Thursday, January 30, 2014

City Cycling Matures

By Kristopher Teubel

              For those that have worked on an urban project where transportation is among the designed aspects, there are various options one may investigate.  Perhaps the local mass transit system needs upgrading.  Or there could be a lack of parking in the project area.  One low-tech mode of transportation has been at the forefront of some architects' and city planners' minds for decades.  Cycling has come a long way in the recent decades as a viable mode of transportation in the urban landscape.  Some cities, such as Portland, Oregon or Copenhagen, Denmark, have become the standards for cycling integration.
            Cycling is believed by many to be the main opportunity for cities to reduce local pollution and traffic congestion.  In Portland, a new housing development is planned that will provide enough bike storage for two bikes per unit.  The city is so bike-friendly, it still may not be enough for the tenants.  It also is a great way for people to stay fit even on short commutes.  Currently, cycling proposes the ability to open up new markets in cities.  Various cities around the world have bike rental programs that could help to offset other municipal expenses.
            A current, high-profile topic in urban planning is the paring of Foster+Partners and Space Syntax to design the Skycycle.  The project is planned to be a superhighway in London for cyclists only.  It will be built over the existing railway system that runs through the city.  The one of the largest motivators for the project is the alleviation of traffic congestion.
            Even though many believe it will be a true asset of the city, still others raise some rather serious concerns.  Some city members believe the proposed design will be unnecessarily expensive.  Surely, being built over the existing railway will call for structure that could be done without with a different design.  One of the project's lead designers even mentioned concerns about the promotion of an “us versus them” mentality.  Some cities have seen this realized in the use of elevated skywalks.  Skywalks are elevated paths commonly intended for foot-traffic only.  In colder climates, the skywalks are usually enclosed and can problematically feel isolated from the activity found on the streets below.
            In Spain, citizens have rioted and protested against a proposed bike-friendly boulevard in Burgos.  The issue again lies closely with the finances of the project.  Recently, the city made severe budget cuts.  These cuts were felt directly by public service workers.  Many citizens feel that the cuts are unjustified as the city continues to make plans for new construction.
            Though cycling has yet to find its identity in some major cities, the triumphs and follies it has found are only signs of its maturation as a viable mode of transportation in the future.  Just as the automobile in its early years, cycling must be investigated by each individual city to find what the community needs from it.  With it will come setbacks, but, if architects and designers are diligent, it can become the transportation savior that some believe it can be in the future.

Stott, Rory. "Has Cycling Hit A Speed Bump?" 25 Jan 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 Jan 2014. 

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