‘The Bike Home’ – White Arkitekter improve cycle access in London

The London studio of White Arkitekter has been commissioned by Southwark Council to make street interventions to improve cycle access in the city of London. A prototype of the improvements ‘The Bike Home’ will be installed in Southwark to coincide with the conference ‘Transforming London Streets’ at Southwark Cathedral on 22-23 September 2016.

Read more about the conference here.

London has made huge investments in its cycling infrastructure over the last decade. The Santander bikeshare, Cycling superhighways, Quietways, and other programmes reflect a very keen interest in alleviating traffic and promoting a healthier, sustainable, inclusive, liveable city.  Given the scale of London and its constellation of many boroughs, those initiatives require great financial and political commitment.

Denmark and Sweden have made great strides in establishing a strong cycling culture through careful planning and activism over the last 50 years, but all of that success has been achieved in a much different context. How can White Arkitekter’s Scandinavian experience be of relevance to the already considerable efforts to make London a cycling utopia?

Local initiatives to strengthen the cycling culture 
Rather than attempting to influence the entire city of London with broad strokes of planning and infrastructure, we chose to look at improvements to the cycling culture from a more local and accessible perspective.  By engaging the local communities, we hope to encourage individuals to invest themselves personally in a cycling oriented lifestyle, where it becomes safer to ride, easier to move through the city, more secure to store your bike, and where people can experience the myriad of health benefits that come from active transport.

Creating a positive environment for cycles and cyclists requires collective effort. We forged a partnership with Copenhagenize, a group specializing in cycling urbanism, as well as the Borough of Southwark, a borough very active in promoting cycling, most notably through their development of the Southwark Spine. Copenhagenize previously initiated a campaign to ‘Treat the Cyclist’ where different elements like custom trash receptacles, foot rests for cyclists, etc. were installed around Copenhagen to make the experience more comfortable. Southwark similarly has made community engagement and participation a key component of their plan to foster a better cycling culture.  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 infrastructu e.

The Bike Home – a pilot project
There are an incredible number of places to park a cycle throughout the borough of Southwark, but in many cases the designated spaces lie in barren expanses of pavement, along inhospitable highways, besides trash bins, or in dark corners. We see bikes as more than just a tool, more than a vehicle, and certainly not a hindrance 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 pilot project where we hope to establish inhabitable places around existing bike parking facilities. Initially, we plan to establish brightly colored, brightly lit zones where bikes are celebrated and where people feel comfortable inhabiting parts of the street sale that was previously neglected. Elaborate ‘carpets’, painted by different designers and artists from the borough will fit under the bike racks. Chandeliers made of bike components will provide additional light and security, while emphasizing how much people value their cycles. Salvaged furniture will provide places to sit and socialize. Potted plants will help soften and freshen the urban environment.

Eventually, we expect to establish a chain of unique and permanent Bike Homes that protect bikes and promote greater accountability within each local community. Southwark aims to be the best place to live if you are a cyclist or bicycle.

Launch at Transforming London Streets Conference
The project will be launched at the Transforming London Streets Conference. Linda Thiel, Architect and Partner at White Arkitekter will be giving a keynote speech about a Scandinavian approach to cycling provision on 23rd Friday.


The Bike Home