Bicilibre – “The Bike Lane is the Opiate of the Cycling People”

Original site

The language barrier makes Bicilbire a challenge. Not speaking Spanish, I rely on Google translate to read most of the content. This kind of translation often produces results which make little sense. There are a few articles written in English too, and suddenly the efforts of Google Translate don’t seem so bad after all.

The main assertion made by in Bicilibre’s blog is that separate infrastructure for cyclists is always a bad thing. Objective reasons for this are never substantiated in any meaningful way (such as here, where the Copenhagen cycle tracks study is either deliberately misinterpreted or hasn’t been properly read and understood). Of course some cycle infrastructure is very bad, dangerous even, and it makes sense to oppose its construction. However, only a fool would infer that bad cycle infrastructure means all cycle infrastructure is bad. Bicilibre instead appears to oppose cycle infrastructure for purely ideological reasons.

Firstly, some of this opposition to cycle infrastructure appears to stem from the belief that peak oil will result in a sharp decline in private car use and cycling will be able to blossom once again without separate infrastructure. At its core, this is a really nice idea but it fails to take several factors into account:

  1. It seems more than likely that we will try our best to extract and burn every last millilitre of conventional oil sources before we give it up
  2. Not satisfied with this, there is a good chance we will cook whatever oil we can out of rocks and sand, and burn that too
  3. The car as a concept is not completely wedded to oil; cars powered by coal electricity or other fuel sources are a distinct possibility in the future
Rather than at least attempting to tame the car through changes to road design, including cycle infrastructure, Bicilibre seems to be betting it all on the potential future effects of peak oil on personal transport.

Secondly, Bicilibre hates cycle infrastructure because of the belief that it produces wheeled pedestrians who are not proper, hardcore cyclists. Take this choice excerpt, of which I’m sure John Franklin would be proud:

“Because, face it, that is what you have in Denmark and the Netherlands: not a “cycling culture” as you like to boast, but acyclestrian culture: a culture of wheeled pedestrians. The fact (this will shock you, I know) is that the segregationist policies have crippled the ability of Dutch cyclists to a point in which you need to re-learn to use your bikes in natural streets of any difficulty just to get out of the bike-lane-theme-park in which you have transformed your countries.”

You bastards, making cycling accessible to normal people! Despite this ideology, it is difficult to ignore the particularly high cycling rates in the countries with the most robust separate cycle infrastructure (of which The Netherlands stands out particularly) which provides the greatest level of objective and subjective safety in the world for those using bicycles. In an entertaining attempt to explain this, Bicilibre suggests that the high rates of  cycling in The Netherlands (& Denmark – which the blog refers to collectively in a rather racist manner as “Vikingland”) is due to

“Historical, social, political, economic and cultural reasons that have no relation whatsoever (repeat after me: no relation whatsoever) with the segregation paradigm or with the abundance of cycle lanes.”

This will seem familiar to many people who have had discussions with those who have an ideological opposition to separate cycle infrastructure and who are attempting to present this ideology as fact. However, most of these people suggest that separate cycle infrastructure is merely an insignificant factor in The Netherlands high cycle usage, whereas Bicilibre takes the faith to a whole new level. Instead, it is suggested that whilst separate cycle infrastructure is generally bad for cycling, in The Netherlands (oh yeah, and also Denmark too) there are range of special and unique factors which mean that the high cycling rate (which, of course has “no relation whatsoever” to the separate cycle infrastructure) is uniquely unharmed by the normally destructive effects of separate cycle infrastructure.

Instead it is proposed to be all down to the driving culture. And of course the behaviour of drivers is not at all informed by the built environment. Of course Bicilibre strengthens the argument even further by being incredibly patronising and/or abusive to anyone of the infidels who disagree with this ideology.

Seems Legit

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One Response to “Bicilibre – “The Bike Lane is the Opiate of the Cycling People””

  1. villarramblas Says:

    Hello there. It’s interesting your effort for trying to discover mistakes (deliberated or not) when talking about cycle-infrastructure studies.

    I want you to make some reflexions about what is happening in Madrid. As council has not make many cycle infrastructure as in other cities in Europe (or even in Spain), people here is trying to inquiry another forms to ride safetly.

    In a first step, we localizated enough quiet streets to cover the whole city:
    http://www.enbicipormadrid.es/2012/01/map-of-low-traffic-streets-in-madrid-eu.html

    The second part was to demonstrate to any citizen that their common way to workplace was possible with two conditions:
    1. A one morning class with a teacher
    2. Chosing a path suitable for their abilities.

    After one year about 130 routes were made with the collaboration of volunteers who are able to ride with common traffic.
    We made a survey one month after the class, answered by 2/3 of participants with an odd result:

    -About 15% were not able to be self-dependant after one weekend morning class. These persons might ask for cycle-paths to get to work by bike.

    -About 65% were able after the same class to use the bike in their daily route, despite the traffic or the lack of bike-paths. They didn´t use it before the class, because they thought it was not possible without a bike-facility.

    (The other 20% did not use the bike for different reasons: distance, effort, weather, etc).

    http://www.enbicipormadrid.es/2012/02/un-ano-de-bicifinde-ii-resultados.html

    That makes me think that cycle-infrastructure may make this 15% easier to get the bike, but it is negatively conditionating another 65% not to use it.

    Of course, we need a more wide survey to conclude that.
    I remark that the conclussion it is not “bike lanes are useless”, but maybe bike-facilities are not the most effective way to increase number of cyclist in urban streets.

    Regards

    Iván

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