I don’t know about you, but I am really quite taken by the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain’s “great big” bike blog roundups. What a fabulous chronicle of the cycling renaissance! One day someone will get their PhD in urban design history just by working back through it.
My own modest contribution to that history has been to provide some intellectual relief from the same-old same-old parroting of Jan Gehl and Enrique Peñalosa. I’ve been feeling a bit down these past couple of days, hating what I have been writing, hating the look of my belly in lycra, hating not owning a dual suspension mountain bike, and so on and so forth. Lots of hate an attendant feelings of listlessness. So I am going to see if a self-aggrandizing blog post can’t make me feel better.
For it is I, my dear ninipoops, who first mentioned this Harvard Study in a bike blog post. It shows how walkable cities don’t help populations once obesity is already present. Once people have become overweight they generally don’t walk briskly enough to increase their metabolisms. Read the study and you will see why bicycling environments are the only environments capable of addressing obesity in populations. I wish I lived in one!
I know for sure that bicycling advocates have not read this study, because, if they had, they would not be making petty arguments about traffic congestion and local shop patronage to persuade local governments to spend money on bike infrastructure. They would be going to state and national governments with our silver bullet solution for the obesity crisis.
While I’m patting myself on the back I’ll remind you who said Google are using Henry Ford’s playbook. It was me. I said that. They want to seize the street for the exclusive use of driverless taxis. We can all say goodbye to the street for our cycling if they succeed. Give them ten years and they will be accusing cyclists of endangering the blind and disabled by causing their taxis to suddenly brake. They’ll install bike carriers for us on the backs of their taxis. Fan-freakin’-tantastic.
And just in case no one else has said so already, I’ll just let you know that the image of Copenhagen is about to dramatically change once planned non-vehicular bridges over the lakes and the river introduce a second kind of street to their road matrix. Instead of a handful of streets funnelling all modes (foot, bike and car) to a handful of bridges, parallel streets are about to fill up with bikes. The decoupling will bring an end to the pretence that funnelling every mode down those streets that have shops has been done so that cyclists would not be deprived of the same level of access and feelings of citizenship. They will be relegated to bike streets. The sough dough bakeries and bike shops will just have to move.
While I’m on the subject of Utopian-Copenhagen (a place far far away where everything is just perfect, they say) let me lay claim to this observation as well: their cycle tracks don’t work in Australian city centres. They work in the Avenues of New York, but these don’t have driveway crossing every 20 meters like the lengths of a city block in Australia. During peak hour in Sydney, lines of bikes can look like lines of tin ducks being fired upon by car drivers shooting in and out of huge basement garages.
Australian city centres need the “woonerf” (or living yard) concept, not cycle tracks, and would be heading that way if we had listened to someone from the Netherlands instead of Jan Gehl. I’m proud to say my own home town of Newcastle took a woonerf approach with Hunter Street Mall.
When I think of moving to Holland, I think of the arguments I would get into with Dutch bike transport enthusiasts, who I’m telling you now are the greatest barrier to cycling achieving more than just a measly quarter of that nation’s mode share. They love the rain and bike theft for the very same reason John Forrester loves cycling with cars up his arse. Overcoming obstacles signifies their devotion. When I suggest ways to remove every last inconvenience from the built environment, so that even the lazy and vain want to cycle, they fear I will steal the source of their pride.
Still, I would find something to argue about wherever I lived. I’ve just had a “conversation” with an Australia Post worker who, from now on, is going to be a better example to other van drivers by not blocking footpaths. I should follow his advice too. “Go get a life.” I might do that. A life as a footpath crusader!
What I really love about the Netherlands, is how even their low density suburbs are built on a bike mobility platform. Cycling is more than just a way to move people through a dense urban core. It was fostered in the seventies as a way to reduce the nation’s dependence on oil. Because elsewhere they don’t have the same goal, the rest of the world is not “going-dutch”. It is simply looking for solutions to economic decline and congestion in nineteenth-century city centres. That’s why city leaders are more interested in nineteenth-century Copenhagen, than eighteenth-century Amsterdam. They’re not looking for the best bicycling cities, but comparable cities to their own, that don’t have the congestion. As bike nuts we can be a bit skewed in our reading.
To conclude, it was me who said eBikes reduce the speed of bike transport, by complicating the tight situations in which bicycling thrives. Think of it this way: would electric assist hinder or help cyclists negotiate a simultaneous-green intersection? It’s fine in the suburbs, but electric assist ought to be prohibited in city centres.