A perennial whine from architects in developed nations, is that no major funding is around for development. The reason aught to be obvious. The shift to the city was made decades ago, by their grandparents, so naturally any heirs to the wealth that ensued, would have few major projects to sink their teeth into, once they graduated as architects. Unless they are hungry enough to follow the cranes, to China or UAE, architects who stay home, must content themselves with whatever development, the developed world can flip their way.
But there are still some big projects in the 1st world. Writing last week in Salon, Will Doig points to 7 in the US, all largely brokered by government, and all likely to be catalysts for some serious building to follow. The state is putting up $17 million for a “brownfield-to-bikefield” urban park in Chicago. New York is about to be bombed with 600 bike share stations, and that’s just phase one. The Los Angeles River may soon be a river again, with a lot of the concrete ripped up, and bike paths flanking a more natural edge (ref pt 11). A whopping $3.1 billion is being spent in Seattle to bury a freeway for a new waterfront district, with all the benefits these have for cycling. Atlanta is turning its old rail corridors into a 22 mile “BeltLine” of parks and developments, all linked by bike paths.
That’s 5 of the big budget visionary projects, on Doig’s list of 7, representing a big win for cycling.
Are we just lucky, or are we makers of luck? Is cycling cheap to appease when a big project would have gone ahead anyway, or is it the sine qua non of a huge public project? If investors, stakeholders, and government departments are celestial bodies, could cycling be the invisible gravitational force, that gets them all spinning together?
Consider all the big players whose eyes light up at once, when they see artists’ impressions, that include cyclists (especially when those cyclists aren’t horn-locking with cars.) Anyone with an eye to the public health implications, emissions reductions, the problem of congestion, or a city’s ability to attract workers, are drawn to bike-friendly projects, like planets to suns.
Cyclists do moan. I moan as well. Prior to the rollout of all these recreational bike routes, coming to virtually every city, and around which the motivated among us will be able to organise bicycling lives, conditions on roads make us feel powerless. But while you’re watching your back for carless drivers, keep your eyes too, to the horizon. And be aware of the power cycling exerts on when it comes to funding brownfield renewal.