For about a century Amsterdammers have pushed policy makers to make room for cycling. Chris Bruntlett marvels about Amsterdam cycling utopia and observes its history on the street. The story of Amsterdam is one of Amsterdammers appropriating the streets for cycling in any way imaginable. It also has been a story of traffic calming rather than bike paths to create a streetscape where cyclists rule and motorists are guests. That said, not just motorists pay a price. So do pedestrians.
Chris and Melissa Bruntlett found cycling in the Philips company town of Eindhoven, alive and well with a lot of “bicycle bling”: spectacular cycling infrastructural innovations. They wondered whether this is the way to go forward and asked historian and author Frank Veraart. He pointed to the 1960s infrastructural experiment of vertical separation with bicycle tunnels and sunken bicycle roundabout. As Veraart and the Cycling Cities explains, in 1961, the city hired German Engineer Karl Schaechterle to draw up a traffic plan to help solve their congestion problems. His plan, in its most basic form, was to separate “slow” traffic from “fast”. Engineers largely realized this idea through constructing tunnels underneath newly built car-only highways.
The high-tech experiments are continued in the much-celebrated Hovenring and Starry Night Bike Path, homage to Vincent Van Gogh – who lived for a number of years in the nearby village of Nuenen – recalls Eindhoven’s innovative past and future. The kilometer-long trail combines solar-powered, glow-in-the-dark stones with LED lighting, creating a visual spectacle. These spectacular projects reinforce Eindhoven’s branding efforts as the high-tech city, but also question whether they help improve cyclists’ experiences.
In his book review, history-trained and cycling professional Wim Bot calls Cycling Cities the indispensable book. Anyone interested in cycling policy should have it on their bed stand.
Carlton Reid praises Cycling Cities for its historical insight into the key question: what is more important for cities to become true cycling cities? Cycling infrastructures or Traffic calming? To illustrate the book’s key message, Reid quotes the authors: “Bicycle lanes and highways are expensive to build, but cost politically less because bicycle lanes do not question automobility. Traffic calming measures are cheaper – as Amsterdam discovered. They demand political courage …” See Reid’s review for an excellent introduction to the book’s key points.