August 23rd, 2011

A parallel universe that we might retreat to (at least for now)

Though it is unlike me to boast (hec hem) quite a buzz surrounds my little plan to use cycling to revitalize Newcastle, and let Newcastle (the one in Australia, I mean) be a model for all cities wondering how to face life after industry. In case you have just joined us, the plan is to resurrect the entire network of rail lines that once brought coal to our former wharfs (now a redeveloped mixed-use zone with restaurants, museums and the likes). We will also use banks either side of all of our waterways, and beautify them in the process. Then, we'll develop all the brownfield areas linked by these networks, with apartment buildings and schools and places to work, as a kind of alternative city for cyclists, that at once intertwines with the car city, but turns its back on it. Genius, I know. Hence the aforementioned buzz about town—indeed the whole world, via twitter etc..

Here is a map of my city, just before it was smothered by cars, and here is where you can find a super sized scan of the same. The rail lines and banks of the waterways are plain to see. For the partially sighted, I have picked them out in the version below.

You know, many already have bike trails along them! Some are formal "rail trails". Many are informal, just dirt tracks left by local bicyclists' tires. Cyclists naturally colonize this kind of parallel universe, that lies beneath so many cities. We're like trains in our obsession with not crossing paths with horses or cars.

But it is in the details that the difficulties rest—though naturally I would rather call them "architectural opportunities". Some of these routes have been sold off and developed. Some require overpasses, or tunnels. Our waterways have been bastardized by concrete walls and bridges that are indiscernible from everyday roads. The state government is going to need an envoy to Minneapolis to see that all of their rail corridors could and should support bike paths. Can I adjust to their lack of vision though? Naturally, not. It rests with them to catch onto my vision, don't you think? Ah, the buried logic and natural beauty of our cities brought back to the fore, as a parallel universe for a healthy green life... I'm just trying to help the politicians there, with some sweet words.