Induced demand for bicycles

Continuing my “Can’t see the city for the streets” theme is recently released data from San Francisco showing an increase in cycling of 96 percent since 2006. That city has spent millions of dollars on bike infrastructure in an effort to increase the mode share for bicycles to as much as 10 percent by 2018. Currently, biking only accounts for between three and four percent.

Well, no shit. Of course investing in bike infrastructure results in an increase in biking! It took decades for traffic engineers to understand that building infrastructure for cars encourages driving. What we see with bikes is no different. It’s all induced demand. This is why I don’t like the current tendency among urbanists to ally with bike activists: it will accomplish the cyclists’ goals of more and better bike infrastructure while not contributing an iota to more livable cities.

We need to build cities around people, not our machines. That means that the size of the streets, their layout and the buildings that relate to them have to tied to walking. Only then can we add the trains and the few cars and bikes that will be neccesarry. But that’s the beauty of building places around how people move around and live without machines: once you take away all the land and infrastructure that goes to supporting the machines, everything fits together so much closer you don’t need the machines.

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