23 April 2015

Felix and the Danish Cyclist Test

Achievement Unlocked
My son Felix on the course of today's cyclist test for 6th graders in Denmark, in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen.

Today was a fun day in my son Felix' young life. Together with the other 6th grade students at La Cour Vej School, he took part in the Danish "cyklistprøve" - or Cyclist Test.

The test has been around since 1947. It's not mandatory but many schools choose to do it. When kids are in the 1st grade they get a week of initial cyclist "how-to" regarding rules of the road, etc. Then, in 6th grade, they rock the test like today. In my opinion, the test is great but it's also rather symbolic. Most of these kids have been cycling in the city since they were little. Felix has rocked the cycle tracks since he was three and a half. Parents teach them the rules and, most important, give them the practice they need. By the time they get to the 6th grade, the majority have a great deal of on-asphalt experience on their bicycles. Our school chooses to make passing the test a pre-requisite for going on outings by bike when they get older.

Today's test almost didn't happen. The police are involved, as a rule, but because of the Copenhagen shootings earlier this year, they say they don't have the resources. They put a lot of resources into investigating and rounding up other potential terrorists, sure. But they have also spent a pile of money on positioning policemen armed with heavy weapons around the city. A symbolic gesture to "make us feel safe". An expensive, symbolic gesture that had little effect on Copenhageners. Right THERE, they could have saved some money and still helped do the cyclist test.

Normally, the police are on hand for the test. They check the bikes to make sure they are legal and spend the morning with the students. Today it was different

Some schools, however, took matters into their own hands. The principal of La Cour Vej School, where both my kids attend, said today that they chose to find the resources in THEIR budget to do the test anyway, because it is very important for the kids and for traffic safety that they take the test. So, at 7:40 this morning, me and five other parents showed up and were handed clipboards with the grading sheets. We each chose one of six posts to stand at and off we went. I had a sunny bench at the roundabout outside the school when the kids were on the home stretch.

There are four 6th grade classes at the school and each class took it in turn. They are sent off alone in 2-3 minute intervals on a 4.4 km ride through our neighbourhood. They each wear an orange vest with a number on both sides so that we can recognise them and mark them accordingly. Here's the route:


The route has a bit of everything. All forms of bicycle infrastructure, all levels of volume. Busy streets, quiet residential streets and lots of turns. Earlier this week the kids had a theory test and they all walked the route with their teacher.

The kids start off with 300 points and each mistake subtracts from that. Here's the list.

Orientation
Didn't shoulder check before a turn: -30 points
Didn't shoulder check before a stop: -30
Didn't shoulder check before positioning themselves in the right spot on the cycle track: -30

Signalling
Forgot to signal a turn: -30
Didn't signal a turn in good time: -30
Forgot to signal a stop: -30
Didn't signal a stop in good time: -30

Giving Way (Depending on situation)
Did not give way: -30
Forgot to give way to others in same direction: -30
Forgot to give way to others in opposite direction: -30
Forgot to yield to pedestrians: -30

Placement
Wrong placement before a turn: -30
(ie: On left side of cycle track but turning right. Wrong placement when turning left in a box turn)
Didn't use the cycle track: -30
Rode on the sidewalk: -30
Rode in the pedestrian crossing: -30

Traffic Lights/Signage
Ran a red light: Disqualified
Rode through a yellow light: -30
Didn't see a traffic sign: -10

Other
Rode too fast: -10
(Silly rule and hard to gauge. Bikes have to follow the posted speed limit)
Rode too insecurely: -10
Rode with other students during test: -10
(Kind of like cheating. The test is also about orientation in the city)
Walked the bike: -10
Didn't pass the monitoring post: -75
Other mistakes: -30

Here was my monitoring post:

I had to watch them enter the roundabout and exit it again. Checking them for shoulder checks, giving way, signalling.

So after spending four hours on a street corner waiting for over eighty 12 and 13 year olds to pass, how did it go? I was impressed. They rocked it. The vast majority rode like a boss, with confidence despite the nervosity of performing a test and trying to get everything right. Like I said, most of these kids have been cycling in the city for years so it wasn't really a stretch for them. Merely a fun refresher course.

Some were less confident on the bike, but none were perilous in their cycling. One poor kid got totally lost on the route and ended up in the Nørrebro neighbourhood. He wasn't in school on the day the kids walked the route and even though he had a map he still got a longer bike ride than he expected. Some kids bunched up a bit, even though they weren't supposed to. The 2-3 minute interval was generally good at spreading them out so they were on their own, finding their way on the urban landscape.

I haven't seen the final results but when us six parents met up afterwards we had a chat. There were few dramas out there. Another day in a bicycle-friendly city. I can't see how any of the kids would fail the test, apart from the kid who got lost. I hope he gets another shot at it.

Normally, when the police are involved, if a kid fails they send a letter to the parents informing them that their kid needs some more practice.

Regarding my kid, Felix, I had informed him beforehand that as MY son, I would tease him until the end of time if he failed. He didn't and I knew he wouldn't.

You can, however, see how the Culture of Fear has influenced things even here in Denmark. In the emails leading up to the day it was stated that helmets had to be worn. I informed the teacher responsible that Felix doesn't wear a helmet and a longer discussion ensued. It's clear that the Danish Road Safety Council have influenced a lot of people with their wacko ideology. I was informed that the school's traffic policy requires helmets. I looked it up - it doesn't. They merely "urge" students to wear them. I was told he could borrow a helmet. I asked if they were washed and disinfected. They weren't.

Then I was told it wasn't up to the school but that I would have to talk to the Danish Road Safety Council or the police. I responded that the Road Safety Council is just an NGO and has no power and the police merely refer to the Danish traffic law which doesn't require helmets. At the end of the day I was told I could sign a form exempting Felix from wearing a helmet. Fine. Except there is no form and Felix just did as he pleased.

This is not America, but sometimes you wonder if it is. The battle for rationality and respect for science continues.

The main takeaway for me today was seeing eighty kids riding like bosses. Owning it. Rocking the old cycling test and having fun doing it. Cheering their fellow students when they left the start area. Cheering when they got back. It was awesome. Felix is totally pre-teen at the moment but he was clearly proud to complete the test. And I'm a proud dad.

The Lulu
Next up is The Lulu. She's in 1st grade but she already owns it. She'll be awesome, too, by the time the test comes around in five years.



10 April 2015

7550 New Bike Parking Spots at Copenhagen Central Station

For all of Copenhagen's badass mainstream bicycle culture, there remains one thing that the City still completely sucks at. Bicycle parking at train stations. At Copenhagen Central Station there are only about 1000 bike parking spots. Danish State Railways can't even tell us how many spots they have. They're not sure.

Even in Basel they have 800+. In Antwerp they have this. Don't even get me started on the Dutch. 12,500 bike parking spots are on the way in some place called Utrecht. Amsterdam has a multi-story bike parking facility, floating bicycle barges round the back and are planning 7000 more spots underwater.

Even at the nation's busiest train station, Nørreport, the recent and fancy redesign failed miserably in providing parking that is adequate for the demand. Architects once again failing to respond to actual urban needs.

It is time to remedy that. Here is Copenhagenize Design Company's design for 7550 bike parking spots behind Copenhagen Central Station. Steve C. Montebello is the architect that I worked closely with.

By exploting the area over the train tracks and using Tietgens Bridge as the transport spine, we have created an iconic bicycle parking facility with ample parking spots at this important transport hub where trains, buses and - in 2019 - the Metro converge in an intermodal transport orgy.

In our work on the EU project BiTiBi.eu - Bike Train Bike - we have been focused on parking solutions at train stations. It was a natural evolution to use that experience in developing this project.
The structure is supported by columns and utilises the existing platforms below, which dictated the shape that we decided upon.

There are:
- 6880 bike parking spots in double decker racks. This can be expanded with 1360 more if necessary.
- 30 dedicated cargo bike parking spots featuring The Copenhagenize Bar by Cyclehoop.
- 640 secure, indoor bike parking spots in the green roofed building at left (above).
- A bike shop for repairs and maintenence.
- Ticket machines and displays for departures and arrivals of trains and buses.
- At the end of the long point, the belvedere will be the world's premiere, dedicated lookout spot design for trainspotters.

Here is the view of the area as it is today.
There are four on/off ramps from Tietgens Bridge for ease-of-access.
A secure bicycle parking facility will house 640 bikes.
We used 3D models of bike racks courtesy of our colleagues at the Dutch company Falco. They know a thing or two about bike racks.
There will be a space for a bike shop for repairs and maintenence located at the entrance, next to ticket machines and displays featuring departures and arrivals for trains and buses.
The parking with have signs with areas divided up alphabetically, so you can find your bike again.
There is access to the three platforms below by stairs that will, of course, have bike ramps. Duh.

This facility will right so many wrongs and will thrust Copenhagen into the 21st century regarding bicycle parking at train stations. If we are  to maintain the momentum of a blossoming bicycle-friendly city, we need to up our game regarding parking.

01 April 2015

Choreography of a Copenhagen Corner - Desire Line Analysis



Desire Line Analysis: Choreography of a Copenhagen Corner
Cyclist Behaviour at a busy Copenhagen cycle intersection
By Marie Lindebo Leth - Anthropologist


For the next study in our Desire Line series we have picked a renowned Copenhagen bicycle hotspot: the Søtorvet / Dronning Louise’s Bro intersection. Over 40,000 bicycle trips are made through this intersection at a daily basis, making it one of the busiest in the world in terms of cyclist volume.


Such numbers create a special need for appropriate bicycle infrastructure in order to accommodate the bicycle users crossing this point. At Copenhagenize Design Company we have asked ourselves how we can determine the actual needs of bicycle users, and what solutions would be appropriate. This quest requires a greater understanding of the relationship between urban infrastructure and cyclist behavior, which is why we have conducted a Desire Line Analysis of this intersection.


The value of studying cyclist behavior
This study was conducted in collaboration with eight students from 4Cities, an international Urban Studies Master’s programme. Eight great and passionate students who tackled this analysis with professionalism.
Lorena Axinte (Romania), Jamie Furlong (United Kingdom), Elina Kränzle (Germany), William Otchere-Darko (Ghana), Lucie Rosset (Switzerland), Guillén Torres (Mexico), Mäelys Waiengnier (Belgium) and Devon Willis (Canada).

In order to identify how cyclists interact with infrastructure, and with other cyclists and road users, the students positioned a video camera and a few observers at the intersection between the hours 7:00 and 19:00 on a day in November 2014.




One particular spot in the intersection is the center of attention for this study. When cyclists approach the intersection, coming from North East along Søtorvet and want to turn right onto Dronning Louises Bro, they tend to either ‘cut’ the corner by riding onto the pedestrian zone, or run a red light when turning right. At Copenhagenize Design Co. we are interested in digging deeper into this behavioral pattern and understand the scale of, and reason behind the exhibited behavior.


Knowing how and why bicycle users consistently choose particular routes and strategies can help us understand priorities and motivations of bicycle users and inform our solutions - design-wise and political - in order to better accommodate their needs while paying mind to other road users as well.


What are Desire Lines?
At Copenhagenize Design Company, we have developed a method for determining how bicycle users actually navigate within the built environment and what routes they choose to take in various situations. This method we call Desire Line Analysis. By observing a bicycle user’s trajectory through a course of a road, we can determine the most traveled through routes - their desire lines. Desire lines are the easiest and most convenient ways of getting from point a to point b for bicycle users, and conceptually they should be distinguished from actual infrastructure with its pre-established paths. Desire lines might correspond with pre-established paths, but sometimes they don’t, and this is where they reveal flaws in the infrastructure that at the same time create opportunities for improvements.


Six Desire Lines
Based on our video footage we identified the cyclists’ desire lines, first by tracking their point of departure - Øster Søgade or Gothersgade - and then by observing their destination - straight ahead, or right onto Dronning Louises Bro.


However, in this Desire Line study our main focus is on those cyclists turning right. We discovered six general desire line categories that cyclists use when turning right onto Dronning Louises Bro.


The desire lines above illustrate that cyclist typically chose one of following six trajectories or strategies when making a right turn:
1. Following the official bike path - this desire line accounts for cyclists who turn right when the traffic lights are either green or red.


All other desire lines below are drawn by cyclists that “cut”, i.e. they ride from the bicycle path up onto the sidewalk, cutting the intersection in order to arrive at Dronning Louises’ Bro.


2. Avoid the pedestrians - cyclists who zigzag or change their path in order to avoid pedestrians.
3. Cut in the middle - cyclists who did not cut immediately, but followed the path for a few more meters than category 4 and 5, before deciding to cut
4. Cut following the path - cyclists who ride onto the sidewalk and proceed by mimicking the bicycle path until they are close to the traffic light  
5. Cut right away - cyclists that cut the sidewalk as early as they can, without trying to follow the path.
6. Cut last minute - cyclists who cut just as they arrived at the red light. (we suspect that when being confronted with a red light, people prefer riding on the sidewalk rather than waiting at for the light to change).


Shortcutting to keep the momentum
The question of what motivates people to cut the corner in order to arrive at the bike lane on Dronning Louises Bro is central to this study. In order to get closer to an explanation, we will first distinguish between cyclists who cut when traffic lights are red, and those who cut during a green light - where they could just as well have followed the bike path without stopping.


The first group - cyclists who cut the corner during a red light - is the largest of the two. In particular, cyclists coming from Gothersgade, arriving on Øster Søgade, then turning right, were more prone to cutting the corner when the light was red. This is probably because they most often arrive at a red light in the intersection. Traffic lights in this area are timed to provide cyclists coming a different direction - Øster Søgade via Fredens Bro - with constant green lights that follow the speed of the average cyclist - the so called ‘green wave’. This, however, means that cyclists coming from Gothersgade will have their momentum disrupted when they arrive at the Dronning Louises Bro/Øster Søgade intersection. Thus, using the wide sidewalk as a quick way to avoid waiting for the lights to change can be tempting.


The second group - cyclists who cut the corner while traffic lights were green - most often did so when there was a considerable number of cyclists in front of them, causing a queue for either turning right or continuing straight ahead. Such a situation creates an incentive to improvise a shortcut by riding across the sidewalk to get to Dronning Louises Bro.


During the twelve hours we spent observing the intersection, only a few cyclist-pedestrian conflicts occurred. We are convinced that the considerable width of the sidewalk plays an important role here, since it leaves enough space for both pedestrians and cyclists to navigate around each other.


Most played it safe
We also found that of all the cyclists travelling through the intersection (i.e. those who went straight along Øster Søgade and those who turned right onto Dronning Louises Bro), the majority acted “correctly” (i.e. they did not cut or go through a red light, but rather followed the traffic laws correctly). During midday (11:30- 13:30), 72% of cyclists acted correctly (following the traffic laws) and only 28% acted incorrectly or inappropriately (going through a red light or cutting). Similarly, during rush hour (15:30-17:30), 76% acted correctly and only 24% acting incorrectly.

This means that on average 74% followed the traffic law, meaning that they respected red lights and stayed on the bike path instead of cutting the corner. The remaining 26% performed some form of law breaking act.
However, during the morning rush hour, an average of 50% cyclists either cut through the sidewalk or jumped the red light, when heading towards Nørrebrogade from Øster Søgade. 58% were male and 42% were female.


Right-turners bent the rules more often
While on average most cyclists acted correctly (74%), when looking at right-turning cyclists exclusively, the difference between those who followed the rules and those who didn’t, was less significant. Among cyclists who turned right onto Dronning Louises Bro, 52% acted correctly, while 48% acted incorrectly. Of those acting incorrectly, 35% went through the red light and 65% cut through the sidewalk.


This ‘improper behavior’ might be connected to a phenomenon we have observed before; the so-called ‘domino effect’ where the actions and routes taken by one cyclist is copied by other cyclists behind him or her. In this sense a specific action legitimizes or inspires other cyclists to perform similar actions. For example, we noticed that once a cyclist is cutting, others start to follow suit. Conversely, when none in the front of the line cuts, the cyclists queueing behind also tend to stay in the group.


Fewer cyclists run red lights during rush hour
In the early afternoon (13:30-15:30), many more cyclists acted incorrectly, an average of 68% cut or went through a red light, as opposed to a daily average of 48%. We suspect that this is because there are much fewer cyclists, cars and pedestrians on the road during this time of the day, and thus it is easier for cyclists to cut the intersection or slipping through a red light in a safer way, without getting noticed as much.


Only 16% of all the cyclists we observed went through a red light (i.e. actually going through the red light on the bicycle path, not by cutting). Although the average is quite low, as mentioned above, larger numbers of cyclists were going through the red light at certain points of the day: in the late morning (9:30-11:30) an average of 27% of cyclists coming from Gothersgade went through the red light, and in the early afternoon (13:30-15:30) an average of 41% of cyclists coming from this street went through the red light. Again, it seems like cyclists are more likely to run a red light in between rush hours. In fact, only 3% of cyclists went through the red light from Gothersgade during rush hour. This observation supports our theory that a higher volume of road users creates a lesser incentive for cyclists to go through a red light.


Lessons learned
Our study confirms findings generated in previous desire line studies, showing how bicycle users create routes based on what is faster and most convenient, regardless of whether appropriate infrastructure is there or not. Although it sometimes means that bicycle users will follow the informal lead of other cyclists, and circumvent traffic rules in order to get to their destination, considerations regarding safety and/or public shaming do appear to inform their decision making.


Only 1:4 of the total number of bicycle users we observed actually broke the law. When they did cut the corner, they strategically picked different routes through the pedestrian zone in order not to collide with each other, and only very few conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians occurred.


To make a long story short, bicycle users are motivated to keep momentum going, and depending on the circumstances, some are ready to circumvent formal rules and collectively improvise their own in order to make their travel easier, if existing infrastructure does not accommodate their needs.


Copenhagenize Fixes
So where should we go from here? Depending on the priorities of city authorities, different approaches could be used to mitigate the percieved ‘improper cyclist behavior’ in this intersection.


  1. Considering the volume of bicycle traffic, the most obvious retrofit would be creating a cycle track in an arc across the corner to allow cyclists to turn right unimpeded by traffic lights. A similar solution is already in place on the opposite corner, leading cyclists across a sidewalk to Vendersgade from Nørrebrogade. As we understand it, one department in the City of Copenhagen would be against this - worried about protecting the architectural integrity of the location. This is rather silly, considering the fact the City had plans to rip out of the grassy knolls formed by WW2 bunkers, cut down the trees and sanitize the whole area. That idea died, fortunately, but it is clearly a sign that change can happen at this location. The basic fact at this location is that the majority of cyclists are turning right and the minority are heading parallel to The Lakes. Desire Lines are democracy in motion. People voting, as it were, with their feet and bicycle wheels.
  2. As we found from the research, the main reason for cutting the corner or going through the red light is that cyclists coming from Gothersgade are trying to bypass the red light and simply maintaining their momentum. Especially in the busy rush hour it would be beneficial to time the traffic lights for cyclists coming from Gothersgade so that they continue in a smooth flow up Nørrebrogade. Maintaining, respecting and legitimizing the momentum that cyclists need would eliminate the need for cutting the corner.
  3. It is with good reason that allowing right turns on red is steadily becoming law all over Europe. Making this the default at this intersection would also impact the behaviour positively. It is not the be all, end all solution at this location however.
  4. The wide swath of sidewalk is currently a kind of “shared space” that works well at this location. Making the area shared use would require little physical change and would formalise the behaviour of the cyclists. A fun idea, but it is important to maintain a design standard and throwing a mixed use area into the well-functioning infrastructure design tradition may not be a good, permanent solution.


31 March 2015

Make Life Shine - Yes, You Volvo



Volvo's new attack on pedestrians and cyclists is insulting to every traffic user. They have developed what they call "Life Paint" and expect pedestrians and cyclists to spray it on. The problem is that Volvo - and other automobile manufacturers - are the problem. They make products that kill 1.2 million people a year around the world. 35,000 alone in both the European Union and the USA alone. Not to mention the millions injured by cars or the many millions killed slowly by emissions. They continue to pass the buck, to set up smoke screens to make us focus elsewhere and forget the true problem. Look at every tactic the tobacco industry has used over the past 20 years and you see it mirrored in Big Auto. Volvo claims to lead the way in safety, but their Life Paint cannot hide their true colours.

Quite simply, we've started a petition. Enough of this Ignoring the Bull in the China Shop.

Make Life Shine. 
Sign it at Change.org

Instead of targeting the vulnerable traffic users and continuing the victim blaming, we insist that Volvo offers free Life Paint to every Volvo owner on the planet so that cars can be illuminated better in cities and rural settings. Get the spray can at the local dealer or get it shipped for free. Spray that car immediately.



We know a few things:

- Black, grey and silver cars - in that order - are more likely to be involved in crashes, according to a Monash University study. Based on 20 years and 850,000 car crashes. Reflective paint on cars is a no-brainer.
- Cars and motorists kill. You read the stats, above. There is a 9-11 every month in America alone and it's been there every single month for over 60 years. Volvo, of all car companies, should be tackling this head on instead of blaming the victims.
- Volvo should be lobbying intensely for mandatory reflective paint in every market that they operate in. Their Life Paint should be the jewel in their safety crown. Instead, it's tear gas in the eyes of the victims.
- Why stop there, Volvo? What about rational ideas like helmets for motorists or making motorists responsible by forcing them to have external airbags? These ideas exist for good reason. There is science to support them. What about health warning legislation on all automobiles? The ills caused by tobacco are virtually the same as those caused by Volvo's products.

Sign the petition to get Volvo to offer Life Paint on every car on the roads today.

See the ridiculous Life Paint here:
http://www.volvocarslifepaint.com/



Car Industry Strikes Back - Volvo Paints a Grim Picture


The latest piece in our ongoing Car Industry Strikes Back series writes itself. This time it's Volvo doing its best to draw your attention to the fact that motorists kill obscene amounts of people - including themselves - by placing the responsibility on cyclists and pedestrians. It's a smoke screen and this time it's sprayed on. It is Ignoring the Bull in Society's China Shop taken to the next level.

Volvo Life Paint. Seriously. Life paint.

But hey... it's not for the 35,000+ people killed by or in cars in the EU alone by Volvo and their Big Auto homies (around the same in the US and 1.2 million worldwide - not to mention the tenfold more killed by pollution from cars and trucks or the hundreds and hundreds of thousands more injured...).

And no, it's not rational ideas like helmets for motorists or making motorists responsible by forcing them to have external airbags.

It's spray on paint.

No, not for cars, even though black cars are most likely to be involved in collisions. No, it's not rational stuff like reflective paint on cars or health warning legislation on all automobiles.

It's for you on foot or on a bicycle because you are an irritation to motorists. You are a squishy bug ruining their paint job. You are a threat to their mobility dominance. You must be ridiculed with calls for reflective vests/clothing and a variety of ways to hate on pedestrians.

Now you have the gift of Big Auto paint to spray on your irritating person.

http://www.volvocarslifepaint.com/

I don't think we realise how slippery a slope it is we are on as a society when morons like this produce crap like this and actually get taken seriously.

12 March 2015

New Bicycle Bridge - Cirkelbroen - Is Coming

Circle Bridge / Cirkelbroen - Bicycle & Pedestrian Bridge in Copenhagen
This is exactly what you like to see on a spring morning in brilliant sunshine in Copenhagen. Yet another bicycle/pedestrian bridge being put into place on Copenhagen Harbour. The Circle Bridge - Cirkelbroen in Danish - is designed by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson and will fix a minor glitch in the mobility network in Copenhagen.


This beautiful but modest bridge will connect Christiansbro and Applebys Square. A subtle, but important link in making the entire harbourfront walkable and bikeable. On the above map you can see the new and coming bicycle bridges in this section of the harbour. Yes, pedestrians use them, too, but in Copenhagen they are referred to as bicycle bridges first and foremost.


The bridge is a gift to the City of Copenhagen from the Nordea Foundation (they're a bank) and it is 32 metres long. For a budget of 34 million kroner ($4.8 million) you get an artistic bridge designed by a famous artist. Interestingly, the entire Bicycle Snake had about the same budget.

Sorte Diamant
Here's a view from the Black Diamond / Sorte Diamant on the opposite side of the harbour. You can what the mouth of the canal looks like without the bridge.

But hey, it's a gift so who cares. The form of the bridge is rounded, with no straight line from shore to shore. Normally, the design of a bridge for bicycles involves a straight line. The artistic licence on this bridge creates an aesthetic obstacle course. At this location, it is not a problem. This is not a major bicycle route, nor will it ever be. The main focus in on the recreational use of the harbourfront and creating access. So an exception is totally permissable.


Olafur talks about his creative thoughts in this YouTube video, in Danish. The masts reflect the masts of the many ships in Christianshavn Canal. The bridge is a swing bridge, to allow access from the harbour to the canal and vice versa. The many canal tour boats plying their tourist trade will just scoot underneath.

Circle Bridge / Cirkelbroen - Bicycle & Pedestrian Bridge in Copenhagen
The bridge was originally meant to be finished in 2012 but the same malady struck it as struck the Innner Harbour Bridge farther east. The company who was building them went bankrupt and things rolled to a halt. The locals in this area of Christianshavn are among the whiniest and least willing to see Copenhagen change, so there was also a delay as some of them tried their case against the bridge in the courts. All water under the bridge now.


Circle Bridge / Cirkelbroen - Bicycle & Pedestrian Bridge in Copenhagen
Today, work is underway. The components are constructed and are being set into place. Spring is upon us. A new bridge is blossoming. Copenhagen just got a little bit cooler.

10 March 2015

My Stolen Bullitt


Here we go again.

Out into the backyard this morning with The Lulu, heading for school and then off to work. Something was missing. It was big and red and quite gone. My Bullitt cargo bike was not where it should be. Locked with the mother of all chains in our bike shed. It was stolen.

The first thought was "Damn... my logistics this week are screwed." Second thought... "I liked that bike". You know you live in a mainstream bicycle culture when the thoughts occur in THAT order.

I walked around the backyard in vain hope. Then I noticed that another Bullitt wasn't parked in its normal spot. It was gone, too. Double Bullitt thieving in the dark of the night. In a secure, locked backyard.

Fun having to explain to The Lulu, aged 7, about why people do such things. She's no stranger to bike theft, but still, she was as upset as me, so we had to tackle the subject on the spot.


It's just a bike, I know. But it's a bike that we use alot. For transporting stuff like just two days ago at the recycling centre. For building snowmen. For just getting around town. For all our daily needs.


Someone is going to have to break the news to Tigger this evening. THAT ain't gonna be pretty.

This has happened before. Hey, it's a bicycle culture. Back in 2011: My Bike Was Stolen! Back then the story had a fairytale ending against all the odds and thanks to social media: My Bullitt is Found!

I even got my vintage Swedish bike back once, too.

While I don't harbour hopes of repeating those fairytales, you never know. There are loads and loads of Bullitts in Copenhagen now, compared to back in 2011 but anything could happen.

My bike has some unique markings. Sure, the first thing the bike thief does is remove them, but sometimes they just stick it in another backyard in another part of town for a while. There's a pattern to this cargo bike theft.

So, here are the things that make it recognizable:


- A little sticker on the front.
- A Copenhagenize.eu sticker on the front panel.
- A map of Copenhagen on the cargo bay.


- The handlebars are unlike many Bullitts in Copenhagen. My mother taught me to sit up straight, so they are not low and straight, but high and suitable for a gentleman.
- There is a GoPro base on the front of the bike and, down by the front wheel on the left, there is another GoPro solution. (not pictured)
- On the back fender there are white, reflective chevron stickers, just like on The Lulu's bike.

Sigh.

Hvis du ser cyklen et eller andet sted i København, sms eller ring på 26 25 97 26.

04 March 2015

The Copenhagenize Current - Stormwater Management and Cycle Tracks


Cloudburst in Copenhagen. July 4, 2011. Photo via DJ Ladze on Flickr. With permission.

Climate change challenges are clearly defined in Copenhagen and in Denmark. 1000 km of dikes protect many parts of the country from the sea, but the new threat is the water from within and from above. Our fate has become being inundated with torrential rain that floods entire neighbourhoods. The existing sewer system is completely inadequate to tackle the volume of water from cloudbursts.

It is something that is a reality for us living in Copenhagen and in many Danish cities and there is a great deal of political focus on it. Just have a look at this bad boy pdf featuring Copenhagen's Climate Adaptation Plan.



There are already many ideas and intiatives on the table in Copenhagen. Much is said and written about creating "Cloudburst Streets", like the one, above. Creating green space that becomes "blue" during cloudbursts and acts as a stormwater delay. Other streets may get a green strip down one side with the same effect.

Fantastic. An excellent excuse to greenify many areas of the city and a perfect way to avoid complaining about removing parking spots and whatnot from last-century minds.

Greenification of streets and creating reservoirs for overflow of rainwater are fantastic additions to the urban landscape. Exploiting the need for water runoff solutions to create more green space in cities is brilliant. Not every street in Copenhagen, however, has the space to accommodate wide, green reservoirs or green channels. What of the many other streets?

Urban space is affected greatly by the new climate reality in Danish cities. It is, however, urban space that can help solve the problem we face.

Which is why we are developing The Copenhagenize Current.


Like many ideas, it starts with personal experience. That's me, on the left, on Istedgade in the Vesterbro neighbourhood, during a cloudburst that flooded the whole 'hood. Farther down the street, there were people kayaking. Like many great ideas, it starts in the bathroom of a bar on a Saturday night. We had been discussing climate adaptation in the office at Copenhagenize Design Company. Standing there one night, I considered the existing, traditional system, attached to the wall and then noticed how space on the floor was being used for "excess water runoff" in case of spray or bad aim. A supplementary system that also assists during mopping and general cleaning.

Couldn't that simple idea be applied to streets? Including my own, where the businesses in the cellar were flooded beyond repair in 2011? What about using existing urban space to design a stormwater runoff system.


Like any good idea spawned in a nocturnal bathroom, you get your kids to help with a Lego model. We have existing space. Copenhagen's comprehensive network of cycle tracks on main streets are there and they're not going anywhere - thank goodness. Real estate that is in use and integral to city life. Bicycles, however, are lightweight vehicles that cause little wear and tear on the infrastructure. Therefore, I thought quite simply, why not create high-volume rainwater trenches underneath the cycle tracks?

That is what The Copenhagenize Current is all about. Using existing space for rainwater managment in extreme weather conditions and, while we’re at it, improving infrastruture for the city’s cyclists.


In a nutshell, The Copenhagenize Current involves digging trenches under existing cycle tracks, implementing precast, concrete containers and covering them with pre-fab, concrete slabs. It is a basic cut and cover operation. On streets without adequate space for wide medians that can be dug out and act as reservoirs for stormwater, the Copenhagenize Current can act as an incredibly efficient, high-volume system to expedite the drainage of streets and lead water away from vulnerable areas. Copenhagenize Design Co.s architect Steve Montebello has worked on the designs and calculations.

We have designed the Copenhagenize Current to lead high-volumes of water through vulnerable neighbourhoods. The Cities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg have been discussing dredging one of the Lakes - Saint Jørgen's Lake - and lead stormwater to it from surrounding areas so it can act as a temporary reservoir.

This is what it might look like, complete with redesigned lakefront. The Copenhagenize Current can be used to lead water to such a lake reservoir solution.


Using pre-fabricated concrete slabs that can bear the weight of thousands of bicycles - and still allow for crossing motor vehicles at intersectionss - allows for implementation of a number of other features. LED lights can be built into the slabs to further visibility of the cycle track. In addition, heating coils can be embedded in the surface, under the final layer of asphalt, to melt snow and ice during the winter.

Having pre-fab slabs will also provide a smoother ride for cyclists, minimise the risk of potholes and make maintenence of the cycle tracks easier. So much goodness.


The design allows for a maximum amount of drainage grates so that all water at every point can easily fill into the concrete trenches. Grates on the surface will serve to drain water coming from the sidewalk onto the Current. The Current can also work independently of the existing sewer system or together with it, depending on need.


The water flow routes in Copenhagen. Most lead towards the harbour or the sea.

Added Value
Apart from the obvious benefits of the Current, namely the fast removal of stormwater from streets and protecting surrounding neighbourhoods and buildings from flooding, there are points that provide an added value to our design.

Improved Accessibility to Cables
Most cables related to urban life are buried beneath sidewalks and, to a lesser extent, roads. We have considered the idea of creating cable trays on the wall of the concrete trenches to provide easy access to certain types of cables.

Inspiration for Improvement
The design serves an important purpose - stormwater protection for cities. The design can also encourage municipalities that are reluctant about widening existing bicycle infrastructure on certain streets to finally do so by implementing the Current. Gammel Kongevej, with the narrowest cycle tracks in the capital, springs to mind.

Cost-Benefit
Maintenance costs on cycle tracks will fall due to the reduced need for repairing potholes. Better infrastructure encourages cycling, as well. The pre-fab slabs are easily replaced on an individual basis if need be.

Stormwater Fountain
We would love to see the Current end in a pipe that leads under Skt Jørgens Lake or in the harbour. The mouth of the pipe positioned above the surface. During a stormwater surge, the force of the water rushing to the destination will create a fountain. A spray of water - that can be designed - that will celebrate the rain - and the human solutions for tackling it.

Silvacells

Accommodation can be made for pipes leading off of the Current onto side streets or into parks where silva cells under trees and/or vegetation are located.



When the climate - or rather humans - throws you a curve ball, you have to think out of the box. Especially when your box is quickly filling up with water.



03 March 2015

The Depressing Rise of Squiggletecture - and how to design a bicycle/ped bridge

Architectural competitions are great. A flurry of designs emerge from Photoshopland that allow you to gauge the current mood, trends and ideas. If you're lucky, there are a few ooh and ahh moments. We were sitting here at the office looking at the many entries for the open competition for the Nine Elms to Pimlico Bridge in London. A pedestrian and bicycle bridge across the storied Thames. The NEP Bridge competition, on their website, declares they are looking for:

"...exceptional, inspiring designs for a new bridge at the centre of the world’s greatest city. The successful entry will have to win the hearts of Londoners who are tremendously proud of their river and its rich architectural heritage.

There are considerable challenges and engineering feats to overcome. The design must work alongside the cutting edge architecture emerging on the south bank as well as the elegant frontages on the north. The landing points on both sides must integrate sensitively with their surroundings and provide a smooth and safe experience for the pedestrian and cyclists who use it.

This bridge is also a badly needed and valuable piece of infrastructure for London. It has a very strong transport case, will support the city’s growth and has significant funding commitments already in place. Developing an inspiring, beautiful design will allow us to take the project to the next stage and ensure this project comes off the page into reality in a much shorter timeframe."
Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council and co-chair of the Nine Elms Vauxhall Partnership

Architecture and design is a question of taste. What I like might not be what you like. I'm not going to bother talking about which designs appeal to me. Here at the office we started looking at the bridge from the mobility perspective and, as is our lot, from the perspective of citizen cyclists who want to get around their city. Basing our focus on the many bicycle bridges in the Netherlands and Denmark. In particular, Copenhagen has seven new bicycle bridges either just openend or on the way. Leaving the personal taste up to the individual, we looked at pure mobility.

Like Ravi Govindia says, above, it's a badly needed and valuable piece of infrastructure with a strong transport case that will support the city's growth. It has to provide a smooth and safe experience for pedestrians and cyclists.

In the competition brief it says that:
- "...it must be inspiring, elegant and functional in its design and perfect in its execution."
- "Provide a safe and attractive link for pedestrians and cyclists crossign the river, encouraging movement between the two banks."

I'm not really a big fan of architects dabbling in urban planning. So few have the knack for it. So, with that in mind, what is the State of the Architectural Bridge Nation?

Welcome to the Weird World of Squiggletecture
What is up with these squiggles?! It's perfectly fine to think out of the box. Not much gets accomplished if you don't. But there is a clear, and perhaps, disturbing trend which I have hereby dubbed Squiggletecture. There is an alarming number of renderings that have discarded straight lines.

What is a bridge? Isn't it just a vital mobility link from one side of a body of water to another? Isn't that really the baseline for every decent bridge in history? Look at a map of Paris or any other city with bridges. They are straight. From one shore to the other. Providing no-nonsense A to B for the people using it. Only then do differences in design and aesthetics come into play.

Look at the selection of designs, above. A2Bism had a cement block chained to its feet and it was thrown into the river. It's sleeping with the fishes.

You wonder who thinks stuff like this up. Are they all former interns at Foster + Partners? Wherever they cut their teeth on Photoshop, it is clear that these are people who do not ride bicycles in a city - or who didn't even bother trying before they started doodling a bicycle and pedestrian bridge. Let alone people who walk very much on their urban landscape. These are all designs for meandering tourists licking ice cream on a Sunday afternoon. People with nowhere to go and nowhere to be. These aren't designs for a city in constant motion and citizens moving purposely about.

The ramps. Seriously. Look at all those squiggletecture ramps. Round and round we go, slowly descending to the river bank like a flower petal on a summer breeze. Not exactly what any human in a city wants, now is it? Then look at some of those sharp turns on the bicycle ramps. Best Practice for grade and curves on bicycle infrastructure has been around for almost a century. Would it have hurt to spend a little while on Google? Or on a bicycle? Unbelievable.

One of the designs has a fancy waterfall - bringing inspiration to London from.... 1980s Edmonton, Canada. But really, the water is a visual shield to disguise the Danteesque inferno in the middle that forces cyclists to descend to several levels of mobility hell.

Here's a thought. Is this pornographic obsession with ramps a subliminal product of decades of car-centric planning? Is there a little voice embedded in the minds of designers and architects that says, "hey... if you have get up or down from an elevation, use a winding ramp. That's what they do in car parking garages and on motorways..." Has car infrastructure dominated so thoroughly that it's hard to plan for other forms of transport?

Whatever. These designs would be great for a Bridge Over the River Why. London certainly doesn't need anymore of this.

It is apparently easy to draw a (curved) line between Illustrator's improvement of their Draw a Curve function and design renderings. There are only 30,000 hits on this how-to film, but I bet 10,000 are from people responsible for the all the photos about this point.

I can lament the fact that there is so little anthropology at play in architecture but assuming that anybody who walks or cycles in a city is a meanderthal shows a lack of understanding of human nature. Stop with these curves, already. It's Magpie Architecture, nothing more. Bling your badass bridge all you want, just don't force people to alter their urban trajectory because you learned a new trick in Illustrator.

There will always be exceptions to this. The new Circle Bridge in Copenhagen by Olafur Eliasson is one. It is not at a location, however, that is - or will be - a vital mobility link. It's just a modest connector bridge across a canal for cyclists and pedestrians. Any bridge that is expected to get a decent share of cyclists wouldn't be designed like this.

Ah, you might say. What about the Bicycle Snake/Cykelslangen in Copenhagen? Isn't that curvy and all that? It is, indeed.



Firstly, it has to navigate a 90 degree turn around the corner of a building. But you don't force cyclists to do 90 degree turns, so they swept it elegantly around the corner for comfort and safetly. The bridge slopes down to the harbour bridge and, with an expected 16,000 A to B cyclists a day, the graceful curvature nudges people ever so slightly to keep their speed in check on the descent.

The designs for the NEP Bridge, above, just curve for no particular reason. With no regard for getting people where they want to go. Instead, there seems to be a distinct focus on increasing travel times by creating a mobility obstacle course.

Speaking of obstacles, it was surprising to see that designs were actually sent in that just discarded the idea of ramps altogether and rolled their dice on... stairs. Big, fancy, modern bridge across the river of a major world city and you have to navigate stairs to get there. Although some designs feature elevators to further slow you down and one chucked in escalators for bikes.


One of the designs has a small box in the corner showing the Everest slope and upselling it by declaring the intention to implement "Place making across the bridge and its landing position". Just look at the place they imagine making. Ooh. Sticky.

If you want to create a bicycle and pedestrian bridge in 2015, can we agree that stairs and elevators should not be your point of departure?
A lot of the renderings only provide conceptual ideas and it's sometimes hard to see details. Nevertheless, it wasn't all squiggletecture, curve balls and epic climbing expeditions. There are designs that make sense. There seem to be some common denominators. One of them is that the designer/architect has probably actually tried to ride a bicycle in a city. Another is a clear separation between the two user groups.

The design at top left does so rather elegantly, with a cycle track down the middle. As does the design at bottom left. At bottom right is a design similar to what you see over the Brooklyn Bridge. Doesn't make it a good thing, but at least the designer was thinking about A2B and dividing space between cyclists and pedestrians.

I was going to start commenting on which design(s) I like, but then I remembered I said I wouldn't that at the beginning of the article. So nevermind.

What is going to work, regardless of design, is a bridge that provides an intelligent A2B without irritations or detours at either end. A bridge that understands pedestrians and their needs and expectations, absolutely, but also one that does the same for cyclists. Again, that's bascially almost every city bridge ever built prior to the dawn of automobile culture.

There is one sentence in the competition brief, mentioned above, that would benefit from being rearranged like this:

"...it must be functional in its design, perfect in its execution and also inspiring and elegant."

It's a modern lifeline across a river in a world city, not a coffee cup.

Functional design first or don't bother.