The third way

A century ago, in every city, there were two cities. The first to be built had put everyones’ attention on the banks of the waterways, on the rail lines, and on the industrial sites. Around these, cottages had clustered, where workers could live. By the mid twentieth-century though, the residential zones had all swollen, and become most peoples focus. And by the 1980s, industry was falling into decline. Driving about in the residential and commercial zones in their cars, in 2011, most people have little idea the industrial zones even exist. They would be aghast to learn how much land these comprise, most poorly utilized.

Figure/Ground studies of Newcastle, Australia, revealing declining industrial tracts ready for converting into a parallel city, from which cars will be banished.

The cyclists know though. To avoid cars, they have been using this land for decades. They know all the short cuts, safe routes, rail trails, and paths beside storm water canals. And now one of them, me, has the ripping idea of densely developing all of these tracts to create neighboring cities, with schools, apartments, shops, new workplaces, everything. These new cities will be intertwined with the car cities that the drivers all know, but each kind of city will never quite touch. The new, parallel, alter-cities, will be entirely invested in cycling as their mode of transport. Oh, and they will have their own local governments. Best of all, they will lay to bed that losing struggle for cyclists’ rights to the road, and the other losing struggle, for segregated bicycle infrastructure in cities where most voters can’t see the point. The new cities in question, will themselves be bicycling infrastructure, not shared, or segregated, but of a new “separatist” kind.
And my little snow peas, that is the essence of my third-way of increasing the bike share, not by letting most people cycle some of the time, as though cycling is just some feel-good, fair-weather adjunct to lives otherwise dependent on cars. No, the making of these cities will allow those of us who actually care about cycling (and maybe our health and the planet’s) to cycle all of the time, in a city built especially for us.
Okay, that was the sales pitch. Please, help me face my own nagging doubts, by leaving a comment. We’ll call it “peer review”, social media style.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Only the begining

    Your map doesn’t even stretch far enough to include the acres of waterfront land to the north of Carrington, a lot of which is currently wasteland and more will become so once we run out of things to export out of our harbour.

    • Steven says:

      Re: Only the begining

      You raise a good point, that requires I explain how I am not against viable industry. The former BHP site is large enough that it still could be used for heavy industry, maybe coal export, or who knows. Prudence dictates we leave such options open. In any case, we could never possibly fill such a large site, building as densely as the principle of urban consolidation dictates we should. Better to optimize our use of slithers of land, before we go sprawling into new territories. Thanks for prompting me to explain that!

  2. Anonymous says:

    This idea is the makings of a sci-fi novel. It is a great idea in that cyclists already use those corridors, so the way we travel by bike is very different to the way others travel by car. But to have a separate governance structure seems hard to imagine, how would you keep the car owners out of the bike areas and vice versa? Mind you, it does have some great spinoffs as the taxes paid by the cyclists would be much less owing to the simpler infrastructure, but then the air pollution would be shared be all, which does not seem fair! Great idea though…

    • Steven says:

      Hi Vicky, thanks letting my crazy sci-fi ideas occupy your head for a while:) I’ll fess up: the idea of a separate government does blow my cover as a polemicist. A nice idea still! And yes, we’ll have passports 🙂 You’re right though, it will be unfair us having to breath in their fumes. We’ll measure CO2 levels, and bill the bastards per micron!
      Okay, so in future iterations of this idea, I might keep a lid on my Che Guevara-esk plans to take over. I just wanted to be mayor of somewhere 🙁

    • Anonymous says:

      And as mayor of a cycling city what would be your laws Steven? Would there be helmets, hiviz clothing, any rules about how to ride or what sort of bike?

    • Steven says:

      I should think it would be governed by a Philosopher King, like Plato’s ideal Republic, and Singapore.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Newcastle seems a ghost town to this Sydneysider, so it’s hard to imagine there is any demand for building “new parallel cities” there, whether “alter-cities” or the boring regular ones.

    But if this demand did somehow miraculously arise, why would your “alter-cities” idea summon any more political support than the current “losing struggle” for separated cycleways? Wouldn’t the boring old folks that make the big decisions opt for the boring old auto-centric development style they’ve been faithfully pumping out for the last 60 years?

    • Steven says:

      Hi, great observations, thanks. First of all, I’m using Newcastle as a case study, because it is typical of post industrial cities more generally. Second, this is a much bigger and busier city than it seems when passing through the beleaguered centre of town. Effectively, it has half a million people spread across 3 local council areas, and spending all their time and money in cars. These sites would provide affordable alternatives to suburban homes out the back of Maitland somewhere. Rising oil prices will create demand, don’t you think? Thanks again!

    • Anonymous says:

      After discovering your blog this morning I spent most of my day today reading it instead of working, and fired off a bunch of semi-snarky comments that you received with such good grace that I feel a little ashamed. Count me a fan, albeit one with snarky tendencies.

    • Steven says:

      Oh you are too easily shamed 🙂 I have detected no snarkiness ever, among leavers of comments, that I recall. And anyway, I’m not one to point fingers. Please, share your comments and feelings however you like. Many thanks

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