December 9th, 2010

Spiraling Vertical Cities

As I believe I may have informed you with an earlier post, a lo-o-o-ong spiraling access balcony, as per that found in BIG's marvelous 8-House, would be inconceivable were it not for our good friend Mr. Bicycle. Few residents would walk hundreds of meters sideways, just to go up by a few . They would take the lift or the stairs, why of course darling. May we not forget though, that BIG's marvelous 8-House, is in shiny happy Copenhagen, where almost everyone cycles. Equipped with his or her two wheeled prosthesis, the gentleman cyclist would look at that ramp, then the cramped lift, and surely think: "Fook cramming into that lift!" (Thinking swear words there with my best Danish accent). In effect, 8-house completes Le Corbusier's concept of streets in the sky, that failed in Corb's slab blocks because his streets were disconnected from streets on the ground. If he were here now I would slap that sucker's bald forehead!
As cities in the sky, apartment buildings have been functioning about as well as Manhattan would, without any avenues. Imagine: to get from one street to the next, you would have to enter the subway. The very notion is maddening, yet precisely what Le Corbusier was promoting when he said access corridors would be like streets in the sky. The experiment—repeated with every new lift-access condo—only proves how well we humans can get along, even when pushed to the brink. If we weren't so go'darn civilized, my floor would be warring against your floor, the way J.G Ballard imagined in High Rise.

Now, to my wonderful graphics (you might guess, I only ever use Word). Left: This image at once represents Manhattan with subway lines running North/South but the avenues all taken away, AND, it can be read as a sectional image of a regular high rise apartment building; if we are to think of those access corridors as being streets in the sky, we're dreamin' mate, we are dream-ing. I mean, would you open a shop there? Middle: A rough diagram imagining Le Corbusier's streets in the sky being one long street, like a switch-back road to the roof. Right: If we see this as a schematic section of a building like 8-House, and simultaneously as a plan of Manhattan, we would be forced to concede that no bicycle enabled vertical city could ever be quite so socially cohesive as a city drawn on the ground. However, it does offer more interaction than a standard apartment block—assuming interaction is something our species still yearns for.   

Small wheel loonacy

Believing in small wheels seems rather like believing in anything for which there's no proof (psychology, god, my Primrose's headaches): it marks the believer a wee little bonkers. I know Alex Moutlon once satisfied himself that his small wheel bike required 2% less energy than an actual bike, the latter most likely a Huffy from K-mart, with 20psi in the tires and a parachute draping behind. Speaking with sobriety though, no untattooed man could swear on god's book that small wheels have any place in Cycling Creation, spare the following 5 dispensations:
1. beneath dwarfs,
2. beneath children,
3. beneath bowler hats,
4. on bikes smuggled into your luggage, or
5. beneath Alex Moultin, who I must say looks smashing.

Beyond that, this madness must stop. You must stop extending your small wheel bike each time you breed. There's actually a law against aborting them after they're born. And please stop riding uphill. Sooner or later you will have to ride down, and have you ever roller skated ahead of a truck? And this business of trying to look like a cyclist with one of these things—why not just blow raspberries, twisting the right grip, and pretend as well that you're riding a Harley? You're embarrassing us, even those of us who may be quite drunk as we grapple with problems that some may find trifling.

"My small wheel bike changed my life [into one great long info-commercial]."

Gatherings, races, mug lairing for photos as though you're still 60: all this must end. And finally, you need not go on justifying your moment of mad spending with the 101 uses we might not have thought of, I don't know, like slicing spam in your spokes, using it as a tent pole, etc.. Sir, it is a scooter with pedals, not the world's greatest gizmo. 
I write all this because I miss the comments I used to get from Roberto. I'm lonely you see, and some hate mail from small wheel devotees might just keep me afloat. I refer you to the comments button below :)