I'm an ex-pat here in "Mokum" (the nickname for Amsterdam), having moved here from Seattle two years ago. Apart from the minor culture shocks, the changes I found in myself centered mostly around the art and style of casual cycling. As a young American man, I tried to make my car an interlocutor for my personality. In Amsterdam, owning a car reaches a higher level of absurdity than even New York City (formally, New Amsterdam).
A lifestyle that includes the thought of, "wait, do I have my bike keys," starts young. Dutch toddlers are taught to ride using a unique bike without pedals - it also excludes training wheels. As an adult, commuting to work by bike is the standard in Amsterdam, with trains, central arteries, and even whole ferry systems designed to accommodate cyclists. The same way I would ride around my childhood Chicago suburban neighborhood with my friends, I now do the same with colleagues for a cross-town meeting. When I go on dates with my girlfriend, I don't "pick her up around 7," instead we bike together to a restaurant.
As an American, it was a shift for me, not only in a thinner waistline but also a mindset. This culture of cycling might be an answer for the broader question of global warming -an issue the Dutch take seriously, given I'm currently writing this essay from 7 ft. below sea level. Merely saying buy a bike isn't the answer either, nor my proclamation. What if technocrats made decisions revolving around bikes as the main transportation layer, from parking garages to bridges. The human-powered bicycle is going to play a significant role in how we, as a species, are going to make it through rising tides. It will, however, require a holistic set of initiatives-the design of a whole cycling society.