A reader writes:
I think these comments highlight the difference in attitudes between North America and much of continental Europe. The idea of commuting by bike isn't "nonsense" to the 40-50% of citizens that use bikes to get to work in cities like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Muenster, Groningen and so on. Their "opportunity cost" calculation leads many to realise that they could do a lot with the $5,000-$10,000 (or even more, in Europe) that they save annually on eliminating car-related costs. The average North American spends 15-20% of their time at work paying for the car that they use to get to work. Personally, I like having two months' after-tax salary not going towards paying for a car.
Regarding commuting distance and sweat, a couple of concluding comments. The average bike commute in Amsterdam is apparently 12-13 km (or roughly 8 miles). Having lived in Enschede (Holland) and Hannover (Germany), I often saw men cycling to work in suits. Sweat didn't seem to be much of a concern, maybe because they cycled at a measured cadence. On my own 20-minute one-way commute, which has a couple of hills, I don't mind getting passed by others as I maintain a pace that I know will get me to work refreshed but sans underarm sweat patches. (Here's one example of the dapper gents to be seen in Amsterdam (many more can be found at http://amsterdamize.com/).
It's easy to come up with excuses to not try something different, but I'm confident that North Americans will take up cycling to work in ever greater numbers in the coming years. Rising gas prices will play a part in that change.
(Photo of "Another dad picking up the kids after work" in Amsterdamn via Marc van Woudenberg)