Architects I speak to are always positive about cycling. But when budgets are tight, and every other stakeholder, except the bike lobby group, is in their ear, where’s the incentive to design around bike use? Really, there is none. Consider the Green-Star and LEED energy use accreditation schemes, and how they barely recognize cycling. A new building could do more for cycling, than any drive-in movie theatre might have done in the 60s for driving, and still it would earn no more points toward its green stamp, than if it simply provided a wire cage in the basement, and a bare concrete room with some showers and lockers. Perhaps the answer is a green trip stamp of approval, that instead of measuring a building’s embodied energy, and ongoing bills for heating and lighting, focussed only on trips, leading to it, and from it?
Such a certification program, called GreenTRIP, has been devised by TransForm, a not-for-profit group in San Francisco, who advocate on behalf of developers, who naturally pay for TransForm’s green stamp and advice. Unfortunately, because their focus is purely on emissions (not emissions, and health, and quick travel, and cost-savings, and fun, and everything else cycling offers) TransForm’s accreditation scheme is skewed toward public transport, and arguably, discourages cycling. Their dominant strategy has been to embed unlimited access to public transport, into the purchase price of apartments, in buildings that receive their GreenTRIP certification. Having already paid for access to transit, buyers would want their money’s worth, right? Hell, they would be taking buses and trains, just to stare out the windows. It seems those with pure green agendas, will always view bikes as means of getting to the bus or the train, where bikes become nuisance luggage. It’s a problem arising whenever cycling is allowed to be the environment’s handmaiden, as I explained once with a cute parable.
I would rather see people use electric-assist bikes, if that’s what they needed, to leave out the mode change and enjoy the freedom and fitness that cycling affords. By my estimation, even an unfit rider could handle a 30km round trip, with a battery making the world feel downhill. And by the time their battery pack has worn out, they would have developed the fitness, to make those trips by their own steam.