People wanted a Lego bike lane, and Lego is finally listening

A thousand years ago, back in 2019, a regional councilor in the Netherlands named Marcel Stemann presented an impossible challenge: persuading the world’s most popular toy manufacturers to do something different.

He wanted Lego, a toy production company based in Billund, Denmark, to add bike lanes to its small, brick-built cities.

For years, streets set in the city of Lego – once called the base plate – were places for cars, people, even small storm drains, but for zero-emission, human-powered vehicles such as bikes. There is no specified lane. Worse, it appeared that Lego roads had become more hostile towards pedestrians and cyclists over time. Compared to Lego sets years ago, Cars seem to have grown – Developed from four to six-studs wide – and the roads looked wide, while the pavements were Grow more and more narrow.

“It really stood out that Lego City is such a car-centric city,” Steeman told me in an email.

Steiman posted a proposal for his bike lane on Lego’s “Ideas” website, where enthusiasts can share and vote on each other’s views. Really popular ideas may have a chance to climb the ladder and become part of the official Lego set – although only 33 have actually been produced in the 13-year history of the program. The ideas range from elegant, like this incredibly accurate-looking violin, to idiospiratic, to JRR Tolkien’s map of Middle Earth. Others have garnered enough support to graduate to complete Lego sets, such as the famous brown entertainer of Sesame Street.

Steeman’s idea caught the attention of Marco Te Bromelstroit, an associate professor in urban planning at the University of Amsterdam, who tweets under the name Cycling Pro. And a tweet from Brommelstrot caught my attention, prompting me to write a story asking the question, “Where are the bike lanes in the Lego world?”

But while the idea received a further boost on social media, Lego remained silent with disappointment. And Steeman’s posts continued to be rejected on Lego’s ideas site. “I’ve tried many times,” he said. “Sometimes [they were rejected] Without reason, for a time it was just a political statement and not a set, and it really confuses me. “

Imagine what a Lego bike lane can be.
Rendering by Marcel Steiman

Many who were supportive of Steeman’s idea of ​​adding bike lanes to Lego’s streetscape tried to contact the company, but to no avail. (A spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on my original story, nor this most recent.

Meanwhile, Steeman and Bromelstad continued digging into Lego’s history and discovered that in the 1980s and ’90s, the company produced green bike painted street plates with small bike lanes. But the streets eventually faded, and the roads grew larger over the years, and Lego cars grew from four-studs wide to six-studs, to eight-studs.

Not only that, but they came to know that the absence of a bike lane may have something to do with Lego’s supply chain. Tharia Vercade, a journalist who was collaborating with Bromelstrosset on a book about mobility, found that Lego used a sub-blocker for road plates, which were made by a company other than Lego Were among the final pieces. According to Verkade, Lego was trying to buy a contract to scale back production of road plates for its facilities, Steeman said.

At the same time, Matthew Ashton, an official Lego master, Indicated in a tweet Some new forms of roads are coming to the city set of Lego “not too far into the future.” “A cliffhanger,” Steiman said.

Throughout, Steeman was working on his job as a regional councilor for the North Holland Province, where he regularly deals with mobility-related issues. When the epidemic spread, Steyman moved from home to work, sharing the third floor of his home with his 9-year-old son and all of his Legos. “There’s Lego everywhere,” he said, “and I need to tilt my camera upwards to save face in many digital meetings for my work.”

Just before the epidemic, Steyman caught wind of rumors that Lego was going to revolutionize its road system, using not only large flat plates, but adjustable sets and real bricks, as a way to play with street designs. . This would allow the inclusion of pedestrian crossings and speed bumps – and perhaps bike lanes?

Those redesigned street sets (# 60304) were released last year, as well as a small shopping district (# 60306) featuring a pretzel store, a sporting goods store, a crosswalk, a pair of streetlights, And for a long time – a thin blue bike lane.

The new official shopping street Lego set has a large street and a small blue bike lane next to small shops.

Lego’s official shopping street (# 60306), released in late 2020.
Screenshot: Lego

Steyman was surprised, but instead of resting on his laughter, he immediately took stock of all the ways that this updated street sign has still diminished what he really wanted. The bike lane was small, like a really short, only two-studs wide, barely enough space for a cargo bike. In addition, the box art depicts a bucket truck parked in the middle of the bike lane. However, he chose it as a “small victory”, and worked to promote his idea for a wider, more sociable bike lane.

He generated a new rendering of his idea using new road plates as a foundation. They also added a bike with some bike racks, a child seat, and most importantly, a large, wide, blue bike lane. They chose blue as the color, knowing it is the color used in Billund and around Denmark, where Lego is based. The bike lanes in his native Holland have been painted red, in order to prevent people from being mistaken for water in the canals.

Reluctantly, Steeman uploaded his new rendition to Lego’s Thoughts website, anticipating another rejection. But instead, he received another major setback. “The idea of ​​my surprise was accepted within a day,” he said. It was published on the Lego website and now Steyman can try to garner enough support to make it into a real set.

Lego gave him 60 days to get 100 supporters; He completed it in 4 hours. They now have a little over a year to receive 10,000 supporters. Are against the odds – remember, only 33 ideas have ever been accepted – but she is confident that it can be done. And if he doesn’t, he knows that the seed has already been planted with Lego’s designers. A thin blue bike lane may eventually be somewhat larger and safer than the smiling denizens of Legoland. Anything is possible.

“In the end, I just want a worldwide generation to develop with a sustainable, healthy and all-safe alternative to the car-centric world we live in.” “And there really is no greater city on earth to start that revolution than Lego City.”

He added, “So Lego was probably a little right when he said it was a political statement.”

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