Exceptionalism

If you want to be both encouraged and dismayed, here’s a hot-off-the-(virtual)-presses article for you to read:

Oslo invests 0,5 Bn USD on bicycle infrastructure

That’s right: according to this article posted by Spacescape, the consulting firm hired to guide the process, Oslo will invest half a billion dollars in its bike network by 2025.

The goal is to boost cycling from the current 8% mode share, to 16%. Quotes Spacescape: “Oslo’s ambition is to act as a role model, and a driving force, in bicycle planning, as it sees cycling as a key issue within future urban development. The strategy highlights a number of measures that aim to be achieved, and many of these, are based on an increase in the cycling rate; an objective for all municipal departments, not just those working in traffic. The measures are therefore very diverse, from the bike playgrounds, signage and bicycle parking in the right locations, to planning issues like new and developed bike routes that follow the municipality’s future expansion plans. The bicycle network is proposed to increase from 180 km to 510 km.”

And it doesn’t stop there. There’s another billion in investment lined up for after 2025. For a city of around 600,000.

This is, note, Oslo. In Norway. Where, you know, it rains and snows. Where immigrants, mostly from “developing” (ie, poor) countries, have been thronging in.

Norway, as it happens, also made Forbes’s list of the top ten “Best Countries for Business.”

I suppose you’re curious about who is Number One. Well, it ain’t the land of oversized burgers and loudmouthed exceptionalism—no, it’s bike-mad Denmark. The US shuffles in at Number Eighteen…four slots below Slovenia.

In fact, as Tech Insider notes, Oslo plans to make its city center car-free by 2019 . Tech Insider quotes Green Party negotiator Lan Marie Nguyen Berg: “We want to make it better for pedestrians, cyclists. It will be better for shops and everyone.”

That’s the encouraging part.

The dismaying part? It ain’t happening here in Glamourous Los Angeles. Despite some modest efforts—more like reluctant concessions—LA still sees streets as storm drains for speeding metal. Safety be damned, along with communities, local businesses, and of course cyclists and walkers. Fresh blood stains our roadways weekly, while neighborhood commerce struggles, all so the callous and impatient can floor it through our daily lives.

So much for “exceptionalism.” Though as the rest of world moves towards streets for people, not privilege, we’ll truly be exceptional all too soon.

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