Amsterdam, Copenhagen… Pyongyang!

Background: I wrote that Amsterdam is useful to our understanding of the future bike city in ways Copenhagen is not. To European readers I was speaking to an ongoing and rather tedious debate over there about which city is best for cycling. But that’s another question entirely and one of no consequence to 8 billion people. In any case Pyongyang is the best. If it can’t be because it is poor, then you might as well say New York is the best. Either way Amsterdam and Copenhagen need a distraction. How about Luther v Calvin?

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Rankings and mode share comparisons are things you imbibe to gee up your mayor. They mean nothing when you’re sneaking home after dark on your bike, riding to work to save money, clearing your head, or any of the thousands of things we use bikes for. (Oh and look here, Pyongyang is a paradise for pedestrians too!)

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I’ve lost count of the cities of ridden in and wouldn’t have a clue how to rank them in any case. By their weather maybe? The readiness of ladies to flirt when all you asked for were directions?  (And again New York wins… all those home wreckers).  I tend to see cities by bike the way David Byrne does in Bicycle Diaries, as cities that he happens to have seen on a bike. God, I’d love to see this one:

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No matter where you pop out of a hotel with your folding bike, there will be ground, and enough to ride on, and other people doing the same. This was the scene outside the hotel where I stopped over in SOUTH Korea two weeks ago:

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You can choose to complicate things by wondering what society or the authorities think, or you can see the world the way birds do. I was yelled at from behind a few nights ago by someone who I’m guessing didn’t like me carrying my kid around in a box bike. I just looked up and saw sky blue sky yelling.

I’m increasingly of the view that cycling just happens, like any piss in the shower. Why you would be proud, or ashamed as a city by how much or how well it is pissed? You’re still only pissing. There is not a city in the world where cycling has been treated with any more seriousness. All Amsterdam and Copenhagen have done is install wider grates to help it wash down.

I wish cycling had only just been invented. That way we would see it the way Modernists saw driving, or the Garden Cities movement saw trains. Each saw an alternative to cities being limited by how far we can walk. If we really looked at cycling, and didn’t just let it run down our legs, we would see an alternative to their alternatives. Not another suburb or satellite town would be built. The cities we build would be as different from the ones we build now as showers are different from toilets.

So this is a blog, okay. I know my readership has swung toward readers with a professional interest, as these days I have in the topic as well. Still, it’s to be read with a nightcap, not in the office. After six and a half years it’s still free, and really, you get what you pay for, ‘my right?

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2 Comments

    • Steven says:

      A useful precedent! Thanks! I would even reference the website if they didn’t think MVRDV were from Germany. They’re Dutch. Close!

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