While we’re all talking about the strange relationship that appears to exist between gentrification and cycling, let’s have a look at a new Harvard study, led by my good friend Anne Lusk. Reading it you will find none of that pensive, Waleed Ali style, agonising over just the right words to define what the authors call whites, blacks and hispanics, and there is no pretending their neighbourhoods aren’t rich, poor and poorer. The finding that leaps out at me as an architect working to increase cycling, is right there in the abstract:
More [Whites] thought bikes would not be stolen which may explain why more Hispanics (52%) and Blacks (47%) preferred to park their bikes inside their home compared with Whites (28%)
With that thought in mind, why not drop your peg man into one of the blackest neighbourhoods in any white country, Bijmer in the Netherlands. Where are the bikes? They’re not on the street, the way you will see in the centre of Amsterdam! These people are poor. If the seat breaks on their bike, it’s worth their while stealing a seat from a bike left outside. There’s no malice intended. They just can’t afford a new seat. They cycle less too. Here cycling accounts for 28% of all trips, compared to 68% in Amsterdam’s central borough.
I’m sure those of you who are opposed to Modernist urban morphologies (you’re probably white and equate modernism with blacks) would be ready to tell me it’s because of the indefensible ground plane and lack of eyes on the street. That hardly stacks up when a white neighbourhood like Funenpark in the centre of Amsterdam (pictures below) has acres of grass between vertically proportioned buildings, and bicycles everywhere, many expensive, and many not even chained to a pole.
I’ll admit, when I first started thinking about building types that made it easy to ride your bike right the way into your apartment, I was thinking of my titanium road bike and mountain bike, that I would never think to chain on the street. Circumstances though, are forcing me to think more about people who would struggle to replace an old pedal. I’ll be in Bogota in three weeks, working on the design of a building you will hear about in due course—I always knew South America would be the first movers. I’m glad to have found this new study in time.
Indoor bicycle parking is not a bourgeois indulgence to the world’s poor. It’s simply a matter of need.