Marcel Steeman, a regional councillor in the Netherlands, is the voice behind hundreds of people advocating for more bike friendly cities—in the Lego world.
According to The Verge, while playing with Lego with his children he realized that the toy’s city designs were extremely car-centric, with tiny sidewalks and no bike lanes. The designs particularly stood out to him as they didn’t resemble the reality of bike-friendly Dutch streets (or the Danish streets of Lego’s home country for that matter).
Some may argue that Lego is just a toy, why does it matter? Fans of the Lego bike lanes say that children are constantly learning and creating mental models for the world. Factors such as street design and safety are front-and-centre with some of these models, and, with Lego’s ability to create without limits, why not imagine a more environmentally friendly and safer world?
“It’s about a more eco-friendly life, more movement for children, all Lego ideals,”said Steeman to DutchNews.nl. “It’s strange that it isn’t there already – although I believe that in the early 1990s there were bike paths until the cars were made bigger and they were squeezed out!”
Steeman worked with Marco te Brommelstroet, an associate professor in urban planning at the University of Amsterdam to create a Lego “Ideas” project. The company allows fans to submit proposals for new Lego sets and ideas, though only select projects are actually developed.
I wish that Lego City would no longer be so car-centric.
How about upgrading it to the 21st Century?
Step 1: adding bike lanes.
— Cycling Professor (@fietsprofessor) December 23, 2019
New Lego bike lanes
In 2020 a Lego “City” sets (Shopping Street) was released. The set includes a sporting goods shop with bikes, a crosswalk, cargo bikes and a narrow, two-stud wide bike lane. According to The Verge, Steeman was happy the company had incorporated bike lanes into the Lego design, but his work wasn’t done. The lanes were too narrow to even fit the cargo bike included in the design.
He submitted a new Lego Ideas Project. “It’s time to add to the next step in mobility,” he says.”Bike lanes that are wide enough to be safe to ride on and wide enough for a cargo bike. Built on the same template as the new Road Plates, so they can be easily combined to make Lego City a bike friendly city.”
The new design also includes bike racks, a bike with a child-seat, a bike with a crate on the front and a bike with bikepacking bags. The lanes are “wide enough for two-way traffic, to safely make room for all the bikes your Lego can build.”
Lego gave the project 599 days to get the 10,000 supporters it needs to be accepted. Currently almost 2,500 have supported Steeman’s idea.
The comments section of the Idea page has echoes a Facebook neighbourhood group in a real city planning on implementing bike lanes. “This would be a phenomenal addition, never mind the raising awareness that THERE ARE OTHER forms of transportation BESIDES CARS,” says one commenter. “The reality is that streets in cities aren’t made for bicycles. You can’t add an extra lane just for bicycles without moving all the houses back. I think it would change the look of Lego cities too much,” says another.
“In the end, I just want a worldwide generation to grow up with a sustainable, healthy and above all safe alternative to the car-centred world we live in,” says Steeman. “And there is actually no bigger city on earth to start that revolution than Lego City.”