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Berlin's annual cycling takeover Fahrradsternfahrt, in 2015. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Berlin Is Planning New Bicycle Superhighways

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Berlin's annual cycling takeover Fahrradsternfahrt, in 2015. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Berlin is planning on reinventing itself as one of the world’s great cycling cities. According to CityLab, the German capital is working on new bicycle superhighways that will likely be constructed along disused railway tracks.

Famously cycling-friendly cities like Copenhagen have been working on bicycle highways for years, giving cyclists long stretches of road to pedal safely and quickly, segregated from cars and with a minimum of delays for red lights. Other metropolises are following suit: Paris plans to have 28 miles of bike highways by 2020, and London opened up the first leg of its own superhighway last year.

Hoping to encourage people to get out of their cars and onto their bikes, Berlin began by looking at 30 feasible cycling routes in the city, focusing on routes of more than three miles. These potential highways will need to be 13 feet wide or more to allow people to pass each other, though sections that only have one-way traffic will be closer to 10 feet wide. The idea is that cyclists shouldn't have to stop for intersections or traffic lights for more than 30 seconds per kilometer (or about every half mile).

The Berlin Senate Department for Environment, Transport, and Climate Change has settled on 12 final corridors for the bike network, and is now conducting feasibility studies to decide how to move forward. The first of these studies—on an old Prussian railway route that ran between Berlin and Potsdam—will be available at the end of March. Studies on two other routes are expected by the end of 2017.

When completed, Berlin’s cycle network will be just a small part of Germany’s larger bike-friendly infrastructure upgrades. The Radschnellweg, a 13-foot-wide bike highway that will run 62 miles through 10 cities, is already under construction.

[h/t CityLab]

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Mario Tama/Getty Images
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Health
To Get Women to Bike More, Build Better Bike Lanes
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Mario Tama/Getty Images

Biking is a great way to stay healthy and get around town without paying for gas, but not everyone bikes in equal numbers. There’s a gender gap in bike commuting, one that’s easily illustrated by bike-share numbers. Several years after its launch, the membership of New York’s Citi Bike program was less than a third female, and it isn’t a problem that’s unique to New York or bike-sharing in general.

A good way to get more women cycling, though, is to install more bike lanes, as researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Colorado concluded in a recent study in the Journal of Transport and Land Use. It sounds intuitive and, indeed, studies have shown that adding bike infrastructure leads to more people biking in general.

But it’s particularly important to talk about how to get women on bikes because the gender gap in cycling is so large in the U.S., even though the approximately equal shares of women and men biking in Europe tell us that riding a bike isn’t a uniquely male activity.

The latest study examined cycling demographics by neighborhood in Montreal and Vancouver, two cities that both have a diverse selection of bike infrastructure ranging from painted lanes to cycleways separated from the street. The researchers found that if a neighborhood had access to some kind of bike infrastructure within about half a mile (1 kilometer), that area saw four times as many people cycling as neighborhoods without bike lanes. But the difference between cycling on the road with cars and cycling in a dedicated lane of some sort had an even more significant impact for women specifically.

Though women make up half the commuters in Montreal and Vancouver, they were much less likely than men to ride bikes to and from work if there wasn’t any bike infrastructure. In some neighborhoods without infrastructure, only a tenth of the cycling commuters were women, while in one with better access to bike lanes, women made up almost half of the cyclists. When more bike commuters were hitting the road in a neighborhood, the percentage of men and women was about equal, perhaps because of the “safety in numbers” phenomenon.

Shaded maps of Montreal and Vancouver show the percentages of commuters bike.
The percentage of commuters in each neighborhood who get to work by bicycle, with darker colors indicating a greater share.
Teschke et al., Journal of Transport and Land Use, 2017

“To give women an equal opportunity to bike to work, municipalities need to build a great quality cycling network,” Kay Teschke, a professor of public health at the University of British Columbia and the study’s lead author, said in a Q&A with UBC’s news team.

The new study data, taken from 2011 Census results, may paint a slightly different picture than you might find in those cities now, six years later, when there might be new bike lanes or more bike commuters. Not to mention the fact that bike lanes aren’t necessarily spread evenly throughout a city, so other factors may be influencing this data, as the researchers admit. For instance, wealthier neighborhoods tend to have better bike infrastructure, which is why bike lanes have become a symbol of gentrification. But the results do track with previous research on the subject. A study in 2013 found that women cared more about cycling near bike paths or trails than men did, and several studies have found that women are more concerned about the safety issues associated with riding a bike than male riders.

Whether for men or women, though, the study makes it clear that cities could do a lot more to encourage cycling. People were more likely to bike if their neighborhood had an interconnected web of bike lanes, not just a few scattered paths. “The pattern of results suggested that the network formed by other bikeway types may have been more important than the specific bikeway characteristics,” the researchers write.

“Even though biking is faster and easier, more people walked to work than biked to work in both cities,” Teschke noted in her Q&A. She suggests that one reason could be that sidewalks are ubiquitous, but bicycle lanes are not—and whether men or women, people are apt to choose a mode of transport that makes them feel safe over one that’s a little more convenient but makes them think they’re about to get run over at any minute.

And while it might not seem that important to get women on bikes, cycling has major benefits that, ideally, the whole population should enjoy. Surveys find that people who cycle to work are happier than other types of commuters, and a 2016 study found that cyclists in the Netherlands outlive non-cyclists.

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Design
This Elevator Alternative Would Let You Bike Up Skyscrapers
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iStock

A vertical transportation concept from Elena Larriba gives the phrase "biking to work" a new meaning. As Dezeen reports, the project from the Royal College of Art graduate, dubbed Vycle, reimagines the elevator as a compact, ascending bicycle powered by a single rider.

When Larriba looked at high-rise buildings, she saw two means for navigating them: stairs and elevators. Stairwells take up valuable real estate, while elevators eat energy to move what’s often a small load. She designed Vycle as an efficient alternative.

Vycle looks like a scaled-down version of a traditional bicycle complete with pedals, a seat, and handlebars. Passengers start pedaling to ascend the vertical rail connected to the back of the bike. They can take a quick or leisurely ride based on how hard they push themselves.

It’s hard to imagine the concept replacing elevators in multi-story office buildings, but one area where it might be practical is construction. The rig is cheap and adaptable, which means it could be a temporary installation on the outside of cranes and scaffolding. Biking up multiple stories would also be easier on older workers than climbing a ladder the same distance.

As cities become more dense, designers are coming up with creative ways to make the most of tight spaces, from pop-out windows to foldable sports facilities. You can see Larriba’s invention in action below.

vycle - urban vertical movement from Elena Larriba on Vimeo.

[h/t Dezeen]

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