Urban Design Contest Envisions a Carbon-Neutral, Car-Free Future

The City of Reykjavík has launched an open design competition to “create a dense, mixed, diverse, and carbon-neutral new urban quarter” in Keldur, an underdeveloped area on the eastern outskirts of Reykjavík. Streetsblog reports that the contest, which will accept submissions until mid-April, is open to anyone—not just professional designers and urban planners—and will be judged anonymously by a team of local officials and international expert advisors.

The finalists from the first round of the competition will receive €50,000 [$53,582; ISK 7.7 million]. The final winner will receive an additional €50,000.

Where is Keldur?

Sandwiched between the neighbourhoods of Grafarvogur, Úlfarsárdalur, Grafarholt, Halsar, and Höfðar, the 288-acre parcel that, according to the Keldur Competition Brief, city officials are dividing into Keldur East and Keldur West, is a 30-minute bike ride away from downtown.

via Keldur Competition Brief

The area is currently served by four bus routes “with stops in the vicinity” but once the city unveils its new bus route and the first phase of the Borgarlína Rapid Transit (BRT) service in 2026-27, Keldur will have much more direct public transportation options to and from the city centre. Officials estimate that travel time on the BRT from Keldur and Lækjartorg will be approximately 20 minutes.

‘Against excessive parking’

While the building of a new residential community on the outskirts of a city might naturally imply high car ownership, “officials are are recommending against excessive parking,” explains Streetblog, and have “already promised to devote 100% of the profits from the development and sale of the land towards bringing frequent bus rapid transit service to residents. More broadly, the contest organizers called on entrants to ‘prioritize the eco-friendliest, most compact, and least cumbersome mode of transportation’ in their designs.”

Brad Toderian, one of the international experts serving on the Keldur competition’s judging panel, applauds the City of Reykjavík’s focus on creating “a truly urban place, not just a better suburb,” one that is “not just a little less car dependent, but that’s truly multimodal.” Toderian says that from a North American perspective, the competition is unique not only in that it accepts submissions from anyone, but also because “it’s more ambitious than North America is usually willing to be in these kinds of contexts.”

Cycle city

In addition to linking to the BRT, the Keldur neighborhood is intended to attract cyclists and encourage two-wheeled transit. The contest brief particularly emphasizes the “importance of integrating the region into the city’s ambitious Cycling plan — the city wants 10% of all trips to be taken on two wheels by 2025 — creating reliable pedestrian connections to surrounding areas, and making sure residents can meet their basic needs with a twenty minute walk or less.”

“BRT has a prime role to play,” says Toderian, “but it’s also about walkability and bikeability; it’s about carbon neutrality; it’s about green building design.”

Read the full Streetsblog article, in English, here. The Keldur Contest Brief (also in English), with information about how to submit a design proposal is available here. Queries about phase one of the project will be accepted until March 17, 2023; submissions will be accepted until April 19, 2023.

Court Rules City Not Liable for Rabbit Collision

The Reykjavík District Court has ruled that the City of Reykjavík does not have to compensate a local cyclist who was injured when running over a rabbit on a municipally maintained cycling path, RÚV reports.

The accident occurred in 2016, after a rabbit ran into the path of the man’s bicycle. He ran over the animal, fell off his bike, and careened into a tree. He then had to be hospitalized for ten days to recover from the injuries he sustained.

See Also: Rabbit Rescue Hops to Rehome Sixty Wild Bunnies

In his suit, the man claimed that the conditions of the cycling path were indefensible, and that the lighting at the scene of the accident was particularly bad. He also maintained that the city had been aware of an ongoing wild rabbit epidemic, as well as an increase in cycling accidents involving the wayward hoppers, but had failed to take any action about this until subsequent media coverage of the issue.

In its judgement on the case, the District Court agreed that the city would have been aware of the disturbances that rabbits could cause for cyclists on its paths. However, rabbits are wild mammals and therefore, protected by Icelandic law. “It’s clear that rabbits, like other animals including birds, cats, and rats, can find their way onto the city’s walking and cycling paths,” remarked the court, adding that it would be no easy thing for municipal authorities to prevent such encounters.

The court also found that better lighting and/or mirrors on the path would have been unlikely to prevent the accident and the city will not be obligated to pay damages to the cyclist.

Capital Sees Dramatic Increase in Cyclists and Pedestrians

More and more people are choosing eco-friendly modes of transportation in the capital area, RÚV reports. Fifty counters at various points around Reykjavík and the environs show that the number of pedestrians and cyclists has steadily increased over recent years.

On average, the data collected shows that just under 23,000 people have been commuting on foot and bike every day.

Unsurprisingly, weather plays a central role in people’s transportation choices: 10,000 more people were counted walking or cycling in January 2021 than the previous January, but January 2020 was also a considerably worse year, weather-wise. But while there may be an obvious uptick in cyclists and pedestrians in the spring and summer, the number of people opting to travel by bike and foot is still considerably more year-round than it has been in years past.

Number-crunchers can find more precise data from each of the city’s counters on the website Borgarvefsjá, here.

 

City to Install Over Two Kilometres of New Cycling Paths This Summer

The City of Reykjavík plans to lay 2.4 km [1.5 mi] of new and/or improved cycling paths in Reykjavík this summer, RÚV reports. The new lanes, which will cost an estimated ISK 530 million [$4.3 million; €3.8 million] to install, will be separated from both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

According to the announcement posted on the City of Reykjavík’s website, there will be six new paths in total. These will include:

  • Along Eiðsgrandi from the Seltjarnarnes city limit to the gas station at Keilugrandi
  • On Bústaðavegur between Háaleitisbraut and the bridge that crosses Kringlumýrarbraut
  • Within the Elliðaárdalur Valley: from Stekkjarbakki to the path along Fagrahvammur
  • Also within the Elliðaárdalur Valley: repairs to the existing path between Reykjanesbraut and Höfðabakki
  • Along Geirsgata (starting at Miðbakki) between Lækjargata and Pósthæusstræti
  • Within the Víðidalur Valley: new walking and cycling paths from Vallarás to where the Elliðaárdalur Valley’s trail network begins at Klapparás

The cost of the new paths will be split between the City of Reykjavík and the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, with the government putting ISK 450 million [$3.6 million; €3.2 million] towards the project and the Road and Coastal Administration contributing the remaining ISK 80 million [$647,200; €570,645].

Research shows that as the path network has improved, an increasing number of people have begun cycling in Reykjavík. There are a number of indicators of this. For one, the use of electric bikes has quadrupled in Iceland over the last year. Then there were 36,000 cycling trips counted in and around Nauthólsvík in May, which is a new record-high for Reykjavík. Before this, the highest number of cycling trips counted in the same area was 30,000 in August 2018.