September 16, 2019

Cycling like a … Dutchman?

Via Karole Sutherland:

Wim Bot, an official in the Dutch cyclist’s union …

“Think of it this way. Car drivers behave like a bunch of geese. They have the same distance from each other and fly at the same speed, and move almost in military formation.” He put down his tea and made a series of regimented gestures with his hands. Then he moved them around together, in an elegant dance. “Cyclists move like a swarm of sparrows,” he said. “There are thousands of them moving in chaos, but there are no collisions. They turn a little bit; they change their speed. You must do the same.”

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Our friends at small places have produced another multi-sensory feast of city cycling splendour, this time featuring Delft, Netherlands — just one stop on their summer 2018 tour of northern Europe.

“Old enough to have a historic centre, large enough for it to be vibrant, yet small enough to make that centre mostly car-free. The suburbs of these cities grew up in the decades where protected bike lanes were standard on all streets, avoiding the awkward middle ring of cities like Amsterdam and The Hague.”

You can almost smell fragrant, summer air while all manner of bikes criss-cross intersections, public squares and underpasses. Bells brrrringing, hair flying in the wind, people smiling — where are the cars?

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Modacity and HUB Cycling are proud to co-present the Vancouver premiere of the Dutch documentary “Why We Cycle”

To the Dutch, cycling is as normal as breathing.  But because they do not give cycling a second thought, they don’t really know what the deeper needs of cyclists are. “Why We Cycle” takes a ride with ordinary cyclists and specialists from a variety of disciplines. These conversations uncover some obvious, but even more hidden effects of cycling, on people, on societies, and on the organization of cities.
The 56-minute film will be followed by a half-hour panel discussion with local politicians, bike advocates, and business leaders, including Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
Monday, May 7th, 2018: The Rio Theatre, Vancouver (Tickets)
Wednesday, May 9th, 2018: Mary Irwin Theatre, Kelowna (Tickets)
Monday, May 14th, 2018: The Vic Theatre, Victoria (Tickets)

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Tim Pawsey thought this was interesting:

This small bridge over the Peelse Loop canal happens to be the first ever to be 3D-printed out of reinforced concrete.

The bridge, which opened in October, 2017, was created at the Eindhoven University of Technology, in conjunction with BAM Infra construction company. It involved printing about 800 layers of the concrete material, which was both reinforced and pre-stressed.

This building strategy has one main advantage over standard mold-based techniques: it uses far less concrete, which saves resources. With the success of the Germet bridge, the researchers now plan to build even larger 3D-printed structures.

The bridge’s designers say it can support up to 2.2 tons of weight, although it is meant to be used by bikers and pedestrians. In a country where there are more bikes than people, it’s expected hundreds of cyclists will ride over the bridge each day.

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There is a little more Dutch in Winnipeg these days as that city welcomes its first “Woonerf”. As reported in the Metro News this is a street innovation  for pedestrians before vehicles, and achieves “calming the street down through design”.

A typical Dutch woonerf
The location of the woonerf  at John Hirsch Place used to contain an old rail line. Now there is a curbless lane that  allows for slower vehicular traffic and no delineation between bikes, cars and pedestrians.
There are bollards  near the edge of the lane to keep people from driving on the landscaping (and I have seen bollards in Amsterdam that retract to allow for emergency vehicle entrance). There is seating for walkers which as soon as it was placed became a place to be with the locals.
Besides providing a pedestrian link between Waterfront Drive and a park and further trails,  the woonerf has become a new public space. Similar to the “DeepRoot” cell system installed in Vancouver’s Olympic Village for the ongoing sustenance of the street trees, Winnipeg has installed a similar system for increased street tree soil volume and rain water capture.
While this is only a demonstration project, we all toast Winnipeg for their first woonerf-and suspect with citizen use and demand, it won’t be their last.

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John Graham sends this along from Quora:
What is that one picture that best describes your city / country / state?

We see here a guy cycling. That’s not that strange or peculiar, isn’t it? But wait, you can actually get quite a lot from this picture:

  • It’s raining. The weather of the Netherlands isn’t the best one around.
  • That guy is cycling through the rain. Quite a few foreigners I spoke can’t understand why we would go out and cycle when it’s raining, but well, bicycles are such a part of us Dutchies that if we could go out to walk, we can also go by bike. It also shows that it can be quite rainy in the Netherlands.
  • He is cycling on a woman’s bike. We don’t care about that. Or women riding on men’s bikes. Or whatever bikes. Or doing whatever on a bike. Just look at this picture to see how little we care:

Last but not least: this guy is the prime minister of the Netherlands. Even at top level you go by bike. One of our former prime ministers, Wim Kok, was known for going to meetings in the UN building by taking the bike from his hotel towards that building. This picture is nice, from when Obama visited Amsterdam:

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Gordon: I spent a few days at a conference on “Building a Healthy City” in Groningen, a university town of about 200,000 in the northern Netherlands.  So this week, images from that city – beginning with the view outside my hotel window:

More than Amsterdam, Groningen is a “World Cycling City,” where 61 percent of journeys are made by bicycle.

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Vancouver is a young city. While this means we don’t have our own Arc de Triomphe (though some seem to imagine we do), we are lucky that if we let ourselves, we get to stand on the shoulders of giants.
I wrote about Design Thinking the other day, the great thing about this is that, somewhat like the scientific method, it establishes a systematic way of thinking which sometimes demands creativity, and at other times introspection, it involves the sharing of ideas, and the ability to learn from others.
What it does not involve is reinventing the wheel because you didn’t notice that someone else already did.
We get to see the runaway effects of a city growing increasingly unaffordable when we look at London. [see: There are now only 29 (yes, twenty-nine) homes in London deemed ‘affordable’ for first-time buyers]
We get to see how to design bike paths by studying the Dutch or the Danish.
We get to see how the city can build affordable housing by looking at Vienna (or Singapore).
We get to see how to deal with foreign money by looking at Singapore (or Sydney).
We get to see the effects of the conversion of streets to highways by looking at Miami or Pheonix and realize that Vancouver is fundamentally not really all that unique:


From the beginning of urbanized America, streets functioned to provide mobility in many ways:

People walked to work, trolley, horse-drawn then powered moved workers from factories and offices to home. Trains played a role in commutes. Bicycles incited a pedal power mobility craze for a while.
Then the automobile came along. By the 1950s, roads became the sole domain of automobiles. The automotive industry even created the term “jay walking” and launched a campaign to demonize people on foot. Sidewalks shrunk and beautifully landscaped medians were torn out to create more lanes for automobiles.
Trolley lines were ripped out and replaced with buses. But buses were devalued and branded as last ditch transportation for the unfortunate. Only the sedan was fit for the upwardly mobile middle class American. Crosswalks were diminished. Those brazen enough to move around on two feet were seen as merely an impediment to moving more cars faster.
Government loans encouraged suburban single family homebuilding, giving rise to the super highway, and when highways weren’t enough, surface streets – even the most picturesque and historic – were overhauled to turn them into another layer of de facto highways.

(Anything seem familiar in these? … if not, as Gordon has written, Motordom 2.0 is around the corner)
We get to learn how to install a bike share by looking at New York City (or Paris, or Montreal) … and get to see what happens when you have a combination of bike-share and helmet laws by looking at Melbourne.
We get to see why limits of pollution are a good idea by looking at Beijing’s air quality (or this last week, Salt Lake City), even if we don’t read the Governator Arnold’s words last month, and why putting all our stock in LNG isn’t the best idea:

I, personally, want a plan. I don’t want to be like the last horse and buggy salesman who was holding out as cars took over the roads. I don’t want to be the last investor in Blockbuster as Netflix emerged. That’s exactly what is going to happen to fossil fuels.

And we get to look at things like fare gates in transit, and see if you install them, you have to make provision for the fact that when you put up a barrier, you put up a barrier, and some people won’t be able to deal with this fact. Again, in this we’re not unique, John Graham’s comments yesterday show one solution, but I can’t imagine its a cheap one.
The point of this is that in some ways, Vancouver is exceptional, we have an environment that many people would kill for, mountains that many dream about, and are generally pretty nice people. We are not, however, really that different from anywhere else except for the number of Learners permits on Lamborghinis …

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“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
This was something a planning professor of mine once told me which I never really thought much about …  that is until I moved to Vancouver.
Hi, let me introduce myself formally, my name is Ian Robertson, and I occasionally show up in these woods with ‘Items from Ian’. I did my Architecture Undergraduate in ‘merica, worked for a while in the Netherlands, MArch in Australia, worked for a while in Vienna, and finished my degree right around the time that the world called an architectural timeout for a while, and I found myself in Vancouver.
What links my experience in these other places is that they all involved looking forward. The aforementioned quote from my planning professor, masterplanning cities and countries while in the Netherlands (itself a product of what must be the most comprehensive masterplan anywhere in the world), then Sydney Australia – where I was first exposed to the kind of 2030 vision which Vancouver also now espouses (except in Sydney’s case, it actually backed up by a Master Plan to give it institutional heft), and finally Vienna, which has a uniform building fabric and density which puts most cities to shame, and which turned the old Hapsburg Stables into a technology and culture and startup hub which exists only in Vancouver’s dreams.
This week I will be under the broad category of ‘Ideas from Elsewhere’ (‘Ian’s Items from Elsewhere’ if I wanted to keep the branding alive) … frankly I am always amazed that there is such a strong desire here to reinvent the wheel instead of looking for what works (and what doesn’t) elsewhere (transit referendums, city planning, existance of a master plan, regional transit, fare gates, bike path design, foreign investment, affordable housing, sea level rise planning, etc… are all examples of issues where in either trying to be unique, or in willfully ignoring precedent, Vancouver/BC is certainly ‘planning to fail’).
So, with that lengthy introduction, I give you my first post, written for a recent architecture criticism competition requiring one to talk about a Library of one’s choice. As you will see, the Library wasn’t really my topic of interest 🙂
Many thanks for Ken and Michael, and all the rest filling in … and most of all to Gordon Price, for his care in establishing this great platform from which to view the world deliberately and with consideration.
(Longread) Nov 2015, Criticism of the Mount Pleasant Library (Longread)
It is not often that a library erupts from an intersection like the prow of an ocean liner cutting through the neighborhood, but when completed in 2010, the Mount Pleasant Library did just that. Immediately it was the tallest building in the neighborhood, and it represented the starting gun for a race to redevelop much of the surrounding neighborhood.
Height is an unusual quality for a Library, as the Dewey decimal system is an inherently horizontal concept. The library’s apparent mass is the result of the nine stories of affordable housing stacked on top, as well as child care, retail, and a community center beside1 — a configuration resulting from the unique desire to place all its civic infrastructure in one basket.
The building, designed by what is now Perkins+Will, is additionally unusual because it was developed by the City of Vancouver itself as a mixed-use structure, combining older, insufficient and inconvenient infrastructure into one centralized location, as well as provide additional affordable rental to address the city’s almost zero-percent rental vacancy, and rapidly increasing rents. The mixed-use aspect is itself not that unusual for a rapidly urbanizing city, what is unusual is that the developer was the City of Vancouver, and Vancouver does not often place itself in the development game — much of the Vancouver’s recent civic infrastructure has been created by leveraging the ‘Community Amenity Contributions’ (CACs) of developers.
Vancouver’s urban infrastructure, such as this library, is dictated by a unique set of influences which directly affect the manner in which Vancouver builds its libraries, and other public amenities.
Infrastructure, being a public amenity, is typically funded through a city’s tax revenues. In Vancouver, CACs are not a tax, but rather are “are in-kind or cash contributions provided by property developers.”2 These contributions take place to facilitate a rezoning application,

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