i can't think of france, england or italy without thinking of bike riding. i haven't been to too many other european places, but i know they too ride bikes a lot. my mother-in-law, nearing 80 years old still rides her bike into town to buy groceries in Gubbio, Italy. she is not alone. i remember when i was studying law at Cambridge University in england - it was unusual not to ride a bike. there were bikes and bike racks all over. the campus was littered with them. it was important to watch your step on footpaths in Cambridge because professors in their long robes and striped ties where flying by to get to there classes or tea breaks or a pims break on time. mad professors. course they were not the only ones. students too. but not me, i preferred to walk. i preferred to take in the beauty and admire the lovely willowed streams with punters slowly pushing people here and there. and ducks - lots of ducks and their young ducklings paddling right behind their momma almost soundlessly moving across the the glossy mirrored water. you could almost see Lewis Carroll right there on a lawned bank telling long tales to an attentive group of children.
anyway, its no different in France. bike riding is not just for the youth - it is for all ages and for practical reasons. mostly transportation from one place to the next - usually for women to fetch the day's groceries as does my mother in law.
can you imagine that here in the states? i can't.