City Happy

Illustrations by William Godwin

April 29 2015

How do you build the perfect city? Urban wellness depends on a complex mixture of transportation systems, public health, and food planning, and there are often many factors standing in the way. Between regional politics, narrow-minded voting blocks, economic downturn, and uncompromising geography, the deck is stacked against the happily satisfied urban community. Despite all of the hurdles, cities around the world are making changes, big and small, to ensure a happy and sustainable future.

Bogotá, Colombia

Colombia’s capital city is a veritable poster child for urban planning progress. Spearheaded by two consecutive mayors, Antanas Mockus and Enrique Peñalosa, Bogotá’s urban reinvigoration has set the standard for global urbanism.

First dubbed the “The Athens of South America” by Monsignor Maria Rafael Carrasquilla in 1895, Bogotá has gradually begun to live up to its nickname. The capital is increasingly known as a cultural and education hub boasting 57 museums, 35 libraries, 25 churches, 20 public squares, and 162 monuments.

The city’s 7,700,000 inhabitants live amongst a thoughtfully preserved mix of Spanish-colonial and modern architecture.

Bogotá’s Transmilenio Bus Rapid Transit Service boasts a daily ridership of 1,400,000, carrying passengers across 70 miles on 12 different lines.

Peñalosa’s bike path system, Ciclorutas, connects 234 miles of protected bicycle paths.

Since the construction of the ciclorutas, bicycle use has quintupled in the city, and it is estimated that there are between 300,000 and 400,000 trips made daily in Bogotá by bicycle.

On Sundays and public holidays, nearly 75 miles of streets are closed off to automobile traffic from 7am to 2pm, yielding privilege of the city to the pedestrian.

Along with the removal of thousands of parking spots, a travel restriction is enforced during peak hours for cars with certain license plates.

With bus and bicycle transit made safe, efficient, and convenient, private automobile ownership in Bogotá has decreased to 27%.

Coordinates
4.5981° N, 74.0758° W

Population
7,674,366

Density
13,000/sq mi

Area Code
+57 1

Bike Lanes
234 mi

Yearly Sunshine Hours
1,328

Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver is the eighth largest municipality in Canada. Located on the country’s western coast, its highly regard infrastructure threads a needle between Canada’s North Shore Mountains, the Fraser River to the south, and the Georgia Strait to the west.

Vancouver’s downtown SkyTrain is the longest automated light rapid transit system in the world.

A finely meshed urban grid with mid-block lanes ensures easy walkability in the urban center.

Branding of the city’s transit system draws from the city’s history and the region’s foresting industry, incorporating wooden elements into the branding system and structures of the transit stations.

Because of its unique geography, Vancouver functions without a dedicated expressway connecting the suburbs to the central district. Instead, the city’s residents rely heavily on

mass public transit systems: a mix of buses,

an elevated light rail system, and cable cars.

Set limits for building heights help maintain

the city’s “view corridors”, preserving the city’s mountainous backdrop.

Coordinates
449.2500° N, 123.1000° W

Population
578,040

Density
13,590/sq mi

Area Code
604,778,236

Bike Lanes
250 mi

Yearly Sunshine Hours
1,937.5

Davis, California

Initially modeled after Amsterdam’s bike-centric cityscape, Davis has set the precedent for cycle-minded cities around the world. However, unlike the cities from which Davis first drew its inspiration, and the many cities it continues to inspire, its urban fabric resembles the low density, spread out infrastructure more typical of automobile dependent, mid-level American cities.

First established as a farming community, Davis and its surrounding region are incredibly flat, and thus, extremely conducive to bike riding.

The first pro-bicycle majority was elected to Davis’ City Council in 1966, first establishing its comprehensive system of protected bicycle paths, greenways, uniform design standards for bike lanes and paths, and new coding laws, ensuring all new subdivisions are built with bicycle accessability.

Culs-de-sac in Davis’ residential districts often function as bike path connections to better link the city’s neighborhoods.

Davis’ strong roots in farming and agriculture make for a highly regarded farmer’s market, ranked 5th in the nation by the U.S. News Travel.

There are more bikes than there are people in Davis, California.

Coordinates
38.5539° N, 121.7381° W

Population
65,993

Density
6,600/sq mi

Area Code
530

Bike Lanes
55 mi

Yearly Sunshine Hours
3,100

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Straddling the northernmost reaches of the Mississippi River in the heart of the American midwest, Minneapolis, Minnesota is paving the way for an active urban populous, no matter the weather.

Due in large part to its vibrant and well-funded public park system, Minneapolis has been ranked the fittest city in the U.S. three times over by the College of Sports Medicine.

More than 34 miles of bike paths, greenways, and separated bike lanes connect downtown Minneapolis and surrounding neighborhoods.

To encourage physical activity in the wintertime, Minneapolis’ Skyway provides 52 city blocks worth of protected, elevated walking paths.

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is the largest urban sculpture garden in the country.

The adversarial climate has helped to form a strong community-focused cycling culture throughout the city. Public air pumps are located at businesses around town.

Despite the bitter cold winters and the sweltering summers, Minneapolis ranks second in the U.S. in percentage of commuter cyclists behind Portland, Oregon.

Minneapolis’s Martin Olav Sabo Bridge weaves a portion of the the city’s 5.5-mile Midtown Greenway over a seven lane highway, through a series of power lines, and over the city’s Hiawatha light rail line.

Coordinates
44.9833° N 93.2667° W

Population
392,880

Density
7,020/sq mi

Area Code
612

Bike Lanes
177 mi

Yearly Sunshine Hours
2,607

Nagoya, Japan

While Tokyo is renowned for its cutting edge modernity, Kyoto for its preservation of traditional culture, and Osaka for its hard working, blue collar mentality, Nagoya is known for being a comfortable blend of the three. Located in Japan’s fertile Chubu region, the fourth largest city in Japan attracts all types of people. And while the city may lack the type of niche identity that its neighbors are able to claim, Nagoya’s thoughtful development proves that sometimes an adaptable nature pays off.

Considered the “Japanese Detroit,” nearly all of Japan’s major automakers are headquartered in Nagoya.

Nagoya’s urban fabric seamlessly blends traditional historic architecture with new modern styles, allowing for an eclectic range of street facades.

The historic Nagoya Castle, built by Tokugawa Ieyasu during the Shogun period, lies in the center of the city.

While Tokyo primarily relies upon its subway system, Kyoto on its bus lines, and Osaka on the bicycle, mass transit in Nagoya is more open ended, offering all three options to easily navigate the city.

Nearly 15% of of the population rides bicycles.

Modeled after Copenhagen’s cycle infrastructure, fully protected bike lanes line some of Nagoya’s busiest streets.

Oasis 21, a multi-use facility in the heart of the Sakae, the city’s shopping district, serves as a bus depot, outdoor park, and underground shopping center. Its large oval glass roof is filled with water to help keep temperatures cool in the shopping area below.

At night, the artsy, family-focused shopping district of Sakae, transforms into Nagoya’s bustling nightlife hub.

Reminiscent of New York’s Greenwich Village, the tightly knit, labyrinthian walkways of the historic Osu Shopping Street serve as an open air flea market with food vendors, cafes, vintage shops, and camera stores.

Coordinates
35.1815° N, 136.9064° E

Population
2,266,249

Density
17,980/sq mi

Area Code
+81 52

Bike Lanes
2.6 mi

Yearly Sunshine Hours
2,093