Creating “Active Cities,” part two

First, I would like to thank everyone who read and/or responded to the November 13th post on creating Active Cities. The feedback was kind, supportive, and very much appreciated.

While many cities around the world are “active” in the sense of being “busy or vibrant,” many fewer can claim to be enhancing their transportation infrastructure and urban design to specifically promote active transportation on an equal par to that of cars and pedestrians. It is this missing feature of the spatial form that a vision for Active Cities is trying to fulfill.

Some initial elements of the Active City were listed in that first post, including use of alleys and other existing routes as Active Movement Corridors for cyclists, Segway-users, roller-bladers, etc.; creation of bicycle urban districts (BUDs); locating BUDs in close proximity to schools and parks; design bicycle-specific parking garages; and incorporating more staircases and ramps into building/urban design as a way of promoting walking. Below are some additional thoughts that could help bring about the transition to Active City status. They are presented in no particular order of importance.

  • Place bicycle and other active transportation parking in close proximity to business entrances (adjacent to barrier free parking areas) instead of relegating them to far-off locations. This would have the double-benefit of emphasizing the importance of active transportation and forcing motor vehicle drivers to “walk” the added distance from their cars and trucks. More distance = more exercise.
  • Orient off-street parking (except barrier-free and active transportation) to the rear or side of the facility, not in front.
  • Require the primary business entrance to always face the street (or alley in some cases), not the parking lot. There can be less visible secondary entrances, but the primary focus should be toward the street or alley, not toward a sea of asphalt. This will help promote more walking, while also enhancing streetscapes and street life.
  • Incorporate bicycle parking at all park and ride lots (see photo below from Ann Arbor), bus stops, railway stations, and other commuter lots. The concept of “bike and ride” lots has been suggested to MDOT as a way for promoting active transportation. Active commuting for even a portion of one’s commute is better than none

  • Require buses, taxicabs, ferries, water taxis, and trains to carry bicycles and other forms of active transportation throughout the day. CATA and Green Cab here in Mid-Michigan have all of their buses and taxicabs equipped to carry at least two bike on the front end.
  • Promote active transportation elements in safe routes to school programs, such as offering tandem bicycles as a “buddy-system” method for promoting active and safe travel to school. Two students could ride together, or even a parent and child could ride the tandem.
  • Add standards for drive-thru windows that properly and safely accommodate active transportation such as bicycles or Segways.
  • For winter cities of the higher latitudes and altitudes, incorporate environmentally friendly snow and ice melting (i.e. solar heating) or weather protection features into the Active Movement  Corridors  to permit safe year-round commuting and recreation.
  • Retrofit all existing parking garages and lots to incorporate spaces for active transportation elements. Priority should be given on the lowest floors as a not-so-subtle way of promoting active transportation over motor vehicles.
  • As is shown in the two photos below from Delphi,Indiana’s heritage Trail system, tunnels and underpasses (as well as bridges) for active transportation should be incorporated whenever possible to lessen potential conflicts, particularly at dangerous locations.

    Trail tunnel under the Norfolk/Southern tracks in Delphi, IN

    Trail underpass below State Route 39 in Delphi, IN

  • In bicycle urban districts (BUDs), require building design to accommodate active transportation equipment – for example, elevators should be large enough to take a bike onto and hallways wide enough for two walked bikes to pass by one another. Other design elements should include enclosed bike storage lockers or cabinets, space set aside for bike and car sharing programs, plentiful bike racks, and changing stations/rooms.
  • Developments situated along streams, canals, and other water features should have safe access ramps, docking, and storage locations for canoes and kayaks. If you think this may be far-fetched, during Smart Commute 2011 in Greater Lansing, there were kayak commuters using the local rivers.
  • In all cases, aesthetic, artistic, lighting, landscape, and design elements should be included to compliment and coexist with the active transportation.
  • Pass ordinances/laws that prevent active transportation from being prohibited by landowners such as shopping centers, office parks, etc.
  • Adopt a bike parking ordinance which includes many of the elements listed above.

While mulling these various ideas for creating Active Cities, I am certain there are additional great thoughts and suggestions out there. Please feel free to send them along so they can be added to the discussion.

This entry was posted in architecture, art, bicycling, cities, culture, density, diversity, economic development, fun, history, land use, new urbanism, planning, spatial design, transportation and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Creating “Active Cities,” part two

  1. Susan P says:

    A couple of notes.
    Build sidewalks where people want to walk and not necessarily because it will look nice on a drawing.
    Cul-de-sacs should have cut throughs to the adjacent businesses.
    Shopping malls have mall walkers but people have to drive to the mall, why aren’t there sidewalks from the surrounding neighborhoods?
    Weather/climate is always going to be a factor in the decision to ride a bike. More thought should be given to tree canopy for the southern states.
    Safe Routes to Schools should have more promotion.
    Take your turn on the local planning committee.


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