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.

2 comments:

Sandra Thompson said...

Who knew that architecture can be applied to the engineering of a vehicle? What exactly sets this bicycle apart from the normal ones we see along the road? :-) Sounds very interesting.

sV said...

Well if that's a Miele vacuum then my wife definitely has a fetish for it. She loves ours to the point that she's scolded me for using it too roughly.