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Philosophy of Cycling

Within the fundamental concept that organizes into a coherent whole any human settlement is the relationship between the various building structures that constitute its texture. The land organized in public and private parcels generates a series of patterns with circulation spaces that give access to the parcels themselves forming streets and squares all interconnected as a network of lines and nodal points. As the space from a planar layout develops volumetrically with the erection of buildings, an urban center is born and starts to take shape under the impact of the vital forces generated by the logical aspirations of the human population that organizes its daily existence under the pressure of its basic needs and its aesthetic goals.

Any urban center observed from a birds-eye view would project a similar impression as would some other natural habitats created instinctively by another animal species. Outdoor activities in the inner spaces between structures (mostly streets and squares) will manifest themselves into patterns of circulations flowing through the streets and an in-and-out circulation between buildings and streets. Such two patterns of activities in continuous motion may be observed as chaotic and erratic from a high altitude, but as one would get closer, all the details of urban life become more clear down to a point in which all the details get into focus. The public spaces bring into view a busy scene of activities that create almost a choreographical effect. The streets are indeed the stage where people perform in the open view their individual tasks that although dictated by their own needs, seem to be centrally coordinated like the roles of individual actors performing in a theatrical play. Acting and interacting smoothly, scores of human performers enter and exit the stage as they appear and disappear from buildings, or flow in the pedestrian traffic, or enter the moving capsules called "automobiles." ......

The other aspects concerning the encapsulation of automobile occupants within the metal shell of the vehicle are by all means factors of great significance that need some comments when looking at the urban traffic in a holistic approach. The term "encapsulation" used in this context is intended to describe the physical and psychological conditions that are indeed the reality of urban life. In practical terms, the vast majority of city residents find themselves encapsulated for hours a on a daily basis in a sterile setting. This removes them from positive social interactions with other human beings while, on the other hand, it brings them into negative interactions in the enervating and stressful competition that arises between drivers. In such artificial conditions the spiritual solitude of such encapsulation and the frustration of competing in slow, irregular motions of stop-and-go in close contact, side-to-side and front-to-back, may create high levels of psychological stress. This stress finds many ways of manifesting irritability and often violence can indeed be observed on a very frequent basis and it is a widely known phenomenon that would definitely not be disputed.

While such negative aspects of automobile city traveling conditions are indeed sufficient cause for a major re-evaluation of urban life, the missed opportunities of positive human exchanges in more calm settings are even better reasons for constructive actions. It is in this respect, in fact, that the re-evaluation of bicycling as an urban transportation mode finds a viable forum in which new ideas can effectively be proposed by city planners and any other professionals interested in quality of life....

parking facilities could be associated to an ancillary activity such as concession stands, for instance, which in the case of theoretically unsupervised conditions, would offer a certain degree of protection against vandalism or obvious theft attempts. In the case of totally supervised conditions, such ancillary establishments would help to reduce the cost of attendants through a supplementary income provided by the concession.

-- Dr. Michele Melarango, Dr. C.E., P.E., Regaining the Human Scale Through Urban Bicycling. Prof. of architecture and building sciences at the univ. of No. Carolina at Charlotte


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Last updated: 7 April 1999