Imagine a city where the bicycle is the common denominator for the success of our urban planning and management efforts. A city where the bicycle is the main tool for organizing daily urban life. Such a state is what we call Bicycle Urbanism.
"(P)edal-powered vehicles allow for the development of an approach to urbanism using pedal-powered vehicles as means of understanding, programming and developing urban form. We conceive sustainably functioning and culturally active urban landscapes animated by pedal-powered vehicles. For the process of creating such environments we propose the term Bicycle Urbanism." You can access the full article here.
Bicycle Urbanism relates to the creation of an urbanity which does not depend on excessive amounts of speed. In order to use the full potential of pedal-powered vehicles we will not stop at building bike lanes, rather we propose to re-think our cities, while retrofitting them or building them, along the bicycle as a benchmark for the functioning of a city.
Bicycle Urbanism merges two great human inventions: The city and the ball bearing. Those two put together, namely the city as a means for condensed humanity (and culture), and the ball bearing as a means for sustainable individual mobility, allow people to live in a very distinct way supported by the humble bicycle.
We draw our ideas for Bicycle Urbanism from studying Beijing's unique bicycle cultures in the past and from comparative research on global cycling cultures. We engage the concept of Bicycle Urbanism in several ways:
We firstly published our ideas on Bicycle Urbanism in an article for the urban planning and landscape architecture magazine "Zoll+" in January 2012. Since then we discussed Bicycle Urbanism with a wide audience via Velo-city Global 2012, Velo-city 2013 and various lectures at universities and urban cycling related events.
At Smarter Than Car we have been studying bicycle (and of course tricycle) - based livelihoods since 2010. Our fascination for a pedal-powered urban life has been sparked in Beijing, China where we can still observe a multitude of urban functions organized by pedal-powered vehicles.
"Urban services such as vending of retail items, transport services or specialized services can be organized on bicycles to service the cityscape in a spontaneous and adaptive way and represent a bicycle-based economic livelihood within urban areas. A community of pedal-powered servicemen can supply urban populations reacting swiftly to changing urban conditions, thereby creating a lively and diverse cityscape." You can access the full paper here.
We since have elaborated on bicycle livelihoods and see the concept as a vital approach to think creatively where and how pedal-powered vehicles can play an increasing role in our daily lives. Bicycle livelihoods 2.0 is what will constitute the formation of a bicycle culture 2.0. We engage the concept of bicycle livelihoods in several ways:
In pedal-powered urban space services are organized by the means of bicycles are tricycles. They show distinct traits related to the pedal-powered vehicles.
We observe and research „Negotiated Flow“ as mechanism of urban traffic in China. Negotiated Flow is a traffic phenomenon that enabled more than 3 million urban cyclists to share the road during Beijing’s golden age of bicycle traffic.
Instead of stringent rules, defined zones for each type of vehicle and heavy use of traffic signals, a more free flowing system was at play. This system was based on personal negotiations and constant spatial transactions between all road users. From the outside, especially for a Western viewpoint upon urban traffic, such a system looks chaotic but when studied more closely there is validity and efficiency arising from Negotiated Flow as traffic organising principle. Especially for densely populated areas where the bicycle is the prevalent mode of transportation.
We understand that in order to realize the promises of a Bicycle Urbanism we have to fully mainstream the bicycle in urban governance, administration and planning. This can only be attained by equal importance given to each mode of transport. We see bicycling as heavily under-valued in most traffic planning.
We do not believe in "one-size-fits-all" solutions. We rather aim for understanding the local context we are working in and adapt our work to this context. Our multi-diciplinary and international team has a readily adaptable toolbox at hand to find the right approach for the context we are working in.
We believe that China will play a major role within the next years in the global bicycle renaissance. We facilitate and support a number of new cutting-edge projects that are advantgarde for a bicycle culture 2.0 in China and globally. The bicycle cultural exchange between East and West (and vice-versa) is geared towards such a Bicycle Cultural Re-invention.