Oh I see another paper coming from this, and soon! Bernard Tschumi’s Park de la Villette in Paris was built on the site of an abattoir—a reclaimed industrial site, of sorts, we could say. Critics say it is too vast to walk, something Tcshumi, too, was aware of. But look what it is good for:
All this investment is there for the enjoyment of cyclists, and exhaustion of pedestrians. And what is a pedestrian anyway? Most often they’re just drivers let out for air.
Fitting, really, that Claes Oldenburg should choose a giant bicycle for his sculpture here. I am hereby identifying this kind of space as bicycle space. Bicycle space is where cycling comes to the fore as the most enabled means of getting around. It is too vast to walk, yet closed off to cars. It is typically comprised of a network of routes and sites once used for industry; as industry moves on, bicycle space steps in. We are typically dealing with large land parcels, too large for piecemeal, human-scaled development if divided up and sold off as small lots. Governments are pressured to do something with all of it, before the next election ideally. Because industry relied on an interconnected, contiguous series of spaces, in time bicycle space will be seamlessly linked. When bicycle space does become continuous, commercial and residential land flanking it will rise sharply in value, as people realize they can go anywhere by bike now.
While the broad smile of bicycle space is still missing teeth, its future potential isn’t quite so apparent—at least not to non cyclists. But a profound shift is coming, to the way we understand and move through our cities. A great age of cycling is nigh!
This calls for an examination of spaces like this around the world. Having lived in New York, I would love to start there, but it doesn’t quite fit the spec. The image above links to one of many youtube clips of the the so-called greenway bicycle paths that now encircle Manhattan. While these take in a few stretches of beautified green space, on former industrial sites, for the most part cyclists are pushed to the margins. More research pending!