Postcard from Amsterdam, Oslo and… Bogota!

Gentlemen, my activities statement for the period April through June, 2017:

FutureBuilt Oslo invited me to give a plenary in that city’s fine city hall.

Then, after a short spell at the Amsterdam Cycle Space office, it was off to Spain for meetings, a workshop and closing plenary at La Ciudad de las Bicis in Zaragoza. The local press wrote a nice story, 

the plenary was so big I even had a sign language translator…

and conversation every dinner time was about being married and Tinder. Hilarious Spanish! Wonderful company, I’ve got to say!

Unless I’ve forgotten anything in between, I then curated the Bicycle Architecture Biennale in Amsterdam. Food and drink was served by Dutch girls with high ponytails! It’s a land of equal opportunity employment, I’ll say!

That night I also released my new book, Velotopia, again with Nai010 publishers in Rotterdam. According to reviews it’s worth reading. Here’s a free preview.

There was a little work there in Amsterdam leading delegations around and swanning about Velo-City…

before heading to Oslo where I am teamed with the consultancy giant Ramboll (who serve excellent lunches) devising bike-centric urban growth suggestions for a ski town called Nittedal.

I love Oslo. Everywhere I go I go with a smile… until I see… just parked on the… doh!

A way, I suggest, of getting past all our petty concerns is by spending a week in Bogota. Holy Toledo, what an adventure!

Everyone I’m working with there is as smart and right-headed as Enrique Peñalosa. I guess civil war must sharpen the mind. The city, you see, is a portrait of national struggles emblemized by guns and exporting cocaine. The impact of all that upon cycling? Well, there’s a chance you’ll be stabbed for your bike by people living underneath bridges, who, as bad as they seem, themselves are fed poisoned food by those seeing them as mere vermin.

Security is a problem in our countries too. Just last night I advised my 18 year old son to take quiet back streets and bike paths during the day to avoid being ran over by drivers, but to cycle on the road late at night, when the greater risk is a violent attack from less attractive young men his own age. Petite bourgeois readers among you can deny crime is a problem as much as you like. The cyclists of Bogota can’t be deluded. Neither do they seek to make points about helmets. Civil war and knowing someone who was murdered puts all other things into perspective.

Some scenes now of a bike tour I was given by the bike office, under police escort, thank goodness:

The group shot is two blocks from “El Bronx”, an area that was recently bulldozed. This is as close as the google truck got to its miserable nexus:

Click here to see on google yourself. You might get a new understanding of “urban renewal”.

My personal business in Bogota is a dream. I’ve just written the guidelines for an architectural design competition to design a new school and bicycle education facility on this site in Bosa all in accordance with my two books.

On Thursday evening the city’s architects gathered to hear me talk, ahead of preparing their entries.

Within two years bicycletecture will have its exemplar, sending ripples throughout the profession. Followers of my work will understand the importance of this to the future of cycling and how bike paths were just the beginning.

Curiously, the neighbourhood where the school will be built has the same urban morphology as Amsterdam: narrow streets, narrow 3 and 4 story walkups, and no access for mid block car parking.

And just as none of the traffic calmed streets with naked intersections in Amsterdam are counted in the city’s linear kilometres of bike infrastructure, Bogota’s friendliest space for bike transport is overlooked too. All planners count are bike lanes beside roads, once stupidly widened for cars. In other words, space like this is not counted…

…while space like this is:

This has inspired me to do a little free work for the city. I have begun advising them about making a giant Nolli map of Bogota, marking every piece of space—no matter how seemingly useless to long distance commuting—where a child can feel safe on a bike. The best example of such a map done to date is this one we produced for the Australian Property Council. It’s of my home city, Newcastle, Australia.

First impressions are of a city with lots of safe space. But when you look at the impact of rat-runs and arterial roads upon school trips you realise risk averse cyclists are stranded on islands:

In Bogota we could make such a map, of the whole city, with the help of a large crew of ride-to-school guides whose days are already spent searching for space to lead children. It’s not work to be done to please an inner urban elite just back from adventures in Holland. It’s work for the 80% of Bogota’s population that can’t afford cars. Currently their children are walking for up to two hours to their nearest school, as your great grand parents may have done back in the day. Making the outskirts of Bogota friendly to children—children on bikes—means giving them educations and access to the opportunities their parents came to the city to find them.

I’m speaking now to Colombia’s politicians, current and future. We’re going to do this the friendly way, right? No need to get higher powers involved. This guy here: he’s got children.


  1. Jackart says:

    Love your work, but ‘Bicycletecture’ is a shocking neoglism…

    • Steven says:

      You’re probably right and I’m open to suggestions. There was a book called “carchitecture”, not a particularly great book, but that’s where I got the idea.

  2. troy says:

    Interesting times… thanks for the postcard!

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