Beijing’s bicycle culture needs a comeback. Cars, roads, and smog now consume the city, as “modern” residents leave their bicycles behind. This project proposes a bicycle transit center prototype for Beijing, woven as a network into the elevated highways that dominate the once human-scale city. The bicycle centers create an attractive alternative lifestyle to catalyze a bicycle revival in Beijing.
BICYCLE VS. CAR IN BEIJING
In the 1990’s, China was known as the “Bicycle Kingdom”, with Beijing having over 11 million bicycles, more than any other city in the world. In 15 years, that number has dropped to below 4 million, while 1,800 cars are added to its roads every day. More than 5 million cars are now registered in Beijing. Severe problems have arisen due to this trend. The traditional tight-knit urban fabric is being wiped out for road expansion, traffic conditions are some of the worst in the world, and the city’s notorious air pollution levels have increased. This project critiques the irony of Beijing’s recent transformation - the city once dominated by the most sustainable form of transit is now dominated by the least. Furthering the irony, the heavy traffic in Beijing causes commute times by car to be over twice that of the bicycle. The economy and speed supposedly offered by the automobile instead become null.
This project recognizes that this bicycle-car dynamic is largely attributed to the changing culture of citizens of a rapidly developing China who see the car as a symbol of a “modern” lifestyle. The goal of this project is to create a renewed bicycle culture, and to re-brand the bicycle as the ideal vehicle for modern city life.
WEAVING A NEW BICYCLE NETWORK
The project turns Beijing’s network of ring roads and highway interchanges into prime real estate for the bicycle transit network. Bicycle transit centers are deployed in the void spaces between looping ramps. Linking them are “bicycle highways”, suspended below the elevated roadways to create a weather-protected and traffic-free zone for bicycles. They form a city-wide network, and connect to subway stations to provide multi-modal options for transit.
The bicycle center is an oasis for bicycle commuters. It provides more amenities than just bicycle parking, repair, showers and lockers, expanding on these standards to include a gym/spa, daycare center, grocery store, Wifi cafes and teahouses, and even a sport cycling track. The idea is to create a fresh lifestyle around the bicycle, providing conveniences previously not associated with the bicycle. New concepts such as “bike-thru” windows are introduced, a direct opposition to the “drive-thru” window popularized by car culture. At the heart of the bicycle commute center is a garden - a tranquil place for cyclists, an “oasis” from the cacophony of the city.
SUSTAINABILITY AND SELF-ADVERTISEMENT
Like the bicycle itself, the bicycle transit center must be a self-sustained system which is carbon neutral; after all, it must be the antithesis to the motor vehicle. Not only does the bicycle transit center harvest solar energy and rainwater, it also uses microturbines to collect energy from the air currents generated by cars passing by it. Furthermore, the skin of the bicycle commuter center is composed of recycled car panels and windshields. These are ways that the bicycle center physically displays its oppositional intent to automobile culture.
Advertising the inherent agility and speed of the bicycle over the traffic-stricken automobile is a key aspect of the project. From the roadways, drivers stuck in traffic see bicycles gliding on the ramps of the bicycle center, and catch glimpses of activity inside. It is a visual display of a bicycle-oriented lifestyle as an alluring alternative for Beijing’s commuters.
ABOUT THE TITLE, “AUTO”-MOBILE BEIJING / (Zi Xing Bei Jing)
The phrase for bicycle in Chinese, “zi xing che” literally means ‘self’ ‘motion’ ‘vehicle’. The concept of sustainability is embedded in this phrase - it describes a vehicle in which mobility is powered completely by oneself, i.e. “auto”. This view of sustainability is what the project envisions for the city, a city in which the energy for mobility is self-supplied by its individuals, thus becoming a “auto”-mobile city.
[Please see web links for more detailed graphics, drawings, and analysis.]
New York City, United States
Category: Urban Planning and Urban Design