands, but a good amount. People can move out further and further into the suburbs to get more house for their money, but the tradeoff is that they'll end up spending extra time and money commuting. I pay a lot more for rent than my friends who live in the burbs, but I don't need a car and the cost savings of owning a car more than makes up the price difference in housing.