20 July 2016

Copenhagen Rolls out the Harbour Circle

By Mark Werner / Copenhagenize Design Company

Copenhagen takes no time to rest when it comes to the bicycle, just months after officially kicking off Havneringen, the Harbour Circle project, the route is now complete upon the opening of Inderhavnesbroen, Copenhagen’s newest pedestrian and bicycle bridge. The Harbour Circle only further showcases the city’s commitment to innovative bicycle infrastructure investments. In fall of 2016 the Circle will officially open, a 13 km recreational cycling and pedestrian path lining Copenhagen’s scenic blue harbour and the natural greenery of the city's south side. In recent years Copenhagen has taken strides to connect the city by bridging points along the harbour. The Harbour Circle will serve as a channel for both tourists and locals alike to easily access some of the city’s most notable sites. Stop for ice cream along Nyhavn, swim and relax at Islands Brygge, or stroll through the lush greenery at Amager Fælled. The point of this path is to highlight and connect the many great things around Copenhagen, as it runs through 12 distinct areas of the city. Displaying the clear water of Europe’s cleanest harbour, and granting new access to both historic sites and new architectural gems.



Olafur Eliasson's Circle Bridge is a small, critical connection that helps makes the City's harbour accessible

Adopted by the city budget in 2014, the Harbour Circle project officially kicked off just months ago, in May 2016, complete with a bicycle parade, concerts, food, and kayaking in the harbour. Set for completion in late 2016, the Harbour Circle is part of a much larger goal to link the city with all parts of the harbour, independent from the car. Multiple bridges have been built in this recent effort, beginning in 2006 with Bryggebroen, the first new connection between the district of Amager and Copenhagen in centuries. Prior, only two bridges existed connecting the highly populated Christianshavn, and further to Amager. While some of the new bridges are to be funded by the municipality, Danish foundations are footing the bill for others. Newly created bridges are strictly for pedestrians and cyclists, in an effort to discourage the car and further improve the walkability and bikeability of the city.

The Harbour Circle leads through a diverse range of landscapes.


Funding for this 13 million kr. project comes from both the Copenhagen Municipality and the National Bicycle Group. The Harbour Circle project includes three main components, the most significant is to build infrastructure such as bike paths and a temporary bridge. Further funding is set to place signs throughout the route providing information about each site and to guide people on their journey. Lastly, efforts are made to establish partnerships to market the route to locals and tourists. The Harbour Circle project is another endeavor to create a vibrant, life-sized city that will attract people into the city, adding to the diversity and liveliness of the downtown. The creation of the Harbour Circle will tie the city closer and allow everyone access to many of the destinations Copenhagen has to offer, yet another effort to assure its claim to fame of Copenhagen as a bicycle destination.

13 July 2016

Copenhagenize Design Company on Display

Photo: Clotilde Imbert


By Clotilde Imbert & James Thoem / Copenhagenize Design Company


This summer, Copenhagenize Design Co. is featured in three exhibitions dealing with bicycles, cycling, and urban transformations. Spend a day in Budapest (Hungary), Ghent (Belgium), and/or Paris (France) taking in some urban culture at an inspiring exhibition. What’s great to see is two of the venues hosting the exhibitions are in fact applied arts and design museums, only further showcasing the fact that the bicycle is back in the life of people through the angle of a daily object.

Here at Copenhagenize we always say that no textbook, no analytical software, no traffic model, can rival the value of just getting out there and observing the city and contemplating the role of bicycles in everyday transportation.  We consider city streets to be the very best laboratory for urban innovation. Nevertheless, it's fantastic to see museums and galleries seizing the topic and showcasing it in a new environment.


Bikeology Cycling Exhibition, Museum of Applied Arts. Budapest, Hungary.

Photo: Mohai Balázs

Curated by Kultur Gorilla, Bikeology is an exhibition exploring contemporary design innovations in the field of cycling. It offers a positive vision of the future and explores the mobility paradigm shift on going. The exhibition illustrates the role and importance of design in urban cycling through a triple section of the individual, the local communities, and the global challenges. 

The exhibition features one of our favourite early experiments, the Copenhagenize Love Handle.

Developed in 2010, the Copenhagenize Love Handle was prototyped in the urban theatre that is Copenhagen, Denmark. The aim of this product is simple, provide people travelling by bike the added comfort of having something to lean against while waiting at red light. It may not seem like much, but this added handle makes waiting at a red light just a little more comfortable, indirectly discouraging impatient cyclists from skipping through a red line. See it in action here.

Back in 2010, designing urban furniture for bicycle riders –beyond the simple bicycle rack- was a new phenomenon. Few cities had ever considered supporting bicycle riders in any infrastructural capacity beyond cycle tracks. To create a successful new product, a design approach is the key. Observe bicycle user behaviour and design appropriately.

Six years on we are proud to see our Love Handle in a museum, but most of all to spot more and more products for cyclists implemented in the streets.

Bike To The Future, Design Museum Ghent. Ghent, Belgium

Photo: Clotilde Imbert

The Design museum of Ghent, one of the most bicycle-friendly city in Belgium, is hosting Bike to the Future, an exhibition on bicycles and world-wild initiatives to promote cycling. We love the name, it almost sounds as if it could be a Copenhagenize conference!

This major exhibition in Belgium is playful and interactive. Race bikes, cargo-bikes, folding bikes, wooden bikes, all sorts of recent bicycles or prototypes are featured. After a visit, folks will probably feel like going to a bike shop to purchase their own steed. Well, mostly men and sporty cyclists could get this feeling, since an important part of the exhibition focuses on technical and technological innovations on bicycles, rather than on the simplicity of this old but timeless means of transportation, designed for men and women.

Videos, photographs, and numerous fact sheets allow the audience to get to know many initiatives related to cycling in town: from world-wild phenomena like Critical Mass (or Critical Miss?) and Cycle Hack, to the latest technologies allowing cyclists to find their, and to new items of bicycle urbanism from micro-design to macro-design.

Within this wide range the information, people can find an important number of trends launched first in Copenhagen : Copenhagenize, Cycle Chic (and Belgium Cycle Chic), The Slow Bicycle Movement, and CyclingWithout Age.


Mutations Urbaines: la ville est à nous!, Cité des sciences & de l’industrie. Paris, France

 
Photo: Darjelling

Cities must adapt themselves to countless dynamic factors from demographic increase, to new technologies, and climate change. Urban Planners often deal with these issues from behind their desks, while local inhabitants live them each and every day. As the city changes, so too do the behaviours and attitudes of everyday citizens, however small or large.

The curator of the exhibition has decided to highlight four cities that can inspire others to adapt their urban environment to the new reality: Copenhagen, Detroit, Songdo and Medellin are all an international leaders in a specific field.

A film screening showcases Copenhagen as a model of green city, which has prioritized pedestrians and cyclists over cars. Using Copenhagenize's photomontages of streets in 1973 and 2014, they explain that removing cars to make space for active mode of transportations like walking and cycling is achievable.  


What’s more, further attention is turned to a now global movement that started in Copenhagen, Cycling Without Age. Started by our friend Ole Kassow, Cycling Without Age facilitates rickshaw rides for elderly living in nursing homes, reconnecting otherwise a relatively immobile group with their changing city.

08 July 2016

Copenhagen's Inderhavnsbro - Inner Harbour Bridge

Inderhavnsbro - Inner Harbour Bridge - Copenhagen

By Mark Werner / Copenhagenize Design Company

Copenhagen’s Inderhavnsbroen (Inner Harbor Bridge) has been a seemingly never ending story of mishaps and constant delays. This bridge has endured problems ranging from incorrect designs to contractor bankruptcies, all of which have led to pushbacks of the process day-by-day, month-by-month. From an effort by the city to connect all parts of the harbor for tourists and allowing eager citizens to shave minutes off their commutes, has led to a massive headache and a chorus of groans and eye-rolls by citizens and traveler alike. Locally known as the “kissing bridge” through these constant delays it has subsequently earned its name as the “missing bridge”.

Inderhavnsbroen is an entirely new design for a bridge or, in other words, overcomplicated beyond belief. It was intended to be a radical distinguished design unique to Copenhagen, beyond the average drawbridges that have worked for more than a thousand years across water everywhere.
Inderhavnsbro - Inner Harbour Bridge - Copenhagen Inderhavnsbro - Inner Harbour Bridge - Copenhagen

Inderhavnsbroen consists of two moving platforms that meet in the center, and like a puzzle piece metal points one side of the bridge slides and locks into the other side. These two platforms slide outward into the immobile segments of the bridge, leaving a gap in the center letting boats through. It's a bit too much like Magpie Architecture to us.

Inderhavnsbroen is part of Copenhagen’s much larger plan, known as the Harbor Circle project, to ease commuting and increase connectivity of many notable points around the harbor for visitors and locals.

This bridge would link the highly visited Nyhavn, and the business heavy area of Kongens Nytorv, to the highly populated Christianshavn onto the island Amager. With roughly 3-7,000 cyclists expected daily, significant congestion would be relieved from the closest and traffic-heavy Knippelsbro (bridge) with over 40,000 cyclists a day.


Construction for Inderhavnsbroen began in 2011 and was set for completion in early 2013...not the case, as it stands incomplete today and no formal opening in sight. It has become one of Copenhagen’s most notable points, but for all the wrong reasons.

[1] The sequence of problems began as early as 2012 when two of the main support beams arrived 60cm too tall! This was due to poor drawings in the plan. It’s bad enough for engineers to make a mistake of a few millimeters, not 60 cm! An extra 4 months were added to the project as time was taken to pat down the beams until they were at the appropriate height.

[2] Problems continue into May of 2013, when the two steel moving platforms arrive from a Spanish company show serious flaws. Despite these defects, contractual agreements require the project to continue, still using the same 250-ton beams.

[3] By April of that year the tragedies continue when cracks are found on the surface and need to be reinforced.

[4] As the summer continues weaknesses are found in the infrastructure and parts of the concrete bow down underneath the bridge; time is taken to apply necessary reinforcements. By August Pihl and Søn, the main contractors of the project declare their bankruptcy and all work stops on the bridge for 9 months, until the city of Copenhagen takes over the project. This is the point where it begins to sound like a cruel joke, Pihl and Søn is an international contracting group in business for over 100 years, and it is during this already endless project that they go out of business.

[5] By December a storm hits Copenhagen, and due to improper storage a machine room below the bridge floods and two motors become damaged beyond repair. All the while, as delays are added the costs only rise on this project.

[6] As spring begins in 2014 fears grow that even more reinforcements are needed! Many tests are done, and it turns out the be a false alarm, however, the delays still pile up. Work continues, and a new polish contracting group takes over the project. No drastic delays occur on the bridge until August of 2015

[7], when one of the draw-wire systems that pulls the movable platform back has snapped...delays carry on. The most recent problem encountered was discovered in November of 2015

[8], when one boogie-system, the set of wheels that roll the moving platforms back and forth, was discovered to be too weak. A whole new system needed to be designed, created, and installed, which was finished in April 2016. A whole set of new problems however is exacerbated by the initial plans

[9], in May of 2016 it was discovered that the change of warm air combined with the still-cold harbor water was causing the bridge to bend and skew. The fact that the bridge may squirm was taken into the design, however, not when the temperature change is so drastic between warm air to cold water... which is strange because that is basically every spring in Copenhagen for countless millenia.



All these delays have come at a huge cost, which sets in place the next set of problems, who is going to pay? It’s now highly debated between Copenhagen and Pihl and Søn contractors, as the bridge was supposed to cost 200 million kr. but after constant delays and mishaps has now risen to 300 million kr., and the cost of Copenhagen’s share has already tripled.

With all that said, the light at the tunnel has been reached. The bridge finally opened to the public on 07 July 2016 and the official opening is scheduled for 19 August 2016.

The new boogie system has been installed and the final tests and fine tuning of the bridge are done.

Many say that Inderhavnsbroen was hit by Murphy’s Law, where anything that could go wrong has. This whole process just goes to show that sometimes you need to stick with what you know works, like the two bridges that have been in place for nearly 100 years across the harbor already. Or just ask the thousands of daily commuters in Copenhagen that longed for the day the bridge would open.

Inderhavnsbro - Inner Harbour Bridge - Copenhagen Inderhavnsbro - Inner Harbour Bridge - Copenhagen

16 June 2016

The Oslo Standard - Next Level Bicycle Planning and Politics

The Oslo Standard for Bicycle Planning / Oslostandarden for sykkeltilrettelegging

So there you are. A capital city in a European country wanting desperately to keep up with the cool kids. Wanting to improve city life, generally, but also focusing intensely on re-creating a bicycle-friendly city.

Oslo has grand plans. The news in October 2015 that the city council had voted to make the city centre free of private cars by 2019 - as well as many other plans - was a shot heard round the world and captured imaginations in many other cities.

The City of Oslo is gearing up for change, no doubt about it. At Copenhagenize Design Company, we’ve gone so far as to call the city “the next big thing” in bicycle urbanism. There are more people employed to make the city bicycle-friendly in Oslo than in almost any other city on the planet. Sure, they’re divided up in different, confusing departments, but they’re there. A group of vaguely focused landscape architect types in the city’s Bymiljøetaten (Agency of City Environment) and the City’s temporary Sykkelprojsektet - or Bicycle Agency - who are tasked with implementing the city’s bicycle strategy.

It is the latter who are orchestrating the show and who have a clear understanding of what is needed and how to do it. Yesterday, The Bicycle Agency released a long-awaited document clearly outlining their roadmap for bicycle infrastructure in the city. It is one of the most interesting and inspiring documents we’ve seen coming out of a municipality anywhere in the world.

The Oslo Standard. Remember that name.

All good, right? Off they go, you might think. Political will, money, loads of people ready to work. Unfortunately, it turns out that it’s not that easy. Which is exactly why The Oslo Standard for Bicycle Planning now exists. It is available in a public hearing version, in Norwegian, but an English version will be out later in the year.

Like many places, Oslo and other cities in Norway are under the thumb of a Road Directorate and the nature of such organisations is to be slow to change, keep a firm grip on outdated traffic engineering principles and generally be a pain in the ass of people who see a better vision for our cities.

Like many places, Norway has road design standards dictated by said road directorate. Traffic engineers would have you believe they are carved in stone and are second only to the Ten Commandments in their worth. Oslo, however, has fired up their jackhammer.

The Norwegian road design standards are, quite simply, the biggest hurdle to The Bicycle Agency implementing the City’s bicycle strategy. They are hopelessly outdated and include little in the way of modern, Best Practice bicycle infrastructure design.

It’s not a new story. In 2012, the National Transport Ministry was tired of getting the same old, same old answers from the Road Directorate and chose instead to ask someone new. Together with Civitas, Copenhagenize Design Company produced a huge feasibility study to help boost cycling in Norwegian cities. The report basically recommended Best Practice infrastructure across the board.

Oslo's First Cycle Track
Norway and Oslo are no stranger to Best Practice. Aftenposten newspaper, in 1941, wrote about “Oslo’s First Bike Lane”, which was clearly inspired by Copenhagen. Indeed, a separated cycle track is called in professional circles a “dansk sykkelsti” - Danish Bike Lane.
Trondheim Bicycle Infrastructure
You can see examples in the country’s best city for urban cycling, Trondheim, put in in the 90s. A bit narrow, but hey. Best Practice, at least. Ironically, bizarrely and sadly, the Road Directorate removed these designs from their standards.

This is where The Oslo Standard comes in. It is Oslo’s own standard for bicycle infrastructure design and it includes Best Practice solutions that are not included in the national road standards. The “dansk sykkelsti” is called “raised bicycle area”, in order to establish it in a new context.

This is Oslo saying, “If you won’t modernise, we’ll do it on our own”.

And they are. They have presented a clear vision for bicycle infrastructure design with their Oslo Standard and they are fine with stepping on the toes of the national road directorate. It is a planning document, but it is also a shot fired across the bow signalling a sea change in how Oslo wants to plan its streets for transport in the future. It has clear political signals, as well. Shoving is the new nudging. Shoving the road directorate into the new century.

Here is the introduction to the document:

The Oslo Standard for Bicycle Planning is one of the main initiatives in the City’s bicycle strategy. It translates the city’s goals for bicycle modal share, sense of safety, accessibility and traffic safety for cyclists into practical solutions for building bicycle infrastructure. Norway’s national bicycle strategy 2014-2023 includes a goal that 8% of all trips must be done by bike. This would mean that the modal share for bicycles in cities must be between 10-20%. The Bicycle Strategy for Oslo 2015-2025 has a declared goal that 16% of all weekday trips will be by bike before 2025. In 2013, the modal share was measured to be 8%.

In a comprehensive study in 2013, a majority of Oslo’s citizens say they don’t feel safe cycling in the city and that much of the bicycle infrastructure that is in place doesn’t satisfy the citizens’ needs or wishes. As the country’s capital, Oslo must lead by prioritising pedestrians and cyclists and use solutions that make it possible to reach both national and municipal cycling goals.


Clear, defined and with a “we’re going it alone” attitude. Refreshing.

Compared with similar, strategic documents, The Oslo Standard wholeheartedly embraces Best Practice. The American NACTO guide, for example, has some good stuff but it also includes leftovers of designs that were chucked out of Danish Best Practice two decades ago and it has an awkward, American engineering feel to it, even though it hopes to be a counterweight to the ASHTO guide. The Oslo Standard, however, nails it. They have done their research.

The Oslo Standard for Bicycle Planning / Oslostandarden for sykkeltilrettelegging
Here you can see a selection of screen grabs of the infrastructure designs. Reading through the document we were pleased to see that bidirectional infrastructure is reserved for off-street areas and stretches without many intersections to avoid conflicts. Here is why THAT is important.

The Oslo Standard for Bicycle Planning / Oslostandarden for sykkeltilrettelegging
All manner of designs are included, featuring every street typology possible in the city of Oslo and, indeed, in most cities on the planet. Lots of inspiration from Danish Best Practice and some from Holland. Oslo is clear on their focus. No sub-standard solutions. Certainly no center-running lanes, that's for sure.

The Oslo Standard for Bicycle Planning / Oslostandarden for sykkeltilrettelegging
While cycle tracks are the default, there are still plans for painted lanes - causing shivers down the spine of any professional bicycle planner worth their salt - but as long as we know that they GET IT and want to do the proper design where possible, we can let it slide just a little. They know that bike lanes should be along the sidewalk and NOT inbetween the door zone in a single-occupant vehicle society and moving traffic. So that helps us sleep at night.

While Oslo can muscle on and plans their streets with modern designs in the Oslo Standard, the road directorate still dictates signage. Which proves to be rather comical.


This isn't Norway in the photo but it's a pretty close to what the situation looks like when the road directorate are in charge.

So that is something that needs to be worked on. Then there is the bizarre bureaucracy inherent in the Oslo municipality.

But a foundation has been laid in Oslo. A vision is ready to be made into a reality. The Oslo Standard is the new darling for bicycle urbanism.

Let's hope that they can translate their vision into asphalt and boost transport in Oslo into the 21st century

10 June 2016

Fools and roads. Arrogance of Space in Moscow

Arrogance of Space Moscow 001

Fools & Roads - The Arrogance of Space in Moscow
By James Thoem / Copenhagenize Design Co.

After an unreal week of ribbon cuttings, bike parades and Russian saunas in our client city of Almetyevsk, Tatarstan, the Copenhagenize Design Co. team retreated to Moscow to see what Europe’s second largest city has to offer. Sure enough, there was no shortage of awesome sights, fantastic parties and delicious food.

But what hit us right away was the sheer scale of the city. Stalinist era administrative and residential building blocks taking cues from Viennese facades and neoclassical styles were blown out of proportion. Any one of Stalin’s gigantic ‘Seven Sisters’ skyscrapers always seemed to loom on the horizon. Most oppressive of all, however, were the roads. The roads! We’re talking about a network of roads 8 to 14 lanes wide stretching through the entire city. Uptown, downtown, suburbs and all. And of course, traffic never ceased to fill the city (Check out Taras Grescoe’s Straphanger for a more thorough account of Moscow transport). If you need any further proof of induced demand, visit Moscow.

While sitting for drinks on the O2 rooftop bar at the Ritz Carlton hotel, we couldn’t help but gawk at the size of the roads. Tverskaya lay below us in all it’s arrogance. Mockingly starting back up at us. And it wasn’t long before we started talking, as we do, about the arrogance of space. The outdated transport engineering concepts of last century live on in Moscow.

Back in our Copenhagen office, we turned to our Arrogance of Space methodology. Here it’s quite obvious that the city has been handed over to the automobile. An ocean of red (no pun intended) is wildly apparent. Pedestrians wishing to cross the street must walk to the nearest dingy pedestrian tunnel before continuing on their way. If stairs aren’t easy for you, good luck. There are even a few cars parked on the sidewalk, because hey, why would you park on the road? The road is for driving (facepalm).

Arrogance of Space Moscow 002
Removing the underlying photo gives an even better idea of the blatant arrogance of the city's pornographic obsession with the automobile.

Arrogance of Space Moscow 003
Then look at the space the cars are actually occupying. Plenty of opportunity.

Arrogance of Space Moscow 005
And, finally, in the interest of equal representation here, we show the individuals using the space. A shocking amount of space used by so few individuals. Where is the rationality here?

Arrogance of Space Moscow 004

There’s a old Russian proverb we learned during our stay: "There are only two problems in Russia: fools and roads". In the case of the modern Moscow, it’s quite obvious that it’s the fools who are planning the roads. Ignoring the Bull in society's china shop. It’s time to change the question, stop asking how many cars we can squeeze down the road, but how many people.

Graphics by Mark Werner/Copenhagenize Design Co.

Дураки и дороги. Дорожное обжорство в Москве


Arrogance of Space Moscow 001

После фантастической недели перерезания ленточек, велопарадов и русской бани в Альметьевске команда Copenhagenize Design Co. вернулась в Москву посмотреть, что может предложить второй по величине город Европы. Будьте уверены, мы не испытывали недостатка в удивительных достопримечательностях, замечательных вечеринках и изысканных блюдах.

Но что нас поразило сразу, это масштаб города. Пропорции административных зданий и жилых домов сталинской эпохи невероятно раздуты. «Сталинские высотки» возвышаются над горизонтом повсюду. Но самое гнетущее — это дороги. Дороги! Сеть дорог, имеющих по 8—14 полос, покрывает весь город. В центре, в жилых районах, в пригороде — везде. И, конечно же, по этим полосам 24 часа в сутки ездят транспортные средства (загляните в книгу «Пассажир» Тараса Греско, чтобы лучше узнать про московский транспорт). Если вам нужны какие-нибудь ещё доказательства, что индуцированный спрос — не вымысел, просто съездите в Москву.


Сидя в баре O2 на крыше отеля Ритц Карлтон, мы не переставали поражаться размерам дорог. Тверская лежала под нами во всей своей заносчивости. Словно бы с издёвкой глядя на нас. Всоре мы уже говорили на одну из наших «любимых тем»: пространственные излишества (на самом деле это даже не излишества, а настоящее дорожное обжорство). Москва живет устаревшими транспортными концепциями прошлого века.



По возвращении в копенгагенский офис мы обратились к нашей методике выявления пространственных излишеств. Совершенно очевидно что Москва отдана на откуп автомобилям. На дорогах бесконтрольно раскинулся океан красного (я тут не подразумевал никаких двусмысленностей). Пешеходы, чтобы пересечь улицу, должны дойти до ближайшего обшарпанного подземного перехода. Если подъем по лестницам даётся вам нелегко, то вы держитесь. Несколько машин припарковано даже на тротуаре. Ну конечно, с чего бы люди стали парковаться на дороге? Ведь дорога — чтобы по ней ехать (рукалицо).

Arrogance of Space Moscow 002

Если убрать подложку, картина практически порнографической одержимости города автомобилями станет более явной.

Arrogance of Space Moscow 003

Теперь посмотрите на пространство, которое на самом деле занимают автомобили. Просто море потенциальных возможностей.

Arrogance of Space Moscow 005

И, наконец, чтобы иллюстрация была справедливой, оставим только людей, занимающих это пространство. Потрясающе огромное пространство используется таким небольшим количеством людей. Где здравый смысл?

Arrogance of Space Moscow 004

Есть одна старая русская поговорка, которую мы тут узнали: «В России только две беды: дураки и дороги». Применительно к современной Москве совершенно очевидно, что это те дураки, которые планируют дороги. Не замечая, что выступают в роли слона в в посудной лавке, которой является город. Пришло время изменить парадигму, перестать руководствоваться тем, сколько автомобилей мы можем пропустить по дороге, и начать говорить о людях.

Иллюстрации: Марк Вернер (Mark Werner), Copenhagenize Design Co.

08 June 2016

Oslo - The Next Big Bicycle Thing?

This is a translated version of an interview with Mikael published in the Norwegian newspaper Morgenbladet on 29 April 2016 by journalist Marius Lien. The photo used in the article is by Christian Belgaux.

The Great Road Choice
by Marius Lien for Morgenbladet - 29.04-05.05 2016

Oslo - one of Europe’s best bicycle cities? It sounds like a joke. But according to the Danish urban designer, Mikael Colville-Andersen, everything is in place for Oslo becoming the next great bicycle city.

“No city in the world is as exciting as Oslo right now”, says Colville-Andersen

He should know what he is talking about. As head of the Danish consulting company Copenhagenize Design Co., he has travelled over the past nine years from one global city to the next to share his knowledge with urban planners and politicians. Recently, he has spent a lot of time in Norway since he got a Norwegian girlfriend, and he tosses around anecdotes and bicycle urbanism experiments from every corner of the planet.

“Few, if any, cities in the world have so many people working with cycling as Oslo does”, he says, and focuses primarily on Sykkelprojsektet (The Bicycle Agency) and the City Environment Department (Bymiljøetaten).

“There are more here than in Copenhagen. You have a vision for a car-free city centre and that news travelled around the world. The rest of the plans from the city council are great, too”, says Colville-Andersen.

To go from 0% to 5% modal share for bikes is, according to Colville-Andersen, the most difficult challenge. To go from 5% to 15% - something he believes is within reach for Oslo - is a piece of cake.

“With the resources that are available there now, I can’t be anything but optimistic. I tell people around the world that Oslo will become the next big bicycle city. Boom”, he says.

Breaking the Rules
The problem is that the plans the city council have proposed have also be proposed before. Without result. Will anything happen this time?

“The main problem here in Norway is the engineers at the National Road Directorate (Statens Vegvesen), who have learned 1950s, American traffic engineering and who aren’t capable of thinking differently. When a city wants to become bike friendly, the politicians and transport department have to make it happen. But it also has to happen through a liberal traffic engineering environment”, says Colville-Andersen.

“I know the heads of most city bicycle offices in Norway. They share the same frustrations and they point their finger in the same direction. The primary problem is that they are never allowed to try anything new because of the Road Directorate’s guidebooks. If you want to make a new cycle track in Bergen, the answer is: ‘Nope, it’s not in our guidebooks. The engineers are the spanners in the works”, says Colville-Andersen.

These guidebooks contain all the rules for traffic planning in Norway. They highlight the road standards that politicians and others working with traffic must adhere to and they are unmovable. The main reason for Colville-Andersen’s Oslo optimism is the so-called Oslo Standard. A plan developed by the Bicycle Agency, which will be launched in May.

“I have seen the plan and it completely ignores the old-fashioned standards and rules upheld by the Road Directorate. They say: ‘We’d rather make our own standard’”, says Colville-Andersen.

It was exactly the same in the Netherlands in the 1970s, as described in Morgenbladet last summer. The country managed to stop the growth of private car ownership and become the most advanced bicycle nation in the world. A position they still maintain.

“More and more people are thinking: What if we ask someone else? Instead of the engineers? It’s often individuals who have been on holiday and seen something interesting, or who have read an article and want to try something out. Norway is the USA of Europe when it comes to traffic engineering. Not even Germany comes close. You have the most restrictive guidelines for roads in all of Western Europe”, says Colville-Andersen.

“Trondheim broke the rules in the 1990s and is now Norway’s best bicycle city”, he says.

Width
Rune Gjøs is the head of the Bicycle Agency (Sykkelprojsektet). What does he say about Colville-Andersen’s description of the rule breaking?

“It may be a stretch. We focus on work that is heavily anchored in the Bicycle Strategy that the city council has passed. The development of bicycle infrastructure adapted to Oslo is one of the most important parts. It is a higher standard than is normal in the rest of Norway”.

What do you mean? A higher standard for what?

“For everything, really. In the current road standards the maximum width for a bike lane is 1.8 metres. They can’t be wider. We have established a width of 2.2 metres. This goes against the standards but it’s not illegal. The national standards are adapted to an average. They don’t take into consideration that Oslo is the country’s largest city, with different conditions and more cyclists. A lot of our work is finding out where in the established guide we can put a higher standard in”.

Do you have more examples of how you work against the road standards?

“Intersections. We don’t think that the current solution with the bike lane on the same level as the car lane is good. We want a raised cycle track or a physical separation with a curb. That’s what you find in Denmark and it is mainstream in parts of the world that are banking on bicycles”, says Gjøs.

Scratch
He knows the story from the Netherlands.

“I have seen photos from Amsterdam in the 1970s and it is full of cars. It is inspiring that they were once in the same situation as we are now. We’re starting from scratch, like they did. It means it isn’t unattainable”, says Gjøs.

How would you describe the traffic engineers in the Road Directorate as partners?

“I worked in the Road Directorate for 16 years and I’m educated as a traffic engineer. So I’m throwing rocks in a glass house, haha. You can give them the blame and say that they created car-centric cities. But now the external assignment has changed. Now society wants to build cities that are good to live in. It has to be easier to walk or cycle. When I started in the Road Directorate in 1992, the pressure was on to build roads for cars”, says Gjøs, who nevertheless understands the criticism.

“It is a precise description of how it was and how it still is in many places. On a professional level, it is a culture that wasn’t used to being challenged by other professions. The criticism hurt a little. Now there is a willingness to listen to other professions. It’s easier to adapt to new trends”.

In Development
Marit Espeland, national bicycle coordinator in the Road Directorate, responds to Colville-Andersen’s criticism:

“Our solutions are based on research. We constantly look for documentation and then further develop our standards for safe traffic designs for cycling”.

Has the Road Directorate historically played a constructive role when bicycle offices and politicians want to improve the conditions for cyclists?

“Infrastructure for bicycles has developed in Norway. We are currently revising our road standards, which include bicycle infrastructure. We have also started a pilot project for bikes, where we have invited cities to provide ideas we can test. We are, I suppose, in development”.


14 April 2016

Berlin Decides its Future

Ride
This article is written by Copenhagenize Design Company's urban planner, Leon Legeland. Originally from the least- bicycle friendly city in Germany, Wiesbaden, he has lived, studied and worked in Vienna, Malmö and currently Copenhagen. He has a master in Sustainable Urban Management and is currently finishing his second master in Sustainable Cities here in Copenhagen. He has been working with us for eight months and is motivated to support and plan the needed paradigm shift in mobility in Germany and particularly in Berlin.

Mikael will be speaking at this year's VivaVelo congress next week in Berlin, on April 18, 2016, so we thought we’d take a closer look at the status quo and current buzz about urban cycling in the German capital.

In the 2015 Copenhagenize Index, we saw the city slip from 5th in 2011 to 12th in 2015. Still, Berlin is in the Top 20, but where is the city headed in the next few years? Things are happening in the city. Both things that make us optimistic and excited and things that make us want to throw up a little bit in our mouth.

If we look at the baseline, progress is slow and soooo last century.

There appears to be a total disconnect between the declared municipal strategy and what is actual happening (or not happening). The Senate in Berlin, on some level, understands that urban cycling improves the quality of life and that it has to be promoted and supported. The official bicycle strategy is full of promising initiatives and visions - more than many cities.

The city has a goal of hitting 20% modal share by 2025 and wants to invest in bicycle infrastructure and parking and to improve the overall bikeability of the city. The Senate initiated a collaborative online platform that identified and discussed fifty dangerous intersections that get will be prioritised for a bicycle friendly redesign. It was a clever move to get local insights about needs and problems with added subjective expertise. This all sounds fine and good, but the reality is far-removed.


Out of fifty intersections, only three intersections have been redesigned in the past three years. Safety in intersections is key. Since 2000, almost 200 people have been killed on their bicycles in Berlin. Tragic. No doubt about that. Instead, however, of accelerating the redesign of dangerous intersections and building Best Practice infrastructure along roads, the city decided instead to merely advertise their own lack of desire for change with large digital signs aimed at motorists (above - spotted on this Facebook group).

Texts included:

“In 2015, 15 cyclists were killed by passing cars. Minimum 1.5m distance”
“Every two hours a bicycle accident happens, keep 1.5m distance”.

We suppose the idea - however primitive - is good. Creating awareness among motorists that cyclists are present in the city. It is also a bold advertisment branding cycling as dangerous. There is little messaging that would encourage motorists - who cause many of the ills that cities suffer - to consider a shift in transport mode. Finally, it shows in no uncertain terms how outdated, flawed and incompetent the current traffic planning and road design is.

The solution is simple: build adequate, protected bicycle lanes and redesign your intersections. You won’t need warnings, you’ll avoid branding cycling as dangerous and you will save vast amounts of money on public health.

Since the city has already invested in the digital signs, why not use them for positive messaging? Off the top of our heads:

“Berliners spend 100 hours per year in traffic jams, take your bike!”
“Berlin is one of the most polluted cities in Germany, stop driving!”
“500,000 apartments in Berlin suffer from noise pollution from cars, take the train and bike!”

It’s one thing wasting money on digital signs, but what’s worse is that Berlin is not even spending its annual budget for bike infrastructure. The Senate failed to use €4.6 million that was available to it. The City spends €3.80 per person on bicycle infrastructure. Embarrassing considering that in Copenhagen, that number is €25. In Oslo, it’s as high as €35. But even cities like Paris, London and Madrid spend more than €12 per person.

Berlin is not even spending what they have, let alone finding more money to modernise their transport and keep up to speed with global trends. A recent investigation by Berliner Morgenpost newspaper mapped all the roads in Berlin in regards to their bicycle infrastructure. They found that 55% of all main roads in Berlin have bicycle “infrastructure”. That sounds nice, but it includes narrow painted lanes and bus lanes that can be used by bikes. The painted lanes are generally only 80 cm wide - far from the 2.5 meters dicated by Best Practice - and are often clogged with parked cars.

Berlin_1
The study found that 338 of Berlin’s main roads do not have any bicycle infrastructure at all. Cycling in Berlin is not at all intuitive. It’s confusing and irritating. There is no uniform design or cohesive, comprehensive network.

In a nutshell, the municipality talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk. Progress is painfully slow and there is little Best Practice design. Politicians blame the tricky administrative division between the Senate and the districts, as well as the lack of professional staff to get projects pushed through to completion. Basically, the money is there but there are no planners to use it.


Don’t think stuff doesn’t get done in Berlin. The largest infrastructure project in the city - currently under construction - is the extension of the Autobahn 100 from Neukölln to Treptow. Yep. A highway! In 2016. Bizarre.

Do you know what the city will get for the €480,000,000 price tag? A whopping (not) 3.2 km long, six-lane highway labelled “Piece of Berlin”. They say the same thing as people have been saying for 60 years - that this highway will magically improve the city’s traffic environment, increase quality of life, economic growth and reduce automobilie traffic and congestion. Seriously. Despite the fact that no highway has done this anywhere in the past 100 years.

The only thing we’ve learned over the past century is this: If you make more space for cars, more cars will come. Traffic in Berlin will stay the same - and probably become worse. A six-lane highway cannot improve quality of life. Other cities are tearing out their last-century monuments to failure, not building new ones.

The extension of the A100 requires the demolition of a couple of apartment buildings, the felling of hundreds of trees, the relocation of an old landfill and is a extremely complicated construction due to high groundwater level, noise protection, and so on. This is a madman’s playground for German Autobahn engineering, not a “Piece of Berlin”.

Even more sad is the fact that a further extension of the A100 - adding on another 4.1 km - is currently being discussed and is expected to be approved in the next two years. According to some preliminary calculations, the cost may hit €1 billion, due to a tunnel under the Spree River. There will be the usual demolishing of buildings, the eviction of clubs and cultural institutions and more chopped trees. Let’s hope the people of Berlin can mobilise and stop this madness.

Wild, isn’t it? The municipal departments are able to plan, approve, finance and construct a complicated, monster highway for a total of €1.4 billion but they can’t seem to find money to move far more people through the streets of Berlin with a network of uniform, Best Practice bicycle infrastructure based on designs and experience over 100 years old.

Berlin - more than many cities in the world - is all about the citizens. They seem to get it. In the inner city, the modal share is 18% for bicycles. Car traffic is at 17%. Urban cycling is mainstream and is ready for massive growth. Cycling is growing by 5% every year - even though only 3% of all traffic space is dedicated to bikes. All Berliners need is a group of politicians currently residing in this century.


Citizens are also doing it for themselves. There is an ambitious group of activists, planners and regular citizens who happen to use bikes to get around and they are fed up with the inactivity of the Senate. The Berlin chapter of the national cycling NGO - called ADFC - were notorious for their displeasure with infrastructure. A hangover from this school of thought. Luckily, they are now supporting the referendum.

The Volksentscheid - Fahrrad is behind a cycling referendum that is currently shaking the Senate out of its drowsiness and insisting that more has to be done to make Berlin a bicycle friendly city. The group have established ten goals that are incorporated in the first German bicycle law. The goals include the transformation of 325 km of roads into bicycle streets, safe bicycle infrastructure on every main road, a safer redesign of 75 intersections per year, quick maintenance and fixes along bike lanes, 200,000 bike parking spots, fifty stretches with a green wave for bikes, 100 km of bicycle highways, police on bikes that ensure the bikeability, more bicycle planning staff in council positions and communications campaign that prepare Berlin to become a bicycle friendly city.

Here is a link to their 10 demands in English.

All goals are bound to a timeplan. There are great activists out there in the world, but this group has taken it to the next level.

This might seem a bit optimistic. But consider this. The ambitious goals of the Cycling Referendum will cost about the same as just one kilometre of the A100 extension. That’s it. Add to that the fact that one kilometer of cycle track is paid off in under five years and the referendum plans will be making money for the city in no time. The A100 never will.

Car traffic is the minority group in the transport paradigm and yet the City is spending obscene amounts of money to increase car traffic in Berlin.

The Cycling Referendum has jumpstarted a modern and much-needed discussion and put political pressure on the municipal officials. Instead of the usual, ineffective critical mass events, the group around the Cycling Referendum use a clever way to show their dissatisfaction - by offering best practice alternatives. This year, Berlin is electing a new Senate, and cycling is becoming a hot issue on the political agenda. The Cycling Referendum and its objectives get a lot of media coverage, which further fuels the political debate.

Berlin_21
We at Copenhagenize Design Co. fully support the goals and plans of the Cycling Referendum (Volksentscheid Fahrrad). Berlin can do so much more and it is time to stop the backward-directed traffic politics. It is time for a paradigm shift away from a last-century, car-centric planning approach and towards a modern and inclusive one.

01 April 2016

Stylish Public Transport Wear from Transit Republic

In this age of rapidly shifting mobility patterns, the race is on to attract commuters to alternative transport forms. Public transport like busses, metros and trams suffer from negative perception and branding, not least in America. Busses, for example, have been labelled as "loser cruisers".

Enter a new start-up fashion firm - Transit Republic. After studying the alternative transport market, they realised that nobody was creating products that would encourage people to take public transport, as well as understanding the needs of the modern citydweller.


It's a Swedish duo, Terese Alstin and Anna Haupt who are behind the new company, and their main focus is the American market. "North America is a growth market for public transit. We heard they started a tram or something in Dallas and we realised that North Americans need to be lured with tech solutions before they do anything. We want to address their needs with style in order to boost transit usage".

After their now defunct Office Helmet project, where they tried to improve safety in the office environment, Alstin and Haupt realised that the world needed something important.

"Public transit is a great alternative", says Haupt. "I sometimes take the train in Stockholm when my car is in the shop and while I love being with my fellow citizens, I also need my own space. That's what Transit Republic is all about. Style and space in busy cities."

As an avid cyclist on the weekends, Alstin was inspired by the technology afforded cyclists by a plethora of intelligent accessories. "You can't just ride a bike. Gear is incredibly important, as well. Everyone knows that. The same should apply to public transit."


Creating your own space whilst enjoying the benefits of public transit is the key element in Transit Republic.



The idea is taking hold. Transit Republic is now working on collaborating with Levis and Volvo, which will provide them with some exciting, visionary partners.

Taras Grescoe, author of the definitive book on public transport, Straphanger, sees the new company as a breath of fresh air. "Finally, someone is taking the task of encouraging public transport usage seriously. It's hard to get people to take busses and trains and I firmly believe that Transit Republic are creating the products necessary to boost transit use", he said in an email from Montreal.

15 March 2016

Bicycle Infrastructure Fail(s)

Bizarre Bicycle Infrastructure
By and large, we are optimists here at Copenhagenize Design Company. In our extensive travels around the world to our client cities and to give keynotes, we are privileged to see so many cities changing for the better and working to reestablish the bicycle as transport on the urban landscape. We get to work with great cities to help them make it happen. I've ridden bicycles in over 70 cities around the world with my work and while often the infrastruture is sensible, once in a while I am presented with weird stuff. Like the photo, above, taken in Washington, DC by our colleague Ole Kassow of Cycling Without Age. Initially, our team of planners and urban designers here at our Copenhagen office had a good laugh but then it sinks in. This is actually a thing. Someone was tasked with putting in bicycle infrastructure and THIS is what a city ended up with. Center-running lanes.

Here's the rub. Best Practice in bicycle infrastructure is basically a century old. Dedicated bike paths date from 1892 when an equestrian path was turned over to bikes on Esplanade in Copenhagen. In 1915, the first on-street, curb-separated cycle track was installed on Strandboulevarden. From there, protected bike infrastructure spread out around the world.

Over 100 years, the infrastructure has been tested by easily hundreds of millions of daily cyclists. Planners have tweaked and experimented, made mistakes and fixed them and ended up with a Best Practice that is simple, effective, safe and cost-efficient. Generations of planners and engineers have done an amazing job and just handed us everything we need on a silver platter. There are only four types of infrastructure in Danish Best Practice. One of the designs fits any street in the nation and any street in any city in the world. Copy-paste, baby.

Why, then, do we see crap like in the photo, above, showing up on city streets? Who, in their right mind, would ACTUALLY choose to put cyclists in the middle of a street with speeding cars on either side? Certainly not anyone with an understanding of the bicycle's role in urban life as transport or a sincere desire to encourage cycling and keep people safe. As I suggested on Twitter, find the person who is responsible and fire them. A flippant remark - but still a serious one.

The primary problem is that traffic engineering, in certain countries, still has influence on planning and urban design. In America, where this infrastructure was put in, bicycles are placed in the same category as motorized vehicles. In countries that GET the bicycle's role in cities, they are regarded as fast-moving pedestrians and we've been planning for them for a century.

We work with planners and engineers all over the world so we realise the challenges in changing the old-fashioned, car-centric mentality. It is, however, 2016. Planning for bicycles is child's play. Or should be.

Copenhagen Rush Hour_3
Cycle tracks run parallel to the sidewalk. Separated from the motorized traffic. Period. It's not rocket science.

Looking at the photo from Washington, DC, my first thought is, "how am I supposed to get to a destination in mid-block"? Do I go up to the next intersection and walk my bike back? Why would I want to cycle with my kids or my grandparents on a barren wasteland as cars fly past?

No humans were considered in the development of this solution. There is no respect for access, safety and no broader idea of an intelligent, cohesive network.

"Oh, but it works!" You hear muttered from the wings of urbanism. What works, exactly? Cycling down this stretch is possible, yes. We are, however, planning our cities for the next century of transport. It is important to plan properly, using solutions that are tried and tested. Using cyclists as guinea pigs in solutions whipped together by lazy, car-centric engineers is ridiculous when we know the best way to approach it. Don't even get me started on the folly of on-street bi-directional lanes on stretches with cross streets.

I wonder if the people who mutter, "oh, but it works!" have homes filled with chairs sporting only two and a half legs. Technically, they work. You can take a load off. Rest your tired limbs. But they are not exactly Best Practice. We figured out as far back as the Neolithic period that four legs or a solid base is the best way to design a chair.

This is the chair at the moment in too many cities. Bits and pieces that don't connect up in a network, loads of sharp edges but technically - they tell us - it works. None of us have four of these in our living rooms.

If we design cities for humans, with respect for the human experience, safety, logic and ease-of-use, you wouldn't see stuff like a bike lane in the middle of a street, or sharrows, in any city. Engineers stare at computer screens and geek out on mathematical models. Designers think about the human on the other end of the design process. It's a human to human process. Let's design our streets like we did for 7000 years before we invented the automobile.

The proponents of this center-running lark call it "context sensitive design". Just using the word "design" is an insult to generations of bicycle planners who worked so hard to establish best practice. The DC solution is engineering. By people who don't understand human-centric design.

I'm so inspired by Washington DC. They put bike lanes in the middle of the street. So here is center-running cafes! Awesome!
But for those who insist on putting humans in the wasteland, what about just going all in? I tested the theory at my local wine bar the other evening.

Barcelona Infrastructure
"Oh, but they have them in Barcelona!" Yes. And in Nantes. And in Sao Paulo. Does that mean it's a good idea? No. It just means that these cities have allowed themselves to listen to engineers instead of designers. I have ridden on the ones in Barcelona several times, on holidays with my kids and while working. No access to destinations in mid-block. Wide, arrogant intersections that force you to speed across them. The City is currently revisiting these designs, realising that they are not "all that".

The one in Nantes is shouldered by low-speed car and tram lanes that allow easy access back and forth across the street. The one in Sao Paulo is an even bigger brain fart than the one in DC.

Barcelona Cycle Chic_4
One difference about Barcelona is that most of the city is a 30 km/h (20 mph) zone. The City is focused on slowing the whole place down in order to save lives, reduce injuries and create a more life-sized city. The center cycle tracks lead to roundabouts, which make at least a bit more sense than throwing you into a car-centric intersection. The infrastruture in DC is focused on the fit and the brave, not the 99%. Hardly an intelligent way to grow cycling as transport.

One rule of thumb to consider is a simple one. If you don't see an infrastructure design in the Netherlands or Denmark, it's probably a stupid infrastructure design. If you wouldn't put pedestrians in a center-lane between moving traffic, why the hell would you put cyclists there.

It's all been invented. It's all right there, ready to use. Not using established Best Practice is three steps forward, two steps back and this is the time that we need to step boldly forward with confident, intelligently-placed strides.

Don't worry. The engineers and planners we need to fire will probably get another job. There's other engineery stuff to do. When it comes to our streets, let's use designs and ideas that make sense.