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Brussels

By Devon Paige Willis
Devon is doing a Masters program called 4Cities, an Erasmus Mundus Masters that takes students from Brussels to Vienna, Copenhagen and Madrid to study cities. Gehl Architects met her when she was interning at the Montréal Urban Ecology Center in 2013.

Devon

In September, I moved to Brussels for my studies. Before arriving I knew little about the Belgian (and de-facto European) capital besides what I learned when I visited in 2010 and what I heard from friends:  tasty waffles and fries, a strange statue of a boy peeing, two official languages and a good system of trams. I had been told it often rains and each time I told someone my Master’s program involves studying in four European cities, unequivocally Brussels prompted the least enthusiastic response.

It turns out that Brussels is an incredibly interesting city – the politics, the culture, the diversity and its interesting past make it great material for learning about cities. It is also a liveable kind of city; with everything an urbanite needs (although public transportation could be better: all transit ends by midnight during the week). However, there is one major problem:  the car culture.

The thing that hands down surprised me the most about Brussels is the number of cars and the sheer place devoted to automobiles in the city. Cycling in Brussels is challenging for several reasons (the hills, the cobblestone), not least the cars.  In fact, Brussels is arguably the most congested city in Europe.

This surprised me not only because of the stereotypes I had about European cities being from North America, but also because during my internship at the Montreal Urban Ecology Center last year we would often cite the progressive highway code in Belgium, which (it would seem) gives priority to the most vulnerable road users (pedestrians first and then cyclists). However, after five months in Brussels, it seems that at least in this Belgian city the code is not fully embraced – or enforced.

First, pedestrians are not given priority. At crosswalks they often they wait for cars to stop and often the cars do not. Distance between crosswalks exacerbates the problem as pedestrians choose to cut across to avoid long detours. In 2009, there were 88 deaths for every 1 million inhabitants in Belgium (compared to 43 in the Netherlands) and Brussels has the most traffic accidents of Belgium with 1000 accidents per million vehicle kilometers driven in 2010, in comparison to less than 500 in both Gent and Liège (CEESE – ULB et Transport & Mobility Leuven 2009).

The Atomium in Brussels

The Atomium in Brussels

Second, there are cars everywhere, even under the Atomium, which is something like the Eiffel Tower of Belgium. There are many parking lots in Brussels, including large lots in front of the town halls. Finally, there are even cars in the parks. One of the largest parks, Bois de la Cambre, is cross-crossed by roads, with few pedestrian crosswalks, forcing pedestrians to cross traffic to continue walking, running or cycling (although the roads at closed Friday to Sunday in the summer months).

In comparison, Amsterdam is a cyclists’ paradise. This came as no surprise, Amsterdam is known to be one of the most cyclable cities. However, I felt it all the more after living in Brussels.  Amsterdam is smaller and flatter than Brussels, which makes walking and cycling easier and more enjoyable, especially along the canals which give a romantic feeling to the city (Brussels also has a canal, but it remains largely industrial). The bicycle paths are extensive, connected and separated from traffic. Cyclists have priority, even over pedestrians it seems, as many times I had to stop to allow cyclists to pass as I walked in the centre.

Cycling in Amsterdam

Cycling in Amsterdam

In the four days I was walking around Amsterdam I only heard a car honk once, while in Brussels drivers honk habitually. In Brussels you must plan your trip by bicycle ahead of time to avoid congested roads and steep inclines, but in Amsterdam even as a tourist I was able to manoeuvre the city with little difficulty though it is true that pedestrians must be wary of oncoming bicycle traffic. I was even able to cycle outside the city, explore residential areas and make my way back to the centre thanks to a system signage along the bicycle path network.

The level of car usage and congestion is a problem for Brussels. So much that recently the mayor of Brussels commune, which is the city centre of the Brussels Capital Region, has talked about decreasing cars from the city centre, namely from Anspach, a large boulevard. The Netherlands do not have significantly less cars than Belgium (449 per 1000 inhabitants versus 471 in Belgium), yet car usage is visibly lower in the Netherlands. While there are challenges to shifting mode choice in Brussels – a car culture, a sprawling urban population, and a challenging topography – the city should move towards a less car-dependent model, as the current state of congestion, stressed drivers and vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists resembles more an American city than a city that wishes to be capital of Europe.

 

InConversation

Just before, we entered into the new year, Foster + Partners, Exterior Architecture, and Space Syntax presented their spectacular, and maybe utopian, project SkyCycle. A project, which would provide over 220 kilometres of safe, car free cycle routes on elevated decks above the existing suburban rail corridors of London. For details of the project visit Foster+Partners website.

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Image by Exterior Architecture, Foster + Partners and Space Syntax

It’s not a wonder that this radical suggestion for improving cycling in London has been proposed in the wake of recent tragic cycling accidents in London, and the media attention this has evoked.

The challenge of improving cycling in London was already a hot topic in the Gehl office, so it did not take long before the SkyCycle project sparked a conversation between three of the Gehl partners; Kristian Villadsen, Henriette Vamberg, and Jeff Risom. (Please note that we do not know all of the details related to the SkyCycle project, but would love to know more!).

Here is a peek into the conversation between the three…


The ´Skycycle´ project

Kristian: SkyCycle can been seen as a conversation starter for discussing the topic of cycling in London. Visualizations can be a great way to motivate a discussion as long as they don’t elude people into thinking it’s simple solutions, putting bicycles up in the air isn’t going to solve all conflicts, they are bound to come down at some point and then how do they fit in to the cities network, we need  integrated thinking.

Jeff: In short, I think it is part of a trend of Architects visualizing bold ideas and perhaps exaggerated ideas to start a discussion.  It is great that other major architecture firms help to put focus on bicycling as a part of a sustainable, healthy and economical beneficial model for cities

Henriette: I do not think you should put it off as a crazy idea, because the idea should be understood in its context. Overall bicycles in cities can be used in two ways; The short convenient ride, or the longer commuting ride, the SkyCycle project presents a way of using the railway corridors for efficient commuting by bicycle, going to the city center and then continuing via the cycle lanes, it demonstrate an interesting view on how to commute. Providing people with long tracks for longer and faster transport, and creating an alternative to the daily train ride.

Jeff: It is interesting, but bicyclists are not train riders, and this solution is built on an assumption of what users want when commuting 25 km a day. As opposed to train riders, we have to give bicyclists choice to stop simultaneously, alter their route and interact with their surroundings in another way then you do moving by train.

Henriette: Trains, are overcrowded and break down. This opportunity to cycle provides another possibility that is independent of anything other than you.


Commuting on bicycles?

Kristian: The city of Copenhagen has seen that the willingness of users to commute long distances on bicycles is growing every year, when you make these super quality routes. What is important is that these super cycle highways are a complementary solution, and not a sole solution to the cycling infrastructure of a city. An integrated network into a city, where the flexibility of designing your route every day from your bicycle is still possible. You can diversify your route to incorporate your shopping, visiting the library, or pick up the kids. If you are up on a segregated highway, you are not offered the conveniences that characterize the bicycle ride.

Henriette: In London you have a number of big train stations in the periphery of the city, and it is interesting that a lot of these corridors link the suburb to the city center. I see the SkyCycle network as a possible complement for commuters.

Kristian: But it could be a heavy investment to create this segregated bicycle network.

Henriette: Well not compared to developing the overburdened railway line. The smart thing about using the existing railway corridors in London is that they are continuous, where bicyclists can ride undisturbed by red lights. It is interesting since there are journeys that you just want to use to get from point A to B, a completely different thing than riding your bicycle in a city centre. Important to understand it in that context.

Kristian: There are three aspects related to the height. First, the height itself might exclude children and elderly and people with poor health conditions, simply by being too steep and these are really the groups that needs bicycles to go around. Second, it does seem a little out of the way to put the mode of traffic most influenced by weather conditions up in the air where winds are stronger and there is no protection from climate… they actually end up protecting the trains. Third, of course there is also a safety aspect, when you are up in the air you don’t have the same level of passive surveillance from people in windows and if you meet someone you don’t want to meet, how do you get away if the nearest exit is a mile away, you can’t really jump off…


Cycling in London 2014

Henriette: London has a rising bicycling population, as we know from Andrew Gilligan, Cycling Commissioner for London that accidents are actually going down, there have been a lot of unfortunate accidents.

Kristian: There are lot of other measure you can take other than segregation, when you are aiming for a safe bicycle infrastructure. We had a lot of right turn accidents in Copenhagen, but then a campaign was made and the right turn accidents were radically reduced. It is also about building a culture, not just infrastructure and street. More bicyclists will in themselves generate awareness because car drivers will start to expect cyclists. Still only 2% of people are traveling by bicycle in London, and they still need to get used to the consequences of incorporating cyclist into the city landscape. There are other ways to incorporate cyclists into the city infrastructure without putting them up in the air.

Jeff: It is about creating a joined-up mobility network, with many choices and comfortable, safe viable options where it is possible to go from bicycle to public transport easily and …

Henriette: There is a difference between commuting and city bicycling, the challenge is to integrate the commuting with the bicycling street infrastructure in the city.

Kristian: Another solution is the Green Wave, as in Copenhagen. Where the lights are matched to the bicycles through sensors that will register the speed on the bicycle lanes and adjust the lights. This is not about insisting on being very analog; it is about being smart about using new technologies and ideas for supporting an integrated network.

Jeff: My biggest concern would be a project that invests in mono-functional infrastructure. In 2014, given limited funding and material resources of today, we have to find ways to design and build the next generation of infrastructure that satisfies numerous problems and demands simultaneously. Could investments like this that would be good for cyclists also aid in distributed district heating, trash collection, material recycling,  or work together with regional production and distribution networks to make the ‘last mile’ of supply distribution more efficient.  Or we have to find smart ways to utilize disused infrastructure to satisfy current demands. Could dedicated bicycle tracks run along disused rail corridors?

As the conversation came to an end it was clear, that there is probably not a golden solution to the challenging task of creating a bicycling infrastructure in London. The thing that struck me as the main consideration after hearing the three partners, is their repeated efforts to bring the attention back to the users and their varying needs in the city. What do you think?

On a side note, here is a different type of cycle project in Hamburg that you might enjoy.

And an interesting piece of background to the latest media focus on dangerous bicycling in London.

peopleincitiesThe winter season is upon us in the northern hemisphere and in Scandinavia that means few hours of daylight, low temperatures and less people spending time outdoors in our cities and public spaces. But the darkness and the cold also bring possibilities. In cities all over Scandinavia the ‘Winter City’ is being celebrated with beautiful lighting and outdoor activities that invite people to enjoy city life and the changing seasons.

Here are some examples of winter-time activities and ‘spaces for people’ in cities…

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Children of all ages sledding in the snow on a slope in the park. Ørstedsparken, Copenhagen.

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Ice on the lakes in Copenhagen invites for curling. Curious spectators line-up to watch the game.

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The frozen lakes of Copenhagen invite for various activities. Combined with the wind, which is well known to Copenhageners, ‘blokarting’ is possible.

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A spot in the sun to enjoy the view, and a rest in the daily bicycle commute. Copenhagen.

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Even in the winter most people in Copenhagen prefer to commute to and from their daily activities on their bicycle.

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A Christmas market in central Copenhagen attracts people.

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Winter barbecue in Vinterparken in Östersund in Sweden.

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Building a snowcastle brings together children of all ages and adds a new building to the city, framing a new public space and meeting spot. Östersund, Sweden.

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Deckchairs form a great spot in the sun for people watching. Östersund, Sweden.

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Night-time ice skating framed by historical buildings and beautiful lighting. Kongens Nytorv, Copenhagen.

Does your city lack opportunities for spending time outdoors in the winter? Or is your city already a great ‘Winter City’ that can serve as inspiration for other cities?

We hope that this served as inspiration for your ‘Winter City’ or has inspired you to share how your city stays active through the winter months.

Enjoy the season!

At the Eimus Conference about Mobility in Lima, Peru earlier in November, cycling was a hot discussion topic. The book “Cyclists & Cycling Around the World – Creating Livable & Bikeable Cities” was released at the launch of the conference.

"Cyclists & Cycling Around the World - Creating Livable & Bikeable Cities", a new book - edited by Juan Carlos Dextre, Michael Higes & Lotte Bech - was released at the opening of the 3rd Eimus Conference about Mobility in Lima. Peru Nov. 3rd, 2013.

“Cyclists & Cycling Around the World – Creating Livable & Bikeable Cities”, a new book – edited by Juan Carlos Dextre, Michael Higes & Lotte Bech – was released at the opening of the 3rd Eimus Conference about Mobility in Lima. Peru Nov. 3rd, 2013.

The book presents 25 different experts from around the world who have contributed with cases covering topics such as, Cycle Culture, Liveable and Bikeable Cities, Cycle infrastructure, Safety for Cyclists, Bicycles, Cycling Policy, Cycle Advocacy and Education. Professor Lars Gemzøe from Gehl Architects was a keynote speaker at the conference and has contributed to the book with a case about Copenhagen and the development of cycle and pedestrian life. The book can be bought here.

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During the many years in which pedestrian traffic was primarily treated as a form of transport that belonged under the auspices of traffic planning, city life’s bounty of nuances and opportunities was largely overlooked or ignored. The terms used were “walking traffic”, “pedestrian streams,” “sidewalk capacity,” and “crossing the street safely.” But in cities there is so much more to walking than walking! – Cities for People

Attractive and inviting pedestrian spaces that put people in proximity to one another contribute to a lively and livable city. Photo: Peter Cromwell

Attractive and inviting pedestrian spaces that put people in proximity to one another contribute to a lively and livable city. Photo: Peter Cromwell

Peter_CromwellBy Peter Cromwell
Urban theorist and designer, and former intern at Gehl Architects

What if bicycle facilities were designed with the same care and attention as a park, plaza, or public square? What if designers began to think about programmed activity when designing for cyclists? To do so would take a monumental paradigm shift in how we think about cyclists, their relationship to others, and what they need from the facilities they use. One might well consider whether we design for a cyclist as little more than a deconstructed automobile, or something closer to a pedestrian. Truthfully, they have characteristics of both: they can move like automobiles but experience the world like pedestrians. While most contemporary bicycle facility design does well to allow cyclists to move like an automobile, little effort has been made to study or understand how to design for cyclists experiencing the world like pedestrians.

Can bicycle facilities be designed in a way that fosters social interaction and facilitates cyclists to contribute to the vitality of a city? Photo: Kasey Klimes

Can bicycle facilities be designed in a way that fosters social interaction and facilitates cyclists to contribute to the vitality of a city? Photo: Kasey Klimes

One does not generally think of the social needs of a cyclist, yet this is the key to rethinking what makes a complete cycling experience. In response to the Modernist approach to urban design many observed that, when properly designed for, pedestrian activities can contribute to the vitality and livability of a city. Jan Gehl’s critique has been that Modernist urban design – both the architecture and street design – creates a dull urban experience for pedestrians, depriving them of interaction with others, and resulting in lifeless cities where people do not want to live or visit. Through his research, Gehl found that what people want, and is the basis for what creates life in the city, is social interaction. He described this as the need for contact. Thus, designing cities to encourage life between buildings means rich and inviting landscapes that encourage social interaction.

There are two types of social interaction: direct and indirect. Direct social interaction is primarily verbal communication while indirect social interaction is non-verbal. Gehl noted that the latter is of particular importance because it is the most common form of social interaction and the precursor to other interactions. Anthropologist Edward Hall made an extensive study of indirect social interaction, observing that eye-contact, body language, olfactory experiences, or just being in proximity to others are all forms of indirect social interaction. Much of his book, The Silent Language (1966) focuses on how humans use space to communicate. Hall noted that by being in proximity to others a social interaction is triggered, even if it is outside one’s awareness. This means many will not attribute indirect social interactions as a component of livable cities since they do not recognize when it is happening. Still, many of the solutions Gehl developed for creating life between buildings simply aims to put people in proximity to one another.

Riding alone in the city is a lonely experience. Photo: Peter Cromwell

Riding alone in the city is a lonely experience. Photo: Peter Cromwell

Those who have cycled in world class bicycle cities like Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Portland (US) understand that there is more to a complete cycling experience than the safety and efficiency of the bicycle facility. Like Gehl’s observation that there is more to pedestrian experiences in the city than walking, there is more to a cyclist’s experience than pedaling – there are social interactions as well. If bicycle facilities are designed with the acknowledgement that cyclists experience the world like pedestrians then they will foster social interaction. While we commonly think of the proven benefits cycling confers to personal health, environmental quality, and even the economy, this research suggests that when properly designed for, cycling can provide the additional benefits of contributing to the vitality and livability of a city.

For a more in depth analysis about this topic and an exploration of how we might design bicycle facilities to foster social interaction, please see the author’s Thesis and the film Cycling on Stage, which was produced in collaboration with the Scan|Design Foundation, The Green Futures Lab, and Gehl Architects.

Odense

Photo credit: Odense Kommune

Today we are celebrating World Habitat Day. We are highlighting the continuous need to reflect on the state of the world’s towns and cities and the basic right for all to have adequate shelter. World Habitat Day is in place to remind the world that we are all responsible for shaping the future of our cities and towns.  This year’s theme is urban mobility, emphasized by the recent Global Report on Human Settlements, 2013: Planning and Design for Sustainable Urban Mobility.

In this report the UN Habitat stresses that “mobility is not just about developing transport infrastructure and services, but about overcoming the social, economic, political, physical barriers to movement”. Such a take on mobility requires both a shift in mind-set and in developing new ways of working together.

In the past few months Gehl Architects have acted as consultant for the City of Odense who is in the process of creating a new mobility plan. The mobility plan highlights how mobility contributes to a more social and lively city, a healthier city, an even more sustainable city and increasingly economically prosperous city. Rather than an efficient mobility system being the end goal, mobility initiatives are seen as a means towards meeting some overall goals for the city. In line with the UN Global report focusing on equitable access, the mobility plan for Odense stresses the importance of improving the mobility possibilities for children and other more vulnerable groups.

The view on mobility as much more than just a technical infrastructure issue is also reflected in the types of initiatives proposed in the plan. All initiatives can be termed ‘soft’ measures as they do not involve any hard physical changes. Examples include campaigns aiming to inform about mobility options (e.g. mobility plans for local businesses)  or campaigns creating incentives for people to choose new mobility options – such as car-pooling and car sharing. Initiatives targeted at special groups include cycle tours/training as part of a job training program for unemployed citizens and ‘physically active senior life’ (walking and cycling tours) for elderly.

The many different initiatives follow  a cross-departmental collaborative process, where mobility ideas have been combined and developed with staff from other municipal departments. This is a very interesting model in order to strengthen the holistic and integrated take on mobility needed to make our cities more accessible and livable for all.

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By John Bela
Co-founder of Rebar and creator of Park(ing) Day

 

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Parking Day in Copenhagen

This year was the eighth annual celebration of Park(ing) Day, a global event where people take over parking spaces and turn them into temporary parks. Park(ing) Day was started by Rebar Group in San Francisco in 2005 as a guerrilla art intervention.

Quite by coincidence, I found myself in Copenhagen during Park(ing) Day, taking part in a month long designer-in-residency at Gehl Architects. I borrowed a cargo bike for the day from my friends at N55 and set out to see how the world’s most livable city would engage in the event.

First stop was in Valby at a Park(ing) Day installation set up by Dorte Grastrup-Hansen at Mellemtoften 1, close to Valby Station.

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Dorte and friends had set up a nice, tiny, social space and were serving coffee and dream cake to passers-by, while a colleague was doing air quality and noise monitoring, using the park to demonstrate the need for calmer streets and more green spaces in the area.

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We were paid a visit by the Copenhagen environmental and engineering Mayor Ayfal Baykal. Ayfal and I had a great conversation about the City’s goal to increase bike ridership.

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Next stop was across the city to Nordre Frihavnsgade where a group of folks were sharing coffee and beers in a Park(ing) space. We chatted and hung out for a while and were given a great laser cut wooden plaque that says “one less driver” to attach to our Moble XYZ cargo bike.

Apparently there was also a Park(ing) installation set up right in our neighborhood on Flintholm Allé, which we somehow missed. This space was created by the Creative Roots group. See the Parking Day Copenhagen facebook page for more photos and info on this year’s event.

It’s been wonderful to see the growth and evolution of Park(ing) Day from a guerrilla art event into a global movement that engages everyday people in the process of transforming the city. You don’t have to be an architect or a planner to participate in Park(ing) Day although many do. It’s also been gratifying to witness the change in thinking that has occurred in city governments and within the private development community whom now engage in temporary projects, interim use, and pilot projects to kick start the process of remaking the city while cultivating life and activity in the commons.

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In San Francisco, Park(ing) Day has been eclipsed by the Parklet Program, an initiative led by the SF Planning Department which created a permit process to enable people to semi-permanently transform a parking space in front of their home or business into a tiny public park. And this is just one example from around the globe of an emerging synthesis between strategic and tactical actors, top down planning and grassroots actions, all of whom share a vision for a more livable, resilient and socially just cities.

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My wife Denise and I created a minimal but mobile park for the Park(ing) Day Copenhagen event and so we pedaled over towards the ‘Stork Fountain’ to catch some rays of afternoon sun and celebrate the 8th annual parking day, an incredible month in Copenhagen, and a fantastic time in collaboration with the smart, energetic folks at Gehl Architects.

(Photo: Kasey Klimes)

(Photo: Kasey Klimes)

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized.” - Daniel Burnham, Author of “The Plan for Chicago”, 1909

For over a century, the city of Chicago has lived by these immortal words by Daniel Burnham. This is the city that responded to a massively destructive fire with the world’s first skyscraper. For much of the 20th century, however, Chicago hasn’t much discerned between the scale of its vision and the scale of urban development. As landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted once pointed out, “Chicago has a weakness for ‘big things’…”.

Today, however, Chicago has committed to recreating the urban environment at the human scale. I had the pleasure of visiting my old stomping grounds in Chicago recently and was pleased to see the progress the city has made in its public spaces and bicycle infrastructure. The changes may be small, but the vision is as big as ever.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has committed to installing 100 miles (160km) of physically protected bicycle paths over his first four year term. Three weeks after Emanuel took office, a physically separated cycle track was built on Kinzie Street. Bicycle traffic increased by 60% over pre-cycle track volumes. This past december, a two-way physically separated cycle track was installed on Dearborn through the heart of downtown Chicago (see below). It appears Emanuel is on track to reaching his goals.

Dearborn Street two-way cycle track

Dearborn Street two-way cycle track
(Photo: Kasey Klimes)

The city’s busiest bicycle street today is Milwaukee Ave, which had a 22% bicycle mode share at rush hour in 2011. Since then, several stretches of separated bike lanes and bright green intersection markings have been added along the route.

The city has also turned heads with the launch of its new bike share system (called “Divvy”), with 400 stations and 4,000 bikes throughout the city. In its first three weeks, the system logged over 50,000 trips with 150,000 miles (241,000km) traveled.

Milwaukee Ave Divvy Station, just before launch. (Photo: Kasey Klimes)

Milwaukee Ave Divvy Station, just before launch.
(Photo: Kasey Klimes)

The bikes are built for comfort and utility–not speed–with three gears, a built-in basket, fenders, a chain guard, and an upright geometry. (I must also admit, I’m a pretty big fan of the branding. That sky blue goes well with everything.)

The Divvy Bikes (Photo: Whet Moser, Chicagomag.com)

The Divvy Bikes
(Photo: Whet Moser, Chicagomag.com)

Back in 2004, Chicago completed construction of Millennium Park–one of North America’s largest public space projects of the last decade. Today the city is making progress on two more public space plans; the redesign of an old elevated rail line in the city’s North Side and the transformation of Navy Pier.

The latter project seeks to reimagine (and re-dignify) a major component of Daniel Burnham’s 1909 masterplan that has since succumb to pressures of commercialization and tourism. The $85 million project is set for completion by the Pier’s centennial in 2016 and led by James Corner Field Operations in collaboration with several other architects and designers including Bruce Mau and French botanist Patrick Blanc.

Navy Pier Tomorrow (Rendering: James Corner Field Operations & n Architects)

Navy Pier, 2016
(Rendering: James Corner Field Operations & n Architects)

The old rail line (called the Bloomingdale Trail) will be transformed into an elevated park à la New York’s High Line, but will be twice as long as its East Coast predecessor at 3 miles (5km) and feature bicycle access. The Emanuel administration has secured initial funding for the $100 million project, which is scheduled to be completed by 2014.

Bloomingdale Trail Today (Photo: David Schalliol)

Bloomingdale Trail Today
(Photo: David Schalliol)

The old way of doing things is coming to an end. As Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein bravely announced, “We can’t say we want to be more sustainable, but we also want to widen our roads and make it easier to drive, it just doesn’t work that way.” As these projects for pedestrians and cyclists come to fruition, their message is clear: Chicago’s future is one for people. We think Mr. Burnham would be proud.

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All over the world we witness cities changing, we see issues of bikeability becoming the center of attention, but it’s not always driven by a sustainability discourse as many would expect. This was confirmed at a recent visit to St. Petersburg, Russia, where in recent years a growing cyclist movement is working hard to change the current state of the city. Gehl Architects was invited to speak at this year’s Cycling Festival, which attracted around 7000 people – cyclists as well as non-cyclists. We realized that cycling is so much more than just an alternative mode of transport in comparison to the car; it’s a form of civic engagement!

By means of riding your bicycle, participating in the cycling festival etc. people are engaging in a dialogue about the city and how it should evolve. The people of St Petersburg are taking this dialogue to the streets, introducing new discussions on the role of the public space as well as what a liveable city is in the context of their city. Coming from Copenhagen where cycling has become mainstream it was very interesting and instructive to see how cycling has the potential of becoming a catalyst for change at a much larger scale.

Hello everyone and happy Copenhagen spring time! We kick off one day early due to tomorrows national holiday here in DK

Inspired by all the smiling faces I met biking to work this morning, this weeks’ Friday Fun features a bunch of links related to bikes and cycling.

Great Ideas; “Can a bicycle make up for everything a car have done? The Carma Project believes it can”. This Lisbon based project is using scraps of old cars to build brand new bikes, with the mission of compensating for the emissions lead out by the car. Everyone can join in and ride ‘a mile for a mile’.  http://renewpurpose.com/blog/bicycles-built-from-old-car-parts/ - http://carma-project.com/

Inspiring Companies; Ride a bike and change the world! Buenos Aires based La Vida en Bici launched Bikestorming.org at the Rio +20 summit.  ‘Bikestorming.org is about creating a systemic, global change on urban mobility for sustainable cities of the 21st century’ – by having 51% of the worlds’ population biking by year 2030! Check out their www: http://www.bikestorming.org/ - http://lavidaenbici.com/

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Blog Love; The Guardian Bike blog is packed with interesting articles, facts and figures and useful tips on how to maintain your bike. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog.

This article from the Bike blog takes up the issue of how to get more children in GB to ride their bikes to school. “Only 1% of children aged 5-10 and 3% of children aged 11-15 cycle to school, even though the average distance travelled is just three miles. Aside from the obvious physical health benefits, the CTC believes cycling can help “confidence, independence and sense of self-worth”…….. With 45% of children currently travelling by car contributing to 29% of traffic between 8-9am, encouraging more children to cycle to school would reduce local congestion and pollution.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog/2013/apr/12/children-cycling-school-run

Cities; on another note and the complete opposite of my morning experience of a lively Copenhagen is; ‘visions of cities without people’. Artist and photographer duo Lucie & Simon have created this post-apocalyptic series entitled ‘Silent World’ showing famous places in major metropolises emptied from the people that make them vibrant and lively.  http://www.lucieandsimon.com/works/silent_world

Data & Infographics; last but not least a wonderful diagram showing the simplicity of bicycle planning in Denmark from Copenhagenize:  http://www.copenhagenize.com/2013/04/the-copenhagenize-bicycle-planning-guide.html

For more Friday Fun, check out the Gehl Pinterest http://pinterest.com/gehlarchitects/

Have a great sunny weekend and be sure to send some smiles back, I know I will!

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