The Danes and the Dutch are too practical. Too Protestant! They leave their cargo bikes outside when they buy groceries, when they could be using them as shopping trollies. Supermarket chains, especially in the suburbs where the aisles are much wider, could be advertising themselves as places to ride through, without waking the baby, without double handling of groceries, without having to chain up outside or cover your saddle in case it rains. In the future grocery stores will chip all their items, so we can ride in, load up, and have the bill automatically deducted from our accounts as we ride out. For more great ideas, buy my book!
Thanks to 2 students of mine, Ian and Matt, for taking these photos. And thanks to The Trevallyn Grocer for letting me in with my big clunkin’ box bike
Walking on a velodrome is like cycling on cobbles. So build inclined and smooth surfaces where you would like to see bikes, and level rough surfaces where you would like to see people walking. This seems like the natural way to part cyclists and pedestrians in shared zones without giving either that dangerous sense of entitlement that arises the moment you start painting stencils.
How serendipitous is it therefore, that architects, now more than ever, should be fascinated with uneven ground planes and floors? Mies van der Rohe’s
definition of architecture as the making of “universal space” or Le Corbusier’s similar idea of the domino plan, seem like ancient history these days. SANAA’s Rolex Learning Centre is the new Farnsworth house. Universal space, just like space as cosmologists see is, has become curved.
I’m in the mood for a list, of works of architecture that make a feature of uneven floors: Lewerence’s Klippan Church Sweden; Le Corbusier’s chapel in Ronchamp; Steven Holl’s cité de l’océan et du surf; Heatherwick Studio’s ”Seed Cathedral” at Shanghai Expo 2010; Peter Eisenman’s Jewish Memorial in Berlin; Nox Architects’ Water Pavilion; FOA’s Yokohama International Port Terminal… alright, there must be hundreds!
Hopefully I’ll remember to come back and add standout examples, or perhaps you will suggest some with a comment. The point I want to make is quite simple, and has nothing to do with warped space time (as interesting an angle that may be to pursue). I’m simply saying that an interest in undulating ground planes among architects, is coinciding right now with a period in the evolution of cities when finding ways to separate bikes from pedestrians is important for the happiness of both.
I have to thank my friend David in New York for this photo he snapped of my book in Kinokuniya Bookstore, beside Bryant Park. David works in the area so goes there often for the affordable but incredible Japanese lunch fare, and because the store has an improbably large offering of books about architecture (you guessed it, David is an architect too). So I’m about to email them now, to see if they’ll have me for a book signing next month, and perhaps let me leave with some rare Anime.
In our rush to make cycling mainstream, we forget some of the perverse pleasures that come from it being weird. The weirder the better, in some ways. At the weird end of weirdness, are velomobiles. Today the Queensland police have been circulating a photo, advertising their diligence in policing drink driving.
Quick thinkers they are, the police who made our pilot friend pull to the side for no reason, radioed base and ascertained velomobiles are legal to use on the road. Next they checked and made sure the rider hadn’t been drinking. Then they took a photo and let him ride off, not wearing a helmet. Up here for thinking, down there for dancing, lad.
If you think about it, cycling is illegal in any country that does not have complete bike infrastructure—unless you’re prepared to take unreasonable risks, endure unreasonable delays, or be made to look like a clown. Even the most law abiding among us, find ourselves skirting the law, and thus at loggerheads with it, in some small way or another. If you fight the law straight you’ll be beaten. Better to fight like Mr. Bean.
The further you venture from the mainstream, the more you confound self-appointed and real cops alike, and the more immune you become from prosecution, or even just being chastised. Though we’ve learned today we cannot ride a velomobile under the influence, we know that just riding a bike is sufficiently weird on any other occasion, that we can ride pissed as newts and no one will care. Small wheel bikes can go on the footpath—you can even do that in New York! Pedal powered trikes can be ridden through shopping arcades; the average Joe thinks trike-bike riders are all paraplegics. Remove all your teeth except the one in the middle, and get yourself some old stonewash denim, and you can ride your electric moped as the mosquito flies, diagonally across highways or wherever you like.
Truly though, I want a velomobile, not just for the option of occasionally flouting dumb helmet laws, but so that police might tell everybody that I made it myself. “Custom Made”, sure!
I can’t say I’m a fan of apartments that share tiny light wells. Sure, as a tourist we can step off the main shopping street in some city such as Lyon, and think we have found the authentic Europe that we came looking for. As much as I hate to waste your flavour here buddy, if a courtyard is well kept, chances are the rooms belong to a 5 star hotel, or boutique office suites. Outside the swanky parts of town we explore on our European vacations, those light wells will more likely be smelling of rubbish bins and have giant sized bloomers hanging to dry. Yes, and they are great transferers of noise when your neighbours are fighting in French or learning to play the accordion at 3 in the morning.
One of Japan’s rewards for having a society that is better behaved, is they can experiment with housing types that would cause rioting anywhere else. Take this miniature block of walkup terrace apartments, designed around a courtyard that has been curved to receive motorbikes. To hell with motorbikes, I want to move in with my collection of push bikes! (Thanks to a student of mine, who found this fantastic example of a building designed and marketed to lovers of two wheel transportation.)
At the risk of reading too much into too little, I should like to begin this raincoat review with a deep and meaningful observation that you might find a tad sanctimonious, even for me. The marketing imagery presented by this raincoat company out of Cambridge UK, does not emphasise walking from the subway to the office in the heart of the city, or conversely carrying fresh milk from your own cow to your kitchen, but riding a bike. I’m not amazed that this cycling raincoat resembles nothing you will ever see in the peloton. I’m amazed that the Cambridge Raincoat Company have identified cyclists as such an important market segment for rainwear. I had long suspected walking was becoming a fair-weather mode and evidently, I was correct. Advertising reflects life, and these days it is mostly us cyclists who push on in all weather, and who therefore most need our raincoats.
One reason for buying this raincoat was to test my theory that 9 out 10 people were not in the top class for every subject at school (as I was, except for English—ironically), and that of the remaining 10 percent, most become dumb from watching TV (as I could not have, since I don’t watch the darned shit). This new raincoat has given weight to those numbers. If one in one hundred people who see me riding my bike in this raincoat recognise it as a reasonable thing to be wearing, the other 99 look like these puppies. Many are still wondering if that dignified gentleman they saw on his bike didn’t escape from the loonie bin, if what I was wearing was legal to wear on a bike, and if they weren’t meant to chew me. Until I am beaten to death or ran over for thumbing my nose at cultural norms, I will goad my intelectual inferiors. This raincoat is perfect for that.
I wonder if I would look so out of place though, wearing this raincoat on a bike in Cambridge, UK (sorry Harvard, we’re not talking about your plagiarised Cambridge). While I imagine old Raleighs and raincoats are as common in Cambridge as wooden rowboats or buildings from Hogwarts, I note that Sally Guyer developed these particular raincoats because she was dissatisfied with what else was on offer. Could she really not find another traditional raincoat, in all of England? Well of course she could, obviously, and I imagine many people in Cambridge own a similar raincoat and wear it while riding. The gap in the market was for a raincoat made from this incredible fabric.
When I bought the coat, there was a link on Sally’s site to the fabric manufacturer. I can’t see the link now, and wouldn’t blame her for pulling it down. Her competitors would be all over this stuff, like fried chicken joints if they found this. To touch, scrunch and pelt with rain drops, it really just feels like your favourite old jeans. Rain drops make no sound upon impact. I’m especially fond of the bold satin lining, that as I write causes flashbacks to the night I was wed and took my dear Primrose under the sheets after 4 long hours of abstinence prior.
Couple this coat with your favourite gloves, soft shell trousers from Rapha, and a waxed cotton rain hat like the one I’ve been wearing, and you will be asking other folk on the bike path, “How’s the weather now? Better?”
So, Sally, if you’re not going to tell your competitors the name of this fabric, you should at least start expanding your range. I would like some trousers, please. Or at least make me a hat. The brown of the waxed cotton just looks so taudry, compared to something you might provide in matching red.
Swapping my MC Hammer pants and gore-tex hiking coat for this raincoat has been one of those milestones in my life of cycling, to rival buying a roadster from these guys, or packing my Brompton now when I go on work trips, or buying a box bike. In the same way that the tattooed lady started with one little butterfly on her buttocks, we eccentrics become eccentric in stages. We start with the upright style bike, then progress to commuting in regular clothes rather than lycra, and end up wearing red raincoats that are visible from the space shuttle and cause bus loads of schools kids to riot.
I freely admit, I would not look so smug in this raincoat if it let rain in, or trapped 100% of my perspiration. This leads to those pointy questions you’re dying for me to answer, on the subject of raincoat performance. As anyone who enjoys a bit of a workout while bike commuting can attest, we do arrive sweaty no matter how much the label on our spray jackets insist our sweat will be wicked from our skin. In the end we must accept getting a damp back from our own perspiration. What is intolerable, is the ingress of cold trickles.
Most rainwear attacks that old devil Cold Trickle with taped seams and sealed zips, the later cut from the same giant length of sealed zipper, that I guess must come from some city in China where all the people are employed making zippers. Evidently Sally has no trade links with that city, as her coats just have buttons. That a fastening device dating back 5000 years to Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan could be as good as modern zippers, is as remarkable really as bicycles being faster than cars in the city. But there you have it: low tech still works. And there you have the technical review of the Cambridge Raincoat you were looking for but couldn’t find on the Washing Machine Post.
I am disappointed with one thing. I wish this new raincoat of mine had clips or garters of some sort to keep the front panels in place on my thighs. The makers of Rainlegs recognised that it is usually only a gentleman’s thighs that need protection, not the lower legs or backs of his trousers. And though this would be a gimmick, I wouldn’t mind if the coat came with a bag that I might pack the coat into when it is wet, to protect the range of new products from Apple that I choose to carry about in my pannier. In the meantime I’m scrunching it into a Rapha feed bag, mixing my first love of bike racing with my new love of cycle chic, in a way that seems more sinful than your average threesome. Yes, then gloves, shoe guards and trousers from this rain resistant fabric that feels just like cotton, would be appreciated too. Sally: I haven’t stopped spending!
But let me remind you in closing why I bought this raincoat, and that was, to cause a reaction. Better than any T-shirt with words on, this rain coat says, “drive around me, not through me, because I am god,” the subtext to that being, “I will send rat plagues to strip the flesh from your bones, if you pass too close.” But none of that of would fit on a T-shirt. You buy this coat for the same reason you might buy contemporary art, to differentiate yourself from the 99% who weren’t in the top classes, or who have made themselves dumb by watching TV.
Dark green lines represents safe cycle tracks. Dotted green lines represent door-zone suicide lanes. It is legal to cycle on footpaths here, however, the crossings to give cars access to mid-block cars parks have been made smooth to tell drivers to ignore cyclists and pedestrians using the footpath. This city is insufficiently dense to support frequent (non-timetabled) public transport, or walking. Bikes would give people some other option to driving, but the safe cycling network looks like half digested pieces of spaghetti that came out with somebodies vomit.