Christoph Gipp and Philipp Rode
A more flexible use of urban street space
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Prof. Dr. G. Wolfgang Heinze
Technische Universität Berlin
Technische Universität Berlin
Technische Universität Berlin
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Structures of cities are typically characterised by two distinct elements; those that belong to the origins and destinations of their citizens, to a large extend being buildings, and others which are used for transport. The latter represent a disproportionate part of public space in urban areas. Their primary function, movement of people and goods in space, usually guarantees a non-discriminating public access. Consequently, urban street space is a crucial part of public property and its organization demands a high level of social, economic and environmental sensitivity.
The assessment of different demands for using urban street space results in a difficult decision-making process. For transport alone, one has to choose between different alternatives and already deciding whether e.g. movement in these spaces should be motorized or non-motorized, public or private, results in an enormous potential for conflicts.
Decision-making gets even more complex if the above mentioned distinction of urban elements is blurred and street spaces assume the function of origins and destinations. Problems arising from the classical claim for ‘streets as living space’ were experienced in many cities. Often, the demands for mobility on the one hand and quality of urban space on the other were diametrically opposed.
The study in hand ‘Dynamic Spaces – a more flexible use of urban street space’ looks at urban street space as a city structure, that could be used in many different ways and it analyses these different options.
The expression ‘dynamic spaces’ refers to two distinctive features: One being that these spaces are characterized by moving elements, resulting from mobility needs, the other being that they are utilized differently at different times. Both features contrast with the usual static character of physical spaces.
This study focuses on the question as to how to achieve a more flexible use of street space through time-based regulations. Concepts of static multi-use of spaces are not taken into consideration. The dimension of ‘time’ is specifically applied to widen the employment of dynamic spaces by creating more ‘space’ for different activities. The intellectual background for the development of this concept is that of system theory, resulting in the following principle of planning: The higher the level of potential modification, the higher the quality of planning.
The advantage of time-based activity regulations is that the given space can be divided up more equally amongst its different uses. This is due to the fact that it is not only one limited resource that has to be divided, but two – ‘space’ and ‘time’. The result is particularly beneficial if there are uses that can not take place at the same time as others. The major disadvantage of time-based regulations is that a specific activity is only possible at a specific time. This study aims to evaluate these advantages and disadvantages, as well as to consider the limits of time-based regulations. The potential for a more flexible use of urban street space is seen to be connected with the spreading of intelligent transportation systems and telematics.
The claim for a more flexible use of existing space and therefore a more efficient utilisation is derived from the paradigm of sustainable development (Agenda 21) and the requirements of the future of human settlements (Habitat II) as well as from the role model of ‚urbanity’. The last mentioned is a basic claim of many major cities and is increasingly declared as a planning maxim. A high intensity of using urban structures as well as the arrangement and design of public spaces should support the desired variety and vitality of urban life. In terms of transportation planning this study follows the call of the ‘Berlin Declaration on the Urban Future’ (Urban 21). to “better manage the use of the private car; and encourage the use of environmentally friendly means of transport“ [BMVBW, 2000b, S. 93].
The problem analysis and the subsequent concepts of this study only looks at the resources of ‘space’ and ‘time’. Further important questions of sustainability, such as energy consumption and noise emission, are not taken into consideration. Therefore the conflict analysis is independent of technological improvements in the last mentioned field which are particularly of great importance for car traffic. Conflicts shown in this study are much more linked to the general characteristics of different modes of transportation. Those can hardly been changed without changing the basic character of these modes. The consequences of looking only at questions of ‘space’, can be easily shown through the example of the private car. Space consumption of this mode is hard to reduce without introducing new ways of cars use like car sharing. Generating a higher level of occupancy to reduce the space needed directly changes the characteristics of cars as an individual mode of transportation. The upper limit of space efficiency of private cars is represented by the compact car ‘Smart’.
Central Berlin was chosen as reference space to analyse dynamic spaces. The deciding factor next to existing distinct urban structures is very specific circumstances in the field of transport planning and policy. An above average public transport access exists in parallel to spacious street space for motorists. Guaranteeing the quality of urban living leads to the political goal of increasing the portion of public and non-motorized transport trips [Senatsverwaltung für Verkehr und Betriebe, 1995, S. L6]. On condition that the absolute amount of trips is not increasing, the realization of this goal would mean to reclaim urban spaces used by traffic for vast number of alternative activities.
The current unintentional increase of private vehicle traffic can be explained by a disproportionate supply of space particularly provided for vehicles in motion [Heinze/Kill, 1992, S. 124]. Strategies to achieve the goal of increasing the modal split in favour for non-motorized and public transportation inevitably have to deal with alternative usages for urban street space. The more comprehensible, attractive and understandable an alternative utilisation of street space is, particularly for motorists, the higher the chance for an implementation of corresponding concepts. Reducing the capacity for private cars without a real alternative of utilizing street space is regarded as a pure aggression und is therefore politically unsuccessful.
When changing modal split ratios, Berlin’s opportunity with its relatively spacious streets is to achieve a change of how street space is perceived. Public space in Berlin would become even more different to that of many cities such as London, Paris or New York where overcrowding is a common phenomenon. Although these cities tend to have a higher proportion of public transportation, this can not be perceived in the public realm and roads feel as congested as in any car oriented city.
In Berlin, the claim for using street space in a more flexible way gets stronger. During the summer, almost every weekend major street fairs, parades or demonstrations take place. The organizer of the Berlin ‘Blade Night’, the largest European skate parade, which runs weekly along streets closed to traffic, demands a general regulation for skating activity on public streets by discontinuing the parade in the year 2001. Furthermore the discussion on the implementation of a Hackescher Markt pedestrian zone as a part of a transport concept for the Spandauer Vorstadt stands as an example for a potentially more flexible use of street space in gentrified neighbourhoods. Additionally, different types of activities like playing and sports as well as walking and delivery are taken into consideration.
Deliberately, this study is seen more as giving an impulse for thoughts about implementing dynamic spaces rather than developing a full concept for a planning area. With the restriction to a theoretical basis of time-based concepts for a more flexible use as well as with an exemplary analysis of dynamic spaces, this study ends at the point, where public participation for a further development of these concepts becomes a necessity.
 The Agenda 21 was introduced at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro 1992 [vgl. Deutscher Bundestag, 1997].
 Habitat II is the United Nations Conference on Human Settlement (UNCHS) in Istanbul 1996 [vgl. UNDP, 28.07.2001, Internet].
 Urban 21 is the Global Conference on the Future of the Cities in Berlin, 4. – 6. Juli 2000.