Car centric cities are failing.
They have the worst commute times, poorest health and highest emissions. Not surprisingly, jobs, people and wealth are shifting to cities with more transport choices.
Conventional wisdom tells us to densify city centres and add public transport, in other words, replicate the late nineteenth-century booms of Paris, New York, etc.. But with today’s governments being much smaller mass rapid transit is not keeping pace with densification. In any dense city where the ground plane has to cope with most transportation, average car speeds drop below 18km/ph. At that point car transport hinders bike transport, that if freed of impediments could deliver average speeds of 15 to 20km/ph, no matter how dense a city became.
That image describes a modal shift that is occurring naturally as densities rise and people opt for the bike out of frustration with driving and transit. What it doesn’t describe are cities that see the inherent superiority of cycling as the mode for the city, so prioritise cycling at every road junction. Insofar as cities are machines for connecting the greatest number of people to the largest possible markets, cities of the Randstad conurbation—Amsterdam and its neighbours joined by frequent/fast trains—are emerging as winning examples. Recent modal share data shows cycling dwarfs driving, especially near the centre and the central train station.
Twentieth-century development was done on the cheap in Amsterdam, with more bike infrastructure than transit investment or freeways. But out of those superficially dispiriting circumstances Europe’s capital of innovation was born. Most of Amsterdam’s 800,000 inhabitants enjoy a lighting fast, healthy and free bike-centric lifestyle in the four inner boroughs, while at the scale of the Randstad megalopolis (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, etc) cycling is the lynchpin of a rail network that connects 7 million people. Cycling is a mode cities can afford, that affords them greater connectivity. And let’s not forget that Amsterdam was not even purpose built for the bike. So much more could be done in growing cities.
As an academic I have published over 40 articles and books including Cycle Space, Architecture and Urban Design in the Age of the Bicycle (NAi010, 2012) and Velotopia: The Production of CycleSpace in Our Minds and Our Cities (NAi010, 2017). I am a founding partner of Cyclespace the public/private partner of the municipality of Amsterdam representing that city’s bicycling expertise to the world. Exhibitors of my design work include the National Museum of Australia and Amsterdam Gemeente with press coverage from CityLab, FastCompany, ArchDaily, The Guardian, etc.. I am a draw-card speaker to institutes of Architecture (New York, Rotterdam, Vancouver, Singapore, Sydney etc.) and major events (the launch of Europe by People, VeloCity, etc.). Clients include cities (eg. Singapore, Amsterdam, Bogota, Nittedal, Ryde etc.), agencies (eg. FutureBuilt Norway, the Property Council of Australia and the Architectural Institute of British Columbia), corporations (eg. Shimano, Univa America,) and property developers (eg. Boston Global Investors and Mavid Group). Since 2001 I have held academic positions at the Universities of Canberra, Tasmania and Newcastle in Australia and Harvard and Columbia universities in the US and am a regular guest lecturer at the Harvard School of Public Health. As a government architect in Singapore I designed and project managed 4 major developments including a total of 1810 dwelling units and designed a 2.4 hectare park, an early example of my life mission to design active environments.