Enabling change in our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE)

Cycle Space

Architectural & Urban Design in the Age of the Bicycle

Book Review by Tony Edwards, Woden SEE-Change member

Published 2013

By Steven Fleming

I loved this book. You should read it, especially if you are a motorist, because design for cyclists is coming and it would be good for motorists to see transport from the cyclists point of view. Motorists need to be involved as we seek to change paradigms away from car-centric cities to bike-centric design.

Fleming is a cool dude and you can’t help agreeing with the common sense of all he says.

The book publishing was crowd funded in 2012.

Steven Fleming was a Newcastle University architecture professor and a “cycling nut” who paid his way thru University by winning cycling races and now runs annual architecture study tours through Europe, so he does have ‘street cred’. He then ran a bicycle urbanism design studio at the University of Tasmania. Recently he’s doing the tours and Amsterdam office of Cyclespace where he now works and is a consultant internationally. He’s a bike nut!

This book examines the intersections of architecture, cycling and urban design, promoting the many benefits of urban cycling including health, reduced commuting times, reducing urban sprawl and reducing pollution.

He looks at cities with increasing bike use: New York, Chicago, Portland, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Budapest, Sao Paulo, Singapore and Sydney. London and Melbourne would have been good too but hey…

Fleming looks at how “brownfields” (old industrial sites) are converting to greenfields for pedestrians and posits that these are ideal cycling venues connecting us throughout cities – Bikefields.

He examines a variety of urban design solutions in these cities and proposes that urban planners everywhere radically change to incorporate cycling designs, even mass bike transport.

There are interesting new ideas: cycle underground tubes-one for each direction; multilane cycling lanes according to speed (like the local swimming pool); cyclist congregation hubs, like queerspace in New York for gays.

It’s not an easy flowing read and I found myself often having to re-read sections; puzzling over obscure references (architecture and design); getting caught up in his detailed discussions of features, styles and theories, cycling minutia, with lots of name dropping, mainly Le Corbusier (a famous urban planner). Almost every sentence is a new thought. It’s dense.

I feel that the book is conflicted between bike utopia and reality, but maybe that’s the point. He’s a catalyst for change, a true believer.

The Dutch and Danish stories cannot be easily replicated, given their unique political and social evolution.

The pragmatic approach is: we need to transform brownfields into cycle paths. An organic trend wherein cities have changing needs: democratic protection of cyclists; bikefield cyclepaths ‘predating’ roadways/easements/parks/wastelands; accommodating factions of highly motivated cyclists as in New York, Minneapolis and Portland. We need to stake out cycle space.

A cyclist risks loss of life while a motorist may loose minutes of commuting time.

Bring on bike utopia I say!

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