Velotopia

 

 

Imagine you live in either of these interlocking apartments. One downside might be living with stairs.
On the bright side, your home is dual aspect (meaning it has sun and cross-ventilation) and it has a huge bike storage room inside the front door opening onto a generous gallery that you're encouraged to ride on.
When leaving you never head back to the lift that brought you up. The apartments are arrayed around a spiralling gallery that leads you directly onto the ground. All you have to do is let go of your brakes.
Within a minute you are heading out into a unique kind of city. It doesn't have bike infrastructure. It is bike infrastructure. Delivery, taxying, policing: it's all done by bike. Specially designed electric buses and trucks have speed limiters to stop them going faster than children on bikes.
Building entries all sit on two meter high mounds with pedestrian bridges spanning between all of the crests. You could ride on that bridge if you weren't in a hurry.
But this city has been designed to make daily trips fast. Leaving the mounds drops you into a gravity forced bicycling zone lining the floor of the city.
Here you are glad to have a real heavy bike. You have reached full cruising speed without even touching the pedals.
This place is so unlike any built in the past for walking or driving. It is as unfamiliar as a city would be if birds had designed it for flying.
Because cycling lets you cover a 25 times greater area than you could cover if you were walking (it is 5 times as fast in a line) similar functions aren't grouped into zones. Offices aren't bunched around train stations. Shops aren't all under one roof or along the one street. Universities, corporations and even schools take up separate spaces in the corners of buildings, all of which are mixed-use. This is Jane Jacobs's vision of a functional tossed-salad taken to the extreme!  
Flitting between spaces, nobody follows the street grid. Typically, blocks are raised on piloti. Everyone goes as the crow flies. 
Just now a courtyard is sailing over your head. You're like the shadow of a bird flying over. Down at this level, property boundaries mean nothing.
You have just reached a shop some distance from your home. It has taken less time than you might have spent just getting out of your basement garage if you lived in standard apartment. You won't have to chain your bike at this shop. Here shop keepers invite cyclists to ride their bikes through, using their basket as though they were trollies. 
Cycling is fun. However, to better understand this futuristic urban environment you're going to have to pretend you can fly.
The bridges you have been speeding beneath link all the crests giving pedestrians and very slow cyclists the option of never descending into the gravity-forced zone.
Because the buildings are spirals the roof tops are readily accessed. Each is a site for recreation and crops.
At this point you realise this is just a hypothetical city, intended to illustrate a synthesis of new ideas. In the one square kilometre that you can now see, there are 128 perimeter blocks each with 47 4-bedroom apartments, 7 studio apartments, between 3 and 6 levels of public/commercial space on every corner, plus one large retail space on the ground floor.
Every square kilometre accommodates, serves and employs 30,000 people. That's the same population density as Manhattan.
In an easily rideable diameter of 15km, there is room for 177 1km squared districts. That's 6 million people, the same population as Dallas-Fort Worth with its famed 30 minute average commutes. 
The average distance as the crow flies between any two randomly selected points on a 15km diameter disc (d = 128r/45π) is 6.79km. If we round that up to 9km to account for some zigzags, then apply the transport geographer's assumption that people need access to two-thirds of available jobs, and finally assume people will ride at 15kph like the Dutch and the Danes, we arrive at an average trip time of 24 minutes.
That is the big picture we have in our minds as we map potential redevelopment land within 15km spheres within actual cities. The population of Canberra could be tripled this way.
An extra million people could live in New York with no more pressure on the road or rail networks.
With 5 billion more souls on this planet wanting to drive, it is vital we show them we want something better than that for ourselves. 

 

The city of the future should not have infrastructure for cycling. It should be infrastructure for cycling. Velotopia is our response to Antonio Sant’Elia’s call for “each generation […] to build it’s own cities.” A century ago that meant cities designed for machines, like Wiley Corbett’s vision below on the left. In our age it should mean cities designed around elegant and simple devices such as the bike. Our taste is not for poor design compensated for by machines, but the elimination of machines through smarter design.

corbet v fleming jpg

Designer: Steven Fleming.