Transportation infrastructure should be designed for more than carrying people through places. It also needs to be about carrying people to places, because transportation is for moving people as much for commerce as it is for being social.
The Dutch consider “social safety” when designing and redesigning streets (they’re constantly upgrading streets, roads, and entire neighborhoods to standards that seem to be frequently updated).
— Steven Vance (@stevevance) November 26, 2015
Mark Waagenbuur posted a new video this week showing a new tunnel under Amsterdam Centraal, the main train station in Amsterdam, and he highlighted several of its social safety features.
The screen grab I embedded above – and posted on Twitter where it got a lot of shares and likes – shows an aspect that’s common across all cycling facilities in built-up areas: it’s wide enough to ride side by side with your friend, mother, or lover, with still enough room on your left for people to pass you in the same lane.
Another aspect of this tunnel is that it has sound-absorbing panels. Often tunnels have a disturbing echo that inhibit comfortable communication – my new home office has an echo and it makes it hard to have conversations on the phone here because I hear an annoying feedback. The communication is important to be able to hear people cycling with you, but also to hear what other people are doing.
The tunnel has a final feature that supports social safety: clear, wide, and open sight lines. Not just from end to end, but also to the sides. It’s hard to hide around the corner because the breadth of vision is so wide that you would see someone lurking in the corner.
For Chicagoans who use one of the many old tunnels under Lake Shore Drive connecting the “mainland” to the nation’s most popular trail along Lake Michigan, the feeling of claustrophobia and invisibility of what’s around the bend is too common. New tunnels, which I prefer to bridges because you go downhill first, should be a priority when the State of Illinois rebuilds Lake Shore Drive north of Grand Avenue in the next decade. This is what those tunnels look like; sometimes they have mirrors.