In the past fifty years, European countries such as The Netherlands and Denmark have been making strides in establishing themselves as leaders in bicycle infrastructure and culture. As a result, The Copenhagenize Index has ranked Copenhagen as the world’s most bicycle friendly city, with Utrecht, Amsterdam, and other European cities following close behind. By investing in cycling infrastructure, these cities have created cultures that value the bike as means of getting around, and are now recording more bicycles than cars in their city centers. In addition, numerous studies have shown that cities with people-centric planning are happier, healthier, and more economically beneficial. As the growth of urbanization continues to threaten our planet’s climate and resources, I feel that it is imperative to gain a better understanding of how we can improve our own cities.
In the Spirit of the early architecture students and cyclists who traveled across Europe before widespread mass transportation networks, I am proposing a contemporary “Grand Tour” throughout Europe. With the intention of studying public space and infrastructure, I understand the importance of being present in these spaces and experiencing them from the perspective of reality. To provide myself with the most authentic experience possible, I intend to rely only on the efficiency of a bicycle to complete the tour. By riding through some of the worlds most bike-friendly cities, I hope to gain a greater understanding of the factors that promote the strong cycling culture that these cities are known for, while also visiting significant classical and contemporary works of architecture. In addition, I hope to gain insight on how to implement my observations from the tour as a future professional. By utilizing user-based GPS data, I will be able to adapt my route to follow the preferred path of local users. Often, the less conventional path compared to primary motorways, these routes provide valuable insight, and an opportunity to document observations.
Purpose of Study
The purpose of this study to gain a deeper understanding of Western and Northern European culture, and the values that have shaped their cities. As a student of architecture, and an advocate of cycling, I hope to use this research as an opportunity to combine my passions, while gaining new perspectives of each. By limiting myself entirely to touring by bicycle, I can ensure that I’m able to observe the European landscape and cycling infrastructure effectively. Governed by the pace of my own pedaling, I will be forced to experience both the rural and urban landscape as a whole. Throughout the duration of the tour I intend to document my experiences through photography, sketching, and keeping a daily journal, with a goal of developing a narrative by the end of the tour.