Andrew Brown

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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The classic Dutch white rear fender complete with panniers

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.”

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Andrew with daughter Lucia (left) and her friend Isabella (right)

Ride on Andrew, Lucia and Isabella!


2 Comments on “Andrew Brown”

  1. Mitch Nelin says:

    Interesting thoughts on helmets

    I wear a helmet partly for anecdotal reasons, but mainly because they make you look smart.


    The anecdotal part: I began around age 30 (after 20+ years without one) because of physician friends reporting from the ER. Since then among my acquaintances I’ve known one dead because he wasn’t wearing a helmet (body fine, brain dead, organ donor) and two alive and well because they were wearing helmets. Merely anecdotal. My helmet has not contributed to my health as far as I can tell, except possibly as a talisman.

    The intelligent-appearance bit is about the implied understanding of physics, head trauma, etc.

    — Cyclon Ranger

  2. Steve says:

    Bicyclists who wear protective helmets are more likely to be struck by passing vehicles, new research suggests.

    Drivers pass closer when overtaking cyclists wearing helmets than when overtaking bare-headed cyclists, increasing the risk of a collision, the research has found.

    It is cars that are the risk

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