Friday, November 28, 2014

Everyone likes bikes

Hakan is fed up with Istanbul's car traffic, and who can blame him?
I'm involved in an interesting but sometimes exasperating EU project called Seismic. It's about the future of cities and how society can reform to address emerging challenges in an era of shrinking public purses. It covers cutting edge experiments in social innovation: social impact bonds, collaborative mapping, participatory citizenship and so on.

While many of the ideas are new and untested, i.e. of uncertain merit, one sure mental foothold is bicycling. In the course of the project, we had a "graphic facilitation" activity called Sketch. In this, artists accost random people on the street, and interview them about their gripes and wishes for cities. The artists sketch it down in charcoal pencil, and have so far produced 400 drawings from 10 cities in 10 countries.

As scans of each country's sketches go up on the project website, you'll see serious ideas about democracy: "Maria wants a public forum where citizens can express their ideas". And a few ideas out of San Francisco, circa 1968: a public park dedicated to laughing (Prague) and my favourite one from Brussels: "Pascal wants more naked dance!"

The ideas are rich and varied, but one thing loads of people from every country agree on is bicycles. Bikes, as much as ample green space, are widely recognised as key ingredients of the ideal city. I think this is cool, particularly since it goes against the grain of "innovation". Many EU research projects emphasise innovation, which I suppose is natural. Why spend research efforts on what we already know? Then again, when we're trying to find ways to improve cities, innovation is just one approach. Sometimes the best ideas are right under our noses.

Below is a small sample of the bike-related sketches in the Seismic project's archive.

Oliver thinks Queen Elizabeth should set an example and ride a bike -- as the Dutch royals do.

I agree with Grace. Tolerance is over-rated! At least when it comes to cars.
Peter shows that, contrary to popular belief, cycling's not just for masochists.

There's a lot of pent-up hostility toward cars.


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Paul Smith said...

Thanks a lot for providing a small sample of the bike-related sketches in the Seismic project's archive. Cycling's not just for masochists :) If you need some help writing or editing texts, click here, and we will right back to you!