A pragmatic approach to building bicycling cities

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.

Picturing some random works left on the desk over Christmas

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.

This one being worked on by young-gun designer Tom Hatton

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.


  1. kfg says:

    “Now before you all object”
    I can’t for the life of me imagine why, as stated here, there should be any objection. The project is essentially invisible to, and thus does not affect, those not interested in cycle infrastructure and the arterials can only benefit those cyclists not interested in the cycle space developments themselves.
    Nobody loses and you can win to the extent of your personal desire. What’s to object to?

    • Steven says:

      You’re right, it’s not terribly objectionable, is it. I know from experience though, that some of our fellow cyclists have become so despondent, that all they can do now is mutter and moan, and will type their negativity into any space that a blog site provides them. Anyway, I hope you’re having a nice holiday break over there…. Boston, correct?

  2. kfg says:

    As both my father and step-father came from founding families I am not unfamiliar with or to Boston, however, the social movements post WWII created circumstances that saw me pop onto the scene as a native of Manhattan, although I was largely raised in the decaying, northern, small industry “rust belt,” where I currently reside. Last of the Mohicans country still hanging on to the tattered remnants of its old Dutch heritage on the bloody frontier with the old New France.
    Along the way I collected the dubious distinction of having lived in both of the notorious housing experiments of the time, the “projects” and Levittown, as well as the literal Norman Rockwell lifestyle (I used to frequent the “swimmin’ hole” across the “street” from his house).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *