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.”
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.