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High cycling lifts sustainable travel in China

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Words:
Stephen Cousins

Xiamen’s 8km cycle lane is sandwiched between the bus route and the road traffic – vertically. Peace and safety drove the design

Cyclists in the city of Xiamen in China were once forced to contend with congested and polluted highways, but now they can coast along in relative peace and safety high up on the world's longest aerial bicycle lane.

The 8km-long raised steel structure was designed by Danish studio Dissing + Weitling to connect the city’s neighbourhoods with shopping malls, government buildings, 11 bus stations and two subway stations.

It is one of 15 projects from nine different countries to feature in the second Bicycle Architecture Biennale in Amsterdam this month, which set out to demonstrate how designs can create healthier lifestyles, more inclusive communities, a cleaner environment and more sustainable economies.

Xiamen Bicycle Skyway is a green-surfaced path that winds its way around the city centre two storeys above car traffic and below a bus rapid transit skyway. The system provides provides direct horizontal access to buildings, and a series of mushroom-shaped platforms where users can park their bikes to enter bus skyway stations. Multiple curved and spiralling entrance and exit ramps sweep down to connect at ground level with schools, neighbourhoods and parks.

A 100m section of the road was constructed to test if the eventual users would feel safe cyling at height.
A 100m section of the road was constructed to test if the eventual users would feel safe cyling at height. Credit: Dissing + Weitling

Dissing + Weitling’s competition-winning design required a very different approach to the cycle infrastructure projects it previously completed in Copenhagen, which include the iconic Bicycle Snake bridge across the harbour basin.

Partner and managing director Steen Trojaborg told RIBAJ: ‘The brief, from the city government of Xiamen, was to encourage more people to cycle and to improve cycling safety but taking away space from the roads to create designated bicycle lanes was not an option.’

The focus on safety resulted in high parapets, two separate bike lanes for each direction of travel and a wide lane where they converge. A 100m-long 1:1 scale demonstration model was constructed in situ to test whether users felt safe.

The finished Skyway provides a unique experience of the city, says Trojaborg: ‘Users are both sandwiched between levels of frenetic activity and in a peaceful world of their own that’s really safe. The Chinese tend to ride bikes at a leisurely pace, which makes this a very special way of viewing the city.’

  • The bicycle lane was constructed two storeys above the grade road level.
    The bicycle lane was constructed two storeys above the grade road level. Credit: Dissing + Weitling
  • The new routeway allows cyclists to experience moving through the city safely.
    The new routeway allows cyclists to experience moving through the city safely. Credit: Dissing + Weitling
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The Bicycle Architecture Biennale was curated by NEXT architects. Other projects included a path for pedestrians and cyclists in Barcelona, designed to link one of the most difficult points in the metropolitan road network; and a bicycle parking lot on the roof of a bicycle workshop and cafe on the campus of TU Delft in the Netherlands.

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