A sign in the tea shop read "First a cup of tea, then the revolution". I thought this summed it up quite well. While there were very passionately held beliefs amongst the group, there was little, if any, enthusiasm for violent rebellion.
|Don't get the wrong idea. I like this.|
The term "critical mass" as applied to cycling originated from "Return of the Scorcher", a film made by Ted White in 1992 where one of the interviewees reflected on how a "critical mass" of cyclists seen in China were able to force their way through motorized traffic. It was an appreciation of this, and a desire to have a real cycling culture, which resulted in the term being used to describe the events which now take place in many cities around the world where cycling is under pressure. I wish the organisers all luck and success with their event, but can't help but feel that to bring this back to the Netherlands is to misunderstand what it is in the first place.
|"Step 1. Remove the wheel from the|
bicycle" - not if you ride the type
of bike that most people in an
established bike culture ride.
|Tradional Dutch style pumps by the door of|
the cafe in Appelscha. Forgotten sign of a
real cycling culture.
The presence of these pumps, and the collection of bikes behind the cafe, are sure signs of a real, thriving bicycle culture. However, it's a bike culture that the Dutch often don't even realise is special.
I like events for "cyclists". I like riding unusual bikes. I also like to see people doing what the people in Scheveningen are doing, in organising their event. I wish them the best of luck with it. However, what I really celebrate, and what makes cycling in the Netherlands extraordinarily special, is that normal people on bikes, in their millions, go about their everyday business by bikes.
We saw another example the same day on the bike path home from Appelscha. This chap was moving an implausibly large object by bike. It is not unusual to see this sort of thing going on. People simply use the tools they have to hand, and those tools are often bicycles:
|On the way home we saw this man with an implausible large object on his bike. You don't need a special "cycling culture" for people to do this, when there are proper cycle-paths which make true mass cycling possible, this is just normal.|
If the Netherlands takes its cue for what a cycling culture should be from countries with less cycling, then it is likely that what will actually happen is that cycling will become more marginalized, just as it is in those other countries. In fact, just as it is to a greater or lesser extent in every country but this one.
In this country, cyclists are not an out-group. Cycling is not a revolutionary activity in the Netherlands. Nor does it need to be made into one.
If you want to achieve a real cycling culture in a country other than the Netherlands, there is no other country which provides a better example. Sadly, China is no longer the inspiration that it was when it inspired the film-maker in 1992.