When to say, “Get off the bike path!”

I am looking on flickr for creative commons licence photos of the Danish Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo, to illustrate a paper I am writing that mentions the bike track that wound to the top of that temporary building. But many of the best photos that I can find, are spoiled by pedestrians meandering around on this blue track, built especially for bikes to go fast on. Actually, this building took its shape from the bike track. The building in fact is a bike track, with stairs to one side. The pedestrians may have been there in greater numbers, but still, they entered as guests.

I know it drives Glenn Murcutt bananas that he designs buildings with operable louvres for cooling, and the people who use his buildings leave them all closed. He says his buildings need to come with instructions. I say they should come with mercenary gunmen, given summary powers of execution.

The cleaners where I work close every louvre at eight every morning, and it takes me until just after nine every morning to open them all up again, only to face the same silly routine the next day when I get in to work to find them all closed. I console myself that my duty is like sweeping away a spider’s web, every day, until it finally dies of starvation. Mr or Mrs cleaner, I will win this war! I will open every louvre, every day—until one of us leaves for Tasmania.

Marie Short House by Glenn Murcutt

Bike paths built ahead of demand are problematic. They place cyclists in the position of defending land titles from hostile natives.

Chinese Bicycling Party guard with orders to shoot anyone walking on bike path

“One would like to be both [feared and loved]; but because it is difficult to combine them, it is far safer to be feared,” said Machiavelli, and the cyclist put in the position of guarding space painted blue just for cyclists, would naturally take that as their cue to scare the bejesus out of any pedestrians devaluing a new public asset. The Machiavellian upholder of bike paths should not just scare them away for bicycling’s sake, but so the world might see more great buildings like the Danish Pavilion, with blue painted bike lanes inside.

As always though, context is key. A mother struggling with babies and toddlers on dinkies needs grace shown toward her by cyclists. The jock with his earphones and his dog off its lead needs a bar-end straight to the kidney—though a homosexual proposition will hurt him much more. As cyclists we don’t want to become like those drivers: psychopaths made one with machines. We want to be fully insinuated with our surroundings, which means smiling and saying “excuse me” to mums, old ladies and poor simple folk, but also guarding our turf when that is required. Like opening ventilation louvres moments after cleaners have closed them, it is our job as users to follow through on designers’ intensions.

4 Comments

  1. Lukas says:

    Dr. Behooving,
    Maybe this is where track cycling comes in? No problems with pedestrians in the velodromes, especially up the steep end! This infrastructure business is not easy, if you haven’t got the money or the culture to build mode separated paths for cyclists, pedestrians and dogs.
    As an alternative for cyclists there is the end of the world, where pedestrians simply can’t get to: Enter Taschmania.
    Newcastle’s loss better be Launceston’s gain! I wonder if they have brownfield sites, drains and dis-used train corridors down there, or if a revision in the interpretation of cycle-space is in the making?

    • Steven says:

      Lukas, you’re a genius! And to think the answer was right there before my eyes all of this time, in that header shot of Chicago’s waterfront I use for this blog. People don’t like walking on cambered planes, whereas cyclists aren’t bothered. A two-way bike path through an area encumbered with pedestrians, would be a V-shaped groove in the ground. I love it! Thanks muchly 🙂
      Launceston does have its share of brownfield sites, waterways and rail routes, but I’m going there looking for a new angle. With this latest V shaped bike groove idea, I feel we’ve done all we can for big cities.

  2. Hemp Bike says:

    Perhaps the louvre’d buildings could be designed to eliminate the potential for human-error. Automated, thermostatically controlled opening and closing with no human interface.

    Or is your daily act of anarchy simply the same aesthetic that forces architect’s families to live in houses without curtains?

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