New Spaces for Social Interaction
Mobility and transport are prerequisites for socio-economic participation and integration. Consistent and secure bicycle infrastructure is important for enabling the mobility of all social classes and age groups, as it frees people from the costs of a driver’s license, gasoline or public transport tickets. Beyond the practical social benefits, good cycling routes also have great symbolic power. In the words of Enrique Peñalosa, the Mayor of Bogota who oversaw impressive positive changes in the Colombian metropolis: “A bikeway is a symbol that shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally as important as a citizen in a $30,000 car”. (1)
Another important social component is that the development of attractive cycling routes simultaneously upgrades the public realm. While automotive traffic necessitates the use of wide streets and therefore cuts through the city, bike paths are developed on a human scale and accordingly create meeting spaces, which facilitate cultural interactions and social exchange. Cycling itself is an act in which one interacts at least non-verbally with others. Eye contact, facial expressions and physical movements are visible and it’s easier to engage in casual verbal communication, especially in waiting and pause zones.
Cycling combines and democratizes mobility and also makes neighborhoods more livable. Studies have shown that a greater number of friendships exist in neighborhoods with traffic-calmed streets (2). Community activities and projects are more likely to emerge and empathy between neighbors is higher. Such interactions and human encounters have yet another beneficial effect: they are the basic prerequisite for social control and have a mitigating effect on crime and deviant behavior (3).
While in some neighborhoods surveillance cameras hang from every possible position, in others, senior citizens lean casually on window ledges watching the streets below. The effect is nearly the same, but the atmosphere is completely different. For the latter, there needs to be lively areas where people can walk, cycle, linger and interact – in other words, roads that are not subordinated to the interests of automotive traffic, but instead are spaces where traffic obeys the activities of the street. There is great potential for such activity along the Radbahn.
fewer crimes were committed in Kessler Park in Kansas City (USA) in the year that the streets around the park were closed to automotive traffic on the weekends.*
Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department (2009): Car-free Weekends on Cliff Drive Expand: Success of Pilot Program Leads to 102 Year-Round Expansion. Kansas.
3 times more local friends – residents in traffic-calmed streets have more friends in their neighborhood than people living on roads with a high volume of traffic.*
Appleyard, D. (1981): Livable Streets. University of California Press, Berkeley
(1) Peñalosa, E. (2013): Why buses represent democracy in action. TED Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/enrique_penalosa_why_buses_represent_democracy_in_action/transcript
(2) Appleyard, D. (1981): Livable Streets. University of California Press, Berkeley.
(3) Jacobs, J. (1992): The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Vintage Books, New York.