It seems everyone these days is a designer of streets. If I see one more of those twee before-and-after cross sections of a street showing the addition of curb-side cycle tracks and trees from the Black Forest… oh it’s exhausting.
It’s their modesty that exerts this attritious wear on my being, oh and the babbling about streets such these selling more ice cream. To hell with all that. I want to see real visions, by hairy chested men like Harvey Corbett (one of his drawings below), and I want to see visions that would please a hard headed and rational man, someone like Mao Zedong—never mind those two-bit capitalists wanting more people to visit their shops.
Corbett had the skill to see street design as a three dimensional problem. Mao had the rationality to see it as a problem of deciding what would have to be banned. Anything that did not serve the collective’s best interests, like horses, cars and dogs on leads, Mao had buried in a ditch out of sight. Collectivist thinking gave Mao a clear understanding of what had to be done with the street. Yep, give the whole thing to bikes.
Mao’s only shortfall was not creating the kind of intellectual environment in which someone like Corbett could come froward with creative ways of enhancing that vision. If only I could go back in time, change race, and be one of Mao’s henchmen. I’d say “Mao, let’s not gather transport and business onto a handful of avenues and let all the streets be residential. Instead let’s distribute bikes evenly and only permit shops on street corners.”
“Then,” I would say, “let’s raise the ground level around those street corners so bikes naturally slow down and mingle. And since we have removed anything noxious from the street, let’s cover it with a roof so people can cycle indoors. Our roads shall be polished smooth so tires can be pumped to high pressure yet never puncture. Pedestrians can be given bridges to pass between corner shops without interrupting our bicycling comrades. Here’s a little sketch I did, Chairman my Chairman.”
Don’t let me stop you from fiddling with 2.8m wide car lanes and raised cycle tracks. Just don’t tell me that is the scope of urban design.