Networked Urbanism

design thinking initiatives for a better urban life

Design critics: Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo, principals of Ecosistema Urbano

I worked on the concept of urban bike station for bikers. I began the project with the interest in bikes and the growing culture. When I first noticed that bikes are often locked on street signs and trees, I thought about the relationship of bicycles and urban space.

Bike Station

Bikers are situated in between cars and pedestrians. Bikes are encouraged to ride, but they are in an ambiguous position. Sometimes they are not welcomed by motor vehicles and also become troubles in urban space. Also, infrastructures like bike lanes and parking space are expanded, but there’s no consideration on the growing culture itself. Currently, less than 2% of the residents of Boston commute by bicycle. But, Boston is trying to increase the number envisioning to become a bicycling city. They are building more bike lanes and installing bike racks and try on-street bike parking too. A bike pool program for employees is already in operation and also a bike share program for the public is in consideration.

However, at this moment, there are still obstacles for Boston to become a world-class bicycling city. Compared to the neighboring cities, the rate of bike commuters is low due to the lack of safety and a lot of bicycle theft. People think that bicycling in Boston is dangerous. It’s because there is not enough infrastructure like proper bike lanes. For instance, I compared the bike lanes and parking racks on Massachusetts Ave in Cambridge and Boston. There are many racks and bike lanes in Cambridge, but in Boston, the bike lanes disappear and I hardly saw bike racks along the street. In addition to that, there is also not enough consensus about acknowledging bicycling as a legitimate transportation system. When people are driving, they think that bikers should watch out for their own safety. So, there are bikers communities that try to improve the quality of the cycling conditions in Boston. They promote the use of bicycles in everyday life. They share the same interests online and also gather and ride together to support bike culture. It is a gesture for safe ride and also for a change. There are bike stations in other cities like Chicago and Washington, which basically provide safe parking and repair service. These are not meant to be a social space though.

Anne Lusk developed the idea about a ‘social bridge’ that connects people and makes them interact. When I had a talk with her, she helped me to think about the social aspect of these bike facilities. And she emphasized that it is important to give priority for bikers to promote the culture. In Europe, bikes are not just a type of transportation, but also a cultural item to enjoy and share. So, maybe, to become a bicycling city, it is necessary to understand the cultural aspect behind that. And there should be a consideration for the increasing bike facilities in urban space about how these would work for bikers and also for the public.To sum up, the space for bikers needs 4 aspects. It should be functional and support the culture and bring social interaction and also be harmonized with public space. Then, it could change social attitude toward bicycling and raise more interest.

So, I decided to design a public social space for bikers that fulfills the needs for information and parking, and provides resting and social space for them. Also, I presumed that this space would generate virtual and real social networks between bikers and become a hub for mobile business and bike culture. I considered one slot of on-street parking lot for the space and they are scattered throughout the city having different functions and entities.

Then, for the actual design of the space, several concepts were employed: parking racks, fixing station, bike map and information, resting, mobile business, community and social. It has parking racks under and the racks are pulled out when parking. On the top, there are boxes to contain tools and other stuff and they are also seats that people can sit on. When fixing bikes, the stands and tools can be taken out from the box to use. Adjustable lightings are used at night and solar panels are placed here to provide electricity.

An interactive screen that is connected to the Internet is installed. It has several menus in it. It provides instructions about bike parking and repairing and information of bike maps and route findings. It also releases advertisements of sponsors, lost bikes and buy and sells. Through the station twitter page, people can get mobile business alarms and social gathering notices. Also, through instant messaging, they can share information fast and get help from each other. Also, it presents the station network and the information of each station such as the schedules and available racks and tools. The station is placed on a street parking lot, and it can be moved from one spot to another according to the frequency or demands. So, it is flexible to the changing urban settings. Each station can be colored in different colors to identify the local images or these can be some kind of landmarks too.

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