Bicycle culture

2 06 2011

by Vlado Kabat

Cycling is a convenient replacement for cars in cities suffering from never-ending traffic jams, not only for families with lower income, it is becoming a trend in a healthy life style. From the cities that I have visited, two of them stayed in my mind as the cities of bicycles.

First of them is Copenhagen which claims that 36 % of people are cycling to work, school or universities. Cycling is integrated into S-train network and the Copenhageners are allowed to take their bikes on the trains for free. The city wants to encourage even more people to use their bicycles. Police started to operate on the bicycles since 2009 to improve visibility and contact with citizens.

The other city is Amsterdam. There is a huge bicycle multi-storey parking right in the city centre. On the roads, cycling lines have their own traffic lights and turning lanes. People are not bothering with stylish bicycles, most of them are all using old ones without many modern features. No wonder, because one bicycle is cheaper than a one day transport ticket. (We saw bicycles for less than 5€) As typical tourists I and my friends bought the transport ticket instead of riding the bicycle. We had an impression that the trams were used mostly just by elderly, injured or people who were not able to ride the bicycles at the time.





Play Now for a Green Tomorrow

1 06 2011

By Sarah Muscat

Browsing through a website, I was startled to read that SimCity is being used in educational curriculums! How can A GAME be considered as a good basis to the future of urban design and planning, even by universities?!

SCEPTIC about it, I started to search out for weak points in the game. Based on the realities of capitalist economies, surely it must be the environmental sector! I was wrong. The latest SimCity Societies is not just tackling the issue, but has worked with BP to provide realistic scenarios for the economic and environmental costs and benefits of different energy options…..to be used in THE GAME!

No wonder the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change opted for A GAME, ‘Create your MY 2050 World for the UK’, to engage people in the difficult choices that must be made for UK’s Energy Future! I DECIDED TO PLAY THE GAME! It’s fun and does highlight misconceptions and the inadequacy of certain measures to alternative options.

At the end I managed to reduce CO2 below the targeted 20%. Success means that your proposed scheme feeds into the UK’s energy debate ‘2050 Pathways Analysis’. So GO ON AND PLAY!

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/14/be-an-eco-sinner-or-saint-in-the-new-simcity/

http://my2050.decc.gov.uk/

Create your My 2050 World for the UK





Cohesive communities & walkable neighbourhoods

31 05 2011

By Harvé Dhillon

Recently, seeming a lot of our projects have included residential design, I was reading about cohesive communities and how both architecture and urban design can contribute to the social integration of residents in a positive way. Malaysia is an ethnically diverse nation with three main races and many other ethnic minorities hence the importance of its social cohesiveness and unity of people is important in order to create a stable social and economic environment. Thus, neighbourhood design has had an important impact contributing to the racial harmony of Malaysian suburbs. The simple solution is to encourage walking, by providing local amenities within walking distance such as shops, schools, community centres, health centre the of course there is better health and furthermore reduces the need to use the car. Socially, walking will encourage the meeting and greeting with neighbours and a sense of community. Planners in Malaysia have managed to create these neighbourhoods by simple and inexpensive interventions and as a result forge communities with naturally strong ties and racial interaction and integration.

  • Make pedestrian-friendly pavements mandatory.
  • Make the planting of shady trees mandatory, too.
  • Place wakaf (small huts) and simple furniture along streets to provide resting places.
  • Place schools, libraries, mosques, temples, community centres and some shops within true walking distance of clusters of houses so people are encouraged to walk rather than drive.
  • Promote bicycling by providing proper pathways as well as bicycle parking spaces.




Funtheory

31 05 2011

by Vlado Kabat

Funtheory is an experiment project with initiative of Volkswagen run in the Swedish capital- Stockholm. It’s a campaign with an aim to make people do things which are not very comfortable, things that people do not tend to do in the first place, or in other words funtheory tries to change people’s lazy behavior. Competitors were creating projects and the best ones were awarded. Some of the projects were actually quite interesting which tried to improve people’s behavior in public spaces by making it fun to do.

One of the most successful projects was created in a metro station in Stockholm. The target was to attract people to use stairs rather than escalators by creating a working piano on the stairs that interact with the pedestrians . Creators argued, that signs on the walls saying: ”Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator and feel better.” are not convincing enough. The other project encourages people to use bins for trash rather than throwing in on the ground.

If you are interested in these projects there are more on their homepage http://www.thefuntheory.com/.   





Shoe Tree in Heaton

30 05 2011

Posted by Jun

About a year ago, when I went for a walk in Jesmond Dene, I bumped into this slightly mysterious scene of trees on which hundreds and hundreds of shoes were hung, in Armstrong Park. According to a web page, young people throw their shoes up to the branches celebrating the end of their exams whilst I imagined, secretly, a more melancholic story like out-grown feet of adolescence and their leaving old shoes.

Repetitive actions of anonymous individuals can be found elsewhere too. Piles of rock built one by one, by mountain climbers can be easily found in mountains in Korea. Some people say that it was a kind of ritual of asking mountain goblins not to disturb their journeys. Also, I saw a bicycle-tire tree in Hulme,Manchester, which was less attractive than the shoe tree.

By the way, the best part of this shoe tree is that there is an annual harvest(!) of shoes because the numbers of shoes need to be controlled in order to protect the trees.