In this excerpt from “Copenhagenize,” author Mikael Colville-Andersen talks cars, playgrounds and how we can leverage design to reclaim our “life-sized” cities.
“Bicycle urbanism by design is the way forward. We are surrounded—if not bombarded— by products to buy in our daily lives. Take a look around you at the many products you have acquired. Your smartphone, toothbrush, remote control, mouse, chair. They all have one thing in common. There was a designer or a design team dedicated to ensuring that you would have a positive design experience when using it. The team that produced my smartphone was employed by a multinational corporation that is intent on increasing profit margins, sure, but the designers bent over backward to make sure that the phone was easy, intuitive and enjoyable to use by me, my ten-year-old daughter and my 88-year-old father. And everyone in between. It was a human-to-human process from idea to purchase. Their sole task was thinking about the human on the other end of that process. That can’t be said of traffic engineering and even traffic planning in most parts of the world, where mathematical models focused on moving cars around is the primary focus.”
“And more to the point: in the rare moments that I find myself in my full-on cyclist get-up, I still care deeply about how the streets I ride through are built. And for the most part, so do all my cross-racing, Chamois-Butt’r-needing, mega-athletic friends who would call themselves cyclists proudly and without a moment’s hesitation.
Cyclists are People on Bikes. And the kind of People on Bikes who will never touch a fiber of Lycra a day in their life still need Cyclistsin the fight to create better streets. They also need sympathetic drivers, and transit riders, and people on hoverboards, if those infernal things somehow manage to stick around. We need every single person we can get.”
What’s the value of a walk-friendly street? Why do our cities benefit from being safe places to walk? Read on to find out:
Here at Strong Towns, we’re advocates for a simple concept we like to call “slow the cars” because we’ve seen in city after city that slowing down cars makes our communities more prosperous and resilient — not to mention safer.
But, while this concept is simple, the reasoning behind it and the path to get to safer streets is, by no means, easy. Today, we’re sharing our ultimate guide to building slower, more walkable streets, filled with helpful articles and resources you can use to #slowthecars in your town. We’ve broken it down into 4 key sections that will explain why we need walkable streets, how to tell if your streets aren’t walkable, and resources for building walkable streets, plus inspiring stories that will demonstrate how to build safer streets.
On streets all around Asbury Park we can see improvements for pedestrians, bicyclists and markings to slow cars. Neighborhoods are becoming safer and the work will continue throughout the city so we can avoid being included among the statistics of US traffic fatalities, particularly the increase of hit-and-run.
HIT-AND-RUN DEATHS ARE SKYROCKETING, AND PEDESTRIANS AND CYCLISTS BEAR THE BRUNT
“Overall, the AAA report is more evidence that America’s traffic safety paradigm is failing. Decades of institutional safety practices that treat superficial symptoms while overlooking the central role of car-centric street design and planning have left the U.S. with a traffic fatality rate far higher than peer nations. Life is cheap on American streets.”
“But, as with everything, we need balance. As we rejoice with the great stories of new restaurants and fun events in our cities, let’s remember that our attentions also need to focus on the complexities and intricacies of our cities, some of which are difficult to digest. Issues of poverty, equity, transportation, jobs, community health and diversity continue to be overshadowed by the bright lights of “progress” in our city centers.”
If we love our urban revitalizations, if we are excited to see the new brewery or coffee shop that opens near us, let’s also pay attention to the important aspects of our cities that might not be so colorful, but that might impact us all. Let’s pay attention to the things we claim to pay attention to.
“Architect and planner Jan Gehl looks back on how he helped transform Copenhagen into one of the world’s most livable cities and talks about how people can reclaim the streets.”
It’s about phases.
“…Gehl discusses his observations and philosophies of how cities can become as bike-friendly, people-friendly, and climate-friendly as Copenhagen famously is.:
Phases in Copenhagen-it starts with walking:
“I would say that the public space in Copenhagen progressed in phases. The first phase was to make it possible to walk. That was the period of the pedestrian street, the “Fußgängerstraße,” which lasted from 1960 to 1980. The next period, from 1980 to 2000, was the period focused on sitting and staying. It was the time when all these squares were freed of parking and all the pavement cafés started popping up—the expansion of the cappuccino culture. That coincided with having more leisure time—you are not just rushing out to work or to shop. This culture has been in the Mediterranean countries all the time, but after the 1980s and ‘90s, it really spread worldwide. Next is phase three. That is not about walking or sitting, but being active. It is about places for roller skating or running or bicycling or swimming in the harbor.”
Cargo bikes are so much more practical compared to trucks burning fuel, increased emissions, wasted time, and taking up space on streets. Delivery trucks are driving empty up to 50% of the time.
Sainsbury’s – back in the saddle after 60 years
“Sainsbury’s, one of the UK’s largest supermarket chains, has begun a cargo bike pilot scheme. A fleet of five Sainsbury’s-branded e-cargo bikes based at a store in Streatham, South London, will deliver online orders of groceries to customers within a three mile (5km) radius.”
“The aim is to establish whether or not deliveries by cargo bike are more efficient than traditional delivery vans in dense urban areas. Around 100 orders are being delivered daily during the trial; customers can choose a one hour delivery time slot. Routing software will determine which orders are sent by cargo bike and which will go by delivery van.”
Sainsbury’s delivery boy Harry, who worked at the Enfield store in North London. This picture was taken somewhere in the period between 1913 and 1915. Photo credit: Sainsbury”s Archive
“Our data shows that a single e-cargobike can deliver as many groceries in an eight hour shift as a van. There are many factors influencing this happy finding, not least the terrible trouble van drivers have with parking in London. It’s really difficult to park and when they do, they generally can’t park close to customers’ houses, so they end up doing a lot of walking backwards and forwards carrying boxes. Over a shift our cargo bikes are covering 12.3mph* on average, versus 3.4mph* for the van”.
When I commute or train on my road bike, or cruise around town on my basket bike I feel alternately strong and empowered, or vulnerable and endangered. There is rarely a ride of any type or duration that is without concern for my safety, yet I ride and I will continue to ride. This author needs to be concerned with her own health issues as well as her safety, yet she rides.
“When I bike I defy those who catcall me, those who are trying to make me feel less safe in my city. From my perspective one of the best ways to make the city safer for women is to just be visible, don’t go away, use the bike lanes, use the roads, advocate for yourself by not letting other people change your commute.”