16 June 2009

Bermondsey Sq: London's coolest bike shed?

Southwark Cyclists ran a bike film night yesterday at Shortwave in Bermondsey Square. Shortwave is, like many upmarket refreshment booths in professional London, a steel'n'glass bar that sells premium foreign lagers requiring a twenty quid note and extended ASCII set. But it also has a cinema, cosily and conveniently set behind the main bar.

The films were entertaining, but more interesting is Bermondsey Square itself. The new development, a few hundred yards south of Tower Bridge, is a pleasant, social, humanised space, because they've kept bikes firmly in mind and cars out.

There's loads of bike parking, which has a high throughput of cyclists coming in and out to use the supermarket, hang out in the outdoor tables of the wine bars and restaurants, or have a snack on the benches amid the Euclidean solids adorning the groundspace. It's rather curious: half picnic, half 1978 Open University broadcast.

Bermondsey Square also has perhaps London's most upmarket bike shed (above right), which looks like some German architect's eco-Wendy-house.

Inside (right) are those sliding double-decker bike rack things they've just installed at Euston Station. The shed is for residents because there's no car parking, but we got special access for the night.

In contrast, just up the road is another similar square that feels utterly soulless and empty. No bike parking, and no bikes - unless you count the blank-faced people on stationary exercise bikes in the glass-walled gym, like shop-window automata.

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