From the outlandish SkyCycle, to the more sensible bike share system Santander Bikes, bicycle infrastructure in London repeatedly manages to grab international headlines while attempting to make for a more life-sized city. But with all these headlines, all the hype around unconventional solutions to a very simple problem, designers often lose site of the end user, the bicycle rider. Rather than aiming for a headline, how can good design recognise the end user? Even better, how can design appreciatively spoil the everyday cyclists of London?
Here in Copenhagen, the city has a long tradition of spoiling everyday cyclists. From the red light footrests, to bicycle butlers, people travelling by bike are reminded that they’re appreciated, that they’re an important component of a life-sized city. Now Copenhagenize Design Company and White Arkitekter are taking this mindset to the London Borough of Southwark with the pop-up pilot project, ‘Bike Homes’. Together we saw an opportunity to work parallel to the existing programs that are under development across London by focusing on establishing more inhabitable bike infrastructure.
As a first mover within London, the borough of Southwark provides ample onstreet bicycle parking facilities. But in many cases the designated spaces lie in barren expanses of pavement, along inhospitable highways, beside trash bins, or in dark corners. We see bikes as more than just a tool, more than a vehicle, and certainly not a hinderance to life in the city. It's time we treat bikes the way they deserve to be; it's time to give them homes.
The ’Bike Home’ installation is a pop-up pilot project for bikes among the existing bicycle facilities. Creating brighter and friendlier areas, where the bicycle is celebrated and where people feel comfortable in public spaces that were previously neglected. Artistic “carpets” painted by local designers and artists in the local area will be put into place under the bike racks. As the program expands, lighting made out of bike components will add brightness, a feeling of safety and highlight how much people appreciate their bicycles. Street furniture will provide a space for resting and socialising and flora will contribute to softening and freshening up the public space.
“All too often, architects have a habit of neglecting the public space around their buildings, so working with White Architects on a bicycle-oriented project in the public space like this, is very rewarding”, says Copenhagenize Design Co. CEO Mikael Colville-Andersen
When working with the Borough of Southwark with our Master Class in 2015, it was interesting to hear the borough’s desire to create a bicycle-friendly environment for all the citizens. They even lamented the fact that they are a through-road for the fast and furious cyclists roaring past to get across the river. They expressed a wish for their borough to be calmed with not only 20mph zones but also criss-crossed by best practice infrastructure to allow citizens to make their short trips, as well as commutes, safely and comfortably. Bike Homes represent another step in this direction.
The pilot project was launched at the Transforming London Streets Conference on September 22 at Southwark Cathedral. Eventually, we expect to establish a chain of unique and permanent Bike Homes that spoil the cyclists while connecting with local artists. Stay tuned as Bike Homes continue to pop up throughout Southwark.