The Urban Path

Human navigation is a key component in the organization and form our cities take on. Whether we choose to walk, bike, take public transport, or drive, we are making choices that shape our experience of the city and that will transform the city itself over time. Two great examples of this are taking shape in New York right now: the opening of the High Line park and the pedestrianization of Times Square. Both show how infrastructure and space can be transformed over time based on the alternating use and neglect of transient spaces. As we move forward in a period of increasing transportation curiosity and alternate means of transport, these physical experiments become very relevant and thought-provoking. Everyone is eagerly anticipating billions of dollars for infrastructure investment and reconfiguration, but what kind of infrastructure changes should we really seek? Wider bridges and highways, more bike lanes, light rail, pedestrian access?

Alongside these physical experiments lie also a set of mapping or tracking statement experiments which aim to bring attention to the ways in which people use space and how they use that space. One is the Contrail project which aims to apply a line of chalk behind bikers, like a constant skidmark tracing their path throughout the cityscape. On a large scale this could reveal some very interesting patterns as well as draw attention to the number of bikes that actually occupy the roads. It might even encourage people to break out the old two wheeler and go for a spin. In addition to this hack like experiment there is an increasing amount of gps devices floating around our city sidewalks and roadways, all of which can generate useful information about how our current infrastructure is being used. Hopefully, when it really comes time to invest, the powers that be will heed these experiments and gather appropiate information to make informed decisions about the ways in which people will move over the next 50 years...

(Photo from Gothamist and Make. The original full-sized color version can be viewed by clicking the photo.)

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