This made the rounds at various Dutch forums this morning. This article does an excellent job of explaining the Dutch bicycle culture and what made it possible. Highly recommended reading.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/201...ONM/story.html

Interesting quote:
Living in bicycling nirvana leads many people — especially the young Dutch who have known nothing else — to believe it has been always been this way.

Far from it. In 1967, Amsterdam’s chief inspector of traffic police had this to say about the state of cycling safety in his country : “Cycling,” he declared to a national newspaper, “is tantamount to attempting suicide.”