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    Global Green: Urban Design for Walkable, Bikeable Cities

    By copper_top
    Oct 24, '08 1:19 AM EST

    Just a quick post because I thought some of you would be interested… Tuesday night I attended a lecture panel at the UW CAUP. We heard presentations from four different speakers, and then I presume there was some discussion, but to my extreme embarrassment I had to skip out during the fourth presentation (as did a good many people! More on that later) as I had a big deadline the next day and had to get some work done. Each lecturer had a different, though mostly related, topic to present as it related to their city and their own work, and I had wildly different reactions to each.

    First we listened to someone from the Seattle Department of Transportation talk about the recent Bicycle Master Plan. Nothing new to report here: there will be trails, lanes, sharrows, and signs, coming soon to a neighborhood near you. I think my research may have jaded me with regards to this presentation, so I won’t say anything bad about it. From there on, the lineup was as follows:

    Roger Geller
    Bicycle Coordinator, City of Portland, Office of Transportation
    Portland, Oregon

    Louise Grassov, MAA
    Associate, Gehl Architects
    Copenhagen, Denmark

    Jim Huffman, MAIBC, LEED A.P.
    Associate Principal, Busby Perkins + Will
    Vancouver, BC Canada

    There were a lot of good insights from both Geller and Grassov- it seems silly, but the concept that another form of transportation could not just be encouraged, but actually get priority over cars was eye opening. I mean, I’m working specifically on bicycle facilities, and the American car-centric culture was so completely engrained in my head that no matter what I did, I would have to tiptoe around cars. No matter what I thought should happen, I had a dead certainty that every city planner would insist on motor vehicle priority at all times, simply because it is the most popular mode of transit. So listening to professionals in cities that Seattle should look to as models for alternative transportation say straight out that encouraging bicycling also meant discouraging driving basically felt like permission to base my project on some more extreme premises than I thought would fly previously. That’s pretty exciting.

    On the other hand, I became increasingly frustrated with Jim Huffman’s portion of the lecture. He presented a project that met the requirements to be certified LEED Platinum (btw, he didn’t even remember what LEED stands for!), but did so without providing any spaces that Christopher Alexander (or myself, obviously) would describe as being ‘alive.’ The public spaces looked like they belonged in an office park, and the ‘bike friendly’-ness seemed to consist of adjacency to an existing bike trail and the addition of a bike lane to a main road. OK, these are good things, but haven’t we come further than this? I think that communities deserve more than this. They deserve the things that the speakers from Portland and Copenhagen were talking about.


    • denmark is amazing. the government actually does think cycling is important. and people are right into it. whether that could translate to america where cars are fetishised and symbolised and so ingrained in culture of daily life is hard to guess. it probably could happen, but perhaps will take a generation. like getting people to stop smoking...

      Oct 24, 08 6:27 pm  · 

      What does Christopher Alexander have to do with it?

      Oct 24, 08 8:11 pm  · 

      To be fair, I've found Vancouver to be less bike-centric than many communities. Their system is based on bike streets that are mixed car/bike, rather than dedicated bike lanes than CPH. There seem to be a few gaps in the city bike system, and some pretty frightening existing trails.

      Oct 24, 08 11:59 pm  · 

      WonderK- yeah, I guess I should have explained that. I thought about it, but then had to run out. We've been reading a good bit of Alexander in my grad seminar, and were just talking about that whole concept of the-quality-which-can-not-be-named (I disagree, I think the word he's looking for is Integrity) and what makes a design 'alive'. So that's where that came from.

      Oct 26, 08 4:39 pm  · 

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