The issue of transportation within the cities is on the spotlight for a big amount of the reflections focused on the urban space.
The car culture that emerged after the Industrial Revolution has shaped many places of the city, due to the space that occupies both in movement and parked. Is it time for a change, not just in the transportation, but also the space that is generated around it?
Coming to Spain from a country like the Netherlands is very easy to be surprised by the differences in the ways of moving around the city.
Last week I spent a day in Madrid. A weekday during the morning, car traffic was heavy and; after observing for a while, I could verify that most of the cars were occupied by one person: the same number of occupants, six times the space of a bike, and of course the difference in environmental terms that the fact entails.
To me, it’s an issue that goes beyond the number of bikes or cyclists in a city. It is clear that this is the starting point, and that many cities are seeing the number of people moving by bike in the city increasing significantly (following examples like Denmark or Holland itself), but the effect in the city could become more important.
Changing cars by bikes as transportation within the city would release a large amount of space that could be used by citizens. The fact that the transport system becomes smaller, lighter and easier to store could mean the occupation of the streets by a lot of different programs.
For example, having spaces without cars would help to develop permanently many of the proposals explained when I talked about Tactical Urbanism. Even more, taking into account the reduction in size and weight of the object, a way of transport on different layers would be possible, and the coexistence between different systems, individual in the case of bicycles, or collective for the public transport.
The change must be gradual, as the car of course will not disappear, but it would focus its use for long distances. There are projects working in this direction, proposing sharing the space of the car with other uses, as the interesting project for the Sant Antoni Sunday Market by Ravetllat-Rivas Arquitectes.
I have chosen the bike as example because it fits perfectly with what I want to explain, but for me the way of transport is as important as the effect that it would have on the city, as the streets can achieve a much more intense and participatory life (especially important for those cities with lack of public space).
As Jeffrey Inaba said in the conference he gave at the NAi, “if the car shaped the city during the last 50 years, is now time for the city to shape the car “(or the new way of transport).