There are few recent trends in urbanism that have received such widespread support as cycling: many consider cycling the best way for cities to reduce congestion and pollution, make cities more dense and vibrant, and increase the activity and therefore health of citizens. Thus, it's no surprise a number of schemes have been proposed worldwide to promote cycling as an attractive way to get around.
However, recently it seems that many cycling schemes are running into bumpy ground. Read on to find out more.
Perhaps the most high profile story of late has been the collaboration by Foster + Partners and Space Syntax to propose the Skycycle, a cycle superhighway in London above the city's existing railway infrastructure. As much as the proposal has been praised by many, it has also been rather popular to criticize it as outlandish fantasy. Julia Thayne has criticized it as an overly expensive project that will ultimately detract from the vibrancy of London life (see here), and, according to the Atlantic Cities, even one of the project's lead designers Tim Stonor has admitted that there are downsides to the design, saying that separating bike and car traffic could perpetuate an "us vs. them" mentality. He says that this kind of design would not be suited to most cities, and only makes sense in London "because the street network has a limited capacity."
Elsewhere, Spain has seen rioting and protests around a plan to introduce a bike-friendly boulevard in Burgos, according to the Atlantic Cities. The problem here is not so much with cycling itself but with severe budget cuts that have affected the city's public services. Those involved in protests feel like the city is mis-managing its money and "local residents feel like they are being given cake, when what they really need is bread." Effectively, citizens feel insulted by the notion that cycling is a cure-all for their current urban blight.
However, it's not all bad news for cycling: in Portland, Oregon, a new development is being built which features cycle parking spaces for over 1,200 bikes (almost 2 per apartment), and according to Bike Portland, even this might not be enough. It will be one of the largest bicycle storage facilities in North America, and will help to make Portland one of the USA's most cycle-friendly cities.
So what does all this mean for cycling advocacy? It may simply mean that cycling, as an urban planning strategy, has now grown up. People are no longer seeing it as an optimistic solution to every problem. For some cities, cycling works, whereas in other cities there is a growing realization that other solutions are required. But it also means cycling has a permanent spot in the urban designer's selection of tools - and that can only be a good thing.