What would the streets look like if a city took half its traffic space and gave it to cycling and e-biking? Would city dwellers use their bikes more often? Might the concept of an “E-Bike City” even be a way to help reduce transport-related CO2 emissions?
Nine professorships at ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne have been investigating these questions for a good year and a half. This research initiative is led by transport researcher Kay Axhausen, who is retiring in January 2024 (see box). The initial findings are now available, and the researchers have visualised their solutions and published them this week on a story-map website. Story mapping presents the vision of the E-Bike City as a story in text and images, making it easy to understand.
In a future E-Bike City, people will be able to use half the city’s road space when they are out and about on foot or travelling by bicycle, e-bike, cargo bike, e-scooter or other small modes (what’s known as micromobility). Today, over 80 percent of urban street space is reserved for cars and car parking; only about 11.7 percent is earmarked for e-bikes and bicycles. For the most part, cyclists and e-bikers share the roads with cars.
More space for people instead of cars
In the E-Bike City, by contrast, the lanes for cars, public transport (trams, buses), two-wheelers (bicycles, e-bikes) and the pavement for pedestrians would generally be separated from each other. Rather than widening roads or building new ones, this would involve repurposing the existing space. The E-Bike City’s road network would largely consist of single-lane, one-way streets, with lanes for bikes and e-bikes usually located to the left and right of the one-way street. Public transport, meanwhile, would continue to use its existing separate lanes. “A redesign like this would give more space back to people,” Axhausen says.
To present the innovations of the E-Bike City as realistically as possible, the researchers selected three typical examples from the city of Zurich: Bellevue square and Quaibrücke bridge near Lake Zurich, Birchstrasse in north Zurich and Winterthurer-/Letzistrasse in the Oberstrass district. Using these examples, they show how different a street would look if it were designed to be bike-friendly instead of car-friendly. An image comparison slider can be used to directly compare the current road space and its possible future state.