The Tokenhagen Style Bike Lane

I do so hate to waste your flavour, fellow bicycling advocates, but our quest to remodel car land in the image of Holland or Denmark, is proceding at glacial pace. We have hit yet another thick, foam rubber wall, just like the last one. The last big disaster was our quest to raise driver awareness, of soft mortal bodies, in front of their speeding contraptions. Well what a waste of life that was! The latest disaster, has been our effort to convince drivers, to elect politicians, to take road space from cars, and give it to bikes. Committed motorists, who by definition we knew would be retards (no offense meant to actual retards) were to absorb complex and counter-intuitive arguments, explaining bikes as a win-win to cars. We have been dreaming.  Dr-e-e-eamin’!

A phenomenon of this vexed period, is something I should like to have known as the “Tokenhagen Style” bike lane (I do think this term will catch on, regrettably, among our worst stalking trolls). Even so, we proceed. The Burke Street bike path in Sydney is a Tokenhagen Style bike lane. It only works, because cyclists have the smarts to ignore every red light, but, if used as intended, it would offer nothing over riding on footpaths. The park slope bike path, ditto, another Tokenhagen Style bike lane. A Tokenhagen Style bike lane is built to appease dreamers’ dreams, though without pissing off drivers in all the ways it would need to, to actually function. Thus it looks like a bike lane in Copenhagen, without working as such. It’s like a toy gun. It’s the colour of a mini-ten court—and I think that is telling.

Tokenhagen style bike lanes come to us on the back of a fallacy, that Holland and Denmark made cycling mainstream from dispiriting circumstances, identical to those faced elsewhere today. Their first step in the 70s, should therefore be our first step, in the 2000s, and if we leave out the bit about truly enormous public demonstrations for bikes (of the kind we haven’t seen) we will assume our first step, must be to make bike lanes, on the building-side of the parked cars. Well objection your honour! Both Holland and Denmark, even in the dark 60s, still had more cyclists than Portland dare dream of. Their only problem, was all of their horn-locking with cars. They did not have the negligible base rates from which we are trying to start, nor did their drivers see bicycles as things from Mars.

I leave you with a video of the “let me be your consultant” variety. When drivers get no votes, and cyclists get two, guys with these cute little accents may give us our master classes in bike network design. In the meantime, it will be greenways, glorious greenways, that will be the true arteries of our bicycling networks. With my next post I plan to show you where they can run. But the Tokenhagen style bike lanes: these are just broken capillaries.


p.s. Neither do I mean offense to dudes with those adorable accents. It has been said, that I have a cute accent myself.


  1. Edward says:

    While a Tokenhagen Style bike lane might be built to appease dreamers’ dreams without annoying drivers, a regrettably does neither. The dreamers among us are invariably disapointed. Drivers are annoyed because “their” money is spent on infrastructure that is never used. They do more harm than good.

  2. I wish they would refrain from adding “traffic calming” measures to bike lanes. Is it really necessary to cycle over low vis bumpy things in order to register that a traffic light is close by? Surely these defensive measures are better suited to car drivers who are locked away from the elements. Just give us a smooth surface. We can work out the rest!

  3. Steven says:

    A few months after writing this post, I wish to add that I am personally glad to see sydney and new york at least trying to build protected bike lanes, no matter how compromised. My little point, is that greenways need to come first, followed by greenway/bike oriented development of the land those bike trails connect. Protected bike lanes should come after all that. Otherwise, they will continue to steal headlines and attention that is disproportionate to their relative and present amenity. Until such time as protected bike lanes are won, inner cities and busy commercial streets can be accessed safely (though slowly) by riding on footpaths, as I’m glad to see more slow urban cyclists are doing. It is strategically more beneficial to the long term agenda of achieving real Copenhagen-style bike lanes in cities, to bother pedestrians on the curb side, than provoke armored machine operators across on the road side. I am talking, of course, to slow cyclists, the kind cities need many of to be livable. Fast cyclists: take your lane, and keep your eyes open, as you have been doing.

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