Bicycle Urbanism column by Florian Lorenz

There is a cheap and prescription-free drug out there, which can take hold as a side-effect-free antidote for many urban ills our societies are facing today. It is called Bicycle Urbanism. Welcome to the discourse on how we can use bicycle urbanism to build cities fit for the future.

The Bicycle Urbanism column engages with pedal-powered strategies for building sustainable cities. It will be highlighting new developments, far-reaching approaches, bold ideas on urban cycling around the globe. The series will include as much professional information as visions for future urbanity, which might appear as science fiction. At the same time the column will be observing urban reality with alert yes and a positive attitude towards change. I truly do believe that we have the ability to solve the overwhelming challenges of this urban age and that the bicycle is a catalyst to connect us to many fruitful solutions for future liveable cities.

The bicycle holds a unique transformative power for cities, which unfolds in the process of bicycle urbanism. Pedal-power as a tool allows for a specific urbanity from within ourselves as cycling citizens but as well as strategic tool for urban planning and management. In this column I will explore where these potentials can be tapped creatively and what various cycling cultures across the globe can learn from each other.

Future Urban Mobility

One of the main urban challenges for cities in future will be to mobilize an increasingly urban population. From what we know by now and can expect, future mobility will be constrained by limited resources and challenging urban conditions in terms of space and infrastructure capacity, amongst others. To encounter this mobility challenge we will have to think more thoroughly about using a readily available democratic and cost-effective way to organize urban mobility. And this tool is, of course, the bicycle.

Bicycle Urbanism

Imagine a city where pedal-powered vehicles are being used to restructure urban systems, where the bicycle is not used as a gap-filler but rather as a benchmark for the success of urban development: An urban realm in which bicycles serve as the transformative tool for re-aligning built form to the human scale.

Mastering the challenge of future urban mobility will simply require a new paradigm for urban development reaching (far) beyond the current car-dominated urbanism model. Bicycle urbanism holds the potential to become this new paradigm. Building a city around the bicycle might appear difficult to imagine. But is it really?  

If you think thoroughly about it, we are still living in a car-dominated world. Even in the most cycling friendly cities there are considerable car modal shares and streets clogged with cars. As far as I see it most bicycle advocacy and efforts to mainstream the bicycle can be described as “advocating the bicycle within a car-dominanted urbanity paradigm (while accepting that paradigm)”. Great. How far will we come with such an approach?

Bicycle urbanism, will go much further than this, it is an exploration into how urbanity can be created around pedal-powered vehicles. It is encouraging to see how many others are increasingly convinced that such an approach is viable and valid to explore. This column will be a point of reference and exchange for this developing community around the concept of bicycle urbanism.

Bicycle Mainstreaming

The bicycle is still an afterthought in creating our urban reality and comes secondary when we cater for mobility. To attain a meaningful and substantial scale of urban cycling in future cities it will be necessary to mainstream urban cycling. What would that mean? Giving urban cycling the same, equal rights, considerations and funding as other forms of urban mobility receive.

Creativity and Innovation

As the bicycle as is just about to become bicycle 2.0 we are witnessing a surge in creative capital being invested in (urban) cycling and everything around it. Some of those funds go into at times rather inept marketing efforts or even greenwashing but some funds are being allocated in a very meaningful way for rethinking the bicycle and its position within future urbanity. So we are in the midst of a movement around us what we can describe as a commencing bicycle urbanism, a process to redefine our cities, reclaiming space and urban qualities using the bicycle as urban tool.

I strongly do believe in an inclusive, open-source and positive approach to solving the challenges we face in our urban world. To create sustainable cities of the future we will need to think collectively ahead. This is an approach I want to pursue for the writing within the Bicycle Urbanism column at the Sustainable Cities Collective.

In this sense I am very much looking forward to this ride with you! Enjoy future posts within this column, participate, discuss and let me know what your thoughts are. Let’s share the road to the future of urban mobility!