A day at the beach modelling Bike Land

All over the world (except China) industrial lands are turning to weeds, and if not weeds then warehousing sites, and if not warehousing sites, then lonely fields of apartments. Since former industrial lands lie at the confluence of the same bulk haulage easements (rivers, rail corridors, canals etc.) that are being converted in many cities to greenways, I’ve been arguing they be redeveloped with a bicycling emphasis.

One advantage of conceiving large sites around bike use, is that cycling shrinks space-time. It is faster than walking, it doesn’t stop for other passengers like the bus or the train, and it doesn’t get caught in jams like vehicular traffic. Shrinking space is important on brownfield sites with new apartments, because market demand for apartments with views on flat sites is pushing buildings further apart. Where the medieval walking city had streets as narrow as 5 meters, and the early industrial city made streets around 20 meters wide, new apartment buildings on redevelopment sites are much further apart.

While that’s bad luck for anyone relegated to Shank’s Pony, it’s good news for anyone with their own silent steed. The space between buildings can be our playground. Where to start though? Yesterday I took a senior group of architecture students to the beach for the day, to model, at scale 1:50, the redevelopment projects I have had them designing in teams around the theme of bike transport. After aligning the sand models correctly to North, and using Cartesian grids to accurately plot the position of their proposed buildings, they set about exploring ways to use undulation in the ground plane to naturally bank and release bike riders’ energy, so that, for example, riders naturally slow down near building edges and pedestrian desire lines, then naturally speed up as they ride downhill toward the middle of wide streets and plazas. Depending on their youth or enthusiasm, cyclists in a district like this could choose fun ways, short ways, or safe ways. I won’t go too much into the details of these explorations, but leave you for now with some photos from our day on the beach here in gorgeous Tasmania.

1 Comment

  1. Luke says:

    Ah, now I know why people want to study architecture. You get to play with sandcastles and call it studying. Mind you, a friend, a keen rower, did sail (or row) on a re-constructed triereme and claimed that helped with Ancient Greek history.

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