Who writes a bike plan? Is it something drawn up by regular cyclists, identifying pot-holes in the routes they already have? A venerable quarter to one half of the world’s bike blogs are devoted, in part, to logging minutia. The problem with myopic bike planning, is it mainly serves pedants. You know the type: they take their families on road trips to visit tidy towns, recondition their mower motors, and have bar end shifters on road bikes converted over the years for utility. Their mission is to lure more like themselves to the bike paths, and gentlemen, I’m afraid that where my own sense of pluralism hits a brick wall. Bike paths filled with handlebar mirrors and day-glow, would be worse than no paths at all.
My own local bike path pot hole watchdog brigade, god bless, are a classic Nerdocracy: of the nerds, by the nerds, for the nerds; all with those pre-STI or grip-shift shifters. So many of the hazards they have identified with pins on this map, refer to bollard caps some dear might slip on, we risk local government claiming to have fixed half of our woes (numerically speaking), with a box-trailer load of new caps.
So is a bike plan something prepared by specialist consultants, with priestly formulas proven (in Holland) to get non cyclists cycling? These are the bike plans we’re seeing more of these days—though only in more progressive cities than mine, I should say. Are they working? Do glaciers eventually fall into the sea?
Of late I have been more interested in a bike network conceived in the manner of Central Park, as something a whole city can invest in, not only those who see themselves riding a bike, or those who think they might buy a box bike, to play at being green on the weekend. Central Park is long and thin. It could have been thinner—one block wide, instead of 3—and it might have stretched from as far South as Washington Square, and right the way North to Inwood Park. And even with such elongated proportions, it could still have included lakes, fields, etc.. The advantage of being long, is it would have served all of Manhattan with active transport.
A spokeswoman for my local peak motoring body (the NRMA) was in the newspaper recently, alluding to park-and-bike hubs, and I thought: yeah, those would bring suburbanite car addicts into the fold. Another huge group left out of bike plans, are the easily bored, the kind Jane Jacobs was thinking of when she said a good street block should bring together the widest range of user groups and activities. And there are ways, you know, to bring fast cyclists together with slow ones, walkers, and with people just hanging around. Simply raise the fast route on something resembling a meter-high dyke, and rough pave the rest: a minor change in level and surface, is all that’s required.
Thank this loop plan I’m developing for my own city, for this present tack, away from a cyclist’s perspective, to one that sees bike plans as civic projects, in which everyone can see their reflexion. One challenge is to design a long looping park, that I might use as a high speed bike commuter, without impacting you if you brought your kids there for a play. Another, is to accommodate everything from art, to cafes, to performance, to rowing, to ball sports, retail, manufacturing, and every function you care to name, in such a long narrow space.