There's a store in Ottawa, Canada, that makes their own version of the European city-bike. The Cyclery has been building "Krikes" since 2002 and I bought one in the first year of production (I think about 15 - 20 per year). They equip it with a Nexus 7 spd hub and a Nexus front hub/generator. As well, it came with a chain guard, front and rear fenders, and a rear rack.
If I'm doing basic commuting, running errands, or meeting someone socially, my Krike is the perfect bike. To be able to just climb onboard in normal street clothes and go is great and the ride is really enjoyable.
I agree with the basic thrust of thread, however, and in North America most people, in my opinion, are probably riding the wrong bike. There are a lot of cyclists in Ottawa and the classic city bike isn't uncommon but you see so many people riding either very fat-tired mountain bikes, with no fenders or racks; or high end racing bikes as commuting bikes.
I just returned from a vacation in Paris and the utility cycling there is absolutely amazing.