Bikes (2) Denmark

The national biking routes of Denmark

The national biking routes of Denmark

According to the last stats, 16% of all trips in Denmark are by bicycle, and for those under 4 km the share rises to 24%. 44% of all households don’t have a car. With many good conditions for cycling and a population used to it, Denmark is anyway subject to a certain rise in car ownership and use, and cycling on a national level decreased from 1990 to 2008. But even so, bike use has increased in Copenhaguen.

Since 1993 there are 11 national cycle routes, with a total length of 4.233 km. As they usually follow such elements as the coast, with much less stringent layout requirements than car roads, and they are mainly tourism and leisure oriented, they can have great lengths. The initiative’s interest must be weighted with more day to day projects, as Copenhaguen’s Cycle Superhighways, a commuter-oriented project that is to remind to anyone with a certain urban planning culture the “finger plans” so recurrent since the postwar years in this nice city.

Copenhaguen's Cycle Superhighways

Copenhaguen’s Cycle Superhighways

The standard bike lane width is 2,2 m, which have been extended to 2,5-2,8 m in Copenhaguen.

A good reference on Denmark:

Urban freeways (update)

I have just seen that Madrid’s regional cartography portal (nomecalles) has put online a 2011 ortophotography, which helps to better perceive the transformation of the M30 inner beltway between 2004 and 2011 (which was described in the urban freeways-1 post). Just get a look to three areas in which this is quite clear. The 2006 photos show how complex were the provisional road diversions during works.

Matadero cultural center and Legazpi square are on the left. During this time the slaugtherhouse has become a new center for innovative arts.

The Toledo Bridge, already a pedestrian passage in 2001, has gained in visibility

The area facing the Royal Palace gardens to the west, south of Principe Pio rail station, has benefited from the burial of a multilevel freeway exchange

Urban freeways (4 and final)

Management systems and operational budgets in projects concerning the creation or substitution of urban freeways vary according to local conditions and to the ideological orientation of government officials in place.

Comparing the economics of this kind of projects in different countries and cities is utterly complex: exchange rates, differences in the materials and labor costs, accounting principles and technical requirements diverging, debt payment terms, inflation… Dividing the project in tranches and packages makes it even more complex, and unified data is scarce.

Anyway, some conclusions from the three cases seen and some other.

  • The cost of works in Europe is substantially higher than in emerging countries, as much for environmental or safety requirements as by the cost structure. According to a 2007 report of the Comptroller and General Auditor of India, the Bandra- Worli new construction project (5,8 km) had an estimated  cost of 13,06 billion Roupies (about 200 million Euros). According to Paris city documents the covering of 10.000 sq m of freeway at the Porte de Vanves for less than 500 m of length had a cost of 58 million Euros. Nevertheless, taking into acount the average disposable income of  local citizens, the situation is the opposite.
  • Urban integration and underground works in Europe are on a similar cost scale per km. The higher technical complexity of the M30 tunnels in Madrid was compensated by a greater freedom in traffic diversion schemes layout during works, while the Boulevard Peripherique projects had to be executed with much less margin and over a functioning original right of way; the tunnel security rules create an increased cost, having to monitor a series of small tunnels instead of a long single one.
  • The debt burden caused by these works varies. In Mumbai the Bandra- Worli Sea Link, a project of the State of Maharashtra, has been defined as a 30 years concession contract with a toll which should allow it to self-finance. Paris counts its costs in its general budget, without a separate chapter, and benefits from a strong participation by the central State and the Region Ile de France. In Madrid the city alone bears the cost, having constituted a public- private partnership; Madrid Calle 30 (80% municipal) has a separate accounting scheme, showing that the debt caused by the project is slightly larger than half the added remainder of the municipal debts.
  •   The budget problems are not an exclusive of the right or the left; Boston’s Big Dig (similar in many instances to Madrid Calle 30) was an initiative supported by official from the Democratic Party, and in Mumbai the city and the State of Maharashtra have different governments.

Some links:

Economic and Financial Plan of the Madrid City Council for 2012-2016, with data regarding the Madrid Calle 30 debt:

2004 Report by the Comptroller and General Auditor of India, including references to the Bandra- Worli Sea Link:

Paris City budget for 2012:

Urban freeways (3)

The urban role of the automobile in Paris has clearly evolved during the last decades.

As the capital of a country with a powerful automotive industry and with relatively high automobile ownership rates for decades, the Parisian region has lived a complex relation with its freeways. The idea of an adaptation of the urban tissue and the street grid to the car appears as a relevant issue to the theoricians at the turn of the XXth century, as Augustin Rey or Eugene Henard (lower image), and is taken to its utmost development by Le Corbusier in its proposals for the city.

Le Corbusier’s Plan Voisin was sponsored by a car maker, and called for the destruction of a large part of the parisian core opening large freeways on the right bank.

In 1943, still under German occupation, René Mestais, then general inspector and chief of the topographic and urbanism services, proposes the Boulevad Peripherique for the first time. Beyond mobility issues there is also the will to define a clear physical limit between a more planned Paris and a more haphazard banlieue (suburbs), seen as opposites not to be mistaken. The proposal uses the old fortification line as the most convenient right of way, a decision subsequently maintained. In 1995 the Bernard Lafay plan proposes two beltways, the present Boulevard Peripherique and a more inner city belt. The Boulevard Peripherique will finally be built as a 35 km freeway from 1960 to 1973, with 9 km over embankments, 13,5 on open trenches, 6,5 over viaducts and 6 on covered trenches.

The mandate of President Georges Pompidou (1969-1973) is marked by the presentation of several schemes to extend the freeway network over the inner city, but only the river Seine shore driveway (voies sur berges) are finally realized.

Some projects even propose to consider the Seine as the ultimate right of way…

In the 1980’s and 1990’s there are proposals for an underground  toll motorway system to crisscross the central city (LASER and other projects9, raising opposition for fears of cost and a high environmental impact.

In 2001 the City Council votes a proposal for works to cover our sections of the Boulevard Peripherique with green spaces and public facilities over slabs. In all four cases the sections were up to that date open trenches, with no proposal to change the existing road level (but sometimes changing the ramps layout), with a project oriente towards a concrete slab structure built over an open freeway. When the covered lengths are longer than 30 m the safety rules are the ones applied to long mountain tunnels.

–          Porte de Vanves: 260 m of new slabs, that add a total of 410 m counting the preexisting bridges.

–          Porte de Villiers to Porte de Champerret (2 separate sections in the 2001 decission), with over a km of length.

–          Porte des Lilas, with 660 m covered in two sections, to be later joined in a 1 km tunnel.

The projects are integrated in a comprehensive plan that takes into account the urban continuities with the same suburbs René Mestais wanted to separate in 1943, the present project having the clear goal to avoid the barrier effect.

The City Council is promoting now the transformation of the Seine riverbank driveway, one more element in a movement started in this decade with initiatives such as Paris Plage (an urban beach in summertime), that have led to temporary cuts on traffic. The project has sparkled a conflict with the Sarkozy administration, that demanded more specific traffic studies to justify the project. The proposal covers 2,5 km of river banks, and has been presented as a “spanish rambla” by the river, with mobile elements as small greenhouses or an athletics racecourse. On the right bank the project keeps two traffic lane with traffic calming measures and traffic lights, and a pedestrian itinerary 1,5 km long. On the left bank the project closes 2,3 km to cars, freeing the space from Musée d’Orsay to the Eiffel tower. In parallel a reinforcement of the public transportation system is projected.

Some references:

The Boulevard Peripherique Project:

The Seine project:

Urban freeways (2)

Mumbai (the city formerly named Bombay) is presented as the economic capital of India, with a metropolitan population over 19 millions. It is a city I don’t know in person, so these notes are based on secondary sources.

Historic Mumbai results from the union of several islands, creating a complex seashore. After a northward growth for the previous century the state of Maharastra begins the development of Navi Mumbai. A new town is so configured on 344 sq km on the continent, east of Thane Creek, as a part of an eastward movement reinforced by the opening of Vashi bridge and the new Jawaharlal Nerhu Port Trust. The aims of these projects are to absorb rural immigration that otherwise would congest insular Mumbai, to control growth and to balance business locations in a context of improved quality of live.

Growth previsions for Navi Mumbai have not been met, partly for a reason often critized in India: the shortcomings sincronizing urban growth with capital investment in infrastructure, as well for basic networks (water, sewage and sanitation, waste processing, energy) as for transportation. Maharastra State has a current investment program set to develop a transportation scheme including freeways, subways and monorail.

In this context Mumbai has plans, dating from the 1960s, to create a freeways network including a new 22 km bridge linking central Mumbai to Navi Mumbai and the port, as well as a coastal beltway on the western shore. This beltway is defined as a set of bridges aligned in parallel to the coastline, whose exit ramps are linked in perpendicular to the existing shore road.

The Bandra- Worli Sea Link (also known as Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link) is the first element in this western freeway. Composed of two parallel roads adding up eight traffic lanes, over a structure with concrete viaducts with a part cable stayed over Mahim bay, it configures a toll section of 5,6 km. It is today the southern extreme of the Western Express Highway, connecting Chhatrapati Shivaji airport to Worli, one of the main business districts in Mumbai.

The Indian web scene concerning the project shows an intense debate on the issues raised by the Bandra- Worli project, as well as on the whole sea link freeways project. On one side some inscribe the project on an economic development vision and as a solution to the urban car congestion. On the other side critics address the environmental impact, the radical change in the landscape implied by a permanent structure on the skyline, and the high construction costs. Some voices propose an alternative for shouthbound parts of the project, defining an configuration as a freeway on the shore, with a much reduced cost, without a definitive solution on sight.

The Bandra- Worli link was open to the public on june 30, 2009, presented a reduction in travel time between the two access points from close to 60 minutes in peak hours to 6 minutes. The configuration of the southern exist seems especially prone to congestion.

The freeway network project includes linking the Worli exit to the Navi Mumbai bridge through a future elevated freeway to Sewri, a 4 km section over one of the busiest parts of Mumbai.

Some references:

  1. Conference Urban Age Mumbai 2007
  2. An article on city infrastructure on the Business Line section of The Hindu newspaper
  3. Vedula, Aparna, “Blueprint and reality: Navi Mumbai, the city of the 21st century”
  4.  Pradhan, Bawesh, et alt, “Evolution of Navi Mumbai”
  5.  A presentation criticizing the environmental management of the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link project

Urban freeways (1)

This post begins a series on urban freeways. The first case is that of Madrid Rio, the urban integration project of the M30 beltway  in Madrid. I live in Madrid and I have followed the works as citizen. Ezquiaga Arquitectura, Sociedad y Territorio, the practice to which I am associated, formulated a proposal selected for the second stage of the competition regarding the fluvial park (independent and later than the tunnels project), a competition finally won by Ginés Garrido/ West8.

Madrid was not founded on the banks of a large river, but on a minor Tagus tributary. The Manzanares has its source in the Sierra de Guadarrama, less than 50 km to the north, and it empties into the Jarama river south of the city. Upstream from Madrid the El Pardo Reservoir  allows for a complete regulation of the river flow, so the water level can ostensibly change between two visits, or even between two areas separated by locks. The transverse section shows an embankment of concrete walls along the M30.

Up to the strong urban growth in the civil war aftermath the Manzanres was a limit separating the city (which not always colonized its banks) and the open fields. Growth from that moment on the right bank has not prevented that limit condition to subsist, albeit in social terms, between the central city and the areas that were settled by rural populations with lesser resources (Carabanchel, Orcasitas, Aluche…). These territories were annexed to the Madrid Municipality soon. But for a small part in the north in which the Royal Palace plateau can be seen, and some areas in which the transformation of the old rail corridors started during the 1980s has been successful, most of the buildings around this itinerary show an unremarkable architecture.

The M30 beltway began its construction works in 1970, having been preceded by similar projects since the 1930s. Works ended in 1974, with protests by neighbors due to the reduced distance to their dwellings.

The nearly five kilometers (some three miles) separating subway station Legazpi (3) from station Principe Pío (21) can be walked in slightly more than 90 minutes (provided you are not in the hot summer season) through the Manzanares linear park. This park has been built after the burial of the M30 beltway in this area.

The project has kept the five ramp systems to the roads previously connected to the beltway, two of which are national trunk freeways. The burial of the freeway as an integration tool was applied also to the first part of the A5 expressway (Madrid- Lisbon) (22), so as to improve the pedestrian link between the public transportation hub of Principe Pio and the Casa de Campo (the large Madrid Park to the west).

The urban debate on the project was centered on the high cost of the buried solution, that will be in the municipal debt for years, the reduced public participation and the lack of environmental appraisal under the pretext of an urban condition of the freeway after its cession to the city. Burial works were planned and executed in 2003-2007, and the public spaces over the tunnels were executed in  2007-2011. The linear park has become an uncontestable success, to the point of sometimes having small conflicts of use between bikes and pedestrians.


The urban promenade begins in the south at Plaza de Legazpi (3), on the left bank, long time the bus hub for links between downtown and the right bank. At that point the park resulting from the burial is also connected to the one to the south previously designed by Ricardo Bofill. The surroundings of Plaza de Legazpi still keep some testimonies of its past industrial strength, including the old slaughterhouse  (Matadero in Spanish) (2), today turned in an art and culture hub oriented towards contemporary and alternative scenes.

To the North, the Praga bridge (5) has maintained the A42 Toledo freeway on its former elevation level, with adjustments on the connection ramps, whose length and slope has increased due to the burial of the beltway.

To the North, the Toledo bridge (11), a masterpiece of baroque engineering, which before the burial was a pedrestrian structure, keeps that condition and is liberated from most of the additional bridges of the ramps connecting to the beltway, whose design has changed.



The next stage is the Santiago Calderón soccer stadium (14), whose columns reach the Manzanares embankment. By lack of an agreement between the city and the owners to transfer the stadium to a different site, the stadium stays in its original configuration and is the only place in which the cars go back to the surface (only on the left bank) to go down again in the northbound itinerary. The complete burial should be executed, but has no timetable.


To the north, by the Segovia bridge (another relevant historic bridge)(19), a part of the previous freeway bridges is integrated in pedestrian areas. This marks the entry on the monumental part, where the park faces the Royal Palace and the Campo del Moro, its gardens. The burial has allowed for a substantial improvement of this urban space and its perception.