Urban planner introduces Dutch urban design to the world by using AI
Tel Avivian Lior Steinberg discovered his love for cycling the moment he stepped foot outside Groningen Central Station. ‘I was blown away. I walked out of the station and everywhere I looked, I saw people cycling. It makes moving through the city so easy. It was love at first sight for me.’
Bring yourself, Lior will do the same
Lior Steinberg is an urban planner and co-founder of Humankind, an agency for urban change based in Rotterdam. Through this consultancy, he strives for a more human dimension in urban design. Lior has contributed to the development of the 'Cycling Lifestyle AI', with which anyone can give a picture of their street a Dutch makeover.
Of course we go by bike!
For Lior, all those bicycles in Groningen, where he studied public space at university, were a revelation. But when he asked Dutch people about it, they simply shrugged. ‘If you mention bicycles everyone looks at you funnily. The response is: “Of course we go by bike! Why wouldn’t we?” Bicycles are used for more than half of all journeys in Groningen. The Dutch don't realise how remarkable that is.’
It inspired Lior as an urban planner to dedicate himself to ‘the human dimension’ in urban design. Fewer roads full of cars, more space for people. ‘Street design in the Netherlands is incredibly sophisticated but, unfortunately, you can't just copy and paste it into foreign cities. What you can do, though, is adapt the Dutch cycling lifestyle to different circumstances.’
‘I was blown away. I walked out of the station and everywhere I looked, I saw people cycling.’
A place for everyone to enjoy
Lior says the future of urban planning is clearly demonstrated in the Little C project, in Rotterdam's Coolhaven. Sandwiched between urban motorways, Coolhaven has become one of Rotterdam's most beautiful spots where living and working merge effortlessly with nature and water. Between the new high-rise buildings, wide cycle paths meander through green parks.’
‘They could have made these paths narrower’, says Lior. ‘The same number of cyclists would have used them. But this way, people can also cycle side by side. It is no longer a cycle path just to get from A to B, but a place for everyone to enjoy.’
Little C is one of the reasons why Lior likes to show Rotterdam to foreign colleagues and delegations. ‘Amsterdam, with its canals and narrow streets, has a bit of a magical feel. In Rotterdam, they see more clearly how they can apply bicycle-friendly measures to their own situations.’ Lior points to the wide cycle paths among all that green, in a city that until recently was addicted to cars. ‘This gives people hope that it's possible anywhere.’
Seeing is believing
To spread that hope, Lior is closely involved in the development of the 'Cycling Lifestyle AI' programme. This online tool uses artificial intelligence to transform photos of any street into a green, Dutch-style cycling paradise like the one in Little C, for example.
According to Lior, many people don’t think their city or country can ever become truly bike-friendly, ’because something like this only works in the Netherlands. We want to convey the quality of life that many Dutch streets have and this tool shows how street design can be improved in cities all over the world. Seeing is believing.’