Urban Design for Bicycles: a Plausible Sustainable Solution

cycling sustainable city

Using bicycle-friendly cities like Copenhagen as inspiration, a growing number of cities around the world are changing their urban design to become biking cities.

Each year, Copenhagen eliminates 90,000 tons of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere from the sheer number of cyclists versus cars.

Designing cities with bicycles in mind reduces emissions, commute times, urban sprawl and illness. More cities are looking to bike-friendly sustainable development as they aspire to become green.

Urban planners and architects are increasingly faced with the challenge of compacting development and designing a sustainable transport pattern. Cyclists around the world are pushing for change through campaigns such as the Bikes Belong Coalition.

cycling sustainable city

Washington, D.C. has made great strides in boosting its bike-friendliness, going from one of the least cyclist-friendly to the opposite end of the spectrum in just 10 years.

Transportation policy in America and much of the world has focused almost exclusively on the automobile since the 1950s. This is now changing as urban planners design transport routes where cars and bikes are equally welcome.

Nearly 60 per cent of Americans say if they had a safe route such as a green lane, they would ride their bikes more often. This was proven by a study in Washington, D.C. that showed a 200 per cent increase in bike activity after green lanes were added to their streets.

cycling sustainable city

Many cyclists say extensive infrastructure is needed – not just painted lines, but physically separated bikeways that are safe for cyclists.

Proper infrastructure, including bike parking and segregated bike paths, needs to be integrated into existing cities. The Danish Minister for Transport has taken a holistic approach to cycling in Denmark, integrating it into urban planning and transport policy at a national and local level.

Landscape architect Jennifer Toole, lead designer of D.C.’s bike network, says adding bike lanes is easy on streets that have additional capacity, but matters become more difficult when space is limited. In those cases, other avenues need to be explored.

Concepts such as making some traffic congested streets into bicycle-only streets should be considered to change existing infrastructure.

cycling sustainable city

A city built for bicycles would provide mobility and accessibility for a greater number of people than one built for automobiles. Bike taxis and cargo bikes would enable those with disabilities or large loads to use bicycles.

In countries with bad weather, routes could be planned with ample tree cover or even indoor sections.

Though starting from scratch is not a feasible option for most cities, architects and city planners should implement as many ideas as logistically possible into existing infrastructure. A city built for bicycles would be a healthy, social, energy efficient, safe and sustainable place.

Even though it would not make sense to build new cities based around bicycles, planners must be willing to adapt the way of life in urban centres for the better to encourage biking as the main mode of transport. That some cities have already done so shows that there is no need for contemplation. With the health and environmental benefits cycling brings, the time for such change is now.

By Kristen Avis
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