Architecture has historically had a difficult relationship with fashion, and, despite the challenges of the Urbis generation, it continues to perpetrate an image of consistent fundamentals, along with its younger siblings: Urban Design and Town Planning. Yet architecture is a cultural discipline, and it’s largely bought (line, hook and sinker) the whole consumer culture, and planned obsolence ideology in the best uncritical sense.
It’s perhaps no surprise then, just when the planet has been diagnosed with global warming and its accompanying mortality, and when issues of good urban design, the privileging of energy efficient modes of transportation such as cycling, tricycling, and walking, and the need to radically rethink what a city is (the part it has played in escalating planetary doom etc … ), that fashion offensiveness strikes high on the list of impediments to rethinking transport priorities in the city.
Yep – helmet hair and lycra.
The reasons, apparently, why people won’t cycle and why they hate cyclists. Recent examples of this underlying thinking have become explicit in discussions in the Listener and on National Radio (in response to Kim Hill’s interview with Tino Tabak). Peter Stevens (for example) notes that:
“In Cologne, cyclists usually wore street clothes (women wore frocks), and the speed of travel was languid. The cyclists looked happy, and were simply enjoying a healthy, open-air trip to work. Most of the bikes were quite new, but to our eyes looked old-fashioned … By comparison, cycling here seems more for exercise, with Lycra-clad, sunglass-wearing speedsters with tense, focused faces predominating, and the pace is frenetic.”
Poor NZ cyclists – someone needs to obviously free them from their battery-hen/lycra-chained existence. We want happy free-range cyclists … hopefully then we can have free-ranging and informed debate and action on the redesign of our cities – which is so desperately needed.