Cyclespace and zoning laws.

I spent my rainy Sunday morning (hmmph, no racing!) googling in search of synergies between the worlds of architecture and cycling, and discovered it was the school of architecture at the University of Melbourne, who hosted a public forum with the Bicycle Coordinator for the City of Portland, Roger Geller, two weeks ago. It’s a great lecture. Just skip all the intros. 
Click to view lecture. 

What interested me most is that Portland has introduced a zoning classification akin to what I’m calling cyclespace. The dark grey areas on the map are what Geller calls "Bicycle districts". This causes me to ask what need, if any, there is for this term I’m promoting.

Firstly, I see a need for a term that describes individual, phenomenological, perceptions of space, rather than ways governments might seek to order the world. I decide when I’m in cyclespace, depending on whether I would rather be cycling there. It may just so happen that politicians saw it that was as well. But I didn’t wait for their lead.

The other special thing about the word cyclespace, is it describes areas where cycling culture rubs off onto all aspects of design. Such things as clothing fashions, architecture, consumer habits, food, lifestyle choices and work patterns are all influenced by bicycle culture, in cyclespace.

"Bicycle districts" are planned for. Cyclespace happens. Non-cycling planners can see "bicycle districts". Only cyclists see cyclespace. A parallel can be drawn with the concept of queer space, that cannot be planned for, but which is made by gay users of space. I’m therefore retracting an earlier remark I made, that cyclespace might be zoned.  


  1. I think you are right. It is very easy to “zone” a space but that does not mean it will be used for the purpose you may wish a “zone” to have.

    As a “town planner” this is v. frustrating!

    Possibly the best one can do in planning or zoning terms is allow the possibilities for the types of activities you may wish to encourage or foster. For example, Glenrock, not planned as a mountain bike area but utilised as such for many years before any attempt to “plan” it or “zone” it.


    • Steven says:

      ah, beautifully put! I’m more than happy for planners to zone 1% of the world’s landmass “bicycle district” while we assume, lets say, 80% to be cyclespace.
      Hmm, but I have one concern. If planners adopt a gentle touch, won’t we just get more of the same, ie, car parks and car lanes?

  2. The gentle approach needs to be tempered with some awareness of creating “possibilities”. Yes, all we could end up with are car parks or similar so this is something to be on the lookout for.

    A car park may be an appropriate response if it perhaps has multifunctionality.

    The car park through working week may be the market venue at weekend. It could be planted with shade trees and use a permeable surface. Not a great example but …


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