• 09.12.2011


Photo Credit: James Schwartz, the Urban Country

As I’m sitting in here in my office, tapping away at a computer and writing about cycling policy, cycling advocates are out in the street getting ‘their spokes dirty’ so to speak. This year has seen an undeniable explosion in DIY bicycle infrastructure.

D.I.Y Bicycle Infrastructure along Brussel's main thoroughfare Photo: GRACQ

Take Brussels for example.  The past few months saw the cycling group, “VeloFiets Bruxsel” sick and tired of broken promises, and actually place “sticky tape” bicycle paths on the main street to prove that:

  • Yes bicycle paths are possible, 
  • No they won’t wreak havoc on traffic  (and in the long term, they’re likely to help improve congestion) and
  • In the scheme of things, they’re cheap. 
After the media attention the group garnered, Brussels’ city council promised to put such bicycle paths in at the start of 2012 and the Echevin (Mayor) was forced to conceed: “I hope you’ll be happy with it”. 
Our friends in Brussels aren’t the only ones either. James Scwartz from the Urban Country did a little experiment that turned a few heads. Gathering garbage and sticks he created a homemade bike lane. He reports: “We observed how cars and trucks drove with our ‘trash’ bike lane present. Drivers seemed to stay clear of our faux bike lane when they drove through the intersection, including a large tractor-trailer whose rear wheels stayed clear of our bike lane.”

'Trashy Bicycle Lanes', as featured on the Urban Country Blog Photo Credit: James Schwartz

 And Mexico saw some activists paint an unauthorised five-kilometre path to the foot of the city’s Congressional Hall after local government stalled on its promise to build 300 kilometres of cycle lanes. 

DIY Bicycle Paths in Mexico City Photo: CNN

Reportedly the group (Make Your City Collective) called to allocate 5% of all transport budgets to walking and cycling infrastructure. 

About 80% of the transportation budget in Mexico City goes to automobile infrastructure, while trips by private vehicles represent just 30% of total trips,” noted a spokesperson for the Institute for Transport and Development Policy.  

And let’s not forget the man from Britain that painted a 30 mph sign on his house the size of a double decker bus to get cars to slow down. BBC was quick to pick up on this story. 

So to get more people on bicycles should we just go out there and build our own infrastructure?

As tempting as it sounds… probably not. Properly designed bicycle infrastructure should be left to the professionals. Dutch cycling infrastructure wasn’t done by people with spray paint. It took careful planning, and at times trial and error to uncover cycle friendly solutions.

But that being said, this trend in DIY infrastructure has shown something important: it’s a great way to gather media attention. CNN jumped all over the Mexican story. As for Brussels, the authorities were forced to cave in and have planned bicycle lanes to run through the main thoroughfare.

Finally the journalists are listening Photo: GRACQ

Have you seen other DIY infrastructure? Send me an email with a picture and share your experiences ( 

About the Author

Julian Ferguson is the Communications Officer for the European Cyclists’ Federation. Originally hailing from Australia and a keen bicycle advocate, he plans one day to ride his bicycle from Brussels to Melbourne.





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Last Updated December 9, 2011