Why Dutch women cycle more

In this Guardian blog post by Herbie Huff and Kelcie Ralph the authors find perhaps the least persuasive justification for establishing family friendly policies in our polity: it will encourage more women to bike!

Women in Holland, researchers have learned, are able to bicycle more because they have fewer chores. The three reasons why: childcare responsibilities are more evenly shared, work weeks are shorter, and children and elderly don’t need as much chauffeuring around.

So they use this extra free time to bicycle. Yes, the authors contend, “Reducing total work hours and encouraging more flexible schedules for men and women alike could free up the time necessary to get around by bike.” Or, cynics say, it could free up the time necessary to watch more television.

Yes, Holland has a bicycle culture that makes it easy and accepted for everyone to bicycle. But even if the U.S. enacted all those family-friendly policies, we would still be a different country with a different transportation culture.

To this point, read the Motherlode blog post from today, about a woman traveling to Omaha, Nebraska from Washington, DC, a road journey of 1200 miles, with her husband and two children, in order to give birth. The writer talks about how she prefers the outcomes at the Nebraska hospital, but she curiously omits the risk and ennui of driving for three or four days each way, once while nine months pregnant, once with a newborn (can’t nurse in a moving car). I believe Americans have a cultural blind spot where motor vehicle transport is concerned, with the effect that these kinds of behavioral contortions pass without comment.

Americans perceive time in the car as time to ourselves, in our own personal bubble of control. The trip to Nebraska is not a 24-hour endurance test, with all passengers strapped down tightly for their own safety, unable to move, and the pilot solely responsible for the life and death of his family. It is transformed into an unforgettable four days of family time, with songs and banter, bracketing a joyous life event in the family’s collective timeline.

A day to stay home from school

Yesterday it started to rain around dawn and continued on and off
throughout the day. A good day to watch François Truffaut’s Day for
(1973), a sweet movie about making movies. Whenever I watch
a film like this one about working in groups, I’m always keeping an
eye open for useful organizational lessons, as if I was some kind of
Organizational Change Consultant who likes to show little clips from
movies in the midst of his view-graph presentations in order to keep
the audience on its toes.

 I guess in this one the great OC moment is when the director (played
by Truffaut) and his assistant (Nathalie Baye, kudos to the costume
designer who kitted her out with this pair of amazing round glasses),
discover that Alexandra Stewart’s secretary is three months pregnant
and that this is the reason why she had made a fuss about dressing in
a bathing suit for a poolside scene. The two of them go over the
schedule quickly and see that there won’t be another scene with
Stewart for six weeks, at which time she will surely be showing. They
look into getting someone else to play the role, but the insurance
won’t cover it. Could her character be pregnant in the film? Baye
considers it, then demurs. It would confuse the audience because they
would think that she had slept with the main character’s father.

 Finally, the decision is made. Truffaut brings Stewart in to watch the
rough edit, which masterfully omits any view of her belly. The film
cuts as soon as she sits down to type, and we watch the rest of the
reel spool for the last time off the spindle into a cardboard box.
Despite the trouble and difficulty that Stewart’s pregnancy has
caused, he still treats her respectfully by showing her the rough cut
and how it conceals that she’s pregnant. At the end of the film,
Stewart returns, pregnancy quite evident, and poses in the group photo
with the rest of the cast and crew.

 Quick lesson: Truffaut disassociates the actor and her condition. If
he’d chosen to hire someone else and reshoot the scene, it would have
been “nothing personal,” but instead he uses the problem and his
successful resolution of it as a way to deepen his relationship with
the actor.