24 October 2009

'Tis The Season to Be Scary

It's autumn and that usually means that various organisations who pride themselves on ignoring the sacred bull are probably gearing up for campaigns that serve to scare people off of bicycles here in Denmark.

Let's see what our favourite car salesmen and women - The Danish Road Safety Council - Rådet for Større Færdselssikkerhed has up their sleeves this year, as well as their partner in fear, Trygfonden [an insurance company] and let's see if the Danish Cyclists' Federation once again just shrug and go along with it.

A classic example is previous campaigns for bike lights. While we're waiting for this year's crop of negative bicycle promotion, in this blog post from last year you can compare the Dutch approach with the Danish: Promoting Bike Lights Positively.

I spoke last Friday at a conference in Copenhagen hosted by The International Sport and Culture Association called Move2009. The European Cyclists' Federation was present, with Dr. Randy Rzewnicki and the ECF's Secretary General Dr. Bernhard Ensink speaking wonderfully about promoting cycling positively, backed up with a wealth of science by Dr Lars Bo Andersen from the University of Southern Denmark who has put firm and astounding numbers on just how healthy urban cycling is for society. I also had a quick but inspiring chat with Gil Penalosa from Walk and Bike for Life.

It was refreshing to be a part of this panel of positivists given the current climate of fear gripping Denmark.


Anthony Siracusa said...
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Anthony Siracusa said...
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Anthony Siracusa said...

Nice post, Mikael.

But honestly, can you really classify the cultural atmosphere in Denmark as a "climate of fear?"

When you don't have pregnant mothers riding a bike for the duration of their pregnancy, or when you run out of novel ways to carry small children on bicycles (Nihola, Christiania, Sorte Jernherst etc.) or when you struggle to create even a few kilometers of bicycles lanes due to a profound lack of understanding about the bicycle's relative safety--then perhaps you can talk about a climate of fear.

Or, perhaps you could just do your work from the American South.

Mikael said...

based on what kind of society we were just three years ago and what kind of society we are now, yes. it's the culture of fear that is gripping us.

perhaps less than in other regions, but fear all the same.

dr2chase said...

Sadly, I cannot read Dutch, so the linked sites cannot add to my fear. But I wonder if they really want what I suspect they advocate? Modern LEDs make it far too easy to put an antisocial amount of light on a bicycle (i.e, about 1/10 what you get from the front of a car). After getting quite blinded and annoyed by other people on the local MUP, I realized that I was probably one of those other people too, and added amber "low beams" for use around civilized people -- but cars, they get the full death ray, because after, all, you can't be too careful. (Note that our MUP is unlit by policy and design, and sections of it are pitch-black, and I sometimes avoid dogwalkers by catching the backshine from their dogs eyes -- dog hears me from far off, looks, and I see the dog. Dog eyes reflect amber just fine.)

To quote a local vendor and wheel builder, on helmet lights: "And when entering an intersection, you can flash the beam across oncoming automobile driver's windshields, calling attention to your presence far more effectively than with any lights mounted on your bike."

dr2chase said...

Can't read Danish, either. D'oh!

Mikael said...

helmet lights are illegal in denmark. they must be fixed to your bicycle.

dr2chase said...

Are helmet lights not allowed at all in Denmark, or merely not allowed as the sole source of white light?

Are there other restrictions on lights throughout Europe? I'm just curious -- I had to do a similar survey of the single/double-file laws in the various United States to support a bill allowing double-file riding in Massachusetts, and along the way I noticed all sorts of funny little differences.

Some states, don't remember which, technically don't allow generator-driven front lights, because it goes out at stops. Rhode Island incorporated the reflector-safety rules for a new bike into their requirements-for-bikes legal code -- so you are breaking the law if you remove those side reflectors attached to your spokes, or obstruct their view with cargo. (Unobstructed tires with a reflector strip also meet these requirements, according to math I did once.)

And I know that Germany has rules about at what speed generators must begin to work, and limits on light power/brightness, at least for lights that are sold.

I have some sympathy for these limits, because unless you are on a road with cars, the bright lights are a tremendous overkill, and relative to most behaviors other than driving cars, antisocial. At least here in the US, there seems to be no limit on the brightness of car headlights, and in recent years they have become much bluer and brighter. I fear that an old-style incandescent bike light would be lost in all the blinding confusion.

Mikael said...

from what i understand, helmet lights are not allowed. for me, it makes sense. If driving or riding at night I see a light approaching and then the light suddenly swerves (because the cyclist turned their head), I don't know if the person is turning or what.

that's why lights have to be fixed to your bike or, like in holland, to your upper body. they don't make sudden movements.

Michael Hammel said...

@mikael: Helmet lights are not illegal per se.
To be legal, lights must be fixed to the bike, but you'll not be fined if you add extra lights to your helmet.

Mikael said...

thanks, michael, for the clarification.