28 March 2017

Berlin - A New Hope


This article is written by Copenhagenize Design Company's former urban planner, Leon Legeland. Originally from the least bicycle friendly city in Germany, Wiesbaden, he has lived, studied and worked in Vienna, Malmö, Copenhagen and currently Berlin. He has a master in Sustainable Urban Management and is recently finished his second masters in Sustainable Cities here in Copenhagen. He now works in Berlin.

Last year we covered the state of cycling in Berlin. It's time for an update. Berlin has a quite ambitious bicycle strategy and the city administration, on some level, understands that urban cycling improves the quality of life and that it needs to be promoted and supported. However, the construction of adequate cycling infrastructure and the redesign of intersections has failed to follow the tremendous increase in cycling rates over the past couple of years. Progress is painfully slow and there is little Best Practice design.

The people of Berlin seem to understand the benefits of cycling, rates are sky rising and people demand more action from the political power through a referendum.

Our blog post from April landed right in the middle of the heated debate around cycling in the German capital. We flattered the group behind the cycling referendum and we annoyed the senate with provocations about their lack of action in making Berlin a more bicycle friendly city. So let us revisit the situation in Berlin.

Thanks to the political pressure and activism of the cycling referendum group Volksentscheid Fahrrad, cycling became a key issue during the election campaigns in past elections in September 2016. Consequently, the political powers had to incorporate the goals of the cycling referendum in their political agendas, due to the unique nature of the Berlin laws. We have to praise the cycling referendum group once again for their activism and dedication to the topic. Their way of communication and organisation can be an example for bicycle activism all over the world. Just remember who to thank when you're riding your bike safely and smoothly in a couple of years. It's this group of ordinary people who fought for their right to space in their city.

But one step at a time, we're not there yet. There is, however, hope! Berlin is moving. The newly-elected coalition of Social Democrats (SPD), Green Party (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) and the Socialists (Die Linke) agreed in their coalition treaty on the implementation of a mobility law by Spring 2017. This mobility law is expected to be the most progressive mobility concept in all of Germany and it certainly has some promising goals and objectives. Even some of the most pessimistic cycling activists are rubbing their eyes in disbelief that this is actually happening. So what does it say?

First, the cycling law, which was developed by the activists around the cycling referendum Volksentscheid Fahrrad, forms the fundamental basis for the future of mobility planning in Berlin. Meaning a redistribution of road space in favour of cycling and provision of bicycle infrastructure are key issues of the new coalition plan. The following examples are all taken from the new coalition treaty and will be implemented in a mobility law. Take a deep breath and dream of a bright and shiny future.

  • The city will invest in bicycle infrastructure along all main roads with a cycle lane width of two metres. 
  • Additionally, a network of cycling streets where drivers have to yield and cyclists enjoy priority, will be developed on side-streets.
  • Dangerous intersections will be redesigned with improved safety for pedestrians and bicycle users. Bicycle highways with a total length of 100km will be constructed. 
  • The city is already testing green waves for cyclists and is willing to expand the system on more arterial roads. 
  • Bicycle parking will be improved with more bike racks throughout the city and large bicycle parking garages close to all main train stations. 
  • Berlin will test and implement green arrows on intersections allowing bicycle riders to turn right on a red light. Something being tested in Copenhagen and already in place in Belgium and France.
As if that weren't enough, the city agreed on another prestige project to show their change in traffic planning paradigm. From 2019 cars will be banned from Berlin's 60 metre wide boulevard Unter den Linden and it'll be transformed into a large space for flaneurs and cyclists. The only vehicles that will be allowed are buses, taxis and diplomatic cars. It is open for discussion whether this boulevard is the right one for a pedestrian friendly transformation and it remains to be seen how the space will be designed and used or what effects it'll have on the surrounding streets, but the symbolic significance is undeniable. Further, the extension of the Autobahn 100 will be stopped at Treptower Park and won't continue under the river Spree. The insanity of a ring road Autobahn is, for now, on ice.

This German cycling utopia will be financed with an annual investment of 51 million Euro, starting in 2018. Just remember the current annual budget per person on bicycle infrastructure is 3,5€. This will increase to approximately 15€ per year per person. Five times more. Thus, Berlin is finally getting to the same level as other European cities and their investments in bicycle infrastructure. The difference is that Berlin already has a mainstream bicycle culture and high modal share of 18% compared to cities like Paris, London or the black hole of urban cycling in Europe, Madrid. So if the infrastructure follows up to the rising cycling shares, even more people will start moving around by bike.

All this sounds fantastic and we're wondering if it's just a lot of hot air to please the voters in the beginning of the electoral period. Can the city realise all their proposed plans and actions? If you look at the bicycle strategy from 2012 it is full of ambitious plans and states similar goals as the new mobility law. However, the difference that the goals are implemented in a mobility law increase the likelihood of realisation since it is a binding law for the municipal administration.

Nevertheless, the bicycle activists from the cycling referendum are a little reserved with their enthusiasm about the new mobility law. They see it as a huge step forward, but they will continue fighting for even tighter commitment to cycling. We were lucky to meet the two activists Peter Feldkamp and Tim Birkholz for a brief interview. They explained that the group around the cycling referendum is missing a measurable quantification of the new mobility law. In contrast to their developed Cycling Law, the mobility law does not have a clear time plan and assigned obligations. Further the quality and design of the infrastructure is not defined, which is for us at Copenhagenize Design Co. the key to get people on bikes.



Berlin, and Germany in general, suffers from a strong lobby for vehicular cycling, meaning these people think that cyclist belong on the road in the flow of cars and in accordance with the principles of riding a car. The dominance of painted lanes in Berlin and all over Germany shows this. A clear separation with a curb, parked cars or some sort of other physical protection still faces criticisms and is rarely built. The cycling referendum group claims a design standard for the construction of bicycle infrastructure and they look, no surprise, to Denmark and the Netherlands. In comparison to their developed Cycling law, the mobility law by the senate does not have a design standard for the quality of the bicycle infrastructure.

From the leader of traffic department of Berlin, Burhard Horn, who we met for a brief interview, we heard that painted lanes are considered as bicycle infrastructure, also in the new mobility law. So, they will be implemented, even on main roads with heavy traffic. However, the city is currently planning a pilot project to test physically protected bicycle lanes on one of Berlin's main roads. Thanks to the political pressure of the group Fahrradfreundliches Neukölln it could be Karl-Marx-Straße which is currently a terrible and dangerous ride

In our last blog post we stated that most of the painted bike lanes in Berlin are 80cm wide. We have to correct this, they are wider, 1.5m to 2m. We're sorry for the mistake! But cycling in the dooring zone of parked cars to your right makes them feel like 80cm. You're always a little scared a door might open and the 1.5m width does not help you if a car uses the lane to park in a second row.

The city painted a lot of them over the past decade to give cyclists their much-needed space, but now it's time to move to the next level. Yes... best practice. We're happy that even the vehicular cycling driven ADFC now changed their mind-set and finally get it that protected bike lanes are a crucial and needed infrastructure. Let's hope Berlin is not doing more baby steps in making the city more bicycle friendly.

Another remaining issues is the lack of qualified personnel that can take over the task of transforming Berlin into a bicycle friendly city. The current institutions seem completely overstrained with missing and qualified planners that mediated between all relevant actors. An example for the catastrophic situation in the Berlin administration came up this fall. For 13 years a bicycle lane along Skalitzer Straße has beens planned, approved and more than needed, but the involved actors, the senate, the district, the public transit operator, construction companies and the crucial player who is supposed to steer the traffic planning can't get their shit together and start constructing. In this case it is even only a painted lane.

As a reaction to the chaotic planning status the city wants to start a city owned planning institution that has the overview about current bicycle planning and construction activities. Further, a cycling alliance between the ADFC, the cycling referendum group, the districts and the public transit organisation is formed. However, they still need planners, engineers and designing taking over the task and actually redesign the roads in Berlin and then finally build the infrastructure.

Finally, the newly approved budget for cycling infrastructure will be in place from 2018 and the newly formed administrations and municipal planning departments are reforming after the elections. It'll take some time that things happen but Berlin is moving towards the right direction! For now we look really optimistic in the future.

We'll keep you updated…

21 February 2017

Malmö's Bicycle House is Open - Cykelhuset OhBoy

Photo © Jennie Fasth

Jennie Fasth is a cyclist, bicycle advocate and freelance writer based in Malmö, Sweden. She is currently a student at the University of Lund, studying geographic information systems. She is working towards her Masters degree in urban planning. This article of hers was first published on the Swedish website HappyRide.se and is republished here on Copenhagenize.com with permission.

OhBoy - The Swedish Bicycle House is Open
by Jennie Fasth

On 23 October 2015, the first sod was turned for what would become the first "cykelhus" - or "bicycle house" in Sweden. The development is named OhBoy and is located in the Western Harbour (Västerhamn)  of the City of Malmö. Tenants have now gradually started moving in. What does the Bicycle House look like? Who are the residents and what do they think about their new and unique building? I decided to find out.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

All 55 apartments are rented out and there is no doubt that bike-minded people were among the first to move in. Not all moving vans have arrived just yet, but there is no shortage of bikes. Along the access walkways, there are many regular bikes and cargo bikes. The bicycle garage is a beehive of activity, as well.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

There are bicycles on every floor and, unlike traditional apartment buildings, bikes are more than welcome on the access coridors. The railings are reinforced and extra space has been designed in, allowing for wider bikes to fit - without conflicting with fire regulations.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

Bicycle Pool and Cargo Bikes

Although tenants start to arrive there remains a lot to do on the house. Three places to tinker with bikes, will be available shortly, two outdoor and one in the basement. These will be provided with tools for residents to borrow. Tenants will also have access to a bicycle pool and three of the custom-made bikes arrived just the other day - from Danish DIY cargo bikemakers XYZ Cargo.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

The architecture bureau Hauschild + Siegel has designed, built and will manage the Bicycle House. They spent a great deal of time finding solutions to make the building as bicycle-friendly as possible. The bicycle pool is no exception. In order to maximize the comfort for residents living car-free, they have ordered bikes from XYZ Cargo in Copenhagen. In addition to the traditional three-wheeler cargo bike, residents can borrow both a kindergarten cargo bike with room for six children and a bicycle taxi with room for two passengers. Even some folding bikes have been ordered.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

These cargo bikes will have a separate parking area under a roof and next to the car park and the bike washing facility. After consulting with a landscape architect, an environmentally-friendly system has been developed. The traditional oil separator will be replaced with plants that will act as a filter in the cleaning process. Environmental considerations are consistent in the vegetation, the environmentally-friendly building materials and solar panels.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

Bikes - Access All Areas

The kindergarten bike and the bike taxi are extra wide, but the building is designed for them. All doors are 10 cm wider than normal, which makes it possible for the residents to take their bike anywhere in the building. Even right up to their apartment door if necessary. In addition, every door is equipped with a door opener for easier access.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

The architects have also thought about that all important turning radius in stairwells. Wider than in traditional apartment buildings. The bikes also fit easily into the elevators, which are wider and deeper than normal.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

It is easy to understand why the access walkways are teeming with cargo bikes. It is so easy to take them with you up to your apartment. The residents don't have to unload the bike and then carry everything up to the apartment. This ease-of-use could not be easier.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

You don't need to stop at the front door. The apartments are designed so that bikes can be wheeled right to your fridge, if you so desire. The apartment doors are also 10 cm wider than the norm. The kitchens are designed by Finnish company Puustelli and consist of cabinet doors in glazed birch (gray and white in most apartments) and the countertops are Finnish granite. All units are fitted with induction stoves, convection ovens, dishwashers and a washing machine.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

The open floor plan provides plenty of opportunities to decide for yourself how you want to design the accessibility in your apartment. Interestingly, the walls and ceilings are concrete and it is not allowed to paint them. Picture frams and curtain solutions are provided by the building administrators. You'll need permission to drill in the concrete walls.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

Regardless of which door the residents use to enter the building, bikes are thought into the design. All doors are wider and the elevator opens at front and back so you never need to turn your bike around.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

Post boxes are available at the entrance and accommodate both large and small post. The idea is that the residents can shop from home - as so many people do - but also to make it easy to recieve packages. In addition to the cargo bikes, there is also a car share program included in the apartment.

A Car-Free Life

It is totally possible to just wander around the entire building all day and study all the cycling options and details. There are small touches everywhere that are part of the big picture in a building designed for people who have chosen a car-free life. We were able to meet some of the residents to hear why they moved into Bicycle House.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

Ola Fagerstrom is an avid cyclist with many bike kilometres behind him. He has a cargo bike, a cyclecross and a mountain bike in his collection. He worked for a year at Danish cargo bike brand Larry vs Harry in Copenhagen, so it's no surprise that a Bullitt cargo bike was the one he chose. You'll see Ola whizzing around on it in Malmö. He sold his car two years ago and hasn't any reason to buy a new one.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

Moving to the Bicycle House has only been a positive experience. Ola's son, Malte, used to have t ride 10 km a day to get to school in Western Harbour, and now has a much shorter journey.  Ola enjoys the area's industrial feel and calm streets. He likes not having a building across the street and the view of Stapelbädds Park is harmonic, he says. Although there is still construction noise in the building, it is still very quiet. It is impossible to hear the local skate park or the traffic nearby.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

Ola's bike expertise has been harnessed by the building's community and he has had the opportunity to take part in both the purchase of tools for the workshops and the bikes for the bicycle pool. Even though it has only been a few weeks since he moved in, Ola is thriving. He thinks it is fantastic to smoothly roll his fully-loaded Bullitt cargo bike into the elevator and park outside his front door.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

The next resident we meet is Johanna Ekne. She lives and works in the building and will be responsible for the coming Bicycle Hotel and while the decision to move here was work-related, it was the design of the place that sold it to Johanna. Her family innovative thinking and a building dedicated to cycling felt right.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

Moving boxes are not yet emptied and there is much to be done but Johanna loves it. The apartment is very different that the old house in Möllevången where she moved from, which had four flights of stairs and no lift. The family also had problems finding space for their bikes. Today, the bikes are parked outside their flat, which Johanna thinks is brilliant.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

The family kept their car during the move but now have plans of selling it. Something Johanna looks forward to. "It will be great. Everything is easier by bike".

Photo © Jennie Fasth

The family lives at the top of the building and the apartment has two levels. Each apartment on the 6th and 7th floor has a spacious terrace that will  eventually be fitted with green barriers and flower boxes to provide some privacy.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

For the residents who don't have a large terrace, the view can be enjoyed from the roof terrace. An orangery is being built and all vegetation will be in place by April 2017.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

The Bicycle Hotel

Moving boxes are still arriving in a steady flow and most residents are expected to move in by the time the Bicycle Hotel opens. March 1. 2017 is the date that the 32 apartments on the ground floor will be ready for guests.

Photo © Jennie Fasth

Bedrooms and bathrooms are on the ground floor and a kitchen and living room with work area are located upstairs. Guests have their own entrance with a little garden outside and, during the stay, will have free access to bikes. The reception will be on the ground floor of the building but the idea is that hotel guests will check in on their own. A communal laundry will also be included at the reception.

The hotel apartments are aimed both at those who want to stay longer and those who are just looking for a short term accommodation for the purpose of, for example, looking for work. All apartments are equipped with a desk and chair and free internet access.

Graphic © Hauschild + Siegel

Many amazing things are happening in Malmö's Western Harbour related to urban cycling. Several property owners are trying to reduce the number of cars and promote cycling, as well as generally making life easier in the area without a car.

None of them, however, have gone to the lengths as Hauschild + Siegel and the Bicycle House Ohboy. This will hopefully be the start of an urban trend where expensive (to build) car parking can be replaced with investment in sustainable living and environmentally-friendly mobility.

30 January 2017

Bike Helmets - Something Rotten in the State of Denmark



I took part in a radio debate last week. Four guests and a journalist. In that forty-five minutes, I experienced a number of things including, but not limited to, the anti-intellectualisation of our society, emotional propaganda, alternative facts, manipulative and selective choice of facts, The Culture of Fear and the negative branding of cycling.

You might expect I was on American or Australian radio. Nope. I was a 12 minute bike ride from Copenhagenize Design Company’s Copenhagen office - at Denmark’s national broadcaster, DR, on their flagship radio channel P1 Debat.

The occasion was a debate about bike helmets. The week before, a Danish media personality, Mads Christensen, tossed out a remark on a television programme about how he let his kids decide for themselves, at the age of eight, if they wanted to wear a bike helmet or not. His comments were simply based on rationality about real or percieved dangers in society. Nevertheless, they generated a great deal of debate on social media. A journalist and radio host, Bente Dalsbæk (The Journalist), decided to allocate 45 minutes to the subject.

Mads Christensen (The Rationalist) was there, of course. Also invited were Klaus Bondam (The Bike Advocate), head of the Danish Cyclists’ Federation; Torben Lund Kudsk (The Motorist), head of the Danish car lobby NGO, FDM; and yours truly.

I don’t often engage in discussions about bike helmets in Denmark and try to avoid them in other regions. I feel that it distracts from our work at Copenhagenize Design Company in designing infrastructure for cities. Like Chris Boardman - former pro-cyclists and policy advisor at British Cycling has said on BBC.com, "You're as safe riding a bike as you are walking," (a helmet is) "... not in the top 10 things you can do to keep safe."
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29894590

I did this TED x talk in 2010 about The Culture of Fear related to bike helmets in order to NOT have to talk about it all the time.


This article by Howie Chong entitled Why it Makes Sense to Bike Without a Helmet is also well worth a read.


What has shocked me is that the debate about helmets is at such a primitive level in this country. Even in hard-core helmet promotion regions elsewhere in the world, I can engage in discussions at a much higher level. The hysterical social media reaction to comments like those by Mads Christensen would be balanced by people aware of science and practicing rationality. Not so here in Denmark. The reactions were overwhelmingly hysterical and ignorant. Not to mention completely unworthy of a well-educated nation like Denmark.

The 45 minute interview started with context, where The Rationalist explained his side of the story. He repeated his statement about rationality and risk assessment. When mountain biking the woods, he and his kids wear helmets. When cycling to the shops in the world’s safest bicycle nation or whatnot, he doesn’t and he allows his kids to make their own call. Sounds like an intelligent approach.

Like almost everywhere else, kids have a higher risk of head injury in cars and in playgrounds and for adults, cars pose the greatest risk followed by being a pedestrian, being at home, gardening, etc.




Yes, life remains dangerous, although we live in a safer society than at any other point in the history of homo sapiens. The Culture of Fear, however, is the bogeyman. We can still construct fear of anything - including cycling. And wherever we can scare people, there are products to be sold to them.

After The Rationalist outlined his point of view in the radio debate, The Journalist started to gather points of view, starting with The Bike Advocate. Klaus Bondam stated his organisation’s standard position. They strongly recommend helmets but are against legislation to make them mandatory. I pointed out that The Bike Advocate is the head of the only national bicycle NGO in Europe that actively promotes helmets.

It was then my turn to present my point of view. How science should be respected, how manipulating selective facts is fundamentally wrong. I did what I could with the short answering time allocated to me by The Journalist but I could see early on in the interview that it was rigged in favour of The Culture of Fear. Which made it a loooong 45 minutes.

All the strategy for one-sided debate was present. The Journalist threw out a statistic about how 60% of head injuries could be avoided with a helmet. No, not 60% of ALL head injuries - she only meant bike crashes. The Bike Advocate threw out another select statistic. With the looks on their faces when they did so, you really sensed that they felt they were nailing the debate.

The Journalist didn’t bothering questioning the statistic or the context of it in order to provide the listeners with a bigger picture. The Bike Advocate looked all pleased with himself at being able to quote a researcher name and the year of the study. While science is under fire in Trump’s America, there is another category that is equally detrimental to any debate. The One Study Argument. Just cast one study that produced one statistic into the debate and wham. You are portrayed as an expert. People who don’t know more about the subject have no response. Pity those poor fools. Let them bask in the glory of your One Study Argument greatness.

 That is not how science works, however. The bigger picture is more important.

Why is the debate at such a primitive level here in one of the world’s great cycling nations? The answer is simple. Lack of information - or rather a strictly controlled and manipulated information flow. In the Danish context, we must examine the tightly controlled information flow. Like you, wherever you are whilst reading this, we have a road safety NGO in Denmark. They call themselves The Danish Road Safety Council - Rådet for Sikker Trafik (The Safety Nannies).

Via Yehuda Moon - http://yehudamoon.com/

This NGO is the puppet master controlling the flow of information about bike helmets. They have mastered the art. By doing so, they also contribute to the anti-intellectualisation of Danish society. They select one or two studies that adhere to their strict ideology and present it like the word of god to the masses. If individuals question it, the stats are merely repeated. The “60%” stat that The Journalist found and presented in the studio is their current one commandment carved in a stone tablet. It originates with the Norwegian Transport Economic Institute (TØI) and dates from 2004. It is perfect for them. It is a Scandinavian source from a fancy-sounding institute. Ironically, TØI has published other helmet-related studies since then and few would fit Sikker Trafik’s ideology. Better to ignore them and stick to the stat that works.

You don’t need to explain WHY climate change is a hoax. You just have to repeat it ad naseum. Much the same communication strategy as The Safety Nannies employ and hand off to lazy journalists and pundits. It is a sad, flawed strategy that only fans the flames of anti-intellectualisation in any society but if you look at it, it is a brilliant strategy from a communication point of view.

The Safety Nannies started their bike helmet promotion in the early 1990s in Denmark. Since then, cycling levels have continued to fall, which is what we have seen in many regions around the world. Danes are cycling more than 30% less today than in 1990. (If we got that 30% back, we could save over 1500 lives a year because of the health benefits of cycling, according to Professor Lars Bo Andersen of University of Southern Denmark, the most published academic about the health benefits of cycling)

The positive aspects of having a cycling population are rarely presented in the current debate in Denmark. They are not sensationalist enough for journalists, apparently. In the middle of the interview The Journalist held up a printed out photo that she harvested from Facebook of a woman with a head injury. It was like a image version of the One Study Argument. “See?! Look at THAT...” End of debate. Showing photos of tens of thousands of people lying in hospital beds suffering from lifestyle illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, etc, due to inactivity is considerably less glamorous and have no place in sensationalist journalism.

Another old chestnut was presented in the studio. 17,000 people visit a hospital each year as a result of a bike crash. I tried to put that number into context. The average in Denmark is 20,000, so I had calculated based on that number.

If 18% of the population of Denmark ride a bicycle to and from work or education each day, that is 1,008,000 trips a week, Monday to Friday. Multiply that by 300 work days a year and you get 302,400,000 trips by bike. We’re not even including the trips to the supermarket, cafe, cinema, etc.

If 20,000 trips end in a crash and a hospital visit, that means you have, in Denmark, a 0.0066138% chance of crashing and going to the hospital. The vast majority of those injuries are minor and the person in question is back on a bike in, at the most, a couple of days. Motorists, by the way, end up in hospitals much longer when they get injured in their preferred mode of transport.

According to the City of Copenhagen who endeavour to battle this Bicycle Misinformation War whenever they can, I have to cycle to work for 2800 YEARS before I get injured.

So where was The Bike Advocate during this onslaught of manipulation and alternative facts? Was he deftly and professionally countering all the arguments about cycling being dangerous? You would hope so. He was, however, all over the map, sending conflicting messages about cycling.

The Safety Nannies broadcast the number of 20,000 cyclists visiting hospitals to anyone who will listen. They are not content with that, however. They invented “mørketal” - or “dark numbers” as a way of further constructing fear about cycling. Cyclists also get hurt but DON’T visit the hospital and those dark numbers are an unknown. Yes. Cyclists who ARE OKAY and who have bandaids in their home after a minor mishap are now being used in the massive branding of cycling as an undesirable transport form.

The Bike Advocate presented the listeners with this concept of dark numbers. Instead of defending cycling from the onslaught, he helped polish the rifles and load the ammo. A little later, he threw in a mix of neutral and positive angles to confuse anyone who was listening. There was no clear agenda from Denmark’s national cycling NGO. They refuse to acknowledge what most other cycling NGOs in Europe know - that merely promoting helmets is detrimental to cycling levels.


Personally, I am sceptical when shopkeepers promote helmets. The Cyclists’ Federation has a bike shop. Several people in the industry cancelled their memberships back in the day when they opened a shop. The criticism was that an NGO for cycling should not promote one product over the other and remain neutral.

In another twist, we still have emails in our archives from late 2007 and early 2008 when The Safety Nannies started their hardcore, emotional propaganda about bike helmets. What tipped it for them was that they convinced the Cyclists’ Federation to get on board. Colleagues from our industry informed me that the latter were promised influence and access to future funding if they joined the helmet brigade. They continue to deny this to this day.

In Denmark, everything started with The Safety Nannies and their manipulated alternative facts are largely unchallenged by a society slowly dumbing down. Trump didn’t invent Trumpism, he just excels at it. Trump is merely a product of societal development. The same techniques are present everywhere. Interestingly, like Trump, The Safety Nannies in Denmark do not like being contradicted. They have actually spent time emailing journalists in Denmark and abroad about… me. Engaging in attempted character assassination with journalists and editors. Trying to discredit me. It is amusing. It only helps getting science printed and distributed. It also shows that their case is weak. You don’t go to all that effort if you are confident in what you are saying.



Current helmet wearing rates in Copenhagen are at 11%.

As we have come to expect, the debate also featured comments about “doctors and nurses say that...” Yet another technique in the debate. Who can doubt a medical professional?! They fail to realise that while those doctors and nurses excel at fixing people, they receive information about prevention from the same sources as everyone else. The one-way communication street from The Safety Nannies sends the same manipulated facts to doctors and nurses, too. Trust the medical professionals to make you better. Doubt the sources of their prevention advice. And notice that it is the trauma staff who get the best press. The doctors caring for those with lifestyle illnesses never get the same spotlight.

The debate wandered into cyclist behaviour and the others agreed readily that “something has happened… cyclists are behaving more badly than ever before”. This is as amusing as it is wrong. Cyclist behaviour is largely unchanged for at least 120 years. There are countless articles, letters to the editor and editorials about cyclist behaviour over the past century. Not least this satirical piece by Denmark’s most loved satirist, Storm P..

Perhaps it is time to realise that cyclist behaviour can only be changed if we stop forcing them to adhere to traffic rules and traffic culture designed to serve the automobile. We sending badminton players to play with ice hockey rules. It has never worked so it is time to think differently.

We have shown time and again with our Desire Line Analyses that behaviour among our cycling citizens is fine. Only 5% of cyclists smash through the traffic rulebook. Which is on a par with pedestrians and motorists.

A recent poll in Denmark outlined how ignorance of a topic can have dangerous consequences. This is a society where The Safety Nannies have a monopoly on the information about cycling. Danes were polled about whether they want a helmet law. A majority said yes. You don’t get that result in many places anymore due to the balance of information in the debate. Except in Denmark. The Safety Nannies and The Bike Advocate have been pushing helmets hard. Now they are under fire for not supporting a bike helmet law. They have shot themselves in the foot.

It was a tough room. Countering emotional propaganda with an arsenal of science and rationality is difficult. I was in the line of fire as the others did what they could to continue this branding of cycling in Denmark as dangerous, using all the techniques we know from around the world. I tried to highlight facts like the Australian government’s study about motoring helmets, but to no avail. I just hope some listeners got the point.

I didn’t get to industrial design, unfortunately. People have been led to believe that a bike helmet can withstand a meteor strike. They have never been informed that a helmet is designed to protect the head in non-life threatening, solo accidents under 20 km/h. Or that helmets are tested in simulations that resemble a pedestrian falling - which makes them perfect for… pedestrians and people in their home.

"A walking helmet is a good helmet"

Nor did I get to say that most serious head injuries are not a result of a lateral impact, but rather a rotational impact. Something bike helmets cannot deal with.

Sigh.

More people drown in Denmark each year than die in bicycle crashes. There is a missed financial opportunity there. Let’s pass laws making life vests mandatory within 2 metres of water. 35,000 Europeans die each year in cars. Think of the money to be made if we imported these from Australia (it is a real product).

It was a depressing debate session in that radio studio. Daily Mail tactics from The Journalist. Vague, conflicting and confusing messaging from The Bike Advocate. The Rationalist had his say, which helped, but at the end of the day, the sheeple will lean towards the strong-flowing current of misinformation from The Safety Nannies.

You may recall that The Motorist was in the room, too. He didn’t say much. He didn’t need to. Would you? You have a national radio program completely trashing your main competitor. Car sales are at a four year high in Denmark. Just stand there and let them do it.

I cycled back to the office and continued to work on our projects with cities who want to copenhagenize themselves. We’ll keep on keeping on. Designing their networks and infrastructure. Exporting the Copenhagen model. It is a good, transferable model. It is working to transform cities around the world. Embrace it. Everything else coming out of Denmark regarding negative branding, helmet promotion and The Culture of Fear… ignore it.

Go talk to the Dutch. Start with this article about Dutch Rationality Saving Childrens’ Lives.

In Denmark, we're heading down this road:


24 January 2017

Bike Boulevards of Broken Dreams



Guldbergsgade, Copenhagen, Denmark (MCA)

Bike Boulevards of Broken Dreams
by Holly Hixson

Holly Hixson has a background in Urban Planning and Psychology from the University of Oregon. She has interned in the Copenhagenize office in both Montreal and Copenhagen.

As an intern for the Danish urban design firm Copenhagenize Design Co., I’ve learned a lot about best practices in bike planning, about committing to those best practices rather than taking a half-step and calling it progress and about making bold moves toward a future you want for your city.
I’ve been able to ride on the best bicycle infrastructure in the world that is lively and overflowing with people, sheer proof that if you build it, and you build it correctly, bicycle users will come. Today’s reality on the streets of Copenhagen looks like what we want for the future of mobility in our cities. A future without hoverboards and flying cars but with regular people, using the bicycle as a tool, not because they are extraordinary humans but because they have things to do and want to get there quick. Simple.

My reality for the most part, looks a lot different than this. I’m from Portland, Oregon. I still get stuck places where a painted bike lane abruptly ends, I still feel unsafe, unsupported, even in what’s considered one of the most bike friendly cities in the U.S., growth is measured in half-steps; I know these streets weren't built for me. I’ve often found it most pleasant to resort to neighborhood streets elsewhere. Luckily, I live in a neighborhood that has made deliberate decisions about how these local streets should feel to a people on bikes.

Enter: the bicycle boulevard. Internationally, variations of this concept have existed since around 1980 when Germany began making bike priority streets - the fahrradstraße. Denmark, the Netherlands, and the UK have similar concepts, the cykelgade, fietsstraat, woonerfen among other bike priority streets incorporate traffic calming techniques have been great for filling in gaps in the bike networks. And let me stress: filling in the network. These quiet streets have been used as a tool to add to networks, not to create the backbone of them. Indeed, Copenhagen experimented with the idea in the early 90s and then promptly ditched them. Instead prioritizing bicycle infrastructure along the natural desire lines in the city - the streets leading to the city centre.


Netherlands (Herman Wouters, New York Times)

Esslingen, Germany (http://dasfahrradblog.blogspot.ca/)

Similar ideas have also been popping up (with varying levels of success) in North American cities such as Austin, Vancouver and Minneapolis. Often they are used as cheap and easy bicycle connections in lieu of real A-to-B infrastructure, but when designed properly, a bicycle boulevard that adds to a greater network can look like this:


Minneapolis, MN (koonceportland.blogspot.ca


Berkeley, CA (Carrie Cizauskas) (planplaceblog.com
James Mayer (OregonLive) Portland, Oregon (above)


They contain elements such as chicanes - raised curbs that narrow streets in a serpentine pattern so that drivers have fewer stretches of wide open space. In some spots, the road is accessible to only bikes and by car only for residents. Scattered throughout are small roundabouts, landscaping and extended curbs at intersections. Clearly marked signs remind cars they are not the top priority on these streets, tell people on bikes what’s nearby and of course there are LOTS of speed bumps. These solutions are all pretty simple: design spaces that calm car traffic and ease bicycle traffic. And do it on purpose.

Vancouver BC Fundamentals of bicycle boulevard planning & design, PSU (above)

On the other hand, when done half-heartedly, a bike boulevard can look like this: Wide open space, no traffic calming devices, no priority, just paint declaring it a bicycle boulevard.


Thatcher Imboden ( Minneapolis, MN

This example, brings me to Montréal. Here I was, interning at Copenhagenize’s North American office and what I’ve gathered is that Montréal, like Portland, is familiar with taking half-steps in the direction of progress. Putting in the largest protected cycle track network in North America, to their credit, makes a statement about the kind of future the city aspires to.

However, a city that anticipates over 200 cm of snowfall annually can’t be taken seriously as a leader in bicycle urbanism internationally if most of those protected cycle tracks and significant bicycle parking are taken out for half of the year. It goes without saying that cars do not face the same forced hibernation in the presence of snow. There is evidence of a change in that attitude, with much improved steps being taken in local maintenance so far this winter.


Bartek Komorowski (Montreal)

To put my experience in context, as someone new to the city, I’ve found it fairly easy to navigate the streets by bike. Neighborhoods like the Plateau are dense with apartments and destinations; restaurants, cafes, bars, shopping, public space. The quiet, narrow streets don’t give me priority but they also don’t make me feel largely unsafe or too small for the space. This is true on neighbourhood streets and seems to be a popular opinion given that the city of Montréal as a whole only has about 3% of people commuting by bicycle, while the Plateau has over 10%. It would not take much to greatly affect how people on bikes feel in this space, to give them priority over cars and to do this by using design. Simply painting shared lane markings on the street and dubbing it bicycle infrastructure though, is not enough. We know now what we have long suspected. Sharrows don't work.

The newest additions to the Montréal bicycle network (currently being pursued as pilot projects) are two bicycle boulevards, or vélorues, on Rue de Mentana and Saint-André. Both are great opportunities to add to the network and indicate priority and commitment to actual change in how people are getting around the city. Mentana and Saint-André are fairly quiet and narrow, one-way streets with parking on either side. As of now, there are the occasional speed bumps, signs saying that trucks aren’t allowed to access these roads and painted sharrows (shared road symbols) on the street. However, the paint used is not long-lasting thermoplast paint, so after just a few weeks of snow and slush, the symbols are already tattered and faded. And now, after a few months of winter - almost non-existent.

 
Holly Hixson (Rue Saint-André) left & Michael Wexler (Rue Mentana) right

Both vélorues cross several perpendicular streets, including Saint-Joseph - a 6 lane residential boulevard and a high volume East-West connector for cars, especially during rush hour. Down the center of Saint-Joseph is a narrow median with room for pedestrians and bikes to wait so as not to cross two-way traffic at once, diverting cars from taking Mentana or Saint-André all the way through. This space existed before the bicycle boulevard project began, already offering traffic calming to the area and continues to be very tight for bicycles and pedestrians to feel fully comfortable.


Holly Hixson (Rue Saint-Joseph)

One significant change here is the addition of four signals installed at the crossing of Saint-Joseph and Rachel streets which give bikes and pedestrians safe passage on a green light. Despite this, there are not yet signs that say bikes have priority. There are no new pieces of infrastructure or signs that limit the speed for cars. There are no other new traffic calming elements present.


(Holly Hixson)

Drawing on past projects that Montréal has done and a desire to continuously make progress for bicycles in the city, a pilot project can be helpful in improving existing assets and gaining public support for new ideas. Sure, these streets are fairly comfortable to ride a bike on, but only as much as they ever have been.

If money is being invested in the creation of vélorues, if the City desires political praise for doing something for bikes, then new infrastructure (especially pilot projects) must really show their commitment to innovation. In order for Montréal’s pilot project to be successful, these aspects of real traffic calming - for example new diverters, planters, chicanes, signage, and solid public outreach - need to be present from the start. There are plenty of examples to draw inspiration from.


via Marc-André Gadoury (Montreal)

Looking forward, let us not conform to a substandard “good enough” attitude, let's look to best practices and replicate those, and redesign space to speak for itself. We must abandon half-step attempts and instead take bold strides in the direction of progress. We commend the City of Montréal on the announcement of new projects like the 3km stretch of Copenhagen-style cycle tracks to be implemented in 2017 (see above), but wish that efforts like the new vélorues aimed for the same level of commitment to innovation.