27 June 2009

Crazy New-Fangled Idea! Cycling in Parks!

Kongens Have
Another crazy and radical idea from the City of Copenhagen. Cycling in parks! Let's try it!

Ironically, cycling in parks has long been prohibited. Bicycle are transport and belong on the bicycle lanes. You can walk your bike through the parks and park them by your blanket, sure, but riding them has been a no-no. Parks are for walking/meandering/promenading.

Now the City is changing all that, making it permissable to cycle in many parks. Nice.

26 June 2009

Keep on Counting

Counting Bicycles
Another new counter that the City of Copenhagen has put up, this time on the nation's busiest bicycle street, Nørrebrogade.

Indeed, it is said to be the busiest bicycle street in the Western world, with it's 30,000-35,000 cyclists each day.

At time of snapping there have been almost 160,000 cyclists riding past on this side of the street so the counter must have been up for a few days.

While there have been counters up in Odense and Frederiksberg, here in Copenhagen it is a lot more fun seeing the massive numbers of cyclists being registered.

While I was sitting on a bench nearby, waiting for a friend, everyone walking past in pairs stopped up and said "wow... that's amazing...". And these are Copenhageners. We just ride, we don't really realise how amazing it is that we do it in such great numbers, all year round.

23 June 2009

Copenhagen Bike City

Here's a film made by a good friend of mine, Thorsten Dreyer, highlighting some of the active players in our bicycle culture peppered with heaps of bicycle eye candy. A lovely little film.

22 June 2009

Copenhagenizing Moscow?

Vacuum Cleaner Culture. Here's me explaining that our bicycle culture is the same as our vacuum cleaner culture. We all have one. We all know how to use them. We all use them. But we don't have a fetish about them or think about them every day.

While you may get the impression that my visit to Moscow was just fun and games, there was a business end to the stick and that involved the Dreams on Wheels exhibition, which opened in the city.

The Danish Embassy in Russia put on a dual conference. There was Instants of Architecture, featuring several Danish architect studios and there was the Danish Cycling Culture for Urban Sustainability conference.

I was invited to speak about Marketing the Bicycle to the Sub-Conscious Environmentalists and I was joined by two colleagues. Thomas Ermacora is the curator of, and mastermind behind, the Dreams on Wheels exhibition for the Danish Foreign Ministry. The ongoing success of the exhibition is truly due to his hard work and vision.

The Dreams Team: From left; Thomas Ermacora, our translator, Mikael, Troels Andersen.

The other speaker was one of Denmark's most experienced urban planners specialising in bicycle infrastructure, Troels Andersen. He worked for many years in Odense, which is a spectacular cycling city of about 180,000 people. There are so many brilliant details to their bicycle infrastructure and most of it is Troels' work.

Thomas, who is an architect, spoke to the audience about Dreams on Wheels but also about his unique vision for urban planning for sustainability, which he deals with everyday at his alternative urban design and sustainability strategy consultancy, Etikstudio. Troels gave a lecture about his experience with developing Odense into one of Europe's most extensive and forward-thinking cycling cities.

Dreams on Wheels is much more than just an exhibition. It is also a consultancy company based on Etikstudio and in association with Copenhagenize Consulting. The goal is to assists cities and towns in gearing up for Bicycle Culture 2.0 through infrastructure planning and analysis.

The number of cities and towns all over the world seeking consultants from established bicycle cultures grows daily. Danish consultants are experiencing a boom these days.

Dreams on Wheels, indeed.
As I've experienced in the other cities I've spoken in, the response is overwhelmingly positive. People from Denmark show up and say "uh... cycling is normal. It's transport. And it can be like that here... indeed anywhere..." and people are keenly interested. The media as well as the audience.

Speaking to the Moscow Duma [City Council]
Due to the hard work of the Danish Embassy, we were baffled when we were told that we'd been invited to address the Moscow Duma, or City Council. It was quite surprising, since it usually requires invitations, planning and all that. The Duma listened to short speeches from the three of us and then we answered questions. Very good, prepared questions, which is always preferable.

We're hoping that Moscow chooses to begin work on bicycle infrastructure in the near future. The city is absolutely choked by cars like nowhere else I've seen in the world.

It was my fourth visit to the city, the last time was in 1992. Back then I rode around on an old Soviet bicycle with a handful of Ladas on the streets. Now... it's a nightmare.

21 June 2009

Danish Bike Helmet Law Defeated in Parliament

My son is no longer at risk of being labelled a criminal!

This slipped under my radar while I was out travelling - ironically out promoting cycling positively. A Danish political party - The Socialist People's Party proposed a bike helmet law for children under 12. And right here in the world's safest cycling nation where it has never been so safe to cycle.

I posted about this party's position previously here on Copenhagenize.com and their four Safety Fetishists; Pia Olsen Dyhr, Anne Baastrup, Karina Lorentzen Dehnhardt and Ole Sohn [with Morten Østergaard from Radikale Venstre providing extra Orwellian Newspeak]- put the law proposal through the political machinery, ending with a vote on May 28th, 2009.

The Socialist People's Party, together with a small party called Radikale Venstre [they're probably just happy someone asked them out to play] voted For and the rest of the Folketing [Danish Parliament] voted soundly Against.

For: 21
Against: 90
Abstained: 0
Absent/Playing golf, etc: 68

A victory for common sense and rationality.

It still boggles the mind how The Socialist People's Party didn't bother to do their research. It's rare to see laws proposed on such a fantastically thin background. The backbone of their proposal was rhetoric and fearmongering. And this from a party that claims to work for increased cycling in Denmark.

I really hope there aren't many law proposals in the Parliament like this that are such an amazing waste of time and taxpayer's money. Here's an interesting analysis of why a law like this just doesn't fly.
Long John
Non-criminals enjoying the joy of the bicycle in the world's safest bicycle nation.

The primus motor behind the proposal, Pia Olsen Dyhr, wasn't any more well-prepared for her moment in the democratic spotlight as when I exchanged emails with her previously. She actually said, recorded for all eternity:

"The Danish Cyclists Federation [DCF] and The Danish Road Safety Council have made splendid campaigns over the past couple of years. Nevertheless, the number of children cycling hasn't risen."

No shit, Sherlock. There's a reason they call them scare tactics and fearmongering. They... uh... scare people. Parents become fearful and don't let their children cycle. We've seen it before in Denmark and we're seeing it again.

Promotion and legislation go hand in hand and have the same negative effects on cycling. People stop doing it, with all the negative health aspects involved.

Pia Olsen Dyhr doesn't realise this though:
"...Look, for example, at New Zealand where there is an all-ages helmet law. The year after the law was passed, the number of cyclists fell a little. The year after it rose again and was higher than before the law. [...] This is at least one scientific study that shows that there is absolutely no truth to the claim that people will stop cycling."
- Cycling in New Zealand decreased by 22% after the helmet laws according to the New Zealand Household Travel Survey.
- Here is Dr Dorothy Robinson's Cost-Benefit analysis of New Zealand's helmet laws [PDF].
- Here is another cost-benefit analysis - Taylor M, Scuffham P - 2002 - in Injury Prevention [PDF].

And once again, let's mention Professor Piet de Jong's mathematical template for determining the negative costs of helmet laws.

The Danish Minister of Transport, together with the Ministers of Transport for all the EU countries [The European Council of Ministers of Transport], published a report in 2004 [National Policies to Encourage Cycling] wherein it says, among other things, that:

"...from the point of view of restrictiveness, even the official promotion of helmets may have negative consequences for bicycle use, and that to prevent helmets having a negative effect on the use of bicycles, the best approach is to leave the promotion of helmet wear to manufacturers and shopkeepers.

The report entitled 'Head Injuries and Helmet Law for Cyclists' by Dorothy L. Robinson, Bicycle Research report No. 81 (March 1997) shows that the main effect of the introduction of the general helmet law for cyclists in Australia was a drop in bicycle use."

I'm pleased that the law was voted down. As Karsten Nonbo, MP for the Venstre party said in Parliament:

"We can try and imagine that if we pass this law making it illegal not to wear a bike helmet, what would that mean? Well, it would mean that children would always have to wear a bike helmet in places where the traffic laws apply. In other words, children would have to wear a bike helmet in camping grounds, they'll have to wear bike helmets on the sidewalk, they'll have to wear bike helmets on city squares, they'll have to wear them everywhere because it became law. I am quite sure, as the Minister of Justice also said, that many people will stop cycling."

He added later something that is seen all over the world:
"It's amusing that often it is people who don't cycle very often who bring these things to the table"

Well said. Although this debate in Parliament revealed one important thing. That many politicians in this country are shockingly lacking in information about bike helmets. Not only the Safety Fetishists from The Socialist People's Party who took it one step further and manipulated their 'research' but many of the others. It was as though the Danish Parliament was put to the task of discussing something just as odd as revising the Laws of Cricket.

This whole bike helmet issue is so new to this country and the only place they can get they information are from the car-centric Danish Road Safety Council and the vague, almost uninterested, Danish Cyclists Federation.

Let's look abroad shall we. The UK's National Cyclists Organisation, CTC, previously succeeded in lobbying against a similar law and published a brochure that they sent to politicians in which they wrote 7 reasons to oppose a child helmet law:

1. The principal threats to children's lives are obesity, heart disease and other illnesses resulting in large part from inactivity. Cycling has a key role to play in preventing these illnesses. Less cycling through a helmet law would aggravate the situation.
2. Cycling is a healthy activity, and the likelihood of serious head injury is widely exaggerated.
3. Cycling becomes safer the more people do it. Encouraging cycling is by far the most effective way of reducing risk of injury.
4. Helmet promotion deters cycling and leads to poorer health.
5. The benefits of helmets are greatly over-stated.
6. Many other everyday activities could benefit more from helmet-wearing than cycling.
7. A helmet law would make it a crime for children to take part in a health giving activity.

You can read the brochure here - it opens as a PDF document.

As I wrote in the post about Copenhagenize at the Velocity Conference, the European Cyclists Federation printed buttons and brochures about their stand on helmets.

You can now read the brochure here. It opens as a PDF document.

At the end of the day a law criminalising children and their parents for choosing a healthy, life-extending transport option is perverse.

The Culture of Fear's encroachment on our culture - ESPECIALLY relating to Danish cycling - is not welcome and we'd be best served to repel it.

The vote in Parliament was a small stop in that direction. We're at a crossroads in Denmark. The bicycle is booming all over the world, but not here.We can either promote cycling or we can promote helmets. We cannot do both and we must decide quicksmart which direction we want to take.

For the sake of public health and The Greater Good.

Spotted recently. A "Tryg uden hjelm i verdens sikreste cykelland" sticker on a Copenhagen bicycle. Translated it means "Feeling secure without a bike helmet in the world's safest cycle nation". Rationality and common sense is returning.

- Stickers available here.
- Facebook group here, in Danish.

19 June 2009

Flea Market Cargo Bikes

Flea Market Cargo Bikes01
Did a post last year about how cargo bikes are a big part of flea markets. We had a space at this year's kids flea market and the best way to get the stuff there was by using our Bullitt. And once there, the bike is a part of the stand.
Using Bikes to Sell Cars
We hung stuff on it and we filled up the cargo bay with a billion toy cars. I like the irony of using a bike to sell cars. They were 1 kroner each or all of them for 50 kroner [€7.00]. Fortunately, a lady bought the lot so we didn't have to drag them home again.

Felix had a great day. It was all his stuff he was selling and he made 400 kroner, so he was well chuffed.
Flea Market Cargo Bikes02
Many people use their bikes just to walk around, like this woman at the market.
Flea Market Cargo Bikes03
And we weren't the only ones using the bike as a rack AND transport.

Critical Mass for Cars in Boulder, USA

Git yer pickups and yer SUVs, we is gonna block some roads so dem dang cyclists can learn a lesson. We is not gonna take this prejoodice against us anymore.

There's a cycling event in Boulder, USA in July and an anonymous flyer is being distributed encouraging motorists to disrupt the ride:

“On July 25, in celebration of driver’s rights, many cars will use the Left Hand Canyon Road, drive slowly and many may break down unexpectedly, blocking areas to the cyclists on the return leg of the ‘Sunrise Century,’” the anonymous, one-page note reads. “Many cars and safe drivers all working together can send a message to the Statehouse to restrict cycling on our roads which are our only alternatives during family emergencies, commuting and required duties.”

For the full story and how YOU can be involved with your vehicle of choice, click onward, Automotive Hero.

Thanks to Joy for the link.

Hardcore New Laws for Cyclists in Australia

To be honest... I don't really know what to write about the news laws in Victoria, Australia. They're shocking.


Just another sad example of bullying people who use a C02 neutral, healthy and life extending transport option.

The maximum penalties under the new act include:

- DANGEROUS riding - $13,610 or prison for twelve months or both.

- CARELESS riding of a bike - $681 for a first offence and $1361 for a subsequent offence

- IF a person is killed or seriously injured by a cyclist and the rider has not immediately stopped and offered assistance - $68,052 or five years in prison

- IF property is damaged by a cyclist and the rider has not immediately stopped and offered assistance - $284 or seven days in prison for a first offence and $567 or prison for between seven and 14 days for a subsequent offence.

Be sure to leave comments at the source.

18 June 2009

The Culture of Fear and a Very Important Cycling Book

Culture of Fear by Frank Furedi
This is one of the most important books about cycling I've ever read. Like another important book about cycling - Traffic - Why We Drive the Way We Do (and what it says about us) which I reviewed a while back - Culture of Fear Revisited isn't even about bicycles or cycling.

The book, by Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent, is a blunt, fascinating and alarming book about how The Culture of Fear has overrun our societies.

It maps out the evolution of this fear culture, enabling us to see how on earth we ended up where we are today. “What we have is a more promiscuous, pluralistic form of fearing. The very important implication to this is that while my parents feared together, you and I have a more isolated, private experience. We fear on our own.”

I have an earlier post about how Denmark risks developing a culture of fear, but reading Furedi's book was an eye-opener.

Now I'm crap at book reviews - I read two books a week but I've never been one to write about it. But this book is a big clanging alarm bell for anyone who wishes to promote cycling positively. Not least because wherever there is fabricated fear, there are fear merchants itching to make money off of it.

Here's an excerpt from the book:
"The current official disapproval of sunbathing indicates that it is not merely technologies that are liable to be reinterpreted as dangerous. The idea that the sun is dangerous must have come as surprise to generations who have believed that the sun was actually good for their health. In the UK, a vigorous campaign launched in 1995 by the Health Education Authority (HEA) helped to equate sunbathing with skin cancer. 'In an ideal world we would stay out of the sun all the time' was how the July 1995 issue of Top Sante magazine summed up the new wisdom.

The readiness with which the media and the public accepted the new message was a testimony to the unbounded character of risk consciousness. No one in the media asked how something regarded as beneficial to human health by so many experts, for so long, could become suddenly such a danger to the public. It was only in specialist medical publications that the alleged melanoma epidemic was placed under scrutiny. Indeed, some dermatologists have argued that the advocates for sun-avoidance in fact may be creating a problem for people. [...] People may actually increase rather than decrease the melanoma risk.

Since scientific opinion is still unclear about the relationship between melanoma and sun exposure, it is surprising that such a solid and unquestioning consensus was established in the media, so quickly. A practice which had been long seen not only as healthy but as a source of pleasure suddenly became a danger to all."

Now, after having read this excerpt, do yourself a favour. Read it again and think about cycling instead of the sun. Think about the way bike helmets are marketed instead of sun lotion. Think about the media and the public have embraced the fabricated fear of cycling instead of sun-exposure.

And compare the helmet industry with the lotion-producing cosmetic industry and how much money there is to be made out of these constructed fears.

The Culture of Fear Revisited is a good read. It has affected the way I look at my society as well as the way I will act in it from now on, as well as the way I will raise my two children.

What's more, those of us who wish to promote cycling as something positive will benefit from reading the book. It helps to understand the 'safety freaks', the 'cycling is dangerous' crowd, the fearmongerers, the helmet advocates and, not least, the profiteers waiting in the wings. This understanding won't make these people go away, but it is always valuable to gain the upper hand on such an important issue.

It is also a 212 page paper mirror into which individuals and groups in the above categories can peer. I'm quite sure that the reflection staring back will disgust them, confuse them and make them feel absolutely dreadful, but peer they should. The list of people who should read it is long. Here's one. Here's one. Here's one. Here's another one. And another. Oh, and one more.

There is fear that is percieved - a societal development - but there is also constructed/fabricated fear that capitalises on the developed.

"Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski argues that the use of the term War on Terror was intended to generate a culture of fear deliberately because it "obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue"."

Again, replace 'War on Terror' with 'Bicycle Helmet' or 'Cycling is Dangerous'. You get the point. Or as Marilyn Manson says, "It’s a campaign of fear and consumption. Keep people afraid and they’ll consume."

Maybe it's bigger than all that, as Jenny Bristow suggests on Sp!ked in this article:

"The culture of fear is not a spontaneous reaction by the public to a truly dangerous world. Our propensity to panic about everything from child abductions to mobile phones does not come from the fact that modern life contains more risks than ever before - on the level of everyday reality, the opposite is the case.

The culture of fear comes from the top down. It comes from society's leaders, and their inability to lead.

The main tools for constructing fear according to the Wikipedia entry on Culture of Fear:

- Careful selection and omission of news (some relevant facts are shown and some are not).
- Distortion of statistics or numbers.
- Transformation of single events into social epidemics.
- Corruption and distortion of words or terminology according to specific goals.
- Stigmatization of minorities, especially when associated with criminal acts, degrading behaviour or immigration policies (Yellow Peril, Hispanophobia, Islamophobia, Blood Libel and AIDS, which was originally called "GRIDS" for "Gay-Related Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome").
- Oversimplification of complex and multifaceted situations.

I address each of these tactics in my post about the burgeoning Danish Culture of Fear regarding cycling.

At the end of the day, I can just recommend you read the book. It's available on Amazon.co.uk.

This American sit-com hits the nail on the head. Nice to see some satire on this issue.

And this excerpt from an American news show is well known. Frank Furedi appears in it.

Next up on the reading list for me is Ben Goldacre's book Bad Science. I'm halfway through and bells are ringing.

Further reading on the Culture of Fear:
- Essay by Frank Furedi: The only thing we have to fear is the ‘culture of fear’ itself.
How human thought and action are being stifled by a regime of uncertainty. [PDF]
- You can't get around the classic Risk Society, by the German sociologist Ulrich Beck.
- UTNE Reader: Overcoming Fear Culture and Fear Itself.
- Wikipedia entry on Culture of Fear.
- For Danes and Norwegians, the Norwegian philosopher Lars Fr. H. Svendsen has a book entitled Frygt [Fear].
- Terrorized by 'War on Terror' by Zbigniew Brzezinski. How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America.
- Culture of Fear - Dealing with cultural panic attacks, by Ronald Bailey on ReasonOnline.

Fixie Coolville Goes to Stockholm

Last November I blogged about The World's First Fixie Cargo Bike - my Coolville Bullitt by Larry vs Harry. Some photos dropped into the inbox this morning from Andreas in Stockholm. After reading about the bike on Copenhagenize.com, he decided that he simply must own it. So he hopped on the X2000 express train to Copenhagen and bought it. There was little argument. He was itching for it.

Finally I get to see my baby in the Swedish capital, where Andreas is a bike messenger. Thanks for the photos, Andreas, you madman! :-)

Andreas also participated in the 14th European Cycle Messenger Championships 2009 and came in 5th on his Bullitt in the cargo bike race.

Here's a little film from the ECMC 09 with focus on the cargo bike category.

Damn, I wish I could have been there.

Space Management and Mini Mobility

Space Management
Always amazed me to think how little space people transporting themselves by bicycle take up. Four people AND a baritone horn.

If they were all in each their car I'd need a wide angle lens.

Urban Mobility
Here's another great example of the bicycle serving a fine mobility purpose for a Copenhagener.

17 June 2009

Counting Cyclists

Counting Bicycles
I rode past the new bicycle counter - cykelbarometer - last Sunday. I blogged about it on the first day it was set up. Fun to see how the numbers grow.

Cyclist number 500,000 gets a free bike.

Contrary to how it is in many others countries, the numbers of people cycling are low on a Sunday - I went past at 18:23 and only 2884 people on bicycles had been past the counter. On a weekday it's between 10,000 and 12,000. Really a sign that the bicycle is much more of a transport tool rather than a recreational activity.

With that said, people DO go for bike rides on the weekends. Just not past the City Hall Square apparently.

In other readability:
UTNE has an interesting article about Anti-Social Car Drivers AND cyclists.

16 June 2009

Luxury Bike Lanes for Aarhus

Another Bicycle Bridge
Aabuen - The cycle and pedestrian bridge on the Copenhagen Bicycle motorway.

Now this is taking bicycle infrastructure to the next level. Denmark's second city has approved funding for construction of a so-called luxury Super Bicycle Route [call 'em cycle tracks if you want] from the centre of the city to the suburban town of Lystrup.

Aarhus has a modal share for bicycles of about 25% and they have always lagged behind Denmark's third-largest city, Odense and the capital, Copenhagen, with regards to promoting cycling.

But these days, with all the focus on cycling infrastructure both here and abroad, it seems like a friendly competition is breaking out. A race for high-profile cycling projects can't be a bad thing. Prestige AND increased numbers of cyclists. A win-win situation.

In Aarhus there are a number of main cycle routes planned but the city council agreed to finance the Super Bicycle Route first before the others are begun. 15 million kroner [ca. €2 million] is earmarked for the project, which will be about 10 km in length.

The first super bicycle route will be a part of six super routes that are planned, fanning out from the town centre.

So... what's a Super Bicycle Route? There will be service stations along the way featuring air pumps and drinking fountains for cyclists, underpasses under the larger main roads to keep the flow moving and a Green Wave, like in Copenhagen where cyclists will hit green lights the whole way if they maintain a certain speed. On Copenhagen's Green Wave routes it's 20 km/h.

The bike lanes will be double as wide as they are now and at the end of the route in Lystrup there will be... get this... Park 'n Ride for commuters. Those who use the Djurlands motorway from the north, heading for Aarhus, can park their car and then hop on their bicycle for the last 10 km.
Bicycle Path by Night
Part of the Green Path, Copenhagen's bicycle motorway, by night.
The traffic department think that the new super route will be so lovely and effective that it will encourage commuters to park their cars.

Wonderful stuff. Innovative ideas. Let's hope Aarhus' modal share increases with this and other projects.
Via: Aarhus Stiftstidende

The Cycling Mayor - Bernhardt Jensen

It's not everyday I have news from Aarhus, but a legendary mayor of the city, Bernhardt Jensen - known as the Cycling Mayor - will be honoured with a statue in the city. He was mayor from 1958-1971 and was well-known for ditching his car in favour of the bicycle. This at a time when cars were starting to conquer the streets.

He was chosen as the greatest citizen of the city of Aarhus and I'm hoping the statue features him... on a bicycle.
Via: Politiken.

Kyoto to Copenhagen

Connie Hedegaard
Connie Hedegaard - Danish Minister of Climate and Energy

The Royal Danish Embassy's nine-city COP15 Cycling Tour of Japan, which I was a part of last month wrapped up this week. The final stage of the Kyoto to Copenhagen cycling tour was in... well... Copenhagen.

The Danish ambassador to Japan invited the Japanese ambassador to Denmark for a little 13 km bicycle ride last Sunday. We were about 200 people all in all and the woman in the photo was present, too.

That's Connie Hedegaard, the Danish Minister for Climate and Energy and she must easily be the hardest working politician in Denmark this year. She is constantly travelling to world capitals to drum up support for signing the Copenhagen agreement at the Climate Conference in December 2009, here in the Danish capital.

I was pleased to see that she chose to wear typical Copenhagen cycling gear for the ride. Regular clothes on a basic bike. Nice, one Connie.

A really lame photo... I was too busy zipping up and down the pelaton talking to friends to take any decent shots of the crowd.

It was actually cool to have police motorbikes escorting us the whole way. Pedalling casually through red lights is cool when it's state-sponsored.

Here's Connie getting a present from the Japanese ambassador outside the Danish Parliament, where the ride ended for a reception in the gardens.

15 June 2009

Go For a Ride in Dublin

It's something called National Bike Week in the UK this week and Ireland has a National Bike week for the first time, too.
Part of the Irish week is the Dublin City Cycle on Wednesday June 17th, 2009. It's organised by the Dublin City Council, The Dept of Transport and the Dublin Transportation Office.

The poster, as it was explained to me, was an attempt to remove focus from the gear of sports/hobby cyclists and to try and make the event more 'cycle chic' and appealing to average citizens. And a beautiful poster it is, too.

Back to the UK event, if you Google it, the description reads "Bike Week is an annual opportunity to promote cycling as a source of fitness and fun."

What about "feasible, intelligent and respectable form of transport"? Or are they just trying to get some more people riding on Sunday afternoons?

Speaking of National Bike Week, The Guardian asks a number of cycling 'experts' [whatever that means] about their favourite bike routes. I describe the route from my flat to the centre of Copenhagen in the morning rush hour - it's on page three of the online article.

I don't do cycling holidays. When you ride your bicycle as transport every day, all you want out of a holiday is to walk a few metres down to a beach to build sandcastles with your kids, after which you promenade down to the harbour for dinner. But hey, that's me. I understand how some people may enjoy it and that's lovely.

12 June 2009

Room For Bicycles

Roadworks Nice To Bikes
Just an interesting observation. There was a truck working on the sewers on this street. In the afternoon, people heading home and all that.

Just look at the placement of the truck. One wheel on the bike lane but the bulk of the beast on the car lane. Cars were forced to slow down considerably while passing the truck. The bicycles, however, while having to slow down in this exceptional circumstance, were given free passage.

As mentioned before, when you get to high levels of bike usage - this street has about 10,000 a day - it is imperative that the bicycles are allowed to continuing flowing. Just as in winter the bike lanes are cleared of snow before the roads, it's the same in a situation like this, above. If you stop the flow you create an irritating situation for cyclists and pedestrians alike, as well as risking having cyclists dodge out into traffic to get past the obstruction.

When cities implement bicycle lanes [or cycle tracks if you want to call them that] it is imperative that said city enforces the no blocking/parking/anything but bicycles rule.

It is actually illegal to block the bicycle lanes.

Bike Lane
Blogged this one before but it's a good example of how a sign for cars about roadworks ahead is placed over the bike lane, so as not to block it. I think I rode under that sign for two weeks before actually reading what it said because there are never - or extremely rarely - roadworks that shut off streets to bicycles in Copenhagen.

Bullitt in the Rain
No roadworks here. Just my boy Felix in the Bullitt, having just arrived home from a friend's place on a rainy day. He sat happily under his brolley while Daddy-o rode home in the rain. Lucky boy.

The Chips Are Up in Copenhagen

Copenhageners line up on City Hall Square to get an RFID chip installed on their bicycles.

The City of Copenhagen has just launched an innovative program aimed at tracking down stolen bicycles.

The program is called "Få en lille chip på" or "Get a little chip on" and involves handing out 5000 free RFID chips that Copenhageners can put on their bicycles in order to participate in the pilot program that will run until May 2010.

Here's a little film made about the first chip-handing-out event.

Roughly 18,000 bicycles are stolen in Copenhagen each year [there are 1.9 million bicycles in Greater Copenhagen]. Many of them end up taking up space on the sidewalks and bike racks. The City wants to be able to track them down for you but also be able to keep the sidewalks and bike racks clear of bicycles that aren't being used.

On June 4th, Copenhageners could show up on the City Hall Square [pictured] to get a chip installed and so many showed up that many ended going home chipless. The City, however, has more events planned over the summer.

The chips are placed inside a red reflector, which is installed on the bicycle. You have to register to take part - name, address and email.

So... how does it work? If your chip-equipped bicycle gets nicked you do what you'd do anyway. Report it stolen on the police website and inform your insurance company. Easy. If you're taking part in the chip program you can now also report it stolen to the City, on their website.

There is a small army of people walking about the city everyday with the enviable job of irritating motorists. We call them Parking Attendents. :-) They are on the sidewalks of the city writing out parking tickets anyway so they will now be equipped with an RFID scanner so they can walk past parked bicycles, scanning happily as they go.

If their GPS-equipped scanner registers a stolen bicycle, you will immediately recieve an email with a map featuring a red dot where your bicycle was found.

At time of writing, 600 chips were given out on the first day and the rest of the 5000 will be handed out over the summer at various events in the city.

The City writes:
"Copenhagen is a fantastic city to live in. We would like to make it even better for cyclists. It is both green and healthy to ride. Copenhagen's goal is to become the world's best bicycle city by 2015. That's why we taking the intiative to do something about the many bike thefts and, at the same time, clean up the many bike corpses on the streets and in the bike racks. We want to do something that helps you keep your bike. Or, if bad luck strikes, something to help us find your bike for you again."

The long-term plans on the drawing board, if the trial is a success, is to have RFID scanners installed in lightposts near intersections so that if a stolen bicycle rides past, it is registered. This way you can track the movement of the bicycle through the city. At the moment the chips are 'passive' meaning they only respond when a scanner reads them. There is a possibility, of course, to have 'active' chips that tell you where your bike is at all times. Could be interesting to see if that works in the future.

11 June 2009

The Power of a Bicycle Bell

You know you're in a true bicycle culture when the sound of a bicycle bell can clear the pavements [and escalators or supermarket aisles as you'll see later on]. What a brilliant little video.

Cities Promoting Cycling

Thanks to Eric from ecoprofile.se for the link to this advert for The City of Gothenburg, Sweden. Selling cycling. It is called 'Upptäck cykeln igen' or 'Take up cycling again'. Simple, elegant, charming. Gothenburg is a hilly city with some bicycle infrastructure and about 10% modal share for bicycles. A far cry from the pearl of Swedish bicycle culture, Malmø, with about 30% modal share but at least they're working on improving that.

And here's a safety awareness video from the City of Paris. Highlighting the important traffic etiquette for users of the Vélib bike share system and anyone else with a bike.

Add these videos to the post about the City of Geneva from a while back.

10 June 2009

Get Yer Torches! It's a Bike Helmet Witchhunt!

In a perfect world, an individual who chooses to promote everyday cycling, and who has dedicated a great deal of time, energy and personal resources to do so, would be set high atop a pedestral to be respected by the local and global community.

Instead, Matthew Modine, actor and founder of Bicycle for a Day, is subject to a cyber witchhunt these days.

Instead of focusing on the good this guy is doing, all the focus is on his personal choice of whether he wishes to wear a helmet or not. Which he doesn't.

Ironically, the man is more well-informed about helmets than the pundits who seek to hunt him down.

It started in an interview by Tim Murphy in New York Magazine, which was picked up by Ecorazzi and then Treehugger.

The witchhunt was off to a cracking start in NY Mag with the title: 154 Minutes With Matthew Modine - The actor and activist wants to make the world a greener place. But why won’t he wear the helmet his wife bought him?

Already right there we're not talking about making the world a greener place or Bicycle For A Day. The focus is far from these good things. Instead, we focus on the bad. The journalist is interested in the man's private business.

Michael Andre d'Estries at Ecorazzi picks up the pitchfork, salivating as he sharpens the points, when he writes "There’s an interesting quirk, however, to Modine’s love of biking — he doesn’t wear a helmet... the 50-year-old says he doesn’t wear one, because he doesn’t assume he’s going to get hurt. Right — because I wear a seatbelt with every intention of getting in an accident." [So it's 'quirky' that 50% of American cyclists don't wear helmets? Hmm.]

Then Lloyd Alter at Treehugger, darling of the helmet industry, gets his knickers into the usual twist. Let's face it, this guy is the Fox News of the bicycle world.

Let's get one thing straight. None of these three men are helmet experts. Lloyd tries to fake it like a porn star but really, these are journalists in Emerging Bicycle Cultures writing about cycling. Let's not take them too seriously. If I want news about the latest cricket Test Match, I don't read Icelandic sports websites.

What IS serious is their lack of support for everyday cycling and their eagerness to promote The Culture of Fear instead of promoting a life-extending, safe, healthy form of transport that can also transform cities into more liveable places.

I've visited a number of Emerging Bicycle Cultures through Copenhagenize.com and CopenhagenCycleChic.com and cycled in all of them. When I lecture about Marketing the Bicycle to the Sub-Conscious Environmentalists I have a slide in the powerpoint that sums up how cycling, in many Emerging Bicycle Cultures, is branded:

The difference between North America and other Emerging Bicycle Cultures is remarkable. I covered the rebirth of the bicycle in Paris last year and I was recently speaking in Riga and Moscow. Helmets don't even feature on the radar. Before the start of our Cycle Chic ride in Moscow, one of the organisers apologised that there was an older chap in a helmet and he hurried over to ask him to take it off. In Spain, France, Italy it's the same. When a Polish fashion blogger asked other Polish fashion bloggers to take a photo of themselves with a bicycle in the style of Copenhagen Cycle Chic, there weren't any helmets in the photo montage.

Even in an established bike culture like Japan in general and Tokyo in particular, there are hardly any helmets among everyday cyclists, as you can see right here.

All the people involved thus far in this discussion are homo sapiens who have developed the ability to judge personal risk for themselves. At that level, we're all equal.

So why is it so different in North America?

The question of lack of helmets has little to do with infrastructure. It is a cultural and, most importantly, economic issue. There are 100 million daily cyclists in the EU accordingly to the European Cyclists Federation. Easily half don’t have dedicated infrastructure and yet they don’t wear helmets.

The reason is quite simple. All the main helmet manufacturers are American. When they started suddenly promoting helmets in the late 1980’s, they targeted their local market and aimed helmets at those who cycled there; namely sports enthusiasts and hobby cyclists. The helmet was yet another piece of ‘necessary gear’ to be sold. The manufacturers capitalized on their branding of cycling as a fast-paced, sweaty sport.

Ironically, no helmet manufacturer will tell you that helmets will or can save lives. When I met a marketing man from a European helmet [and other stuff] manufacturer at the Velocity 2009 Bicycle Conference, who wandered around with a helmet dangling from his bag, I asked him straight out: "Can your helmet save your life?" He shrugged and laughed uncomfortably. "Can it?" "Well, not save your life, no." When I asked why he walked around with it he simply replied, "Because I sell them."

At least this guy knew what many people do not. That bicycle helmets are merely merely designed to protect the head from non-life threatening injuries in solo accidents under 20 km/h. And preferably if you land flat on the crown of your head, please. They are not even tested for impact on the sides or back.

The lack of helmets in countries outside of America and her cultural puppet state, Great Britain [wink wink nudge nudge], is because helmet manufacturers are American. With regards to Australia, it is hardly surprising that a Vice-President from Bell flew all the way to Australia to be present at every hearing in the early 1990's regarding passing the mandatory helmet laws. He sat quietly in the audience and spoke with the proponents of the law in the breaks.

What if the main helmet manufacturers were European? Who knows how things would be. One thing is certain, they would certainly be subject to the usual strict standards applied to other goods and services. As it is now, the helmet industry sits at the table when the standards are decided. As a result, the EU standard 1078 is among the weakest in the world.

Would I want cigarette manufacturers at the table when deciding about health laws and campaigns? Nope.

So North America has had decades of branding cycling as a 'sport' or 'fast-paced recreational activity' and not much else. This mentality has sifted down to individuals, like the three journalists up top, and has so ingrained itself on the population that the helmet is virtually religious folklore. Hardly healthy for a sound debate or for providing citizens with the big picture and the ability to choose for themselves.

In the current debate, nobody seems to give a shit about the 40,000 motorists killed in America each year, not to mention those who are maimed. Nobody seems to think that motorists should wear helmets, even though motoring helmets actually exist. The risk of drowning is much higher than dying while cycling, so where are the lifevest advocates? What about the 87,000 people hospitalised each year in America because of THIS shockingly dangerous activity? Why aren't they sold safety gear? Where's the logic?

It's usually absent when there is money to be made. Surprise, surprise.

The helmet scepticism in Europe and elsewhere is due to a more thorough review of the available scientifc research on the subject, instead of emotional propaganda. It can be summed up in the report issued by the European Council of Ministers of Transport [the ministers of transport for each EU nation] called National Policies to Promote Cycling (2004).

"Though helmets are widely accepted as reducing the severity of head injuries, the issue of mandatory requirements for helmet use has been controversial for a long time. PROMISING, a research project commissioned by the European Union and coordinated by the SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research (2001), suggests that from the point of view of restrictiveness, even the official promotion of helmets may have negative consequences for bicycle use, and that to prevent helmets having a negative effect on the use of bicycles, the best approach is to leave the promotion of helmet wear to manufacturers and shopkeepers.

The report entitled 'Head Injuries and Helmet Law for Cyclists' by Dorothy L. Robinson, Bicycle Research report No. 81 (March 1997) shows that the main effect of the introduction of the general helmet law for cyclists in Australia was a drop in bicycle use."

This is the upper echelon of Europe government speaking here. They're worried about fearmongering and public health. Furthermore, the national cyclist federations in Holland, Germany, Belgium, Great Britain, Ireland, France, among other countries do NOT actively promote helmets and they fight legislation tooth and nail.

Even the European Cyclists' Federation, at the recent Velocity 2009 Bicycle Conference in Brussels, produced these badges in the interest of placing the focus back on the positive promotion of cycling, instead of fear-mongering. And if Matthew Modine is victim of a witchhunt, imagine what would happen to the Dutch Cyclists' Federation's [Fietserbond] traffic consultent, Theo Zeegers, if he were let loose in the North American press. Drawn and quartered by four SUVs, head left on a spear outside the city's gates.

The general attitude towards helmets in North America is the result of decades of exaggeration, misinformation, emotional blackmail all backed by the economic interests of the helmet industry. If I was 'over there' I'd feel duped and brainwashed.

Matthew Modine will live to cycle another day, despite the witchhunt. He has made his choice - he wishes to promote cycling and public health. All power to him.

The millions of potential cyclists who have been brainwashed into believing that cycling is dangerous and that a helmet will magically prevent them from harm are, however, at risk. Our sedentary lifestyle needs fixing and urban cycling can contribute massively to improving public health. With this incessant fear-mongering, the odds that the silent masses will get on bicycles are slimmer than slim.

It's about promoting helmets or promoting cycling and public health. We can't do both. I've made my choice.

Bike the Strike in London

A 48 hour transit strike is bloody irritating for many. In London, the Tube workers went on strike last night, leaving 3 million Tube passengers looking for other options.

The downsides are many but these clouds often have a silver lining. When Paris was hit with strikes last year, it was amazing to see the number of bicycles on the streets. Now Paris is way ahead of London in the Emerging Bicycle Culture Metropoli Sweepstakes but here's me hoping that London will be transformed, if only for a day or two, into a more bicycle friendly city. And that the sight of the bicycles will open peoples' eyes to the possibilities.

If I was a bicycle advocate in London, I'd be rubbing my hands in glee. Indeed, London Cycling Campaign were quick to produce a webpage and even a poster.

And they've understand the simple task of marketing bicycles, too.

From The Guardian:
London's mayor, Boris Johnson, and Transport for London today announced a raft of measures to help. Extra buses and a free riverboat shuttle will be laid on, experts from the London Cycling Campaign will lead novices on routes from railway stations across the city, and extra cycle parking will be provided in the city centre. Offices and business premises are also expected to open up foyer and reception areas to cycle parking.

Go London! Bike the Strike!

09 June 2009

Ode To Japan

In this current climate of enthusiasm for the bicycle and all the efforts of emerging bicycle cultures to get their citizens back on bikes, most of the focus is often on Europe and the Anglo-Saxon world.

When we think of Asia, we all too often only think of the dwindling masses of cyclists in their blue Mao suits dominating the cityscapes and the country lanes of China, as well as the critical masses in India and other Asian countries.

Poor Japan. A wealthy and developed nation if there ever was one and what I often call the Third Great Cycling Nation, after the Netherlands and Denmark. And yet they get so little press.

Like in Netherlands and Denmark, they don't seem fussed. They just get on with it. You can't find bike parking outside train stations to save your life and there are cyclists everywhere you look, as I've posted about recently.

The video above is a great indication of how Tokyo, for example, is saturated with bikes. On my last evening I stood outside my hotel for about 40 minutes and just filmed as many cyclists as I could. This is an average Wednesday night in the Shibuya district. How does that compare with the big cities in emerging bicycle countries?

There are bicycles everywhere, outside every flat and house when you take a train through the country. Outside every train station there are thousands of bicycles.

We really should pay more attention to Japan's bicycle culture. In smaller cities there are often fine bike lanes but in Tokyo there are few. People just mix and mingle together, as you can see in the video.

The Danish ambassador, speaking with Tokyo's Governor on the subject of bicycle infrastructure, said that if Tokyo really wants to stay a world-class city they need to get moving on infrastructure like London, Paris and New York. It made an impression, I can tell you.

One of the amazing things about Japan in general is that when they embrace a trend they go to it full on. No cutting corners. It's the same with bicycles in general and the fixie fad in particular.

There is no consumer nation on the planet as dedicated as the Japanese. In Shibuya, Tokyo there is a massive department store called Tokyu Hands. There is nothing like it anywhere on the planet. I visited the bicycle department last time I was there and had a look around. This time, with the fixie fad in full swing, it was amazing to see the goods on offer. [I had to walk through the bathroom scale department and counted 32 different brands...]

Here in Copenhagen if I want fixie-like bike parts or gear, there is basically one cool shop. In Tokyu Hands you could have anything you wanted in 145 colours. There were cheap and cheerful bikes for kid transport and there were the craziest fixies - and everything in between.

Bendy Bicycle Thingys
With my baggage already filled with presents for my kids and wife, I wasn't in the position to go mad. But hey! I bought bendy bicycle thingys! Valves that make it easier to fill my tyres with air, instead of having to force the air nozzle between the spokes.
Bicycle Brolley Holder Back Racks
I bought an umbrella holder! Just because I could! It's for carrying your umbrella on your bicycle until you need it, something that is very common in Japan.

Then there was the back rack section. Okay, not THAT impressive, but I accidentally deleted my photo of the chainguard section so it got bumped up.

Bicycle Pedals Bicycle Chains
Coloured chains or pedals? Take your pick.

Bicycle Rims Bicycle Rims2
Bicycle Tyres
I saw more coloured rims in one blink of the eye than I see in a month in Copenhagen. And then there were the coloured tyres.

Tokyo Hands USB light Tokyu Hands Bike Lights
Tokyu Hands Bike Lights
Bike Lights, bike lights, bike lights. If you can't have Reelights, then you are spoiled for choice here. The USB chargable one on the top left is quite cool.

Bicycles on Sale
Oh and there were loads of bicycles, too. Here's some hanging around. The TOKYOBIKES were supernice.

Now I'll have to go back so I can report on the other 75% of the bicycle department.