Simple v Elegant Plans

The task of forging a place for cycling, in cities that now have cars deep in their souls, is being hindered by simple ideas. “Simply lower speed limits and introduce no-fault laws to protect cyclists,” is one such idea. It is simple, but hardly elegant, as it overlooks a few obvious truths, for example: we live in democracies where voters see roads as things to go fast on, and; 7 year-olds can’t be expected to abide by road rules that were conceived to help cars.

Yeah, like that’s going to work!

Another simplistic idea, involves importing Dutch and Danish road design handbooks into countries where most voters want to preserve roads for car-use. Bicycle advocacy is held back, not helped, by well-meaning simpletons who see Copenhagen or Amsterdam as their Celestial City, then spend their lives crying that things on Earth are not as they are in Heaven. They look to the East for Jan Gehl’s Second Coming.

The political reality, out here in carland, is bicycle transport is a marginal mode, relegated to marginal space: parks, waterfronts, rail easements, brownfields, footpaths, back streets, etc. We can enhance those networks, consolidate housing around them, and, if the network doesn’t pass through our own neighbourhood, we have the option of moving. That’s a simple idea, that accomplishes more, which is what makes it elegant.

A particular fault of mine, is that if a stranger tells me they know NASA’s secrets, I don’t walk away before letting them crap on for an hour. Likewise, I don’t delete simplistic comments, beneath my blog posts. Really, I aught to. Engaging with them, as I usually do, is like saying everything twice for the benefit of a few dunces down the front of the lecture theatre, while the smart kids fidget and log onto facebook. Herewith and henceforth and without further adieu, I will no longer be adjusting for your lack of vision.

4 Comments

  1. Edward says:

    “The political reality, out here in carland, is bicycle transport is a marginal mode, relegated to marginal space: parks, waterfronts, rail easements, brownfields, footpaths, back streets, etc.”

    Surely that was once the case in those magical places you mention. While it may be a political reality now, it does not have to be. Can’t we make a different political reality.

    Jan Gehl did make a second coming to Adelaide recently.

    • Steven says:

      Hi Edward, I agree that it’s worth trying to change how people think. But I’m too impatient to wait, or cry in the wilderness. Neither would I be waiting for Gehl’s influence to overhaul Adelaide. I spoke at a conference recently, during the same session as a planner from Adelaide, who has been working with Gehl; the poor bloke will be whining for the rest of his working life, that change is too slow. We need more evangelists from places like Portland, where they’ve built a 5% bike share, by and for a relatively small portion of people, who give a shit. Don’t you think?

  2. DigitalCyclist says:

    Love your attitude. Kinda like, “Well, I could agree with you, but then we’d both be wrong.”

    I get really tired of those who constantly hold up Amsterdam or Copenhagen as “models”. They’ve been working to get where they are for over 50 years. Even Vancouver, which is (generally speaking) a good place to cycle, has been assembling it’s waterfront landscape for 100 years now.

    Much better models for N.A. are Montreal, now ranked as most cycle friendly in N.A. and 8th in the world, and lowly NY City of all places, making rapid progress against seemingly insurmountable and entrenched attitudes on all sides. From them we can learn useful and repeatable approaches.

    • Edward says:

      Montreal seems to be the example at the moment. Mikael Colville-Andersen went there and was mightily impressed. What did they do differently?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.