24 November 2008

Christiania [Bikes]

Loooooooong John
Looooooooong John in Christiania
I had a little photo assignment out at Christiania the other day. Christiania is quite a famous place in Copenhagen. Back in 1971 a group of squatters took over an abandoned military area and established a Free Town. Being the 1970's, the authorities took it lightly and the community was allowed to grow and thrive.
A demonstration with a cyclist holding the flag of Christiania.
It has been called Europe's Greatest Social Experiment and the free town is well-established in Danish culture and society, despite the fact that they choose to run their own show in good collective fashion. There are kindergartens, cafés, shops, concert venues and many handbuilt houses along the old bastions of Copenhagen.

The current government wants to 'normalise' the free town and there is doubt as to it's future. I took some photos and and then went for a bike ride through the area for the first time in years. This being a bicycle blog, it is worth mentioning that bicycles are alive and well. It's unbelievable the selection of work bikes you can find, like the super long john up top.

Vintage Long John Christiania Long John
Or these two long johns. Good thing I don't really give a toss about bikes apart from on an aesthetic level because if I were a vintage bike freaky person I would have peed myself.

Instead I got all poetic n' shit, dood.

Christiania Bikesmith
I paid a visit to the Christiania Bikes workshop where Christiania Bikes were born. The Mother of all modern cargo bikes. They started out making trailers and then in 1984, they started making cargo bikes. This being the Spiritual Home of Cargo Bikes, it was obvious to use a time-tested design and modernise it. The no-nonsense form and function are still popular today. For many years, 'christiania bike' was a generic term for cargo bike.

Photo from Christianiabikes.dk of one of the first models in 1984.

Production of the bikes moved to the Danish island of Bornholm a while back, but there is still a workshop/shop on the premises in Christiania, in the old blacksmith building. Wonderful to see so many bikes lined up waiting to be picked up.
Christiania Bike Workshop in Christiania Christiania Bike Workshop in Christiania

Christiania Bike Workshop in Christiania
It was also cool to see these cool two-wheeler cargo bikes that are newest branch on the Christiania Bike family tree. The guys in the shop just called them long johns, since they haven't been given a name yet. All these two-wheelers are just new generations of the old long john. This new Christiania model looks classy and smart. You'll have to wait until next year for them to hit the market and continue Christiania Bikes' proud legacy.

As a Copenhagener you can get all sentimental upon seeing one. I saw one in Berlin once and got homesick for Copenhagen. Seeing photos of Patrick's trike in Portland gets me all warm and fuzzy.

The Christiania bike is such an integral part of Copenhagen culture that you can't imagine the bike lanes without it.

Here's a link to Christiania Bikes website in Danish, with some English and here's the link to their international site.

I just discovered that I have an alarming number of photos of Christiania bikes on Flickr, which you can see here in a gallery.

And here's a link to a set with many other photos of Christiania - both the town and the bikes.

The Christiania bike is one of the brands that enjoys a healthy export market. You can get them in Australia , in London and around Europe.