Future-mayor proofing your bike plan

While ever less than 50% of voters really love their bicycle transport, rain hail or shine, there will be mayoral candidates in the shadows ready to ride an anti-bike backlash to office. Toronto is seeing it with some jerk named Rob Ford. New York can expect it. Even Copenhagen has had a mild dose. The ideal solution would be to go all-out Marinettistyle, and destroy the city our fathers built for their cars, and build new ones that cars cannot access, oriented instead around bike traffic and bike access to buildings. Protect cyclists from the wind and rain, as we protect drivers and people on trains, and voila: you would have a bike network that no politician could ever attack. But without a political majority of bike nuts, right now, we can’t make that happen.

Late for class, get out of our way!

Late for class, get out of our way!

A better approach, is going unseen. A bicycling network that capitalises most strongly on non-vehicular easements, while only making very sparing use of the road network for a handful of cycle tracks, is less likely to be the target of othernessbashing. Its greatest threat comes from the car loving majority voter who sees the off road network of trails as an escape for recreation, and sees bike commuters as spoilers. But that threat can be lessened, I think, with line markings and signage reminding walkers that, for some people, trails are their eco friendly way of getting to school.

image: Karl Kullmann

image: Karl Kullmann

The post-industrial city is a swiss-cheese of easements, that few people even consider. A bike strategy that is future mayor-proofed, would signpost those easements for cyclists, and orient bike friendly development toward it. Fill those easements with cyclists, however possible. More cyclists on arteries, will bring more cyclists to the politically contentious cycle tracks your next mayor may want to rip out.

4 Comments

  1. Vicki says:

    Steven, This post reminded me of the plans here in Newcastle for temporary bike lanes in Hunter St, they will be far from future-mayor-proofed! A try before you buy bike lane if you like…

    • Steven says:

      Hi Vicki, the pedestrianization of times square and gridiron New York has been done using removable planter boxes. In that case, most of Bloomberg’s innovations have won over most voters so seem set to stay. As for Newcastle, who knows! If the business owners and commercial property owners saw business improve, you might be in luck. The best thing about Newcastle, is the suburban shopping centres have taken the bulk of the drivers elsewhere, leaving the city free to gentrify. I’m holding onto my property there, so good luck, for my sake 🙂

  2. Colin says:

    I saw Janette Sadik-Kahn and Clover Moore speak together once, and they had very different approaches on this issue. JSK was into doing stuff quickly and cheaply with paint and removable planter boxes etc. but Clover wasn’t – her wider political environment (State Govt and RMS) were more hostile, and so she designed cycle lanes with such a heavy engineering style that it would be impossibly expensive for future mayors to rip them out. But that also means that building them is terribly slow, and there’s little of the experimental “suck it and see” approach they use in NY.

    • Steven says:

      That explains why Sydney’s cycle tracks have their own storm water pipes. Perhaps a hybrid approach would help Clover? I mean, whack in the rest of the network on the cheap quickly. But it’s certainly a great legacy she’s leaving. I read recently—can’t remember where—that New York’s cycle track network (or was it the Times Square closure to cars?) are deemed popular enough to be future-mayor proof now. Both New York and inner sydney have the advantage that driving and especially parking is beyond the means of many voters. Smaller cities will persist a lot longer with driving, hence my fanatical obsession with post-industrial voids.

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