Cycling & The City: Urban Design Issues

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CYCLING AND THE CITY —
URBAN DESIGN ISSUES

HOSTED BY DESIGN DIALOGUES • SUMMER 2018

As New York City (slowly) gets with the program in terms of encouraging and facilitating bike riding for the health of its residents and the surrounding environment, a couple of DBB’s more passionate cyclists gave a lively and provocative presentation on the history, pleasures, and perils of cycling the city. The two presenters looked at cycling through opposite lenses, one giving a more ground-level, experiential analysis of the day-to-day issues relating to riding a bike in the city, the other looking at cycling from an historical and urban design perspective and providing some enlightening global case studies suggesting how much better NYC and America in general could do.

The first presentation, Augusto Salinas’ The Cycle: Typologies, was a hilariously rigorous scientific study that broke NYC bike riders down into six broad types — The Messenger, The Cruiser, The Fixie, The CitiBiker, The Roadie, and The Contraption Captain — and analyzed the unique habits, tendencies, and world views of each.

After that, Augusto broke down the distinct perils and villains of daily cycling: The Door (getting doored); The Salmon (a rider going the wrong way); The Punisher (a pedestrian who crosses without looking); The Cab; The Line-Stepper (a pedestrian walking in the bike lane); The Hurdle (a random object in the bike lane); The Double-Parker; The B69 (any MTA bus); The Drifter (a pedestrian or scooter wandering aimlessly in the street); The Trap (blind corners); and finally, to quote Jim Morrison, The End (when the bike lane ends and turns into a sidewalk). The moral of the mostly humorous presentation was of course that accidents generally stem from to poor urban design and planning and a lack of understanding of cycling culture. To find workable solutions, the powers that be need to consult with riders or (ideally) put themselves in their saddles.

The second presentation, Sandra Berdick’s Cycling in the City / Global Design Solutions 2018, posed three main questions: (1) Why does urban design centered around bikes pale in comparison to “auto-centric” design? (2) What do bike-centric cities look like and how can we shift towards designing them? (3) How do we improve and adapt auto-centric cities to become more encouraging of cyclists? Both cars and bikes are wheeled and require roadways, yet in the US our current approach to designing bike lines is simply to place them wherever cars can go. In an ideal world, they need to be given separate and equal consideration. Sandra went on to examine the history, planning measures, and creative design solutions of cities like Amsterdam, Groningen and Eindhoven in the Netherlands that come much closer to this “ideal world” — one in which cyclists, pedestrians and cars co-exist harmoniously (with as few cars as possible, naturally).

A sampling of current bike lane shortcomings in the US

A sampling of current bike lane shortcomings in the US

In 1972, more than 400 children in the Netherlands were killed in traffic accidents. These children protested to their elected representatives.

In 1972, more than 400 children in the Netherlands were killed in traffic accidents. These children protested to their elected representatives.

Protest signs from the awareness campaign:  “The best police is on his bike,” “on the bike, you were already,” “I think so, I bike.”

Protest signs from the awareness campaign: “The best police is on his bike,” “on the bike, you were already,” “I think so, I bike.”

“The cyclist is key, the car is a guest,” says project consultant Gerrit Dorgelo. “Most roads are designed for cars, and also make cyclists use the road. In Bessemoerstraat, the cyclists ride in the middle of the road. It is therefore difficult for the driver to overtake cyclists, and they get the idea: I have to adapt myself and I am a guest.“

“The cyclist is key, the car is a guest,” says project consultant Gerrit Dorgelo. “Most roads are designed for cars, and also make cyclists use the road. In Bessemoerstraat, the cyclists ride in the middle of the road. It is therefore difficult for the driver to overtake cyclists, and they get the idea: I have to adapt myself and I am a guest.“

SkyCycle, London (Foster and Partners)

SkyCycle, London (Foster and Partners)

Cycle Snake (Coast Studio)

Cycle Snake (Coast Studio)

Plan Z for Miami

Plan Z for Miami

Hovenring, Eindhoven, Netherlands

Hovenring, Eindhoven, Netherlands