August 13th, 2011

What is a Cycle-Space separatist city?

So here is what a separatist cycle-space city might look like. A child reared, schooled, entertained and taken shopping in the colourful new zones marked on this map (of Newcastle, my city), would grow up only knowing what cars looked like, from pictures. At least that's the dream. You see, separatist bicycle infrastructure, has no interface with the road network, at all. The green lines indicate greenway bicycle trails that follow: A. the edges of waterways. B. working rail corridors, and C. historic rail corridors, exhumed and given second incarnations as bicycle trails—even if that means elevating them above properties where the land has been sold off.

Below are a few of the images and maps of this city, from the late 1800s, that I used to identify those long lost rail routes. One just happens to be the Southern hemisphere's first ever rail line. Exhuming it, would be to reveal the logic upon which the whole city was founded. I was especially surprised by the number of these routes I already knew, as good ways to ride.

Mammoth scale versions of these maps are available online here, in The Cultural Collections of The University of Newcastle photostream

The greenways cut through low traffic residential streets, plus a lot of newly redeveloped former industrial areas (not highlighted on the plan, though they generally run next to the harbour). That's the beauty of former industrial transport corridors: they connect the brownfield sites that we are developing anyway. All we need do, is complete all the rail trails and waterfront promenades, put bikes first in our development of the brownfields, and ensure those new developments provide all the same amenities that exist in the rest of the city—meaning the city that was eaten by cars.

I'm proposing high density late-Modernist housing on all the brownfield sites still awaiting development. Yes, there will be many "towers in the park", and thank you LeCorbusier, for a great idea, that just needing protecting from cars. Cars will not be allowed anywhere near the new towers we will build in cycle-space separatist zones. And I should add, that the new city won't only have towers. Most of the buildings will be slab blocks with ramped access balconies, that people can use to cycle home to their apartments on the 10th floor. The ground levels, of course, will be activated with shops, office space, public facilities and some low rent space for manufacturing. I'll post more about cycle-space buildings shortly, when I've had time to do a few sketches.

If you haven't been following the development of these ideas on my blog, you should know, I have given up waiting for car dependent voters to elect politicians who will blanket their cities with Copenhagen style separated infrastructure. Citizen cycling has disappeared from living memory, and millions aren't flocking to Denmark or Holland on bike study tours to be inspired by the idea. And in any case, Copenhageners themselves didn't agitate for segregated bicycle infrastructure, before they had witnessed first-hand a separatist car-free zone in their own midst, in Freetown Christiania. I'm confident that claiming former industrial tracts, as parallel cities where bikes are put first, is the best way out of this 1-4% bike modal share hole, that we are now in.  

If you're reading, and have the time, skills, expertise and motivation to produce a more professional looking map than the one I've provided above (done using Word!), I would be delighted to hear from you :) Or perhaps you can see the principle of a separatist cycle-space realm being applied to your city? I don't own the future. Let's all work together, to fill it with bikes.  

What is it to cyclescape?

A designer, as we know, is landscaping when they conceive planting and earthworks to edify viewers walking about a cultivated landscape. We could say they are streetscaping, when they are thinking of the space between buildings as some kind of room, framed by multiple buildings all having a collective duty to make that outdoor space legible and comfortable to pedestrians.

A designer is cyclescaping when creating largely paved open spaces with buildings arranged so as to look spectacular during a fly-through, only viewers can't fly—the closest they can come to that, is to cycle. BIG's proposal for a sweeping plaza/bridge in Stockholm, with buildings seemingly shaped by bicycle flows, is a good example of what I call cyclescaping.