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Designing Greener Cities with the Bicycle

By Rose Barfield 5 min July 4, 2019
Designing Greener Cities with the Bicycle

The Bicycle Architecture Biennale (BAB) is back for its second year. It celebrates architecture for all things bicycle: cycle routes, bicycle sky paths, and bike parking. It started last month, where other than in Amsterdam? The country where 43% of people cycle every day.


BAB celebrates innovation in bicycle driven architecture...

The collection is compromised of 15 different projects including; The longest bicycle skyway in world -- Xiamen, China. The largest bicycle park in world -- Utrecht, the Netherlands. A repurposed highway painted in shocking pink -- Auckland, New Zealand.

Designing Greener Cities with the Bicycle- canberratransportphoto-1024x542

The infamous graphic demonstrating the space taken by 69 people using public transport, bicyles and private motor vehicles. Image credit: Cycling Promotion

Green architecture doesn't just mean attaching plants to buildings. Designing cities that encourage cyclists can reduce pollution, congestion, and the strain on public transport services. To put it into perspective: bicycles produce an estimated 21 g CO2e/km and e-bikes around 22 g CO2e/km, whilst a standard, petrol car produces whopping 259 g CO2e/km in urban areas (source ECF).

The collection

The exhibition is split into 3 themes: routes, connections, and destinations, spread over 15 different projects. 11 are completed and 4 are still in the concept stage. All highlight how architectural design can enable people to use bicycles more in urban environments. Somewhat unsurprisingly, 4 of the 11 projects come from the Netherlands, the rest are global. You can read the complete list, but here are my top picks:

Fietsen door de Bomen

Designing Greener Cities with the Bicycle- 319830-7.-Cycling-through-the-trees-BuroLandschap Limburg Belgium-c230c4-original-1560759561-1024x738

Fietsen door de Bomen (cycle through the trees), Limburg, Belgium -- BuroLandschap, is the newest edition to Limburg's 2000 km (1243 mi) of cycle routes: a maze of cycle paths across the Limburg province that include an opportunity to cycle through water. (This section of the cycle route also features in this year's BAB exhibition.)

The 700 m ( 0.5 mi) long, 100 m (328 ft) diameter, helix sweeps through the Pijven forest reaching heights of 10 m (33 ft). It's designed to allow cyclists and walkers a unique "birds-eye view" of the forest. The path uses 449 posts to raise it above the forest floor and as such, the impact to the forest below is minimal.

The good news for bicycle enthusiasts is that the eccentric plans don't stop here. The province wants to add an underground section to the route which will allow visitors to travel through the marl quarries in Riemst.

As a keen cyclist myself, I've already earmarked it on the list of cycle routes to try this summer. For those of you that aren't able to make it to Belgium, you can view an interactive, 3D video.

Xiamen Bicycle Skyway

Designing Greener Cities with the Bicycle- DW-Xiamen-Drone-Mall-2500px-1024x575 (1)

Xiamen Bicycle Skyway, Xiamen, China -- Dissing+Weitling, at 7.6 km (4.75 mi) long is the longest cycle-skyway in the world and the first of its kind in China. It sits 5 m (16.5 ft) above the road and covers Xiamen's 5 major residential areas and 3 business centers.

It was designed by Danish architectural firm Dissing+Weitling, a company that has worked on a number of similar projects including a number of elevated footpaths across Xiamen and the Bicycle Snake in Copenhagen, Denmark.


The Melkwegbrug (The Milky Way Bridge), NEXT Architects, Purmerend, the Netherlands, solves the challenge of taking both cyclists and pedestrians across the river in style. For foot passengers there is a, rather bonkers, arched bridge, affording incredible views along the river. To comply with gradient requirements the cycle a wheelchair bridge is 100 m (328 ft) long. The designers have overcome this challenge by styling the cycle path to zig-zag through the arch.

Utrecht Station

Designing Greener Cities with the Bicycle- 38229-6.-Biggest-bicycle-parking-in-the-world-Ector-Hoogstad-Architecten Utrecht The-Netherlands-0e5100-1024x683

The three-level bike garage at Utrecht Station, the Netherlands -- Ector Hoogstad Architecten, is soon to be the largest in the world. It will have space for 13,500 bikes.

Available slots will be electronically indicated. No more cycling around for a spot to slip your bike in! There will also be a repair shop and a rental service in the bike park. The design even features a cycle path/footpath system to allow users to avoid collisions.

The structure features some truly mesmerizing concrete forms, an interesting, bubblewrap look roof over the main square, and large, glass-covered stairwells that flood the cycle park with light.

Nelson St Cycleway

Designing Greener Cities with the Bicycle- 319829-8.-Nelson-St-Cycleway-Monk-Mackenzie-LandLAB-GHD Auckland New-Zealand-de2ba5-original-1560759536-1024x683

Nelson St Cycleway, Auckland, New Zealand -- Monk Mackenzie, LandLAB, GHD, repurposes a redundant piece of highway into a cycle route. The route is 600 m (⅓ mi) long and painted in a shocking pink color with 300 LED light poles along the sides. Whilst this may not be everyone's taste, it certainly differentiates the cycle route from the surrounding, grey landscape and gives the city a dramatic aerial view come twilight.

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