Something is getting lost as amateur cycling embraces a macho culture of speed and Strava.
I’m in Amsterdam now – one of my favourite cities. I love the art, the energy, the architecture, the sense of humour. Small wonder the Dutch capital has inspired legions of painters. Bathed in spring sunshine, the canals, flanked by rows of tall, narrow brick houses and willow trees swaying lazily in the breeze, are achingly beautiful. I always feel like I could happily live here.
Amsterdam could teach the rest of the world a thing or two about being a Slow city. It mixes the dynamism and swagger of a major metropolis with the approachability of a smaller town. Much of that comes from the way its citizens get around. Amsterdam is not in hock to the car. The streets are a buzzing ecosystem of trams, pedestrians and cyclists – and the car is kept firmly in its place.
It’s the cycling that really makes Amsterdam stand out. The city has dedicated paths and traffic lights for cyclists all over the place. The locals bike everywhere. You see businessmen in smart suits pedalling home from work. Or elegant women in high-heels cycling off to meet friends for lunch. Even bad weather doesn’t put them off.
If only the rest of the world would follow suit. Imagine if you could cycle round London or New York or Buenos Aires without fear of being squashed by a bus or an SUV.
No one in Amsterdam wears a cycling helmet, by the way. Apart from the tourists.