It’s official. Team Structures has won this year’s Bike to Work Challenge at Buro Happold’s West Coast offices edging out Team MEP with a total of 1,771 miles commuted by alternative transportation during the month of May. In the spirit of taking a big picture approach, team members could earn miles for walking and riding public transit as well as biking; basically commuting by any transportation mode that kept them out of a car. Collectively, the two teams logged 4,203 miles, preventing an estimated 3,261 pounds of car-related CO2 emissions, and freeing up 18 parking spaces per day. Beyond bragging rights, the team challenge represents one way we walk the talk at Buro Happold.
In line with our Living City Model of urban development, Buro Happold advocates an integrated approach to transportation that accommodates, and increasingly privileges, cyclists, pedestrians and public transit. Decades of car-centric development in American cities as well as many abroad have dramatically skewed the balance of transportation toward the automobile. The resulting social, economic and environmental effects present perhaps the greatest challenge to the future vitality of our cities.
However, even seemingly minor changes to public infrastructure can effect significant results. Los Angeles, a city that ranks relatively low among large U.S. cities on walkability, bike friendliness and ease of public transport, has seen an uptick in bike commuting in recent years, due in part to improvements in the city’s public infrastructure. Streets where bike lanes were added saw triple digit percentage increases in ridership as well as safer biking habits among riders.
In downtown Los Angeles, Buro Happold is contributing to the city’s re-envisioned transportation infrastructure with the Union Station Master Plan. The plan celebrates history and community, preserving the historic Union Station and reconnecting neighborhoods long divided by the 101 Freeway. But it also looks to the city’s future by creating Southern California’s new transit hub where local rail, Metro, high speed rail and highway connections will integrate with and catalyze a dense, mixed-use community. Transport equity is central to the plan, ensuring safe and sustainable access for everyone, no matter what transit mode they use to get there.
Cities and individuals alike are beginning to understand the advantages to health, environment and economy that alternative transportation provides. According to the EPA, every mile that is walked or biked instead of driven saves 0.88 pounds of CO2 in vehicle emissions. CEOs for Cities estimates that New Yorkers save $19 billion per year by driving less. And in public health terms, adults who bike to work reportedly have better blood pressure and insulin levels, experience lower stress and are more productive.
Smart infrastructure that results in improved mobility, public safety, public health, social equity and environmental sustainability? Sounds like a win to us.