Back when I was a student in The Netherlands, some of my Dutch classmates took me to a soccer game one evening, a match between Nijmegen’s hometown N.E.C. and NAC Breda. We got to the match on pretty much the only mode college students in Holland would use for such an event: our bikes. Night had already fallen by the time we arrived at the stadium, and some police officers directed us to where we could park our bikes. I struck up a brief conversation with them, hitting on the fact that I was an American student studying at Nijmegen’s Radboud University. They asked me what I liked most about their country. I gave them an answer that was perhaps not at the top of my list—that would probably be the Dutch people’s greatest gift to mankind, vla—but certainly on up there. And it was fitting for the situation: that I could ride my bike everywhere.
Now I live in New York. I have a bike. And I don’t ride it nearly as often as I would like. Part of it is that I’m usually a stay-at-home dad, and it’s tough to take kids on bikes everywhere I need or want to go. But even when I’m by myself, biking in NYC is intimidating. Despite the tremendous strides this and other U.S. cities have made in building bike infrastructure, it pales in comparison to that of our Dutch counterparts. And it shows, too, in the number of people who actually ride bikes. We can talk about the numbers and modal share. But I always tell people that they should see rush hour in The Netherlands. And, thanks to the miracle of the internet and, especially, that miracle of miracles called YouTube, you can see it for yourself. Here’s video of rush hour in Utrecht, a city in the heart of The Netherlands. (Rush hour in Nijmegen and most other Dutch cities looks much the same.)
In case you’re wondering, Nijmegen won after two rounds of overtime and a shootout.