Cities - Issue 128 - Magazine | Monocle

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Heads you lose


On paper it seems that mayor Bill de Blasio wants to make New York’s streets appealing to cyclists. Since taking office in 2014, his administration has built an impressive 133km of bike lanes to encourage people to use cycle-sharing scheme Citi Bike, which now notches up 70,000 rides a day.

But De Blasio has floated the idea of compulsory helmets for bike-share users – a surefire way to kill any cycle scheme. In Seattle, Melbourne and Brisbane, compulsory helmet laws have played a part in the struggles of their respective bike shares. With studies showing there’s safety in numbers when it comes to city cycling, the move risks the wellbeing of all cyclists – the very issue that De Blasio wants to tackle with the law. If city hall wants to make roads safer and more inviting, the answer is to build more protected bike lanes.

Six places with tough bike rules (and fines to match):

1. Ring, ring! We hope that’s your bell – ride a bike without one in Sydney and you’ll face a fine of au$106 (€65).

2. Riding while wearing headphones in Washington may drown out the political noise but it can also land you with a $50 (€45) ticket.

3. Feeling a little uncomfortable on the road in the UK? Ride on the pavement and you could face a £30 (€35) fine.

4. It’s always raining in Seattle but leave your helmet at home and things can only get gloomier with that $102 (€90) fine.

5. Don’t forget your headgear in Brisbane either. The notoriously humid city will stick you with a au$126 (€80) tariff should you ride without.

6. New York didn’t build all those bike lanes for the aesthetic – if there’s one on your route, use it or pick up a $130 (€118) fine.

Park keepers


Sydney Harbour’s shore is peppered with interlinking parks; they’re welcome green spaces but would be surprise candidates for heritage listing. Yet seen as a collective from a high point – try Observatory Hill – the greenery is a breathtaking backdrop for the harbour and bridge. That’s why landscape architect Christine Hay, heritage consultant Colleen Morris and architect James Quoyle created the Landscape Heritage Conservation Listing Project.

It nominates broad landscapes for addition to the State Heritage Register, setting a precedent for the preservation of other cultural landscapes.

Making connections


High-speed rail is finally coming to the Mojave Desert. The idea to connect California and Las Vegas with fast trains was floated back in 2005 and now construction should begin in 2020. Owned by Virgin Trains usa, the $4.8bn (€4.4bn) line will link Victorville and Las Vegas via 240km/h trains, slashing travel time from three hours to 75 minutes. The railway will travel alongside Interstate 15, taking advantage of the existing highway corridor. Once completed (by 2023, supposedly), the new line will complement Virgin usa’s other rail project, which connects Miami to West Palm Beach. And the firm has a grander vision: a network connecting all major cities across the country.



National architect


Helena Bjarnegård was appointed Sweden’s first national architect in 2018. She is tasked with leading and co-ordinating all of the work of her colleagues in the architectural field at a national level. It’s hoped the result will be that city architects in municipalities across the country get the support they need in creating well-designed places to live.

How does a national architect tackle problems such as rapid migration and unchecked urbanisation?
My job is to help Swedish cities use their architecture as an instrument to meet these societal changes. One way is to identify any legislation – or rules and regulations – that we have at a national level that are hindering the way forward. If they are, we need to address them. I can work with the government and several ministries – including culture and finance – to make these changes.

Despite having a traditional apartment block height – six floors – will Sweden now have to adopt higher-rise living?
Yes. Several cities in Sweden are now working on plans for high-rise buildings, some of them in wood. But we need to think in a lot of different ways about the future. We’re already looking at smaller apartments and sharing spaces with our neighbours; I think this is just the beginning.

Intergenerational living was always part of Nordic life. Is that gone?
No but we’re going to see different types of living. Maybe now a lot of different people want to live together; what does that legislation look like? Can we have several people with a contract for one apartment? We need to work through that as well as the architecture.

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