Coming into the MFA program at UT Austin, I knew I wanted to apply design thinking frameworks to the arenas of transportation and community development, in order to create localized creative solutions to remove the barriers of personal bike transportation. Through investigations in each of my first semester seminars and studios, I’ve researched tangential topics ranging from gentrification, data visualization, creative place-making, neighborhood identity, equity of access, and psycho-geography.
This has led me to a struggle of how to a) weigh my own identity as a designer and a white male who has benefitted from cycling as a privilege, and b) imagine work-around solutions that don’t rely on municipal infrastructure investment. I’ve taken an ethnographic approach to try to learn specific details about neighborhoods in Hyde Park, Cherrywood, Rosewood, and East Austin, all of which have experienced growth with different impacts.
In my last few entries I’ve speculated on the idea of remapping a neighborhood by sensory experience, and designing a historic bike tour through neighborhoods. In a written piece Outside is Magic by John Stigloe, I connected his romance of bipedal exploration with Jane Jacobs celebration of the vernacular in Death and Life of Great American Cities. This led me to combine the idea of sensory mapping and historic neighborhood bike tours with the everyday and vernacular. What if community members, teamed up with representatives from bike advocacy groups, led a tour of other bike riders (along with elected officials) to showcase the idiosyncrasies of neighborhoods? Rather than focus on sublime architecture, a tour could pass by lesser known locations of historical context, an empty lot preparing to be transformed into a multi-story apartment building, or a house that has been passed down from generation to generation. Using a bike lane to highlight the symbols and products of gentrification could help change the perception of biking as a hostile metaphor to one of mobility and awareness.