For the past 3 years I have made it my business to keep watch for visionary architectural proposals that might advance cycling. Once every 2 or 3 months a conspicuously architectural bike shed will come along, or a computer render of a bike club with a velodrome on the roof, or something similar. But in the past month, there has been a huge spike.
Velo-City, the annual conference where politicians and city officials report on measures that have increased cycling in their own cities, is in the process of choosing 5 Cycling Visionaries to attend Velo-City for free. The self-nomination process has just closed, and now public voting begins.
I have a vested interest in the Urban Design category, having nominated my book Cycle Space for that award. When I did that a few months ago I was backing myself as a favourite. “Yay,” I was thinking, “I get to go to Vienna”. Hundertwasser, Coop Himmelblau, Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos… how could I have reached 45 and not yet been to Vienna!
But alas, my bubble has been burst. A rush of last minute entries has all but convinced me I might have to wait until 2014, before I bask in the intellectual hot tub that is Velo City. In 2014, it will be held close enough to where I live that I may be able to wrangle the funding to go; as academics it isn’t so easy getting funding to fly around the world for conferences with no peer reviewed publication.
While a few of the entries are so derivative I’ll know there’s no god if they win, some others are genuinely visionary and worthy of this award. Ride-to-Gather is my own personal favourite, for the way it drags out the full potential of floating bike paths on harbours. This is an idea I mention in passing in my city portrait on Sydney in Cycle Space, and that another Velo-City contender imagines might happen in Venice. Linus Cheng though takes the idea further again, in the context of Hong Kong.
Another entry called “Velotel” addresses a bee that has been in my bonnet for as long as architects have been designing “eco resorts”. Who cares if an eco resort turns its sewerage into edible fudge and supplies green power to native animals’ dens, if all the tourists have come via car? (I refer you to one of my many whiny blog posts on the topic of driving to country retreats). Here though, is a chain of hotels found along bike routes, with facilities that invite you to come by bike and not car.
In the urban design category, there are 55 entries in total. That’s enough to keep me stocked with schemes to critique on my blog for the next couple of months, by which time I hope so many architects have gotten aboard this vital bandwagon that I can no longer keep track.
Forget my selfish wish that you vote for me. Go check them all out for yourself. If you didn’t submit an entry this year, I hope you choose to enter something fantastic in 2014—don’t worry, I’ll be happy for you to beat me 🙂