Beijing Night Ride

Video of a night bike ride with a few friends.

Beijing is a beautiful city at night. Instead of casting a brown tinge on everything like it does during the day, the air pollution diffuses the bright city lights below. Traffic is slightly less overwhelming, and the range of spaces for bikes, from narrow hutongs to bike lanes on the widest highways, is fun to explore.

Route of a 30 mile ride through Beijing

Route of a 30 mile ride through Beijing (click for interactive map)

Bike Ride across Beijing

Folding bike at the Olympic Park

Folding bike at the Olympic Park

I spent last Saturday riding 32 miles across Beijing. A video of some of the highlights is below. Or, to see selected excerpts, click on the yellow icons on the map below.

Mayor Garcetti's Great Streets Initiative

After 100 days in office, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced his first executive directive – the Great Streets Initiative. As Marie Sullivan at Metro’s The Source writes, “It was during this speech that I realized, the Mayor is a straight-up Planner!” Indeed, a mayor whose first major announcement mentions Red Cars, bioswales, and WalkScore has me optimistic.

Garcetti asserts, “Design matters…We have ignored the aesthetics of our city too often. But the way a neighborhood looks and feels has a lot to do with its livability and vibrancy.” Aesthetically pleasing street furniture is a good step, and I hope this initiative can help strengthen connected public health, green space, and transit corridor projects.

Janette Sadik-Khan in Cape Town

UCT’s African Centre for Cities and the Cape Town Partnership hosted a great talk by the transportation and planning commissioners of New York City. Their talk was part of a larger ITDP-organized visit to South Africa. I thoroughly enjoyed Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan’s remarks (an audio recording of which is available here). In spite of some vocal critics, her extensive implementation of bike and pedestrian improvements in New York has successfully improved traffic safety and Manhattan’s streetscape.

2010: The Pedestrian and Transit Legacy of the World Cup

After being announced as the host nation for the 2010 World Cup in 2004, South Africa embarked on a journey of transportation transformation. The looming tournament helped fast-track a number of infrastructure projects, and the nation largely met the challenges of moving hundreds of thousands of spectators: KwaZulu-Natal opened its new King Shaka International Airport a month before the first kickoff, Gauteng’s Gautrain (more soon) was able to transport fans from O.R. Tambo International Airport to Sandton, and Jo’burg’s Rea Vaya helped clear Soccer City ahead of FIFA benchmark times.

In addition to these flagship projects, the World Cup (or simply 2010, as South Africans metonymically refer to the tournament) impelled some subtler changes in South Africa’s transportation landscape. A prime example is Cape Town’s Fan Walk, a corridor of pedestrian improvements between the city’s train station and Green Point Stadium. As the Christian Science Monitor reported, planners were completely overwhelmed by the massive turnout and positive response from both visitors and locals to this new walking infrastructure in the city; Capetonians have continued to use the fan walk for local soccer games, demonstrations, and (like me) the finish line festivities of the Cape Argus Cycle Tour.

The prodigious success of the Fan Walk demonstrates the power of walking as a “microprocess,” a term sociologist Saskia Sassen used recently in describing the potential of bike lanes (at a talk in Buenos Aires for the Our Cities Ourselves exhibit about transportation). As she said, to make global cities more sustainable “we don’t need the big flagship projects.” Indeed, the small infrastructure investment of the Fan Walk, hardly mentioned by city officials before the tournament, has served to catalyze and coordinate thousands of “pedestrian speech acts” (de Certeau) that collectively work to retake urban space from cars and reverse years of social division. The transportation legacy of 2010 is not just physical infrastructure, but, as Andrew Boraine writes, “attitudinal changes” as well.

It was only six years ago that architect Jan Gehl observed, “Pedestrians in Cape Town are a hunted race.” The World Cup helped with many improvements, but work remains to be done.

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