Swivel shifts

Swivel shifts

Russell Shorto points out small shifts in thinking that can have large effects — from bicycle safety to fresh food:

Dutch drivers are taught that when you are about to get out of the car, you reach for the door handle with your right hand — bringing your arm across your body to the door. This forces a driver to swivel shoulders and head, so that before opening the door you can see if there is a bike coming from behind. Likewise, every Dutch child has to pass a bicycle safety exam at school. The coexistence of different modes of travel is hard-wired into the culture.


Cyclists can’t carry six bags of groceries; bulk buying is almost nonexistent. Instead of shopping for a week, people stop at the market daily. So the need for processed loaves that will last for days is gone. A result: good bread.

I’ve always appreciated the is-it-feasible-to-carry-in-one-trip constraint of shopping. It’s been a useful way to keep my love of lovely things in check, and has helped me remain at least somewhat graceful walking the streets of New York City.