Beyond Bike Lanes – Soothing Support Structures for Cyclists Passing Skanstull

September 18, 2018

Situation

“Action is not necessarily movement but is rather embodied in relationship, relative position and potential in organizations. Action is immanent in the disposition of an organization. There is no prescription for architecture, only a technique for performing it. Active forms design a disposition—a set of capacities for shaping space over time. Active forms are forms for handling forms”. – Keller Easterling ‘An Internet of Things’.

In Stockholm, measures are being taken to support the daily life of cyclists. Different parts of Stockholm are being more thoroughly connected through the widening of bike lanes and removal of car lanes. Every day, hordes of cyclists battle their way through the city, fighting other cyclists, cars and pedestrians. Some are on a quest, a mission to get somewhere within a certain time; some ride their bike for fun; some for recreation; some because they are drunk and want to get home from the bar. The intense and non-forgiving environment that is the inner-city traffic fosters the participants in this choreography to develop a thick skin. During rush hour and beyond, you are bound to focus on surrounding traffic to survive. Maintaining this focus for half an hour, which undoubtedly is a normal amount of time that Stockholmers spend on their bikes, for sure makes you tired.

But within this hectic situation there are small gems that can provide relief for participants. The separation of bike and car lane through a slight elevation of the bike lane, or, the provision of plastic poles every fifth meter, such as is the case on Götgatan between Folkungagatan and Ringvägen, is of course a relief if any. Still, this opens up for a behavior amongst some cyclists to bike even faster, thus creating more tension with those pedaling much slower.

If going south on Götgatan you’ll eventually end up at the crossing Ringvägen/Götgatan, the very heart of Skanstull. Here, all cyclists respect the traffic light as the crossing traffic is five lanes wide. For those five bikes ending up the closest to the stop light, the wait for green light is slightly more restful than for those further back. The subway station of Skanstull is situated just underneath and the ventilation outlet, a concrete structure with a metal mesh covering it, rises about 400 millimeter up from street level just next to and along the bike lane. The cyclists lines up next to it and positions their right foot on it, a varied and slightly more comfortable position to wait in. This outlet also serves as place to sit and wait, to meet at or locking your bike to. It’s undoubtedly just an object with one purpose, but, the agency it has for the actors in this crossing is strong. The outlet is a passive form, but active in its purpose both as ventilation outlet and as a resting point for bikers and pedestrians. This piece of architecture is welcoming in it’s ability to provide a humble service that isn’t part of its original purpose. Such an act radiates a kindness that temporarily calms down the stressful situation before the race cross the Skanstull bridge resumes.

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