Flat Iron Bike is about the experience of living in Boulder, while getting around primarily by bike. It’s about both the joys and the frustrations, as well as the tools and habits that have helped to make it much more joyful than frustrating. It’s also about trying to re-make the city for people instead of automobiles, politically, culturally and physically. Places like Groningen in the Netherlands where more than half of all trips are made by bike, and most of the rest are done on foot or by public transit demonstrate that it’s possible. It just takes the realization that human centric cities are wonderful places to live.
By North American standards, Boulder is almost a bicycle utopia. Along with Portland, Oregon and Davis, California it’s one of only 3 cities that have been given the League of American Bicyclists’ highest honors. But in a global context it’s really quite mediocre. Rather than simply being less car centric that the rest of the US, I want Boulder to make human powered transportation — both pedestrians and bikes — the primary constituency in our planning decisions. I want this partly because cities and spaces that are built around people are simply wonderful places to live — safer, quieter, healthier, more sociable — but also because it’s more sustainable and cost effective.
My criteria for success in this endeavor include:
- A majority of trips in the city being done on foot or by bike.
- The retirement of the entire school bus fleet because walking and biking to school is safe and convenient for children.
- The demographics of people getting around on foot and by bike being representative of our population at large. Male and female, young and old, rich and poor.
As David Hembrow repeatedly points out, you can’t get mass cycling without infrastructure that makes everyone feel safe. The Dutch build their bike infrastructure for a 60 year old woman with two bags of groceries. If biking is safe and comfortable and convenient for her, then it will work for just about everyone.
We need to foster a bicycle culture, as opposed to having several overlapping bicycle subcultures. We need fewer people who identify themselves as “cyclists” and more people who just happen to ride bikes all the time. This is what Boulder Cycle Chic is all about.
We also have to recognize that at some level the interests of motorists and human powered transportation are at odds. We don’t have infinite funding or unlimited road space. Things that make cities work for cars often destroy them for the rest of us. As Copenhagenize likes to say, we cannot afford to ignore the sacred bull in society’s china shop. Cars are what make roads dangerous and cities sprawling. You can’t build wonderful human cities without subjugating the automobile.
But for the subjugation of the automobile to be politically feasible, we need all those motorists to understand that there’s another way that things can be. Another way that’s safe and convenient and enjoyable, that also happens to be cheaper and healthier. So we can’t set this up as a war between the motorists and the non-motorists. Biking in Utrecht or Copenhagen or Tokyo is pleasant and safe in part because most of the drivers are themselves also sometimes bicyclists, and they know what it’s like to be on the other side of the windshield. I hope these writings and photos will help to coax a few Boulder motorists out into the fresh, crisp, Colorado air.