There are usually big problems with a bits-and-pieces approach when trying to improve cyclability: Okay, you will build four bicycle-friendly crossroads, but what about the way for the bicyclists to get to the crossroads?You have to start somewhere, or you'll get nowhere. I think it's okay to update infrastructure as it naturally approaches its end of life. But keep in mind you can do some easy things to existing infrastructure without upending it completely. That does require an actual plan to extend it, of course. I guess you're implying they have the absurd impression that the work is done?
That's how we did it in the Netherlands. In the '70s it was as car infested as anywhere else. When you look at the Netherlands in the 2020s what you see is the result of four decades of mostly naturally improving things as they needed renovations anyway. It didn't happen overnight. As soon as you start, within a decade you'll see massive improvements. The Netherlands that I grew up in in the '90s was somewhat similar to Belgium (or at least Flanders) today in 2022.
is not accidentally omitting some vital elements that make it work?One thing they are very much omitting in Belgium despite building fairly properly nowadays, perhaps because it's not so much visible as experienced, is that the traffic lights themselves are programmed differently — of course I mean better. Regardless whether you're driving, cycling or walking, it's just significantly more pleasant in the Netherlands. Here they're more stupid timer-based affairs rather than having '80s-level intelligence.
In the Netherlands, the traffic lights will let you go as soon as it makes sense. You rarely feel like you're waiting for nothing. That's particularly true for pedestrians and cyclists compared to many a country that doesn't seem to have given traffic light programming any thought at all, but by car it's also significantly nicer than elsewhere. For some reason people don't seem to realize that when street design is actually given some thought driving is a million times better too.
Btw, the third article is entitled Comment les piétons investissent les villes. My father likes to tell the anecdote of how back when he did his high school exam in, what was it, '55 I think, one of the assignments was a text about piétons. One of his classmates had written about how if a python wants to cross the street, first he should look left and right, and so forth.
My conclusion is that non-planning is better when it comes to street and road infrastructure. Competent city planners do not exist in this part of the world and overall they are far and few between. Now, I have happened to see really splendid bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly street infrastructure in some West European cities, but the funny thing is that at its very best the result resembles the completely unplanned countryside where I grew up.I'm not convinced. The '50s through '80s Belgian infrastructure was borderline unplanned and as far as I'm concerned it's atrocious. Though I suppose it was still more or less planned by the local municipalities rather than by the people living in the street. But those needn't be opposites. The municipality can act as an enabler, like it mostly does in the Netherlands.
1 It's possible that they're even better today in the 2020s but that's neither here nor there.↵