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Design Special

Urban Cycling for a better Quality of Life

"Social and sustainable city = bicycle-friendly city" – planners and architects often draw on this formula when involved in urban planning in order to afford cities with a better quality of life.

London and Melbourne, for example, are both investing heavily in bicycle networks as fast commuter and transport routes. Bicycle manufacturers are tapping into the trend for urban cycling to free up cities that are being choked by traffic. Bike-sharing programs are using brightly colored bikes, which have now become an increasingly common sight on city streets.

Families have also long been fans of cargo bikes. Strong electric motors allow them to carry heavy loads, which also makes them interesting for municipal and commercial users. As a result, EUROBIKE (held in Friedrichshafen from 8-10 July 2018) will be including a Cargo category in the show for the first time this year.

On 12 April 2018, the United Nations (UN) declared 3 June as the first official World Bicycle Day to promote cycling in all its forms with the aim of making people more aware of the multiple societal benefits of using the bicycle for transport and leisure.

World Bicycle Day on 3 June

Brook Boyer who considers the bicycle to be more than just a guarantor of urban mobility, is convinced that we need such a day: "It is the number one choice of vehicle for progress in the most literal sense." Bicycles help to make consumption and production more sustainable and support school attendance, especially for girls in rural areas of Africa. Another example: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has deployed 4,500 bikes to implement a project designed to increase agricultural production in Zambia.

“Come on Let's Bike”

 The initiative aims at reducing the gender gap in bicycling in Syria.

The New York “Institute for Transportation and Development Policy” (ITDP), with offices in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, and Mexico, works around the world to design and implement high-quality transport systems and policy solutions that make cities more livable, equitable, and sustainable. In many cities, the ITDP has successfully proposed plans for networks of bike lanes and bike parking and has worked with the authorities to get the plans put into practice. Most recently, the ITDP has been instrumental in the launch of new bike-sharing programs in Mexico and China.

The current bicycle-oriented concepts of planners and architects in many urban places are usually developed between the parameters of attractiveness for the user and (perceived) traffic safety. The focus is on providing a "forgiving infrastructure" as well as generating the enthusiasm that the planners want to trigger in the cyclist. We should all be much more willing to use our bikes and motivate non-cyclists to do the same.

London's Cycle Superhighways

The city of London is increasingly investing in “Cycle Superhighways”, which are cycle routes running from outer London into and across central London. Compared to the existing “Quietways”, they make safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city possible and could be the best and quickest way to get to work.

“Getting more people on to their bikes will reduce pressure on the road, bus and rail networks, cut pollution, and improve life for everyone, whether they cycle themselves or not,” commented London's then mayor Boris Johnson in 2014, when the first superhighways were officially opened to bicycle traffic. Sadiq Khan, Johnson's successor in office, has promised to spend £770m on cycling over the four years of his term. The cycle paths, which are completely separate from other traffic, are the jewels within the Superhighway network, whose infrastructure varies widely due to the jurisdiction of each borough. A noticeable reduction in car traffic is already measurable.

Melbourne - "A Connected City"

In the Australian city of Melbourne, the Bicycle Plan 2016-2020 „A Connected City“ focuses on safe cycling in urban planning, emphasizing the objectives of the metropolitan area. “We manage movement in and around our growing city to help people shop, meet, participate and move about safely and easily, enabling our community to access all the services and opportunities the municipality offers.” The goal is a functioning network for people of all ages in a cleaner and less congested city.

Xiamen Bicycle Skyway

Located on the southeastern coast of China, the port city of Xiamen has built a 7.6 km long skyway for bicycles - the longest cycle path in the world. It connects the city's major residential and business districts and runs beneath Xiamen's existing bus-overland transportation system. With a width of 4.8 m, it can accommodate more than 2000 bicycles and is connected to 11 bus stations and two subway stations. In addition to parking spaces for bikes owned by the cyclist, there are also bicycles available for rent.

Image: © Xiamen Bicycle Skyway, DISSING+WEITLING Architecture, Ma Weiwei

DISSING + WEITLING, a Danish architecture studio, is the brain behind the bridge project. Their concepts for Cycle Superhighways and The Bicycle Snake, which were built in Copenhagen in 2014 and helped to make Copenhagen one of the most important cycling cities in the world, serve as a model, not only for Xiamen.

The Copenhagenize Bicycle-Friendly Cities Index 2019

Data and image courtesy of: ©Copenhagenize Design Company |

In the Netherlands, Eindhoven sets futuristic accents when its cyclists ride in a circle 70 meters high up in the sky on the Hovenring bicycle bridge (built by ipv Delft) or becomes almost poetic with the Van Gogh Path by Daan Roosegaarde, illuminated with patterns based on Vincent van Gogh's painting "The Starry Night".

Bicycle manufacturers supply the urban cycling trend with unusual products in all segments - from e-bikes, cargo bikes, folding bikes to belt-drive bikes for private, commercial and municipal use.
Brian Hohl, industrial designer and inventor from DIAVELO - Protanium B.V (Accell Group) points out why he was enthusiastic about using light, compact lithium batteries for electric bicycles. "Our design philosophy is that electric bikes should be inviting in their appearance and easy to use. And they should be for everyone. The battery must be an integrated part of the bicycle, but also easy to remove when it comes to charging.” With its green approach towards transportation, Protanium was happy to invest its know-how in the EBIKE4DELIVERY project. The aim was to create greener and healthier jobs while delivering meals around Europe. Package delivery using heavy-duty cargo bikes is another application that is becoming increasingly popular around the world.

Berlin - Cargo Bikes for Parcel Services

Germany's largest parcel service providers (DHL, dpd, GLS, Hermes and UPS) have set up a jointly used transshipment point for twelve cargo bikes stationed on the 750 square meters of land provided by the district of Pankow free of charge. They have set up containers, 14 square meters in size each, as rent-free micro-depots from which the bikes swarm out, depending on the operator, within a radius of three to five kilometers. Any cargo bike can easily replace a motorized delivery vehicle that would otherwise clog the roads.

Image: © dpa

China and Taiwan produce the majority of the world's bicycles, responsible for about 90% of global production. Almost 30 million bicycles and EPACs (Electric Power-Assisted Cycles) are sold annually across Europe, around 13 million of which are also produced in EU.

Up until about two years ago, the bike was still the No. 1 mode of transportation in China. Meanwhile, this has changed dramatically in favor of cars, which is creating a massive challenge for large Chinese urban centers. By 2030, China will have more than 200 cities with over 1 million inhabitants. In many cities, more bike-sharing is being used to reverse the trend towards cars. Accordingly, the supplier market is developing rapidly in this segment.

Bike sharing

Such companies as Call-a-bike (Deutsche Bahn), Jump Bikes or Nice Ride and Nextbike are getting an increasing amount of competition from Asia from the providers Mobike, DiDi (see images above), Obike, or Yobike. Mobike launched its first rental bike system in Europe in Manchester in 2017 and has also set up bikes in Berlin and many other European cities. Meanwhile, Mobike separated its operations in Europe into Northern Europe and Southern Europe during 2019.

On the North American continent, however, the Chinese are encountering stricter government regulations. In Dallas, USA, Mobike has "voluntarily capped" its dockless bike number at 3,000 to make sure that business thrives in the long term.

The Beijing-based company Ofo, which has been expanding since 2015, is currently active in 150 Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Kunming and Hefei. However, the rapid growth in bike sharing did not meet the hoped-for demand and flooded Chinese cities, where infrastructure and regulations were unprepared. Dockless rental bikes have already blocked overcrowded roads and are now piling up in many major cities - a less attractive aspect of the trend that Europe fears.

Since the profitable operation of bike sharing seems difficult, rumors that service providers aim to make targeted use of the data collected have also arisen. Smart use of bike sharing throughout the city controlled via a smartphone app makes it possible. But the trend is still growing and will be transferred to other so-called last mile solutions: in addition to bicycles and e-bikes, e-scooters and semi-automated shuttle buses will also increase individual mobility in smart cities.



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