Andrew BrownPosted: May 10, 2013
One recent Sunday afternoon, I was riding along the Jamaicaway when I saw a sight that made me wonder for a moment if I’d been teleported to Amsterdam. It turns out I was still in Boston, and that Andrew Brown just happened to be riding on his classic upright Dutch Azor Bike with his daughter Lucia and friend Isabella alongside. We got to chatting, both of us being fans of Dutch bicycles. Andrew is a physician who lives in Cambridge, and his work takes him to various locations around the Boston area. He was kind enough to let me take his photo, and we caught up later by email.
In his own words,
“I ride everywhere: soccer with my daughter, dinner with my wife, to pick up groceries and dry cleaning. Now that my two daughters are old enough they can ride along with me; while this is a great joy, I do miss the days when I carted them back and forth in my bakfiets.”
Talk about synchronicity, while we were stopped chatting, a man rode down the bike path on a bakfiets with two children in front.
What does Andrew enjoy most about cycling?
“It’s fun; it conduces to thinking and creativity; it’s not only a joy but it also happens to be the most rational way to get from point A to point B; it’s the fresh air; the feeling of momentum; I can combine my love of physical activity and the natural world with my need to get from point A to point B; it conduces to a feeling of freedom; it’s simple, it’s elegant; it just makes sense; it’s the way forward.”
One thing I noticed is that he happened to not be wearing a helmet. In a city like Boston where helmet-wearing seems to be the de facto choice for most cyclists, despite no laws requiring it, I couldn’t help but wonder about his choice to go without one. He elaborated on some of his thoughts:
“… there is an unfortunate tendency to dwell on this issue. There are many reasons for this, I suspect, few of which I can address here. Generally speaking, I think bicycling is still rather new and anxiety producing for the vast majority of Americans. There is general sense that bicycling is somehow a distinct activity or “sport” that requires special gear and special precautions, I suppose; it is not organically integrated one’s lifestyle as is the case in Holland or in other cultures where bicycling has a much more established history as a viable means of regular transportation. People are anxious and cling to the notion that a “helmet” will keep them safe; this notion can also be associated a sense of self-righteousness, and can manifest in “scolding” behavior that typically (and ironically) emanates from passing motorists. There is much going on here, but, most remarkable, I think, is the degree to which this dynamic reflects the extent to which conventional individualistic notions of “safety” are uninformed by an awareness of much more profound and immanent threats to our collective safety; such notions are urgently in need of revision in light of 21st century realities.”
Ride on Andrew, Lucia and Isabella!