There is such a thing as a bicycle highway, operating as a network independent of regular highways. This infrastructure has emerged in Copenhagen, where there are plans for service centres, GPS-triggered traffic lights and intelligent transport systems all focused on bikes. But of course, most cities are nowhere near such cyclist nirvana.
On a recent planning project for a fairly large new office development in an urban area, the developer wanted to establish a campus feel, with strong emphasis on walking and cycling. The offices were to be low-rise and distributed at a relatively low density - generally not a great way to reduce urban sprawl, but an interesting opportunity to downplay the private motor vehicle. It's hard to get everything right, but at least we can try to make the most of the situations that present themselves.
So I jumped at the chance to convince the urban planners on the job that instead of using the internal road network to provide structure to the site layout, as is usually the case, we could start with the pedestrian / cyclist network, and hang everything off that. Cyclists would have priority over other modes of transport, but more importantly the development would be inherently good at making non-motorised transport as easy as possible. Routes would be direct, distances would be short, and instead of forcing pedestrians and cyclists to pass through parking lots, the buildings would sit directly on the bicycle network for door-to-door travel.
Bicycle lanes, even where they are included in the initial design of roads, are really just a relegation of cyclists to second-tier priority. This would be turning the usual model on its head. Brilliant, huh?
Apparently not. Despite a project vision that said all the right things and seemed to support what I was suggesting, the planners just said "yeah, great" and went ahead with a conventional approach. In fact it would feel even less like a campus than a normal car-dominated college, since open spaces for relaxation and casual conversation were just tiny corners dotted here and there, with no real amenity. I still don't know whether the planners didn't understand, or didn't care, or if the developer wasn't interested.
In my darker moments, I find myself imagining The Revenge of the Cyclists. Forget organizing car-free days, we'll just hop on our steeds and take over the streets en masse. Get sprayed with water cannons, arrested and rehabilitated by being forced to watch cars being assembled in a General Motors factory. The hard-core rebels, those who refuse to repent, will be sent to camps where the only activity will be watching TV reruns of CHiPs. With sadistic pleasure, wardens will play Joni Mitchell singing "Big Yellow Taxi".
I'm getting hysterical now. Somebody please shut m