Blue Maps

Sydney: land drivers don't see

Great answers begin with great questions. One I like to ask is:

Where can governments give free reign to bikes with no objection from voters who drive?

The answer to that can be seen in a Blue Map.

Cities have been planned around machine transportation for more than 50 years and have 50 year plans for more of the same. We know from our modelling though that average trip times of less than half an hour could be achieved in cities of up to six million, if planning revolved around cycling—that’s effortless cycling, at speeds of just 15km/ph, the speed a bike moves with no more effort than walking. The key is density, permeability and strict limitations on the use of machines on the ground plane.

If planners thought that way they would identify city limits that captured under-utilised flat lands then zone all that land for bicycle oriented redevelopment. But we don’t have to leave it to planners. The process is simple enough that with supervision groups of lay people can do it themselves.

In one day workshops I ask groups to identify all the available flat land in their city that is inconsequential to voters who vote for their cars—a political reality throughout much of the world. Through lectures, bike tours and open discussion I challenge participants to image alternative futures for the invisible land of their city. We finish by determining city limits small enough that average trip times by bike would be faster than average trip times by car, transit or multi-mode journeys.

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The clients for the examples above and below  were museums seeking to engage communities around bicycling exhibitions.

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The next map, of Detroit, highlighted the potential for that city to reinvent itself around rail trails linking bicycle oriented redevelopments on blighted land and on the former sites of car factories.

Detroit (1)

Even New York, that many would assume was fully developed already, has enough linear voids (mainly rail corridors) and land that car drivers don’t see to imagine a bike-centric layer with the potential to house a million new residents, most using bikes for most trips. The red square identifies a possible new epicentre. Downtown grew around the first wharves. Midtown grew around grand central station. A third centre can be imagined at the epicentre of hundreds of new Bicycle Oriented Development (BOD) projects.  (See this related case study.)

new york 1km

Many have dismissed Sydney as an unsuitable setting for cycling to thrive, but our blue mapping exercise identified a wealth of flat and under utilised land South of the harbour. (See this case study).

sydney annotated

West of Sydney as well there are greyfields and brownfields linked by waterways, former rail corridors and national parks. Sydney West

Without cycling Amsterdam would grind to halt, but if it allows any more cars it will too. Within a half hour cycling distance of Amsterdam Centraal there is enough poorly utilised land for the city’s population to double. We produced this blue map to help the city imagine that growth occurring on a bicycle mobility platform.

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The last example shows the versatility of this blue-sky thinking/mapping technique. It asks where bicycle deliveries (cyclelogistics) might happen in Venice without disrupting the pedestrian experience that attracts tourists. Currently everything that comes onto Venice is handled three times between its final destination and warehouses on the mainland. Most goods would be half the price if they could be handled just once, which would make a great difference to ordinary people who live there.

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