Let me know if ever you hear about another completely flat country like Holland, where they have not yet invested in car parking stations, and where everyone had Calvinist grannies saying “you’re not made of sugar”. I’ll hand that country the CROW design manual, and know they will read it. Voila: another bike nation!
However, where there are hills and car parking stations it will take more than Dutch cycle tracks to tempt people out of their cars. In cities where there is the option of driving, replicating Dutch infrastructure will not induce enough cycling to have a noticeable impact on global warming, public health, or an economy.
I’m not saying we should drop the Go Dutch campaign, especially in cities like London where cycling is getting ahead due to the over-stressed state of motorised modes. I’m saying that cities where driving still works need more than Dutch modelled cycle tracks. To impartial observers, spending on a transport option which lacks the unique appeal of car transport, in places where car transport works, is not worth the quizzical reaction from average voters. We’re more likely to find public support for bike infrastructure if the public can imagine themselves actually using it. Cheapness is rarely a selling point.
Politicians and planners know it will take more than Dutch cycle tracks to get most people commuting by bike. So let’s start offering more. Let’s start talking about Dutch cycle tracks that have roofs. I say that because cars and buses have roofs, and those are the modes against which cycling needs to compete. Cities in which driving will remain a good option will not only need to cover their bike tracks, they will need to back-draft them. Buses and cars don’t make people push into headwinds, so neither can cycle tracks subject people to headwinds, if they are to attract patrons. Furthermore, these enclosed and back-drafted Dutch-inspired cycle tracks I am proposing for hilly, car-invested, less-Protestant cities, will also need to terminate at secure bike parking facilities at all destinations. Car and bus users aren’t made to fret about vehicles being stripped of valuable components. Neither should cyclists be left with that worry.
Does that sound too ambitious? Road and rail advocates go to bat over multi billion dollar proposals with capacities measured in hundreds of thousands of users per day. That’s the league we need to be playing in.
Who do I blame for us aiming too low? Partly I blame the bike advocacy community. Too many are too easily impressed by Holland’s hopelessly uncompetitive bike infrastructure. It’s only the best in the world because the rest of the world hasn’t tried yet. And while ever Dutch bike infrastructure is held up as a model, the rest of the world will not take bicycling seriously. Why would the US, for example, invest in a mode that is only going to get them to work sopping wet? They have already invested in a mode that gets them there dry. Why would Australians want their taxes spent building bike tracks if the prize at the end is commuting long distances on horrible Omafietsen? The bike of choice in cities without secure bicycle parking, is the bike that neither a thief or an owner have any desire for.