Infrastructure and laws privileging bicycles over cars in The Netherlands, were borne of unique circumstances in the early 1970s: hundreds of children killed on their bikes every year, mass demonstrations, car free Sundays, plus an oil crisis. We can learn from the Dutch, but treating their story as a metanarrative, as though strategies that they employed can be repeated where politics differ, is folly.
I have been arguing for a more pragmatic approach, borne of current political circumstances, and the postindustrial urban condition. It involves building bike paths where they don’t impact voters who drive—rail easements, parks, waterways—then rezoning any brownfields these paths intersect, to permit Bicycle Oriented Development (BOD). Like TODs, BODs are high density with minimal parking. I propose developer infrastructure contributions from BODs, as each new one is built, be spent upgrading bike paths, with additional lanes, weather protection and every other convenience.
Instead of pitting cycling against driving in a contest over prime city space, the Brownfield to Bikefield model would have cyclists retreat to an alternative “cycle-space”, that they would be allowed to develop. The better quality of life that cycle-space, in time, would provide, would likely attract current non-cyclists, to relocate. But even before that, it would be fair to people keen to orient their lives around cycling.
Now before you all object, here are your answers: eBikes; share cars; tendrils to shops and schools; some light industrial space underneath podiums; ignore hilly areas; expect people to move; rising energy prices; the health-care crunch… you can probably think of the rest for yourselves.