This is a short video of the busiest cycle path in the Netherlands.  The street is named Vredenburg.  There’s a marketplace nearby.   It’s in Utrecht, a mid-sized city of 330,000 that dates back to the 8th century.  Vrendenburg averages about 37,000 cyclists per day.  Try to look at the first 35 seconds of the video if not the whole thing.  It shows what the street used to look like before bicycles became the preferred method of moving around Dutch cities.

I often hear from people that this sort of thing would never work here in the United States.

“Of course it would.” I challenge them.

“No, Europe’s different.”  they claim.  “Their cities are older and more compact”

“Hmmm.  Older, yes.  More compact?  Not necessarily.”

The Chicago Loop is as compact as any European city.

Land is scarce in Utah, so cities here tend to be compact as well. But even in mostly compact Ogden, the waste is obvious. It’s almost always driven by a need to accommodate automobiles.

Salt Lake City. I’m on a train on the TRAX Green Line.Parking and gas pumps are not the “highest and best use.”

Downtown Indianapolis. This isn’t inevitable. This is a choice…a bad choice.

Vredenburg, Utrecht.  This is also a choice.  It didn’t just happen.

Some American cities are quite compact.  Others aren’t.  It’s mostly about available space.  That’s why Detroit sprawls while Pittsburgh mostly doesn’t.  Most of Europe doesn’t have the luxury of carving up virgin cornfields, so they look at land use a little differently than we do.   When land is scarce,  allocating it to automobiles make no sense.

That’s the crux of the matter right there.  The reason most of our cities are not as compact as European cities is because we’ve chosen to build them around automobiles and they’ve chosen differently.  The results of this choice are stark.   Their cities are mostly thriving.  Ours are mostly dying.  We could fix this.  Maybe we should.   You already know this.  You wouldn’t have made it this deep into the post if you didn’t mostly agree.  The people we need to reach are not here.   They’re our friends and neighbors who think that biking is a peculiar hobby and nothing more when in fact it is the answer to what ails us.  Please share this with them.  Help them understand that they hold the power to make their very own cities and towns more livable.  We can’t do it alone.  We need their help.  There is no other way.

Thank you.


Stephanie · July 7, 2017 at 6:01 pm

Precedent does not preclude possibility or principle. Bicycle commuting is simply an awesome way to start the day. Today was my first bicycle commute using the Cuyahoga Valley National Park towpath to work. I was alone on the path save one retired walker. We simply need to encourage bicycling. Few employers have adequate bike racks, trees, posts that can be used to safely secure your bicycle at work without irritating building managers and the like. Bike lanes, courteous drivers are in short supply as well. As a side note, it was interesting to note the lack of helmets. I guess I will hear about this but I seem to be a European living in America. Nothing wrong with that, Ohio has no helmet law.

    pedalfree531291823 · July 7, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Awesome Stephanie! Welcome to bicycle commuting. The Cuyahoga Valley NP Towpath sounds awesome! No helmet? No problem. I run a judgement free blog.

Leave a Reply

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