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Keywords: Architecture
Design Track
Johannes Widodo
2010/2011 DT
City planning
Southeast Asia
Sustainable cities
Issue Date: 27-Jun-2011
Abstract: As a main contributor to the environmental issues nowadays, urban transportation needs to have a sustainable shift. Cycling as a sustainable transportation has been promoted in many developed cities. The results in reducing the use of automobiles, solving traffic problems and improving the quality of lives are significant. Bicycle has been invented for more than a century with its popularity increase and declined. In each stage, cycling bears a different social symbol. Each time society turns to cycling for solving specific problems. Therefore according to the precedence of developed countries, a city has to reach a mature stage for the reintroduction of sustainable cycling to be successful. Architecturally, the city has to have both the urge and space for cyclists; socially, the long term sustainable development has to become the shared responsibility of the whole society. In examining the current transportation and cycling situations in Southeast Asian cities, it is important to apply some parameters to determine whether the city has reached the mature stages. Thus the viability of reintroduction of sustainable cycling can be evaluated. Siem Reap as a representative of the poorer cities in Southeast Asia successfully demonstrate the cycling as a necessity of life. The urban pattern has not developed enough segregation between town from villages. Therefore cyclists use their own wheels to define routes and shortcuts on the empty field. With the few upper class switches to cars, the society has slowly shifted their perception of cycling to a lower economic status. Penang, as a typical historical town in Southeast Asia, marginalizes bicycles as a symbol of low social status. Its bicycle-friendly historical layout and narrow streets are challenged by the increasing percentage of car ownership. However, cycling is associated with minority groups such as Clan Jetties. Chiang Mai on the other hand, shows how bicycles are replaceable by motorbikes if sustainability is not the major concern of the society. A similar city grid has brought traffic congestions to Chiang Mai just like Penang. However, the solution of motorbikes seem perfectly fine with everyone if not because of the occasional complains about the early engine noise inside the dense residential area. Singapore, as an extreme developed case in Southeast Asia, failed in reintroducing sustainable cycling as well. The well-developed transportation network is difficult for the insertions of bicycle lanes. Sophisticated rules and regulations deprived the agility and flexibility of bicycles to take shortcuts. Cyclists on the main road are in the profession gears to challenge the supremacy of automobiles. Buses and train accommodates bicycles only in the off-peak hours. Bicycle lanes in the community area mainly lead to national parks. The Singapore society and government recognize cycling as sports and recreation, without much consideration of the utilitarian cycling and sustainability. Therefore car ownerships and traffic congestions are not reduced by bicycles. In conclusion, the Southeast Asian countries have not achieved the mature stage for the reintroduction of cycling. In terms of architecture and urban planning, the extremely poor and rich cities in Southeast Asian fail to deliver bicycle-friendly environments. Some of the historical towns may provide pleasant city grids for cycling. However in terms of social awareness, most of the cities do not realize the importance of cycling as a sustainable transport alternative to automobiles. Therefore those who cycles may slowly declined, and those who give up will hardly pick up again. In re-evaluation of these parameters, social economical factors play more important roles than city and urban planning factors. Without the consideration of sustainability, many transportation modes are preferred than bicycles as a solution to the traffic problem. Lastly, cycling can be seen as an indicator of city developments in Southeast Asia and the demography of cyclists demonstrate the changing social perceptions.
Appears in Collections:Master's Theses (Restricted)

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