22 April 2014

The New Question for 21st Century Cities

The New Question for Cities
It's all so simple if we want it to be. For almost a century we have been asking the same question in our cities.

"How many cars can we move down a street?"

It's time to change the question.

If you ask "How many PEOPLE can we move down a street?", the answer becomes much more modern and visionary. And simple. Oh, and cheaper.

When I travel with my Bicycle Urbanism by Design keynote, I often step on the toes of traffic engineers all around the world. Not all of them, however. I am always approached by engineers who are grateful that someone is questioning the unchanged nature of traffic engineering and the unmerited emphasis placed on it. I find it brilliant that individual traffic engineers in six different nations have all said the same thing to me: "We're problem solvers. But we're only ever asked to solve the same problem."

This graphic is inspired by the wonderful conversations I've had around the world about my keynote. How many people we can move down the street is the New Question for liveability and transport in The Life-Sized City.

With urbanisation on the rapid rise, we need to think big. Think modern. We need to travel Back to the Future for the solutions that will serve our growing populations best. Cycle tracks. Trams. Wider sidewalks. It's all right there for the taking if we dare to take it.

19 April 2014

Bicycle-Friendly Cobblestones

Bicycle Friendly Cobblestones
Ole Kassow from Purpose Makers - and brainchild behind the Cycling Without Age movement - gave us this great shot from a street in the Østerbro neighbourhood of Copenhagen. The City has a new thing they're doing. Replacing the old, bumpy cobblestones on certain streets with smooth ones. Just a strip, like down the middle on this one-way street - to make it a smoother ride for bicycle users. The city keeps a number of streets cobblestoned because of aesthetics and historical reasons. History can be a bumpy ride, though.

We like how the new cobblestones are elegantly woven into the existing ones.
Bicycle Friendly Cobblestones
On a street in the centre of Copenhagen, there are now smoother strips along the curbs for bicycle users to use. Above is a delegation from the City of Groningen, who we took on a Bicycle Urbanism tour of the city a few weeks ago. Apart from their fascination with the curb-separated cycle tracks (they filmed them in order to convince their engineers that they work... yes, they're from Groningen), these smooth cobblestone strips were an object of fascination and I had to drag them away in order to get to lunch in time.

I love how even established bicycle cities can continued to be inspired by each other. There is no complete bicycle city - yet.
Car-centric Østerbro
Have a look at the street in the top photo again. It is a one way street but it's clear that the Arrogance of Space exists even in Copenhagen. Stupidly wide street and that means the sidewalks look like this. Cars are prioritised still - at the expense of the pedestrians and bicycle users and basically everyone in the city. And this in a neighbourhood with only just over 20% car ownership.

18 April 2014

Films from Copenhagen in 1923, 1932, 1937, 1950s


Copenhagen. 1932. Thanks to @laxbikeguy (James) on Twitter for the link.
"Cyclists in hundreds - thousands (millions it seemed to our cameraman!) throng the City of Copenhagen."
Wild how there was only 12 views on this film when I clicked on the link from James. Feels like archeology. :-)


Here is Copenhagen in 1937. When I found this in 2011 there were only a dozen views or so. Glad it got out to a wider audience.


Copenhagen in the 1950s.


Copenhagen in 1923.

16 April 2014

The World's Best Behaved Cyclists are in Copenhagen


As I highlight in this TED x Zurich talk of mine about Bicycle Culture by Design, Copenhagen has the world's best behaved cyclists. Bar none. I've cycled in close to 100 cities around the world and I've never seen anything that comes close.

Citizens in any city do not - contrary to popular perception - wander around all day looking for laws to break.

Wherever you happen to be reading this from, you're probably aware of the general perception of "those damned cyclists". Even here in Copenhagen, the perception persists, not least from the Copenhagen Police and their one-man wrecking crew. They - and he - continue to spread personal perceptions about cycling citizens. 52% of the citizens in Copenhagen ride each day and most of the others have bikes that they use regularly. We are dealing with basically the entire population of a European city. The police are out of their league when it comes to behaviour perception.

This perception is as old as the bicycle itself. One of Denmark's most loved satirists and cartoonists Storm P. (Robert Storm Petersen), a daily bicycle user, highlighted with great Danish irony the silliness of such perceptions in his piece A New Traffic Etiquette for Cyclists - in 1934. Things haven't changed. The whining minority still whines about the cycling majority. A sign that we need to change the paradigm of planning to prioritise intelligent forms of transport, instead of merely accepting the car-centric status quo that we inherited from a previous century.

Behaviour hasn't changed for over 100 years - and won't be changing anytime soon. Here's my baseline: We can't very well expect bicycle users to adhere to a traffic culture and traffic rules engineered to serve the automobile, now can we? It is like expecting badminton players to use the rules of squash.

Every single moment of every single day, the citizens of our cities are communicating with us. They are sending messages about the urban space they inhabit and it is of utmost importance that we listen to every communication. Unfortunately, planning and engineering are often too self-absorbed and arrogant to answer the calls of the citizens.

Desire Lines are democracy in action and democracy in motion. They are, however, more than merely the mobility patterns of our citizens. They are the physical manifestation of much of the communication from our tireless army of urban cartographers. I find them to be quite beautiful. Not to mention incredibly useful, especially in bicycle planning and even in a city like Copenhagen.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you'll know all too well our fondness for Desire Lines related to bicycle planning and research. What started with The Choreography of an Urban Intersection has morphed into numerous Desire Lines Analyses of other streets and intersections in Copenhagen and, most recently, Amsterdam. Together with the University of Amsterdam we are analysing behaviour and Desire Lines at ten intersections.

With The Choreography of an Urban Intersection back in 2012, Copenhagenize Design Co. decided to take things to the next level regarding bicycle user behaviour. A study of that size and scope had never been undertaken before. So much commentary about bicycle user behaviour has been based on perception for far too long. "Those damned cyclists" repeated ad nauseum in dozens of languages has made us forget that we don't actually know very much about their behaviour.

In most cities, the reason for what is percieved as "bad behaviour" is simply the fact that bicycle users haven't been given adequate infrastructure or, even worse, none at all.

The explempary behaviour of Copenhagen bicycle users is due to the fact that the bicycle infrastructure network is, largely, so well-designed. Best Practice has been achieved and, for the most part, it is implemented.

Nevertheless, if you ask certain uniformed civil servants who work for the Copenhagen Police, it is their personal perception that hits the headlines.

With The Choreography of an Urban Intersection we decided to get some numbers to show that the perceptions are coloured with emotion and lack data and fact.

As the graph at the top indicates, out of 16,631 bicycle users in the intersection Godthåbsvej/Nordre Fasanvej only 1% broke a serious traffic law. Running a red light or riding on the sidewalk. We called them Recklists. The Momentumists were a group that technically broke a Danish traffic law. We put these infractions in a different category. Basically, if it is legal in another city or country with respectable cycling levels, we are okay with it. The rest, the Conformists, did everything by the book.

The results are mirrored by the results in our other studies of other intersections. The vast majority are just playing by the rules.



You can see which rules are being bent in the above graph. What is incredibly important to consider is HOW the rules are being bent. What is the actual behaviour of the individual Momentumists when you study each one with detailed obversation?

In short, it is exemplary. It is quite beautiful. One of the primary findings was that when an individual entered a zone where a law was being bent, they were aware of it. The pattern was the same: they would change their physical form.

Generally, the individual would make themselves appear larger. Rising up from their normal cycling position in order to make themselves more visible to others in the urban theatre. Sometimes this was enough for them but many would also look around with a sweet, apologetic look - vaguely, not at anyone in particular - as though to say "sorry... I know, I know... bear with me". And when they hit the cycle track again, they would assume their usual cycling position.

Some would do the classic bicycle chameleon move, swinging their leg off and using the bicycle as a scooter. Again, always aware of their surroundings and the other users of the urban theatre. This subtle awareness of their surroundings was impressive. At no point in the 12 hours were there "cyclist-pedestrian conflicts" as they're called in Emerging Bicycle Cities. In that regard, it was like watching paint dry. The flow was constant, smooth and elegant. It was choreography.

Even the Recklists were heartwarmingly civilised in their behaviour, showing consideration for others. Only three bicycle users out of the 16,631 we tracked roared through a red light. They were all bike messengers. Do what you want with that.

Momentum is paramount when considering how to plan for bicycles. A smooth flow that eliminates the need to stop and get out of the saddle is the key. Simple measures like the railings and footrests in Copenhagen are a fine example. The Green Wave for cyclists on the main arteries leading to the city are another.

Understanding the basic anthropological transport needs of bicycle users - not to mention pedestrians - is the way to designing liveable streets. Bicycles are not cars and this has been the greatest mistake over the past 50 years in city planning... placing bicycles in the same category as motorised vehicles, both regarding traffic laws and the perception of bicycles as vehicles. We are still struggling to rid ourselves of this flawed categorisation all over the world.

Stopping and starting in a car involves pushing down on a couple of pedals. Effortless. Stopping and starting on a bicycle requires a bit more effort. Once momentum has been achieved, a bicycle user will try to maintain it. The countdown signals in the middle of this article are an example of someone out there understanding the needs of bicycle users.

Children understand the simple necessities of traffic planning. Unfortunately, the geekfest that is traffic engineering has all too often forgotten rationality. Campaigns that try to "improve" behaviour are a waste of money. Simply because the people who think them up haven't bothered to understand the differences between cyclists and motorists or pedestrians.

Change the paradigm.

Read more about the Choregraphy of an Urban Intersections, including all the findings, here. Or you can download the document as a pdf.



05 April 2014

Copenhagen - Is Cycling Up or Down or What?

SnowFall RushHour - Cycling in Winter in Copenhagen
It's all so confusing. Numbers indicating rise and falls in cycling levels. Although perhaps not as much as we think.

Firstly, back in 2009 I made a bet with anyone who would take it. Cycling levels in Copenhagen had been stagnant for many years. In 2008, a whole new kind of stupid showed up in Denmark. The Danish Road Safety Council (Rådet for Sikker Trafik - or Rodet for Sikker Panik if you like) decided to expand their ideological campaigns by promoting bicycle helmets. They convinced the Danish Cyclists Federation (DCF) to join the parade. To this day, the DCF remain one of the few national cycling organisations in all of Europe who support promotion of bicycle helmets.

Anyway, hardcore emotional propaganda hit the streets of Denmark in January 2008. As usual with such organisations, there was little science involved. An unsuspecting population were subjected to a one-sided view on helmets and not offered any balanced, scientific perspective. The Culture of Fear is powerful when applied correctly. Now, 17% of Copenhageners wear helmets on average. They are usually the ones involuntarily performing Risk Compensation studies. Keep a careful eye when cycling out there with them.

In this article from 2009 - Cycling is booming - just not in Denmark - I predicted that the rash of bicycle helmet promotion would not cause cycling levels to increase - despite the massive political will at the time. As I wrote:

Here's my bet. Because of the intense bicycle helmet propanganda in 2008:
- the percentage of cyclists in Copenhagen - 37% - will not rise. It will either fall or remain unchanged.


Few colleagues believed it. What happened?

Copenhagen cycling levels fell from 37% to 35% by 2010. That's a lot of people who hopped off the bicycle. The people who made that happen have blood on their hands.

In order to explain the drop, the usual suspects will tell you that it was because there were two hard winters in Copenhagen. So we looked at all the different factors involved, including the weather, and compared it all with Amsterdam. Amsterdam, and the rest of the Netherlands, suffered EXACTLY the same hard winters in the same period. Amount of snow, temperatures, you name it.

Cycling levels didn't fall in Amsterdam. They remained steady. Fewer people drove because of the winters, but cycling wasn't affected.

The emotional propaganda onslaught faded away and, as one would expect, cycling levels started to recover. We're now at 36% modal share of people arriving at work of education in the city and have lingered there for a few years.

The news today in Copenhagen is of a massive increase in cycling in Copenhagen. Numbers from travel survey data from Danish Technical University show the following:

- The average trip length for Copenhageners increase by a whopping 1 km since 2012.
- Copenhageners ride 2,006,313 km a day, compared to 1.3 million in 2012.
- Car trips are down 12%.
- Public transport also increased its modal share from 28% to 32% since 2007.

One of the newspapers in Denmark that is arguably the most anti-cycling - Politiken - try to wrap their pretty heads around why there has been an increase in this article, in Danish. They ask all manner of academics who offer up their opinions.

The journalists claim that the City of Copenhagen's focus on infrastructure is a reason for it. They mention, among other things, the bicycle bridges over the harbour but fail to notice that they aren't even finished being built yet. So that doesn't work. There have been infrastructure improvements on certain streets, sure, but nothing on a large enough scale to boost cycling levels this much.

It's all very simple if you want it to be.

Copenhagenize Traffic Planning Guide

Right here, in all its simplicity.

Copenhagen is one massive building site. 17 new Metro stations are under construction all at once. Last year, work was finally completed on the huge network of pipes providing central heating to most of the city centre, which only contributed to the chaotic construction in the city. In the above article, the DCF - to my delight - recognised this as the reason for the current increase.

If you want to encourage cycling and public transport, make driving a pain in the ass. It is the only way forward and the only way we know to get motorists to change their behaviour.

Trip lengths by bicycle are up in Copenhagen - and car trips are down - simply because it's a pain to drive in the city because of all the construction at the moment. That's it and that's that.

If the City wants to maintain these cycling levels, keep the current chaos, albeit in a nicer form, when the Metro construction is finished.

The new numbers are nice today, but if everything just reverts to the car-centric status quo when construction is finished (and remember that the Metro expansion is already projected to reduce cycling levels by 3%), the honeymoon will be over and it will be abrupt and shocking when it happens.
Mark my words.

It's all so easy if you want it to be.
Don't promote helmets.
Make driving difficult, complicated, expensive.
Duh.

The homo sapiens of a city will always figure out the fastest A to B. We call it A2Bism. We are all like rivers, finding the easiest route. Make that the bicycle or public transport and you are halfway there.

04 April 2014

Bikes Beat Metro in Copenhagen

Travel Times in Copenhagen
Like anyone interested in city life, we at Copenhagenize Design Co. like to keep our eyes on the street life of our city. Currently however, the City of Copenhagen is planning to take some away from the street, by forcing  people underground, with the 'Cityringen' expansion of the Metro. Instead of investing in the reestablishment of our tram network - so rudely removed by the ironically-named mayor Urban Hansen in the 1970s - like cities all over Europe, Copenhagen seems keen to get people off the street.

This doesn’t come cheap: 3 billion Euros gets you an additional 17 stations added to the existing Metro network. In a nice circle shape. Perhaps some of the cost can be explained by the fact that It is not easy to build a Metro in Copenhagen, a city that is on the whole scarcely above sea level, and with a dense urban fabric too.  It's due for completion in 2018, but that's later than the initial estimate and with the date still some way off who knows whether it will actually be ready by then - just ask the planners in Amsterdam, where a new metro line has been under construction since 2002 and is still not finished, although it was supposed to have been operating for several years by now. As well as that, Amsterdam's costs more than doubled from initial estimates.

But this article is not only about the Metro extension in Copenhagen; it deals with the question of which kinds of transportation are needed to support cities in becoming more liveable. We realise that we won't be stopping the Metro, but we are keen to highlight - even years before it's finished - that it ain't "all that".

The projections for the Metro also have an alarming statistic buried in the paperwork. Cycling levels in Copenhagen are expected to drop by an estimated 2.8%. That is a lot of cyclists we'll be losing. 

We know what people want. We want to move fast, safe and cheap from A to B. Also, the transportation system has to be sustainable, namely environmentally friendly, at a reasonable cost to society and it should not exclude anyone.

Since we are hands-on people here at Copenhagenize, we decided to just test it ourselves. We were curious how the different transport modes score compared to each other and especially how the bike performs against trains, buses and the new Metro.

What we did was simple. For some days we tracked all our journeys from our homes to the Copenhagenize office (and vice versa) or other routes with the GPS-based App Endomondo. A great app - also because it includes Cycling - Transport as an option. Not surprisingly, it's a Danish app. Sometimes we came by public transport, sometimes, as normal, by bike.

As the new metro is not operating yet, we had to be a bit creative when comparing it to the bike. We built scenarios to challenge the totally unrealistic times which are published on the project website of the Metro extension. If false advertising is a thing, the Metro are guility of it. "7 minutes from Nørrebro Runddel to Enghave Plads!", they declare, without anyone bothering to check if it's true. Until now.

To be clear about that point: It is probably very realistic that the time you will need to spend on the metro carriage itself between the future stations Nørrebro Runddel and Enghave Plads is seven minutes. The unrealistic part about that is that nobody lives or works in those stations.

To have a realistic Home to Work scenario with which we could compare travel times with the bicycle, we took addresses in potential residential areas in a range of less than one kilometre to a future Metro station and tracked the time it takes to walk from the address to the future station. We then added the two minutes that it takes to get down to the train and wait for it. (We actually timed this at a number of stations and worked out an average. We like details.)

And then comes the time you actually spend in the train, followed by the fact that it will take another minute (again, on average based on our timings) to get off the Metro and reach the street level again. Lastly we added the walking time from the station to an address in a potential working area, again in a range of less than one kilometre to the Metro station. As you can imagine, a trip incorporating the journey from Nørrebro Runddel and Enghave Plads doesn't take seven minutes any more.


Here you can see the results of our Bike vs. Metro study.  
TIME bike vs. future metro - copie copie
TIME bike vs. future metro - 2nd map - copie copieFor the bike trips we assumed that we were travelling at an average speed of 16kph, which is the average pace people cycle in Copenhagen. Very relaxed, without having to sweat, and doable for all cyclists. We also added two minutes to unlock, park and lock the bike. The results are impressive: in three out of five scenarios the bike is faster door to door than the Cityringen line will ever be.

In one scenario there is a tie between Metro and bike and in only one instance is the Metro slightly faster. The longer you have to walk to and from the station (last mile) the higher are the chances that the bike will be faster. From our data we see that 700m can be seen as a threshold: if you take the metro to work and have to walk more than 700m (about 10 minutes) on the way from door to door, you almost certainly would have been faster by bike.

We're asking why the City of Copenhagen and the Danish government put so much money into something which does not bring a significant advantage to the people in the city? We're not saying that a Metro never makes sense. There are cities where the Metro is an indispensable element in the transportation system, carrying millions of people a day, like in London, Paris or New York. But does it make sense in cities like Copenhagen or Amsterdam, where you can reach almost everything in the centre within 20 minutes on a bike?

Of course, we understand that not everybody is able to ride a bike. And we definitely want a transport system which does not exclude anybody.

So, where is your tram, Copenhagen?

Imagine what a fantastic tram network we could have for €3 billion. Look at France, where new tram systems are popping up like mushrooms. Also, there would be plenty of money left to further improve the cycling infrastructure within the city. What we get now is a new line with 17 stations which runs in a circle and only connects to other lines at two points. It doesn't seem like the main effect of this project will be to make Copenhagen more liveable. The City of Copenhagen is clearly afraid of reducing car traffic. Despite the goodness in the city, they still are intent on maintaining the car-centric status quo.

Back to the competition: What about our commuting trips we tracked? Also in those cases the bicycle is highly competitive as you can see in the graphics below.  
TIME bike vs.bus - Map 1
TIME bike vs.bus - Map 2 - copie copie
On trips less than ten kilometres the bike is usually the fastest option. The longer the trips are, for example from Frederiksberg to the Airport at Kastrup or from Glostrup to the new Copenhagenize office on Papirøen (Paper Island on the Harbour), the better public transport scores. That makes sense and it is also in line with the fact that cycling drops significantly for trips longer than eight kilometres.

But we also have to mention that we set the average speed for cyclists even on the longer commuter trips to 16kph. It can be assumed however, that commuters who cycle everyday between 10 and 15 kilometres to work are faster than that. The bicycle superhighway network for greater Copenhagen for instance is designed for an average speed of 20kph. And then, the bicycle is even very competitive up to distances around 15 kilometres.

So, what’s the message of our short study about getting from A to B in Copenhagen? First: there's no obvious need to invest billions in mega projects if the effect is as small as in Copenhagen’s current Metro extension project. Secondly: Invest the money instead in cycling infrastructure.

Our little experiment has shown again that the bicycle is the best mean of transport to get from A to B in a city. And thirdly: Invest in public transport solutions which cover a larger geographical area at a lower cost. Like trams or light rail.

And lastly, you might wonder why we did not include the car in our comparison. Well, because a car wouldn't make sense at all for daily trips in a city and because only 14% of Copenhageners transport themselves by car each day. 



22 March 2014

Copenhagen Free Bike Rental

14 Mars 2014


I'm Kieran, one of the 4 co-founders of Copenhagen Free Bike Rental. I've also been interning here at Copenhagenize Design Company for the past few months. At Copenhagen Free Bike Rental, our goal is to ‘salvage abandoned and broken bicycles and offer them to visitors so they can explore Copenhagen the way it should be done: on two wheels’.

It is partly an attempt to fill the gap left by the closure of the Copenhagen City Bike system, and its unsatisfactory 'GoBike' replacement and partly a response to the fact that in Copenhagen there are more bikes than people – and thus many unused bikes.

There were 4 of us involved involved in founding the project, and we are all students on the very exciting 4 Cities course. This means we've been travelling around Europe experiencing how cities work (or don't). And we've got a very good flavour of cycling conditions: not because we're particularly mad about cycling itself, but because we like to explore these new cities we keep landing in and a bike is the best way to do it.

Brussels, the first stop on our course, is really not so good, but Vienna is (slowly, and not without mistakes) getting there. So we were very excited about coming to Copenhagen. We felt like it was the next step of what seemed to be a progression towards some sort of cycling utopia. Which was justified in many ways, because Copenhagen is of course a fantastic city to cycle round. The one problem was that in Vienna, when we had visitors, they could register for a citybike for €1 and pay nothing else, and have a whole network of bikes across the city. But in Copenhagen, there's nothing like that any more.

So we found that at the beginning of our academic year, every time someone had a visitor the same question would be asked - 'does anyone have a spare bike?' and the same people, usually Copenhageners, would have a spare one. But often it would come with a caveat that it was broken. Amongst our little group we would have sessions to fix the bikes so they could be borrowed. We saw Copenhagen Free Bike Rental as a way to formalise this network a little, and open it up to more people.



The way it works is very simple: you fill in the form on our website, and we'll get back to you if we've got a bike available (sadly we always end up with more requests than we have bikes.) You come to where our bikes are parked, near the City Hall, every day at 6pm, and we give you a bike. You can have it for between 1 and 3 days, and then you bring it back at the same time, same place. Simple. There is absolutely no obligation to donate, but often people do, and this money helps us pay for new parts (the ones we can't find in the street) and locks.

We were delighted that our little scheme has been extremely successful. People love us. They are a bit surprised often as to why we're doing it, and sometimes a little sceptical about whether it is actually free, but once they find out a little more they are very happy. We're providing a little public service. Access to the city is a right, we believe, not a bonus. Copenhagen isn't the cheapest city, but it's got a lot to offer, both in terms of amusement, and also as a shining example of how all cities could be if they focussed more on people than on cars. And obviously, by bike, you can see more of it. We think that's important.

We ourselves are all students, and we started off telling students about this, via a few posts on some student Facebook groups. That's literally all the promotion we've done. So at first, we mainly got students who wanted bikes for visitors, like us. But now, through the myriad miracles of modern communication, word has spread and we get a bit more of a range of people, often tourists visiting and wanting to get around for a few days.

One of the best aspects of Copenhagen Free Bike Rental is how it works on trust. Trusting strangers is very important in society, especially in a cities, where we pass hundreds if not thousands each day. People who are more trusting are happier. We've rented out bikes over 200 times since October, and every single time they have been returned to us. Aside from everything else, we feel this in itself is some sort of small but not insignificant human triumph.

One of the questions we always get asked is where we get the bikes: the answer is a combination of donations and of assembling scraps. To start with the latter: one of the first things you notice about Copenhagen is the discarded half-carcasses of long-forgotten bikes. Usually it's just a frame here or a lonesome wheel there, which on their own aren't going to do much except get eventually rusty then swept away. This is the case in cities all over the world but in Copenhagen, where there are more bikes than people, the number of abandoned bikes is extremely high, and the city collects and destroys as many as 15,000 per year. So we collect these scraps, take them to our workshop and put them together into actually functioning bikes (We never take bikes unless they are clearly long-abandoned, unlocked and thoroughly incomplete). We fix them up ourselves, and we also run a number of workshops where people can come and learn a bit about basic bike maintenance, so they don't end up throwing their bike away if it gets a minor fault!



Not all of Copenhagen's unused bikes are on the streets of course, and we actually get a very large number of our bikes from very kind people who have donated them: a lot of students leave Copenhagen without selling their bike and so instead have very kindly have given them to us. We're very DIY and small-scale (we often don't have enough bikes for the demand, sadly), and of course in no way a replacement for a city-wide bikeshare system, but in both providing bikes for free, and getting people to think more about their relationship with bicycles, the city and waste, we think we're doing a little bit of good for Copenhagen.

We've had interest in our scheme and questions from people from all around the world, and we'd encourage people in other cities to try something similar. Even in cities with fewer abandoned bikes, there will always be people with spares - so give it a go. Feel free to give us an email at info@copenhagenfreebikerental.org if you have any questions, and likewise if there is anyone in Copenhagen with an old bike that they don’t need any more, whatever the condition, you are also very welcome to donate it to us.

Copenhagenize Design Company is grateful to Kieran for all his brilliant work and passion during his internship and we are really proud of the amazing project of free bike rental which he set up during his stay in Copenhagen. Quite often, students may not stay long but the ideas they contribute with are fresh and fantastic.

21 March 2014

Bicycle Design Archeology - Top Ten Details We Want Back

Copenhagenize's Top Ten Bicycle Design Details That We Want Back
Bicycle Design Archeology Series
There is an ocean of fantastic and practical design details from over a century of mainstream bicycle culture. However, many things that used to be completely normal and often standard on bicycles have disappeared off the radar. The reason for it is well-known. As the bicycle as transport was gradually and effectively pushed out of cities as planners continued to make space for cars, the people left riding bicycles were focused on sport and recreation. The "weight wienies" discarded frivilous details faster than a rapidly descending hot-air balloonist. Faster, dude! Lighter, man!

Alas. I decided to go on an archeological dig and dust off the ten design details that I love - and that I wish were standard once again now that the 99% are returning to bicycles in our cities.

There are basic accessories that remain standard in mainstream bicycle cultures like fenders, chainguards, skirtguards and kickstands. They're not included here in the general sense because they never really went away - except in regions where cycling was relegated to only being sport or recreation, of course.

Here's the Top 10. Any additions I haven't thought of?

Up top is the Back Rack Hook is one of the simplest design details imaginable. For decades, back racks in many countries had a simple bit of metal welded on which allowed bicycle users to carry briefcases. I haven't seen many of these in other countries, except in vintage photos and catalogues. They live on in Denmark, however, where many brands still include them as standard on the back racks. With the Rise of the Laptop, you'd think this would be the first detail to be brought back.

Bicycle Design Archeology Series
Sure, almost every bicycle in Denmark and the Netherlands and all mainstream bicycle cities have chainguards. Duh. It's the most obvious addition to a bicycle along with fenders. Riding without one is like skating without blades. The style of chainguards, however, has taken a nose-dive. Back in the day, every bicycle brand with respect for itself put some serious love into designing their chainguards.

At top right is my 1950s Swedish Crescent, with the brand carved into the chainguard and at bottom right, another Swedish brand, Hermes, did the same. Used to be a normal thing. Raleigh in Denmark have revived the art form at top left on their newer bikes. And for total chainguard bling, check out these French beauties over at the Velo Orange blog.
Bicycle Design Archeology Series
My Crescent bicycle has a handle on the tube which is wonderfully balanced and makes lifting up the bike easy as pie. Especially vintage Swedish bikes of various brands have this handle, but this was a design detail that was mainstream for a long time. If you didn't have one welded to the frame (you poor thing), you could buy an attachable one like at top right, spotted on a 1920s bicycle in Ferrara, Italy.

I don't use mine that often, but I do on occasion and love it every time I do. Brilliant thinking.
Bicycle Design Archeology Series
Ah, the dynamo. Clunky, awkward but nonetheless charming. Most of the ones you see are vintage these days but they are still being made - like on the new bike at top right. I lament the fading dynamo from a purely aesthetic point of view. A tiny motor that leaned against your wheel and made a reassuring whizzing sound while you pedalled. Not to mention the fact that you could see your effort paying off in the form of a flickering beam of light.

The dynamo, I'm afraid, will be consigned to the bicycle museum. Especially now that most bikes, in Denmark at least, come with the magnetic Reelights as standard. So many people have these that autumn "remember your lights" campaigns have been dropped in Denmark.
Bicycle Design Archeology Series
Skirtguards live on and show no sign of going anywhere. Another simple but practical accessory that is a must for city living. The word "skirtguard" is an English-language invention. In Danish they're called "Coat Protectors" because everyone wears coats and most were long, fine coats back in the day.

Like with chainguards, many skirtguard designs leave nothing to be desired. Crocheted skirtguards were all the rage in many countries a century ago. I've seen them in bicycle museums in many countries. Rubber or elastic skirtguards like at bottom left are still cheap and accessible in Italy and Brazil, among other countries. Newer versions like at top left are widely available on the market. But there used to be so much more style out there. Bring it back.
Bicycle Design Archeology Series
These simple rubber attachments to your handlebar served a simple purpose. They protected your handlebar and the wall when you leaned your bicycle up against it when parking. I've only ever seen them in Italy, but I'd be interested to hear if people in other countries see them/have seen them.

Maybe this design detail is less relevant now that most bicycles have kickstands but hey... at some point in history someone designed this little thing and had it produced. Practical, simple, elegant.
Bicycle Design Archeology Series
The safety nannies who whine about cyclists listening to music or checking their smartphones (but who seem less concerned about motorists doing it) will absolutely HATE these. Newspaper holders were popular for many decades in many countries. At bottom left the design is perfect for carrying your daily paper on your bicycle. The design at top left, however, takes it to the next level. I bought this one in Italy. You can carry your paper but you can also fold it to the article you want and read it whilst cycling. That's what it's designed for. I actually saw a gentleman doing this in Ferrara but unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me. Of course, they even have a name in Italian: "portagiornali".

A perfectly normal activity back in the day. At top right is a six day race rider going through the motions at night, reading the paper as he goes. I found that photo in the archives here in Copenhagen. If you're going to check the sports results or read the news while cycling along, keep an eye out for the sign I spotted in the Netherlands, at bottom right.
Bicycle Design Archeology Series
Once standard all over the place, I've only seen the humble hub brush live on here in Copenhagen - where you can still buy them easily - and sometimes in the Netherlands. It just sits there silently, spinning around your hubs as you ride. Keeping them free of grease and grime.

Ah, the simplicity. The practicality. Perfect.
Bicycle Design Archeology Series
The only real competition for the beauty of early bicycle posters is the art form known as head badges. My goodness, there are thousands of them out there from the past 125 years and most of them are absolutely lovely. Every bike brand worth their salt would put effort into their logo and transfer that to the head badge.

From the simple "H" at top right on a 1930s Hamlet bike in my back courtyard to the engraved details of head badges like the ones from Husqvarna and Wirma at top left. Be still my design heart.

The collection at bottom left are all from Latvia alone.

We're seeing some design love being put back into head badges these days, fortunately. At bottom right, Danish von Backhaus have upped the ante by sticking one between the frame tubing. At bottom right is an attachable, funky headbadge from a Danish designer. I recall writing about ANT Bikes in the States a few years ago and their head badge still sticks out in my mind.
Bicycle Design Archeology Series
Bells are still around and not going anywhere. Again, again, again, I lament the vintage design details of old bells. Craftsmanship and pride and design process were put into them. Now they rock out of China in containers, by and large. With THAT said, there are at least many designs on the market nowadays. Something to fit every taste and inclination. But not that many made from solid metal with a commanding dring dring, ding dong or ding anymore.

Give me a Peerless, at bottom, for christmas any year.

19 March 2014

To Live and Play in L.A.

Somebody call the L.A.P.D.!  (photo by ubrayj02)
Whenever I come across another indication of how addicted to the automobile that the city I find myself in (Los Angeles) is due to actual written law or policy, I shake my head. 
Once again I have to acknowledge with disgust just how socially (and traffic-) engineered this place has been so as to prioritize the private automobile in as many aspects of culture and life as possible.  

And it has happened again.  

The blog Flying Pigeon by bicycle merchant and bike-culture advocate (neither an easy task in these parts) Josef Bray-Ali points out that playing in the street is strictly prohibited in the City of Los Angeles.

He writes:

I recently attended a talk by Dr. Richard Jackson, one of America’s leading experts in how the ‘built environment’, including architecture and urban planning, affect health. In his presentation, Dr. Jackson showed slides of the growing obesity rates in Los Angeles County and described what has happened to our kids health in the past 20 years as “child abuse”.
 Along with the problems a kid faces these days when she wants to walk or bike around the neighborhood, that same kid faces a wall of cultural and (in Los Angeles) legal limits that prevent the most mundane activities of childhood.
Case in point is the law above, Los Angeles Municipal Code 56.16, which makes playing catch on the sidewalk or street an unlawful act.
 We can have 100 CicLAvias a year but if kicking a soccer ball to your buddy on the sidewalk in front of your apartment building, or throwing a football in the street, is a crime you can expect nothing fundamental to change.
The law is clearly aimed at keeping the entire roadway of each and every street, regardless of hierarchy, open so that it may be used for moving or storing cars, plus whatever other vehicles may wish to pass; as long as the motor vehicle ultimately has priority. We call it Ignoring the Bull in Society's China Shop.

It states that in the City of Los Angeles: 

“No person shall play ball or any game of sport with a ball or football or throw, cast, shoot or discharge any stone, pellet, bullet, arrow or any other missile, in, over, across, along or upon any street or sidewalk or in any public park, except on those portions of said park set apart for such purposes.”
Classic Motordom.


Before the car this scene was common in America
Photo from Library of the United States Congress
With the bonus that even most parks are off-limits to, for example, a pick-up game of what the locals call "Soccer"


Just as Mikael wrote about here when discussing Peter Norton's book "Fighting Traffic - The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City".  

Except Josef and Richard Jackson are right.  This is child abuse. And i
n a city already suppressing the health of her children through air pollution.

Fortunately, the local media has caught wind of the story.  To be continued?

09 March 2014

The Bike Share Bicycle Copenhagen ALMOST Had

Taking Bike Sharing Literally

While La Rochelle, France can boast about having started the first proper bike share system in the mid-1970s, Copenhagen introduced the Bycyklen - City Bike - in 1995. Picture above and below, the bikes were cute gimmicks that lasted until late 2012. They worked on a shopping trolley system - put a 10 or 20 kroner coin in and get it back when you return it. The bikes were horrible to ride and it didn't take long for them to become tourist magnets. Most Copenhageners wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole.
Free City Bike
They were, however, visionary in their own quirky way and paved the cycle track for the systems that are now featured in 500 odd cities around the world. And as goofy as they were, I found myself missing them when they were gone.

The City of Copenhagen started pondering the idea of getting a Next Generation bike share system back in 2009. We announced the launch of a bike share design competition here on the blog on September 1, 2009. On December 11, 2009, the winners of the competition were announced in Copenhagen. It was never the idea that the winning bike would become the actual bike share bike. The City was just keen to get all sorts of ideas in.

The hype soon died out and time dragged on. New politicians showed up who were less bicycle-friendly and the new bike share system idea was down-prioritised.

Then the idea got dusted off again and the Danish State Railways (DSB) started taking the lead. A bid went out for concrete proposals. Designs came in. A shortlist was settled upon. Finally, a design was selected. A new system is scheduled to hit the streets of Copenhagen in October 2013.

There has been a lot of talk about taking bike share to Generation 3. Maintaining Copenhagen's role as an innovation powerhouse regarding bicycle culture. I have a filter about bold declarations from the City but I harboured a secret desire to see Copenhagen select a bicycle design for the new bike share that was something different and something that respected the historical aspects of our bicycle culture. A bicycle that was somehow traditional in its design and far removed from the plastic fantastic bike share systems in other cities. A design that rejects the goofy technological overcomplication our society is riddled with.

Something that adhered to the principles of Danish Design. Simple, elegant, functional.

There are now 650 cities around the world with bike share systems. The Dutch Railways have had the OV Fiets system at all train station for 10 years, which works brilliantly.

So, what will we end up with?


Here's the design from Go Bike.dk. Which just looks like a bicycle from UR Bikes, to me, but hey.


It's a little, geeky, overcomplicated bundle of tech-solutions, including a tablet screen onto which you punch in your credit card info, as well as look up train times and even gps-based routes to restaurants, cinemas, etc.

First thoughts?
- Do we really want people unfamiliar to cycling in our city staring at a screen as they ride around?
- The tires are solid rubber! 650 bike share systems in the world and we get the one with solid rubber tires - in a city of cobblestones. Unbelievable.
- There's a motor. E-bikes are the new scooters. We don't need more scooters. Sending people unfamiliar with e-bikes into a densely-populated city filled with bicycles is just stupid. Read more about the big grain of salt we need for e-bikes here on the blog in the E-Bike Sceptic article.
- The price for most bike share bikes in the world is about $800. These bikes are about $10,000 each. Seriously.
- Testing a wacky, overcomplicated system in a city where everyone owns bikes is not a clever way to play with taxpayers money.
- It's not even free. It costs 20 kroner per hour (about $4.00) (25 kroner if you turn on the e-motor (about $5.00)). You can rent a bicycle for 6 hours at Baisikeli for 60 kroner.
- Whoever came up with the idea for a tablet screen obviously doesn't spend much time in the Copenhagen nightlife. It's going to become a game to see how they can be smashed while parked at the stations. You read it here first.


In Denmark we have a new public transport travel card called Rejsekortet. A billion kroner was invested in a really crappy solution - similar to London's Oyster Card but just super crappy - in a country where smartphones and debit cards rule. The Oyster Card was used as the inspiration and now it looks like that billion kroner was a waste - travel cards like the Oyster may soon be obsolete. So why the tablet? Useless.

The bicycles will also be equipped with an e-motor. First thought? Do we really want people unfamiliar with the city - or locals unfamiliar with e-motors - riding around the city at higher speeds? E-bikes are the new scooters. You don't want to be the new scooters, believe me. People flying along at 25 - 30 km/h in a city where the average speed is 16 km/h. This isn't going to end well. You can read about The E-Bike Sceptic right here on this blog. There's a very good reason that so many Chinese are banning e-bikes. It's called preventing injury and death.

The design? Nothing special. Nothing visionary or innovative. Not an interesting symbol for the City of Copenhagen or the City of Cyclists. Clearly inspired by Dutch brand Van Moof.

The cost? Over 600 cities around the world have bike share systems with bikes that cost around $800. These bikes will cost around $10,000. Seriously. Complete waste of money for an experiment, especially when you're playing with taxpayer financing. It's not surprising that Copenhagen City Council weren't big fans of the idea when they had to negotiate the budget. The original price that DSB wanted the City to pay was 114 million kroner ($20.7 million) but the politicians whittled that down to a token 40 million kroner ($7.2 million). The remainder went to infrastructure - something people actually need in Copenhagen.

The cost of using one of these bikes? In most cities, the first 30 minutes on bike share bikes is free. These new bikes in Copenhagen will cost 20 kroner ($3.60) per hour.  25 kroner ($4.50) if you hit the switch to activate the e-motor. One person involved with the company admitted to us that, at 30 kg, the bikes are almost too heavy to cycle without the motor. You can also get a subscription that will cost you 70 kroner/month ($12.75), but still no free ride like on the rest of the planet.

The saturation? 1260 bicycles in 60 stations. Not that impressive. Makes you wonder why the DSB didn't just adopt the Dutch OV Fiets system that the Dutch Railways have going on. An established, successful business model serving the Dutch for a decade so far. If you're incapable of doing anything interesting yourself, then at least copy from people who have experience.

While we're on the topic, why not just get an established company who have done bike share in other cities to do the bike share system for you? Save time, money and minimize your risk of screwing up. Especially since we're in uncharted territory with putting in a bike share system in a city where everyone already owns bikes.

Yeah, okay. I'm not a fan. Like Socrates said, "Necessity is the Mother of invention." I've ridden almost every bike share bike on the planet, in over 30 cities. There is stuff out there that works. Trying to reinvent the wheel with overcomplication isn't clever, isn't cool, isn't cost-efficient.


What makes it worse for me, personally, is that I know that my secret desire for coolness, tradition and style married to functionality in a new Copenhagen bike share system actually exists. One of the designs shortlisted for the bid produced a bicycle that makes me swoon.

So what bicycle did we almost get? Sigh. Here it is.

Danish bike brand Velorbis teamed up with HomePort Bikesharing Solutions to produce the bike share bicycle above. They simply took the iconic Short John (delivery bike) and all its inherent tradition and historical relevance and made it into a bike share bicycle. A bicycle that was the backbone of bicycle deliveries in this city for over half a century.


Here's another variation of their design. This is the bicycle I imagined when dreaming of a modern icon for our bicycle culture.


They were shortlisted, so I'm assuming that all the tech-specs were in order if they made it that far. The solar panels are a nice touch.


I'm not, however, going to bang on about the tech factors and all that. I just lament the fact that we were this close to getting a cool, iconic bicycle that salutes our bicycle history and culture and that still provided a modern bike share system for Danish cities.

Sigh.

The Map Bicycle

The Map Bullitt
Tourist season is starting. I thought it would be nice to be prepared for when they stop me and ask for directions. So I glued a Crumpled City map onto the Bullitt. The Crumpled City maps are rip-proof and waterproof and generally pretty tough. So with some glue underneath and some varnish on top, I'm ready for the lost, wandering herds of visitors to Copenhagen.
The Map Bullitt

The Map Bullitt

05 March 2014

Where Do You Want to Go?

Copenhagenize Traffic Planning Guide II
Things are changing, no doubt about it. All over the world. Like in every paradigm shift there are cities that move fast, cities that try to play catch up and cities that are still tying their shoelaces in the starting blocks.

One of the primary challenges that remains is the perception of who infrastructure is for. I meet many politicians and planners around the world who clearly think that they are expected to provide safe infrastructure for the few people riding bicycles in their city right now. They fail to understand that they should be building infrastructure for all the citizens who COULD be riding a bicycle if they felt safe on a complete network of infrastructure.

The Zeros to Heroes cities that are way ahead of the curve - for example Barcelona, Seville, Dublin, Bordeaux, Paris, Buenos Aires - have just rolled up their sleeves and built infrastructure. Infrastructure that actually reflects where the citizens want to go in a city. Which is basically the same as where everyone else wants to go.

In many other cities, bits and pieces of infrastructure are put in where it won't bother the motorised traffic too much. Often such bits and pieces are launched with much fanfare. "See! We are thinking about bicycles!" Even though the bits and pieces are symbolic gestures that do little to reestablish the bicycle as transport on the urban landscape. Here in 2014, after seven or eight years since the bicycle returned to the public consciousness, there are only 370 km of protected bicycle infrastructure in all of the United States, compared to 1000 km in Greater Copenhagen alone.

What I often see around the world is attempts by cities to put cyclists where they want them to ride, based on false assumptions that this is want cyclists also want. "Ooh, those cyclists must really want to ride on quiet roads, away from traffic.... yeah... that's what they want." Then follows symbolic routes following all the vague principles of detours.

Citizen Cyclists are sent out of the way of basically everywhere that city-dwellers want to go. Shops, businesses, restaurants, cafés, cinemas, workplaces. The existing, historical Desire Lines of a city - aka roads - remain the domain of automobiles.

While Copenhagen may be "all that" these days, mistakes have been made. Lessons have been learned. Back in the 1980s when citizens were returning to the bicycle thanks to the reestablishment of cycle tracks, the City learned a valuable lesson. Cyclists were following the busy streets to get to and from the city centre. Normal behaviour for homo sapiens.

The City decided that this couldn't possibly be what they wanted. They assume cycling citizens wanted quiet routes, even if it meant they would have to go a bit out of they way. They constructed a pilot project route roughly parallel to Nørrebrogade - along Guldbergsgade - that they were sure would please the cycling citizens.

It was a flop. A2Bism will dictate that people want to travel along the most direct Desire Line, regardless of transport form. To the City of Copenhagen's credit, they respected this simple anthropological desire and started building cycle tracks along the pre-existing Desire Routes - the main arteries leading the city centre.

The rest is history.

If you live in a car-dominated city you might be pleased with symbolic municipal gestures like "bicycle boulevards" or whatever they call them, or bits of narrow "bike lanes". You are, however, being handed the short end of the stick. Bicycle urbanism may be a phrase I coined but the principles have existed since cities first were formed. Best Practice is right there, for the taking. With a bit of balance you might be able to rest your weary bones on a two-legged chair. Definately better than no chair. But four-legged chairs are on the market. Demand them.

03 March 2014

Copenhagenize Design Co. Moves Office by Cargo Bike


Last week, Copenhagenize Design Company moved from our old office in Frederiksberg, down to the harbour area of Copenhagen. Our new home is Papirøen, or 'Paper Island,' an artificial island just across the water from The Royal Danish Playhouse and Nyhavn. It was first used by the army as somewhere to put their weaponry, and then from 1958 the island was for many decades used for the storage of huge rolls of paper imported from Sweden, ready for use by Danish newspapers. Hence the name. (Interestingly almost the whole of Christianshavn was for a long time entirely used by the military, until the 'Copenhagenization' of the Danish military by the British in 1807 meant that suddenly the navy didn't need so much space. So you could say we are re-Copenhagenizing Christianshavn)

Until the long awaited completion of the Inderhavnsbroen cycle and pedestrian bridge, this side of the harbour is a little isolated from the rest of the city, despite its central location.  This has meant that in recent years, the site has become what the Copenhagen Post called 'an industrial no-man’s-land,' home to the city's harbour cruise company, but not much else.

However, things are starting to change. Last year, the old industrial warehouses were converted into a set of offices housing our new neighbours, including Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, COBE Architects and Purpose Makers (the company of Ole, of 'Cycling Without Age' fame) . It is also temporarily home to the Experimentarium, a science and technology centre and one of Copenhagen's biggest attractions, which will be on the island for 2 years whilst its permanent home in Hellerup is modernised. This gives the space around our new offices a healthy mix of creative workers and exuberant school kids.

We were all very excited about moving. But we had to get there first. How to do so was a no-brainer. As our work on the Cycle Logistics project has shown, the cargo bike is a versatile tool for goods transportation: 51% of deliveries currently made by motorized transport could be made by bike. Aside from anything else, cargo bike was the most logical and convenient way for us to move. 


Copenhagenize Moves Office from Copenhagenize on Vimeo.

We put together this short film of the trip - what was interesting to note along the way was that although we were in a convoy of three heavily-laden cargo bikes, nobody en route batted an eyelid. Cargo Bikes are normal on Copenhagen's streets:  25% of families with two or more children have one.

Apart from having to balance holding a camera with keeping my eyes on the road, it was otherwise a sedate, unremarkable glide through Copenhagen, just like every day. Loading up the cargo bikes took just a few minutes, and the trip itself was an easy ride of just a little over 6km. It was a lovely sunny day too, which helped, but even aside from that little stroke of luck, there's no way hiring a van, negotiating it through the city-centre traffic, and having to return it at the end of the day would have been as simple, easy and enjoyable as moving office via cargo bike.

Below are some photos of our new place and the island itself – we're looking forward to the summer and spending some quality time out in the sun overlooking the water.








28 February 2014

Car Industry Strikes Back - Nissan Denmark


If you've been following our Car Industry Strikes Back series over the past few years, you'll have seen car companies ridiculing other transport forms or lathering themselves up in a greenwashing frenzy.

It's usually a roll-your-eyes, comical experience. Nissan Denmark, however, have outdone themselves. They're banging the drums for their new Qashqai model here in Denmark. It started last year on September 4, 2013 when Nissan hosted a "café" in the centre of Copenhagen, letting people take the Qashqai for a test drive. In the middle of the day. In the City of Cyclists and near our many pedestrian streets and a main metro station.

Kieran Toms, who is interning with Copenhagenize Design Co. at the moment, reported from the front lines. He popped into the "café" with a friend. Kieran, being a modern young man from the UK, doesn't have a driving licence, but his friend took Nissan up on the offer of a test drive. The Nissanite who accompained him extoled the virtues of the car and especially the acceleration. Unfortuntely, they were paralysed in traffic - while hundreds and hundreds of bicycle users rolled part, oblivious to the wonders of last century mobility. Acceleration consisted of crawling ten metres at a time down the streets. Involuntary humour from Nissan.

Now Nissan are ramping up their campaign for their car. The film, above, starts with the classic car industry shot of a car alone on a road - like THAT ever happens in a city. The text fades in declaring the Qashqui to be The Ultimate Urban Experience. Which, in reality in Copenhagen, is staring out the window at the rear end of some other car whilst citizens ride bicycles or walk past you.

Then they declare they're "Unlocking Copenhagen" for a weekend in March and they've enlisted a minor Danish celebrity Mads Christensen (self-proclaimed biggest braggart in Denmark). He tells us that he'll be the keymaster for unlocking the city, driving around in a Qashqai and challenging the city. Something about all your questions will be answered as they "zig-zag" around the city in March. Totally vague.

The film features clips of Copenhagen, including loads of people riding their bicycles, unaffected by Nissan's marketing prowess.

Yeah. Whatever.

Remember to wave or ring your bell at Nissan and the Braggart when you see them stuck in traffic on the weekend of March 6-8, 2014. Compared to the other examples of Car Industry Strikes Back, this one is hilarious and rather lame.

27 February 2014

Copenhagenize Reviews the Agenda for the Next Mayor of Paris

Paris Bike Culture - Cycling Sociably

























The current mayor of Paris – Bertrand Delanoë – is a living liveable city legend. While at the reins of the city for two terms, he has transformed the French capital in so many positive ways.

You have to love a mayor quoted as saying, "The fact is that cars no longer have a place in the big cities of our time".

30 km/h zones, traffic calming and... the Vélib' bike sharing system are all part of his modern legacy.

The number of bicycle users in Paris has increased since the launch of Vélib'. Delanoë, however, is stepping down after the next election. Today we're going to have a critical look at what the frontrunner for the mayoral post in the city, Anne Hildago, is proposing if elected.

She is already in charge of urban planning since Delanoë was elected to his second term. She knows the ropes, so to speak.

In her agenda, Anne Hidalgo has proposed the following:
  • to extend the Vélib' network to the whole metropolitan area.
  • to reduce the car speed limit to 30 km/h, excepted on the main boulevard.
  • to double the number of bicycle users in 10 years.
  • to double the number of bike lanes by creating a north-south lane, a lane on the Champs Elysées, a lane to reach the woods (Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes) and the cities located around Paris, a lane the circumnavigates the city, a lane along the railways, and one along the river.
  • to set up more Vélib' stations and bike parking at museum, train stations and schools.
  • to set up more signs and wayfinding for bicycle users.
  • to redesign the main squares for pedestrians and bicycle users.
  • to launch an e-Vélib' (public electric bike).
All in all, her cycling agenda sticks to the further development of the existing bike share system and the creation of new bicycle infrastructure. Compared to other world cities, the bicycle debate is already way ahead of the curve in Paris.

We like what we read but for a city that has done so much in so little time, what about pushing it just that little bit farther? The world needs leadership. A lot of it sounds like Hildago is focusing on commuting and, perhaps, recreational cycling. What about developing a bicycle culture right there in the neighbourhoods, making space and facilities for cargo bikes, creating safe routes to school, developing bicycle streets as WELL as building bicycle superhighways? Go Paris! We want you to go one step further!

Actually, there are several important and interesting points in this agenda. We obviously approve the development of more bike infrastructure. More bike lanes, especially along the iconic Champs Elysées, can become an interesting and important symbol. (It sure beats THIS vision from the past on that street)

We wonder, however, what KIND of infrastructure will be built? Will they be wide and well separated from the cars? Or will the bicycle users be forced to keep on sharing the lane with the buses? It's interesting to create bike lanes which go through Paris but bicycle users are more interested in reaching the office, the bakery, the school safely every day safely than knowing that Paris can be crossed from East to West. To create the right conditions for cycling, users must know that they can bike everywhere in the city safely and quickly.

And what's all about an e-Vélib'? Do we really want more scooters in a densely-populated city? Cohabitation with regular bikes can be complicated? In the Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland - from where we've seen data - accidents including e-bikes have increased. The Dutch authorities are creating a new fast cycle tracks just for e-bikes. Does Paris have enough space to create lanes for bikes AND e-bikes? We doubt it.
Robert Doisneau Traffic

Continuing to develop the bike share system to the whole metropolitan area is interesting. Regarding the size of the area, focusing on combining bike and train stations would seem, to us, to be a better idea.


We can conclude that if Paris really wants to move closer to the paradigm shift, this agenda is fine but it's also rather mild. Where is the creativity of Hildago and of Paris? Where is the world-class infrastructure the Parisians deserve in an increasingly livable city? Does Paris want to become a truly bicycle-friendly city?

Hildago's heart is in the right place, but she needs to take the bicycle more seriously as transport. It's already used by thousands of Parisian families and  employees. We think a more visionary policy is required.


Copenhagen Cycle Chic Goes To Paris