30 March 2009

Copenhagenize

29 March 2009

Cargo Bike Film Shoot

Nihola Dolly
There's little doubt that cargo bikes are practical machines. Here in Copenhagen, with an estimated 30,000 cargo bikes on the streets, we take this utility concept to other levels.

I've spent the last three months shooting a science programme for kids and our photographer's Nihola bike - which he used to get to work - came in handy while shooting. We used it as a dolly for some shots, with me pedalling the photographer in the cargo box.
Scripting
In the urban wasteland where we were shooting, the bike was a handy seat when the scripting work needed to be done.
Nihola Crew
The bike was perfect for crew transport when we had to get back to base.
Colleagues
And the bike, after a hard day's work, was ridden home in normal fashion.

The science programme is called VOLT and you can see the programmes broadcast thus far on the website. It's in Danish, but hey. In episode 5, on the right, you can see how we built an electric bike using a battery-driven drill. Quite fun.

Danish Post

Harbour Postman
Danish postman riding out to a ship on the harbour to deliver the post. The Danish postal service have custom-made bicycles which are quite cool to ride.

28 March 2009

Copenhagen Bicycle Maintenence

Copenhagen Spring Cleaning
Classic Copenhagen shot. Spring cleaning. A can of oil sprayed here and there and a dish cloth half-heartedly rubbing some dirt and grit away. Ready for summer!
Copenhagen Fix
Chain hopped off. Took a moment to fix it.

27 March 2009

Copenhagen Cycles


I finally found an embeddable version of the award-winning short film Copenhagen Cycles, by Eric Dyer. "A fantastical, collaged bicycle tour through a zoetropic rendition of Denmarks capital city."

Very cool. A thumbs up thanks to my mate Matthew in London.

Best Animated Film - Sidewalk Moving Pictures Festival
Gus Van Sant Best Experimental Film Award - Ann Arbor Film Festival 2007
Best of Show - Rosebud Film and Video Festival 2007
Sundance Film Festival 2007

26 March 2009

San Francisco Bicycle Plans

Thanks to a reader, Tina, for this little update from San Francisco.

"In Denmark, the government spends millions (billions?) on non-car transportation infrastructure.

Here, irate citizens sue San Francisco, "upset at what they view as the city's willingness to appease cyclists at the expense of motorists."

Amazing that people who are so pissed off over traffic, see bikes only as nuisance and competition instead of as a potential solution.
"

Indeed. What I always find counter-productive is the usage of the word "cyclists". As though it's a group completely separated from the rest of society, instead of just being citizens who merely choose a different transport form.

It should read the City's - any city's - willingness to increase quality of life, lower emission levels, noise pollution and further develop liveable urban areas. Or a city's willingness to reduce wear and tear on roads, to benefit motorists, by shifting large numbers of citizens to two-wheeled transport. Or a city's willingness to work positively towards better public health by battling lifestyle illnesses and obesity.

This positive message is included in the article in a statement from a bike advocate, but it will be great when this angle is the norm, not the exception.

Full article at SF Gate here.

25 March 2009

Rational Bicycle Frame Stickers


If you fancy advertising your freedom to choose whether or not to wear a helmet - and/or your freedom from fearmongering and emotional pornography - here's a sticker from Copenhagenize.com. I figured that it was high time that those of us who feel secure in the traffic, ride safely and sensibly - not to mention those of us who have actually read the science - had the opportunity to take a sticker stance. The scare merchants get so much press, so this is a quiet little statement for the rest of us.

Actually, it's three stickers for the price of one. Not surprisingly, bicycle frame stickers are not standard on online print shops, so I use a bumper sticker template and you get to cut the stickers into three for placement on your bicycle. They're available from our little online shop.

Alternatively, you can choose the Danish text version, which I've made for our family's cargo bike. Oh so exotic and cosmopolitan.

There are some other general frame stickers available in the online shop as well, as well as all the rest of it.

Cycling Danes Abroad and Foreigners Cycling in Denmark


A flurry of activity on the Danish bicycle ambassador front.

Niels Tørsløv, the Traffic Director of Copenhagen, was on a whistlestop tour of the North American west coast not long ago. It culminated with a lecture at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. SFU is great at filming and internetting their lectures and you can see Niels speak right here on the SFU website.

It's a 40 minute speech about Copenhagen's bicycle culture but also about Humanscaping - or humanizing cities and shaping public spaces. Well worth a look.

You can also read a summary written by Brent Toderian, the Director of Planning for the City of Vancouver. He writes about it here.

On the east coast, Andreas Rohl, the bicycle program manager for the City of Copenhagen, addressed more than 500 cycling advocates at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC as part of the National Bike Summit.

You can read one person's account of the best of the Copenhagen Bike Manager's Address to the National Bike Summit here.


In the reverse direction, the Copenhagen Capacity website, which focuses on, among other things, foreigners doing business in Copenhagen has a page on their site for foreigners who are considering living and working in Copenhagen.

Here, they advertise how you can have a rewarding career AND a fulfilling family life. We take that for given, but it's interesting to see it as a selling point. I love the photo, showing a typical Copenhagener in a suit on his bicycle.

They also want to convince you why you should consider living and working in Copenhagen:
10 reasons why Copenhagen is a great place to live and work.

1. An open and informal working culture and the ultimate work-life balance
2. Quality of life - one of the highest living standards in the world.
3. A safe, well-functioning society with no corruption, a high level of public services
4. An English-speaking community - 86% of the population speak English
5. A health-care system and social security with free and equal access for all
6. An easily accessible location with Northern Europe’s largest international airport
7. A great mix of entertainment, castles, parks, open green areas and sandy beaches
8. A safe environment
9. A dynamic business environment and a prosperous economy
10. A green metropolis – experience that urban life is different and greener in Copenhagen

There's a little film on this page about Copenhagen.

24 March 2009

Visions of the Past and the Future


This is where we are headed. This is what we're all about.
This film from Barcelona in 1908 shows the bicycle as an integrated, acceptable form of transport in a major city.

It is pure sustainable mobility and it's scenes like this that we bang on about here on Copenhagenize.com. This is why we coined the phrase Bicycle Culture 2.0.

The bicycle is not some newfangled invention, as we all know. Nor is the concept of the bicycle featuring prominently in cities around the world. The bicycle has been an integral part of urban life for decades. Regular people on regular bicycles in regular clothes.

Archive footage like the Barcelona film above is proof of what is possible. It is a filmic testament to where we are headed. It has happened by and large in Copenhagen and many other European and Japanese cities. It can happen anywhere.

Sure, there are detractors. Doubters. But the historical proof is hard to deny.

The Topography Whiners:
We often hear people in hilly places say that, "yes, but we live in a hilly place". As though this is a living testament to the fact that cycling is difficult. Sorry, but that argument is quite ridiculous. In your hilly place people were riding bicycles long before you were born in your hilly place. On heavy, black bicycles with few or no gears. Get over it.

When you consider the fact that so many hilly cities in Europe have a high level of bicycle usage, this particular whine gets boring.

The Adverse Weather Whiners:
"We have adverse weather", is another classic remark. Sorry, but the people who lived in your city back in the day had adverse weather, too. They managed without whining. On the same upright bicycles mentioned above.

Sure, there were fewer cars back then. Certainly in 1908. Car culture was in it's infancy. Sure, it's tough with all the cars in many urban centres. But like we've mentioned before, in America 50% of Americans live within 8 km of their workplace. The same stat applies to most countries. Then there's the shops or post office which are generally accessible by bicycle so if you have to drive to work, you can always use the bicycle for other errands.

While being able to use your bicycle for everything would be optimal, there are ways to start the wave until bike lanes are built and car culture is reduced.

The Urban Sprawl Whiners:
We often hear people go on about the urban sprawl and about how distances are great. Sure, even here in Copenhagen there are many people who live too far out in the suburbs to ride their bicycle. Many of them ride to the train station and head into the city by train. However, urban centres around the world still have a great deal of people living within bicycling distance of where they need to go.

Like Berlin or Paris, a focus on short trips is a great point of departure. Increasing intra-neighbourhood trips made by bicycle is a wise strategy and one that encourages potential urban cyclists to ride a bicycle on trips that they otherwise would use a car for.

Whining is counter-productive. Making excuses doesn't help cycling.

Let's try to focus on what is possible. Not least because the bicycle used to be an acceptable form of transport - proven and tested by your family members only a few generations ago - and it can become so once again.

If anyone has any archive footage of other cities, do let us know.

17 March 2009

Copenhagenizing Edmonton


Guest photo from Edmonton from Copenhagen Cycle Chic
Our intrepid correspondent Manfred, in Edmonton, Canada reports:

I just read in the papers that Edmonton City Council has recently approved the bicycle transportation plan. As a councillor says: "we need a comprehensive cycling network".

With more people pedaling to and from work, more cars and trucks are taken off our clogged roads. This is not just about recreation. We need to make bike commuting more
accessible, with safer places to ride, better signage and bike trails that don't peter out after a few blocks.

A commuter says: "One of the plans they are talking about is putting lane markers down to show motorists and cyclists where cyclists can be on the road. I have had times when motorists were yelling out their window at me. Having more signage out there would really be helpful".

The councillor continues: "When it is safe, bicycle riding reduces obesity and builds fitness. We can have a city of champions or a city of couch potatoes. This project calls for $100 million CAD spread out over 10 years. The city approved, in principle, the plan and will spend $10 million CAD a year over a ten-year period".

Good news. So there is a follow up to last year's good resolution to observe Montreal's example in cycling matters. Every day I see brave people commuting even in our winter conditions - snow and extreme low temperatures don't prevent some from keeping on commuting on their bikes, as you also showed in a previous post in your blog about Canada cycling!

Remarkable. We must encourage them and ourselves to make Edmonton better and better. Following, as an ideal, such examples as Copenhagen and other European cities.

Thanks for the update, Manfred! Let's hope they do it and do it right.

15 March 2009

Stylish Bike Messengers


Here's a clip from an old Danish film featuring one of the legends of Danish stage and cinema, Marguerite Viby. She is addressing a group of 'svajere', which is the Danish word for bike messengers, long before Kevin Bacon appeared in Quicksilver and one trouser was rolled up.

The 'svajere' defined the urban landscape in Copenhagen for decades with their cargo bikes, their sharp tone, affection for swearing and whistling at pretty girls. The were urban legends. And well-dressed ones at that. Our day's bike messengers can learn a fashion tip or two from these chaps. If a bike messenger company started up with riders dressed like they did in Copenhagen in the 1930's, I'd be sending packages all day long.

There is no other country in the world where cycling and cyclists feature so much in literature, song and poetry as in Denmark.

Anyway, here's a very brief transcript of the dialogue and lyrics:

Ms Viby
What would Copenhagen be without you?

A Svajer
Bloody boring!

All
Yeah!

Ms Viby
I'm going to sing a song at a theatre tomorrow and it's about you. It means so much to me that the melody, which is the last song in the show, will be a hit. It's in your hands to help me make that happen. Because the melodies you all whistle are sure to be popular. You can make the whole city hum a melody if you want to! Will you help?

All
Yeah!

Ms Viby
I'll sing it once and you can whistle it afterwards.

Ms Viby - Singing:

Hi, you old city slicker
have a look!
Here's the asphalt cowboys team
with music.

Over the traffic lines
we race each other
the 'svajere' are a hoot
and the tone is sharp

Ding-a-ling me here
Ding-a-ling me there
and ding-a-ling for Copenhagen
and Frederiksberg...

Addendum: Remember the National 'Svajere' Championships in Copenhagen on April 18th.

Bloody hell... I love the internet... Here's the trailer for Kevin Bacon's Quicksilver. Man, I used think that film was cooool.

14 March 2009

Copenhagen - C02 Neutral in 15 Years

Good Morning Copenhagen
There was a brief piece on the news just now about how the City of Copenhagen will launch a plan on Tuesday [17th of March, 2009] that will reveal how we aim to become the world's first carbon neutral capital city by 2025.

I'm looking forward to seeing the details. I'll keep you posted.

13 March 2009

New Orleans, Jazz and Bicycles


Thanks to Lloyd for sending us this funkalicious video from New Orleans featuring, as he put it "Slow Bikes, Clint Maedgen, The New Orleans Bingo! Show, and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band."

A wonderful armada of Slow Bicycles, indeed.

12 March 2009

How Far You Ride

Ages ago we posted the EU statistics about how far people in different countries ride on average each year. I found these updated statistics for 2007 through a fine blog about cycling in Vienna called Cycling is Good For You.

These stats are for 2006. They differ slightly compared to our post back in 2007. I can't figure out when the previous stats stats are from. May be 2006. Some numbers are up, some are down. Marginal differences though. Except Denmark now takes first place, up from second.

Anyway, stats are fun.

Denmark: 954 km
Netherlands: 879 km
Belgium: 329 km
Germany: 298 km
Sweden: 277 km
Finland: 256 km
Ireland: 186 km
Austria: 173 km
Italy: 159 km
Great Britain: 84 km
France: 81 km
Greece: 77 km
Luxembourg: 31 km
Portugal: 29 km
Spain: 27 km

Other countries outside of the EU:
Japan: 354 km
Switzerland: 287 km
Norway: 164 km
USA: 33 km

Sweet Swiss Sensibility


One of our readers in Geneva, Benoit, brought this new campaign from the city of Geneva to our attention. It is aimed at encouraging more people to choose 'soft' transport forms like walking and bicycling but also the bus and the tram.

It is fantastic in it's simplicity. The poster above reads, roughly translated:
"There is always a moment where you have to take the first step."
Ahhh, l'amour...


Then there is this poster, which is the payoff for the first.

"By bicycle. On foot. By bus. By tram.
A new step in [for] life"


The slogan for the campaign is, in my interpretation:
"Change is in the air!"

It's a prime example of how to promote cycling positively as a normal, everyday transport option for regular citizens. Geneva, like so many other cities in Europe is seeing an increase in the number of cyclists. The metropolitan area hosts 812,000 citizens and since 2005 the number of people cycling has increased by 11% in the summer and 28% in the winter.

The campaign focuses on the improved air quality gained by more people choosing soft transport forms. Thumbs up from Copenhagenize.com.

See the City of Geneva's website - in French - here.

To wrap it up, there is also a video advert to accompany the campaign. Absolutely splendid:



If only we could see this kind of positive bicycle campaign here in Denmark - and everywhere.

11 March 2009

Copenhagenizing Washington D.C.

If you're in the American capital today, Andreas Rohl, head of the City of Copenhagen's Bicycle Office will be speaking at 18:30 at the Amphitheatre in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

"Rohl will describe how Copenhagen has become a world class city for cyclists, one in which 36% of trips are made by bicycle. Mapes will explore the growth of the bicycling movement as a political and cultural force, especially at the local level."

He'll be showing a rough cut of my film about Copenhagen's bicycle culture. A little pre-pre-premiere, as it were.

Read more here, on Commuter Page Blog.

10 March 2009

Political Helmet Mishaps [and Irish Hope]

Aabuen
It is a constant and eternal hope for citizens of any nation that their politicians are fair, well-researched, thorough and rational. By and large, Danish democracy is refreshingly transparent. You can always come in direct contact with most MPs and corruption is non-existent. Politicians are accessible and with most of them you get the sense that they could be your neighbour.

I've always felt that the down-to-earth feeling is a main reason that Danes take democracy so seriously. In national elections, over 80% vote and you can strike up engaging discussions with most people about politics.

On occasion, mistakes are made. We're all homo sapiens after all. I was quite suprised to read that a member of parliament for one of the larger parties, Socialistisk Folkeparti [Socialist People's Party] actually proposed a helmet law for under 15's at a recent town hall traffic meeting.

The member of parliament for the Socialist People's Party in question was one Anne Baastrup. I was struck by not only her proposal here in the world's safest cycling nation but by her lack of research. I promply emailed her and suggested that she and her party be more thorough in their research before proposing laws that will discourage cycling and negatively affect public health.

I referred her to the official policy in the European Cyclists' Federation and the cyclists' union in a long line of European countries. I sent her a pile of links to websites that paint quite a different picture about helmets.

I was pleased to get a quick reply from her fellow MP, Pia Olsen Dyhr, who is their party's traffic spokesperson, but I was quite astounded to read her reply.

She wrote:
"I think you have some interesting points but you should know that we have researched this issue very thoroughly..."

"Firstly, there is no international research that shows that fewer people cycle when you pass helmet laws. It wasn't the case in Norway or Sweden when they introduced helmet laws."


The irony of reading that is quite amazing. In every single region in the world where helmet laws have been introduced, not to mention the mere promotion of helmets, the levels of cycling have dropped. Even the most hardcore helmet fantatics spend half their time trying to battle/debunk/ignore these facts.

Then when she writes that it was the case in Norway when they passed their helmet law, I realised that these people have done nothing to research the case.

Norway doesn't have a helmet law.

In fact, The Norwegian Public Roads Administration turned down a wish in Norway for a helmet law because it would reduce cycling. And the Institute of Transport Economics - TØI - is increasingly helmet sceptical.

At this point in her email I'm already shaking my head sadly, wondering how politicians from an otherwise fine party could be so frightfully unprepared and so far from the scientific verdict in other European countries.

She went on to mention a report from the Accident Safety Board that analysed 6 cyclist deaths in 2007 and that concluded that two of them could have been prevented with helmets. It's a report that has been criticised in professional circles for it's gross overestimation of the protective qualities of helmets.

The irony - if this can get anymore ironic - is that the Socialist People's Party were heavily involved in securing funding for cycling in the recent traffic budget negotiations. They have previously proposed paying people to ride bicycles. How can they be visionary and horribly out of touch at the same time?

They are playing lottery with the public health and risking putting yet another generation of Danes off cycling. Not based on science. Only belief and lack of research. Imagine what good they could do on this issue if they chose to employ rational thought, listen to the general consensus in Europe and if they started to promote cycling for what it is: a safe, healthy, life-extending transport option.

The party's slogan is "Det ku' være så godt" - or "It could be so good". Indeed it could. But they're off base on the helmet issue.


Meanwhile, on the Emerald Isle:

Ireland's National Cycle Lobby Group - Cyclist.ie - published an article in Irish Health today about helmets. They are yet another cyclist organisation in a long line of European cyclist groups to sound the alarm about bike helmets.

“The drop in the number of cyclists following vigorous helmet promotion in other jurisdictions draws a stark picture: you can promote cycling or you can promote helmets; you cannot do both."

Copenhagenize.com loves being quoted... however indirectly.

I've also learned that a motion was brought before Dublin City Council last week to introduce the compulsory wearing of helmets. It was defeated with 20 against and 10 for. Even cycling advocates with their finger on the pulse were suprised by the vote. The city council kept it very hush hush that they were going to vote on it.

09 March 2009

That Sinking Feeling

That Sinking Feeling
Saw this on my way to work the other day. A worker in the morning light on his way to install a sink. While many workers have their white minivans, you still see many heading to and fro work on their bicycles.
Carry On in Copenhagen
This one handed holding of baggage is quite popular. I find myself doing it all the time.
Baggin'
Or you can just hold your bag casually while you ride.

Sticking to the Science

Cykelhjelm .org
A sticker in favour of science, rational thought and common sense. These stickers for my website Cykelhjelm.org are available on our little online shop and I can see that a number of them have been sold. It was quite lovely to discover one of them on a light post next to a bike lane here in Copenhagen. Somebody apparently feels the need to rebel against this current spate of bike helmet rhetoric/propaganda here in Denmark. I'll buy them a beer if we ever happen to meet. If you're in the market for Danish helmet sceptic merchandise... which you're... um... probably not... have a looksie here. It's all cost price meaning I don't make money off of it.

On the same token I was pleased to have discovered BicycleSafe.com, thanks to a link from a reader. It is quite US oriented but quite brilliant for it's common sense. Educating people to ride properly is the key to bicycle safety. Whether on the 'every man for himself' roads of America or the separated bicycle infrastructure in Copenhagen.

I particularly enjoyed the page on bicycle helmets. No surprise there, really.

08 March 2009

Changing Lanes in Copenhagen

Shoulder Check Wrong Lane
It's a common experience. You're in one lane and things are going fine. Suddenly, you realise that the lane you're in has become a turning lane for turning left and you have every intention of heading straight on.

Your pulse increases a bit as you shoulder check for traffic in the other lane. You have to merge quicksmart, as you are approaching the stationary traffic waiting for the turning signal and nobody likes being rear-ended, especially with your big box.

Ahh, there you go. A quick and fluent movement and you slide into the right lane, behind the other person who just passed you.

07 March 2009

National Cargo Bike Championships


Here's the poster for the National Cargo Bike Championships, which is a rather fancy, modern name for an almost century-old competition - Svajerløbet.

'Svajerne' are the granddaddies of bike messengers. They rode around the city with massive cargo bikes, delivering goods. They were known for being loud and boisterous and they weren't afraid of foul language and whistling at attractive women. There were several competitions each year where they raced their cumbersome cargo bikes around tracks and competed in many other disciplines.

This year sees a bit of a revival the Danish Championships for Cargo Bikes, to be held on Israels Plads on April 18th, 2009. It's sponsored in part by the City of Copenhagen, Larry vs Harry cargo bikes and Firmacyklen.dk.

Should be a blast. Apart from enjoying sausages and beer, you can try out different cargo bikes and fixies. The main attractions are the cargo bike race with fully loaded bikes as well as the Police on police bikes vs. the Bike Messengers on track bikes. Not to mention the team relay competition with four riders and one bike.

The website isn't up and running yet, apart from a welcome page, but it'll kick in soon. You can sign up for email news.
http://dmforladcykler.dk/

05 March 2009

Ya vuelvo.


Absolutely splendid video about a bicycle in Sevilla. Beautiful, beautiful stuff.

Truck Stop


The City of Copenhagen's Bicycle Office rigged up this truck and parked it on City Hall Square in association with a conference about heavy traffic.

It reads:
Hi Cyclist! Try out a truck and see yourself from a new angle!

Nice simple message. No need for fearmongering texts. We all understand the dangers of what the Americans call "right hooks". Even though cyclists heading straight on have the right of way over turning vehicles, it really is important to understand what it looks like from the cab of such a big truck.

With the hysterical and unscientific helmet promotion currently insulting the intelligence of the nation, it's extra important to underline that helmets won't help when you're hit by a vehicle. Therefore, highlighting vigilance and awareness while cycling is not a bad idea.

Getting the trucks out of the city is a better idea and the Copenhagen government has proposed just this but the national government refuses.

The use of the "Hej Cyklist" title and tone of the message is another incarnation of the behavourial campaign that I and copenhagenize.com developed for the City of Copenhagen. Here's more on that.

04 March 2009

Bicycle Helmets - Today's Bloodletting

Another guest article, this time from Sue Knaup from OneStreet.org, out of Arizona. Sue is also an associate member of the European Cyclists Federation and is a member of their helmet committee.
by Sue Knaup

One Street

Bloodletting seems a distant absurdity to us and yet, just a few hundred years ago, we lost George Washington because he trusted its rhetoric over logic when he agreed to it as treatment for a nasty cold. With only a few quiet voices protesting the countless deaths caused by bloodletting, the practice continued well into the 20 th century. Today's bicycle helmet promotions and laws hold an alarming resemblance to the pronouncements used by the bloodletters. When an illogical practice is presented as the only means of safety and dismissal of the practice is equated to certain death, even the most brilliant leader can succumb to its absurdity.

Myths about helmets charm countries most where bicycling is not commonplace. In these countries, helmet rhetoric has escalated to the point where those not familiar with bicycling believe that if you so much as swing your leg over a bicycle without wearing a helmet you will smash your head open. In such places, those who ride a bike without a helmet are chided by onlookers at every turn for their reckless, irresponsible behavior.

Where did these chiders get their information? Most helmet propaganda is originally published by insurance companies, health practitioners and government agencies who have avoided countless law suits by blaming bicyclists in crashes for not wearing a helmet, sometimes even when their injuries or death did not involve injuries to their head.

While many studies have shown that bicycle helmets do little to prevent major head injuries beyond minor skull fractures and lacerations (Curnow 2001), a few poorly executed, misleading studies are the only ones to have reached mainstream distribution. The most common bit of jargon of them all is that "cycle helmets prevent 85% of head injuries and 88% of brain injuries" when in fact, where helmet use is high, there has been no detectable reduction in head injuries. See this link for a good overview: http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1027.html .

Helmet rhetoric that sets bicycling out as far more dangerous than it is, is the greatest hindrance to programs for increasing bicycling. A great deal of truthful yet catchy promotions will be necessary to counter this noise. Remember, bloodletting was "common sense" for 2,000 years! One of the best examples for illustrating the truth is this fun quiz on the dangers of bicycling: http://www.bicyclinglife.com/SafetySkills/SafetyQuiz.htm

Mandatory helmet laws often follow the spread of bicycle helmet rhetoric, adding the weight of the law to the idea that bicycling is more dangerous than any other form of transportation. In fact, as you will have found in the above quiz, if these laws took a realistic approach to their attempt to prevent head injuries, all pedestrians and car drivers would be required to wear helmets as well. And, it seems, a law requiring the wearing of helmets inside the house would also be a good idea.

Helmet laws also present another barrier to potential cyclists who already see many barriers to starting cycling. Mandatory helmet laws add to this list and thus prevent many new riders from starting. These laws have also been proven to decrease numbers of current cyclists thus increasing the potential for crashes by hindering safety in numbers. This theory has been proven to show that a motorist is less likely to collide with a person walking or bicycling when there are more people walking or bicycling (Jacobsen 2003).

Bicycle helmets may provide some protection against minor skull fractures and lacerations, but they do not prevent major brain trauma that happens within the skull. In fact, because bicycle helmets are soft which increases friction in certain crashes, unlike motorcycle helmets, some studies have shown that they can cause neck and brain injuries from rotational motion ( V J M St Clair, B P Chinn. 2007 ).

So, in minor crashes, bicycle helmets can assist in preventing minor injuries, though the potential of their doing harm in a major crash must be considered. Like bloodletting, which, in retrospect was found to have unintentionally benefitted a few lucky survivors because they were later discovered to have high blood pressure, helmets have surely prevented nasty gashes and painful skull fractures.

Bicycle helmets can be a good choice for someone concerned about minor head injuries as long as they understand their helmet's limitations for preventing major head injuries, not unlike choosing to wear knee pads and gloves. However, some studies have shown that helmeted bicyclists take more risks than those not wearing a helmet ( Pless IB, Magdalinos H, Hagel B. 2006). Thus, whenever a potential helmet benefit is mentioned, the potential of a helmet causing neck and brain injury, as well as this risk compensation, must always be included for bicycle helmets to be presented in a truthful light.

Another important point to understand is that helmets do not prevent crashes. Improved road and pathway conditions, driver and bicyclist education, better protections for cyclists and increased numbers of bicyclists through safety in numbers, prevent crashes. Too often government officials, health practitioners and insurance companies grasp at helmet laws as a quick and cheap solution that removes them from liability and the responsibility of providing quality provisions for bicyclists.

Helmet laws and overblown promotions also set in place a ready-made blame-the-victim reaction. Each time a helmetless cyclist is in a crash, their bare head becomes the focus even if the driver deliberately hit them and their injuries were not head related. Remember that whenever one of these laws is presented, it is from a knee jerk reaction, either to a recent crash or fabricated rhetoric, usually by officials seeking to avoid liability, framing the argument as making crashing safer.

Let's replace our helmets with thinking caps. If we can agree that increasing bicycling is in the best interest of our people and our planet, it's time to shift our promotions and policy efforts away from the illusion of safer crashing and into reshaping our communities into places where everyone knows the safety of bicycling.

Sue Knaup is the executive director of One Street , an international nonprofit organization that serves leaders of organizations working to increase bicycling. Most of her work involves coaching these leaders past common pitfalls so they can focus their energy on increasing bicycling.
Find out more at http://www.onestreet.org.

For a compilation of 16 studies on helmet efficacy see: http://www.onestreet.org/pdf/Bicyclist- & -Driver-Ed-helmet-efficacy.pdf .

Find a comprehensive study on safety in numbers here: http://www.onestreet.org/pdf/Safety_in_Numbers_JacobsenPaper.pdf .

Originally published on SearchWarp.com for Sue Knaup Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Article Source: Bicycle Helmets - Today's Bloodletting




03 March 2009

The Copenhagen Cyclery


I've been looking forward to this. The Copenhagen Cyclery is opening in Chicago, as spotted by one of our readers.

Quality Danish designed bicycles for the people, and much more. The website is not yet active, but we'll keep you all posted.