Video of new bike lane infrastructure in ‘the Netherlands’ was actually just a shot of Inman Square redesign

The Boston Globe

The clip, which was shared to X, showed newly-built infrastructure that was cheekily billed as an impossible feat here in the US. Some people were tricked, but others were quick to call out the joke.

A cyclist travels down a separated bike lane in Cambridge's Inman Square.
A cyclist travels down a separated bike lane in Cambridge’s Inman Square. Jonathan Berk/@berkie1 on X

It was the kind of video footage that often gives American cyclists pangs of jealousy.

A bike lane where cyclists travel in their own section of sidewalk, away from car traffic, with color-coded asphalt? And signal lights specifically for bikes in the middle of a busy downtown area?

It was clearly infrastructure straight from the streets of Europe, resources that car-obsessed US cities could never muster the will — or funding — to build.

Or was it?

The clip of a bike lane that was cheekily billed as being from “the Netherlands” and posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, had people doing a double take this week. That’s because it wasn’t filmed in a famously bike-friendly city like Amsterdam at all — it was taken in Cambridge’s Inman Square, which recently welcomed a network of protected bike lanes in a busy intersection.

The video was recorded by Somerville resident Aaron Greiner, 27, who often shares scenes of his bike rides along newly constructed paths. But this time he decided to “have a little more fun” when posting it online, and tried to make a point about bike infrastructure in the process.

“My friend just sent me this video from the Netherlands,” he wrote, trying to pass it off as a perk from overseas. “It’s so frustrating we [can’t] do stuff like this in the US.”

Greiner, executive director of CultureHouse, a Somerville-based urban design nonprofit, assumed “everyone would know it was a joke.”

But what happened instead was typical of how information is often processed online: People took it at face value, or thought he was intentionally trying to mislead them.

“I was actually quite surprised at the number of people that didn’t” get it, he said of the video, which was “liked” more than 2,000 times.

The post struck a nerve, as scores of people rushed to either lament the shortcomings of American bike lanes, or debunk the video by pointing out clear signs — an MBTA bus passing by, for example — that it was in Massachusetts.

So many were confused by Greiner’s joke that users added a “community note,” a feature that helps dispel misinformation, and clarified that it had indeed been filmed in Cambridge.

Many, though, understood the point of his tongue-in-cheek post, and took it as a moment to celebrate the project’s completion.

“Nice job Cambsterdam!” one person wrote.

Even officials from Somerville’s Department of Infrastructure chimed in on X to congratulate Cambridge on its “worldwide appreciated redesign.”

Getting to the point where Inman Square’s bike lanes could trick people on the internet into thinking they were part of a European city known worldwide for its bike-friendliness was not easy.

The neighborhood’s redesign process dates back to 2016 and included eliminating left turns at the intersection of Cambridge, Springfield, and Hampshire streets, an area that was often treacherous for cyclists.

The path depicted in the video was part of a construction project that includes shortened crosswalks and a new public plaza, as well as lighting and utilities improvements. It took more than 4 years and $12 million to complete.

Not everyone is thrilled about the Netherlands-like changes. The project has faced pushback from some residents and business owners who offer the decidedly American critique that they shouldn’t have to sacrifice parking spots for the benefit of bikes.

Greiner hopes his video can provide motivation to cyclists in other parts of the country to push for ambitious — European, even — bike lane projects in their home cities.

“I think the more that people see examples of good infrastructure in the US, the excuse of, ‘It can’t happen here,’ gets a little bit harder,” he said. “Seeing an example of it happening is a really powerful way to counteract that.”