Now try to imagine a purpose-built city for bikes.

An essay I have co-written with Angelina Russo for The Conversation, that appeared two days ago, points to the power of utopian visions and cultural institutions to bring these into the cultural imaginary. My big vision is for urban districts developed on a bicycle mobility platform. What does that mean? Well consider: venice was built around boating; Singapore has been built around transit and driving; Los Angeles has been built around driving, and the so-called bike city of Groningen NL, was built around walking and horses. My work is in imagining new layers of cities, built by redeveloping brownfields and connecting them up, with unique forms, because they respond to the unique attributes of bicycle motion.

Putting bikes first (before transit and walking, and banishing cars) opens all kinds of design possibilities, like protecting cyclists from the rain, and using a ground plane that is sculpted to slow bikes near foyers and shops, but which helps them speed up in between.

bicycle-urbanism-I blogged some months ago about an idea some students of mine arrived at (Sara Chugg, Rachel Englung, Fiona McMullen and Chivonne Prouse) to conceive the ground plane as a field of mounds with pedestrians and slowed bikes sharing the crests. Now imagine the crests are linked with pedestrian bridges. That would leave a low level grid network of bike routes, passing under the pedestrian bridges, and passing under all of the buildings, letting cyclists make bee-lines to any point in the district.

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IMG_3407The buildings are a new kind of slab block we have developed around gently ramped aerial streets. I know they look like Stalinist barracks, and the foam model base looks like Siberian snow. But the aim of this project is to provoke. I figure provocation worked for Le Corbusier and other architects who inspired cities for cars. It might work for bikes too.

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2 Comments

  1. crank says:

    It’s a very cool idea. With a young kid and an invalid dog, I’m often loading the bakfiets as a large stroller or ‘shopping cart’ to put everything (and everyone) in for errands. It’s fun to just mill about, sometimes I even just walk it to the park because it’s impractical to walk/carry so many things & beings. This would be such an enjoyable environment, having the passage of mounds to either go over or around (possibly each with unique and fun landmarks). It reminds me of some of the nice grounds in inner-Melbourne’s public housing, but being able to amble right up/in to your door would complete a delightful experience, instead of the usual disconnect and bother with lift/stairs/back gate.

    Loved the vid 🙂

    • Steven says:

      Ah, my target market! It is a box bike environment. Note the vertical scale on the model base has been doubled so the mounds can be seen at such a small scale. They would be half that steep, around 2 meters high, and a 1 in 8 gradient. If you approach at cruising speed on a fully laden box bike, I think you would naturally cruise to the crest.

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