May 7th, 2010

Bicycle Space (photo essay)

Jane Jacobs would have said it's contrived, has only one use, and is too vast for pedestrians. However, these greenways that are being made out of disused industrial land, along old train lines and docks, are wonderful places for cycling. If Vegas is designed to be taken in at the speed of a car, and Venice at walking pace, then these somewhat contrived, somewhat twee strips of green, with their just-add-water artworks, obligatory marinas and just-so signage and benches, are perfect for taking in at the speed of a bike. Not a road racing bike (those are too fast), but a heavy old town bike.

These photos capture the main stages of my daily commute. The first 5 represent land once belonging to train lines, factories and wharfs. Then comes the creek edge, 2 black spots that just require patience, then a ride through my bushland university campus, right to my office.

The places cities are investing in, as places one might like to be, just so happen to be places best taken in on a bike. This will be truer still when the job of reclaimed waterfronts is complete, and cyclists can go all the way from Tighes Hill to Newcastle say, or The Upper West Side to Battery Park in New York.  

A special bike polo tribute to mums

Newcastle Gentleman's Bicycle Polo is celebrating Mothers Day this Sunday, with a special demonstration match, just for the mums.
Where: Centennial Park
When: 2pm.
Dress: Tweed (mum will be there)

Oh and mums, tea and scones might give your boys extra strength, should you happen to pack some in a basket, to surprise us all at half time. Much love.



More "bicycle space", this time in France

Oh I see another paper coming from this, and soon! Bernard Tschumi's Park de la Villette in Paris was built on the site of an abattoir—a reclaimed industrial site, of sorts, we could say. Critics say it is too vast to walk, something Tcshumi, too, was aware of. But look what it is good for:
All this investment is there for the enjoyment of cyclists, and exhaustion of pedestrians. And what is a pedestrian anyway? Most often they're just drivers let out for air. 
Fitting, really, that Claes Oldenburg should choose a giant bicycle for his sculpture here. I am hereby identifying this kind of space as bicycle space. Bicycle space is where cycling comes to the fore as the most enabled means of getting around. It is too vast to walk, yet closed off to cars. It is typically comprised of a network of routes and sites once used for industry; as industry moves on, bicycle space steps in. We are typically dealing with large land parcels, too large for piecemeal, human-scaled development if divided up and sold off as small lots. Governments are pressured to do something with all of it, before the next election ideally. Because industry relied on an interconnected, contiguous series of spaces, in time bicycle space will be seamlessly linked. When bicycle space does become continuous, commercial and residential land flanking it will rise sharply in value, as people realize they can go anywhere by bike now. 
While the broad smile of bicycle space is still missing teeth, its future potential isn't quite so apparent—at least not to non cyclists. But a profound shift is coming, to the way we understand and move through our cities. A great age of cycling is nigh!

This calls for an examination of spaces like this around the world. Having lived in New York, I would love to start there, but it doesn't quite fit the spec. The image above links to one of many youtube clips of the the so-called greenway bicycle paths that now encircle Manhattan. While these take in a few stretches of beautified green space, on former industrial sites, for the most part cyclists are pushed to the margins. More research pending!