04 December 2008

A Ballet of Human-Powered Movement

Morning Rush Hour
Last August I spent the month shooting footage for a music video film for the City of Copenhagen about cycling in the city. I was up on a building to shoot the morning rush hour and took some still shots, too.

Cycling in rush hour gives you the sensation of being in a school of fish, all rolling together. When viewed from above, it is pure poetry. A ballet. Along the wide bike lanes running parallel to the grand boulevards, where the lights are spread out more, the flow of cyclists comes in waves. From a red light they spread out at various speeds, forming long strings and then they gather in a flock at the next light, only to repeat the movement at the next flash of green. The ebb and flow of bicycle culture.
Morning Rush Hour
The street is these first three shots is Hans Christian Andersen's Boulevard and it features upwards of 25,000 cyclists each day. There is a constant flow all day long, but during the morning rush hour the concentration of cyclists is high. Most people start work or school at roughly the same time. In the afternoon it is more spread out since quitting time is more organic and less homogenous.

The bike lanes on these stretches are very wide, up to three metres or more in places. And that is merely for one-way traffic. The bike lane on the opposite side of the street is similar.

In the shot above you'll see many cyclists heading left, positioned in front of the cars and trucks. They are executing a Copenhagen Left Turn. You continue across the intersection to the far side and then turn from there. Usually you wait for green but you are allowed to turn if there is no traffic.

As mentioned often before, the motorists are used to bikes - they are cyclists themselves - so this morning frenzy is a calm affair, as a rule.

Morning Rush Hour
Cyclists wait for the light to change on a separated bike lane. In this instance, the cars shuffle over to the right. In many intersections on busy streets, the bike lanes blend into the turning lane for cars. The cars are allowed to stop with either space on the right for the bikes or up against the kerb. If a car hugs the kerb, the bikes just flow past on the left. There is no doubt, however, that the bicycles dictate the movement, given their great numbers.

In the above shot you can also see a common feature in Copenhagen. The bus stop is positioned on an island, which allows the bicycles free movement. The bus passengers disembark and wait for the light. On narrower streets with these bus islands, they must wait for a hole in the bicycle traffic before crossing to the footpath.
Copenhagen Rush Hour
On narrower streets, like this shot of Nørrebrogade, the concentration of cyclists is far higher. You are in a constant school of fish with the 35,000 cyclists on this stretch, given the fact that there are more traffic lights. Although the Green Wave certainly helps the flow.


JerzyUk said...

Out of interest, is there much overtaking by cyclists in Copenhagen? That is, do cyclists behave like drivers, with the slower cyclists moving to the inside of the bike lane and allowing the faster cyclists to overtake them?


Zakkaliciousness said...

yes. compared to other cities, the flow is quite orderly. you stick to the right, out of respect for the others who wish to go faster.

if you ride side by side with someone, the outside rider is usually always checking for bicycles coming up behind and moves out of the way accordingly.

there has been talk of implementing a fast lane for those who fancy a quicker pace.

JerzyUk said...

Very cool indeed :-)

spiderleggreen said...

Great job on the photos and descriptions. Documenting what is possible. Maybe the rest of will catch up, someday.

cyclingred said...

I loved this post. Again I am envious of you who live places like Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

Andy B from Jersey said...

I saw Jan Gehl speak today down in in Philadelphia (used my bike and the train to get there BTW). He is in town for the next four days talking to city officials and civic organizations that are interested into turning Philly into the next great bicycling and walking city (would be really easy to do BTW since Philly's got great "bones").

In his lecture, Gehl talked about how the Copenhagen needed to widen the bike lanes by taking space from automobile traffic similar to some of the examples you picture here. All great stuff.

Then he said it, "Copenhagenizing." As, "We are Copenhagenizing cities all around the world." Thought you and your readers would find that pretty interesting. That is if you didn't know that he has taken to your coined term.

Also he showed photos of the "I (bike) CPH" poster and talked about the promotional program. I know Mikael you've done some work on this program but I'm was curious if you did the graphics on that "I 9bike) CPH" poster.

Keep up the good work.

Zakkaliciousness said...

Thanks, all.

Andy B... super interesting!
Gehl has used the word before. I heard a variation of it a few years back regarding bike lanes in Melbourne. I can't remember when I started using it. I don't actually think i coined it. Cycle Chic, on the other hand, is all mine... :-)

It seems, however, that it is catching on, not least because of this blog.

The original meaning dates from the beginning of the 1800's when Admiral Nelson bombed Copenhagen and then took the Danish navy ships home with him. This tactic was called after that 'Copenhagenizing' a fleet

the I bike CPH logo was designed by a graphic designer at the City. It's very cool.

Did Gehl show lots of photos?

Andy B from Jersey said...

He sure did show a lot of photos. Many seemed to similar to yours but I don't think any were. He talked for about an hour and took questions for a half hour more. The talk was at the American Institute for Architecture, Philadelphia.

There was an excellent turn out of over 100 people at least. He also managed to get people really enthused and all fired up.

I joked with him before the talk that he had better give a good lecture because I had to get up "god awful" early after only 3 hours sleep to get there. He was definitely worth it because his was one of the few lectures on bike/ped planning where I actually felt that I learned something new. It's a shame I didn't get to tell him that afterward because I don't think he understood my humor when I told him earlier that he had better be good.