Over the last century, cars have been the dominant element when designing cities and towns. Driving lanes, lane expansions, parking garages, and surface lots have been utilized as we continue our heavy reliance on cars, leaving urban planners to devise creative ways to make city streets safe for pedestrians and cyclists alike. But many cities, especially a handful in Europe, have become blueprints for forward-thinking ideologies on how to design new spaces to become car-free and rethink streets to make them pedestrian-friendly. Are we experiencing the slow death of cars in urban cores around the world in favor of those who prefer to walk or ride bikes? And if so, how can it be done on a larger scale?
Bicycling: The Latest Architecture and News
Nowadays bicycles are not only used for sports or as a recreational activity, as more and more people are choosing bicycles as their main means of transportation.
Architecture plays a fundamental role in promoting the use of bicycles, as a properly equipped city with safe bicycle lanes, plentiful bicycle parking spots, and open areas to ride freely will encourage people to use their cars much less.
The first phase of what will become the world’s largest bicycle parking garage has opened to the public in Utretch, The Netherlands. Currently with a capacity of 6,000 parking spaces, by late 2018 it will have enough space to house 12,500 bicycles – outpacing the current record holder Tokyo’s 9,400-capacity Kasai underground station in Tokyo. When completed, the garage and its surrounding area will contain space as many as 22,000 bikes.
I spent four glorious days in Copenhagen recently and left with an acute case of urban envy. (I kept thinking: It’s like... an American Portland—except better.) Why can’t we do cities like this in the US? That’s the question an urban nerd like me asks while strolling the famously pedestrian-friendly streets, as hordes of impossibly blond and fit Danes bicycle briskly past.
Copenhagen is one of the most civilized cities on the planet. The world’s “most livable,” it’s often called, with some justification. (Although a Danish relative did caution me, “Spend a few weeks here in January before you make that pronouncement.”) But the seemingly effortless civility, Copenhagen’s amazing level of grace, is not an accident of place or happenstance. It’s the product of a shared belief that transcends urban design, even though the city is a veritable laboratory for pretty much all of the best practices in the field.
The world’s first international Bicycle Architecture Biënnale - a showcase of outstanding built environment solutions around cycling - will take place this month in Amsterdam.
The event - organized by leading cycling innovation agency CycleSpace - takes place on Wednesday 14 June and will celebrate the cutting edge and high profile building designs that are facilitating bicycle travel, storage and safety around the world.
This article was originally published on the blog of Copenhagenize Design Co, titled "Copenhagen's Fantastic & Stupid Bicycle Bridge Inderhavnsbro."
It's no secret that Copenhagen continues to invest massively in bicycle infrastructure like no other city on the planet. The network is already comprehensive and effective but the City continues to add important links, especially over the harbor and the canals. One of the more recent additions is the Inner Harbor Bridge—Inderhavnsbroen in Danish—that spans Copenhagen Harbor at a key, strategic and iconic point. It links the city center at the end of the postcard picture perfect Nyhavn with the Christianshavn neighborhood and the southern neighborhoods beyond. It is one of a series of 17 new bridges or underpasses for bicycle traffic that have been added to the City's transport network in the past few years.
The Inner Harbour Bridge was riddled with problems and was extremely delayed, as you can read here. Now, however, it's been open since July 2016. Let me be clear: I'm thrilled that we have a new, modern link over the harbor to accommodate bicycle traffic and pedestrians. I am over the moon that the number of cyclists crossing daily exceeds all projected numbers. The City estimated that between 3,000–7,000 cyclists would use the bridge but the latest numbers are 16,000. It's a massive success. But sometimes you can see the forest for the trees. I'm sorry, but Inderhavnsbro is a stupid, stupid bridge.
Amongst many things, Europe is known for some of the world’s most bicycle-friendly cities, offering safe and convenient travel routes for its two-wheeled commuters. Berlin, however, does not sit high on this list, but in an effort to address this, a new plan for a system of bicycle “superhighways” is undergoing implementation, incentivising cycling as an efficient means of transport.
Studies commissioned by Berlin’s Senate Department for the Environment, Transport, and Climate Protection looked into 30 possible bike paths, covering stretches of at least 5km. Of these, 12 have been selected as future superhighways, intended to be completely separated from other vehicles on the road.
In the race to bring driverless cars from a futuristic fantasy to a present-day reality, developers have touted a plethora of advantages, from reduced traffic congestion on roads to improved safety thanks to the elimination of human error. But the potential widespread implementation of driverless cars could also have profound impacts on the form of our urban environments, fundamentally reshaping infrastructure and land use. As recently as a year ago, this new technology was seen as decades away; however, recently Elon Musk, CEO of electric car maker Tesla, predicted that driverless cars will be capable of making cross-country treks within about two years, and a pilot program in the United Kingdom city of Milton Keynes plans to launch a fleet of driverless pod-taxis by 2018, matching Musk’s timeline.
The driverless car future could be just around the corner, and the normally slow-changing infrastructure of cities could be forced to apply quick fixes to adapt. At the same time, the full potential of driverless cars cannot be realized without implementing significant changes to the urban fabric. So how will driverless cars change how our cities work, and how will our cities adapt to accommodate them?
The Louisiana Channel recently paid a visit to one of the world's most bike-friendly cities to view what is dubbed "Copenhagen's new architectonic landmark," Dissing+Weitling Architecture's "The Bicycle Snake." "Strikingly slender" and boasting a simple orange track, the Bicycle Snake is a 230 meter bridge dedicated entirely to bikes. The steel bridge tries not to "be more that it actually is," unlike many other landmarks, connecting bicyclists to two main parts of the city by elevating them up to seven meters above the sea.
As cities worldwide are plagued with increasingly congested streets, more people are turning to bicycles to ease their commute. To accommodate the trend, bike lanes have been popping up around cities, yet often in a disjointed manner. A series of maps compiled by the Washington Post illustrates this surprisingly sporadic cycle infrastructure in several US cities.
Cropping up as afterthoughts in the existing urban fabric, many US bicycle networks consist of fragmented stretches of bike lanes and “sharrows” (shared car and bike lanes) loosely bound together by their proximity. In the case of Washington D.C., most of these are under a mile in length. A lack of cohesion and continuity leads to commuter chaos, forcing cyclists onto unprotected shoulders or into traffic when their designated lanes pull a disappearing act. Take a look at the maps after the break.
Today we are facing environmental issues more than ever. While architects, urban designers, policymakers and thinkers discuss the future of our cities, more and more people become aware of their own impact and use of space. Genre de Vie is a documentary film about bicycles, cities and personal awareness. Using the bicycle, Genre de Vie delves into how cycling contributes to the future livability of cities.
Watch the full documentary after the break.
A popular bicycle lane and public road that connects the Amsterdam suburbs of Krommenie and Wormerveer has been impregnated with solar panels, making it the world’s first. The 70-meter stretch, serving 2,000 daily cyclists, was embedded with crystalline silicon solar cells encased within concrete and covered with a translucent layer of tempered glass. It is expected to be extended an additional 100-meters in 2016, providing enough energy to power three households. More information, here.
A revolution is occurring in street design. New York, arguably the world’s bellwether city, has let everyday citizens cycle for transport. They have done that by designating one lane on most Avenues to bicyclists only, with barriers to protect them from traffic.
Now hundreds of cities are rejigging to be bicycle-friendly, while in New York there is a sense that more change is afoot. Many New Yorkers would prefer if their city were more like Copenhagen where 40% of all trips are by bike. But then Copenhagen wants more as well. Where does this stop?
Last year the UN General Assembly issued a resolution to “designate 31 October, beginning in 2014, as World Cities Day.” A legacy of the Expo 2010 Shanghai, the first World Cities day is being hosted today in Shanghai, with the aim of focusing on global urbanization and encouraging cooperation among countries to solve and promote sustainable urban development worldwide.
“In a world where already over half the population lives in urban areas, the human future is largely an urban future, said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on the importance of World Cities Day. “We must get urbanization right, which means reducing greenhouse emissions, strengthening resilience, ensuring basic services such as water and sanitation and designing safe public streets and spaces for all to share. Liveable cities are crucial not only for city-dwellers but also for providing solutions to some of the key aspects of sustainable development.”
To celebrate World Cities day, we’ve rounded up 23 articles that you can’t miss on critical issues relating to our cities, ranging from sustainability to addressing equality and creative solutions for integrating cycling into our cities.
Think we’ve missed something? Let us know in the comments below.
On the heels of Mayor Boris Johnson’s announced plan to construct an 18-mile protected bike lane by March 2016, architect David Nixon and artist Anna Hill have released their vision for relieving London’s congested streets with a floating “Thames Deckway” for cyclists. The proposal, though just in its preliminary design phase, claims the river Thames is currently a missed opportunity that could serve as a major travel artery for cyclists. If constructed, the £600 million project would run east-west for seven miles along the river’s southern bank, from Battersea to Canary Wharf, and harness it’s own energy through solar, tidal and wind power. Nixon and Hill have founded the River Cycleway Consortium in support of the project, which includes Arup and Hugh Broughton Architects.
There’s no denying that biking is one of the biggest trends in urban development right now, with many touting cycling as the solution to reducing pollution and congestion – not to mention its health benefits. As cities are focusing on what they can do to encourage cycling and make their streets bike-friendly, architects have played a critical role in ushering bikes into the city, designing everything from protected cycle lanes to elaborate elevated cycletracks. Yet after cycling in Vienna for eight years, two architecture students decided to take a different – and simpler - approach to improving biking conditions. Focusing on the often cumbersome task of trying to run errands while on a bike, Philipp Moherndl and Matthias Lechner have designed a lightweight, recyclable cardboard pannier that can seamlessly go from store to bike.
“Due to the mass appeal of the bike, conventional cycling accessories do not fit the lifestyle of many urban cyclists,” Moherndl and Lechner told ArchDaily. “The limited transport capacity of usual bicycles makes shopping difficult and inflexible. People often do their shopping spontaneously, on their way home or whilst cycling in the city. Therefore we wanted to come up with a more flexible solution: a multi-use bag for bicycles, which is low priced and environmentally-friendly.”
Learn more about the Packtasche after the break.
The introduction of protected bike lanes in many cities usually raises objections from motorists who believe that devoting an entire road lane to cyclists will restrict the flow of cars and add to congestion in cities. However, a study of New York's streets, which has been ongoing since the first protected bicycle lanes opened in 2007, has recently shown that the opposite is actually true: by separating different types of traffic, cars can actually get around faster.
That's before we even begin to discuss the safety benefits of protected bike lanes, with the study showing the risk of injury to cyclists, drivers and pedestrians all falling on streets where the protected lanes were installed.
Read on after the break for more results of the study
There's no doubt about it - cycling in cities is a big deal these days. But, while cycle lanes and bike-sharing schemes are all well and good for our cities, the cycling revolution hasn't yet brought us many examples of beautifully designed infrastructure to gawp at. This article, originally printed on The Dirt as "Do Elevated Cycletracks Solve Problems or Just Create More?" discusses two seemingly similar examples of high profile cycling infrastructure, examining why one is a success and the other a non-starter.
This year, two designs – one proposed and one built – for elevated cycletracks, which create bicycle highways above street level, have gained considerable media attention. They highlight questions at the heart of urban design: Should cities blend or separate transportation options? How can cities best mitigate the hazards created when cars, bikes, mass transit, and pedestrians mix? How can cities create low-cost transportation networks in increasingly dense urban cores?