30 September 2009

Budapest Infrastructure

Budapest Bike Lane_1
The City of Budapest is doing what they can to improve safety and facilities for cyclists. The city enjoys a very respectable 4% modal share for bikes and there is a lot of focus on improving that and mainstreaming urban cycling. There are several stretches with bike lanes, like above.
Budapest Bike Box
I rode past this bike box when visiting.
Budapest Bike Light
I saw several examples of traffic lights for bikes.
Budapest Bike Rack
A filled bike rack is always a healthy sign.
Budapest Bike Lane
Shared lanes never hurt. While we're waiting for cycle tracks anyway.

All in all it's positive in Budapest. Loads of work to be done, including the classic task of convincing their politicians and Department of Transport of the necessity of constantly improving the infrastructure and mainstreaming bicycle culture.

Lost Leader


Amusing reportage from New York Magazine about a bike ride the Danish Prime Minister took in New York's Central Park the other day. Not exactly a svelte man, Lars Løkke Rasmussen does try to participate in various cycle sport activities, which is lovely.

He rode to Paris from Copenhagen this year with a group of other politicians, riding road bikes and wearing cycling gear. Hey, it's a long ride, why not. Makes sense. Here's a picture of him chewing on a Danish pastry:

This new prime minister, it must be said, is the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with, even though he is not in a party I would personally vote for. Too far right for my liking.

Nevertheless, a political commentator in Denmark shrewdly pointed out that it was odd that he strangely avoided being ridiculed for squeezing his round tummy into a lycra outfit when a former prime minister was ridiculed and, in effect, felled as leader of the country because he wore a bike helmet some years ago.

I just think it's great that the man went for a bike ride. Just like Obama did. Everything else is completely irrelevant.

New York Separation


New film from Streetsblog. Coverage of a new separated bicycle lane on Sands Street.

I had the chance to ride around New York and Brooklyn a couple of days ago. Missed this one, unfortunately. It was great to see New York City with bicycle eyes after having visited the city so many times before. Amazing to see how many people on bicycles are rolling through the city.

Got me a Bullitt cargo bike from a friend, Johnathan, who flew to Copenhagen earlier this year to buy one and ship it home. Riding (almost) the same bike as you do at home was brilliant.

D.C.

It's been quite brilliant so far on this lecture tour of the American East Coast. Tomorrow, 30 September 2009, I'll be speaking at the National Capital Planning Commission at 6 PM about Marketing Bicycle Culture.

If you're around, so am I.

Read more and RSVP here, on SmarterGrowth's website.

The address is:

401 9th St. NW
5th Floor
Washington, D.C.

28 September 2009

Philadelphia Bike Lanes





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I'm wondering if Philadelphia is the unsung heroic city of the American bike scene. I hear a lot of good things. This video covers the opening of a crosstown bicycle lane.

Apparently one motorist thinks it'll be harder to drive down the street. He might actually have to pay attention now. Shock horror.

And Mayor Nutter... that name must get a giggle when and if he travels to England... is my new Cycle Chic hero. You don't need lycra, he says. Listen to the commentator... "He wore a SUIT... in a light drizzle!" As though he was leaping out of an airplane without a parachute. :-)

But this is good press for a change. Go Philly. Thanks to Jeff from LAB for the link.

If the embed doesn't work here's the link.

The Perfect Bike Lane


Now here's a ride I've not tried in Copenhagen. Thanks to a fellow Copenhagener for the link. As he writes: "8 km, 30-40 metres underground, no wind, no hills, no cars..."

Methinks it's the maintenance tunnel for the Copenhagen Metro...
KONCERTHUSET - K3NC241HUS4T
... on the below ground section.

27 September 2009

Copenhagen 1937


Here's a travel film from Copenhagen in 1937. The first third and the last third are all about our bicycle culture.

What's interesting to note is that in the 1960's and 1970's, car culture was killing off cycling in the city and it was first really in the early to mid 70's that we started giving it a heart massage to get it back up to speed. We've never achieved these levels since, though.

But we're working on it.

Regarding the film, there's a bit of outdated speak that rings quite racist in our modern ears.

The speaker mentions also that there is one bicycle for every three citizens. These days there it is 1:1 and then some.

After the first couple of minutes there is a section about Copenhagen and Denmark in general and then we return to "a demonstration of bicycle traffic that is unparalled in any of the world's great cities." It starts at about 6 minutes in.

Beautiful footage and watch for the sofa being transported on a cargo bike!

Letters from America


Loving this advert from the Bicycle Film Festival.
Thanks to Christopher in Montreal for the link.

26 September 2009

Millenáris Velodrome in Budapest

Millenaris Velodrome Budapest
On a visit to Budapest last week I was taken on a tour of the oldest velodrome in Europe that is still in use. Millenáris in Budapest, from 1896. It was fantastic to hear the entire history of the place from the chap behind the bike above, Péter Tarapcsák. Indeed a storied velodrome. Kristof from KMSZ was my guide and interpreter.

One interesting thing was that in the 1970's and 1980's, there were many different national teams who used the velodrome for training, up to the Olympics in Moscow '80, for example, but also other international competitions.

Western nations had trouble getting visas for most Eastern Bloc countries, but not Hungary. As a result there were many times that Americans, Cubans, East Germans et al were gathered in one place at the height of the Cold War. The mood was festive and sport was prioritised over politics.

The bike above is for racing behind motorbikes. Certain things were lost in translation in the storytelling, but Henry from Workcycles straightened it out:

"It's called "Derny" or "stayer" or "motorpace" racing. The special pacing motorcycle (called a Derny) that the rider would follow on this bike is also used to pace keirin races.

The small front wheel and very strange steering geometry enable the cyclist to draft the pacing motorcycle very closely for maximum aerodynamic advantage... and provide the necessary stability for racing at 80+km/h."


Notice the seat and the handlebars are supported by metal rods. When you're on the high bank at 80km/h, centrifugal forces suck at the frame and the rods prevent the seat and handlebars from tilting under the pressure.

The tyres have a strip of glued fabric that attaches them to the rim. In case of a blowout, the rubber won't fly off even if it's flat.

Millenaris Velodrome Budapest
I returned the next day, where there was a race. My friends kitted me out in a vintage wool jersey from the early 1970's and, because there were professionals on the track warming up, a helmet.

But not just any helmet. One that Eddy Mercyx wore on his legendary head at around the same time, from the velodrome's collection of vintageness. I was given a fancy track bike and went for a few laps, surrounded by professionals, including three Hungarian champions in different disciplines. "Who's THAT schmuck?", I'm sure they were thinking, but they smiled nonetheless.

The Velodrome is on prime real estate in Budapest and hungry property developers have their eye on it. The popularity of the sport is waning in Hungary so few politicians fancy renovating it. So fingers crossed for the survival of the Millenáris.

But what is it that makes velodromes so aesthetic? Or is it just me?

Millenaris Velodrome Budapest Millenaris Velodrome Budapest

Millenaris Velodrome Budapest Millenaris Velodrome Budapest Millenaris Velodrome Budapest

Millenaris Velodrome Budapest Millenaris Velodrome Budapest Millenaris Velodrome Budapest

Copenhagenize Goes to New York City

Rare Breed

I'll be in New York City for a couple of days from tomorrow. Speaking at two venues Monday and Tuesday.

You can see where and when over at Copenhagen Cycle Chic right here.

Come on down if you can.

British Transport Minister in Copenhagen


Photo: Finn Frandsen/Politiken

The British Transport Minister, Andrew Adonis, visited Copenhagen a few days ago and went for a bike ride around the city to pick up ideas and inspiration for Britain. Here he is, above, moving up and across the bicycle bridge over the busy Aa boulevard. He was accompanied by the British ambassador to Denmark, Nick Archer and a delegation of City officials.

"I'm impressed. You have many helpful ideas", he said to the press. "We have a lot to learn."

Most importantly, he rounded off the bicycle ride through the city by saying "I felt safe", regarding the city's separated infrastructure.

He also learned about the Copenhagen bicycle bells as the delegation rolled through the city, but not quick enough for Copenhageners on their way home. :-)

Via: Politiken.

Traffic Noise Kills

Segregation
Between 200 and 500 people in Denmark die every year because of the noise generated by traffic.

A recent Swedish study of 30,000 people in the province of Skåne has confirmed what many other studies have suggested. That the noise generated by traffic causes higher blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease, strokes and blood clots.

"We have determined that at noise levels over 60 decibels there is a connection between high blood pressure in the young and the middle-aged and that it's an important risk factor in relation to heart disease and strokes"
, says Theo Bodin from the University Hospital in Lund.

Normally traffic noise is considered harmful when the levels are over 55-59 decibels - dB(A) - on average in a 24 hour period, and very harmful if the level is over 65 decibels.

For example, a level of 58 decibels is what you'd get 200 metres from a road with 20,000 cars each day.

The results of the Swedish study show that it is the age group 40-60 years and young adults that are most affected by the noise of traffic.

When a person is exposed to traffic noise, the sounds trigger a reaction in the form of stress, which affects the nervous system. This, in turn, affects the body's endocrine glands and stress hormones are released into the blood. In order to handle the 'attack' the body reacts with higher pulse and blood pressure which increases the risk of heart disease.

A Danish study in the same vein is in the works, involving 57,000 people. It is expected to wrap up in a year and a half.

According to the Danish Environmental Agency (Miljøstyrelsen) there are 700,000 Danish homes that are in the 55+ decibel zone. Among them there are 150,000 homes exposed to more than 65 decibels.

On the positive side, persons between 60-80 aren't affected as much. Possibly because of reduced hearing but also because they have become used to the noise.

On the negative side, it is estimated that between 200 and 500 die each year in Denmark due to noise-related illnesses.

A previous post here on Copenhagenize.com covers how traffic kills ten times more people than traffic accidents.

Fortunately, we have cycling to tackle these issues.

via: Politiken

25 September 2009

Budapest Bike Rack.

Budapest Bike Rack
A busy bike rack is a sign that a bicycle culture is flourishing. That's certainly the case in Budapest. I'm trying to get a load of photos organised and will blog about the city shortly. Exciting place for cycling.

24 September 2009

Two Way Street


I've been meaning to snap a photo of this for ages, every time I'm at the airport. It's one of of the few examples of streetside two-way bicycle lanes in Copenhagen.

For the most part the City of Copenhagen realised many years ago that cyclists are like any other homo sapiens. They want to go from A to B quickly. Therefore the network was developed to include the standard of bike lanes on both sides of streets.

Out at Copenhagen airport it's a bit different. The airport is about a 30-40 minute bike ride from the centre of the city and the bike racks are usually rather filled up, most likely with airport employee bicycles, even though you can get to the airport by bus, train and metro.

On this stretch, pictured, there are two-way lanes along one side of the street. The numbers of bicycles are lower here, but there is a lot of traffic so lanes are important.

In the intersection in the background there is a stretch of classic Copenhagen blue where cars exit and enter the Hilton Hotel parking lot.

In addition, you can see how many bus stops work in Copenhagen. If there is a 'bus island' separate from the sidewalk, the bicycles are given the right of way. Passengers alighting or disembarking the busses step onto the island and wait for any bicycles to pass. It's a popular feature throughout the city but illustrated well in this photo.

If there is no bus island, then bicycles have to stop for bus passengers.

Etc.
Sorry for the lack of posts. I've been in Budapest at a conference the past few days, as well as their Critical Mass. More on that later.

19 September 2009

Sign Petition for Bike Lanes

Pink and Copenhagen Blue
Sustrans, the UK's leading sustainable transport charity, has started a petition on their BikeBelles website that encourages women to cycle.

They interviewed 'over 1000 women to find out what they believed would most persuade them and other women to cycle more'.

'Overwhelmingly women wanted more cycle lanes separated from traffic, so Sustrans has launched our Motion for Women petition calling on governments to prioritise the creation of environments that encourage and support cycling, including cycle paths separated from traffic, as a way of enabling many more women to travel by bike.'


As a result, Sustrans has started a petition to show support for safer bicycle infrastructure.

You can sign the petition until November 29, 2009 right here.

Cities Learning From Burning Man


An interesting little video from Time Magazine with 5 things cities can learn from the Burning Man festival.

18 September 2009

Safety Fears Stop Bikes For Africa

Here's an appropriate little 'wedgie' in the Fear of Cycling series. The Isle of Wight County Press Online [big name for a little paper :-)] reports that the Hampshire Constabulary has cut off supplying unclaimed stolen bikes to a charity that sends bikes to Africa.

They are, get this... afraid of being sued if someone gets hurt whilst using one of them. You'd think that they were talking about barrels of toxic waste.

Here's the link to the article, and thanks to Sally for the link.

17 September 2009

Fear of Cycling 03 - Helmet Promotion Campaigns

Third installment by sociologist Dave Horton, from Lancaster University, as a guest writer. Dave has written a brilliant assessment of Fear of Cycling in an essay and we're well pleased that he fancies the idea of a collaboration. We'll be presenting Dave's essay in five parts.

Fear Mongering for Profit
Fear of Cycling -
Helmet Promotion Campaigns - by Dave Horton - Part 03 of 05


Like road safety education, campaigns to promote the wearing of cycle helmets effectively construct cycling as a dangerous practice about which to be fearful. Such campaigns, and calls for legislation to make cycle helmets compulsory, have increased over the last decade. In 2004, a Private Members’ Bill was tabled in the UK Parliament, to make it an offence for adults to allow children under the age of 16 to cycle unless wearing a helmet. Also in 2004, the influential British Medical Association, in a policy turnaround, voted to campaign for helmets to be made compulsory for all cyclists (for comprehensive detail on these developments, and debates around cycle helmets in general, see The Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation).

Helmet promotion, especially to children, has become an established part of the UK road safety industry. In 2005, Lancashire County Council’s road safety team ran a ‘Saint or Sinner?’ tour, with anyone cycling without a helmet deemed sinful; sinners were given the opportunity to repent by pledging to ‘mend their ways’, and always wear a helmet when cycling (Lancaster and Morecambe Citizen 2005).

Helmet promotion is hugely controversial among UK cycling organisations (Hallett 2005). The 2004 Parliamentary Bill was unanimously opposed by the cycling establishment, with every major cycling organisation and magazine rejecting helmet compulsion (Cycle 2004). The groups opposing the Bill included CTC (formerly The Cyclists’ Touring Club, and the UK's largest cycling organisation), London Cycling Campaign, the Cycle Campaign Network, the Bicycle Association, the Association of Cycle Traders, British Cycling, Sustrans and the National Cycling Strategy Board. These groups are not all anti-helmet, but argue for the individual’s right to choose. This section cannot hope to do justice to the various arguments for and against (the imposition of) helmets, which can anyway be found elsewhere, but key issues include:

- Efficacy at the individual level. Does wearing a helmet reduce or increase the risk of sustaining a head injury? Here there are three relevant concerns. First, the technical capacities of helmets, which are designed only to resist low-speed impacts, and only then if correctly fitted (Walker 2005). Second, the concept of risk compensation which suggests that both cyclists wearing helmets and motorists in their vicinity possibly take less care (Walker 2007), which therefore increases the likelihood of collision; in implicit recognition of the existence of risk compensation, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in its leaflet, Cycle Helmets, feels it necessary to caution ‘Remember: Helmets do not prevent accidents … So be just as careful’ (RoSPA n.d.). Third, the greater size of the head, and so increased probabilities of impact, resulting from wearing a helmet;

- Efficacy at the aggregate level. Do helmet promotion campaigns make cycling more or less safe, overall? There is evidence that cycling levels decline when helmets are promoted and collapse when they become compulsory (Liggett et al 2004, 12). Australia, the first country to make cycle helmets compulsory, witnessed a post-compulsion fall in levels of cycling of between 15 and 40 per cent (Adams 1995, 146). According to ‘the Mole’ (2004, 5), in Melbourne 'compulsion reduced the number of child cyclists by 42% and adults by 29%'. Because cycling tends to be safest where there are many cyclists (Jacobsen 2003), and most dangerous in places with few cyclists, and because helmet promotion campaigns reduce the overall numbers of cyclists, helmet promotion increases the risk of cycling. The relationship between increased cycling and increased safety appears to be confirmed by the experiences of the Netherlands and Denmark, which have high levels of cycling, very low rates of helmet wearing, and low rates of death and serious injury among cyclists;

* Equity. Mayer Hillman (1993) claims that cyclists are at lower risk of head injury than motorists, pedestrians and children at play, yet none of those groups is encouraged to wear helmets (see also Kennedy 1996). Risk theorist John Adams suggests that equitable application of the logic applied to cycle helmet promotion would result in ‘a world in which everyone is compelled to look like a Michelin man dressed as an American football player’ (1995, 146)!

This should be sufficient detail to indicate why the issue of cycle helmets creates so much interest and controversy among health promotion and accident prevention experts, as well as cyclists. But in the context of my overall argument, my chief point here is to note how helmet promotion campaigns play on people’s existing fear of cycling, and contribute to the reproduction and magnification of that fear. One recent UK Government campaign demonstrates my claim in a particularly vivid way.

In 2004 the UK Department for Transport launched ‘Cyclesense’, a multi-media ‘teenage cycle safety’ campaign centred on a series of images of skull x-rays and helmets, which is now taken offline. Various captions accompany the different images of the helmet-wearing skulls.

The script alongside x-ray 01 reads: ‘It’s no joke: cycling is a fun, convenient and healthy way to get around - but if you don’t follow basic safety guidelines the results could be very unfunny’

It continues that ‘in 2001 nearly 3000 cyclists between 12 - 16 were killed or injured on the roads. If you want to protect yourself you must take your cycle safety seriously'.

The text accompanying x-ray 02, a helmeted and apparently laughing skull, reads: 'It's no laughing matter’, before insisting ‘Get yourself a helmet. No joking - in a study of admissions to an A&E Department nearly 50% of injuries suffered by cyclists were to the head and face’. Elsewhere on the Cyclesense website, on the ‘Protection’ page, the text reads: ‘If you like your face and head the way it is, then wear a helmet!’.

These captions make clear the central and over-riding message of the campaign; if you want to cycle and keep your skull intact, you must wear a helmet. The campaign portrays cycling as dangerous, and instils fear.

The CTC responded angrily to the images. A rare letter to all members from CTC Director, Kevin Mayne (2004), set out potential consequences of the imagery; children could be frightened from cycling, and their parents and teachers might feel reluctant to let them cycle.

Mayne writes: ‘CTC believes [these images] will do huge damage to the perception of cycling as a safe, enjoyable, healthy activity’; and such campaigns ‘raise unfounded anxiety about the “dangers” of cycling, and are known to drive down cycle use’.

Against the context of broad governmental support for cycling, Mayne’s tone becomes incredulous:

"Images which link cycling with X-rays of skulls can only mean one thing - if you cycle you will end up hospitalised or dead. What sort of message is that to give to young people? … The last thing the Government should be doing is frightening children into NOT cycling!" (Mayne 2004, original emphasis)

Of most relevance here is that every call for cyclists to wear, or be forced to wear, helmets demands the association of cycling with danger, and thus the production of fear of cycling. Whilst I am happy to align myself with CTC's position, my wider point is that the promotion of cycle helmets is just one more way in which a fear of cycling is constructed.

People with experience in the politics of cycling might realise how controversial are calls for cyclists to don helmets, but the majority of people in societies such as the UK are much more likely to take such campaigns at face value, and to be surprised by those of us who adopt a more sceptical line (although scientific research into how different audiences receive helmet promotion campaigns is clearly required).

In other words, even in this, the most contentious of areas, constructions of cycling as a dangerous practice, and thus the production of fear of cycling, proceeds for the most part in a remarkably insidious way.

References:
- Adams, J. (1995) Risk (London and New York: Routledge).
- Cycle (2004) ‘Helmet law stalls’, Cycle, June/July, 12.
- Hallett, R. (2005) ‘Who Needs Helmets?’, Cycling Weekly, February 19th, 28-9.
Hillman, M. (1993) Cycle Helmets: The Case For and Against (London: Policy Studies Institute).
- Jacobsen, P. (2003) ‘Safety in Numbers: More Walkers and Bicyclists, Safer Walking and Bicycling’, Injury Prevention, 9: 205-9.
- Kennedy, A. (1996) ‘The pattern of injury in fatal cycle accidents and the possible benefits of cycle helmets’, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 30: 130-133.
- Lancaster and Morecambe Citizen (2005) ‘Saints and sinners ride smart’, Wednesday 1st June, 17.
- Liggett, P., A. Cook and K. Mayne (2004) 'CTC and helmets', in Cycle, April/May, 12.
- Mayne, K. (2004) 'This is not another circular: Act now before taxpayers' money is used to damage the future of cycling', letter to CTC members, (Godalming, Surrey: CTC).
- RoSPA (n.d.) Cycle Helmets, Birmingham: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
- The Mole (2004) 'Ear to the Ground', A to B, 41: 3-6.
- Walker, B. (2005) ‘Heads Up’, Cycle, June/July, 42-5.
- Walker, I. (2007) 'Drivers overtaking bicyclists: Objective data on the effects of riding position, helmet use, vehicle type and apparent gender', Accident Analysis and Prevention, 39, 417-425.


Series:
Fear of Cycling - Part 01 - Introduction
Fear of Cycling - Part 02 - Constructing Fear of Cycling / Road Safety 'Education'
Fear of Cycling - Part 03 - Helmet Promotion Campaigns
Fear of Cycling - Part 04 - New Cycling Spaces
Fear of Cycling - Part 05 - Making Cycling Strange

Dave Horton is a sociologist and lover of all things cycling. He is part of the Cycling and Society Research Group, which has pioneered a ‘cultural turn’ in cycling studies and which holds an annual symposium in the UK. Dave works at Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, on the project ‘Understanding Walking and Cycling’. He tries to do, to write about, and to promote all kinds of cycling, because cycling is essentially good.

Czech Zero Carbon Taxis

Pushing Taxis
Imagine my surprise at Prague Airport when, while waiting outside to be picked up, I saw a taxi driver in the line of taxis pushing his car forward to the front of the line.

Imagine my further surprise when all the taxi drivers in the long line followed suit. How completely bizarre and how completely cool.

I wonder if there are similar laws in Czech Republic as in Denmark about having to turn off your engine if you're motionless for for than two minutes. Whatever the case, it was brilliant to see all these men pushing their big, fancy, late model Volkswagons.

I was lecturing about Marketing Bicycle Culture in the city of Pardubice yesterday and am currently in Prague. More on the state of the bicycle union in the two cities later.

16 September 2009

Fear of Cycling 02 - Constructing Fear of Cycling

We've enlisted the help of sociologist Dave Horton, from Lancaster University, as a guest writer. Dave has written a brilliant assessment of Fear of Cycling in an essay and we're well pleased that he fancies the idea of a collaboration. We'll be presenting Dave's essay in five parts.

Dave Horton is a sociologist and lover of all things cycling. He is part of the Cycling and Society Research Group, which has pioneered a ‘cultural turn’ in cycling studies and which holds an annual symposium in the UK. Dave works at Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, on the project ‘Understanding Walking and Cycling’. He tries to do, to write about, and to promote all kinds of cycling, because cycling is essentially good.

Jagtvej
Fear of Cycling -
Constructing Fear of Cycling - by Dave Horton - Part 02 of 05


Fear of cycling belongs to a fearful culture (Glassner 2000; Massumi 1993). UK sociologist Frank Furedi (2002) argues that western societies have become dominated by a ‘culture of fear’. We have never been so safe, yet never have we been so fearful. ‘“Be careful” dominates our cultural imagination’ (ibid.). We belong to ‘a culture that continually inflates the danger and risks facing people’ (ibid.). ‘Activities that were hitherto seen as healthy and fun … are now declared to be major health risks’ (ibid.). What is more, ‘to ignore safety advice is to transgress the new moral consensus’ (ibid.).[1]

Our fears are produced (Sandercock 2002), which is why they are subject to such variation. Obviously, some fears take more work to produce than others. Most people fear a lunging shadow down a dark alleyway. Fewer people fear waste incinerators, nanotechnologies or the policies of the World Trade Organisation (Goodwin et al 2001, 13) because those fears are more difficult to produce. Fear of cycling is neither inevitable nor ‘natural’ and needs similarly to be produced. It also always exists relative to other fears.

For instance, cycling in London became substantially less fearful, relative to travel by bus and underground train, in the wake of the bomb attacks on public transport in July 2005; consequently the level of cycling increased significantly immediately after the bombings, but then dropped back down again (though remaining above its previous level) once people's fears of travelling by underground and bus had subsided (Milmo 2006). Fear of cycling is most effectively produced through constructions of cycling as a dangerous practice. By saying that cycling is constructed as a dangerous practice, I am not denying that cyclists are really injured and killed on the roads; rather I am noting how people’s fears of these (im)probabilities of injury and death are culturally constructed.

The rest of this section explores three ways in which cycling is constructed as dangerous, and thus a contemporary fear of cycling is produced; road safety education, helmet promotion campaigns, and the increasing separation of cycling from motorised traffic. The irony, of course, is that these interventions are responses to a fear of cycling, clearly aimed at increasing cycling’s safety. But I will demonstrate how, contrary to intentions, each intervention actually tends to exacerbate fear of cycling, and sometimes literally invokes it in order to promote the ‘solution’. Fear is also used for financial profit in the sale of safety equipment; for example, adverts for high visibility clothing cite the numbers of cyclists killed and injured on UK roads, and claim starkly, ‘you must be seen’.

Constructing Fear of Cycling, 1: Road Safety Education
With accelerating automobility, the tension between the street as a space for communal sociality and as a space for cars had, by the 1930s, become acute. The unruly social worlds of the street and the car’s increasingly voracious appetite for space could not peaceably co-exist, and one or other needed to be tamed. [2]

Motoring organisations such as the Automobile Association and the Royal Automobile Club argued that children should be taught to keep out of the car’s way, and road safety education was born, as an alternative to preserving streets for people (some local attempts were made to institute the latter, an early - but not widely followed - example being the Salford play streets scheme of the 1930s).

The transformation of streets for people into roads for cars, perhaps inevitably, produced death and injury. By 1936 concerns about the alarming rise in cyclist casualties had led to the idea of a cycling proficiency scheme, eventually adopted nationally in 1948 (CTC 2005). To stem the carnage, cyclists must be trained to deal with the new, dangerous conditions. But things could have been otherwise. A 1947 book by J. S. Dean, former Chairman of the Pedestrians’ Association, is instructive here. In his ‘study of the road deaths problem’, Murder Most Foul, Dean's basic tenet is that, ‘as roads are only “dangerous” by virtue of being filled with heavy fast moving motor vehicles, by far the greatest burden of responsibility for avoiding crashes, deaths and injury on the roads should lie with the motorist’ (Peel n.d., 3).

Yet road safety education concentrates not on the drivers of vehicles, but on those who they have the capacity to kill. Dean saw how placing responsibility for road danger on those outside of motorised vehicles might lead, by stealth, to placing of culpability on those groups, and Murder Most Foul is a tirade against the placing of responsibility for road accidents on children.

The dominant assumptions on which UK road safety was originally based have remained in place. Today, rather than producing strategies to tame the sources of danger on the road, road safety education tries instead to instil in 'the vulnerable', primarily school children, a fear of motorised traffic, and then to teach them tactics to escape from road dangers as best they can. The title of the UK Government’s highway code for young road users is Arrive Alive (Department for Transport 2000a). The message such a title sends to children is not how much fun and freedom can be derived from sustainable modes of mobility such as cycling and walking; rather, it tells children that the world outside is a dangerous place, full of potential accidents, and they had better make sure they ‘arrive alive’.

The introductory paragraph to Lancashire County Council’s child cyclist training scheme, Passport to Safer Cycling, likewise seems deliberately designed to instil fear. It states how in Lancashire 'the number of cycle casualties reported to the police in 2001 totalled 421; of these 141 (33%) were children less than 16 years of age. Information from hospital casualty departments suggest that there are many more casualties that do not get reported' (Lancashire County Council 2004). The stated aims of the scheme have nothing to do with pleasure (in fact, an objective is to help the child ‘understand the difference between riding and playing on cycles’), or with thinking about and attempting to change the current uses of the road. On the contrary, they focus firmly on the practices and psychology of the individual child: ‘to encourage and develop safe cycling’ and ‘to enable trainees to consider their personal safety and develop a positive attitude towards other road users’ (Lancashire County Council 2004).

Roads are full of danger, and it is children who must be afraid and take care. Road safety educators inculcate ‘safety-consciousness’ in various ways: they provide children with a variety of reflective gadgets; children are encouraged to wear high visibility clothing and cycle helmets; and exercises in road safety literature teach children to walk or cycle by convoluted routes because they are ‘safer’ (see Department for Transport 2000b). The road safety industry thus strives to reduce casualties by inculcating fear in children, and giving them not incentives but disincentives to walk and cycle.

A minority alternative approach, road danger reduction, concentrates instead on making travelscapes less dangerous per se, by for example, reducing the numbers and speeds of cars, and improving enforcement of speed limits. In other words, current road safety education, perhaps reframed as citizenship studies in mobility, could be very different. We do not have to teach tomorrow’s adults to fear cars, or to adapt to the inevitability of motorised metal objects tearing through their lives by incarcerating themselves in such vehicles (Hillman et al 1990).

The Cyclists’ Touring Club fought through the first half of the twentieth century against the compulsory use of rear lights by cyclists. One leaflet from the 1930s (Cyclists’ Touring Club n.d.a) states that the ‘use of any rear warning weakens the sense of responsibility of the driver of an overtaking vehicle to avoid running down a vehicle or pedestrian in front of him’. We could educate children into putting such lost accountability onto the car. The relevant argument, then as now, is that danger comes not from cycling, but from cars. The compulsion on the cyclist to ‘be seen and be safe’ puts the onus to change on the wrong group. The resonance with the highly controversial contemporary issue of helmets is clear.

Footnotes:
[1] I have the increasingly common advice to ‘always wear a cycle helmet’ in mind here, and that is an issue which I will consider in some detail later in this series.
[2] We will see later how also at this time a similar tension between the bicycle and the car was becoming pronounced.

References:
- CTC (2005) ‘Special Feature: CTC and Cycle Training’, Annual Report, Year Ending 30th September 2004, 2.
Cyclists' Touring Club (n.d. a) Leaflet 2 - Rear Warnings, from leaflet series 'In Defence of Cyclists' (London: Cyclists' Touring Club).
- Department for Transport (2000a) Arrive Alive: A Highway Code for Young Road Users (London: Department for Transport).
- Department for Transport (2000b) Road Safety Activity Book 2 (London: HMSO).
- Furedi, F. (2002) Culture of Fear: Risk-taking and the Morality of Low Expectation, revised edition (London and New York: Continuum).
- Glassner, B. (2000) The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things (New York: Basic Books).
- Goodwin, J., J. Jasper and F. Polletta (2001) 'Introduction: Why Emotions Matter', in J. Goodwin, J. Jasper and F. Polletta (eds), Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements, 1-24 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).
- Hillman, M., J. Adams and J. Whitelegg (1990) One False Move …: A Study of Children’s Independent Mobility (London: Policy Studies Institute).
- Lancashire County Council (2004) Passport to Safer Cycling (accessed at http://www.lancashire.gov.uk/environment/roadsafety/training/passport.asp, 19/10/04).
- Massumi, B. (ed.) (1993) The Politics of Everyday Fear (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).
- Milmo, C. (2006) 'Revolution! Britain embraces the bicycle', in The Independent, 7th June, pp. 1-3 (available online at http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/transport/article656400.ece; last accessed 4/2/07).
- Peel, H. (n.d.) Motorcarnage (accessed at http://www.motorcarnage.org.uk/motorcarnage/JSDean.html, 7/6/04).
- Sandercock, L. (2002) 'Difference, Fear and Habitus: A Political Economy of Urban Fears', in J. Hillier and E. Rooksby (eds), Habitus: A Sense of Place, 203-18 (Aldershot: Ashgate).


Series:
Fear of Cycling - Part 01 - Introduction
Fear of Cycling - Part 02 - Constructing Fear of Cycling / Road Safety 'Education'
Fear of Cycling - Part 03 - Helmet Promotion Campaigns
Fear of Cycling - Part 04 - New Cycling Spaces
Fear of Cycling - Part 05 - Making Cycling Strange

15 September 2009

Fear of Cycling 01 - Essay in five parts by Sociologist Dave Horton

Something new here on Copenhagenize.com. We've enlisted the help of sociologist Dave Horton, from Lancaster University, as a guest writer. Dave has written a brilliant assessment of Fear of Cycling in an essay and we're well pleased that he fancies the idea of a collaboration. We'll be presenting Dave's essay in five parts.

Dave Horton is a sociologist and lover of all things cycling. He is part of the Cycling and Society Research Group, which has pioneered a ‘cultural turn’ in cycling studies and which holds an annual symposium in the UK. Dave works at Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, on the project ‘Understanding Walking and Cycling’. He tries to do, to write about, and to promote all kinds of cycling, because cycling is essentially good.

Cyclist Shadow
Fear of Cycling - by Dave Horton - Part 01 of 05

Most people seem finally to have realised that cycling is ‘a good thing’, but many still don’t cycle. So what stops them getting on their bikes? Explanations typically focus on physical factors such as climate, hills and infrastructure. Emotional barriers to cycling are easily overlooked, but are also massively important. Chief among these emotional barriers is a fear of cycling. You probably already know this – certainly in the UK, talk to friends who don’t cycle and you quickly figure out that they actually feel a bit scared at the prospect of cycling.

Most obviously this fear relates to anxieties about being in close and unprotected proximity to speeding cars, it’s to do with a fear of crashes, injury and death. But fear of cycling is also more complex than this. People on bikes move through public space in a much more open, less mediated way than people in cars. That’s one of the pleasures of cycling, but it also potentially heightens feelings of existential vulnerability. Some people also undoubtedly fear looking inept on a bike, fear working their bodies in public, fear harassment or violence from strangers. Cities are full of fear, which is partly why and partly because people move in cars.

Fears of cycling are socially, geographically and historically variable, which is to say that they will depend on who you are (man, woman, child, young, old, black, white, fat, fit), where you are (Copenhagen, Brussels, Mumbai, town, countryside, road, cycle path), and when (day, night, rush hour, weekend, winter, summer, a century ago, now, the future …). Over time, some of these fears will also tend to become culturally embedded, and therefore hard to change. But it’s worth trying to change them.

I will explain later how fear of cycling is constructed, but I want also to make clear that it is real. Motorised metal objects can and do maim and kill, and in our cities they are everywhere. As people in cars are made to feel safer, the standards of driving experienced by those on the outside decline. People on bikes feel more threatened, less safe. In the UK, across the second half of the twentieth century, people took the sensible option – they got off their bikes. Cycling and cities deteriorated. Now, finally, we’re trying to win both back.

Fear of cycling is sensible. But advocates of cycling are also sensible in trying to persuade people otherwise. They quite rightly tell people that cycling is highly unlikely to kill you, and that cycling is objectively safer than horse-riding, or white-water rafting, or golf, or gardening, or something. Besides, not cycling is much more dangerous for your health than cycling.

So where are we up to? Some people fear cycling. We would rather they didn’t, because more people on bikes has to be a good thing. But rather than simply dismiss people’s fears of cycling, or try to persuade the fearful that they’re wrong, I think it’s worth exploring further how these fears of cycling get created. If we can understand the mechanisms by which cycling becomes constructed as dangerous and to be feared, we might be better able to confront and challenge those mechanisms directly, rather than the emotions to which they give rise. That’s why I wrote this article, now presented as a series here on Copenhagenize.com.

Series:
Fear of Cycling - Part 01 - Introduction
Fear of Cycling - Part 02 - Constructing Fear of Cycling / Road Safety 'Education'
Fear of Cycling - Part 03 - Helmet Promotion Campaigns
Fear of Cycling - Part 04 - New Cycling Spaces
Fear of Cycling - Part 05 - Making Cycling Strange

Australian Cyclist Prepares for Court


I wrote about Sue Abbott recently. She's the Australian woman who was ticketed for cycling without a helmet and who decided to tackle it in court.

Now it turns out that Mike Rubbo, the Australian documentarist, has hooked up with Sue to document her case. I remember studying Rubbo's films at film school, in particular Waiting for Fidel (1974).

The film, above, is the first installment in a series about Sue. Mike, the cycling documentarist, has his own blog, too. Situp Cycle.

14 September 2009

Dublin Bike Share Programme Kicks Off

Go Dublin.

The new bike share programme in Dublin kicked off yesterday on a lovely sunny day. Dublinbikes is the name.

The Irish Times reports that; "Hundreds took advantage of the good weather to try out the 450 bikes now available to rent from 40 stations between the Royal and the Grand canals.

"Cyclists can register online for annual membership using a credit card at a cost of €10 or can pay with a credit card at 14 of the stations for a three-day €2 ticket.

"Rental is then free for half an hour and costs 50 cent for the first hour, rising to €6.50 for four hours. The bikes are available from 5.30am to 12.30am."


Interestingly, the first sentence of the article reads like this:

"There is little evidence to prove the benefits of wearing a helmet while cycling, the councillor who initiated the capital’s new bike rental scheme has said.

After the launch of Dublinbikes yesterday morning, Labour councillor Andrew Montague said it was not essential that those hiring bikes in the capital wear safety helmets.

“We don’t have compulsory helmets in Dublin and I would not be overly concerned about cycling without a helmet,” he said."


Goodness me. A politician who is promoting cycling positively?! Let me buy that man a beer.

The Irish Times reports on it in this article.

11 September 2009

Bicycle Parking Survey



This is a cool little voxpop video from Copenhagen X. Outside the Copenhagen Business School they asked a simple question.

How far away from where you're going are you willing to to park your bicycle?

The answers are telling. When the bicycle is such a saturated part of life in a city, you want instant access to it. This is why despite fine cellar parking or bike sheds in courtyards many bikes are just leaned up against buildings.

If you can't get out your front door and unlock your bike and mount it in 30-45 seconds, it's an irritation. The bicycle is a tool and if your toolbox is kept down in the cellar or up in the attic or high on a shelf that requires a ladder, it's an irritation when you have to find a screwdriver.

The film is in Danish, save one student speaking English, but here's a transcript.

Man 01: Maximum 30 metres.

Man 02: I'd say quite far... 25-50 metres.
Interviewer: That's the maximum?
Man 02: Yeah, that's the pain perimeter.

Woman 01: 10 metres. I don't know. Maybe longer. But of course you want to park close to where you're going.

Man 03 [young]: 200 metres, or else closer. I can just lean it up against a wall.

Man 04: There's nothing wrong with 100 metres.

Man 05: 300-400 metres. That's a guess.

Man 06: [Speaks English] I don't want to block anything so within reasonable limits. 5-10 metres. If there's an assigned parking spot I don't have a problem parking it there and walking... 100 metres.

Woman 02: Um... I don't know... 100 metres perhaps?

Woman 03: Honestly, I don't think you can do anything about it. I think we should just let bicycles be bicycles and life be life. They invade everywhere. Unless we spend a whole lot of energy on underground bicycle parking then I don't think you can do anything about it. We've tried for years on this square to stop people from parking here but it's impossible. I park here myself. That's life. It won't be solved.


I suspect that some of the respondees were a little unclear about distance measurement, like the chap who said 300-400 metres. That's a lightyear in this bicycle culture. The most telling, and true to reality, were the answers that were under 50 metres, and especially the 5-10 metres responses.

An interesting little anthropological survey.

Wind Spire in Copenhagen

Wind Spire
So there's me, cycling towards the City's Technical & Environmental Administration for a meeting at the Bicycle Office when I spot something strange outside their offices. I realised from a distance that it was a kind of wind turbine.

For some reason, some people have issues with the sound that large wind turbines produce. Curiously, they don't seem to mind the sound car traffic generates. But when cars started appearing on the roads of the world, there were many complaints about the noise.

I don't have this issue with wind turbines, personally, but as I cycled closer I was listening to hear when I'd be able to hear some sort of whine or swoosh sound.

Amazingly, this wind spire, as it's called, was completely silent, even when standing underneath it.

It was also a bit of a headturner as I was photographing it. People on both sides of the street stared at it and passersby read the sign. Four students rode past, girls, and one of them announced to her friends "Have you seen they have a new windmill?" They all looked up and one remarked, "cool!".

It is rather cool that the City of Copenhagen has taken the initiative to show some alternatives. Walking the walk AND talking the talk.

The sign informs that it is a Wind Spire from an American company called Mariah Power and that it generates 2,000 kw a year.

It's 9.1 metres tall, 1.2 metres in diameter, weighs 283 kg and is made of 80% recycled material.

Perhaps this is the catalyst. Will we see these in every backyard? If you google "average household kw year" you get a variety of answers. Anybody out there have some reliable numbers?

Whatever the case, if I could cut my electricity bills with a silent spire like this, I'd do it.

Bike Theft Satire



Very tongue in cheek satire clip from Pirat TV, from the national broadcaster DR. More than likely it was set-up, but amusing all the same.

There are 4 million bicycles registered as missing in Denmark, he says at the beginning. So he figures he'll catch a bike thief.

Two Forms of Transport

Two Ways of Transporting Things
Take your pick.

09 September 2009

Cycle Street Art from Belgium


Rather funkalicious bicycle street art, spotted under the Europa Bridge in Ghent, Belgium and picked up via our mates at CycleChic.be.

08 September 2009

European Union Backs Cycling


[addendum: seems cnn site is down now and then. Here's the link to the page with the film on CNN World Report.]

The European Parliament is now upping the stakes to increase funding for cycling in the EU. The European Cyclists Federation would like to see €1 out of every €10 spent on European urban infrastructure funding used for bicycle friendly initiatives. A group of Members of the European Parliament have now hopped on board.

Considering the fact that the European Union is the world's largest economy, you'd think that there was enough money to accommodate more bicycle infrastructure and projects. The European Cyclists Federation, which features in the piece, is Europe's premier cycling organization with 60 member organizations in 37 countries.

They are active in promoting cycling positively throughout Europe. In August 2009 they sent a response to the European Commission regarding the public consultation on the Evaluation and Revision of the Action Plan for Energy Efficiency.

The ECF asked the Commission to take into account the potential of cycling in the reduction of CO2 emissions instead of focusing mainly on car technology. It has been calculated that an increase of cycling modal share from 5 to 15% in Europe could save almost 50 million tonnes of CO2.

It's worth mentioning that while Brussels, featured in the film, is a hellhole for cyling, there are many cities and towns in Belgium that are lightyears ahead.

Via: CNN World Report.

07 September 2009

Copenhagen Cycle Parade

Bike Music
A few days ago I wrote about the C02penhagen festival - world's first carbon neutral festival and all that. The festival kicked off with a cycle parade from the city centre to Denmark's Technical University, about 10 km north of the city.

It was cosy affair, with breakfast and speeches before we all set out for a bike ride. A group of cyclists from the UK were on hand. They had just ridden 500 km from England to Copenhagen to take part.

A Biogas bus from the Swedish town of Helsingborg was present and it ferried winners of a radio competition to the festival while a modest group of people on bikes did the human-powered shuffle.

The solar powered cargo bike, at top, provided big ass tunes for the ride. Amazing sound system rocked the streets of old Hafnia and tourists stopped to wave.
Bondam and Purple Pedals
Our bicycle mayor Klaus Bondam was everpresent, riding along on his custom Biomega bike. Here he is chatting with a guy riding my Yahoo Purple Pedals bike. Which, of course, means you can see loads more photos taken with the onboard camera on this photostream at Flickr.

Mr Green
If the guy on the purple bike was the only one wearing a green suit, he'd be goofy. But when you have a whole army of green-suited people it suddenly becomes quite cool. They are all from Mr. Green, an environmental group that tries to make it all a bit hipper than normal. They found a bike in a cellar, made by someone at some point and capable of carrying eleven cyclists. What a strange and yet rather effective machine. They had a blast.


I rode along for a ways with my daughter in the box of our Bullitt and chatted with people. You can see what it all looked like on this modest little film.

BBC World In Copenhagen

Slow Paced Rush Hour
BBC World was in town and made a couple of small pieces about Copenhagen's cycling culture. Strangely, you can't embed their videos so here they are in good old-fashioned text links:

Copenhagen plan to boost cyclists

'Cycling is like brushing your teeth'
Feat. Andreas Røhl, head of the Bicycle Office in Copenhagen.

05 September 2009

Kansashagen

Kansashagen
The irony escapes noone. :-)

04 September 2009

Dreams on Wheels Goes to London

London Cycle Chic 13
Hackney. Broadway Market. A day in July. London Cycle Chic, indeed.

Press Release from the Mayor of London
Tuesday 1 September

Dreams On Wheels rolls into City Hall

As part of London’s summer of cycling, an exhibition has been unveiled at City Hall exploring contemporary urban cycling culture in London and Copenhagen.

The exhibition Dreams on Wheels is organised by the GLA and the Embassy of Denmark, London, and is designed to share knowledge between the two cities where cycling is celebrated, and to encourage more people to try out two wheels.

The London incarnation, which will run from 1 September – 2 October, is part of the prologue to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen later this year, and other versions have been shown around the world.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said:

There is more rain in Copenhagen than in London, yet cycling there has become part of the fabric of the city, whereas in London many are yet to join the cycling revolution.

London is now taking great strides towards becoming a true cycling city, with record investment going in to provide the infrastructure needed to make biking even safer, accessible, and more convenient. I hope that this exhibition encourages more people to get in the saddle and savour the city’s sights.

Ambassador of Denmark, Mr. Birger Riis-Jørgensen, said:

"The best way to get around London is on your bike, and I enjoy how the road users respect and consider each other in the traffic. Danes write poems about the wonders of cycling. It is great that Londoners and Danes can now jointly explore the joys and challenges of safe cycling. To the benefit of our planet and ourselves."

The latest figures show the number of Londoners who choose pedal over petrol is on the up – with cycling on the capital’s major roads rising nine per cent over the last year.

Transport for London is investing £111 million this year, providing funding for safety programmes, training, events, and landmark schemes such as cycle superhighways and a cycle hire scheme.

Notes
- Dreams On Wheels is curated by Etikstudio with photographic contributions from Mikael Colville-Andersen.

Invisible Bicycle Racks

Bellahøj Swimming Pool Copenhagen
The new Bellahøj Swimming Stadium. Architect: Architema.dk

An interesting addition to the design is the bike racks embedded in the pavement all around the entrance to the stadium. It was early morning so there weren't any bikes to see. I think they look quite aesthetic. It's hard to make bike racks look nice.
Bellahøj Swimming Pool Copenhagen
And for every one hundred thousand cyclists who use these kinds of wheel racks, I'm sure that there's one man who will complain about 'wheelbending'. Such is life. Me, I just use my kickstand, personally.
National Bank Rack
Outside the National Bank - designed by architect Arne Jacobsen in 1970 - there are these racks, which are basically the same. Old school is new school.

03 September 2009

200 Lousy Bicycles For UN Climate Conference

Is This My Bike?
The world is coming to Copenhagen in December for the UN COP15 Climate Conference. The media focus is intensifying the closer we get.

About a year ago I wrote a letter to various parties suggesting some good ideas about how Copenhagen and Denmark could profile themselves when the world comes to town. One of the ideas was to provide bicycles for the delegates who will be arriving from all over the planet. Making bicycles available to them, free to use, in order to show them how the bicycle is the ultimate symbol of sustainability and quick and easy transport in the Danish capital. My idea also included recruiting iconic Danish cycling girls to lead pelatons of delegates to and from the conference centre Bellacenter.

Sure, it's in December and the weather is chilly, but the symbolic value would be invaluable.

I was pleased to learn a few months back that the Foreign Ministry was finally planning to provide bicycles for the delegates. A number of companies and organisations made a bid and two were selected for final negotiations. Both of them were to provide 100 bicycles each, with 100 bicycles each on the back burner if there was demand for them.

In the final phases of negotiations, the Danish Cyclists Federation showed up and insisted that electric bikes also be made available. The number of these bikes was 40. It was a must. Period. The reasons are completely beyond me. I can't possibly see why it was of utmost importance for them that 40 electric bicycles simply had to be included.

This ultimatum caused one of the companies involved to back out in frustration and bewilderment. They couldn't be bothered with this comedic development.

So it was confirmed today that 160 bicycles and 40 electric bikes will be made available to the delegates.

Now you get to hear why this is ridiculous. There is expected to be 10,000-15,000 delegates present in Copenhagen for ten days this December.

200 bicycles for 10,000-15,000 delegates. Unbelievable.

Add to that the estimated 20,000-45,000 other visitors to the city during COP15. NGO's, the press, activists, et al.
Bike Racks and Wrecks
Listen... we scrap 400,000 bicycles each year in Denmark. Scrap 'em. Gone. Bye bye. The cities in Denmark are constantly removing bicycles from outside train stations. Many of them are sold at police auctions. Stolen bikes that are later found are given to the insurance company that now owns them. They don't know what to do with them. An organisation like Baisikeli has figured out that they can get a hold of them and send them to workshops in Africa. Copenhagen and Denmark could easily provide a few thousand bicycles. Even one bicycle for every delegate if we really put our mind to it. Plus bicycles for the press, the NGO's, the activists.

There is no shortage of bicycles. Hell, we could dredge the canals of Copenhagen in one sweep and find bicycles enough for all the delegates from Australasia. Get them fixed up nice. The very first City Bikes in our bike share system were repaired and maintained at the bike shop at one of the prisons in the city. That's just one idea.

200 bicycles for 10,000-15,000 delegates.

The marketing value we're going to miss is astronomical. The world's press will show up and not have much to do. They'll cover the opening, a few bits and pieces in between and the signing [hopefully] of the important document at the end.

Having just 5,000 bicycles lined up outside the conference centre would not only be a photo opportunity, it would be a most powerful image and lingering symbol of sustainability.

"Do as we do. Ride a bicycle. Make a difference."

Sure, many of the delegates would pass on the offer. Probably most. But making the bicycles available would send a fabulous message.

200 bicycles. I simply can't get over it.
Double Decker Bike Racks

One of my other ideas was giving the gift of a bicycle to the world leaders who show up. When Bill Clinton visited in the 90's he was given a Copenhagen City Bike - dubbed 'City Bike 1' - by the City of Copenhagen. [funny that the Secret Service spirited the bicycle away for a few days to 'check it' for 'security reasons' before Clinton recieved it]

Give the leaders a classic Danish bike each. The many Danish brands could donate bicycles to the event. Personally, I'd love to see Sarkozy on a Christiania bike with Merkel in the box. THAT'S a photo opportunity.

But 200 bicycles? 40 of them electric in the one of the flattest capitals in Europe?

Madness.

02 September 2009

Carbon Neutral Festival - C02penhagen


Co2penhagen is a new festival which takes place at Denmark's Technical University this weekend - 5-6 September. They're billing themselves as the World's First C02 Neutral Festival.

There will be rockin' concerts, bars and events and the festival will produce it's own energy to run the whole gig all weekend.

Here's how they plan to do it.

It's a cool initiative. What's best about it is that it is really rather mainstream. Far from an eco-geek, treehuggin' love in, C02penhagen has managed to generate an enormous amount of press and attention. The acts giving concerts help - they're big local names - but the whole feel of the festival is that it's a given. It's carbon neutral. It's not strange, it's normal.

An important step on the road to mainstreaming environmentalism.

And on Saturday there's a bicycle parade starting from Kongens Nytorv at 09:30. Breakfast, speeches and a bicycle ride out to the University north of Copenhagen.

World Changer

Alex Steffan
Alex Steffan, the founder of Worldchanging.com was in town and we met up for a coffee and a walkabout through the city.

If you don't know World Changing, check it out. In my opinion it's the most interesting, important and thought-provoking environmental website out there. Quality contributors and writing, a wide range of issues covered and a tone of seriosity that you don't get from 'other' environmental websites.

As for our hooking up, it was actually so refreshing to talk about stuff other than bicycles. Instead it was good chatting about urban planning, sustainability and general topics of interest. This is high season for foreign journalists visiting Copenhagen and it's threefold this year, what with COP15 - Climate Conference coming up in December, so I was all talked out about bikes this past fortnight.

Quiet Now


The city in which I live - Frederiksberg - is currently repaving the streets. It's an ongoing process but I was interested to learn that the asphalt they're using is specially designed to reduce noise from motorized traffic.

Which is nice but it's also rather important. I've posted about how traffic kills ten times more people than traffic accidents. Built into the number of deaths are pre-mature deaths from heart disease and high blood pressure caused by the noise of the traffic.

The asphalt the city is using has a noise reduction of 5.1 dB, which is a reduction of more than a half.

There is little difference in the asphalt if you look at it. The structure of it, however, is more open which allows the noise to travel downwards into the ground instead of only up into the air.

According to the City of Frederiksberg will all 34 km of roads in the city be paved with noise reduction asphalt when the current asphalt needs to be replaced.

The asphalt lasts for 12-14 years while the noice reduction qualities only lasts roughly six years.

01 September 2009

Bike Share Design Competition for Copenhagen

Copenhagen bike share design competition
Today's the day that the City of Copenhagen has launched an international Bike Share Design Competition.

Back in 1996, the Bycykel - City Bike - hit the streets. Copenhagen became the first major city to launch a bike share programme. Previously it was only La Rochelle that had managed to maintain a successful programme, albeit small scale.

The City Bike was a hit and it was widely covered in the global press. The bikes left much to be desired with their sturdy design but they managed to stick around for 13 years. Mostly the domain of tourists who love the gimmick, the ease-of-use of the bicycles is popular. Running on a shopping trolley system, you stick a 20 kroner coin in and ride it around until you're done, whereafter you get your 20 kroner back.
Tourist Bikes
All well and good, but the City of Copenhagen has decided that it's time to evolve.

As the Mayor Klaus Bondam puts it:
"Much has happened since this Bike Share v. 1.0 was launched and, over the past ten years, many large cities now enjoy exciting, new bike share systems. From Barcelona to Beijing, a new generation of bike share systems have blossomed. To the delight of locals, tourists and commuters alike.

Copenhagen is a unique, world-class cycling city and this fact should be refl ected in the city’s bike share system. Our city is the best example of how the bicycle can become the preferred form of transport in a modern city. An attractive and modern bike share system can contribute to strengthening Copenhagen’s bicycle culture. Therefore The City of Copenhagen is pleased to launch an open design competition in order to determine how a bike share system v. 3.0 would look and work in the city in the future."


There you have it. An international design competition for the next generation of city bikes in a modern bike share programme. More specifically, the design competition is the first step towards Copenhagen implementing a new bike share system that is...

- an attractive product for the city's guests
- an indispensible piece of the transport puzzle for train passengers
- a faithful friend in an hour of need for Copenhageners
- easily integrated and implemented in an existing city
- unique, elegant and attractive
- robust.

The website is www.cphbikeshare.com. You can download the Competition Programme from the website or right here. All the information you need is on the website.

Deadline for entries is November 18, 2009.

It's going to be exciting to see what the competition participants come up with.

Good luck!

copenhagen bike share design competition