Imperfection and Flexibility: What Seville’s bicycle network can teach designers in the United States [and SA]

Excellent feature in US publication cyclingMOBILITY, about why the quest for infrastructure perfection can hinder usefullness. His feature is aimed at infrastructure designers in the US, but it can equally well apply in South Africa. Routes, connectivitiy, the quality of the network – these are all more important than the iconography…

“An American colleague of mine recently forwarded me a collection of photographs he had taken of bicycle facilities in Seville, Spain. The photographs do not focus, as I might have expected, on the city’s bicycle share system, or the recent celebrations of the VeloCity 2011 Seville conference. They are instead a catalogue of imperfections: green bike paths winding haphazardly through the city streets, onto sidewalks and across bridges- even bending around telephone poles and benches. Where a street narrows or the traffic doubles, the green path always seems to find a way, even when the design seems less than ideal.

For practitioners in the United States, imperfections of this kind have been deemed impermissible. Bike lanes, paths and signs must adhere to strict standards rooted in sensible engineering judgment and design expertise. Liability is cited as a prime cause of this rigidity. Whatever the inherent or perceived differences between Seville and the United States, there is something incredibly admirable I find in these pictures of persistence and flexibility in the city’s bicycle network. For bicycling to emerge as a mainstream form of transportation, a new flexibility in design must be embraced by engineers and planners throughout the United States.”

To read the rest of the feature, click here.



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