I was born a wee bit over fifty years ago in a part of the Northwest that, even in the sixties and seventies, was hopelessly car bound. Although I was allowed to walk to school at eight years old (famous statistic: in 1971, 80 per cent of seven and eight year old children were allowed to go to school without adult supervision. By 1990, this figure fell to 9 per cent ), I was not allowed a bicycle because it was “too dangerous”. Well, it probably was, but I did resent it.
Eventually, the summer before I went to university I was able to buy a bike, learned to stay on in the back garden, then got up early each morning before work, before the traffic got up, and practiced trundling round the local roads. What’s that? Oh it was a Raleigh wayfarer. I remember it with great affection. Anyway I pootled around Cambridge on the bike for three years and that has set a personal benchmark for what cycling ought to be like. On the occasions where cycling works – where it just feels like walking only better, like halfway between running and flying, where it feels natural, where it doesn’t feel like an almighty faff – on these occasions my private term for it is “Cambridge cycling”. It is depressingly rare. Btw, I haven’t visited the Netherlands (yet), though I’ve heard all about them.