city + bike = happy city

August 15, 2009


the bikeshare program introduced by Vélib in France is slowly making its way west, the most ambitious being Montreal’s. they spent $13 million for the program which they expect to become financially self-sufficient. in lyon, france residents have access to 20,000 share bikes. in paris there are 75,000 bikes rented per day.

programs like these are positive in many ways such reducing our carbon footprint. nationally, hawaii ranks fairly high for bikes ridden per day, likely due largely to our temperate climate.

as a bicycle friendly state the league of american bicyclists ranks us 22 out of the 50 states, alabama being 50. surprised? we were actually 14th last year so it’s nothing to be proud of. the league distributes these awards based on community efforts to promote and educate cycling, based on legislation as well as facilities and programs like bike share programs and this rad high visibility bike lane in NYC.

hawaii applied for honorable mention for bicycle friendly state last year but didn’t receive it. the site mentions our lack of training for judges and authorities on the rights and responsibilities of cyclists.

imagining honolulu as a bike friendly city makes me think of our parks, like kapiolani and alamoana. these parks are beautiful destinations for residents but over the weekend turn into small isolated islands surrounded by atolls of automobiles. chicago connected its parks with a boulevard system they later dubbed the emerald necklace. chicago’s emphasis began in 1837 when it adopted the moto “urbis in horto” which translates to “city in a garden.” in comparison hawaii’s park system is more like a string of broken pearls.

it’s easy to forget that the car is something alien to the natural landscape. hawaii didn’t even have horses until circa 1804.



Hotel street showing at-grade light rail option

it was my recent privilege to see scott wilson of Honolulu’s AIA chapter present at the last Honolulu Academy’s last Pecha kucha event. wilson and AIA are advocating alternatives to hannemann’s raised rail which tax payer’s are expected to pay 80% of the proposed $5.4 billion project, the largest public works project in our history. wilson’s urging for more flexibility in the design and planning for honolulu was an inspiring rally cry.

what ever we choose,  in the coming months the rail is going to define hawaii’s environmental, social and economic realities. as urban as honolulu may be, the raised rail seems like a brutality that residents and visitors will be forced to coexist with.

a rail is an amazing proposition and has come some way since early designs resembling disneyland’s monorail. but what was once a fantastical idea for us in the 1980s seems a little frightening. i am for the light rail and the more thoughtful approach AIA is advocating. such a structure as hannemann proposes seems like an irrevocable commitment.

cities change and the rail system represents that positive change in many ways. pedestrian vs automotive traffic  is an obvious plus. however, the rail project will take up to a decade to fully realize so the impact on our current infrastructure, ie the highways, seems to be one determining factor in our future.

haven’t we allowed the automobile define us enough? isn’t the limited capacity of our highways why we’re building the rail in the first place? it seems like we’re stacking our problems. i believe that true and radical change is generated by us individually through choice.

in my view hannemann’s proposition is bold but not courageous. courageous would be challenging the status quo to catch a bus or ride a bike rather than drive. we should encourage moderation in driving and encourage more sustainable choices. After all, the car like the rail is a choice.

Check out the TransMilenio system in Bogotá, Columbia, a praise-worthy alternative one city chose for itself.