Urban cycling initiatives lead to liveable cities

Cities around the world are currently witnessing a widespread comeback of the humble bicycle after decades of the dominant reign of car travel. The use of the private car as a main mode of transport boomed in the post-war era, as cycling steadily lost its territory as the favoured option. However as many cities are proving, this is no longer the case. Such is the global trend towards cycling that many local, national and international governments are being forced to sit up and pay attention in order to meet the demands of the increasing number of their citizens who are incorporating cycling into their urban lifestyles.

However, with cyclists in large numbers being a relatively new concept for many cities, there are understandably many challenges that cities are being faced with. Current cycling initiatives vary depending on country and city, though it is widely acknowledged that the Netherlands and Denmark take the lead as being the most cycling-oriented cities in the world. Copenhagen particularly is often branded as the global example of a successful cycling-oriented metropolis. Copenhagenizing is a term that has been coined to describe the phenomenon of other cities around the world striving to exemplify Copenhagen by becoming bicycle-friendly, because the benefits of urban cycling are far-reaching – it touches upon large-scale areas such as business, economy, transport and public health.

A ‘good’ city is a city that provides for its citizens by making it a liveable and enjoyable place, and with that there is a firm belief that successful bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure plays a significant role

Over the past few years, HOE360 Consulting, a cycling and green mobility consultancy based in Copenhagen, has carried out a wide range of initiatives that have consistently aimed to encourage and improve cycling both on a national and international level, in the hope that the future of urban transport sees cycling geared towards becoming the common thread in cities, and not simply a case of emulating just one city.

Our consultancy is working towards innovative project solutions that can be implemented on the streets in a way that is beneficial for the people who live in and use cities. The working philosophy of the company is that a ‘good’ city is a city that provides for its citizens by making it a liveable and enjoyable place, and with that there is a firm belief that successful bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure plays a significant role in obtaining a high level of ease and satisfaction for the people who live and work in cities.

One of our innovative developments was the world’s first cargo bike parking in Copenhagen that recently led to a version in a brand new underground bicycle parking garage in Malmö, Sweden. The parking space is unique because it is designed to accommodate cargo bikes and special attention was given to a design that estimated how users would behave so as to ensure optimal usage for cyclists.

It is important to remember that every cycling trip begins and ends with a parked bicycle, meaning that bicycle parking should be an integral part of all cycling initiatives. It’s not enough to simply plan and build the bicycle path grid, there needs to be well-placed and sufficient numbers of bicycle racks. Imagine a city that manages to double its bicycle usage but forgets about where all those bicycles can park.

The biggest mistake of the people involved in city decision-making is that they plan for traffic – not people. Planning for people is the key to making great cities. People living in cities need to be provided with opportunities for interaction, which does not happen when people are travelling in cars. Cycling and pedestrian infrastructure provides perfect ground for interaction between citizens, giving them the opportunity to meet at eye level.

Fortunately, the infrastructure that cycling requires is significantly more cost-effective when compared with infrastructure that caters to cars and public transport, which makes it an even more attractive option for cities. HOE360 Consulting has created two solutions for bike racks. One involved a product and market study of bike racks suitable for temporary use. The bicycle racks had to be mobile and easy to stack for transport and storage. The solution resulted in Frederiksberg, a suburb of Copenhagen, having state-of-the-art mobile bicycle racks for use at different local occasions – with added extra brand value and was the first of its kind in Denmark. 

There is much debate happening in bicycle-friendly cities concerning the best ways to design and plan for accommodating cyclists on the roads. Making way for cyclists can be a challenge in cities where original plans for traffic infrastructure did not account for cycling. One of our solutions to this problem is a concept for the dynamic use of road space, called Flex-parking. This involves bicycles and cars being allowed to use the same area for parking at different times of the day. An example of a place where this has been effectively used is in front of schools where there tends to be a need for parked bicycle only within school hours and where there are a need for residential car parking over night. After the successful implementation by HOE360 Consulting, Flex-Parking is now ready for deployment as part of the parking solutions on offer by municipalities.

The biggest mistake of the people involved in city decision-making is that they plan for traffic – not people

Another project that we have been involved with included conducting an international benchmarking study for the provision of infrastructure for cycling which compared London’s approach to design and delivery with other worldwide cities such as New York, Stockholm, Munich, Berlin, Dublin and Minneapolis. Recently, we have also assisted the cities of Buenos Aires and Milan with conducting workshops on how to best create bicycle-friendly cities.

Cycling is for everyone regardless of age, sex, fitness level or desired travel-speed. If the right planning decisions are made and the right infrastructure is built, the number of cyclists in the city will increase. The benefits of cycling are too numerous for a city’s decision-makers to ignore cycling as an overarching solution for improving a city’s liveability, which means that cycling initiatives need to be in the forefront of the minds of city planners and governments all over the world.

Niels Hoé, CEO of HOE360 Consulting, has worked with cycling, green mobility and urban planning for more than 10 years, with a strong focus on how those are combined in order to create high-quality cities with great liveability. He will be a keynote speaker at Velo-city Global Adelaide – the world’s premier international cycling planning conference, from May 27 – 30, 2014. 

Velo-city Global, a four-day event, will host a program of over 170 presenterssocial activitiescycling tours, offering delegates from around the world a chance to share the best practices for creating and sustaining cycling-friendly cities, where bicycles are valued as part of daily transport and recreation.

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