The Shock of the New – Freeway

The freeway for the electric and hybrid car need not be the highway we are used to.There is no reason why it might not be encased in landscape when the view out is less than appealing: concrete noise barriers or the back of suburban areas or some of the more hostile industrial areas of our large cities.There is no reason why the drive to work need be monotonous…and why the landscape views might not be considered in the same way as a promenade through a garden. We should take advantage of what nature provides and the cultural landscapes we have created.

10 thoughts on “The Shock of the New – Freeway

  1. Robert Holden

    Dear Christine,

    One of the delights of railway travel is the view from the window. One of the delights of hand free robot car travel should be the view from the windscreen. Views of industrial areas can be sublime, VIews of concrete noise barriers would be better dealt with by making the concrete interesting, or using glass or green noise barriers. Expansive views are life embracing. Tunnel views are narrow or boring, whether the tunnel is green or grey.



  2. Christine

    Hi Robert, I am not an adovocate of tunnels….ie kilometres and kilometres long. [ ] No rather in am suggesting designing roads in the same way that landscape architects design paths for pedestrians within gardens – with consideration of the views and driving conditions.

    For example open to the natural views in these circumstances [ ] and [ ] and designed with greater aesthetic consideration in these circumstances [ ] and [ ] and [ ].

    True – industrial views can be sublime: if you have an eye like Jeffrey Smart!

    Here is a good tool for highway design! [ ]

    1. Tom Turner

      Definitely, travel should be an enjoyable experience. I like reading in trains but often remember Henry Moore’s advice that you should not do it because looking out of the window is such a wonderful visual experience. The ‘environmental’ thing to do is to encase roads in noise barriers which, even if they are glass, block views. Electric cars will result in less need for noise barriers but will not eliminate the need, because much of the noise comes from tyres and wind. I agree that drivers and train travellers should be given as good a visual experience as possible.

  3. Christine

    Hmmm. Australia and the US unlike the UK and Europe have a road trip culture (ie Thelma and Louise)[ ]. The closest similar experience in the UK and Europe is touring or the weekend country driving. But they are really very different phenomena because one is about long journeys and vast distances and the other is about visiting scenic towns which are close to each other via country lanes.

    What tends to result is that in Australia and the US being ‘on the road’ is regarded as enjoyable, whereas in Europe or the UK, you only want to be on the M1 to get to your destination in the quickest possible time.

    It is not a time for bonding, playing your favourite music and car games and generally embarking on adventure for what can be weeks or months at a time ‘on the road’!

    I am not saying that we should all have long trips to work, but rather if the in car experience is valued, road design would change…to be as scenic as a country lane and as enjoyable as a road trip!

    1. Tom Turner

      We do have a widespead ‘caravan culture’ in the UK but what you say about the M1 is true for the major part of the population. In fact it is often described as ‘Britain’s longest car park’. It is not a good experience and I wish we had relaxed roadside picnic places, as they do in France. American ‘parkways’ were designed for just the experience you describe. I would be in favour of switching to more of a rail-based transport system but for the attitudes of the (‘privatised’) habits the Train Operating Companies and of the railway unions. The problem is railways are a natural monopoly and monopolies are inherently bad for consumers. Last weekend I went for a cycle ride in a quiet area about 30 miles from London – and was delighed to see how many other cyclists had the same idea. After Barry Wiggins’ Tour de France win, the UK is becoming a cycling country.

  4. Christine

    Do you think the gypsy culture has influenced the UK in any way? Or is it largely marginal to the mainstream? [ ] Is there any relationship between these cultures and negative car travel perceptions in the UK?

    Did these groups immigrate to the USA and Australia? Have they influenced the car based cultures there? My perception was that the car cultures developed because of the vast distances and the founding Ford and Holden automotive industries as well as cheap gasoline/petrol. But perhaps there is more to it than that?

    The road trip was the genesis of the architectural type the Motor Inn or Motel [ ] and it was the accessibility by road that led to the hyper development of the Gold Coast as a tourism destination. [ ] Robin Boyd’s Black Dolphin Motel was highly influential in the development of the new architectural type. [ ]

    It is sometimes necessary to travel to premier cycling events like the Tour Down Under [ ] by car [ ]

    Perhaps there needs to be roadside facilities that suit the lifestyle [ ]and pace [ ] of the cycle tourist that is a little more permanent and comfortable? [ ]

    1. Tom Turner

      I am very sad about the decline of nomadism in Europe and the gypsies have surely contributed to it. There used to be lots of places where one could camp for the night without being kicked off the land. Now, everyone is worried about gypsy encampments becoming semi-permanent and so they rush to evict strays. I think the gypsies have brought this upon themselves, and on the rest of us, by often-but-not always bad behaviour. They make a terrible mess of the land they occupy and they indulge in higher-than-average petty crime.
      Re British road travel, I just think the country is not big enough. If a Londoner is an early riser, as I am, then it is easy to be in Scotland for lunch. Fifty ago the journey would have taken two days.
      Re how did the planners resist the temptation, if I have read the photo correctly, to build a seafront corniche? I love those garden-type areas running into the sands.
      Re bike-racks, I think there is a case for making cars with a built-in compartment for a folding bike, much as they do for spare tyres. I see cycling as an adjunct to other transport systems (rail, flight, car etc) as well as being an independent transport mode. There are no physical problems with taking a folding bike on a plane but getting it through airports IS a hassle. I find myself reaching the check-in desk with technical and mental attitude of the marine corps. The man in your photo needs to improve his packing skills But I would be happy about this photo if the skyways were for commuter cycling

  5. Christine

    Hmmm. I am not much in the know about the gypsie culture in Europe, but it is a shame that there is not some way of accommodating this lifestyle while reducing the petty crime aspects and the fear of encampments becoming permanent. Perhaps the loss of the commons with the laws of enclosure was an historic turning point for the gypsy culture?

    The reason the seafront corniche didn’t eventuate was that the Gold Coast was always a beachside holiday mecca – so it was people on the sand first – rather than cars. The Gold Coast did have its own version of the corniche [ ], but it also had a sense of a very modern future as early as the 1950s. [ ]

    Yes, to compartments in cars for folding bikes and for the ability to take folding bikes on trams, trains and planes. Any advice on improving the cyclists packing skills. Yes, also to creating another High-line [ ] for cyclists and pedestrians in the last photo as you say. Great idea for adaptive re-use of poorly designed freeways!

    1. Tom Turner

      I feel very bitter about the 17th to 19th century losses of common land. But they teach us a lesson about the different interests of governments and peoples. ‘By the people, for the people’ is a good slogan but the truth is that there the two sets of ‘people’ (governments and voters) have different interests. Cities need to find ways of getting ‘ordinary people’ more involved in decision making. I like the idea of having ‘City Fathers and Mothers’ who are appointed for their wisdom. It would be safer to give them a right to be consulted, rather than a right to decide, but they should have access to documents and budgets for commissioning research, organising competitions etc etc.
      Getting back to the gipseys (and Western Europe has many more of them since Romania joined the EU) I to not think common land would be any use to them. They have made themselves so unpopular that the commoners want nothing to do with them. This has in fact been the problem with nomads since the first settlements took place. The ‘right to roam’ is much older than the ‘right to settle’ and the roamers always had a ‘right to forage’. They continued to exercise this right, in the manner of Ghengis Khan, until they became a minority. Now they seem destined to follow the Neanderthals. Settlers cannot allow a right to forage.

  6. Christine

    Yes, I am for city mothers and fathers too, although the balance between consultation and decision-making is a delicate one.

    Many things that should get built may not, and may things that shouldn’t get built may. Of course I am thinking of projects like the Eiffel Tower which were unpopular at their inception, but today it would be unimaginable to think of Paris without.

    There is an aspect of vision and risk taking in design and city planning that is essential – but at the same time there is an undeniable wisdom in the crowd – that it is very prudent to test your projects against.

    Gypseys seem to have been unpopular for a long time, since the 1500s by some accounts, but they cannot be all bad. The first Australian born premier of NSW James Squire Farnell was of Romany descent, the grandson of a first fleet convict, James Squire of who had been sentenced as a convict both to America (but instead served in the army) and Australia, where he finally made good as a brewer and resident district constable.

    Perhaps with being granted land on emancipation made all the difference?


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