I'm just selling cycling, not sourdough bread.

The unique proclivities of le petit bourgeoisie, how they do bore me. I have no interest in the interests of people who cycle. They are already cycling. I want to know what interests those who don’t cycle. It is more important to know the mind of someone attracted to Bangkok’s largest shopping mall, CentralWorld, Siam, and why they would think going there by limousine is the best:

I filmed this rather boring vlog in Doha on my way home Spain a few days ago. Pardon the droll tone. I was plugged with Lorazepam, and am only just now coming to.

Urbanisation happens like this:

and this

and this

(more of those here)
and each time it does a million more people are thrust into cars. I have this bee in my bonnet after a workshop I ran with my good friend Jordi Galí Manuel from Copenhagenize/Barcelona, two weeks ago, in Zaragoza. It was a fantastic experience, don’t get me wrong, but I knew at least one person would chastise me for making these the group tasks:

And how I was chastised! Being from the demographic who currently cycles most in the group thought malls and fast food are inherently bad, never mind their appeal to billions of people worldwide.
Developing nations are asking for urban mobility. They have not asked for small batch sourdough bread loafs or outdoor cafes. While ever the message is that they can’t have one without the other, they will reject both.


  1. crank says:

    Nice. Your workshop ideas are totally on the money, even if only to change the pervasive mindset.
    I had a very similar epiphany when I stayed at the Intercontinental in Fiji. Very pleasant, nice to walk around (but a bit boring and sometimes far). So there is the occasional golf cart – no threat of killing anyone – kids roamed free – and absent of loud farty noises and fumes, too. Just add a few bikes in the mix and a perfect lifestyle! Why on Earth do rich gated communities foul the place up with motor cars? Dumb dumb dumb. Resort lifestyle is where its at.
    Similarly, suburban malls. The attraction is that people wander aimlessly in their consumerist stupor, without the threat or nuisance of motor cars. Why do we put up with this shit in our city centres? They are the antique shopping malls for urban residents. Built up in a piecemeal (and economically sustainable) fashion. Can’t I drive a fucking car through Chadstone in retribution for the onslaught of suburban hicks hooning through my city? I will do my best not to kill anyone, promise! It will be convenient for me to park in the foodcourt, okay!? Dumb dumb dumb.
    You may be right. Perhaps the missing ingredient is the lack of democracy accommodating our self-entitled, greedy, toxic bullies.

    • Steven says:

      “Why on Earth do rich gated communities foul the place up with motor cars?”
      I read that and thought, it’s because they don’t have town centres where cars would be a problem. But then I thought of the momma of all privately owned public places, Seaside Florida, and decided to go visit with my google peg man. Have a look:
      The town centre is choked with cars! It’s the worst privately managed “public” space I’ve ever seen.
      So I guess it’s a question of expectations. If there’s a roof over, or if it’s a resort, or campus, or wildlife park… motorists will accept they can’t drive there. But if it looks like a town then it’s mayhem as usual.
      Resorts, campuses, malls… these are all what Foucault called heterotopias. Mayhem as usual stops at the gate.
      The GATE.
      There are gated communities too like Christiania and Freiburg that defy stereotypes about cashed-up-bogan racists.
      It doesn’t have to be a “gate”. It could be a bollard.
      “Bollarded communities.” That’s what I’m thinking.

  2. Colin says:

    You’re asking how to shoehorn cycling into a lifestyle that has been determined by a car-dominated urban landscape. It’s a good question, but I think you’re misrepresenting your critics; it’s not “sourdough bread” they like and “malls” they hate, but instead they’re recognising that everyday transport cycling only fits in some urban landscapes and not others.
    For example, the question of locking up the produce in your cargo bike so you can go from shop to shop doesn’t arise so frequently in an urban landscape organised around cycling, where people shop more frequently, and more locally, and buying smaller amounts each time, than they do in car-dominated places.
    Similarly, the need to buy food and drink to consume “on the way” is a product of long car commutes; it doesn’t arise so much with cycling.
    I accept that you’re using “sourdough bread” as shorthand for the lifestyles of the rich, white and inner-urban, but there’s some truth to the idea that that lifestyle “fits” cycling much better than other lifestyles.
    Trying to separate cycling from it’s most fertile soil might be a bad idea.

    • Steven says:

      You seem to be talking about streets surveyed roughly 100 years ago. I can’t see how you could say they were, or are now, “organised” around cycling. Their designers imagined people walking to train stations or city centres, so built narrow shop fronts that pass as a blur when you’re cycling, even at a hallowed 15kph.
      As to your belief that large shopping malls are a product of car land, that doesn’t account for some of the world’s largest malls being in Asian cities and accessed, mostly, by train. Mega malls are a product of mobility, not cars, so since bikes enhance mobility one would assume malls will only get bigger. And since I want to see cycling thrive with the masses, and the masses like things like MacDonalds, I will be advising clients such as MacDonalds about where to place stores to capture the most people on bikes.

    • Colin says:

      Yes, I overreached with the “organised around cycling” line. What I really meant was “not organised around driving”.
      I’m familiar with big shopping malls in Asian cities where nobody drives; Tokyo in particular. They’re designed around train and pedestrian access. There’s no room for cargo bikes in such places, and while I really like bikes I’m OK with that.
      I’m not sure of your claim that “mega malls are products of mobility”. The mega malls of Tokyo seem to be the product of density rather than mobility; people don’t travel a long way to go to them.
      I’m also not sure of your claim that bikes enhance mobility. They do in some limited circumstances, but in most circumstances cars enhance mobility even more. And I’m fine with that – mobility isn’t good in itself. Who wants to travel long distances, especially if there’s no “there” when you get there. I’d argue that enhancing *access* is the more important goal, and bikes beat cars at that.
      And if McDonalds wants to capture people on bikes, then great. If that helps promote more people on bikes, great. Is it actually happening though?

      • Steven says:

        I was using the word mobility in a way that’s synonymous with the expression “access to markets”, in other words in the way it is used in the urban mobility community. Speed is always thought of relative to population.
        It’s time to say too that this website is filled with unique design propositions for purpose built cycling environments. I value you as an interlocutor. You’ve helped me sharpen my thoughts for a long time. But if we’re to continue to have have fruitful discussions if would be better if you accepted that the topic of this blog is not urban renewal, or suburban redemption, but urban growth. The model you like is not proliferating, despite every urbanist singing its virtues. We have to talk about new models with some chance of outshining Texas in the eyes of India, China and South America.

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