Sunday, 25 May 2008

What are Cycle Houses?

Bristol based architect George Ferguson has proposed the construction of a number of "cycle houses" alongside the Bristol & Bath Railway Path in Easton as part of the redevelopment of the Chocolate Factory. George, never one to understate things, describes this as a "world first" and a "groundbreaking proposal". So what exactly are "cycle houses" and what makes them so different to common or garden houses?

Looking at the plans, we see that these are basically 3 bedroom houses with ground level car parking, but with a bicycle store at 1st floor level, which in turn is linked directly to the Railway Path by a small bridge. Planting will create a green screen between the houses and the Path for privacy, but at the third floor level the living room and sun terrace will overlook the Path. Previous housing developments along the Path (e.g.
Clay Bottom, Brixton Road) have tended to turn their backs on the Path so this more Path oriented aspect is welcome.

But is this sufficient to justify calling these "cycle houses", let alone "groundbreaking" or "a world first"? It's not as if these houses forgo having their integral car parking spaces, nor is the development as a whole anything other than car oriented. And this at a time when the option of genuinely car-free housing is at last being discussed. What better location for car-free housing, alongside what is probably the best example of a high quality urban cycle/walkway in the country, giving easy, rapid access to the city centre and both local and main railway stations?

There is another reason for concern about this proposal. It appears from the plans that the cycle houses will encroach onto the Railway Path land, cutting into the lower section of the embankment. Could it be that the hype around these "cycle" houses is designed to persuade the public to accept this publicly owned land being taken for private development? Were the houses presented as nothing more than 3 bed houses with integral car parking (which is what they appear to be) public reaction to encroachment onto the Railway Path might be rather different.

(For follow up posts click


James Barlow said...

Will there be a free pair of red trousers with every residence?

(You didn't mention you had a blog)

Chris Hutt said...

Or a free pair of red lycra cycling shorts perhaps? Only just started with this blogging lark so still a bit hesitant about waving it under everybody's nose (the blog that is, not the cycling shorts).

sarah said...

There's another consultation day on the designs for the cycle houses (and the rest of the chocolate factory site) on 18/19 July at the Pickle Factory, All Hallows Road, Easton

Anonymous said...

Chris, your last paragraph sums it up all too clearly. Squarepeg think that if they chuck enough greenwash over this development that the Easton greenies will buy it hook line and sinker.

As yet, I don't think most people have cottoned on to just how bad the full impact of this land grabbing will be. These developers are going to end up turning this part of the cycle path into just another built up street, if they get their way.