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Cycling is more important than electric cars for reaching net-zero cities (theconversation.com)
559 points by dfgdghdf 11 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 753 comments





Switching to electric cars from ICE cars is continuing to do the wrong thing and make the wrong choices, but doing this wrong thing a bit better.

It's still the same status quo, woefully terrible and unsustainable transportation model.

Automobile oriented transportation doesn't scale, is a huge waste of resources, and perpetuates unsustainable, ultra expensive and resource intensive sprawling urban development patterns.

In contrast more compact cities with bike lanes take CO2 intensive cars off the road, and less cars means less parking, which enables cheaper buildings with less CO2 intensive concrete parking lots. Wins all around.

It's frustrating to see so called environmentalist politicians that go all in with big electric car mandates but can barely put any money toward active transportation and rebuilding our cities to be more space efficient and accordingly use less carbon.

Remarkably former British Columbia Green Leader Andrew Weaver even got on twitter recently to oppose a Victoria area protected bike lane and got into all sorts of arguments with cyclists. Incredible to see an environmental leader do this.


In my experience, most people really do not understand how fundamentally unsuited cars are to solving urban (or dense suburban) transportation problems. Without really staring at the underlying geometry, it is hard for laypeople to understand that automobile-centric development patterns are by-and-large incapable of producing the kind of human-scale, dense, walkable areas that are (1) instinctively pleasing to be in, (2) generators of economic value, and (3) much more environmentally sustainable than the alternative.

All this being said, I find it hard to fault 'environmentalist' politicians for their embrace of the electric car: politics is "the art of the possible", and the conventional wisdom, at least in the States, does not yet recognize automobile-centrism as a key problem. There are a lot of entrenched interests in favor of the status quo - not just the traditional car lobby (auto manufacturers, suburban developers, oil companies), but the ~half of Americans who live in suburbs, hence having their lifestyle and wealth reliant on cars remaining a dominant form of transportation. If the choice is between gas cars and electric cars (as, for a mainstream politician it basically seems to be), I am at least happy we are moving towards the latter, even though neither are the right answer.

Shameless plug: I recently attempted to visually explain the first issue (why geometry makes cars unsuited to dense transportation) on my nascent blog: https://digital-cygnet.medium.com/a-quick-visual-illustratio...


How many people want to live in dense cities without any means of escape? It sounds miserable to me.

But I live in a really small city (< 250k) and drive maybe 3-5k miles a year (mostly to our cabin in a neighboring state) and bike a LOT. It's kind of ironic I am pretty far from your utopian dense dream yet largely living it.


It sounds like you bike for most of your transportation in your city? That's what "anti-car" people (speaking as one myself) want: to emphasize infrastructure that enables and encourages that. The "anti-car" thing isn't "ban cars entirely in all cases", just "stop assuming everything needs to be car-first at the expense of every other modality".

Yea my point is that if you want to be less car centric, maybe try moving out of the big city. It's ironically easier to obtain that lifestyle in a small city in America than the "walkable urban utopias" everyone seems to desire on HN.

Super obvious response, but it depends on the city. Smaller denser European cities that were not designed, but evolved over hundreds of years from earlier settlements, don't handle car traffic very well and are better suited to walking and cycling (or battery operated scooters). But even larger cities over here work well for walking and cycling because you tend to find lots of bars, restaurants, convenience stores and shopping malls all over them. In my home town, you can't walk a mile without passing a dozen bars, a dozen restaurants and two decent grocery stores.

But it's not just down to city size. Take a city like Provo in Utah. It's not large by any standard, but it's completely designed for cars. It has awful public transport, a grid 'motorway' system cris-crossing it, everything-as-a-drive-thru, lots of unused space, lots of parking lots... If you try walking around it, you'll just spend hours walking past nothing in particular to get to nowhere special.


It seems that everything is way too far apart because it's all separated by huge sprawling parking lots that are mostly empty. 50-70% of the acreage is devoted to cars not even counting the ultra-wide roads and only occasional pedestrian crossings every half mile. These roads usually have speed limits well above 45 mph. The worst examples I can think of are Scottsdale AZ and Irvine CA.

It isn't surprising that so many cars are on the road when just to cross the street you need to walk a quarter mile on average. Then you have to cross the death trap parking lots with zero shade and 120 degree black top.


Here in Europe it's often the opposite. E.g. in Austrian cities you have decent bicycle infrastructure and everything in reach in the cities while in rural areas that's often not the case.

I've been in the US once, 13 years ago, and it was pretty shocking for me to experience the concept of "car centric" in its full glory for the first time. I was at CES in Las Vegas and went to some club one evening with a friend. At some point I left and wanted to walk to the Hotel alone in order to calm down and enjoy the nice climate. Turned out, there was simply no walkable connection between the 2 locations. I couldn't believe it, but - being stubborn - walked anyway, in the dirt along some highway, a bit scared of being picked up by the police, not even sure if walking there was even legal.

Later that week I moved to LA and first saw the endless suburbs of an American city, from the air.

I don't know how representative those 2 places are for the US, but having seen that, I can totally understand why many Americans have a very hard time imagining life without a car.


Mostly only out of American big cities (at least in the developed world), the point is to fix that. A lot of big cities in Europe and East Asia do fine without being car-centric.

A lot of places depend on cars / 2-wheelers beyond American big cities. Based on my first hand experience - big cities in India and Brazil.

You're right, in my zeal I overstated a bit. But among the richest/most developed nations there are the US & a few similar countries (Canada, Australia, New Zealand) where a lot of people drive cars and on the other hand western europe and the reach east asian countries (Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore) where mass transit (and in Europe sometimes also bicycles) is the main form of transportation in the large cities.

I'm not sure I fully follow "I am pretty far from your utopian dense dream yet largely living it", but I think there are two potential points of disagreement:

1) Living in dense cities is not for everybody, but given that large and (at least pre-covid) growing majority of people in the developed world do choose to live in cities, I think it's safe to say that there is a very sizable demand. For an example of the benefits of density, see [0].

2) I'm not sure exactly what you mean by a "means of escape", but getting rid of cars of course necessitates replacing them with other modalities. If you want to go skiing does it matter to you whether you take a train or a car? Or, for further afield trips, take a train to a car rental far from the city center? (If you mean escape in a literal sense, like "evacuate in the face of a disaster", then cars are clearly not fit for purpose -- if roads can barely handle rush hour traffic, mass evacuation is a recipe for gridlock)

[0] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-01/how-densi...


The pre-covid world is kinda over. Density has very clear downsides that have never been more apparent. I don't know how often you do the train + car rental thing, but the friction is much, much higher than driving (especially if you have any sort of gear like you would for skiing). Not everyone wants to be so contricted both in freedom of movement and in living space.

Blaming disease spread on density is kind of a cop out after how we saw the world respond to crisis. Singapore, Taipei, Hong Kong, and most Chinese cities are super dense places that, for most of 2020, I would have preferred to be living in compared to the US.

The success of these cities is due to political action that is unpalatable to most in the west. Hong Kong in particular demonstrates what happens when even vestigial western ideals and the necessary political structures for this sort of action mix.

You can look at San Francisco which did better than most places in the US. It was actually funny to watch tech bro's flee the city for places where the pandemic ultimately hit far worse.

The friction of owning a car is much, much higher than having to care a few times a year on how to carry your skis or sporting gear on a train and renting a car afterwards.

Personal anecdote: I was born, grew up and lived up to my mid-20s in São Paulo, Brazil. It's a city where a car is a basic necessity, much like in the US, public transportation sucks and is spotty, never on time. I owned cars, I loved the frictionless way to get out, getting the elevator out of my apartment, down to the underground garage, turning my car on and driving away, easy. But that car sat idle 98% of the time, I paid road taxes, maintenance, parking spot, etc. for the convenience of having a car ready to go at an instant time.

Nowadays I live in Sweden, I never need a car apart from moving houses or carrying some large furniture. A few times for a road trip here and there, I can just rent a car when needed and I come out on top of expenses still, the peace of mind of not having to take care of a car is another huge bonus.

The pre-COVID world will still exist, cities are a necessity if you want to have good public services, without higher density a city has no way to fund high quality public services.

I would like to know what clear downsides, apart from disease spread, has COVID showed from living in high density cities? And I mean cities like Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, and so on.


I actually find renting a car offers me significantly less peace of mind, because while I don't care if my own car gets dinged, the rental agencies do. In my experience a weekend car rental costs about 3+ months of upkeep, so for me car ownership is an easy financial decision, even though I mostly walk and bike. I might have a different calculus If I had to pay for a parking spot, but this, along with other premiums for space, I feel is more accurately a cost of high-density living, not car ownership itself.

Some aspects of the pre-COVID world may make a comeback, but hopefully as a society we have realized the omnipresent threat of new diseases is very real. This will impact high-highdensity areas more than low-density areas. It is not just disease spread, but also the policies enacted to limit the spread. My friends in NYC tell me that exorbitant rents for tiny apartments they were forbidden to leave was not particularly enjoyable. Paris seems like an exceptionally bad place to be in 2020/21. Public services are nice when you have access to them and not-so-nice when you are dependent on them and they fail. Often access to services is limited based on economic factors in the best of times, much less in times of stress.


It really depends on where you live and what kind of car you own. My car is very low friction. I can just walk out my front door and drive my car wherever I want to go. Fuel, maintenance, and insurance are all pretty cheap.

By contrast renting is extremely high friction. Even if I reserve a specific type of vehicle in advance that doesn't guarantee that it will actually be available when I show up.


> The pre-covid world is kinda over

I really doubt this is the case. In fact people are placing large bets of the opposite. Just saw in the news that some texas developer is planning a new 23 story commercial building in Vancouver's downtown.

Cities have been the norm since humans started living together. They been been a success despite many, many pandemics. They are not going away.


The US isn't gonna change much. Don't know about elsewhere.

I was in a supermarket last Friday afternoon, in Michigan, and it was "I don't want to be here" busy for normal times, never mind during a pandemic. There were people with no masks and people going through the motions of having a mask and so on. People are moving on before they should! Another couple of months is likely all it will be.


People aren’t always choosing cities, there are greater work opportunities in cities and so that is where people have to go. This was true of factory work in the past when people migrated in droves from farms to work in factories because that was their only option and moving to work in cities for office jobs has just been the latest form of this.

Many people (although not all) would choose space in the countryside over dense in the city if they had a choice. I imagine this becomes even more likely as people have families and begin to prioritise other life aspects over and above work.


I live in Berlin with 2 little kids and have no car. We bike and take transit (including long-range trains when going out of the city). There's plenty opportunity to escape (corona lockdowns notwithstanding).

I’ve never owned a car. But somehow I’ve traveled all over my country and the world. And Australia isn’t small. It’s crazy, I know.

Did you rent one? Are you young and healthy enough to walk/bike everyone? If yes, then your assumption about the world is indeed crazy since not everyone would have the same abilities as you.

What do you mean “no means of escape?”

There are trains, buses, taxis, bikes, rental cars etc.

To me owning a car seems much more miserable!


Cars offer a level of freedom far beyond that of public transport.

That doesn’t mean they are the best vehicle to offer that freedom and electric vehicles will definitely be an improvement over ICE vehicles but in my experience as soon as you’re outside of major metropolitan cities public transport options fall apart and are often incredibly inconvenient compared to owning a car.

Maybe the solution would be to build better public transport systems outside of major cities but to do that requires funding and local governments (in the UK at least) seem to be chronically underfunded so I doubt that it will become a reality anytime soon.


In my experience, currently public transport works really well for high density routes, but no one has managed to solve the low density route issue. Take a bus going towards a leaf node at 10 pm on a week day, and you're often the only one in a huge bus with the driver (that's of course if you're in a place where such a bus exists). Environmentally and economically, that's dreadful, worse than a car. I don't think public transports running at 5% capacity is the solution.

The solution might be full self-driving cars, but we're far from it yet.


Ha, I totally agree with this. I have seen so many of those big empty buses with just 1 or 2 people in them. Perhaps self-driving cars and autonomous vehicles will be the solution to this.

>"To me owning a car seems much more miserable!"

Well you are free not to own it. Nobody's forcing you.

Actually my main mean of transportation in Toronto is bicycle myself (well I work from home for the last 20 years anyways).

I also own car (van actually) and it gives me great and hassle free degree of freedom. If I am in a mood and I often am I can jump in and in few hours be in complete wilderness swimming in some godforsaken lake. Or if I need to grab some heavy stuff and bring it somewhere which happens rather often. And I do not need to arrange / wait for anything. Just get in and go.

So no. Screw that dense car free living. To each their own.


Yes and you can say that a helicopter would offer you even more freedom, but does that mean we should build our cities so that everyone has there own helipad?

Ironically it probably would take up less space than the infrastructure build for cars.

But this is the point made by the OP, essentially for the convenience to jump into your car a couple of times a year and drive to the wilderness without having to walk or take a means of public transport, you require cities to be build around those cars. The issue is you don't directly see the cost associated with it, because you're used to it. The thing is, if you actually had to pay for that convenience (because if we would not have to build the car infrastructure cities could be much cheaper) directly there clearly would be a point where you would say it is not worth it.


Yes, too many people can't bear making anything they sense to be a sacrifice on their part. The solution is definitely to shift the car ownership economic burden more towards car owners instead of everyone. Giant empty parking lots and huge roads are an insane cost with a terrible maintenance story.

I like to think of it as moving away from a datacenter to cloud based solutions. You don't need to buy all that capacity ahead of time anymore just for those short bursts.


>"Yes, too many people can't bear making anything they sense to be a sacrifice on their part."

Sorry but I do not live to make sacrifices for the "benefit of everyone". I already left one country because of that. It was called USSR. And the first thing I did as soon as I could - got myself a car and traveled all over the places on my own.

My small software development company does not use cloud either. Self host and rented dedicated servers. Orders of magnitude cheaper that that cloud. I prefer to feed myself rather then keep filling pockets of FAANG and the likes.


But you are expecting everyone to make sacrifices for your benefit, because non-car drivers are significantly subsidising car drivers. Lets make car cost exactly what they should be then, things like lets make real-estate used for roads in cities go into rental costs for those roads (via taxes, road tolls etc.), lets price the environmental costs appropriately, including the health cost from noise etc. If you still want to pay for your car then, go ahead, but don't expect others to subsidise your living.

How can it be 'complete wilderness' if reachable by car? Isn't there some sort of infrastructure necessary in order to reach it by car which ultimately destroys nature?

Gravel / dirt road and then take canoe to some secluded spot. No one is around which to me is enough to call it "complete wilderness", does not need to be Ellesmere Island. No visible "destruction of nature" either.

Car centric infrastructure forces people to own cars.

And I don't know a ton of people that "buy" cars they can afford, they buy car payments they can afford. I just can't help but feel that breaking that cycle would be a societal good ( for people, sorry automakers).

And I buy used vans. Whet you know might not reflect generic situation.

>"Car centric infrastructure forces people to own cars."

Where? I live in Toronto and I certainly do not feel that I am forced to have a car.


Toronto where the previous mayor removed bike lanes, was caught reading a book whilst driving, and called cyclists "a pain in the ass"? That Toronto?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17914504

Yeah, that sounds a welcoming place.


I do not give a shit what our previous world famous lunatic said. I just state my personal experience and I ride my bike everywhere nearly every day.

Everywhere where daily amenities are too spread out and the streets are too dangerous for children and old people to cycle on them. That's most of the developed world outside of some very large cities.

And because I do not feel forced it deserves downvote. Fucking thought police.

I would definitely agree with you about the merits of smaller cities, but half the value of density is that "escape" is easier. Driving for a solid hour through nothing but housing estates is not my idea of freedom.

It does depend on your idea of "escape" though. Good trains to beauty spots make a world of difference.


The no means of escape from NYC was what I could never handle (so got a bike, motorcycle, car and eventually just moved out) but there are many people who grew up in big cities for whom the endless concrete blocks is just the normal environment, though I think its kind of sad.

> How many people want to live in dense cities without any means of escape? It sounds miserable to me.

Some 30m people in Tokyo seem to be doing fine.


Doesn’t mean they actually want to be there though.

Nice blog post. It really does come down to just how big cars are and how much space they take up. A car in motion takes up a ridiculous amount of space factoring in stopping distance.

The coming sea change in electrifying transportation will include roads just as much as cars. Right now we are just barely off the bottom of the 'S' curve of transitioning from ICE to electric. But in about fifteen years we'll be near the middle of that curve and that's when we'll realize roads could be much better if the ICE cars where banned. With only electric vehicles the air will cease to be continually poisoned by emissions and then roads and streets will start to move indoors. Covered roads will become practical with electric only vehicles and the majority of those e-vehicles will be a lot smaller than the current average ICE car because electric technologies make smaller vehicles much more practical. The current boom in e-bikes is just the beginning of a major trend to electric smaller vehicles.

A lot more quickly than you expect ICE vehicles will be restricted to the highways and periphery of towns and cities because they'll be too big, heavy and poisonous. In a word they'll become unsafe for urban transport and our cities will become much more healthy and livable.


The trend has already started. E.g. in Germany, some cities prohibit older Diesel engines within city limits.

This has lead especially commuters of low-wage jobs quickly being forced to buy a new, more environmentally-friendly car (and their Diesel car just lost a lot of value in the market), so they have no option other than switch to gasoline engines - which are usually OLDER cars than they used to be with WORSE pollution statistics.

Buying a new car is not affordable to them. Public transportation is a lot better than in the US, but still will not solve the issue completely, and where it is a viable alternative, it's expensive both in time consumption and in money spent.

With a new law that was meant to lower pollution (and the jury is still out on if the goal was achieved, as during the corona crisis, pollution sank overall), we've created worse conditions for the underclass and lower middle class.

This is how you destroy support for ecological policymaking. If you want a better world for yourself and your children, you cannot achieve it by making it worse for others and the present.


The change won’t be for free (even though it probably in the end will save us all a lot of money), and unfortunately, everything that cost money will hit the poor hardest. But that is a problem that is solved with progressive taxes and redistribution, not something that should stop us from saving the environment.

The change won't be for free. But rather than lower the usefulness of cars, make sure new cars have better fuel economies (which directly translates to lower pollution). Within 10-15 years, clunkers get replaced anyways, so a general policy of "by 2027, all newly-registered cars must have a maximum amount of X litres per 100 kilometres" or a ban of Diesel engines outside of speciality markets (military, agriculture, trucks) would hurt virtually no-one (but inefficient car makers, who should improve).

If you hit the poorest, you won't get a ecological paradise, you'll eventually get the next iteration of an autocratic dictatorship (either left-wing or right-wing) - now with the extra support of the industry. No-one needs that.


You clearly don't understand the urgency of the matter. Maybe if you wrote "by 2027, all newly registered cars must have a maximum amount of 0 litres per 100 km". Cars, of all sorts, is fundamentally unsustainable in urban areas. They take too much space, they forces spread, they are too loud, they use too much energy and they polute too much (that includes electric cars). So we have to lower the usefulness of cars to make our cities more useful for the people that live and work in them.

(Electric cars might be the best alternative in rural and even some suburban areas. But they don't belong in a city.)

The reason diesel engines have been prohibited in certain city centers is because they have been shown particulary bad for people's health [0]. That is usually also something that hits the poorest people hardest. Rich people choose to live somewhere else.

Your last paragraph is just non sequitur. If you want to, you can try to explain why you think that would be the case.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/15/diesel-e...


>In my experience, most people really do not understand how fundamentally unsuited cars are to solving urban (or dense suburban) transportation problems.

In my experience, most people who are against cars really do not understand how fucking awesome it is to drive a car and how well it works in terms of getting me from A to B in the minimum time with the minimum fuss with plenty of space for my shopping. Nothing else comes close unless you are only going around an uber dense area in rush hour.

Yes, there are issues with cars. I will still rather be stuck in traffic, sitting in my own comfortable indoor seat than riding a bike to work or taking the bus with no guarantee of a seat, nor enough space to sit even if I get it. A little planning and I am at work before rush hour and it isn't even an issue.

If I was to take public transportation it would need to not take twice the time (I measured it from the time I was outside my building to the time I was inside at work), it would need to be far more comfortable and I would need to be certain that there wouldn't be trouble in the bus.

But most of all? I would need to be certain that the people who made the changes were previously happy drivers and are now happy public commuters.

I did just buy a nice bike for the exercise and the ease of parking, but it only makes sense for short journeys to dense places where parking is the major issue.


The key driver of our apparent disagreement is likely the definition of "urban (or dense suburban)" in my post. There are plenty of places and use cases for which cars are magical things, whisking you from place to place with no effort and a minimum of cost. However, the important things to understand are:

1) Many countries effectively subsidize cars over public transit in ways that are non obvious (not charging for externalities, minimum parking requirements, huge comparative investment in automotive public works), so your accounting of the costs you see (insurance, gas, depreciation) will likely underestimate the true societal cost.

2) The problem that cars seem to solve (getting around a sparse world) is also _the problem that cars cause_ (sparsification). If you have to drive three miles to get to the grocery store, you could think "thanks cars for making this drive easy", or "boo cars for making this drive necessary". In the city I live in there are 3 grocery stores within a 10 minute walk of my apartment.

3) Some people truly do prefer the spread out, population-sparse lifestyle enabled by cars. But some other people truly prefer the dense, walkable urban lifestyle that, as I have mentioned, cars seriously disrupt. The damage comes when people in one group try to force the other to adapt to rules that make sense in their preferred environment (e.g., if Urbanite A wants to ban cars while Ruralite B wants to put highways through the urban center so she can get to work via car). I tend to side with the Urbanites on this issue at present, because it doesnt take much to see who has the upper hand in American cities right now. (viz: Rober Mosesization of most major American metros in the 60s-80s)


The issue boils down to roads and parking more than cars. Trees need sunlight, but cars don’t so roads work just fine segregated below street level away from pedestrians and inclement weather. It sounds expensive, but work out how expensive NYC’s above ground road network costs both in terms of land value and ongoing property taxes and you see just how pricy cheap roads end up.

Go 3D to segregate N/S traffic from E/W traffic thereby eliminating traffic lights and things really pick up. Of course it’s much easier to blame cars, but counties only have so many people you can actually build enough infrastructure to solve the root issues.


lol ok elon


Love the explanation. But what about adding some underground parking?

It's a fix but a costly one. An underground car spot costs in the tens of thousands and so this ends up boosting the price of housing in addition to making construction more complex and time consuming.

As well there's the environmental impact. Concrete creates a lot of CO2 and we actually need to use less of it going forward.


Issue is, cars are incredibly convenient.

Need to get somewhere in the suburbs? Carry large items? Go in the nature for the weekend? Any route that's not been anticipated by the central-public-transport-planning-committee is probably way better done with a car latency-wise.

Above a certain income threshold, it'll be really hard to convince people to ditch their car completely. You might get away with reducing car footprint from one per adult to one per household. Any dense development should have some sort of underground parking planned for it. Then it makes it much easier to get rid of on-street parking and convert the space into safe cycling infrastructure.


It's no real argument that cars will always win the day on the edge cases, though the real question is whether we should be designing our cities to accomodate the edge cases for the majority cases. The majority of transportation uses are much more mundane and can be well served by active transportation and public transportation.

For example creating a bus route to the base of the mountain so that hikers and snowshoers can access the wilderness is a big win for the public at large, but nonetheless there will always be a group of enthusiasts that want go on a further flung mountain hike, and they'll need to use a car to get there. Doesn't mean it wasn't a good idea to create the infrastructure that accommodates the bigger group.

Building big expensive concrete car lots, assuming everyone has a car, is an example of building for the edge case. In Vancouver, a city that has done not a bad job of building protected bike lanes, there's data out now to support that the parking lots that it has mandated in new apartment buildings are in fact overbuilt, under utilized and part vacant!


> whether we should be designing our cities to accomodate the edge cases for the majority cases.

Edge cases will always need to be accommodated. That's one of the foundation of engineering and good design.

> In Vancouver, a city that has done not a bad job of building protected bike lanes, there's data out now to support that the parking lots that it has mandated in new apartment buildings are in fact overbuilt, under utilized and part vacant!

In a city that's famous for having real estate sold for investment purposes and not actually occupied? Shocking!


If they started to charge the same for parking and street space as for any other property in places like NYC, the problem would disappear rapidly.

Is parking possible on both sides of each apartment block (re: your blog post)?

Thanks for the comment -- yes it is, but all sides also have more apartment buildings on them so it doesnt change the analysis. I probably could have explained that better in the post

Most humans enjoy being comfortable. Costs (financial and ecological) ignored, it's safe to say that a large portion of the population would choose to proceed quickly from point A to B in the comfort of a private enclosed vehicle.

Obviously this desire needs to be balanced with environmental protection, practicality and accommodation of those who legitimately want to cycle or walk. There are a few technologies coming down the pipeline that should help achieve a compromise between all of these:

-mass electrification of vehicles

-pervasive small-diameter tunneling: The jury's still out on whether this can be done cheaply enough, but if this works out, it completely solves the urban scaling problem. Passenger vehicular traffic in cities can be pushed down into the ground, freeing up existing space for cyclists and pedestrians. Parallel tunnels can be trivially added when specific routes require additional capacity.

-self-driving vehicles: Self-driving taxi services would reduce the demand for personal ownership of vehicles, thereby reducing the total ecological burden.

I'm in complete agreement with you that automobile-oriented transportation, as implemented today, is completely awful. That doesn't mean we should reject the human element, and force people to do things they don't want to, when technological progress can allow us to satisfy those wants responsibly.


People are only comfortable in cars because they've learned to be. Before I owned a car and cycled every day I didn't once think it was uncomfortable and that I'd rather be in a car. My body was used to it.

I can offer a contrary anecdote. I grew up in a Canadian city, but my family never had a car. I spent my entire childhood bussing everywhere. It sucked. It really fucking sucked and I hated it the entire time. Most journeys across the city required waiting for transfers in temperatures ranging from -30C to +30C. Any kind of irregular or lengthy trip was always an exercise in planning and frustration when scheduled busses arrived early/late or never showed up.

I can safely say that I genuinely didn't enjoy public transit. I wasn't "tricked" or "fooled" or "indoctrinated" by western society into envying the "holy automobile". The mere fact that you used the phrase "My body was used to it" indicates an implicit aspect of unpleasantness that one needs to trick themselves into accepting.

As an adult, I am now fortunate enough to own a vehicle, and the comfort, convenience and empowerment of owning a car is almost incomparably higher to public transit or cycling.

It seems like you are either 1) rejecting the possibility that technological innovation will allow for responsible and scalable use of automobiles and/or 2) rejecting human comfort as a valid argument for doing anything

We should be putting resources into public transit and cycling infrastructure for all the individuals like yourself who want (or need) to commute in that manner. And as long as we can do so responsibly (which I totally see humanity being able to do in the medium-term future), there's no reason not to also appease people who enjoy traveling comfortably.


I had a choice when I was 16 years old. I could take a 45 minute bus ride to and from school every day for free; or I could get a job, purchase my own vehicle, pay for my own gasoline and insurance, and drive to school in 15 minutes. I did the second option and never regretted it.

I hate buses too. I had a 12 mile journey to get to school when I was 15. I rode to school on my bike as soon as I realised it was possible. Buses are the absolute worst for me so it's no surprise a car would be considered more comfortable.

Are you sure you didn't also learn to be comfortable in a car? You had to learn to drive, right? And didn't all that bussing condition you to find it comfortable in a cramped metal box that moves? I like driving but hate commuting in heavy traffic. I'm pretty sure most people do. Have they been "tricked" into accepting that?


>"Are you sure you didn't also learn to be comfortable in a car?"

Yes, I'm pretty sure that I didn't have to learn to be comfortable in an environment that I immediately found comfortable.

>"You had to learn to drive, right?"

I must have forgotten the part where I was indoctrinated into praising the wonders of the holy automobile.

>"And didn't all that bussing condition you to find it comfortable in a cramped metal box that moves?"

No? What part of my anecdote made you think that I ever became comfortable with bussing? Are you really suggesting that a hard-shell non-adjustable bus seat (if one is lucky enough to not be standing), with strangers squished up again you, is comparable to what one gets in most automobiles?

>"I like driving but hate commuting in heavy traffic. I'm pretty sure most people do"

Moving the goalposts eh?

Still waiting for a direct response to my previous comment, but I don't really expect to get one. "It seems like you are either 1) rejecting the possibility that technological innovation will allow for responsible and scalable use of automobiles and/or 2) rejecting human comfort as a valid argument for doing anything"


Oh man, in high school the public transit in Ottawa was hell in the winter. Waiting 20-30 minutes in -25C with a -40C windchill during the morning rush hour on the transit way makes one really appreciate a good winter coat.

No.

Cycling is fine until its too cold, too wet, too hot, and oh I am late or I need to carry something else or .. or... or..

seriously all these articles act as if it is a viable solution day in and day out and its far from one.

people like cars, buses, and other enclosed transport, all for the same reason. because it can make the weather irrelevant to the trip


> Cycling is fine until its too cold, too wet, too hot, and oh I am late or I need to carry something else or .. or... or..

Welcome to life, it's hard, and this will hardly be the worst thing you'll face. I bike year round in Berlin, all you need is a rain coat and waterproof shoes, I'm faster than cars on any trip <5km. I still cringe every time I bike next to a 1km+ traffic jam (ie. every single day) and see that every car is occupied by a single person. Moving 2 tons of metal for a 70kg meatbag will always be the least efficient way. Just stop a minute and think about it, the whole street if completely packed, hundreds of square meters used, for what, maybe 300 persons in their expensive wheeled boxes... and then you have the space used by parking spots.

People in the past, and a lot of people today, still live perfectly fine without cars. We fucked up by designing all of our activities around them and now we're slave to them, it doesn't have to stay like that.

Convenience will kill us all if that's all we care about and don't take into account the non monetary price of it


I think there are a few convenience sacrifices you're neglecting. Not everybody has the luxury of living in such a mild climate as Berlin. In north Texas for a quarter of the year anybody will be a sweaty mess in a few minutes after stepping outside. Berlin has average of freezing temperatures in the winter months. That's not suitable for biking in a raincoat. You're fortunate that your job/school is a brief bike ride away. How does your choice in employment/school change when your spouse needs to commute 30 minutes in the opposite direction. What about children working or attending college? What about multigenerational households? Each person in the home that needs to commute somewhere constrains what they can do, where your family can live or both. Should everybody just waste more of their day with less flexible modes of transportation?

> when your spouse needs to commute 30 minutes in the opposite direction.

They wouldn't need to if we didn't design cities around roads instead of designing them around people.

Cars pushed people away from their working place, we commute as much as in the paste but we travel much greater distance and now we're trapped. It was a curse in disguise, and I'm not even talking about the financial stress owning a car ads to most people's budget


Some of my fondest memories are of when the weather was "too" something. Some of them make great stories. But I'm sure you enjoy recounting your tales about how comfortable it was in your little box. I prefer to live and experience the world.

I lived day in day out with a bicycle for years. Do you not believe me? Even now, I have a car, but I don't use it every day and I cycle if it's close enough regardless of the weather.

As for needing to carry something, you make other plans. You're on hacker news, I'm sure you're smart enough to figure it out. And being late? What? Are you advocating speeding?


What is this? You claim that people are only comfortable in cars because they've learned to be, and then someone responds providing all of the ways that cars are actually more comfortable and your response is "being uncomfortable makes for a great story"?

I mean, sure, you make some good points, but they have nothing to do with the completely valid statement you are responding to. If you're going to completely sidestep their comment, just man up and admit you were wrong before you move on to other arguments supporting your position.


First of all, there's a difference between being less comfortable and uncomfortable. I said I was never uncomfortable on my bike, I didn't say it was equally as comfortable as every other state of being.

When I used to ride in cars as a child it was incredibly uncomfortable because I got car sickness. When I started to learn to drive it was uncomfortable again because of all these weird controls and the stress. I'm sure many of us would find it uncomfortable merely to be inside a car had we not grown up with them from a very young age. I, and everyone else, learnt to find cars comfortable just as I learnt to find bikes comfortable.


I mean you're not wrong but you're not refuting that bike's are less comfortable, just that our lives would be better off with a little less comfort. I agree with you, but I don't think most people would.

I'm not trying to. My point is that there is no absolute scale of comfort. We are comfortable with what we are used to. That's why one person's comfort zone is different to another's. When I started to drive seriously it was way less comfortable than cycling for me. Manoeuvring a four-wheeled vehicle around is considerably more difficult. Acceleration is pitiful and you can't stop easily. You have to actually queue behind other cars in heavy traffic! Trapped in the little box in which you must remain, even if walking is now quicker. And just look at how angry it makes people. I've seen people literally go mad stuck in traffic. They're all on edge and the slightest mistake or unexpected behaviour can turn them into a frenzy. And this is meant to be the pinnacle of comfort! Because I don't get wet when there's a little rain?!

I’ve commuted by bicycle all year round in Umeå in northern Sweden (as well as Stockholm and Ann-Arbor MI). When you are used to it you don’t even think about it. You need good clothes to pull over when it’s raining or cold, but those cost less than most people pay in car insurance for a month or two.

And I’m far from alone. For a lot of people it is the solution, day in and day out, and it has been for many years.


Those times usually not that big of a deal anyway. Too cold you can dress up against, to warm could be a thing depending on where you are, if you're late then a bike is probably the fastest mode of transport through a busy city anyway, carrying things is definitely possible.

And these situations aren't common anyway, and I say that living somewhere where so many people bike everywhere all the time that finding parking can be an issue (though is still much easier than finding parking for a large steel box on wheels.)


Taxis, small delivery vehicles, utility cars, cars and trucks for countryside use, and various trucks for city and highway use can all be electric, with all the benefits of EVs.

If you want public transit be more popular, build denser cities. E.g. on Manhattan using the subway is a no-brainer, and you are rarely more than two (long) blocks from a subway station. In some more remote parts of Brooklyn, you often cannot reach the destination by subway alone, and you have to take a bus. Even further away, traveling by a bus either becomes too slow, or the bus does not come close enough, and a car is inevitable. I suppose there is no way to make public transit economical or time-efficient in agglomerations like Houston, even though LA manages a bus network somehow.

Cycling such distances us also problematic: you either have to be pretty fit and take a shower when you arrive, or you have to have all the time in the world. Cycling within a dense city is pretty practical, though.


There's a chicken-egg problem at play, though. We can't build denser cities because we need to build 4-lane roads and parking; we can't get rid of these roads and parking because people need cars because the city isn't dense enough yet. It's certainly solvable on the many-decade timescale by smart, consistent city and state governments, but it's going to be a gradual slog of incrementalism (e.g., see all the changes NYC has made to shift from car centrism since the 90s - gradually adding bike lanes, closing Times Square to traffic, closing 14th street to private cars, congestion pricing for taxis,...)

The distance problem with cycling is solvable (though it pains me a bit to say this as a recreational cyclist) by electric bikes and other micromobility solutions (e.g. Citroen Ami). The streets of NYC are chock full of delivery drivers and others zipping along at 25mph on cheap, quiet electric bikes with ranges of many dozens of miles. Once we have a better regulatory regime for these (so people aren't blowing so many lights and hitting so many pedestrians), I could see them being a viable alternative to cars for many-mile use cases, at least during dry/temperate weather.


Indeed, two-wheeled electric transport is pretty great! It's a mix of EVs and bicycles proper.

These devices still need parking, even if they are as compact as a scooter or a bicycle (not like a motorcycle). Keeping them in an apartment is a bit uncomfortable, too, especially in a walk-in on 4th floor, since they are not exactly lightweight.

Electric skateboards are much more compact, but take more skill, and have a shorter range.

All this is totally solvable, but the problems first needs to be recognized.


"parking" is relative. we all have bike racks around somewhere; they work just fine.

Step 1: stop subsidizing car travel. Make automobile owners pay their way--to include negative externalities such as noise and pollution.

Just removing parking subsidies would be huge.

I lived in Vancouver, which is very transit friendly by NA standards.

In the residential Neighbourhood I lived in, most roads were 3-4 cars wide, and 2 of those widths were exclusively for parking private cars (parking lane, travel lane, possibly another travel lane, and another parking lane). The building I lived in had as much square footage for parking as it did for living.

Parking a car in was more or less marginally free(as in most North American cities). Using a city parking spot for anything else cost money, and was time limited. Renting a private parking spot was about $100/ month (due to building codes there was an oversupply of private parking in addition to the available street parking). Renting a bedroom the size of a parking spot was $500+/mo.

In other words, the city incentives were set up that a climate controlled parking spot for a car was significantly oversupplied, and cheaper, than a putting a human in the same space.


Problem is: automobile owners chose their houses with these subsidies already accounted for in their budget. Remove them and suddenly it's impossible for them to stay in their home.

Oh, and they can't move closer to the city center: removing the subsidies just made houses that are centrally located impossible to afford for them.


So, spread the change out over a number of years, say 15 or 20. Building public transport won't happen over night either. People can't expect their living situation to stay the same forever, societal change requires personal change too.

I agree, but I think Vancouver has a pretty good handle on its car/parking situation. That's Vancouver proper, not the suburbs. Most new buikdings that go up have their parking underground, and then drivers in the city are squeezed for the most part in terms of parking options and so on. The parking lots that are still around seem to be from older buildings, that then get replaced with higher density eventually. When I do drive, it's actually still pretty pleasent, because it's for necessarily driving dependant activities.

Even though there's quite a lot of electric cars, there is still a remarkable level of noise generated next to patios along main roads, so improving that would be nice, if we can assume that cars won't go away entirely.

Compare that to the prairies, Alberta, or even the island, and it's a world of difference in terms of surface level lots. Would be curious what your opinion is as (presumably) a bc resident.


I live in Vancouver proper and rarely drive. The city has done a pretty good job on the bike routes; I can get to nearly anywhere in Vancouver within a 30 minute bike ride from my home turf of Mount Pleasant. I think forcing parking lots under ground and limiting parking spaces has been great for the city! It is definitely a trend with new buildings to have limited parking options. My workplace office houses about 60 people but we only have 4-5 parking spots which incentivizes alternate transit modes. Having limited parking options means that many people at my work live local to the office and either bike or walk to get there, which I think is awesome!

Ultimately the city of Vancouver cannot grow out anymore therefore we need to grow up without increasing the amount of traffic on the roads. I think the key to limiting traffic on the roads is to build dense walkable communities connected by solid transit options.

Regarding solid transit options: I think the city desperately needs a broadway skytrain all the way to UBC and a skytrain line which goes from metrotown straight west down 49th avenue connecting with the canada line at oakridge and ultimately terminating at UBC.

Going east-west in the city kind of sucks right now and most of the crappy buses to ride on are east-west due to overcrowding.


Interesting point. I hadn't thought of a SkyTrain to Oakridge from Metrotown. Oakridge is apparently getting a massive redevelopment and that could increase demand, but is it currently busy enough? I guess with the development happening ta Metrotown as well, it would be good to just connect all major centres. I did used to live in Burnaby, and it sucked getting to the airport from there.

While I appreciate the contrarian view, it’s not either/or. Cars are a wonderful thing and facilitate independence and long distance travel. Electric cars are even more wonderful things. And Bikes are wonderful for active transport and but not a substitute for cars

It should be an either/or for travel within cities. I live in London and own a car, which I never use to travel around the city or at rush hour, only to leave on trips or for occasional movement of bulky items. The congestion charge (£10/day) and schemes such as local government closing off many residential streets to through traffic (which makes Islington wonderfully pleasant to walk/cycle around, it’s awesome!) help make this a no brainer, but I’d be happy for things to be taken much further with more restrictions and charges, as there are still far to many cars in London.

Cycling infrastructure still needs much more investment and we should be changing rules to massively encourage electric micromobility as well. The safety arguments against it are nonsensical when compared to the cars it replaces, and better provision on roads would make it even safer.


I never said it was an either/or situation here, but when governments put money toward things you can see where their priorities are.

Right now with continuing near zero investment in active transportation the government is saying that its pretty much going go with the near status quo, minor and easy to achieve solution. The amount of CO2 reductions that follow will reflect this lack of ambition.


it's sort of unclear to me why you think moving to electric vehicles and renewable power will reflect a "lack of ambition" in CO2 reduction.

In the Seattle area the existing train tracks are removed and turned into bike paths which transport about < 1% of the people the rail lines could have served.

Seattle also will dig a new transportation tunnel, and fill up another tunnel with the excavated dirt, so a lot of money is spent and capacity does not increase.


Exactly. Electric vehicles is a tactic that works within a strategy of fewer cars. A strategy more vehicles, even if electric, will eventually result in more total waste.

A strategy of fewer vehicles works, all the better with a tactic of converting to electric.

Want to lower emissions? One easy, cheap way is to convert car lanes to bike lanes or simply remove them. Lots of other government subsidies worth removing too, especially to fossil fuel extraction.


Cycling is not only good for the environment, but for cities in general.

During the last confinement, when car traffic completely stopped, I realised that cars are the single biggest reason why living in the city can be unpleasant. People may not realise it consciously, but when they move out of the city, what they are looking for is a place with not as much cars driving around.

Cars destroy cities by making a vicious circle of making it unpleasant to live there, therefore enticing people to move to the suburbs and commute by car, which make the problem worse.

Setting up biking infrastructure fixes this, because it reduces the room for cars used by commuters, while creating room for bicycles used by people living in the city.

With less cars, you can make the city center where people work liveable. You can have offices mixed with housing and have people live close to their work place, further diminishing the need for cars.

If you think that your city can't possibly be a good place to cycle because weather / hills / etc, you are probably mistaken. Electric bikes and the appropriate clothes make biking pleasant in most places. IF there are not too many cars and infrastructure for the bicycle of course, which is probably the thing you don't have


This is something I've been musing over recently as well: cars really are responsible for much of what is unpleasant about city life. When people gripe about cities, their complaints are often around:

   * Noise. From where I sit, the only noises that filter into my apartment from the city are occasional laughs or shouted conversations from bargoers, loud trucks grinding gears on the avenues, or honking of desperate commuters

   * Lack of space. Basically every city block in the USA is surrounded on all sides by areas where, if you walk into them without your wits about you, you could be smashed by a multi ton vehicle. When streets are closed for street fairs or the like, the "lack of space" complaint often drifts away - the whole city is your space again. 

   * Danger. See above. There is of course also higher crime in cities, which I cannot find a way to pin on cars.

   * Grime/poor air quality - pretty self explanatory
I'm hopeful that, with the pandemic increasing interest in the outdoors and making cities have to work harder for their tax base (because WFH means they can no longer rest on the "you have to live here to get a job" that they've been reliant on), city governments and voters will realize how much can be gained by dialing back on car investment.

Regarding crime. A huge factor in that is "eyes on the street." Car friendly streets massively reduce the eyes on the street for two reasons:

1. Cars travel fast and they obstruct the occupants' view in all kinds of directions. So the cars themselves don't really count as eyes on the street in the same way a pedestrian would.

2. Streets designed for cars are less pleasant to be in as a pedestrian or cyclist, so fewer people will be out on the street. You only walk on those streets if you absolutely have to be there.

Look at some YouTube videos of "open streets" in New York during covid.


Great points! I am working on a post about this and will incorporate this observation.

Also all the endless roads and parking lots which make the environment much less pleasant, and they exist because of cars.

It still boggles my mind that, with a 15% car ownership rate, how NYC not only still allows cars, but subsidizes them with absolutely free parking on city streets. The real estate price for a single parking spot in NYC must be astronomical.

If you go to any community board meeting, you'll hear old people rant for hours about how their cars are essential and bike are destroying the city. And for some reason, this is who politicians listen to.

Community board meetings in general are a problem that nobody has found a great solution to. Oddly enough, the pandemic has caused most of these to go virtual, which has nerfed a lot of the power of the highly motivated old people with too much time on their hands.

Honestly the easy solution is to ignore the CBs. Surveys show that the majority of people want more bus and bike lanes, so just build them and skip all of the "community input" aka "giving veto power to a small minority".

https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-bike-lane-survey-dat...


Wow, the blatant hypocrisy of this comment. Imagine some cause or topic in your local government that you're passionate about and someone saying, "hey, let's just do what we want because f*ck what the other side thinks".

If you don't like that a group of people have more perceived power than you in your local government then find a way to fix it ethically. Don't bypass local democracy just because you think it's easier to take a shortcut.


Hmm, I think the problem the person you replied to sees is that sentiment community board meetings are not as good at measuring what the "average citizen" wants as opinion polls. Why do CB meetings have the moral high ground?

Because they are part of a local democratic infrastructure that is actually pretty good by global standards in the US.

Pretty good at what? They're good at giving outsized power to a small number of wealthy white old people, but I don't think we want that.

This is well researched: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/neighborhood-defenders/...


> that is actually pretty good by global standards in the US

Citation needed.

From a European perspective, it is not my impression that the local democratic system is good in any US city.

But that could be my filter bubble, we only heard bad things because people shout the loudest about bad things.


What are the main problems you think of local government? I'm curious what the perception is in Europe. American cities aren't the pretty, walkable, public-transit oriented cities you have in Europe but that doesn't mean they're failures either.

I shared this link in a sibling comment, but here it is again: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/neighborhood-defenders/...

A big problem is that local governments place a lot of weight on "community input," but the people giving input don't accurately reflect the community. People who show up to meetings tend to be strongly opposed to change and fit into demographic groups that have a lot of free time, i.e. older, richer, and whiter. This causes a lot of positive changes to be either outright vetoed or delayed indefinitely at the whim of NIMBYs.


This is kinda how democracy works, in all it's terrible glory. Apply your same logic to national elections, and you are essentially saying that the votes of some people should be worth less, and others more.

I don't disagree with you that this happens, but I'm not sure that removing the local democratic infrastructure is the right way to solve this problem.


So, the US actually has real local government, with elections at very low levels, relative to what is more centralised and formalised system in the UK & Ireland.

I'm not a big fan of the practices of a lot of these low-level elected groups (seriously, fuck you Palo Alto representatives), but the principle behind the existence of all the local town and county governance systems (and particularly the heavy reliance on elected people) are things that seem like really good ideas to me, and that I think should exist in more places (maybe they do, I'm sure the commenters here will alert me to such places ;) ).


But we are a republic not a democracy for a reason. We don't want a minority who has time to show up to make decisions.

A small minority who overwhelmingly votes and has lots of money. Of course the politicians listen to them.

Those are the people who vote.

45% of NYC households own cars, which is probably more indicative of how many people use them than how many individuals own cars.

I found this staggering though it is accurate. It's less surprising (though no less accurate) when you consider how the numbers skew by borough:

"Ownership is lowest in Manhattan, where only 22 percent of households own a car, while ownership is highest in Staten Island where cars are owned by 83 percent of all households. Queens (62 percent) is also above the city average, while the Bronx (40 percent) and Brooklyn (44 percent) look more like the city as a whole."

https://edc.nyc/article/new-yorkers-and-their-cars


I've seen various threads promoting bicycles - and my life style is SO different that I can't conceive of using bikes and getting rid of my cars.

I drive 6 miles to church. My kids are in the minivan and can't ride bikes yet. We also have stuff with us: diapers, water cups, snacks.

My work (before WFH), is about 7 miles away. I could bike - but I take kids to day care, and they can't bike. Also, I can't wear "athletic" clothes to work, and I would still want to shower.

My wife goes shopping at garage sales where she frequently drives 25 miles. She often gets large items (ceiling fan, book shelf, art). She can't do this with a bike.

Grocery shopping could be bikeable. Get a wagon behind the bike, only shop when a spouse can watch the kids.

Spending time with friends isn't bike friendly. A 5 mile bike ride, with kids in toe, and all of their stuff won't happen.

Me, at the bar, could be on a bike.

As I look at the list, my kids REALLY stop me from switching to a bike. In addition, I still need a car occasionally (trips, fun restaurants, etc) - so I still NEED a car, I just might not use it as often.


I lived in the Dutch suburbs and everything you say can’t be done on a bike were pretty normal there.

I think people think bikes don’t work because they’re thinking about the problem, as opposed to trying through the problem.


Ok, I'll bite. How do I get my family to church? 4 kids between 1 and 6. 6 miles from home.

It would be nice if we didn't smell when we arrived.


Assuming you have a partner, each adult has two kids on their bike (one front seat, one back seat). At 6 the eldest can even cycle by themselves if you push. I'm Dutch and this is completely normal here.

I used to have this bike with an extra front seat and regularly cycled places with 4 kids (4-7) by myself (pushing one on their own bike): https://kokfietsen.nl/image/cache/data/Azor%20Catalogus/069-...

But then again, this country is really flat.

Edit: with kids 6 miles is a stretch, not that it's super hard, but you'll often be tempted to just take the car. If you upgrade to an e-bike that temptation will be a LOT less.


Also, that 6 miles probably would be a bit less in a city with less space allotted to on-street parking and car lanes.

Here you go; fits 4 kids easily and is electric so you won’t smell bad: https://bunchbike.com/products/the-original-electric-cargo-b...

Nice! I want one.

If cities weren’t designed around cars, your church wouldn’t be six miles away in the first place.

People in non-auto-centric countries all over the world take their families to church and everywhere else you listed.


Cargo bikes for the 2 adults. It's the norm here in Stockholm. Well, 4 kids is not the norm. But 2 kids in a cargo bike is the norm.

In European cities you usually walk to church because it's not 6 miles away, there aren't massive 6 lane roads taking up valuable city space.

I have a two part response to this. The first is that the goal of bike infrastructure is not to eliminate the car, but instead to give people the option of riding bikes when suitable. Some tasks (transporting large objects) will always be right for cars. But even getting families to shift to 1 car instead of two or three would be a huge resource saver.

But secondly, I would suggest a paradigm shift in how you think about things. You are probably right that for you, in the environment you live in, a bike is not the right choice. But an urban/suburban environment is not a fixed constant, so the question is why is your environment reliant on cars?

To respond to a few of your examples with this framework in mind.

- If your church and your work were closer, biking might make more sense. Suburban sprawl and zoning laws push things (housing, work, and amenities) apart that could be closer together.

- Your kids sound pretty young, but for when they get older if you lived in a place where it was safe to cycle alone, and their friends were closer to you, they could cycle to friends more easily. Unfortunately, with how things are, I wouldn't blame you for keeping them off the roads, as many U.S. roads are unsafe, especially for young kids.

- Again, it's not relevant until your kids are older, but the majority of Dutch children walk or bike to school, rather than being driven. From what I've seen, even elementary school aged kids will travel to school alone.

Now it could be that you just prefer the countryside, in which case of course bike infrastructure is irrelevant to you. But many people are more motivated only by a desire to avoid big cities in which case building out the "missing middle" between sparsely populated car dependent suburbia/countryside and dense urban centers could be the solution.


Yes there are people with kids who don’t own a car. Madness. I guess they just don’t make excuses.

Well, of course there are. My mom used a bike for her first borne. She was poor. She had a lady in her apartment complex watch her daughter during work. She didn't really go out.

As soon as she could afford a car, she got one and her life expanded.

What do other families look like who have multiple kids and no car?


s/car/bike/ is obviously not the solution. Not organizing your life around cars is. This has more impact on one's life than just replacing a car with a bike, as a comparison between, say, a typical north american household lifestyle and a typical dutch household one readily shows.

I cycle and I agree it's a superior form of transport.

> cars are the single biggest reason why living in the city can be unpleasant

I'm pretty sure rent / house prices are the #1 negative people cite about cities. A relatively new phenomenon. In cities where prices have not risen as much, like Detroit, I doubt people say cars are unpleasant.

Ironically cars are probably depressing prices in the city significantly. For most normal people, a car lets them not overpay for land, by letting them live somewhere far away.

The pandemic changed that calculus. Normals don't work from home though. Normals were just sustained by PPP, until that ran out and they get (or already are) fired.

> infrastructure

The people living in cities with developing infrastructure change faster than the infrastructure gets built.

Let's say we're talking about a place where land values are rising despite no infrastructure changes. There, the people who want to leave rent or sell to the people who want to come, who already find the lack of infrastructure agreeable.

The people who are left over can't afford the higher rents.

So then, what you discover is situations like the Sommerville Green Line Extension. Many residents opposed it. "Gentrification" is a word used to describe the antagonist, for these people.

Why opposition to infrastructure? It raises rents.

It's a little reductionist, to make everything about dollar and cents. We're paying for the environmental and psychic impact of having cars everywhere with too few dollars.

But good luck advocating for infrastructure changes on a timeline faster than the makeup of the residents of the town.


Cars and parking lots take up a loooot of space in many American cities though. Space that could have been used to build housing or businesses or mixed-use instead.

> Ironically cars are probably depressing prices in the city significantly. For most normal people, a car lets them not overpay for land, by letting them live somewhere far away.

A good public transport infrastructure is much more efficient at transporting people in and out of cities.

I live around 20 miles from my the city center and public transport is faster at getting me there than a car and you don't need to search for a parking spot.


> We also found that the average person who shifted from car to bike for just one day a week cut their carbon footprint by 3.2kg of CO₂ – equivalent to the emissions from driving a car for 10km, eating a serving of lamb or chocolate, or sending 800 emails.

This is interesting, but might it be possible that at least some those cyclists ate 1 more serving of lamb (or other high-carbon meat) or chocolate than they normally would have because they biked? Or did they eat 1 more serving of mostly plant-based food?

Did they do an analysis of the amount of food consumed by the cyclist on the day they biked vs. the days they did not bike?


Anecdotally, I eat 3 meals, about the same as anyone, but I’m probably less prone to diseases of affluence than I would be if I drove everywhere. I’d wager that most Americans have a couple hundred extra daily calories in their budget that could safely be spent commuting by bike.

I agree: this seems like a very dumb statistic; I have nothing tangible to back this up (except the fact that I can arbitrarily fire off emails at 0 cost), but I have a sneaking suspicion that sending 800 emails has an essentially negligible carbon cost.

Are you suggesting that a cyclist would cancel out CO2 gains because they would need a whole extra meal of lamb per day? Apart from not being true this ignores all other externalities of car ownership and usage in cities.

> Apart from not being true

Data please. I'm posing a question and looking for data, not speculative conclusions.

I'm a cyclist myself and I can definitely say that after biking 10km I end up wanting to eat more protein (and chocolate) than I usually do. Maybe not an extra full meal unless I do a century, but definitely a different meal than if I hadn't biked at all. Also, after exercise I often end up tired and buying food instead of making it myself. All I can say is that my eating habits do differ on days that I bike. I eat plant-based protein but there are lots of people who don't. That's why I posed the question.


Completely agree. A few years ago there was a couple of weeks of bad weather which meant nobody was driving around where I lived and it was wonderful. Then after it all melted it went straight back to normal: noisy, loud, dangerous and angry.

> People may not realise it consciously, but when they move out of the city, what they are looking for is a place with not as much cars driving around.

Nope, for me it's definitely getting away from the wrong sorts of people.


Rather ironic that suburbs cause their own problem in this sense.

I look at European city centers where cars often times get thrown out now and: they don’t agree. Profits were way down even before COVID. Even if you offer people the option to not use their car, they will avoid it. No form of transportation will ever be as pleasant to use. Cars don’t make cities unpleasant, cities themselves are unpleasant. No matter if cars exist or not. Bikes, pedestrians and cars must be properly separated to make safe cities. Doing that would maybe convince a few people to take a bike.

Or we can go back as you described. Destroy the cities we have built and build small walkable towns. That would mean that you have no say in what your job will be, but your parents do. That’s over 100 year old concept that worked well back then and would probably work well if you built it up again. But with modern demands of “personal freedom” it’s impossible to build.


Is there any evidence that removing cars from cities has a negative economic impact? All the stats I've seen point to the exact opposite.

For example:

* https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/publications-and-reports/econom...

* https://cyclingsolutions.info/cost-benefit-of-cycling-infras...

* https://cyclingindustry.news/724m-in-economic-benefit-on-80m...

In my anecdotal experience from the UK, high streets have been destroyed because they have failed to keep up with what people want.

Decades back, we started copying the US and building lots of out of town shopping centres surrounded by acres of car parking. Town centres started to compete by making it easier to drive in urban areas - but in doing so, they made the environment much less pleasant (loud, dirty, unsafe etc.)

Over time, retail became homogenised to the degree that every high street and shopping centre had exactly the same set of shops. This worked until internet shopping arrived. Why go outside to shop when it doesn't offer anything that you can't get on the internet - cheaper, and with a larger selection?

Now the only thriving high streets are those that offer something more than the internet can. Unique independent shops; space for people to meet friends and relax; street cafes; art/culture and so on. Removing cars in favour of walking and cycling is one of simplest and most powerful tools available to achieve this.


The only evidence i have is many cities around where i live tried to make driving to the city centers horrible, made parking expensive and not a long time afterwards the shops were almost regularly switching owners and contents. There are a lot of places empty now. Amazon likes the effort though.

The cities were there for thousands of years before the cars. In fact part of them were literally destroyed to make room for cars. It is from that point that the upper middle class left the city to live in the suburbs. Before they lived in the center. Now they are too many living in the suburbs, the traffic is hell, and everybody loses. Neighbourhoods where they removed the cars are a big success, where have you seen it happen differently ?

And I don't understand your issue with the jobs. Most jobs are in the cities, which is why people commute there. Why not live in the city then ?


I want to see it more often. Go ahead, build cities where every motorized vehicle is illegal. I am all for it. If it is so superior, then people will move to it.

I’ve only lived in Nordic capitals but as a pedestrian and citybike cyclist, less cars makes for an endlessly more enjoyable city center. Over here major shopping malls are already situated close to highways+public transit hubs so the city center is already home to more brick and mortar stores. I’d be interested to hear which cities have hated no-car zones.

I have an anecdote about this.

In my somehow big city (1m habitants in France), they wanted to create a train line between my city and another one. As every infrastructure projects in France, the project eventually had years of delay (maybe 3 or 4).

So at the due date, no train line. But the trains (about 20 of them, IIRC) were acquired and stored somewhere.

So we had those trains without rails. Somehow, local politics decided to let them roll temporary on an existing national train line.

Nobody anticipated it, but all cities with a train station on this old line started to gain a ton of attractiveness. The real estate prices and population on those cities raised by 30-40% in 2 to 3 years.

People were just happy to live countryside while being able to move to work without cars. And that’s totally reasonable since with this high numbers of trains, this line is now able to have a 20min frequency.

Eventually, local politics decided to let the trains indefinitely and just buy 20 more for the new line. Which of course, added delay :D

——

I have a great car. But I think any mean of transport is really more pleasant than car. The only problem is they are not always all as optimal as a car. But it’s an infrastructure problem. Public transports without rails is as optimal as your car without a road.


The thing that changes this is good public transport. Not buses - buses have a mindset issue. Subways, light rail, and bikes for the last mile.

Busses don't have to have a mindset issue. They don't where I live. You'll just take the bus if it's faster than the tram or goes closer to where you want to be, that's the only consideration involved.

This reads like an American talking about European cities.

I live in Germany near the Ruhrgebiet.

Maybe you should get out of the Ruhrgebiet more often. Pretty much all German cities that implemented Fußgängerzonen (pedestrian only malls) I can think about have thrived, big and small ones. I don't know what time frame you are talking about, but most cities in the Ruhrgebiet have been on a downward spiral since the 80s, so we might be looking more at a case of correlation not causation.

Switching from gas to electric is something I can do all on my own. Switching from gas car to cycling is something that would require major investments from my city and developers.

Both are noble goals, but let's not let perfect be the enemy of good. Switch to electric now, and also encourage new roads and new developments to be bike friendly, so that switching to a bike is something that will be viable in 20 or 30 years for most cities in America.

Edit: To clarify, the investment I'm referring to is rezoning entire cities and tearing down single family homes and replacing them with mixed use buildings to bring commercial spaces closer to residential spaces. Most American cities have commercial centers and are then surrounded by residential, with very little mixing of the two. For example the closest place for me to buy food is .75 mile away, but the closest supermarket is 1.5 miles and I have to cross two major roads and a Freeway to get there.


People have been making individual choices to improve CO2 emissions for decades and the only thing that reduced global emissions was a pandemic.

You need structural change or it all really doesn't matter. Now maybe you think that structural change is unlikely to happen, and I agree with you, but then we're in really big trouble.

> let's not let perfect be the enemy of good.

This is not the perfect vs the good, the is that meaningless versus the possibility of having an impact. We need to do so much more than have only bikes in cities that it is almost impossible to image we make the changes necessary to avoid climate catastrophe. If you think even that is out of the realm of possible, then there's no need to worry about what type of fuel powers your car, it quite literally will make no difference. The gas you don't use on your car will just be used by amazon delivery trucks to further reduce shipping costs and increase sales.


But it doesn't require major investments. It's really minor investments compared to other infrastructure projects. The issue is taking away even a tiny fraction of car space basically triggers some kind of political road rage.

They're minor investments practically, and major investments politically.

As you say, for many motorists, giving up space on even some roads to cyclists is treated like some sort of war crime. There's very much of attitude of, "we can't just have a majority of the road space -- we need nearly all of it!"


It can be a real winner politically, depending on the electoral boundaries. Roads have such limited throughput that a new bike lane might inconvenience only a few hundred people in cars, while opening up the city to thousands of people on bikes. Once politicians figure out that calculation, it can go very quickly.

An issue in that "political favor" calculus is money:

A) Cars have a tall stack of interest groups with money to throw around politically. Manufacturers, Dealerships, Gas corporations. lobbying groups including, especially, but not limited to the AAA all have skin in the game and have thrown money at politics. (In general bicycle groups are rarely as organized, rarely have much in the way of profits or income to burn on political favors.)

B) Taxes. Today roads are partly paid for with gas taxes and sometimes vehicle property taxes. A lot of motorists feel so entitled to the roads simply because they see those tax numbers directly on their gas bills and vehicle registration fees and think that they own the roads because they feel like they have the receipts. (Nevermind that there is no state in the US that entirely pays for roads out of such taxes, and the "I paid for it, so I own it" fallacy seems to refuse to ever actually prorate its "ownership" against the actual small percentages any individual contributes to the total budget.)


> Today roads are partly paid for with gas taxes and sometimes vehicle property taxes.

Which is hilarious because road damage squares with the weight of the vehicle and bike lanes would need to be repaved maybe once per century.


Any place with a seasonal temperature variation needs significant road repairs every 2-3 years, if not more often.

Those are potholes. A little 2-crew job. We're talking about roadwear. Where the actual asphalt grinds down to the expose the substrate. And in particularly bad cases the substrate breaks down and the road develops ruts. Potholes are a few hundred dollars in repair, roadwear is tens of thousands.

The bike lanes in my city are often left basically unmaintained since the seventies and are still usable. They are of course not as nice as freshly paved.

Is that because of the cracks formed by heavy vehicles?

Reducing lanes, when combined with other optimizations, can actually _improve_ travel time for cars. The problem is you have to actually implement the changes in order to prove this to people.

Even more so when combined with reducing the number of cars, which adding a bike lane can easily do.

If you replace 3 car lanes with n cars/lane/hour by 2 car lanes plus a bicycle lane, car traffic/lane/hour goes down as soon as you have over n cyclists/hour on that bike lane. At that density, that bike lane looks empty (https://www.boredpanda.com/space-required-to-transport-60-pe...)


I couldn’t find it in a quick search, but there aren’t videos comparing similar groups getting going from stopped. Because of the delay between cars getting going it takes significantly longer for an equivalent number of cars to move through a light than the bikes.

That's a fair point. But demographically, often the people most protective of car space are the ones who show up loudly at community meetings. That can have an impact.

> Roads have such limited throughput that a new bike lane might inconvenience only a few hundred people in cars, while opening up the city to thousands of people on bikes.

I think that is massively underselling the disruption to traffic. Depending on the city and the traffic patterns, hundreds of thousands or even millions of people could be commuting into a city on a given day. Reducing the car throughput on a significant portion of roads will cause backups to spread across the road network, affecting thousands.

Maybe switching to bike lanes can be a net positive, but it all depends on the commuting patterns of people living and working the city. Then again, maybe if car commuting is made painful enough, it will accelerate shifts in commuting patterns.

With careful planning the interests of vehicle commuters and cyclists can be balanced for maximum benefit, but I think in the long term changing zoning and development strategies will be what's needed to really make the shift.


Each person that's on a bike is not in a car. And bike path throughtout is much bigger.

Potentially. Sometimes a bike commuter is someone who would've taken the bus or subway to get to work.

That said, it still depends on commuting patterns, road topography, etc. Some cities have a majority of workers driving in from distances that would be impractical for most people to bike. Making a big shift to bike lanes without making other changes to reroute and accommodate traffic would just cause gridlock and frustration for most.

If shifting city centers to being bike centric is done on a longer timeline then capital improvements and redevelopment can be done to support it in a way that makes it more efficient for everyone. Some cities can do that on a shorter timeline based on current constraints, others would take longer. Ultimately I think it's the right direction to go in.


> Roads have such limited throughput that a new bike lane might inconvenience only a few hundred people in cars, while opening up the city to thousands of people on bikes.

You can maintain throughput and accommodate even more people on bikes if they just ride on the streets themselves rather than confining them in narrow bike lanes. A general purpose traffic lane can accommodate far more bikes than any bike lanes possibly could.


I think you got it backwards mate. your basically asking hundreds of thousands of cars to suffer in favor of a few hundred bicyclists. Most people who bike strangely think most people want to bike but just cant. most dont want to. as an aging nation, most cant.

We can't all drive though. There is not physically enough space in an urban environment. If you don't provide good alternatives - cycling is one, trains and buses are also key - then everyone will be stuck in traffic.

I didn't say we all should drive. I am just pointing out the backwards logic of the commenter, which I am 100% correct on.

Hint: I don't drive, I walk.


Imagine if we decided to completely eliminate sidewalk, how would it change traffic?

It is not about forcing others, it is about freedom of choice. Bycicle is just one of the modes of transportation. People without choice have to use car.


that's a strawman. and also not very much. A lot of places either have no sidewalk or were already designed with a side walk and street in mind. so given that side walks usually don't even have enough space for a full lane of traffic, it would have 0 impact on traffic.

Personally, I think subways should be the backbone of every city transportation system. But surprisingly even very environmentally conscious cities choose to forgo subway systems.


Yes, that's a strawman. Subways, roads and no sidewalk at all.

And your answer is 0... How? Bridges and tunnels between buildings? People evolving to fly?

Every person would require door to door taxi — tremendous increase in traffic. Same with bike lanes, take them away from Amsterdam and city would choke. Every Amsterdam driver benefits from less cars on the road.


Spoken like someone who's never driven in a city.

City streets are narrow and extremely uncomfortable to drive on as it is.


>City streets are narrow and extremely uncomfortable to drive on as it is.

I agree. I live in a city and am constantly afraid of all the gigantic cars that fly by me whenever I walk anywhere. I'm also constantly (albeit much less) afraid of someone stepping out onto the street when they're not supposed to and not being able to stop in time. But maybe, just maybe, the cars (that get bigger every year) are the problem? Maybe instead of declaring that roads are for cars and roads are too small so nothing can be improved, we could make it easier to get around cities without a car?

I just find it ridiculous that anyone who lives in a city has to live with the fact that a 3 inch curb is all that's stopping a massive hunk of metal from running them over. I find it ridiculous that bike (or non-car) lanes are considered evil because of the idea that not being able to park directly in front of your destination means that no one will go there. And I say this as someone who drives a car and rides a bike in a city, because I'm well aware that a lot of people who ride bikes do so in a very unsafe way. But I'd take getting hit by someone on a bike over getting hit by even a moped every single time.

People live in cities, not cars. I shouldn't have to fear for my life while walking down the street.


In Stockholm, Sweden there's 36 cars to a 100 people, the rest use a combination of walking, cycling, electric scooters, taxis and public transport.

There are still jams in Stockholm, but only for people who chose to ride by car, their problem!


> In Stockholm, Sweden there's 36 cars to a 100 people, the rest use a combination of walking, cycling, electric scooters, taxis and public transport.

I can’t really tell from your comment whether you think this is a high or low number of people using cars(?) but I certainly hope you’re not trying to give the impression that Stockholm or Sweden in general is some sort of haven for cycling, because it’s a terrible country for cyclists.

Country roads are notoriously dangerous to cycle on, and cycle infrastructure in towns and cities is most often under-dimensioned and very poorly designed - often with dangerous features such as posts or obstacles stuck in the cyclist’s path.

I wish Stockholm was better than this, but it’s a hellhole for cyclists - unlike Oslo or Copenhagen.


The first time I went to Stockholm my expectation was for it to be very similar to Copenhagen. It could not be more different. The downtown highway area reminds me of some dystopian hellhole.

Living in a democratic country means the will of the voters will most always win so I wouldn't expect there to be any changes anytime soon in the USA for more than minor accommodations for pedestrians, certainly cities will not decrease cars on the road for the foreseeable future save maybe a city here and there.

Study: Politicians listen to rich people, not you https://www.vox.com/2014/4/18/5624310/martin-gilens-testing-...

That's weird, I don't remember consenting to mind reading.

Of course I've driven in big cities. I agree that it's not great...which is why the solution is to make alternative options as viable as possible: walking, biking, transit. Then you don't have to drive in big cities, and more space on roads is freed up for those who do.

Cities are defined by their population density, and cars by their nature are geometrically inefficient. The solution is higher efficiency modes, not doubling down on something ill-suited to its environment.


This reads like you're someone who's never cycled in a city.

Seriously. Driving in NYC or SF can be obnoxious and frustrating, sure...but it virtually never feels downright life-threatening, the way biking can very frequently feel.

Your lawful right on roads in both cities is that you may occupy any traffic lane at any time on a bicycle. Be sure to ride in the center (maybe even slightly to the left) to avoid encouraging those behind you to try to squeeze by.

Motorists are used to cyclists being slow because of this overly cautious approach that novice cyclists take to riding bikes on roadways. Another way to help retrain motorists' expectations is to do better to keep up with traffic. If you are causing traffic blockages while on a bike, then you are not riding fast enough. There are multiple ways to address this, the simplest (though not easiest) being improving your cardio and strength. A more long-term, better solution would be to redesign infrastructure either to keep cyclists separate from motor traffic or to make motor traffic slow enough that bikes don't seriously impede traffic flow when they take the lane.


> Another way to help retrain motorists' expectations is to do better to keep up with traffic.

Whether a cyclist can maintain 20 mph or just 10 mph isn't going to make a difference to the motorists. But taking the lane by default will train them to change lanes to pass like they would when encountering any other slow vehicle.


And while they're being trained, bicyclist get hurt. Its a difficult problem, and we're in a difficult place. I don't know of a good solution.

How does the bicyclist get hurt when the driver changes lanes to pass? Bicyclists actually get more lateral clearance when that happens compared to when they're keeping further right and the motorist tries to squeeze their vehicle between them and oncoming traffic.

When they 'learn to change lanes to pass'. Because they're not doing that now, and won't all learn the same day. Until then bicyclist put their life on the line every time they go out on the road.

Do you have any statistics to back up your assertion that faster traffic does not change lanes to pass a cyclist taking the lane where taking the lane is defined as riding between the center of the lane and left your track? One experiment [1] demonstrated that motorists consistently changed lanes to pass when cyclists rode in the position I described.

[1] https://iamtraffic.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/BicyclistP...


Do you ride a bike? You wouldn't say such total nonsense if you rode a bike.

I do ride at least 1000 miles a year on roads with traffic speeds ranging from 0 to 50 mph. I've been doing this for over 15 years at this point and my personal experience matches up with the results of that experiment I linked to in my previous comment.

Do you cycle? Do you ride in the primary position that I described earlier by default?


>A more long-term, better solution would be to redesign infrastructure either to keep cyclists separate from motor traffic

That's what I'd propose. Carving up the already scarce roadways to try and squeeze in a "safe" lane for cyclists is going to make it far more dangerous for both bikes and cars. Bike lanes that run above the street would be far safer.


That's a ridiculous proposal. Imagine the cost of creating a whole secondary road network above the current road network and the extra spaces needed for ramps up and down the elevated cycleway. This is something you can do in very special circumstances, but nowhere close to a general solution.

Imagine not being able to imagine something as simple as what most European cities have already figured out, which is to put the bike lane between parked cars and the pedestrian sidewalk.

And suggesting that we try and squeeze cyclists onto already-overcrowded streets is any less ridiculous? I should have known that you're not allowed to speak ill of bikes here, jesus christ.

In my city about two lanes of every street are wasted for parked cars. So there is plenty of space for useful traffic if you get rid of those.

On the contrary, if you act like a car, using the same streets as the cars is quite safe in my experience. I've safely cycled with a cello on my back by simply following the rules most cyclists claim to follow but ignore: stopping at stop lights, signalling when I'm about to turn.

You know, looking out for my own safety.

EDIT: If following the same rules as everyone else is too much to ask, maybe you should just stay off the road no matter what you're driving.


This is victim blaming. Plenty of cyclists follow the rules and then get slammed by cars.

The last year before I moved to Germany, I got hit by cars twice, and neither time was I at fault. Once I got t-boned by someone who didn't look before turning, the other time someone suddenly went across the bike lane to pull into a parking lot. Neither crash was serious, but the first rattled me quite a bit -- my son was on my bike with me and got a scratch (and the bike rear wheel was totaled).

For that first crash, the more serious one, a cop showed up and wrote a report, but didn't even give the guy a ticket. In the US, driving a car makes you the privileged class, and you can get away with a lot.


My near misses have never been at intersections or due to missing hand signals.

My near misses have been because some idiot decides to hug or even drive in the cycling lane (usually while texting) or when someone parks a car in the cycling lane forcing me to move into the road (with cars being incapable of waiting for me to get around the idiot that decided to park in the cycling lane).

Those are instances of following the road rules perfectly yet still nearly getting in a dangerous wreck.

It's not a problem of rules, it's a problem of cyclists not having safe places to cycle. It's a problem of cities not planning for cyclists. It's a problem of cities not enforcing rules that ultimately protect cycling.


There simply aren't enough cyclists to be a voting block so it's a chicken and egg problem. People aren't going to cycle because it's dangerous because there aren't enough people to vote in change for cyclists. It just goes around in circles.

Correct. Where you do get progress, it's mostly an ideology thing: more politically progressive people view more support for biking and transit as good things even when they don't currently use those things themselves.

Cyclists encounter problems at intersections because they're in the wrong position. They should be in the lane that serves their destination so that same direction traffic didn't have to cross their path when making a turn. For example, when proceeding straight through an intersection, the cyclist should be to the left of right turning traffic and directly in line with traffic going straight.

While this is correct, people often make outrageous last minute decisions in cars because they’re not paying attention. If you’re not taking the time to really look at your mirrors and blind spots you’re not going to see a cyclist. This is common behavior that I witness as both a driver and a cyclist.

How can you think that every bike accident or bike death is caused by the person on the bicycle, and not the person in the 4,000 lb ram?

there will be cases of fault by all kinds of parties, but to type out something like "Well I've never died and I'm safe, so if you died you must be dangerous" is mind-numbingly shallow.


If the only way to cycle safely in the city is to pretend you're a full sized motor vehicle, it sounds like you understand how ridiculous it is that the roads are designed for and devoted to cars.

I think this is the wrong framing. The correct framing is, each lawful user of a roadway has equal rights to occupying space on that roadway.

As a frequent city cyclist, I take the lane early and often as is my lawful right, signalling unequivocally my intention and impending action to merge into the traffic lane. Most often I use this right when avoiding someone double-parked in the bike lane, or when turning left at an intersection.


In the eyes of the law, sure it's not the right framing. But I'm looking at what I think makes sense for the future. I think our cities would be better with more cyclists and less cars.

I don't think that's accomplished by encouraging equal use of roadways. I think that means space currently designated for cars should be reduced to make way for other modes of transportation.


And how well will that work for 8 year olds and 80 year olds?

Cycling on roadways with motor traffic is not for everyone...

Exactly, it only works for the very few.

Accessible cycling is what we need, and that usually means physical separation from cars.


No, because cycling is not for everyone. Multiple modes of transportation should be equally available, but that doesn't mean you should expect that everyone be able to use every mode.

For instance I don't see any particular utility to making infrastructure so that there's enough room for every person to use a motorized wheelchair.

Different conditions demand different solutions.


The point was about, or at least could be made, beyond just cycling.

Replace "Accessible Cycling" with "Accessible form of transport that does not endanger other people not using that form." Whether that's bicycles or wheelchairs or scooters, etc.

The point is that putting them with cars is dangerous.


So what, you want to intentionally exclude people from the benefits of biking? Why? How is that better than making biking accessible to a wide range of people, like some countries already do?

Then _don't drive in the city._

Why is this so hard to understand? Unless you're a delivery vehicle, driving in a city is just antisocial.


If you're just used to regular US cities, this is hard to grasp. Average US cities -- even bigger ones -- the public transport is slow, sparse, and unreliable; biking is uncomfortable and dangerous; and everything is so spread out that walking is mostly impractical.

When you're thinking in that context and imagine switching modes...it just sounds terrible. Because it is.

That doesn't mean the solution is everyone driving forever though: the solution is improving the infrastructure and land use to where other options ARE more viable. They should be good enough to where you don't have to convince anyone to use them; their usefulness should speak for themselves.


Also cycling in 100+ degree weather is rough in Texas, Arizona, etc

Obviously it's not ideal weather, but I think people maybe exaggerate how much that matters relative to infrastructure. I haven't heard of any examples in the more southern US (or comparable parts of the world) where they built great infrastructure and people ignored it because of the heat.

People say the same thing about winter in the Northeast. Then when they see how convenient and freeing it is to ride a bike, they quickly learn to deal with the weather.

If you're claiming that people will still ride their bikes to work when it's 20 F outside, you're incorrect.

If you're claiming that they won't, I'll happily be your counterexample. Buying a Brompton and riding 3 miles from the end of public transit to work through pretty much all weather in Boston was about the best thing I did for my sanity in all of 2019. Yes, on the snowy and icy days too.

I did a fair amount of bike commuting in Cleveland as well, though the drive was less hellish and I drove some of the lousier days.

The worst part of moving to Vermont, perversely, is that I get less exercise because it's a 25 mile one-way trip to the shop I work out of.


I mean, no offense, of course some people like you will bike in all weather, but the reality is that a lot of people will not. See this study, and that's for the Netherlands, not NA winter.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11116-012-9398-5


I know a lot of people that ride their bikes at work at such temperatures, and one of the biggest issues with doing that isn't the cold - exertion really warms you up - but badly maintained, snowy shoulders and a higher risk of cars crashing into you.

Especially now that ebikes are a thing.


I'm not sure how to respond to somebody so confidently asserting something so obviously false, but maybe photographic evidence will help?

https://nypost.com/2020/12/20/cyclists-frozen-out-of-bike-la...


I'm not sure how to convince someone that people stop going outside when the weather sucks. But hey, you've got a New York Times article, so that obviously means my eyes are wrong, right?

You couldn't be more wrong: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.euronews.com/amp/2021/01/22...

If you build the right infrastructure, people will ride it.


I don't know how to convince someone that people stop going outside when the weather gets cold. I thought that was a normal fact of life for everyone who doesn't have an outdoor job.

Just imagine some people traveling to mountains, attaching boards to legs and having fun.

And they pay for it quite a lot.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uhx-26GfCBU # Why Canadians Can't Bike in the Winter (but Finnish people can)


You have to in the US. What part of that is so hard to understand? Our public transit is trash, so there's no other option for people who live outside the city and have to go there. If you want to fix something, fix that.

To put it bluntly;

Your car is too big.


I drive a Nissan Juke when I go to the city. If you consider that a big car, I don't know what to tell you.

EDIT: Since I can't respond to the comment below me, the Juke is slightly taller than a Mini Cooper and about as long and wide. I literally can't find a smaller car that I'd be comfortable driving on the highway.


That's an SUV/crossover. Yes, it is too big. Cars got way too big since a few decades, especially in North America, and that is a huge part of why people feel that roads are too small.

> That's an SUV/crossover

This is easily the stupidest excuse for logic I've ever heard. The PT cruiser is classified as a truck. Does that mean it's the same size as a RAM 3500?


Are you kidding? The Juke is smaller than a 1 series, smaller than a VW Golf and much smaller than a Prius.

Even by European standards it's a tiny car.


By definition, if the streets feel too small, then the car you're driving is too big.

The Juke, while smaller in length than those cars, is wider than both the Prius (by a longshot) and the Golf. And ultimately it's width that matters for the feeling of street size.

Also, by European standards the Golf or the Prius isn't a tiny car, it's more or less average (though that's changing). Small would be a Polo, a Citroen C1, a Mercedes B-Class, etc...


>The Juke, while smaller in length than those cars, is wider than both the Prius (by a longshot)

No, it's 50 mm wider. If you're going to call that a longshot, just wait till you see a Ford Explorer.

The Juke is 4 mm wider than the B-class and 200 mm shorter. Tell me again how huge it is.

EDIT: In fact, only one car you mentioned is appreciably narrower than a Nissan Juke, and even then it's only by 200 mm

https://cararac.com/dimensions/mercedes-benz/b-class.html

https://cararac.com/dimensions/nissan/juke.html


There's no arguing with cyclists. They're worse than vegans in that regard. Pushy, smug, arrogant, completely irrational, and overall extremely ableist people that expect everyone else to bend to their way of life because "well if I can do it, then having no legs is no excuse, you ecoterrorist!"

Fuck me this place is worse than reddit.


As it should be!

I don't know about you, but I don't drive better when I'm stressed.

Actually you probably do. People slow down and pay more attention when they're not comfortable driving.

Considering all of the accidents I've been in have been while I was already stressed, this may be the new stupidest thing I've ever read on this site.

> But it doesn't require major investments.

Having lived and cycled in Amsterdam to me it did seem like a major investment. Sure if one were to design a greenfield city then it’s not a big deal. But to pivot a car centric city to safely accommodate cyclists is a major change. The city residents have to go through the transition process which isn’t going to be fun.

I’ve seen it done half ass way in India and US which end up being deadly for cyclists.

I am all for cycling, I absolutely loved my two year stint at Amsterdam. It’s a life changing experience. But let’s not underestimate the costs involved in transition. Also, the city residents have to be onboard with the process, as they are the biggest stakeholders. Otherwise the implementation will get dumped half way through with disastrous results.


The second part there is the key. Bikes work just fine on roads built for cars and building bike lanes is dirt cheap compared to pretty much any other kind of infrastructure project. You do, however, need the political will to actually take that space from cars and reallocate it to bikes and pedestrians.

In urban areas that are already dense this can be done without any significant infrastructue investments by simply changing how the traffic patterns work on existing roads.

A good example of this is Barcelona's "superblocks": https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/4/9/18300797...


Amsterdam in the 1960s was just as full of cars as US cities are today. Here's some video: https://www.reddit.com/r/Amsterdam/comments/d3484b/amsterdam...

If we start today and incorporate the lessons they've learned, it hopefully won't take us 60 years to get there.


It doesn't have to be expensive. In Ghent they recently did it on a budget: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEOA_Tcq2XA

The principle is simple: In designated spots, prevent through traffic for cars while allowing bicycles to go through. This massively reduces car traffic on those streets. In Ghent they did that by simply placing obstructions on the road that only bicycles can maneuver around. Once more people are cycling, you'll have increased political will to spend money on more ambitious infrastructure such as in Amsterdam.


Amsterdam had to figure it out the hard way. When they did it, nobody even knew what to do. Now that they have done the hard work, the patterns can be copied elsewhere. What I am talking about are the junction designs, bike path designs, etc. These need to be taught to every road engineer in the world.

Cycling is suited to distances of a few miles. Within a few miles of a sprawl house there are only other sprawl houses. The mix and layout of buildings and uses also needs to be overhauled so that putting reasonable numbers of hours/calories into a bike gets you somewhere useful.

in the summer i commute to/from work 3 times a week on my bike. It is 50km (31 miles) one way. So i ride to work monday, home wednesday, to work friday type of thing.

This trip takes me around 2 hours and people think i am crazy for doing this.. but those same individuals will spend an hour commuting and then go to the gym for an hour?

Cycling isnt suited to a few miles.. I have never been "athletic" and can do a 50KM ride with a bit of training.

If the ground is fairly flat i'd say 10 miles is reasonable.


Do you sleep at work?

Walking is only suited to distances of a few miles. People walk at 3 mph. Bikes are 4-5 times faster than walking.

In the US nearly 30 percent of trips are a mile or shorter, 40 percent are two miles or shorter and 50 percent are three miles or shorter.[0]

These distances can be easily covered on foot or bike with minimal change in infrastructure.

[0] https://www.bikeleague.org/content/national-household-travel...


They seem to count ALL forms of travel (walking, biking, driving). Also the definition of a trip is to go from one address to another. So when I walk over to my neighbors house across the street it is technically a trip.

https://nhts.ornl.gov/vehicle-trips

For vehicle trips:

21.4% of trips are 1 mile or less.

35.2% of trips are 2 miles or less.

45.6% of trips are 3 miles or less.


Wouldn't those three mile or less trips usually be for transporting cargo that wouldn't fit on a bike?

I don't think "usually" is close to accurate. People go to work, restaurants, friends' homes, etc without transporting any cargo. Big grocery runs are maybe once a week.

There are bikes that can take fairly large loads[1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freight_bicycle


Yes, single family zoning must be abolished. Doing so will cost governments no money and is among the most effective changes to improve housing affordability and climate change.

In the US we'd be better off refactoring cities with a goal of 'Caves of Steel' (Asimov), which would put far more within biking and walking distance as the core of the city expanded outwards.

This seems likely to work better in areas that aren't as geographically constrained. Seattle, for example, has far too much water around it and industrial areas near that. It'd be a good one-shot conversion though.


>The issue is taking away even a tiny fraction of car space basically triggers some kind of political road rage.

I don't think that's a fair comparison. I live in what many outsiders consider a bike friendly city though in reality it's impractical and unsafe to bike most places. If you're willing to also walk/bus your bike, flout local law on bicycling in pedestrian areas, and bike on major thoroughfares without bike lanes between travel lanes and parked cars then I suppose you'll be happy. That is until you get door checked, run off the road, ticketed, or hit.

Redesigning just the main streets and their auxiliaries would require making tough choices like one way roads that you'll cause you to drive considerably further to your destination. Removing on street parking, when our city already has a parking deficit. Removing the verges where they exist to accommodate bike lanes. On the many streets without verges the options are one way traffic or no parking, mixed use lanes for truck traffic and bicycles is unsafe. I suppose the buildings on one side could be seized under eminent domain, but that just balloons the cost and time scale.

All this is too say that without widespread infrastructure, especially between cities, biking is facing an uphill climb to widespread adoption. People want to be safe on their commutes. They want their bikes and cars safe while they work and shop. Designing And building infrastructure for bikes in cities that have been maximally developed is an incredibly and wastefully expensive exercise in compromise that does little to meaningfully reduce vehicular traffic.


> Removing on street parking, when our city already has a parking deficit.

Building free/cheap parking spaces creates a dependency spiral where there's never enough. Counterintuitively, the best way to meet parking demand is to start reducing the number of spaces and charge more for them.

https://mobilitylab.org/2017/07/19/voxmobility-lab-video-hig...


I'm not disagreeing with that. What I'm saying, because my city has tried this, is that removing parking pushes people into residential neighborhoods and illegal parking.

Despite spending a lot of money of adding bike lanes to a few roads the number of bikers in my city remains flat. To change this we'd need to massively expand public transportation and convert all non-residential roads into dual use vehicle and bike divided roads. It sucks but people don't change easily.


That's because there are so few people who bike. Around here it's probably 2 or 3% max (Austin) if that. Also drivers here are so aggressive towards bikes (and the USA in general) it's just not safe. Bikes really need dedicated routes as far away from cars as possible.

The major investment I’m referring to is tearing down houses and building mixed use buildings. Otherwise in most cities biking is impractical because of a lack of commercial space near residential.

1. If you change the laws to simply allow more density and mixed use, things will start changing soon. Especially in high-cost cities. Governments don't need to invest any money here, just time.

2. People tend to underestimate how far you can easily go on a bike. The house I grew up in on the outskirts of a rural town is 5 miles from the supermarket, which sounds far but should take only about 20 minutes.


> The issue is taking away even a tiny fraction of car space basically triggers some kind of political road rage.

How do you take "a tiny fraction" away from a street that has one lane in each direction to build a dedicated bike lane? Make it a one-way street and just kill traffic? It's not as simple as you make it out to be. Don't infer motivations, I don't own a car and ride my bike everywhere.

It's mostly a money issue, at least where I live. That part of the budget is spent on "climate managers" (for a city of 20k) instead of improving bike infrastructure.


In a significant portion of the US "high density" looks like this:

https://www.google.com/maps/@37.7474901,-122.4878233,3a,75y,...


And that looks trivial to work with. I'm from Europe where most towns have grown very organically over centuries, there are fewer multi-lane streets (and it's essentially unheard of in residential areas) and it's crowded. Quite a few people would welcome better bike infrastructure over here, but it's hard to do. The opposite seems to be true in the US.

One way streets.

Killing traffic is good.


The political cost within a democratic society is a reality and a real cost you have to contend with if you want to reshape how public roads are used. So, yes, the cost is high compared to switching cars.

The political cost is largely from losing lobbying $ from car companies (and possibly construction companies).

Maybe where you’re at. Where I’m at it’s mostly NIMBYs and small business owners.

Either way, the source is irrelevant to the fact that it is a real cost.


> Where I’m at it’s mostly NIMBYs and small business owners.

It's business owners here too. There are many studies showing that bike lanes create more customers than parking spaces, but the owners don't believe it and consistently act against their own interest.


Yeah, clearly the car companies are lobbying cities hard?

I don't know if you've ever driven in an American city, but those streets can barely fit a single lane of car traffic in some cases. Philadelphia in particular has streets so narrow that the line of parked cars along the side is enough to basically block the whole street. It's already incredibly uncomfortable to drive on those streets, so I don't get why you're so surprised that people would be angry about further increasing their already quite high levels of discomfort.

It should not be comfortable to drive around in a city. You are in a place with lots of people you can harm with your vehicle if you drive around fast, you should be driving slowly and paying close attention to your surroundings.

Proper bicycle infrastructure (separated bike lanes etc.) and quality public transportation is the solution - the comfortable option should generally be to take a train/metro/bus/tram/boat.


If uncomfortable drivers were good drivers tanks and fork lifts wouldn't have seat cushions.

Unless cars are different than every piece of heavy equipment and industrial machinery ever (which have been studied into oblivion because there's money at stake) comfortable drivers are safe/effective/better drivers because it reduces cognitive load allowing operators to be more attentive to second order things (mirrors, what the car in front of the car in front of them is doing and so on).

I agree we need much more public transit and bike lanes. I think most car commuters would switch to subway at the city outskirts if the value prop was good enough.


> If uncomfortable drivers were good drivers tanks and fork lifts wouldn't have seat cushions.

Wrong kind of discomfort. You want drivers to be wary and keep them thinking about navigation enough that they don't zone out.


In addition to the other response, I suggest you check out https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_calming - these are all measures that make it slightly less comfortable to drive in order to create safer environments for non-protected trafficants.

Please. Try to make the public transport comfortable. That means a seat (I get that in a car), not having to crawl over somebody else next to me or have them sit too close.

It means not having to worry is a fight is about to break out, having some punk shine a laser in your eyes (happened to me), having space to put down my bag and some place to put my feet (I am short, I don't reach the floor in most busses). It means no crying children (meaning no small children on the buss at all). It means that and a million other things.

It also means I don't have to stand in the rain to wait for a bus, ever.

Oh, and it means no pandemic. I am not going to sit in an enclosed space with strangers at this time.


>Please. Try to make the public transport comfortable. That means a seat (I get that in a car), not having to crawl over somebody else next to me or have them sit too close.

I agree that investments should be made to keep the capacity of public transportation at not too crowded levels at all times. However, have your legs been weakened enough by spending time in a car that you're unable to stand occasionally?

>It means not having to worry is a fight is about to break out,

This is probably a socio-economic issue if anything

>having some punk shine a laser in your eyes (happened to me),

Sad to hear that has happened to you.

>having space to put down my bag and some place to put my feet (I am short, I don't reach the floor in most busses).

I agree that the design of certain means of public transportation suffers from poor design.

>It means no crying children (meaning no small children on the buss at all). It means that and a million other things.

Might I suggest moving to the remote wilderness, instead? There you will be fully insulated from the rest of mankind.

>It also means I don't have to stand in the rain to wait for a bus, ever.

This problem is mostly solved by covered bus stops (roof + a few walls), that protects against the elements.

>Oh, and it means no pandemic. I am not going to sit in an enclosed space with strangers at this time.

The pandemic is the exception. Just because traveling by car (second to not traveling at all, by the way) is better than public transportation during the pandemic does not mean that we should ignore the incredible harm that car-centric design is inflicting continuously on the world.


Just come out and say you irrationally hate cars already, Jesus Christ.

I do not irrationally hate cars - I just have the perspective that we should design our shared spaces in a manner that leads to the least amount of deaths.

> It should not be comfortable to drive around in a city.

By this logic, aggressive drivers are also a good thing because they stress you out while driving.


I'm not sure that aggressive drivers actually cause other drivers to drive more safely.

Of course, you didn't believe that either when you wrote that comment.


The majority of streets in American cities are massive. Single lane streets are generally slower traffic so separated cycle lanes aren't necessary...just some markings to remind drivers that cyclists might use this part of the road. Paris has a lot of those.

The bike lanes in the east coast cities I've been to aren't safe for cyclists and do nothing but take up breathing room for drivers. It's not uncommon to see a bike lane disappear after 50 feet because there was no space to continue it.

Most streets of that size Philadelphia do not require a bike lane. But say they tiny fraction they took of 11th which is massive...

https://www.inquirer.com/transportation/philadelphia-street-...


Having biked in Philadelphia, only Center City has anything approaching usable bike lanes, and even there they come and go seemingly at random in places.

Doesn't it worry you to live in a city whose infrastructure is not compatible with global emission goals? Within the next decades either of too scenarios will realize: a) your home will loose most of its market value as nobody will be able to live there, OR b) we are all royally f*ked. Neither sounds too good.

> Doesn't it worry you to live in a city whose infrastructure is not compatible with global emission goals?

It does. I'm constantly pushing to rezone the entire city as multi-use and multi-dwelling. The city council has ignored me, and most of my fellow citizens vehemently disagree, as they believe that would devalue their property.


Is moving an option?

I mean I could, but wouldn't it be better to try and fix where I am instead?

Well it just sounds like your neighbors are not really open for change. You can of course try to change their opinions in town-hall meetings and so on, and that's commendable.

Another option would be to vote with your feet and money. If you move to an area where the zoning is e.g. more dense or bike-friendlier, it will add to the property market demand in those areas. OTOH you selling your property in your current area adds a tiny bit of negative market pressure. If that happens on scale, it drives down the prices in less friendly areas and drives up the prices in climate-friendlier areas.

Though I honestly don't know how realistic it is really currently to find a densely-zoned districts in American cities that are not plagued by rampant crime, run-away poverty and under-performing schools. I live in Europe, and my image of American zoning is mostly based on content of two YouTube channels: "Not Just Bikes" and "City Beautiful". You have probably heard of them, and if not I think you might find their videos quite interesting (or the "Strong Towns" initiative, if you prefer reading.)

In my European home city the council is actually already taking concrete measures to increase the density of zoning and actually discourage sub-urbanization / urban sprawl, even though the scale of the problem pales in comparison to typical the American city AFAIK. One of the concrete measures I myself pledge to is to always prioritize availability of biking and public transport when moving - if not for my own sake then for the sake of my children. This is a natural choice for me since I have always lived in the city myself.

I think the difference to US cities might be that in my home town the real estate prices in the city are very high because a sufficient large portion of the people who have the economical means to choose their place of living choose to live in the smaller apartments of the densely-populated city center districts, as opposed to the larger single-family housing in the suburbs. This is because the city center is actually filled with desirable services and urban culture, which just does not exist as much in the suburbs.

But I do understand that bootstrapping a lively and livable downtown is not as simple as just moving there if the area is currently dangerous and undesirable. The city council has to encourage this trend for it to be a viable option for residents who want to live there.


It is very hard to motivate people to act on a problem decades in the making. With health problems people will continue to smoke and overeat despite their doctor warning them. Besides the time element, climate change is the ultimate example of private gain (your income and consumption) and socialized cost (literally the entire planet).

It’s worth noting that this is an article written by a U.K. author, and mostly references European cities.

While obviously the same principle applies in the US, achieving higher rates of cycling in Europe is substantially easier, both politically and practically, in Europe than the US. Europe is significantly more compact cities, and public transport is usually very good, additionally many European cities have already invested heavily in cycling infrastructure.


Step 1. Paint bike lanes.

Step 2. Fine bastards who violate them.


Painted bike lanes do not feel safe enough to most potential cyclists so they don't lead to much modal shift.

What if they added posts? Either metal driven down into the road that a car would not go through or plastic ones that would deter a driver from running into them? I think that would provide more of a sense of physical separation.

They have been doing this in London. I think it makes a big difference! It also prevents people from parking in the bike lane.

You need:

- physically separated bike lanes wide enough for safe overtaking, with a gap between them and a parking lane that protects cyclists from open car doors and people leaving the car from cyclists

- an actual network of bike paths instead of vanity paths

- redesigned intersections that are safe for cyclists (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protected_intersection)

- bicycle storage infrastructure in apartment blocks (not everyone has a suburban garage)

- bicycle storage infrastructure in office blocks


We're really bad at step 2 in NYC. Bike lanes are just additional parking spaces.

Step 3. Build bike cages so you can safely park bikes w/o worrying about theft.

Thats a very level-headed take.

I can already see this happening in San Francisco. With the market street being closed to cars before pandemic hit. During pandemic, a lot of streets were marked "slow", so no entry to cars there and city plans to keep it that way. Some good hangout spots like JFK drive in GGP and Great highway are also marked car-free, I also heard something similar about Embarcadero in planning. City is also moving to make outdoor dining parklets permanent. All these moves discourage car ownership in every way and when you also consider transportation services like Revel scooters, Lyft electric bikes and Lime scooters, you can start seeing SF as a leader in USA. Not to mention, it is impossible to buy a used bike on CL at a reasonable price last entire year.

Let's keep putting in the work SFians!


I agree - plus there's already enough culture war arguing just with EVs, now we're going to pivot to the NIMBY battlefield that is cycling?

Make progress where you can.

I'd love for their to be more cycling options (and things are way better than they used to be), but no reason to disincentivize transitioning to EVs too (or framing it as some battle between them).


It's a tiny, tiny investment compared with almost any other investment a city can make.

> switching to a bike is something that will be viable in 20 or 30 years

20 or 30 years? I'll be dead of old age!


I agree. Good analysis. I bought an ebike for myself instead of a second car for the family, otherwise there's no way I could realistically travel the needed distances on a daily basis.

The biggest hindrance to me right now is no way to park a bicycle safely. Even carrying bulky bike locks is risky in NY for someone who wanted a nice ebike.


> Switching from gas to electric is something I can do all on my own.

What if you don't have a garage to charge your electric car?


You can also move. I'm not saying it's a feasible solution for everyone, or even that one should move solely to get to a more bike-friendly location, but the next time you move, maybe consider that as one of the main factors in choosing where to live. If everyone does that, the infrastructure will follow.

I'm quite tired of Americans saying - but I NEED a car. I mean, maybe YOU do. But most people can live in a lot of different areas, if not cities & states.

You chose to live a lifestyle that requires a car. Which is fine. But it's a choice.


> You chose to live a lifestyle that requires a car

I don't think this is true. People move because of job opportunity, family, weather or cost of living. Very rarely because they want a change of scene. Car is the often the requirement where they move to in America.


It's almost as if the average American is so thoroughly inured to automotive and suburban culture that they're completely unable to imagine anything but the status quo.

Aren't those all pretty much lifestyle choices in the end? I chose to live where there are many jobs, but the cost of living is high (but also where I can reasonably commute by bike or transit). I could have stayed where I was and enjoyed a low cost of living, but a worse job. Whether or not to have a family is probably the biggest lifestyle choice that most people make in their lives.

Rather than switching people who already own a car to bikes, it’s much much easier to keep people who bike biking: i.e. India, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc. and not let them adopt a car centric pony of view (as well as students in the US/Can. who are 16 going on 18 and steer them towards bikes.

Motorbikes, not bicycles, are the dominant transportation method in all those countries. Also, because of the hot weather and pollution it's just much more comfortable to sit in an air conditioned car. And then there is the factor of owning a car, used to be the symbol of wealth but is now more affordable.

> Switching from gas to electric is something I can do all on my own.

Even this depends on where you live, though to a lesser degree. In particular, if you live somewhere that you have to park on the street, you're 100% dependent on others for charging infrastructure.


> Switching from gas to electric is something I can do all on my own.

There were lots of government subsidies, federally funded academic research, etc. involved in making it a practical choice you can make.


1.5 miles is doable by bicycle. Bridges or tunnels can be built for crossing roads and freeways.

1.5 miles is not just doable, it's trivial. 10mph is a pretty easy speed on a bike, which would make it take 9 minutes. If you build up some strength and/or upgrade to an ebike you can cut that in half.

What major investment would be required from the city or developers to set up cycling infrastructure? Painting some cycle lanes onto the roads? Marking a few car parking places as bike parking places? That's all that cycling infrastructure really is, so it's super cheap. A lot cheaper than, say, building charging stations for electric cars.

From personal experience in town meetings:

* City roads are narrow and don't have empty space just waiting to be painted green. Bike lanes will cost you parking spots or a car travel lane. This gets huge pushback.

* Dangerous drivers must be removed from roads. You can be hit, killed even, with video evidence and the driver may escape punishment entirely.

* Cities (or specifically NIMBY residents) must stop resisting increased density, mixed use, and useless parking minimums. Not everyone wants to live in a suburban development, miles from useful amenities.

* Bikes and alternative transportation are compliments and need to be developed together. Biking to transit hubs is huge. It's not just green paint wherever it fits.


>City roads are narrow and don't have empty space just waiting to be painted green. Bike lanes will cost you parking spots or a car travel lane. This gets huge pushback.

Both should be sacrificed in order to break the car-infested cities. I imagine the pushback must be annoying to deal with, yes, but there's just no way you're going to be able to reconstruct your cities to be safe with this absurd amount of space dedicated to cars in cities of all places.

I suppose we might be on the same page here, though it's not entirely clear to me at the moment.

100% agree with the rest of your comment.


Dangerous <everything> must be removed from roads. There is a non-negligible amount of bikers skipping red lights, or using the sidewalk (forbidden in many cities), or even going the opposite way on one-way streets. The rationale in most cases is that a bike is not a motor vehicle and thus should not observe the same rules. This is a problem even in a scenario without cars, as it leads to collision vs. other bicyclists or pedestrians.

This behaviour from a few individuals pushes anti-bikers to protest even more, making it harder for these initiatives to thrive.

As ridiculous as it sounds, a deterrent similar to a license plate may become a necessity.


Not to say that behavior is okay but you're comparing apples and oranges. Drivers kill tens of thousands of people a year. Bikes are responsible for <1 person a year on average. People citing misbehavior by some cyclists need to get some perspective.

Meanwhile, the driver who hit me (in a bike lane) defended himself to the cop by saying "it's hard to not hit bikers". He was not even given a warning. I had video evidence from a helmetcam.


> you're comparing apples and oranges

More like comparing apples and shotguns.


> People citing misbehavior by some cyclists need to get some perspective.

And some first aid for being run down by a cyclist, sure.


Setting up a cycle lane in place is cheap, but not easy (at least in North America, people will always complain about the "war on cars").

Also, setting up a good cycle lane can be more expensive than you think. If you have a nice bike lane that spreads over 5 km but there's a 200 meters gap in it because of a bridge which was too narrow to keep the bike path, then you don't have a nice lane at all.


I've never understood why bicyclists can't just use the sidewalk for most of the commute. I get that it becomes impractical in dense areas where people are actually walking but most of the roads I travel along have vacant sidewalks.

Assuming we're not talking about the extra-wide sidewalks common in city centers which sometimes also host designated bike lanes, ordinary sidewalks that I've seen throughout the US and Europe are nowhere near wide enough to fit even a single cyclist passing alongside a pedestrian without a risk of collision. Add multiple pedestrians walking alongside each other, other hazards such as parked cars, less competent cyclists such as children, or pets (on or off leashes) and it quickly becomes a recipe for disaster for one or both of the sidewalk users.

Also, bicyclists in cities tend to travel closer to the speeds of cars than pedestrians, and tend to have more similar dynamics such as turning radius and stopping distance which infrastructure for cars is already designed around. Additionally, car drivers are licensed and there is an expectation of awareness that they must exhibit. This makes it far easier to place slower-moving "hazards" in their path than adding faster-moving vehicles in the path of pedestrians.


On top of everything else mentioned in the sibling comments, riding on the sidewalk is illegal in many locales.

https://www.sallymorinlaw.com/bicycle-accidents/riding-your-...


The most dangerous part of a sidewalk for a cyclist are places where they intersect roads. Drivers just aren't expecting sidewalk users moving at bike speeds.

Some areas have long stretches of sidewalk without intersections those are fine for cycling assuming they have little pedestrian traffic or are wide enough to pass safely.


This is pretty much my conception of when cyclists should be using the sidewalk instead.

Another thing to consider is that in many areas it's not legal for cyclists to use the sidewalk.

Most sidewalks aren't appropriate for cycling. The exceptions I was describing are mostly found in big commercial developments, target, walmart, etc. Around me they tend to build wide sidewalks, well separated from the busy road. Here's an example:

https://www.google.com/maps/@38.9146941,-92.3196647,117m/dat...

But most sidewalks aren't like that they are crossed regularly with driveways and end at a road every block. Every driveway is dangerous because drivers just don't look for people moving at bike speeds(2-3x faster than a pedestrian) on sidewalks. I personally know two people hit while cycling on a sidewalk because somebody pulled into a driveway and didn't see them.

Imagine you're a cyclist, on the sidewalk, trying to cross a four-way stop. If you cross at the sidewalk, you're at extreme danger of being hit by a car making a right turn. This is called a right-hook.

The road infrastructure in the US was built without consideration for bikes and so it's really annoying to many drivers when cyclists use roads but that doesn't mean the right place for cyclists is on the sidewalk.


OK, I'll imagine I'm a cyclist, trying to cross a four-way stop. When I was a teen, I used to do exactly that, riding my 10-speed on the sidewalk. This is how it goes:

Approach the intersection, coasting and then braking. Come to a stop, with feet on the ground. Optionally, dismount. Wait for a big gap in the stream of cars. Walk or ride across the intersection, remounting as necessary, and then continue on riding.

I'm not seeing the extreme danger here. It's not possible for a car to make a right turn because there isn't any car. The cyclist doesn't cross until the cars are gone.

Urban adjustment: there might be a "walk button", and there is a chance that it is actually connected to a traffic signal. Cross only with the walk indicator active.

I don't see any reason why this should be illegal. It's far safer than the alternatives.


> Optionally, dismount.

For sure, one of the advantages of cycling is that you can at any time become a pedestrian by dismounting. This allows you to take advantage of pedestrian crossings. It's going to be really annoying to dismount at every intersection or every ~500ft/155m.

> The cyclist doesn't cross until the cars are gone.

There's a four-way stop by my house that continuously has traffic for a hour twice a day during rush hour.

> remounting as necessary

A key to road safety is behaving in a predictable manner. Cars are supposed to yield to pedestrians at crosswalk but bikes are vehicles.

It's far safer at the intersection to merge into traffic, take the lane and yield the intersection with the same rules as other vehicles.

> It's far safer than the alternatives.

History shows it's not. Sidewalks aren't designed for use by vehicles going 3x the speed of pedestrians.

It's not safe for the pedestrians and it's not safe for the cyclists.


At the four-way stop by your house that continuously has traffic for a hour twice a day during rush hour, how do pedestrians cross? Is it even safe for them to cross?

Whatever the answer, that works for cyclists. Simply dismount, then act like a pedestrian. Maybe the intersection is unsafe for pedestrians, in which case it is also unsafe for cyclists.

The idea that "bikes are vehicles" is a load of nonsense. It's clear that the only cyclists talking to legislators are the ones in the top 0.01% for acceleration and speed. For all the rest of us, we're pedestrians, even if the law pretends otherwise.

The speed difference, mass difference, and energy difference are all terrible for bikes against trucks. Pretending otherwise is silly. We might as well compare an little old person on a bike, just 120 pounds total going 10 MPH, with 210-pound Usain Bolt running at 28 MPH.

The problem of running down pedestrians with a bike is simply solved by not doing that. The cyclist must slow down and give a wide gap or get some sort of acknowledgement that passing is OK. This isn't hard.


These are also the areas that work great for bike lanes, a nice uninterrupted stretch of bike lane without cars turning into them.

Cars and bikes mix better than bikes and walkers. Which is to say not very well. Walkers move in unpredictable ways and freeze when a bike is heading at them. Bikes move more like cars - they get a bit better handling, and are not as fast, but overall they act like cars.

I wouldn't want to bike when there are many cars in the same lane as me, but it is still safer than biking on sidewalks where are many pedestrians.


* It's illegal in most countries

* It tends to be busy with pedestrians (not everywhere, as you mention)

* It's not safe when crossing side-roads

* It's inefficient if you walk at junctions


Riding on the sidewalk is dangerous. Cars do not look for you when moving between the street and a parking lot/driveway/etc.

I have had more close calls with cars riding on at most 10 miles of sidewalk (and that's being generous to be honest) in the past decade than with ~6000mi riding in the road.


In some places it is illegal to ride on the sidewalk.

Also, the width and amount of obstructions on sidewalks varies widely.


You should try it?

I used to do this all the time growing up. But I assume times have changed because it's illegal now.

Depends how walkable the city is.The more walkable it is the more people you will see on the sidewalk.Sidewalks are for pedestrians not for fast moving vehicles.

You know how many in the cycling movement view automobiles as being fast, dangerous, machines clogging up the roads? Many pedestrians view cyclists as a similar fast, dangerous (often rude and inconsiderate) presence on the sidewalk.

There is so much more to cycling safety than this. Many roads don't have shoulders, or don't have the width for dedicated bike lanes. Drivers are often very hostile to bike riders who take up car lanes, esp. if the bikes go under the speed limit and if the cars have to wait at all.

Blindspots. Intersections. Parallel parking/parking in bike lanes. Safe and clean parking of bikes at destinations.

The entire design and build requirements of roads have to be reconsidered to make cycling/scooters first class citizens in cities. As it stands in the US, most cities are pretty dangerous for cyclists.


I live on the west coast in Canada. We have lots of bike lines. It's 30KM of them up and down multiple hills (most people would consider mountains) for me to get to work.

Realistically, you've got to convince me to leave my 3000+sqft house (with bedrooms for all my kids) and yard to move to a 1000sqft apartment in the city (and make my kids share a room) and take on a bigger mortgage so that I'm closer to work. Also how do I get groceries for a family of 5 home on my bike?

Life for the majority of people where I live has not been set up to be bicycle friendly and bike lanes don't change that barrier.


A more realistic proposal is making your neighborhood slightly denser and more pedestrian/bike/transit friendly. Most of the neighborhood can remain single family homes, but a central area should be slightly denser (3ish story buildings with retail on the bottom floor and residential apartments above). Your major transportation needs can now avoid cars in the following ways:

1. This central area should have a connection to a frequent public transit option which can get you to your job. BRT would be the easiest to roll out, but the ideal for most people would probably be some sort of medium/commuter rail with decent WiFi onboard and enough seating/frequent enough trains so that the average commuter can sit and work if they'd like. Obviously this won't take everyone out of their car, but the majority of commuters in your neighborhood could use this instead since it would be faster and more convenient. Ideally there would be trains/buses running at least every 10 minutes.

2. Because there is a retail area close to your residence you can realistically walk/bike to get groceries and do routine errands. Bike paths in your residential neighborhood make this easier because they feel (and are) much safer for everyday people to use instead of sharing streets with cars. Ideally the paths are safe enough for you to feel comfortable with your elderly relatives or children biking on them.

This is obviously very different from how North American suburbs are set up today and would require a large amount of investment and changes in the way that we do public policy and planning. However, it is certainly possible to have suburbs that are bike/pedestrian friendly if you put the infrastructure in place to do so.


Ah. interesting. I generally agree and fully support this method of urban planning, but the results here haven't resulted in more cycling.

What you describe is exactly how my suburb is set up. There are several clusters of mixed housing (single family, town houses, apartments) built around a few retail centers (and the retail centers usually have housing built on top of them). There is also both light rail and regular rail for transportation from the retail centers. I live 3-5K from the various central areas.

Here are my observations:

* cars are really only avoided for people in the residential apartments above or directly attached to the grocery stores. Nobody here rides their bike to shop (based on never seeing bicycles at the grocery store).

* there's still ~ 200M of elevation change inside of that 3-5K range. Only the most hard core are interesting in cycling that on a regular basis.

* It's a 5 minute drive or 30 minute bus ride to get to the light rail centre from my location (others are closer, some are farther). Some are content to take a bus, but many others drive. There are some who cycle but it's a tiny percentage.

* It's wet here all year long, but uncomfortably cold 5 months of the year. Those who cycle for transportation tend to only do it during May/June/July/August.


My guess is that it's not purely elevation/weather based, but that certainly is a factor for people's comfort. E-bikes can help with the elevation issue at the cost of being more expensive of course.

What's the level of bike infrastructure available? It can be surprising how protected people need to feel from cars to use bikes over other modes of transit. I personally only bike in bike lanes and will avoid sharrows and walk my bike on the sidewalk if there isn't a lane available. My partner will only bike on grade separated paths. This leads to us mostly walking or taking public transit since we're in an urban area, but both of us would gladly bike if we had a good network of bike lanes to do so.


E-bikes are magical--riding straight up steep grades without breaking a sweat. They really aren't even that expensive. The tax credit for a single EV car could pay for three decent ebikes in the US.

> It's a 5 minute drive or 30 minute bus ride to get to the light rail centre from my location (others are closer, some are farther). Some are content to take a bus, but many others drive. There are some who cycle but it's a tiny percentage.

That's simply not close enough. The station must be within a 10-minute bike ride to disrupt the car-centric commute. Ideally the rail stops must be spaced about 3km apart, then there's a corridor 5km wide that lets everyone inside use their bikes to commute.


> Also how do I get groceries for a family of 5 home on my bike?

Cargo bike. Also used for getting the smaller kids (too small to bike safely/fast enough) to daycare etc.

Or when living in a properly dense city just bring it with you one backpack at a time. This is what my mother did when I was a kid. Just stopped by the shop on her way home from work.


In the city you should be close enough to the store that you just get the days groceries as you go by.

The lack of affordable 2500sq ft apartments is the big failure. It doesn't cost that much more to build them, and so rent shouldn't be any more than a house payment ($1500/month!). If that doesn't exist it is because zoning won't let them build it. (or more likely they can, but why do that when you can get more $$$ from 3 800sqft apartments each at $1000/month. Until the high profit apartments are filled nobody will build the ones families would actually live in.

Or to put it a different way: it isn't 1880. People have always wanted more space, now with cars we can afford it in the suburbs.


Where I live the numbers your suggesting would be amazing!

In Vancouver proper, Average 3 bedroom house price is $2.1M. A townhouse or condo of that size is $1.5M. Your typical house payment is going to be much higher than $1500/month. Rents are probably in the $3K+ range -- I don't actually have data on this. Lots of factors there. I don't think zoning is one of them as there is constantly land assemblies and razing blocks of houses for town houses and condos. I suspect it's more geography: we're up against and ocean, a border and a mountain range.


The cost of building a new house that size is about 200-250k. Everything else is land value. Note that I was taking about apartments ,when land value us as high as you say that supports tall buildings to divide the land costs between more units.

The mountains don't help, but nobody is building the apartments people want to live in.


If you want a good impression of the type of shift that it's going to take to make U.S. streets more bike friendly, you can watch the great YouTube channel NotJustBikes, which overviews some of way the Netherlands' infrastructure is built from the ground up to be not car dependent. While the investment required to build physical bike infrastructure is small compared to other infrastructure projects, building cities for bikes requires overcoming political opposition and indifference, rethinking zoning laws and other harmful, bureaucratic rules and slowly reshaping cities to not rely on cars. It's not simply a matter of chucking a line of paint on a 35 mph road and then complaining when cyclists don't use it.

A very large percentage of the population are uncomfortable biking when there’s only a line of paint between them and automobiles. Separated bike lanes (ideally with physical barriers) increase the percentage of the population that will be willing to bike very considerably. If biking is going to make a major impact, we need that level of infrastructure change on at least some set of major thoroughfares in cities.

Things like protected bike lanes and bike only routes are essential if you want mass adoption. They cost more than paint and require political leadership that is currently lacking.

Often in old European cities there is no space to take away from, unless you cut from pedestrian side, or rebuild whole block to have wider gap. Or you completely remove that single one way lane, and good bye resupplies for the shops/restaurants and good luck to those poor folks that will move in/away. The bigger the city, usually the older it is, and center looks like this - tons of single lane one-ways.

US roads always stroke me as super wide and at least those I saw myself had plenty of space for this.

One example to illustrate the difference - on say Swiss or French car parks, if you park perfectly in the center of the parking spot and if cars around you do the same, even with regular car (say BMW 3 series) you can't just open the door fully, often not even that half-open position in the middle. Significantly wider cars effectively take 2 spaces, but then again not many folks buy them here also for this reason.


>Or you completely remove that single one way lane, and good bye resupplies for the shops/restaurants and good luck to those poor folks that will move in/away.

This is not true - we have streets that have been converted to be fully pedestrian+bicycle, and resupplies/moving in is not really an issue because these vehicles get exceptions. The sign combination 'Motor traffic forbidden / Exception for authorized vehicles' is pretty damn common in my European city.


In the Netherlands they turn those single one way lanes into bike first streets.

That's crappy infrastructure that's effectively inaccessible to most.

Good biking infrastructure is physically segregated infrastructure, which is less trivial to build (though still way cheaper and easier than infrastructure for cars).


Building offices and commercial buildings closer to homes. Most cities are not bikeable because it's just too far to get to anything that isn't a home.

$12 million a mile: Here’s how bike-lane costs shot sky high in Seattle

The larger and more ambitious the project the greater the costs. I imagine a massive upgrade would be even more expensive

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/12-...


Most of that cost was for preserving driving lanes while adding bike lanes. It could just as well be called the cost of car lanes.

Considering what is spent on roads, like for instance, an overpass, is that even very much?

The trick is to get drivers to follow those markings. Where I live I see cars/trucks regularly park on bike lanes with little repercussion. Add to that a hostility between drivers and cyclists sharing the road; this might just be an issue where I live (Toronto)

Cycling lane poles would be ideal, but a lot of drivers push back on this since they see it as precious space being taken away from them.


In places where adequate protection was added, in some cases it was removed because drivers couldn't keep from leaving their lane. I guess drivers getting into accidents on their own is worse than lethal accidents involving cyclists on a bike lane.

https://liveboston617.org/2020/12/16/dangerous-bike-lane-div...


It is space taken away from drivers, but drivers will treat a painted bike line as more space for a car. This is why the only safe bike lanes on a road with cars are ones that have physical protection from cars.

Something tells me there’s a lot more to it than that.

My town painted a few lanes. Bike deaths didn't change. Bike ridership didn't increase.

Paint doesn't do squat for making car lanes safe for bikes.


Hey, without cars we would need no lanes.

What do you do in winter? Or during rain?

The sad fact is that most bicycles sold in America are not equipped properly for inclement weather or for utility. They should all have fenders and bike racks/baskets and the utility increases immensely. Fenders alone are super helpful. Without them you can't really even ride right after it is done raining because there will be spray up your back.

Put on a coat/rain jacket

For cold or rain? Sure. For 4-6" of snow, you're going to need a lot more than a jacket to cycle in that.

Chiming in from Minneapolis, major bike paths/routes are generally plowed just as often as the roads. It can be a hurdle, but it’s not as bad as you might think.

We used trucks with snow plows constantly in Finland too when it snows. The city where I'm from is called Tampere. I thought that the city used to be quite hostile towards bicycles ten years ago but since then they have built so many new biking lanes or removed lanes for the cars and replaced them for pedestrians and cycles. It was just faster to go everywhere with bicycle and with bicyclr6you don't need to spend time to search for a free parking place. If it rained a lot I used rain jacket or used the public transportation. In the winter we used tires with spikes in them (to battle the slippery ice).

Removing some lanes makes the city much more enjoyable for everyone but ofc this is harder to do in really old cities which were designed for horses or big metropolitan areas wherr extra land is scarce.

We moved to Tallinn, Estonia last year and compared to Finland the cycle lanes here are poorly designed and many local politicians still support cars over cycles which is a sad.


We use snow plows up here in Canada.

On the bike paths as well? That's very progressive of Canada. We don't do that effectively here in Massachusetts.

On the bike paths as well, yes. In my home city of Edmonton they are a priority. According HN I don't ride year round in Edmonton, it's impossible.

That's great for the hour after the snowplow passes, but what about after that? Snow + ice on a bike is a pretty easy crash. Even a slow speed crash on a bike can break bones, unlike cars.

Snowplows don't remove all the snow usually because it would damage the road a lot, so you are left with packed snow which is fine to ride on.

You can also use studs tires if you worry.

I ride my bike in Sweden frequently even with a lot of snow without trouble. The only thing to worry about is when spring comes and the snow melts by day and freezes at night but on the main bicycle lanes the problem is solved by salting them once the weather gets mild.

I use a regular gravel bike (so not huge tires, 38mm) without stubs tires. Never fell.

I just don't ride during snowstorms directly of course but in those cases even buses and trains can be canceled until it calms down a bit.


As a fellow swede I don't think your argument holds against the real argument they're not mentioning. People want to ride cars because they're lazy and they don't want to experience the elements, but since it's shameful to admit they'll come up with any other excuse to sit in their car, drink soft drinks, eat junk food and listen to the radio with perfectly controlled climate surrounding them.

I bought myself a Xiaomi scooter and wear a good jacket while listen to music through my Sony overears riding to work. I'll have to wait with the soft drink and junk food til I arrive though. I also wear a backpack to carry whatever.


There's a level of risk associated with the activity, there's no denying that. Risk mitigation factors can be applied to reduce the risk to a palatable level for a lot of people. Snow tyres, riding slowly, using lights in low light etc.

The opportunity is to convince more people that cycling is a legitimate option for a large group of people. Infrastructure investment instills confidence and further education for both cyclists and drivers help to manage that risk.

Whilst cycling in the snow might not be your cup of tea, there's a cohort of people who could consider it as a net positive to get from A to B, exercise and put less wear into the road. And we need to support those people.


Jacket might be ok for small rain, but for heavy rain and thunderstorm? No.

Employers expect employees to come to work every business day, and people expect business to open every business day, even under heavy rain and thunderstorm.

Watch! Heavy rain/wind! Most people can't go to work! Most businesses are closed! Teachers can't go to schools! Nurses can't go to clinics and hospitals! What a ridiculous picture of a modern city.

New proposal: this city only allows residents who are 20s/30s years old and healthy and fit.


"There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing." :-)

If the existing materials are not good enough, perhaps we can invent more waterproof, windproof, breathable, warmer, cheaper etc. materials


> "There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing." :-)

Say that in a whiteout blizzard.


I realized there is an easier solution: the whole city is a huge building, everyone lives and works inside. And you get time to go out once a while. ^_^.

You dress up better. For the past several years, biking was the only way I went to work, the only exception being if my bike was in the shop for repairs when I'd take public transport.

You'll notice that regardless of the weather, people bike. Chuck some rain pants and a rain coat on, or carry an umbrella, or get a bike poncho thing, or all of the above. It's not hard.

If it's seriously shitty weather, the public transport is a bit more full than otherwise, but still people are out biking because that's how you get from A to B.


You are only thinking the situation where biking is a minority choice. If you want biking become a choice for most people, these solutions do not work.

Huh? I'm literally thinking of the opposite. I'm describing where I live, which is somewhere where biking is not really a minority choice, it's what most people do.

Couple of things from my anecdotal experience. Firstly, people already do this, yeah there are less cyclists in winter but the dedicated still ride. Secondly, nobody is advocating for bikes and nothing else, bike infrastructure in combination with a proper public transport system. Finally I see older people riding bikes regularly, often with a grandkid on the back or front and I'd guess they're in better shape for it.

You are not talking about biking as the choice for most people for every day use.

Why does everything have to be discussed in absolutes? It can be the default choice for most people most of the time and yet you've decided that it can't ever be because of a small set of scenarios in which you've decided it doesn't work. Like I said, not advocating for bikes and nothing else but the default choice for most people should not be owning and driving a car everywhere, electric or not.

Because cars don't suddenly appear when there is a heavy rain.

Are you still so concerned about the rain? Or is there any actual discussion or point you want to make here?

If everyone uses biking, there will be not enough cars when needed. Very simple point.

I'm almost 60. I'm not a jock. I bike everywhere.

Try again.


You read my whole comment right? The context is in heavy rain / wind. Do you do that too?

NotJustBikes has a great video on winter cycling https://youtu.be/Uhx-26GfCBU

Oulu, Finland is way further north than most cities and handles it fine: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.euronews.com/amp/2021/01/22...

Being further north should actually make it easier. If it's consistently below zero then you're less likely to get the really dangerous ice.

It's funny, no matter how I post about cities that have made cycling for transport work, there's always someone downplaying how meaningful it is.

You could look at Stockholm or Amsterdam or Copenhagen or Munich for biking, too. Those are all colder cities (but not as cold as Oulu) with decent or better bike infrastructure and cycling rates.

I'm in Munich and can speak to my experience here. Munich isn't as good as Dutch cities, but it's still better than any US city I've visited or heard of, by a fair margin. Weather is similar to Seattle, so kind of cold on average, but not horribly so. This winter we definitely had a fair amount of freezing though, and actually the last couple days we had snow again.

Munich makes it work with lots of protected bike lanes that clearly used to just be sidewalk. That's not ideal -- it cuts into walking space, obviously -- but it's still better than no bike infra, or painted bike lanes. There's also a fair number of off-street trails, multi-use paths (half the time these are just sidewalks where bikes are allowed, really) and walk/bike cut-throughs in neighborhoods. Oh, and the default road width in residential neighborhoods is small, which helps a lot.


Public transport and walking. Actually, I bike in the rain with a raincoat, it's great.

For the last four years, I have occupied an internal combustion engine almost exactly once per year.

It's not just been doable, I'm in the best shape I've been in twenty years.


Take the public transportation you also need to invest in.

What if I want to take grandma to visit family in neighborhing city?

Common grandma, giddy up?


Take a train? Rent a car?

No train there. Rent a car? We're back to square one.

We're not back to square one, as you won't need a rental car every day.

How will good be moved? How will the infirm get around? I admire the cyclist ideal that they are fixing the problems of the world by not driving/owning cars... but it seems like a very superficial, quasi-moralistic solution that's really not likely to have the impact that is desired/needed.

Honestly these are such lame points that I hear again and again. I lived in Toronto, bad bike infrastructure, and now live in Amsterdam with great infrastructure. People here with limited mobility use electric wheelchairs in the bike lanes and therefore have more and cheaper and safer mobility options than in Toronto. A person in an electric mobility scoter can safely go from the city centre to the airport on the edge of the city. They also have the option to take a cab or a car of course, cars are still an option but they are not priorities over bikes here — you’re also totally ignoring that it’s dangerous for some disabled people to even use cars — but mobility scooters can be a safer option. Deliveries come in the morning on trucks, but that’s less necessary with more electric cargo bike being used every day.

Cars suck.


No dude, there would still be cars for these use cases, come on. All we need is some protected bike lanes, maybe like 10% of the space allocated to cars.

We need fewer roads and cars, not zero roads and cars. Think 2 lane road vs. 6 lane road.

More people on bikes doesn't mean all people on bikes.

> How will good be moved?

Same way they are now, on major roads.

> How will the infirm get around?

They use mobility cars or scooters in the bike lanes, is what happens in bike friendly places like where I live.

Funny, I always hear this question from right wing people who otherwise have no interest in helping "the infirm". I'm sure you aren't one of those people, right?

> it seems like a very superficial, quasi-moralistic solution

The alternative solution seems to be "Burn all the fossil fuels, die miserably," so I welcome some sort of alternative.


Yes it would require radically rethinking how a lot of cities are designed, definitely a distant goalpost

Goods and disabled people and emergency vehicles combined are probably < 10% of traffic within cities.

The objective isn't to get rid of all car lanes, just replace some of them.


Public transit

Lower one’s expectations of quality of life and consume less.

There's nothing like cars to lower quality of life. They are noisy, require huge areas to be paved over, thus removing prime property in cities from more useful purposes. Particulate matter emissions from the engines, but also from brake and tire wear are unhealthy[1][2]. We don't let kids play outside anymore because we are afraid they will be hit by drivers. We kill animals after they hurt one person, yet we fear to cross a street anywhere for fear of being hit by someone recklessly driving a few tons at speed and defend the right to drive as though it were primordial. And really, who finds a street lined with parked cars and stuffed with traffic inching forward esthetic. A few cars are hugely useful to grant mobility to the few people who cannot get around otherwise, provide emergency services, and move bulky goods. I'm not saying plumbers shouldn't be able to arrive with their truck full of tools, just that the overabundance of cars really lowers the quality of life of the vast majority of people.

1. https://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/J... 2. https://cfpub.epa.gov/si/si_public_file_download.cfm?p_downl...


I agree with all of that, but people mostly perceive that they can't live in a large house on a large plot of land. Spread out living with requisite car transportation also creates a stratified society where you don't have to be near those you do not want to be near, which people might also perceive as a benefit.

Bikes do not decrease quality of life. More exercise, more fresh air, and better health are all quality of life increases.

I don’t want to lower my quality of life so far that I can’t get an ambulance or have to be homebound once I can no longer walk.

More people on bikes means fewer cars. Coupled with frequent public transport means that your ambulance will not be stuck in traffic and that the bus that lets you not be homebound will take as long as the car you currently drive to get to the same places. And if you still need to drive, you will still be able to, it just won't be the only option available.

I live in a bicycle centered city and we have excellent ambulance response _because_ there is less traffic.

Disabled people have various mobility devices that go on the bike paths.

The quality of life is a lot better here.


The comment is an excellent exercise in reductio ad absurdum.

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