How Cities Should be Designed

29 DECEMBER 2013

Source: Copenhagenize


One Man’s Image of the Future of Urban Transportation Design

Published on Nov 28, 2012

Parking where we want.

Parking where we want.

The focus on re-establishing more liveable cities continues unabated. The primary problem however is that 85 years of traffic engineering revolving around the car has failed miserably. It’s time for modern thinking. Design can help. Historically, streets were human spaces. Let’s design our cities like we design toasters or smartphones, following the desire lines of our citizens. Using basic design principles instead of engineering is the surest route to developing thriving, human cities.

Mikael Colville-Andersen is an urban mobility expert and CEO for Copenhagenize Consulting. He is often called Denmark’s Bicycle Ambassador but he has learned the hard way that this title is a dismal pick-up line in bars. Colville-Andersen and his team advise cities and towns around the world regarding bicycle planning, infrastructure and communication strategies. He applies his marketing expertise to campaigns that focus on selling bicycle culture and bicycle transport to a mainstream audience as opposed to the existing cycling sub-cultures in particular with his famous Cycle Chic brand. Colville-Andersen gives talks around the world about bicycle culture, design and social media.

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Broadening the Conversation is the essence of the problem within the Urban Cycling Movement. If you look at groups like the clique that frequents a forum like Chicago ChainLink you see what ails the movement first hand.

The first issue is that with some 10,000 people who are supposedly members of this forum fewer than 500 are consistently involved in its ongoing conversations. I would in fact dare to guess that perhaps only 100 are consistent contributors. This makes for a rather skewed viewpoint when perusing the threads.

Now consider the world outside of the Chicago ChainLink. It is composed for regular folks who are largely motorists and sometimes mass transit users. To them the kinds of conversations going on within this forum would be considered as weird. It makes no sense to the average American that all of the cars on the road be dropped into a sink hole and covered over as was suggested in a recent ChainLink thread.

But setting aside the kinds of lunatic fringe comments that pass as “gospel” on the ChainLink there is a fair amount of what Mikael Colville-Andersen has to say that would also be foreign to most folks. While many people hate traffic congestion in cities like Chicago, the ones who simply cannot or will not put up with that chaos are either living in the suburbs or planning to move there.

It is highly unlikely that the average suburbanite in conversation with your average urban cyclist would find much common ground. And we cyclists bear the brunt of the responsibility for this lack of understanding on the part of those living in the suburbs. Writers like John Greenfield like to pick apart the suburbs as soulless places where life is devoid of meaning. Yet when he opines on where to raise his children once he settles down and gets married you hear him thinking aloud the same thoughts as offered up by Mancow.

Like it or not when you are raising children the things you are willing to tolerate while living in the brave new world of Chicago are not on the table when you consider your twin 6-year daughters. Just the quality of schooling alone is enough to make you flee the city screaming as if your hair were ablaze.

Urban Cyclists Take Heed

Chicago's Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

Chicago’s Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

Your manifesto about the “little people taking over” is completely wrong. What instead will happen is that cities will become more suburban in nature (should Colville-Andersen’s ideas take root) and instead of Urban Cyclists having the streets to themselves the character of the city itself will evolve.

Suburban 1%-ers will be the first to return. They will demand a very different kind of city than the Bohemian one the “little people” adore. The tattoo parlors and vinyl record shoppes with either leave or take on a very different character.

Divvy bikes might remain but what will certainly happen is that some sort of electric vehicle with dimension not much greater than a longish motorcycle will be developed and urban riders will get back and forth to their markets and restaurants in style.

Do not count on seeing lots of wizened old men pedaling around on crappy looking bikes (up Damen Avenue) as I witnessed this week with milk cartons on their rear racks or in one case square plastic buckets. Do count on seeing leather saddles and panniers on high-end Budnitz city bikes.

This will not be a revolution where as one interviewee put it in a recent article on bicycle taxation:

“Seriously, 10 years ago, there was (only) a handful of nutcases who biked around Chicago.”

This will instead be a situation where the poor will find themselves gentrified out of their neighborhoods and in their place urbanites of means, for whom a small bicycle tax will be nothing to bat an eye at. In fact if they are promised a system by which their bikes are more secure and parking is improved, they will be happy to pay.

These will be the folks who are moving into the very  multi-level dwellings that are currently slated for development and are bringing with them lots and lots of parking for automobiles.

Your Days Are Numbered

And we are doing the counting. The real winners in this city of the future will be pedestrians. Eventually the Segway will become cheap enough to be ubiquitous. It will mean that alongside of Divvy stations there will be Segway rental stations. And if they are smart the proprietors will make the rental periods longer so that you can move about the city without a full on frenzy to find the next station before getting dinged on your credit card.

In addition to the electrically powered cars will come those which can drive themselves. They will be utterly quiet and cities will begin to bring them online as the only kinds of vehicles allowed in the downtown districts (ostensibly in place of taxis) but ultimately they will prove to be the safest sort of vehicle possible (and that includes bikes).

Look forward to having your primitive bike lanes replaced by those for these kinds of pilotless wonders which will give the cities that welcome them a real leg up in terms of prestige. Who would not want that sort of clientele in place of folks riding around with milk cartons strapped onto their rear racks  using fenders made of cardboard or handout plastic?