A big thank you to James and Errin Bligh for sharing insights and images from their August travels across Europe.

This final post contains quite a few videos, many of which focus on public spaces. But the big takeaway for our urbanist duo was on bicycles, and the fact that even the country considered the international paragon for urban cycling can be an intimidating place for an important segment of the population— the uninitiated.

“A combined 3 days in Amsterdam and Rotterdam served as our last stop on the tour, and our first attempt at cycling abroad.

Unsurprisingly, the central historical (and tourist packed) neighbourhoods with tiny shared streets were treacherous for cycling, while nearby the relatively quiet new developments outside of the four main canals served for a scenic and relaxing bike ride.

Errin, a new cyclist, shares her thoughts on what additional facilities would have made cycling in Amsterdam more accessible to newbies:

A passing bike lane and a slow bike lane

Physical separation from both cars and pedestrians

Adjustable rental bikes (default size can be too big)

Accessible source of helmets”

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Urbanist Abroad @j.bligh's Backpacking – Amsterdam: "Borneo Sporenburg, planned by West8 with over 100 architects participating. Even though these dream homes are packed in like sardines, their private design and waterfront felt like an unattainable utopia available only to the lucky few. The development also includes taller buildings and repetitive row housing, some of which felt more attainable. West8 describes the whole project on their blog: "Borneo Sporenburg project was about a dense urban space which would be inhabited by childless couples, singles and the extremes of high and low income, and a suburban edging [featured video] occupied by middle-class families. The design also includes a school and housing for the elderly people, embodiment all the society’s sectors and demonstrating that family housing is not unable to coexist with dense urban areas. Reflecting the nation's greater wealth, only 30 percent of the units are subsidized social housing and the rest are under market rates.""

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  1. What I love about Europe is the lack of bike helmets and guardrails. (Well not just that.) Please do not let our nanny state spread. For the record, you’re less likely to be injured or killed on a bike in the Netherlands than anywhere. And almost nobody wears helmets. You’re far more likely to be injured or killed in Australia where everyone wears helmets because their absurd law is strictly enforced. Where did this odd dependence on helmets come from? Certainly not from evidence.

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