This week I’m launching ‘Making’ cities with people. #BGLab

Last week Jose empowered us to ‘make’ our city with technology (Empowerment Technologies). This week I’m encouraging everyone to ‘make’ our city with people (Dynamic Connections).

I’ll be inviting, encouraging and enthusing people to “dynamically connect” people and places through dynamic transportation and community connections.

I’m passionate and incredible enthusiastic about all things sustainable transport and voluntary behaviour change. It would be fair to say that I am at my happiest when I’m rolling up my sleeves and getting stuck into a ‘grass roots’ community project to help people to help themselves to solve their own, and their communities, transport problems and community challenges.

My first job in transport was as a project officer and researcher for the Further Education Funding Council in the UK. It was there that I realised that transport was firstly about ‘people’ and secondly about the vehicles, the networks and the systems. Transport affects and enables ‘real’ people in ‘real’ places everyday and that’s why people and communities are at the core of all of my work.

I’m really passionate about encouraging more people to bicycle more of the time. My vision is, that in cities of the future, anyone will be able to safely ride a bicycle regardless of their age, gender, physical abilities, cycling skills and rod safety awareness.

“So based on all of that, what’s in store over the next week?” I hear you ask!

Day 1 – Wednesday 27 June is all about Cycling.

Cycling is a unique position because it can contribute towards addressing a number of mobility, environmental, health and urban challenges in a cost-effective way.  On top of that is has huge potential: 30% of car trips in Europe are under 2km and 50% are under 5km – journeys that we all know could easily be made by bicycle.  A bike needs much less space than a car: You can typically park 10 bicycles in the space required for one car add to that, one lane on a typical urban road can accommodate 2000 cars per hour or 14,000 bicycles. Research has proven that bicycle parking generates more revenue for shops and businesses than car parking. Day 1 is action packed with some of my personal highlights including:

  • Sidsel Birk Hjuler from Copenhagenize is going to be telling us all about the Copenhagenize Index for Bicycle Friendly Cities as well as some news from Mikael Colville-Anderson’s Cycle Chic.
  • Bicycle ‘Powered by Pecha Kucha’. I’ve invited people in Berlin to spend the evening showcasing their local Berlin bicycle projects… but they only have 6 minutes and 40 seconds each!

Day 2 – Thursday 28 June is all about ‘Space for Everyone’.

Cities, streets and public spaces should be for everyone. Streets and public spaces should address the needs of everyone; children, an aging population, people with disabilities, pedestrians and cyclists.

PARK(ing) Day was started in 2005 by Rebar to raise awareness about the lack of green spaces in San Francisco’s downtown. It transformed an on-street car park into a ‘people park’ by temporarily providing turf, seating and shade. It is based on the idea that paying for a parking meter is like ‘renting’ a public space.  Since then it has been creatively adapted and sparked imaginations around the world and in 2008 there were over 200 PARKs in 50 major cities, including New York, London and Los Angeles. The PARKs are surprising, fun additions to the everyday street environments, and powerful symbols of placemaking and communities wanting to improve urban quality.

My highlights for Day 2 are:

  • Being part of Labplatz. We are challenging the people of Berlin to transform 100 car parking spaces in Prenzlauer Berg into spaces for people, not cars. Labplatz is all about calling attention to the importance for urban public spaces, rethinking the way we use our streets and creating diverse conversations about how we can make cities people friendly in the future. Lots of people and organisations are already confirmed with transformational projects including a 2 metre high community picnic, a beach, a maker-space, giant board games, solar powered coffee cafe and a cooking school. I’ve got my plastic grass, lavender plants and paddling pool ready… lets hope the sun shines!
  • Berlin superstar Joe Hatchiban will be loading his mobile sound system into his cargo bike and riding around the local streets searching for interesting places (and people) to sing in his mobile karaoke party.
  • Join Ben Hamilton-Baillie as he examines a different approach to street design and place-making in cities based on shared space.

Day 3 – Friday 29 June is entitled ‘Plug In-Park Up’.

We are going to be discussing the future of car parking with the imminent rise of electric cars in cities. We are going to ask what new challenges do electric cars add to the parking dilemma and if the rise of e-mobility will ease or create congestion. We’re also examining and discussing how electric and solar powered bicycles can help change our cities and our own personal travel behaviour.  Events for Day 3 include:

  • Making a Berlin ‘No Excuse Zone’ map. Based on a series of ‘test’ bicycle rides we’ll make a map that will show us the distance a normal healthy person can cycle in 30 minutes of the BMW Guggenheim Lab using ‘normal’, cargo, electric and solar powered bicycles. The map is a theoretical and experimental Imagineering project to provoke a discussion and paradigm shift in urban transport.
  • Join Tony Douglas from BMW, Mark Gander from the Green Parking Council and AECOM, John Fewings of Jacobs and Frank Muller from Urban-e to discuss and debate the future of cars, car parking and e-mobility in our cities.

Day 4 – Saturday 30 June is ‘Transforming Cities’ day

In a daylong Marathon of Transformation we’ll be sharing success stories, obstacles encountered and current processes for transforming cities with an array of projects from around the world. Speakers include:

  • Jay Cousins – The story of Makerplatz in Berlin
  • Gap Filler – DIY Urbanism and regeneration in post-earthquake Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Christine McLaren – Ethical Architecture in Vancouver, Canada
  • Johanna Schlaack – Transforming Berlin’s Tiegel Airport
  • Dida Zende – Friendly takeover of disused gas stations in Berlin
  • Gilbert Rochecouste – How Melbourne’s laneways and night markets transformed the city
  • Amy Saunders – Giant Board Games – A catalyst for positive change in Brisbane
  • Mirko Zardini – Actions for our cities.

We’ll be having eight ‘Conversations with the City’ through the day and Christine, the Lab Blogger and I will both be Live Tweeting. Join in the conversation wherever you are in the world!  Follow us… @cyclingrsmith @csgmclaren #BGLab

Day 5 – Sunday 1 July is a day celebrating for ‘Transformation Champions’

On Sunday we’re slowing down the pace and turning our gaze to the community catalysts who make city transformation possible. We’re celebrating agents of change and local heroes and I’m looking forward to hearing their stories!

  • We start the day with a ‘Lazy Sunday Cycle’ a slow bicycle ride for anyone regardless of their age, their gender or their previous cycling experience. We warmly welcome families with children and people who don’t cycle very often. BYO bike!
  • We’ll spend the afternoon at the Lab with a “Marathon of Transformation Movies’ including Bogota Change, Favela Rising and Contested Streets. Bring a picnic… we’ll provide the picnic blankets!
  • I can’t wait to watch the movie ‘Keep Surfing’ about a group of Munich surfers who surf in the city.
  • Join us for an evening with Chris Hines MBE, co-founder of Surfers Against Sewage, Britain’s coolest pressure group. Chris will describe how a small group of Cornish surfers took on the British water industry and the UK Government to clean up the UK seas and won. Chris will share his ideas for helping to be part of the change you want to see in the world… and your local neighbourhood. Chris has been one of my heroes for a very long time. I can’t wait to catch up with Chris for a beer on Sunday!

As well as my programs I’m also launching the Dynamic Connections Bike Map this week.

A world first, and unlike traditional mapping efforts, the interactive biking map shows the here and the now as well as the potential and the future. I’m inviting everyone in Berlin to get involved whether they’re a confident cyclists, a sometimes cyclist, an interested but concerned potential bike rider cyclists or someone who loves their car!  The Dynamic Connections Map allows anyone to rate/score different Berlin streets on how amenable and safe they are for cycling by answering 5 simple questions and the website will crowd source data to create a map of the potential future bicycle infrastructure network in Berlin.

 Dynamic Connections Map is a project organized by me (BMW Guggenheim Lab Team member Rachel Smith) with John Schimmel and Dave Dawson.

Details on all of my programs, timings, durations and locations can be found on the Lab website

I’ll of course be blogging, Facebooking, Linkedin-ing and tweeting everyday. I’m hoping to run several Live Tweet sessions too!

It’s going to be a rollercoaster ride, so please hold on tight!

I’ll be posting a full run-down of what’s happening in my Week 2  at the Lab ( Days 6, 7 and 8 ) next Monday here at