The spirit of UK New Towns

In selling the New Towns vision to the British population, post WW2, that country’s Central Office of Information (COI), understood well, how nansy pansy do-gooder types would stand in the way of progress, if they neglected to include statements like this one: “Most important of all is the child, so we’ll need pedestrian routes for the pram pusher.” (6.18 in the above clip). And by and by it came to pass that Milton Keynes was designed with an extensive network of shared bike/pram trails, or “redways”, as they became known (for they are made with red coloured asphalt). Okay, so these redways are circuitous, poorly maintained, and lonely at night. However, they at least allow those who want to cycle, an opportunity to do so in relative safety—they sure beat having no infrastructure at all, which is what cyclists are provided in unplanned, post-industrial cities, and even contemporary subdivisions.

What we are fortunate to have in post-industrial cities, are underutilized networks of land (brownfields, waterways, rail corridors), that could now be given to Mrs. Pram Pusher, or perhaps Mrs Bakfiet Pusher, as an alternative to the road network. Of course these days, women drive cars (something not anticipated prior to second wave feminism), and likewise men use what once would have been looked upon as more feminine modes of transportation, modes without petrol motors, modes such as cycling. Where once roads were masculine, and redways were feminine, that dichotomy stands to be reversed. Roads are for feminine ladies and feminine gentlemen, afraid of working a sweat up, while bike paths are for bad-arse, masculine mummas and masculine pappas. That means they can be straight (figuratively and literally). Bike paths do not have to meander, to amuse the depressed pram pusher.

About Steven

I'm on a mission to put cycling on the agendas of architects, urban designers and fellow academics, who see the potential for bicycles to change cities and buildings. My PhD is in architectural history and my interdisciplinary research spans art theory, philosophy and cultural studies. I teach architectural history and theory and design studio at The University of Tasmania, Australia, and formerly worked as an architect designing large public housing projects in Singapore. My favourite bikes are a titanium racing bike I use for racing, a Velorbis retro commuter for riding to cafes and work, a single speed ultra light Brompton that I take with me when I travel on planes, a 29er hard tail mountain bike that I get lost on in remote places, an old track bike that scares me, a 1984 Colnago Super with all original campagnolo components that is plugged into a virtual realm that I train in, and a Dutch-made Bakfiets, that could easily replace half of the bikes I just mentioned.
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