A lifetime seeking out back-routes discarded by drivers, has given me a hermit crab’s view of the world. As cyclists, we’re like that. We colonize space that John West rejects. So I see mountain bike riders building their own “skills park” beneath a freeway in Seattle, and feel warm all over.
But let’s say that Space Left Over After Planning(or “SLOAP”, as they say), were dolled up with green paint, and sold to us as space that we would naturally use, because as cyclists all we care about is being green, and helping out how we can, by activating space that planners and engineers have neglected. What if the message of that space, were that cyclists are themselves a good cause? Hell, the only reason we ride, is to be fit for the next exorbitantly priced charity ride, that you expect us to patronize, because in your mind cycling is like clearing your plate of your greens. Perhaps my privileged upbringing is showing. Perhaps less churlish, more humble, bike riders feel fine about about having piety put upon them, without their even asking. For me though, the thought of non cyclists seeing cycling as some kind of giving, not taking—sheesk, I feel like a dog whose owners just washed it, and who now just wants to roll in some shit, to feel clean.
I say all this to prepare my dear reader’s mind, for exhibit A: a bike-washed bit of SLOAP in Pittsburgh, by Koning Eizenberg Architects.
23″ of nothing-type space on the dead side of a building, “activated” with brightly coloured shipping containers—”keep it cheap, they’re just bikes”—and festooned with graphics to fool rookie cyclists into hanging their bikes where no one is watching. Note: street poles near the building’s entrance, enjoy better passive surveillance.
Ask not what you can do for cycling, Koning Eizenberg Architects, but what cycling can do for you: greenwash and bikewash you and your projects, and activate the dead side of your building. But what have you done for cycling? You have shown it can be relegated to dead space, tossed in old shipping containers, is tolerated only insofar as it greens things, and is pursued with the docility of someone who rides around looking for big pictures of bikes to park under, instead of just chaining up to a postbox, or a balustrade, whatever they feel like. I don’t like architects taking cyclists for bunnies.
This is a blog that celebrates design to serve cycling. But this is a building that serves other agendas.