"I'm what the newspapers call an "avid" cyclist—rhymes with "rabid." I own four bikes, which I rarely use for actual transportation. Like most of the 90 million Americans who swung a leg over a bicycle last year, including our president, I rode for fitness and recreation only.
Then, last month, I went to Amsterdam for a friend's birthday party. I was amazed: Everyone rode bikes, everywhere. I saw 80-year-olds pedaling along beside young mothers with two and even three small children perched on various parts of their bikes, and dads trundling off to work in business suits and nice Italian shoes.
The Dutch, I later learned, conduct 30 percent of all their trips—to work, for errands, socially—by bike. In America, that figure is less than 1 percent. We drive 84 percent of the time, even though most of our trips are less than 2 miles long. More than three-quarters of us commute alone by car, compared with just half a million (way less than 1 percent) who do so by bike, according to the 2000 Census.
... In late October, I took a vow of automotive abstinence. Long story short: At least I tried."