There is a new type of city emerging – one that implements bicycletecture.

Bicycletecture, or Cycle Space as Australian author Dr. Steven Fleming dubbed it, sees bicycles as being central to the infrastructure and the built environment of dense urban areas.

Cities are becoming more compact, with walking and cycling considered “active” forms of transport and taking the place of cars on many people’s daily commutes. Cycling and walking are predicted to be the preferred forms of travel going forward in cities across the world.

European cities continue to reign when it comes to bicycletecture. The Copenhagenize Index 2013 Bicycle Friendly Cities ranked Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Utrecht (Netherlands) as the world’s most advanced cities in this way.

Australia’s capital cities are gaining momentum, however.

According to the Heart Foundation’s recent MOVE IT, Australia’s Healthy Transport Options report, an estimated 1.2 million people make at least one transport journey by bicycle each week, whether that consists of their daily commute to work, school, shops, or visits to family and friends (Austroads and Australian Bicycle Council 2011).

“Data from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide show an increase in bicycle traffic of up to 18.3 per cent per year on main cycling routes leading into the CBD between 2005 and 2009,” the report reads.

Home Exchange called Perth one of the top cycling cities thanks to its 700-plus kilometres of dedicated bike lanes and paths. The city also holds an annual celebration of all thing bicycle, dedicated to promoting and developing its urban cycling culture.

So why is the two-wheeled wonder the most preferred strategy for compact cities?

1. Health

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), three in five Australian adults are overweight or obese (based on BMI), while one in four Australian children fit that description.

The Heart Foundation noted that physical inactivity is estimated to cost the nation $13.8 billion a year. The direct annual healthcare cost incurred to treat the symptoms of inactivity alone was estimated to be $719 million in 2007–08 (Medibank Private 2008).

Cycling is a low-impact exercise option – one that has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, improve mental health and increase productivity.

According to Better Health Victoria, steady cycling burns approximately 1,200 kilojoules (about 300 calories) per hour.

2. Environmental

A Deakin University report said that cars produce an average of 0.3 kilograms of CO2 per kilometre travelled. Cycling, by contrast, is a pollution-free mode of transport.

Motor vehicle air pollution is estimated to cause up to 4,500 cases of respiratory and cardiovascular disease each year, and the estimated cost of air pollution in Australian capital cities was more than $2 billion in 2005 (DDREPaC 2011).

The Queensland Government adds that bikes reduce the need to build, service and dispose of cars.

“Cycling 10 km each way to work would save 1,500 kg of greenhouse gas emissions each year,” the report states. “Also as traffic delays and interruptions to traffic flow in Australia’s six major cities account for around 13 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year, cycling during peak hours would contribute to further emission reductions by reducing congestion and improving traffic flow.”

3. Economic

The Queensland government report adds that the family car can cost up to 55 cents per kilometre to run, while the cost of buying and maintaining a bike is around one per cent of the cost of buying and maintaining a car.

Linking back to health, the Australian healthcare system could save $1.5 billion each year if more people were physically active for 30 minutes a day (Medibank Private 2008).

By 2030, The Heart Foundation would like to see a combination of walking, bicycling and public transport accounting for more than 30 per cent of all passenger trips in capital cities.

In order to do this, Australia needs to focus on the built environment to implement a cycle landscape and in turn, a bicycle culture for cities.

Woods Bagot associate Eva Sue and senior associate Ken Anderson, senior associate at Woods Bagot said there are two key types of cyclist:

1. Urban cycle commuters

2. Recreational cyclists, including families, amateur cyclists/groups

Sue and Anderson spoke of the opportunities available for a city committed to a cycling future.

Built Environment

Sue has observed an increasing adoption of end of trip (EOT) facilities in the workplace sector into existing and new building developments for employees on site.

“Facilities include secure bike store, change rooms, lockers and showers,” she said. “Periodic incentives including free bike check workshops further encouraging employees to ride to work.”

Woods Bagot recently completed the EOT facility at The Quadrant in Perth – a fully integrated zone that offers tenants an array of amenities including bike racks, lockers and change rooms in a comfortable and sophisticated purpose-built space.

EOT facility at The Quadrant in Perth Image Credit:  Woods Bagot

EOT facility at The Quadrant in Perth
Image Credit: Woods Bagot

Anderson noted bicycletecture is important for both residential and commercial projects.

“Outside of the workplace, a minimum quota of bike stores is now a requirement from local councils for new build multi-residential projects,” he said. “In a new landmark multi-residential project the Woods Bagot Perth studio is currently designing, a minimum of one dedicated bike store per apartment will be provided to residents.

As for commercial ventures, he noted that “secure bike stores reduce demand on car parks and lessen car park congestion, positively impacting the wider community.”

In Melbourne, City Square has a “bike pod” which includes a shower and change facility for city workers, students and tourists who cycle to and from the city.

Additionally, in Fitzroy, a new apartment block, called Nine Smith Street will include 42 car parks, 49 bike spaces and five scooter berths according to the Australian Design Review. The project aims to enhance the pedestrian nature of Fitzroy and Collingwood.

Urban Landscape

A 2012 national survey, commissioned by the Heart Foundation and the Cycling Promotion Fund, found that 60 per cent of Australians have access to a bicycle, but 70 per cent of those were not considering cycling for transport in the near future, even though more than 50 per cent would like to (Heart Foundation and Cycling Promotion Fund 2012).

The biggest barriers were unsafe road conditions, speed or volume of traffic, safety and the lack of bicycle lanes or trails, all things that good cycling infrastructure could help with.

“The key objective is enhanced safety for the riders and the public,” Sue said. “Minimising cross over with road traffic in conjunction with implementing high level bike path lighting for public surveillance and low level bike path lighting for rider safety and visibility are two ways road safety for cyclists can be managed.”

In terms of recreational cyclists, there is an opportunity for safe cycling paths to and around recreational destinations which link into key cycle networks such as parks, lakes, nature reserves, public BBQ points and children’s playgrounds.

“There is an opportunity to develop a unique design for commuter shelters along key cycle networks in a form that does not exist currently,” Anderson said. “A communal amenity, these shelters  would provide weather protection for cyclists as well as a designated zone for emergency bike repair, an emergency phone and a comfortable rest point.”

In a park and ride concept, the Europe Commission in the city of Dijon, Bourgogne, France have announced two new tram lines (20km long) that will support a bike-tram solution. Cyclists will benefit from six secure shelters located next to several key stations.

Considering the high volume of traffic in urban areas, bicycle lane widths are also a safety concern. However, it’s not a one size fits all decision. The recent Austroads guide notes a few considerations:

  • number of cyclists
  • speed of motor traffic
  • volume of large vehicles
  • ability to make space available
  • needs of other road user groups
  • physical constraints and budgetary constraints.

The following table shows the minimum bicycle lane widths for roads posted at various speeds in urban areas:

Image Credit: Austroads

Image Credit: Austroads

Carless Cycling Routes

Another strategy looks at taking cyclists off the roads and giving them their own lanes – above and below the city, as exemplified by the Skycycle concept proposal announced last year by Sir Norman Foster for London.

The Skycycle’s secure elevated deck would sit three storeys above existing suburban rail services and would provide over 220 kilometres of safe, car-free cycle routes which can be accessed over 200 points throughout the city.

Skycycle has been proposed in London to keep cyclists safe

Skycycle has been proposed in London to keep cyclists safe

“Each route can accommodate 12,000 cyclists per hour and will improve journey times by up to 29 minutes,” a statement for SkyCycle reads.

A similar local proposal, the 1.7-kilometre Veloway, came in 2012 by Donald Bates from LAB Architecture Studio,  the firm behind Melbourne’s iconic Federation Square. It would run seven metres above the ground from Flinders Street Station, over six intersections from Princes Bridge to Southern Cross Station, before sweeping down into ­Melbourne’s Docklands.

Made of a lightweight, high-strength material, the elevated bike path would be cantilevered to the existing rail ­viaduct on Flinders Street for most of its route and separate cyclists from cars and pedestrians on the dedicated ­skyway.

Gensler was recently awarded the Best Conceptual Award at the London Planning Awards for its cycling concept, The London Underline.

According to the firm, the Underline regenerates the disused metro tunnels and surplus infrastructure around London. These spaces would be turned into a network of pedestrian and bike paths with cultural and retail spaces, all powered by energy generating Pavegen tiles.

Urban cycling is one of the strongest strategies for cities to reduce infrastructure pressure, support the environment and create to happier and healthier human beings.