…. This level of urban development isn’t just unusual in almost all of the United States. It’s illegal. Utrecht, the city in the first photo above, has approximately the same metro-area population as Wichita. But because most of its central city was built before the passage of laws that required minimum lot sizes, maximum numbers of homes per lot and lots of on-site car storage everywhere, everything in Utrecht is much closer to everything else than anything is in Wichita.
In U.S. cities, this is an even bigger challenge than our streets. By making streets safe, comfortable and intuitive to bike on, we can and should boost biking among the 38 percent of U.S. trips that are four miles or less. But it will be much, much harder to increase the percentage of U.S. trips that are four miles or less. That’ll require nothing less than the gradual redevelopment of most of the buildings in almost all of our cities.
Even on America’s stressful streets, the closer you live to other Americans, the more you bike. And the big gains for biking don’t occur when you go from low-rise apartments to Manhattan-style skyscrapers, either (that’s the last two density categories in the chart above). They occur when you go from detatched houses to two-story attached townhouses on side streets and four-story walkups on bigger streets. In other words, the big gains for biking occur when you reach the density of Europe’s famously beautiful and livable cities.
As we head home from the Netherlands and prepare to integrate the ideas we’ve learned here into our work in the United States, this should be one of the ideas we remember.