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10K CLUB INTERVIEW: Marcel Steeman, The Creator of Bike Lanes

Today, they are concluding, this year for the third time, a series of 10k interviews. What a journey!
In the last weeks, we have brought you unique insights from our talented fan designers, now members of the 10k Club, and their undoubtedly great ideas. Congratulations once again to everyone and the LEGO Ideas team wishes you all, the best of luck with the review!

At the beginning of this week, we introduce 10K Club newcomer Marcel Steeman aka MarcelSteeman! Marcel created something to add to the next step in mobility in your LEGO City - Bike Lanes. There was a long way to go behind this model. Read for yourself and leave a comment to support his Idea!
 

ABOUT YOURSELF

  1. Who are you?
    Marcel Steeman
     
  2. Where are you from?
    Castricum, The Netherlands
     
  3. How old are you?
    41 years old
     
  4. What do you study or do for a living?
    I work at the regional water authority HHNK and with a region that lies more than 90% below sea level, there's a lot to do. Besides that, I am a spare-time politician as a member of the regional council of North Holland. 
     
  5. What hobbies do you have?
    I am an avid cyclist, as you could have expected. Being a member of the regional council is not a job and something I have to plan around my day job, so that is a very time-consuming 'hobby' as well. And my son, Dorus (10) often lets me play with his LEGO.
     
  6. Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
    No. Not.. yet.
     
  7. Have you created any LEGO MOCs (my own creations) that you’re particularly proud of? What is it, why are you proud of it and do you have a photo of it?
    I'm sometimes 'doodling' in stud.io with digital LEGO bricks. All the pieces are available, all the colors are available and it gives a lot less mess to clean.. digital LEGO prevents me from becoming a Lord Business to all the weird creations my kids make from the awesome sets they meticulously disassemble. Besides always tinkering with bollards, separate bike lanes, and road designs I'm particularly proud of the studio of Dutch national radio show Spijkers Met Koppen that I recreated after my son and I did an interview during the LEGO Ideas campaign.
     
  8. How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
    As the youngest brother of 3, there must have been LEGO around the house all my life, I guess. Even the very first memory that I have is about me and a big box of LEGO, falling from the stairs with a shattering cloud of LEGO bricks around me. I'm still convinced my older brother pushed me.. This was during the eighties, so there was all the brilliant classic space-themed LEGO to get me and my brothers hooked on it.
     
  9. What is LEGO for you? What does it mean for you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games or 'just' watch the cartoons.
    For me it was just a fun system to play with along with my children Willemijn (12) and Dorus (10). But when the corona crisis hit I made a workspace for me and my wife in the room where all the kids’ LEGO already was (shattered around the room, most of the time). So we’ve been at work-from-home, surrounded by LEGO bricks for over a year now. When LEGO launched a playlist with LEGO sounds.. that’s exactly the sound my colleagues often hear during video calls. LEGO Masters is being watched with the whole family when it's on TV. And after all the attention my LEGO Ideas campaign got in the media most of the people I meet don’t even ask "how are you doing?" anymore, but ask "any news from LEGO yet?" almost immediately.
     
  10. What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
    For me the SPACESHIP! The retro nineties spaceship theme is by far my favourite, because of all the nostalgia involved. We had several sets at home and I’ve played so much with those that those sets instantly bring me back to my childhood. Obviously: all helmets from those sets were cracked from playing too much.
     
  11. What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
    Although there are so many, many intricate and iconic sets, my favourite set must be a small nineties yellow Sport Coupe car (6530). The first set I bought for myself, with my own money, and the first one I didn’t have to share with my two older brothers. I somehow loved the giant windows and it now resembles the car that we own, with a panoramic roof (but black, not bright yellow). More recent sets like the piano and typewriter are just amazing feats of creativity, LEGO techniques, and, in fact, art. Maybe I'll get my hands on those anytime soon.
     
  12. What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
    My favourite element must be the “new” cargo bike frame in set 60306. That opens up lots of possibilities to create all-new cargo bikes, handbikes, and other fun means of transport that were much more difficult to create with the standard bicycle frame. I haven't found it in stud.io yet, so that's the piece I use the most 'in real life. I've only got one, so I have to reluctantly share the frame with my kids. There are now various very serious swappable cargo bike designs alongside more creative cargo-firetruck bikes and cargo-spaceship bike designs in our collection.
     
  13. Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
    As a big fan of the TV Show Legomasters the Dutch Brickmaster, Jonathan Bennink, made a very big impression. When Dutch national TV ‘The Youth Journal’ (NOS Jeugdjournaal) did an item on our LEGO bike lanes they added a very, very nice comment by Jonathan as a surprise. That brought big, big smiles around the house for days. I’m a big fan of Matthew Ashton as well. The energy and joy that man can bring to TV, social media, and a company like LEGO are contagious. 
     
  14. Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
    The LEGO subreddit (on Reddit) never ceases to amaze. Insanely creative, supportive, and humorous. I often show funny or impressive builds to my kids and they get really inspired by creative brick usage and new techniques. Some of my son Dorus’ own builds have made the rounds there, and the joke of a helicopter on mars (bar) is one of the all-time most upvoted items in that subreddit.


     

ABOUT YOUR PROJECT

  1. Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
    There is a long story involved before this particular model came about. In 2015 my son Dorus got a LEGO train, train station, and some (32x32) road plates for his fourth birthday. In the station set (60050) was a little bike and while building and playing with his new LEGO we found there was no good place to actually cycle on the road plates. That was the first time I wondered - where are the bike lanes in LEGO?. I took to photoshop to roughly make a design with bike lanes and put it up on Twitter *, prompting a journey that would last for a couple of years.

    (*) https://twitter.com/msteeman/status/565133313925709825?s=20


     
  2. How long was the process of making the project did, and what did you have to research as well. What kind of prep, research and design phases did you go through to produce your creation?
    Actually, almost 6 years of various designs and design stages through the years. My rough design in 2015 got a lot of comments and immediately prompted lots of questions. How do you create a playable (with enough room for other vehicles) road plate, including bike lanes, one that is internationally recognizable, playable in all other countries… should there be bollards separating the bike lane from the road of are painted white stripes safe enough, are two-way bike lanes acceptable, how is the pedestrian crossing involved, why is the asphalt in the design red? Road design turned out to be a true profession and a profession with as many different opinions as you could imagine. On Twitter, the question of where the bike lanes were in LEGO City turned out to be an often returning one. The idea went somewhat viral, got loads of media attention, even internationally *, and prompted many people to dig out their old road plates, that actually had green bike lanes on them. I redesigned my rough mockup and tried several times to put it up on LEGO Ideas. That did not really work out, because the proposal was not a proper set (only a new decal on the roadplates) and, what I didn’t know at the time, LEGO was already designing the new modular road plates that were introduced in January 2021.

    (*) https://www.theverge.com/2020/2/21/21147028/lego-city-street-bike-lane-car-...
     
  3. What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
    When LEGO introduced the new modular road plates and even a very small bike lane in the new Shopping Street-set I thought LEGO might have noticed all the fuss and actually reintroduced cycling into LEGO City. So I will just officially claim that as a victory now. That set answered a few other questions I had before: the bike lane is blue (like in Denmark), there are more kinds of bikes in LEGO than one (mountain bikes, cargo bikes) and the 'chakram hoop blade weapon' makes for a good bike rack. On the other hand, however, that bike lane was way too small and only in one, much bigger, set. The cargo bike in that set doesn’t even fit on the small bike lane. And, I thought, with the new modular road plates there is no restriction on the width and design of roads, so why not just make a whole new set?

    I took to stud.io (because there are no blue roads in Lego yet) and created a bike lane using one of the new modular road plates. Wide enough to give room for everybody. Challenges were ways to link the bike lanes to surrounding plates and the actual road plates (I solved it later on with 2x4 tiles) and the neverending discussion on how to separate the bike lane from the road. Bollards, paint, grass. So I finally decided on a few things: it was to be just a really simple but highly functional and playable bike lane with the possibility to link it to other sets in any way you would like. I’ve included a few simple designs created over a couple of last months: bikes with bags, with a child seat and with a -very Dutch- crate at the front, a bike pump, and locks made of handcuffs. I’ve designed and added a bike lane road sign and added a reduced speed-sign, because 50 is way too fast for the inner city, in km/h as well as mph. I left out more elaborate bike racks, electric bike-charging stations, bikes with trailers, and cargo bikes, just to make the set as simple and playable as I could. And.. well.. the fact that the cargo bike-frame was nowhere to be found digitally may have been of influence as well.

    One frustration that I didn’t solve: there was no helmet big enough for the child in the child seat. People immediately fell over that.


     
  4. If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell him/her? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
    Don’t underestimate the scrutiny of professional road designers worldwide when you just want to create a playable bike lane in the simple world of LEGO. And don’t underestimate the sheer joy, fun, and support of the LEGO community. The people I've met and had contact with because of this project have broadened my world and have actually heavily influenced my views on how we use our roads.
     
  5. How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time? And how did the build time compare to the time you spent promoting your Product Idea to reach 10,000 supporters?
    It took a few weeks to perfect the design and to make some choices about the bikes on the bikelane. I had more than a few sessions testing out different designs of bike racks, pumps, cargo bikes, and trailers, even testing out some space-rocket bikes (but they didn't keep to the speed limits, sadly). I might have tinkered with my designs sometimes secretly during some long webinars, but don’t tell anybody. As the design is not very elaborate, compared to the very intricate and elaborate designs on LEGO Ideas I can wholeheartedly say the design process did not take *very* much time. I think I spent more time during the campaign tinkering with stripes, separations, and sidewalks than designing the Idea itself.


     
  6. How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
    It took somewhat more than three months to reach 10.000 votes, and that was way, way faster than I could have imagined. I cannot express how grateful I am for all the support and all the people helping, supporting, and helping get the word out. There was overwhelming attention to the idea everywhere. During the campaign I have been on international news websites, podcasts, I’ve given interviews to newspapers, been live on national radio, I've been featured on regional and national TV and there even was a Belgian satirical TV show that did a whole segment on LEGO bike lanes. Safe to say: the idea went all over the place and I’ve done several posts on all the attention in the updates of the LEGO Idea. I tried to include my son Dorus as much as possible because he's an inspiration and a vital part of the story.

    I’ve filmed the exact moment the idea reached 10.000 votes. During dinner (just after my wife and I did a bike ride together) the count rapidly got close and just after dessert, we were refreshing the webpage every few seconds, loudly counting down. And then we reached 10.000:

    https://twitter.com/msteeman/status/1388912845493055492?s=20

    And after that.. everything went really, really crazy. Newspapers and websites called for interviews (and I've done as many as I could manage), I've been on several radio shows, calling in life and there have been two TV crews for national TV programs filming on our work-from-home-office, between our LEGO. It is overwhelming, positive, and just very, very fun to be able to have this experience due to LEGO.


     
  7. Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
    112 parts in the posted Idea, 107 in the tweaked Idea with better connexion to the road plates. This might just be the LEGO Idea with the fewest parts to reach 10.000 votes ever. The parts used for designing, however.. must have been hundreds of real ones and thousands of digital ones in all shapes and sizes.
     
  8. What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
    The star of the Idea is the bikelane itself, I can’t claim that there is a technique used that is worth noticing as really special in any way. The use of handcuffs as bike locks is original, but not very spectacular. The (even to me) mysterious technique to have such a simple idea stand out on LEGO Ideas is maybe something I am most proud of.
     
  9. If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
    stud.io (that program is really addictive). I found the model for the new road plates on a German blog because when I first created a digital model, those were not yet available in the updated parts of stud.io. stud.io is a joy to use and the rendering is photorealistic enough to have several people asking to see the model of the bike lanes in real life. But those are not real.. not yet.
     
  10. If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?
    I’ve traced a picture of a LEGO bike to create the decals for the road and the roadsign in photoshop and added them to stud.io with the parts designer. I only later found out that in the Shopping Street-set the actual decals are only slightly different.


     

ABOUT LEGO IDEAS

  1. Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
    Be creative, be original, you even don’t have to be the best builder (and I know!) or have the most elaborate plans to stand out. Just remember anything is possible in LEGO and remember to have fun.
     
  2. What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
    I’ve had fans of this LEGO Idea pick it up immediately, so the whole campaign has been a bit of a rollercoaster. It had to do with the fact that before I posted the actual Idea, the quest for proper LEGO bike lanes had been ongoing for almost six years. There were several people especially @fietsprofessor Marco te Brömmelstroet on Twitter passionate about it, so it really took off on several platforms. The only thing I had to do was create some more interest in the idea by engaging in the LEGO community (which is always a good idea) and I tried to say ‘yes’ to as many interviews as possible.
     
  3. What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
    The yellow submarine is iconic. As a set and as a story for a successful LEGO Idea. I just love the colorful set, the techniques used and the joy that set brings to people. But besides the iconic ones, there have been many, many great sets that have expired or have been overlooked. The amount of sets and the amount of talent on LEGO Ideas is really humbling.
     
  4. What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
    The interaction between LEGO fans of all ages is what attracts me to the platform. Feedback is always positive and there is always a shared enthusiasm about LEGO. The fact that there is an actual chance to engage in the process of designing a real LEGO set is a bit of a dream for everyone that plays with LEGO. It’s always fun to read the stories of people who have made it all the way on LEGO Ideas and the many other stories on the platform.

    The only one big tip I can give to anyone thinking about uploading an idea is: read the instructions, read them again and comply with them, just to prevent disappointment.
     
  5. Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint what that might be?
    My son Dorus plans to create a new hospital to put up on LEGO Ideas when he's old enough to do so. There is not really a hospital just like there is a fire station and police station in LEGO City and he has got a point there. Problem is, his mockups often get eaten by monsters or are recreated into monsters, so we might have a monster problem to solve first. I’m planning to submit an idea with racing bikes, to maybe seduce the UCI to partner up with LEGO. There are tons of possibilities with sets for the Tour de France, Giro, Vuelta and other big races, especially when there are proper bike lanes in LEGO!
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