Twenty million people, most of them bad drivers, whizzing around a smoggy city a mile above sea level: Mexico City doesn't seem like the ideal place to navigate by bike. Before I moved here a few months ago, I almost put my Bianchi into storage. But I packed it at the last minute, and thank goodness. Mexico's sprawling capital is one of the most bike-friendly cities I've been to. It beat London to the bike-hire business with the launch of its Ecobici scheme in February. And it's still ahead in two other areas, which cities in Britain could and should copy.
In recent years, almost unremarked, a new confidence has crept into how the British use public space. As George Monbiot argued in these pages recently, and as Owen Hatherley shows in his forthcoming book on the built environment created by New Labour – A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain – this is a country ever more dominated by roads, shopping malls and other uncivic private developments. Public space, in much of the media at least, means CCTV, windswept pavements and 24-hour drinking.
A Dutch designer says resurrecting the microcar is the key to reducing congestion and maximizing efficiency.
Ralph Panhuysen, whose Space Efficient Vehicle (SEV) seats three in a sideways V formation and parks two abreast like shoes in a shoebox, dreams of a world in which small, lightweight cars sip fuel and travel two-abreast in a single lane.