Cities across the globe are facing the significant safety and space challenges of relying on streets designed for automobile travel, but increasingly being used by people on foot, scooters, bicycles, assistive devices and other modes of active transportation.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed city landscapes overnight forcing citizens to completely reimagine their commuting habits. Reduced capacity on public transportation and the need to achieve physical distancing, has helped all of us rediscover the benefits of active mobility solutions such as bikes and scooters,” said Carlos Cruz-Casas, assistant director of strategic planning for Miami-Dade County’s Department of Transportation and Public Works and judge for the ‘Build a Better Barrier Challenge.’ “Streets are the tissue that connects our communities, not just our cars. We need creative thinkers to help us re-imagine a way to keep our streets safe and viable for all.”
Over the past two months, Spin’s “Build A Better Barrier Challenge” has solicited innovative ideas and concepts that could enable cities to make their streets safer and more accessible for modes of transportation that have not been historically prioritized.
Barriers provide essential safety to people using bike lanes. But often, in the U.S., bike lanes are simply demarcated by paint, offering no physical protection at all. And when cities do install barriers, they are often overly utilitarian or provided as an afterthought.
“Historically, traditional painted bike lanes haven’t provided much protection at all,” said Kay Cheng, Head of Policy Initiatives for Spin. “We hope that Build a Better Barrier will prove to be an important step in making our streets safer and more inviting for people.”
We received a number of great designs, which were individually evaluated by 10 judges with backgrounds in design, planning and mobility. What were they looking for? Here are some of the questions the judges used to make their final determination:
Were the proposed designs accessible for people of all abilities? Would they be durable and provide adequate protection to people using the bike lane? Could these designs be replicated relatively easily and inexpensively? And, were they creative and inviting?
As Veronica O. Davis, Co-Founder and Principal Planning Manager of Nspiregreen LLC, explained, “Some of the things that impressed me the most about the teams that won, is their ability to use recycled materials. There are car tires everywhere. It’s an opportunity to reuse things that are currently polluting, in particular Black, Hispanic, and also low-income communities. It’s an opportunity to reuse those things and make them beautiful.”
The designs are truly amazing! Thank you to all of the participating judges for taking the time to evaluate these designs and thank you to the designers for submitting such incredible projects. On that note, we are proud to announce the winners of the very first competition designed to rethink protective infrastructure on our streets.
And the grand prize goes to…
The Milwaukee-based team of Caressa Givens, a long-time transportation advocate, and Arthur Talayko, a designer, for their design “WeCLAIM.”
Repurposing tires to create three different types of delineators, the “WeCLAIM” team aimed to find an affordable and easily-acquired base material for their design. “This piece that we’ve designed as a family is really meant to be an open-source piece,” said Givens of the design she and Talayko submitted. Givens emphasized the desire to make something that was both attractive and easy for communities to install themselves. “Everybody deserves good design,” she said.
As the grand prize winner, the “WeCLAIM” team will receive $1000. Spin and the winning team will also work with designers from D-Ford’s Makerspace to build a prototype to bring WeCLAIM to life.
Second place: “WAVE” and “The Chain” by Aaron Greiner
Coming in second place was team Culture House, a nonprofit urban design organization led by Aaron Greiner. Culture House submitted two designs: “WAVE” and “The Chain.”
Third place: “Velo View” by Bruce Ferguson
Rounding out the top three was Bruce Ferguson’s “Velo View,” a back-to-basics project designed for maximum visibility.
Ferguson designed “Velo View” to be made of recycled automobile tires — a recurring theme in many of the designs we saw. Underpinning Ferguson’s design is a belief that “decluttering the environment raises the streetscape’s perceived ‘walkability’ and ‘bikeability’,” he writes in his project description.
We received quite a number of submissions, so we wanted to highlight some of the runners up, whose designs will inspire further innovative and creative placemaking. And, hopefully, someday, these designs will be built out and installed within our communities.
Mobility Pillar by DuRon Netsell
This design comes to us from Street Smarts Design + Build’s DuRon Netsell, who participated in our Denver Parklet contest last year.
Netsell’s proposal, essentially a network of low-cost concrete cylinders, could “be used to protect mobility lanes, establish bump-outs, create street cafes or quickly close roads to automobiles,” he writes in the project description.
streetbloc by Dayton Crites
Inspired by his kid's playset, Dayton Crites, imagined a barrier of interlocking blocks that could easily be broken down and reassembled in different configurations.
He noted that while the base project was designed for protected bike lanes, the flexibility in how it could be configured allows it to be used in other projects, like protected outdoor dining.
Dragon System/Fence Panel System by Charlie Sullivan
Charlie Sullivan incorporated used tires into his “Dragon System” design in what he referred to as “in-your-face recycling.”
“The tires would be bolted to the street in line to form a low undulating barrier that would look like a dragon. Terminals at each end could be designed to look like a head or a tail,” Sullivan wrote in his project description.
Sullivan also submitted a more traditional Fence Panel design that creates a continuous barrier while giving a nod to an old-timey farmhouse fence look.
CHROMA by Marcos Gasc and Billy Cooney
Submitted by Marcos Gasc and Billy Cooney, this design uses colored translucent materials designed to both create a barrier while also filtering the natural light to create a unique visual experience.
“Because our centerpiece can be cut and colored differently, communities can use this feature to reflect their unique needs,” the CHROMA team wrote.
Drum Line by Andrew Schnurr
Andrew Schnurr was also part of the Culture House team, which took home second place. Schnurr submitted a design independently, though. His design relies on reusing materials, in this case, 50-gallon drums, of which Schnurr notes many municipalities usually have a surplus.
”Because these drums would be filled with water, they would be extremely protective against vehicle impacts as each unit would weigh several hundred pounds,” Schnurr writes.
Alpha Barrier by Danielle Berger
“The Alpha Barrier is a modular, easy-to-install, customizable design that will increase opportunities for safe biking by creating a physical barrier between vehicles and other road users while enhancing neighborhood identity,” Berger wrote.
“The modular design allows communities to quickly install (and remove as needed) an Alpha Barrier solution that reflects their identity. For instance, a bike lane providing access to a high school could spell out ‘Leopards’ for their mascot or used to identify a neighborhood such as ‘Point Loma’,” Berger wrote.
To find out more about the “Build a Better Barrier Challenge” and see depictions of the winning concepts, visit https://www.spin.app/better-barrier. Thank you to Team Better Block for their help with this competition and continued effort to “reclaim cities for the public good.”