Over at Dezeen I got to read a bit more about Norman Foster’s highly touted Sky-Cycle concept, and while I completely understand the appeal, it makes the kinds of mistakes that led to its conception in the first place. The problem, obviously, is London’s congested streets, and the immense danger cyclists face on these streets (RIP Mary Hansen, can’t believe its been 11 years), but separating them out and adding another hard layer of connectivity simultaneously ignores the real problem and neutralizes the actual benefits of cycling. Sure, there are “200 points of entry” onto the system, but in our current system, there are as many “points of entry” as there are places to mount a bicycle. To reduce the range of bicycles to 200 distinct point-to-point vectors simply turns bicycles into false cars, lacking the power and the speed as well as the flexibility and spatial improvisation that makes up for that lack of power and speed.
A real innovation would be a way to challenge and reorganize the spatial configuration of the shared surface, not simply peel off a layer that makes biking worse and cedes the ground to automobiles.
While the “Bridgegate” story contains multitudes, I do find the infrastructural angle pretty fascinating. While political bullying is nothing new, using and manipulating access infrastructure to cause discomfort, inconvenience, pain, and, if paramedics are correct, the death of at least one woman seems an especially nefarious piece of spatial aggression. Just as the revelations about the NSA have transformed the virtual space we use to communicate into a self-disciplining panopticon, this scandal certainly highlights the possibilities for a more direct kind of infrastructural discipline. While automobility has long been the avatar of American freedom, it also represents a kind of complete submission to centralized control, whether from the state agencies or private operators that provide the connective tissue necessary for it.
This is where a bit of writing may or may not exist in the future. We’ll see. Construction icon etc.