30 November 2009

Hungary Amends Highway Code

Budapest Cap
I recieved this little bit of news from my friends at the Danish Embassy in Budapest. Hungary has apparently ammended its highway code.

But I'm confused and I'm hoping some of our Hungarian readers could enlighten me.

Cabinet amends traffic laws for cyclists

The cabinet yesterday approved amendments to Hungary’s highway code, effective January 1.

- A document in the possession of MTI says the changes are primarily aimed at improving the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

- Bike riders will be allowed to cycle in either direction down one-way streets, and to ignore red lights. Cyclists will also be able to take a free right turn and ride in the middle of the road.

- Motorcyclists will be authorised to use bus lanes and disregard red lights as of January 1.

That's all I have. I'm quite sure something got lost in translation but cyclists being allowed to 'ignore red lights' sounds interesting. And a 'free right turn', too. Didn't know you had to pay for it previously. And motorcyclists are not allowed to ignore red lights, they have to disregard them.

Cycling in either direction down one-streets is, of course, standard stuff if done right.

But jesting aside it is all a bit confusing. Can we clear this up, dear Hungarian readers?

Bicycles and Liveable Cities

When Copenhagen was selected as The World's Most Liveable City last year by Monocle Magazine there was a bit of a party on the City Hall Square.

In this little video, Tyler Brûlé, Editor of Monocle, explains why the city ranked number one. There is also an interview with the Lord Mayor and loads of footage.

They both highlight the important role of the bicycle in creating a liveable city. But we knew that.

Thanks to my friend Mads for the link.

28 November 2009

New Bicycle Bridges Over Copenhagen Harbour

The winning design for a new bicycle bridge over Copenhagen's Inner Harbour.

The current efforts of the city of Copenhagen to encourage more citizens to choose the bicycle have given us a lot of new, exciting infrastructure, not least in the form of bridges. Now there are four new bridges on the way exclusively for bicycles and pedestrians.
Another Bicycle Bridge Bridging a Gap
For example above, at left, is Åbuen, a bicycle/pedestrian bridge over the busy Å Boulevard which is part of the Green Path bicycle motorway. At right is Bryggebroen, the bridge over the harbour from the Vesterbro neighbourhood to Iceland Quay. The latter features almost 10,000 cyclists a day and that's expected to increase when the infrastructure link to the existing bicycle lanes is completed on the north side.

There are, of course, main bridges over the harbour. Langebro and Knippels Bridge both have over 20,000 cyclists a day each on the bike lanes parallel to the car lanes but the two bicycle/pedestrian bridges pictured above have created increased mobility and short cuts for bicycles and shortened travel times by bike for thousands and thousands of cyclists.

The harbour was decommercialized a decade or so ago and the city is now revitalizing this newly-won real estate. The harbour is cleaned up and Copenhageners now swim in it. It really has changed the face of the city this harbour liberation.

Earlier this year The City of Copenhagen launched a invitation only design competition for a network of new bicyle/pedestrian bridges over the ancient harbour of the city and the winners were announced last month.

What the city needs is access across the harbour farther east, closer to the city centre on the Inner Harbour. Our new Opera and the former military area called Holmen, which now features the National Film School, School of Architecture, National Theatre School and others, as well as new flats would benefit greatly from increased access.

As you can see on the map, a network of bridges is needed. A long bridge over the inner harbour and shorter bridges over some of the canals to link up the places mentioned above.

This being Copenhagen, a bicycle bridge was the first and only thought. Funnily, in the Danish press the bridges are almost always referred to as 'bicycle bridges' even though we all know they are for pedestrians, too. Such is the status and role of the bicycle in this city. Call it a 'pedestrian bridge' and it sounds recreational - something you promenade on. Call it a 'bicycle bridge' and suddenly everyone gets it. They think commuting, quicker route to work, shorter travel time, etc.

The Inner Harbour Bridge

The jury of the design competition ended up selecting different winners. One for the long section over the harbour and another for the short canal bridges. Here's the winning entry for the Inner Harbour Bridge from the consortium of Flint & Neill and Studio Bednarski.

A Danish journalist was quick to dub it The Kissing Bridge and the name seems to be sticking. It's a rare form of bridge in that it is retractable - as opposed to a swing bridge or a drawbridge. It looks like two tongues reaching out for each other.

The bridge is 180 m. long, with decks that are 7 m. wide and it opens for ships with a sliding mechanism, allowing for a 50 m. wide opening.

The jury was unanimous in choosing The Kissing Bridge as the winner. They said, among other things:

"... a compelling overall concept and an attractive design that will help form the identity of the site in the future. This horizontal span into the harbour space is beautifully conceived and magical in use. The bridge forms a horizontal movement that is both figuratively and physically dependent on the use of the bridge and on the perceptions of its beholders, a movement that strengthens identification of the horizontal aspect of the harbour space as it is today."

The Canal Bridges

The winning design for the Canal Bridges was won by WTM with Dietmar Feichtinger Architects.

The jury's conclusion included these words:
"The lightness of the bridge design seems very well founded in the urban context, with its apparent connection with the simplicity we would normally associate with landing stages in harbours. It's an exemplary natural expression in a minimalist functionality. The idiom is so small in scale that there is no hint of monumentality whatsoever, in complete contrast to the urban landscape, but in this way it adapts itself in the best possible way to the contextual whole."

There are many high-masted sailboats in the canals so these bridges have to be openable as well. And praising this design by saying "no hint of monumentality whatsoever" really speaks volumes about the Danish design culture and tradition. We don't fancy monumentality. We want elegance and functionality, thank you very much.

The bridges are expected to be completed by Spring 2012.

The full Jury report about the finalists is availabe as a pdf on The City of Copenhagen's website for the architecture-minded among us. You can see the other finalists as well, including some world-class architects. As architecture competitions go, the Danish tradition of transparency applies here as well. You can see how many points the bids got, what the jury thought and really feel as though you're part of the selection process. Not at all secretive or elitist. Refreshing, really.

European Cyclists Federation Road Safety Action Plan

Copenhagen Signals
The European Cyclists' Federation - one of Copenhagenize.com's heroes - published their position paper in response to the European Union's Road Safety Action Programme 2011-2020 today.

"We want to underline the fact that unsafe traffic conditions and the individual perception that it is not safe to travel do limit people in their mobility or in their choice of transport mode. This is in particular true for "unprotected" (pedestrians, cyclists) and vulnerable road users (children, elderly).These fears need to be tackled. There is good evidence to support the idea that cycling gets safer the more people do it. This is called the “Safety in Numbers” principle."

The position paper covers a host of subjects. Among them:
- Safety in Numbers
- Blind Spot Mirrors and Detection Systems
- Safe car fronts and external airbags
- Intelligent Speed Adaptation
- Daytime Running Lights
- Cycle lights policy
- Road Safety principles

The entire position paper is available as a .pdf here.

27 November 2009

Become the Bike Bloc in Copenhagen

So I recieved a press release of sorts from John in the UK regarding bicycle-related activity during the upcoming Climate Conference. It involves disobedience, protest and attempting to gain entry to areas where entry should not, technically, be gained.

It involves bicycles. I like it. Put the Fun Between Your Legs, indeed. Read on.

Bristol and Copenhagen Nov – Dec 09

An irresistible new machine of resistance will be launched during the COP15 UN summit protests in Copenhagen. Made from hundreds of old bicycles and thousands of activists' bodies 'Put the fun between your legs: Operation Bike Bloc' is a collaboration between Climate Camp and art activist collective The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination.

Infamous for touring the UK recruiting a rebel clown army, running courses in post-capitalist culture, throwing snowballs at bankers and launching a rebel raft regatta, the Lab of ii’s creative visions will combine with the Climate Camp’s logistical genius, radical politics and capacity for mass mobilization to engineer an entirely new form of civil disobedience.

Bike hackers, welders, activists, artists and engineers will team up to design the resistance machine in Bristol, UK. It will then be built and launched in Copenhagen as part of the Climate Justice Action mobilizations. The Bike Bloc will merge device of mass transportation and pedal powered resistance tool, post-capitalist bike gang and art bike carnival. We invite you to put the fun between your legs and become the bike bloc.

If you want to help design and build the prototype come to the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol between the 24th – 29th November. Or join us in Copenhagen, at the Candyfactory to build the final design and train up for the action (6th – 15th December). On the 16th of December the Bike Bloc will swarm through the streets of Copenhagen during the Reclaim Power action for climate justice.

Here's a video about the project.

The Danish activist group Modkraft is also reporting on this event on their website under the headline, "English climate activists will storm climate conference on bicycles". Which sounds a bit different than "swarming through the streets". :-) More interesting, too.

Volkswagen Protects Your Car Against the Cyclist Onslaught

VW advert - Car Culture

The Car Empire strikes back again. My friend Troels found this Volkswagen advert in an glossy book about great advertising campaigns from around the world.

In it, Volkswagen are keen to show off various features on their cars. In this case, Energy-Absorbing Door Padding.

To illustrate this exciting feature, they highlight one of the great irritations that motorists face in the urban environment, visible at just left of centre in the photo.

Fortunately for the motorist getting out of his fine vehicle he has invested in German engineering to reduce potential damage to his vehicle. Nevermind that he didn't bother to check his mirror before getting out or that the inattentive man on the bicycle risks injury from what we are led to assume will be an imminent collison. Energy-absorbing door padding will save the car from too much damage.

How does the esteemed panel of readers feel about this photograph/campaign? It's clearly 'ignoring the bull' and placing responsibility on the vulnerable traffic user, no doubt about it. But does it piss anyone off or is it acceptable?

Funny, if this happened in Denmark or Holland, the motorist would be at fault if a collison occured. Then again, the cyclist would have been provided with safe urban mobility on wide, separated bicycle infrastructure intelligently placed to the right of the car, with ample room for a door zone.

Here in Denmark, when driving with my kids, the mantra they most often hear when in a car is "watch out for bikes!" when we are parked and are getting out of the vehicle. If only I had 10 kroner for every time I've said it to my son over the past seven years... And we are rarely in cars.

As a result, he has learned to open the door a crack and peer out to see if the coast is clear of bikes before opening the door further. Volkswagen must despise people like us who don't wish to test doors against impact.

Fretsche - Swiss Morphed Bicycles

The Studie Bubentraum by Thomas Neeser.

Thomas in Switzerland emailed me a while back about his diploma project from Zürich's University of Art and Design. The project involved taking old bicycles and redesigning / morphing them into new and interesting forms. Quite brilliant designs, if you ask me - which you didn't.

The Albisreiden Touring by Thomas Neeser.

The project was a great success and now Thomas continues his artistic and design journey by converting other peoples' bicycles. Thomas' website is www.fretsche.ch and while it's in German, if you click on Modelle on the menu, you can see a bike, mouse over the photo and see the original version.

The Selnau Deluxe by Thomas Neeser.

This is my favourite. The Selnau Deluxe.

Congratulations to Thomas for winning a prestigious design prize at the Blickfang design and fashion event in Zürich last week.

Dutch Do Denmark

Two members of the Dutch Cyclists' Union - Fietsersbond - visited Copenhagen last month to research a special number of their De Vogelvrije Fietser membership magazine about Copenhagen, The World's Cycling Capital.

Now to be honest this is about the same as if a couple of Inuit journalists from Nuuk, Greenland sailed across the Davis Strait to visit the Canadian Inuit city of Iqaluit to write an article about... snow and ice. But hey.

They were mostly interested in how we are branding the city on its bicycle culture and how much money and effort is going into encouraging more people to cycle. They interviewed the usual suspects apart from me: Gehl Architects, the Bicycle Office, the Mayor in charge of bikes and roads and what have you.

But it was great to meet them, Michiel and Suzanne, since I am a big fan of the Fietsersbond and all their work to promote cycling positively. I had set aside an hour for their interview with me but we ended up hanging out for five hours, which is usually a good sign.

The magazine is, as mentioned, a membership magazine but some of the content is accessible on their website as .pdf. Okay, it's in Dutch but Google translate seems to work fine enough if you copy/paste bits of text. Although an English version of this edition is being translated and will be available soon.

It was interesting to learn that Michiel, the editor of the magazine, is actually one of the idea men behind the External Airbags on Cars idea that came out of Holland. He got the idea and wrote it up as a kind of "what if..." article in the magazine and it gained a lot of attention and, most importantly, funding. The idea is so far developed now that there will be crash tests carried out shortly.

His article was about how to make a car safer for cyclists. He interviewed a lot of researchers and stumbled across all sorts of things, including an airbag for pedestrians make by Autoliv.

After the article was published a Fietserbond member, a doctor, called him. He wanted to €8000 of his savings on research into making a car safer for cyclists and then one thing led to another. The Fietsersbond started researching the airbag with the help of a research institute and then things got going. Now the Dutch government is funding the research with €1.3 million.

An encouraging story. A simple idea becomes reality. That means there's hope for this idea and this idea.

But for now it would be interesting just to understand what their cartoon, above, is trying to say. Culturally and linguistically Dutch and Danish are not that far removed but this cartoon...?! :-). At least Danish cartoons cause excitement.

26 November 2009

The Destructive Power of Individual Bicycle Haters

Solo Conversation
It takes the appearance of many cyclists on the urban landscape to start changing the perception of societies about the role of the bicycle as an accepted, respected and feasible transport form.

All too often, it only takes one anti-bicycle individual on a personal crusade to ruin it for everybody.

The Crown Prince of Anti-Bicycle LandAlthou has to be Rob Andersen, of San Francisco. He has succesfully halted all implementation of bicycle infrastructure in that city for almost three years. The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting today, however, that there is hope on the horizon. The city has 45 projects ready to go and they were given green lights today for starting them - as long as they can easily be reversed, since another hearing is scheduled for June 2010.

Mr Comedy, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.'s verbal bowel movement has attained cult status since we posted his piece from 1980. Although he's so silly that it's hard to take him seriously.

Toronto has an elected official on a crusade called Councillor Michael Walker to thank for negative bicycle intiatives. Thanks to him the tide risks being reversed in that city.

Philadelphia's Mayor Nutter is on the right [cycle] track, but he's now up against Councilman Frank DiCicco, who is making right-wing noise and launching his personal war on bikes by wanting bicycle registration.

Philip L. Graitcer
is a one-man wrecking ball. He has managed to completely split the World Health Organisation with his eagerness to promote helmets. Half of the WHO would rather promote public health but he has been vocal in swinging it the other way. His connections to the auto industry certainly don't help his street cred.

We even have such individuals here in Denmark, in positions of influence at the car-centric Danish Road Safety Council, happily manipulating statistics and the press.

The power of the individual is usually a force that can be transferred into strengthening the Common Good but it's quite amazing to see how so many of these individuals gain so much influence and use it against increasing the modal share for bicycles and all the benefits to be gained from doing so.

Not surprisingly, most of them seem to be men, but there may be exceptions.

Feel free to add your personal favourite to the Anti-Bicycle Hall of Shame in the comments.

25 November 2009

WHO Let the Bikes Out

There's a lot of noise being made up to the Climate Conference in Copenhagen. Too much? Perhaps. But a series of six reports were published in The Lancet medical journal today that are worth tuning in to. They are all about the health dividend of combatting climate change. One of them is about transport and is rather kind to cycling and pedestrianism.

Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization [WHO] issued a press release today saying, in no uncertain terms, that pedestrians and cyclists should be made 'kings of the urban jungle' in the quest for benefits of mass active travel and urban mobility.

The report suggests that funds be redirected away from roads in order to make walking and cycling "the most direct, convenient and pleasant options for most urban trips". Pedestrians and cyclists should also benefit from having a "priority" over cars and trucks at intersections.

Public health researchers and leaders issued the reports in a bid to get the message across to world leaders and negotiators heading for Copenhagen.

"Sadly, policy-makers have been slow to recognize that the real bottom line of climate change is its risk to human health and quality of life," Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, says in a commentary with the studies.

"The issue now is not whether climate change is occurring, but how we can respond most effectively," says Chan.

The up-side, say Chan and the researchers, is that some carbon-reduction strategies could result in major health improvements.

The urban transportation study says encouraging more walking and cycling would have big benefits for both health and the climate. It compared different transportation scenarios for London and Delhi. Walking and cycling came out on top even when compared to increased use of low-emission vehicles that are widely sold as "green" solutions.

"Important health gains and reductions in CO2 emissions can be achieved through replacement of urban trips in private motor vehicles with active travel in high-income and middle-income countries,” the researchers conclude.

They suggest policy-makers divert investment away from roads and toward provision of infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. They suggest motor vehicles be slowed down and more strictly controlled, while pedestrians and cyclists should have direct routes with priority at intersections, to "increase in the safety, convenience, and comfort of walking and cycling."

This is our kind of rhetoric. This is talk of looking at the bull and building necessary infrastructure for cyclists, increasing the mobility of cyclists and pedestrians alike and creating more liveable cities.

We know the health benefits well here in Copenhagen. For every kilometre cycled the state puts 25 cents in society's pocket. For every kilometre driven by car and we pay out 16 cents. Net loss for society.

It's quite brilliant to see urban cycling and separated infrastructure get such high profile backing from the WHO.

Here's the link to The Lancet.
Here's an article about it on the BBC.
Thanks to Christopher for the link.

Pay per Drive in Holland

Driving Cars Kills Your Street Cred

In an effort to reduce automobile usage and greenhouse gas emissions, the Dutch cabinet has approved a driving tax that would charge motorists three cents per kilometre, [0.07 US cents per mile]with higher charges levied during rush hour and for traveling on congested roads. Trucks, commercial vehicles and bigger cars emitting more carbon dioxide will be assessed at a higher rate.

The plan, which must still be approved by parliament, would use GPS systems installed in each car to keep track of mileage and automatically bill drivers.

Dutch officials said the driving tax, which would replace existing road taxes and duties on new car purchases, is designed to cut traffic by 15 percent and reduce emissions from transport by 10 percent.

Other European nations are considering similar driving taxes, and a driving tax experiment was recently tried in Oregon in the United States. The chances of a tax comparable to the Dutch tax being levied in the U.S. are slim, however, as that would more than triple the $260 a year that the average U.S. driver now pays in state and federal gasoline taxes.

Thanks to Joel for the link. Also via: AP

Your Ass is Grass and I'm... Living Dangerously

Over at the Real Cycling blog, they're onto to something big and important. According to a BBC article 'Ride-on lawnmowers 'injure thousands every year''. 6,500 people a year are injured in the UK. 66,000 Americans have been injured over the past five years.

Real Cycling has a plan. They have a list of important steps to be taken and how the lawn-mowing community can learn from cycling. Here's a couple of their ideas:

- Get message out that mowing is dangerous. Promote use of helmet, reflective gear, pollen mask etc.
- Lobby councils to provide marked, separated mowing lanes in public parks.
- Avoid wearing cleats unless proficient.

Pop over to Real Cycling and read the rest of the list and add your own in the comments. Let's save some lives. One reader has suggested starting a Critical Grass. Get your ideas heard.
Swedish Bike Beauty
Treehugger has inspiration for the daredevils out there who dare to combine the fantastically dangerous activity of cycling with the death wish that is lawnmowing.

Copenhagenize.com has earlier issued an injury alert about the danger of owning a pet. Might be worth a re-read. For safety reasons, of course.

Thanks to Gerry for the link.

24 November 2009

An Important Music Video

This is a music video featuring bicycles by Thirty Seconds to Mars. Let's get one thing clear right off the bat. This is a textbook example of how not to market cycling as a mainstream mobility option for regular people. This is fencing cycling in to the Sub-Culture Corral and continuing to portray it as a marginalised fringe group with limited membership. Something for the few and the different. It highlights how Critical Mass is a miss.

Here's the funny thing. I had goose pimples the entire duration of the video. Man, it's beautifully filmed. The filmmaker in me was impressed.

Musically, as a rule, I'm not partial to Weltschmerzy Ameripop with a nauseating overuse of sunset, leather jackets, singing from hilltops to the urban landscape, slow motion white horses and a sound that borrows heavily from early U2.

But this video worked for me. It pushed all the right buttons. It does its job to perfection. I was sitting here wondering if using the word 'powerful' to describe it was appropriate. I think it might be.

The Beauty and the Bike documentary trailer does more for urban cycling than this video ever will, but you know what? This is an important video. A powerful video. Simply because it is beautifully filmed and emotionally electrifying. Marketing is about the message but marketing is also about the packaging. This is Flash Card marketing - the bicycle appearing again and again and securing itself at place in the public consciousness.

Don't we - the writer and reader of these words - sometimes secretly feel as though we are the cycling Kings and Queens of Promise? With our efforts to promote cycling positively and to combat The Culture of Fear / fearmongering and bull ignoring? With our hopes for urban mobility?

I've certainly never bloody well thought about it before, but maybe that's what emotions the video triggers. Who knows.

Thanks to Sheffeld Cycle Chic for the link.

Bubble Wrap Gardening

Tree Care
I suppose we could discuss whether or not this is 'ignoring the bull' or not... :-)
In the winter in Copenhagen, protective shields are placed around all the roadside trees in order to protect them from cars splashing salty water and slush.

It's one of those tiny details that most people don't think about and yet which would appear to be an expensive process - putting them up and taking them down in the spring. All to protect the trees from salt. I like the idea.

Perhaps we could begin a 'splash tax' for motorists to pay for it.
Here's another variation.

23 November 2009

Hating Pedestrians


I found this gem on Dr Ian Walker's blog. Dr Walker is best known [thus far] for his study at the University of Bath that showed motorists overtaking cyclists give non-helmeted cyclists a wider berth and buzz closer to cyclist wearing them. AKA: 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.

I nicked the whole blogpost, but you simply must pop over to Dr Walker's blog and check out all the links he has integrated into the text there.

Why I Hate Pedestrians
You know what I hate? Pedestrians. That self-satisfied, striding, boot-bedecked bunch of scum. Is it just me, or does the country suddenly seem to be full of them? I've never tried walking anywhere myself -- why would I? I'm a successful adult -- but it seems I can hardly travel down the street these days without one of them stepping off the pavement in front of me without looking, their face set in a holier-than-thou expression as they jump out of the way of my car in a burst of expletives. Something clearly needs to be done, and it's good that the government are starting to realise this.

The thing is, it's not just that pedestrians are all smug and annoying when they bang on about "health" and "pollution". That's sickening enough, but if their smugness was the only problem I could just ignore them - after all, they and their silly 'shoes' flash past quick enough when I get going, and their smugness can't penetrate my car's tinted windows. But the thing is there's more to it than that, because have you noticed that even though pedestrians walk millions of miles on our road system every single day, they contribute nothing at all to the cost of that road system? They have thousands and thousands of miles of dedicated pedestrian-only travel routes -- pavements, they're called, or sidewalks if you're that way inclined -- which they don't pay a penny for! Whilst honest motorists are taxed left, right and centre, they don't pay anything at all for all these facilities they enjoy. It beggars belief.

And recently, of course, it's got worse. As I'm driving up the street I constantly come across pedestrians walking across my part of the road to get from one of these pavements to another. I mean, what the hell...? Do they want the shirt off my back as well? They've been given vast tracts of pedestrian-only routes, where I'm certainly not allowed to drive, but apparently this isn't enough for them. Oh no, they want to keep encroaching into my space as well. Sure, we've all heard these walking zealots who say that it's because the 'pavements' don't form a joined-up network, meaning they can't walk to where they want to go without having to step onto the road from time to time. Aw, bless their little hearts. To pedestrians I say this: get off my part of the road. If you walk there when I'm coming along then I'll happily run you down, that's all.

In the long term there's clearly only one solution to all this. If pedestrians want to walk on our streets, which we pay for with all our driving taxes, then they need to pay their share and take their part of the responsibility. Anybody who walks anywhere should undergo training, should have to pay an annual tax towards the facilities they enjoy, should display a license plate so they can be identified, and should each be made to carry insurance in case they are ever involved in any accidents. Until then, they can sod off back to Shoeville or wherever it is they go when they aren't freeloading off the rest of us.

Rain. Traffic.
Fuckin' freeloaders... just look at 'em all...

Brilliant stuff, Dr W. And those bipedal morons don't even wear pedestrian helmets, either. If they end up as vegetables, don't 'spect me to pay for 'em.

Whaddya call a pedestrian with no helmet? Organ donor!

And think, there's even a bloody photo book celebrating these twats and their free infrastructure?!

Beauty and the Bike Documentary

Yes, yes, yes. Beauty and the Bike is the much anticipated documentary from, among others, the Darlington Cycling Campaign in the UK and it premieres on December 9th, 2009. Above is an 8 minute teaser/trailer.

The question leading to the making of the film is a simple one:

"Why do British girls stop cycling?"

"By simply asking this basic question, the film reveals the damage that has been done by 50 years of car-centric transport policies. Whilst we fill our lives with debates about risk assessment, cycle helmets, cycle training and marketing strategies to try to persuade people to cycle more, the basic barriers to cycling remain untouched - generous urban planning towards the car, and the resultant poor motorist behaviour towards cyclists. Is it any wonder that most people find cycling unattractive in the UK, but attractive in cycling-friendly towns and cities? It's the infrastructure, stupid!""

The film follows two groups of young women from Darlington and Bremen, Germany. Between them, they discover what makes - and stops - teenage girls from cycling. The full DVD is available from www.bikebeauty.org.

Brilliant stuff. I'm looking forward to seeing the full version. Thanks to Kim for the link.

22 November 2009

This is Where We're Heading

What a pleasant and fantastic opinion piece in the NY Times by one Verlyn Klinkenborg the other day entitled Individualism, Identity and Bicycles in Northern California.

The author understands the Bicycle Culture 2.0 goal - the simple redemocratization of the bicycle. The piece has it all - all the right buzzwords, the right understanding of 'tool' instead of 'sports equipment', diversity, individualism, regular clothes, you name it.

Here's a bit of it:

"And whoever all these cyclists are, as individuals, their individuality is burnished by the bikes they ride and by the way they ride them. It’s as though the bikes are only partly transportation, as though they were really machines for differentiation.

And what aids the differencing is that few people wear helmets, and everyone is wearing ordinary clothes — none of the sleek and gaudy costumes you see on cyclists pumping through the peninsular hills and whistling down Sand Hill Road to the Caltrain station. They are themselves on wheels.

There is a deeply pleasing randomness about the campus cyclists, as though one morning university officials had assigned a bicycle to every member of the Stanford community, come as you are, without considering for a moment matters of fit — or fitness.

Read the whole damn thing right here. It's so refreshing, hopeful and just plain nice.
Thanks to Martha for the link. Oh, and the photo is from this article.

21 November 2009

2010 Copenhagenize Bicycle Infrastructure Fetish Calendar

I just launched the 2010 Cycle Chic Calendar over at Cycle Chic [see the cover below] and that's all well and good.

Nice photography from Copenhagen featuring elegance and bicycles. All well and good. It'll be popular as it always is.

BUT... Copenhagenize just went one step further into the smut trade. I hereby launch:

The 2010 Copenhagenize Bicycle Infrastructure Fetish Calendar!

Probably the kinkiest calendar for 2010 on the market if you're a traffic planner, bicycle advocate or urban planner with a untameable fetish for bicycle infrastructure. Copenhagenize.com offers up its hottest photos to keep you satisfied throughout the year wherever you are.

Each month of the year you'll be caressed by steaming hot photos of cycle tracks, bike-to-train facilities, bike parking prototypes, you name it. You can't swing a blow-up doll around without hitting the infrastructure or bike facilities.

Buy it if you dare. Ask for plain, brown wrapping paper. Give it as a gift to your favourite, infrastructurally-frustrated traffic planner. Hang it up by the coffee machine in DoTs around the world. Spread the word. Spread the love.

Check out the preview over at Lulu.com quicksmart. Buy now. Operators are standing by. Se habla espanol.

Copenhagenize 2010 Bicycle Infrastructure Calendar

If you're odd, then you can always just go for the 'girls on bikes' thang.

Bicycles and Large Hadron Colliders

Photo: Maximilien Brice, © CERN
I like the simple contrast in this photo. A man working on the CERN Large Hadron Collider - one of the most impressive engineering projects in history with it's 27 km long circular tunnel that is 175 metres underground beneath France and Switzerland. It is built to carry out one of the boldest scientific experiments in history.

And the man pedalled to work on that bicycle there on the left.

Or as Evan, who sent us the link, puts it:
"Seeing this photo of a fellow member of the world's scientific community, I can't decide if I'm more jealous of the trails he gets to ride or of the fantastic LHC he's repairing."


A propos
nothing, CERN has quite a cool kids website with science games 'n stuff.

19 November 2009

Marketing Bicycles Sensibly

MBK Marketing
MBK Cykler is one of the many, many Danish brands of bikemakers. What I like about them is that they are one of the best at marketing bicycles for a mainstream crowd.

These three photos were from their 2009 website and their current site for 2010 is much the same.
MBK Marketing2
They choose to show photos of regular citizens in regular clothes and a selection of bicycles that are designed to compliment their lifestyle. They're saying what we often say, "Open your closet and it's filled with bicycle clothes. Now all you need is a bike."

MBK Cykler is the proud winner of the Copenhagenize Bicycle Marketing Award of Excellence for 2009.
MBK Marketing3
If such an award actually existed, of course.

Environmental Czechmark

The Danish Ambassador in Prague, Ole Moesby, has decided to walk the walk to back up talkin' the talk on the environment. The Danish Embassy in the Czech capital has just purchased a Christiania cargo bike for the ambassador to use on offical business in the city, complete with Danish flag.

So if you see an elegant looking man on a rolling Danish icon in Prague, you know who it is. The Czech press seem to get a kick out of the story.

Copenhagenize is happy to have played a modest role. I was lecturing in Pardubice earlier this year - Czech Republic's leading bicycle town with 18% trips by bike. The ambassador was present and he gave me a lift back to Prague. I told him that Christiania bikes are made in Czech Republic - he wasn't aware of this - and I put the Embassy in touch with Christiania bikes. In no time, the ambassador got a new ride.

I wonder if they painted the doors of the embassy building red to match the bike? :-)

17 November 2009

Opinion Piece Comedy

A reader in Indiana sent us this brilliant clipping from the Indianapolis Star in 1980.

This is brilliant. Have a read. It includes such classic quotes as:

"Not only are bicycles dangerous, they are as antiquated a form of transportation as the rickshaw. In no advanced city on earth will you find civilized people cycling to work. The urban cyclist is generally a crank, either profoundly antisocial or hopelessly narcissistic and following the strenuous life in hopes of achieving immortality or a legendary sex life. When you encounter him give him a wide berth and never turn your back on him."

16 November 2009

Bike Theft Profiteering

Dont Steal This Bike
Hi-tech protection. It reads: "Fingerprint scanner" - on the wheel lock - "Theftproof", "GPS Monitoring", "Neighbourhood Watch".

Bicycle theft is a hot topic at the moment in Copenhagen. There has been an increase this year in the number of bicycles stolen in Denmark. 7000 more bicycles have been nicked in the year's first three quarters than at the same time last year.

Actually, 222 bicycles are stolen in this country every day.

Two students from Denmark's Technical University [DTU] have, in their thesis, described how Danish insurance companies profit from bicycle theft and do little to stop it. It's great business for them.

First, a bit of background. In Denmark, bicycles are covered under your household insurance. If you have storm damage on your house, break a vase or get your bike stolen somewhere in the city, it's the same policy that covers it. You may have to pay an extra fee for bicycle insurance, but it's not excessive.

When I buy a bike, the bike shop registers the frame number and my name into the system and my insurance company thereafter registers it in their system.

If my bike gets stolen, I register the theft on the police website - takes a couple of minutes - and then call or email my insurance company. I'll usually get a pay-out within the week. It's quite a fluent system.

On the other side of the coin, if I get caught stealing a bike, I am required to pay a fine of 1400 kroner [$280 / €186]. Not that anyone is looking for the perps. In 2008, the police caught the thief in 0.46% of all cases.

Fair enough, when you have so many bicycles in a country or city, the police can hardly be expected to run around looking for the stolen ones. There's more important things for them to do.

What is rather odd is that the insurance industry is not all hot and bothered about the many bike thefts in Denmark.

As twisted as it may sound, bicycle theft is profitable for them. Sure, back in 1993 the insurance industry was involved in implementing rules regarding approved locks on all new bicycles sold - the wheel locks that most of us use in Denmark - which caused a massive fall in the number of bicycle thefts. But the industry is not active in working towards reducing the number of stolen bicycles.

Why? Bicycles are covered by household insurance policies. Many young people don't bother with household insurance but the insurane companies, for obvious reasons, wish they did. Funnily, they are active in sending out press releases that hype the rise in bike theft and one company, for example, published a brochure in August with the title "School start is high season for bike thieves". They wrote a list of preventive steps to take to avoid bike theft and one of them was, not surprisingly, "Cover your bicycle with household insurance".

Insurance industry pay-outs for stolen bikes make up 5.6% of all pay-outs on household insurance cases. Bike theft costs the industry 170 million kroner [$34 mil. / €23 mil] a year in pay-outs. The average pay-out is only 3,356 kroner [$670 / €450]. In comparison, the average pay-out for a burglary is 23,360 kroner [$4700 / €3100] - seven times greater.

Apart from selling household insurance policies, pay-outs for bike theft are great for customer service and customer loyalty. A quick, efficient pay-out for a stolen bike is something that people appreciate.

Paying for stolen bikes is a small amount compared to storm damage on houses so insurance companies are happy to do it. Especially since it's profitable. Crime pays.

If you look further along the food chain, bike shops profit from stolen bikes, too. They sell new ones and they buy stolen ones cheap from police auctions.

The people behind the City of Copenhagen's current test of RFID chips that will help in tracing stolen bikes were hoping for support from the insurance industry, but they were disappointed.

Via: Politiken

13 November 2009

Cycle Logical Election Choice

Photo: Troels Heien - Copenhagenize Consulting

We go to the polls on Tuesday in our city and regional elections. There are the usual big parties, the usual smaller parties and then, unique to the local elections, there are the tiny parties.

The photo, above, is a campaign poster for the Cykel Logisk [Cycle Logical/Psychological... geddit?] Party. We've blogged about the man behind the Cykel Logisk Institut previously. Nice to see he's running again in Copenhagen.

These small parties add flavour and sometimes much-needed humour to the local elections.

I like the Nihilist People's Party. "It's all meaningless anyway so waste your vote on us."

They have hilarious posters on the streets. At left: Stop church bells! Fuck your salvation, we have hangovers. At right: Nothing Matters: except small, cute animals.

12 November 2009

93 Page Bicycle Manual for Police

Bicycle policemen.

"The Police Cycle Training Doctrine" is a 93 page instruction manual, produced by 'well-meaning officers' in the UK.

Basically, 93 pages - in two volumes! - about how to ride a bicycle. Needless to say, the British press are having a field day.

The Daily Mail's article is titled: Police officers get 93-page guide ... on how to ride a bike (and it cost thousands of pounds to produce) and The Guardian has its Police beat off criticism about 93-page manual on how to ride a bike article. The Sun is ... well... rather 'Sunnish' by writing, "The bonkers bike book for bobbies"

Taxpayers' Alliance campaign director Mark Wallace said: "This is an absurd waste of police time and thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money.

"Police officers are perfectly capable of riding a bike. It's no wonder we haven't enough on the beat if they are having to spend time and energy wading through this nonsense."

A Home Office source added: "Most of the red tape the police complain about is actually created by the cops themselves. This is a particularly bad example."


Thanks to readers Kevin and Padhraig for the tip.

Helsinki Bicycle Calming Measures

Now this is my kind of bicycle calming speed bump. I have three options:
Ride to the left of it.
Ride to the right of it.
Hit it and fly up in the air and say "whee!"

As seen in Helsinki.

11 November 2009

Behavioural Challenges for Urban Cycling

When I was invited to speak in New York recently, one of the lectures was about behaviour and the challenges of changing it. I figured I'd slap the lecture onto the blog.

Behaviour is a tricky subject and getting groups of people to change their behaviour is never easy. Lately, behaviour is a hot topic in Emerging Bicycle Cultures. Many people who ride bicycles are generating bad press because of the way they're cycling and many other cyclists are getting branded negatively by association.

Generally, bad behaviour is a sign that cyclists don't have adequate infrastructure. Increasing cycling's infrastructure and profile is a good way to calm the traffic in more ways than one.

We're at an interesting point in the reestablishment of urban cycling as a norm. Bicycles have been a fad, a trend, for almost two years now. There is every indication that we are finally returning to a place where the bicycle is regarded as a respected, accepted and feasible transport form in our cities and towns.

Nevertheless, the trend nature of it all means that it could just as well disappear again, as quickly as it came. We need to accelerate the rush to mainstream urban cycling - Bicycle Culture 2.0 - before we lose it again.

How to Signal
This is a drawing by one of Denmark's most loved satirical cartoonists and writers, Storm P. He published a book with his newspaper cartoons about cyclists and he almost always took the piss out of them. He rode a bike every day himself. This cartoon is targeted at Copenhageners. The caption read, ”In Copenhagen, if you are going to turn, you extend your arm straight down and stick one finger out to the left. This tells everyone in the traffic which way you're NOT turning.

This drawing is from 1935. In a way, little has changed.

Right Cargo Turn Copenhagen Winter Cycling Clothing Copenhagen Signals Right Turn Shortly*

Copenhageners signal when it tickles their fancy, usually a vague wave of the hand. I've discovered that to outsiders these hand movements are hardly recognizable but when you spend your days surrounded by hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of cyclists, these vague signals are read, registered and understood. We've created our own visual language.

It's the same with shoulder checks. Cycling around the city with visitors from Portland, one of them commented on how nobody did shoulder checks. I asked him to look again and he saw them. Subtle cocks of the head, using a combination of periphial vision, hearing and instinct. Very subtle but very effective.

On the question of 'bad' behaviour, it exists although it's rather dull. When you have so many regular citizens on bicycles, the infractions are hardly provocative. Still, we see letters to the editors by older citizens complaining about 'those cyclists' rolling casually across pedestrian crossings or turning right on a red light, which is not allowed in Denmark - for cars or cyclists. Buy hey. Arrest me. I turn right on red if there are no pedestrians.

In years of documenting Copenhagen's bicycle culture I have acquired an ability to see details that no one else sees. I've been staring intently at this bicycle culture every day for three years and interestingly, I have only seen four accidents involving bicyles. Two were people falling off at low speeds and landing on their asses. One was a Norwegian who roared through a pedestrian crossing and got smacked and broke his leg. Then, only a couple of months ago, I saw a bike messenger get right hooked.

It was at a busy intersection. He braked but hit the car and flew over the hood, with his bike, and landed on his side. He flew up and stormed towards the car. The woman driver was on her way out to make sure he was okay, but then shrunk back at the sight of him coming at her like that.

In the meantime, several cyclists had rolled up to the light. One of them, a woman, called out, "Hey! YOU ran the red light!" Then two others chimed in. "I saw it, too!" They were actually speaking to the bike messenger. He was instantly deflated and the motorist came out of her car to ask him if he was okay. He was. They pulled off to the side to exchange insurance details.

We're in a different place in Copenhagen. It's mainstream and the 'bad apples' stand out, but it all started somewhere.

This is where we are today in Copenhagen. The bicycle is an equal partner in the transport equation. A goal, indeed, for every city.

When Copenhagen started on the journey to reestablish the bicycle on the urban landscape thirty odd years ago, and battle the onslaught of car culture, there were no sub-cultures at the point of departure. Women were cycling in fewer numbers than men, but there were no bike messenger tribes, lycra-clad "avid cyclist" or what have you, to influence our mainstream bicycle culture. We made the jump directly to mainstream and the democratization of urban cycling for every citizen.

The results were simple enough and are seen on the cycle tracks and streets today. Urban cycling is public domain. What happened when we mainstreamed it was that there was a growth in the number of sub-cultures and this continues to this day. Mainstream cycling brought on the rich diversity of bicycle culture. BMX, mountain biking, racing clubs and later on fixies and all that. A positive side effect to focusing on the general population was the growth of the peripheral groups.

This development is what we're seeing in cities like Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, et al. Urban cycling has returned suddenly and definitively to cities and the First Movers are regular citizens who only wish to get from A to B quickly. The absence of any sub-cultural influence means that the bicycle is regarded primarily as transport and something you can do in your regular clothes. In Paris, for example, most of the people using the Vélib bike share system have arrived from the Metro. As a result, the people you see cycling about the city are the same as you would see on the underground trains.

In order to ride a bicycle in Paris or these other cities it is not necessary to make a conscious decision to become part of a 'group' or 'tribe' or club. It doesn't require anything other than a bicycle.

As in Copenhagen, the blossoming mainstream bicycle culture has spawned growing interest in sub-cultures, adding to the rich fabric of a bicycle-friendly city.

Two million bicycles have been sold in Paris since the Velib system started. Interestingly, most of them are practical, classic upright bikes or city bike designs and this is due to the lack of influence of a fixie/messenger culture. There are no 'urban cycling clothes' or anything like it. Irritating if you have a "urban cycling clothes for profit" company, but great for urban cycling.

If you look at the situation in other Emerging Bicycle Cultures, there has been a strong prescence from various sub-cultures, be it the messenger crowd in cities like New York or the racing crowd in many countries. Most of them would continue to ride bicycles even without this current and intense period of interest in urban cycling and without the growing network of bicycle infrastructure.

Decades of monopoly on cycling's image has caused the populations of many of these countries to regard cycling as a fringe activity and they associate riding a bicycle with 'uniforms' and clubs or tribes, as opposed to being something for everyone.

The reemergence of the bicycle on the urban landscape has brought New Cyclists onto the streets and many of them are influenced by the pre-exisiting sub-cultures, be it 'gear' or attitude. Their role models are clearly defined, whether they adhere to them or not. By taking to the bicycle they become, in the eyes of the general population, members of the sub-culture. Often against their will.

The success of Copenhagen Cycle Chic and all the copycat blogs around the world is the surest sign that the general population has hungered after other role models with regards to cycling. Role models are of utmost importance if growth is to be experienced.

Sub-cultural influence on the mainstream is nothing new. Sub-culture influences culture every day of the week but there are few examples of a fringe tribe completely dominating the mainstream. We've all licked stamps and sent letters but very few of us are members of a stamp collecting club.

The question is how much sub-cultural cycling groups are limiting the growth of urban cycling with their dominant fringe attitude. How can we separate cycling's image from sub-culture and normalise it? That's the challenge.

We're seeing behavioural campaigns pop up wherein cyclists are being told to 'behave'. There is no doubt that if urban cycling is to gain respect as an equal partner in the traffic, simple things like stopping at red lights are important. [Worth noting that in cities like Paris cyclists stop at red lights and behave rather well]

Unfortunately, the dominant nature of cycling's sub-cultures makes it hard to transform urban cycling and sell the concept of the bicycle as a part of traffic to the sceptics. Many people in Emerging Bicycle Cultures only see the aggressive attitude of the fringe groups and judge cycling based on the way these individuals ride in the city. Have gone from being pioneers to being dead weights if redemocratizing cycling is the goal?

When you produce behavourial campaigns for cyclists, there is also the problem of defining your target group. Who are you speaking to? Can you really throw everyone on a bicycle into the same box? The mother with her child on the back of the bike together with an adrenaline-driven 'urban warrior'? Nah. Campaigns aimed at 'all' cyclists risk alienating the New Cyclists who really are the key to redemocratizing cycling. The most fertile buds on the rose bush.

If this is our goal, then it may be necessary to distance the image of urban cycling from the sub-cultures, in order to show the general population that the bicycle belongs and that it is just regular citizens who are using it as a transport tool. Without a doubt this may be a painful step given the small, tightknit character of the cycling community in many places. When the Common Good is in play, however, it is a necessary step.

Producing behavourial campaigns focused on cyclists only serves to continue the marginalisation of cycling and just hammers home the misconception that cycling is not something for everyone and is still just a sub-culture.

Pointing behavourial fingers at cyclists serves no good purpose if you don't point the fingers at the other traffic users at the same time. Behavourial campaigns aimed at everyone remove this focus on cyclists and also serve to place the bicycle on an equal footing in the public psyche.

If pointing fingers is your thing, then point them at the most dangerous and destructive elements in cities and towns. The automobiles. By recognising that there is a Bull in Society's China Shop and taking measure to tame it, you place focus logically and correctly on the largest problem.

Lowering speed limits, building traffic calming measures, etc. all help cycling as well as public health through reduced pollution, fewer accidents and less severe accidents, creating more liveable cities, and so on.

When you start speaking to a sub-culture, it gets tough. Sub-cultures - and cycling is no exception whether it's fixies or spandex-clad racers - have their own codes and language. Sub-cultures are proud of being different and have often defined themselves on their unique identity in the cityscape. Their external environment – car culture etc. - has dictated in many ways their percieved - or real - attitude and demonstrative role.

You don't get very far when you tell them to behave. And the new cyclists, with a lack of alternative role models, will perhaps feel like you're speaking to them. You'll either strengthen their links to the underground or you'll push them away.

Treating cyclists as equals is more beneficial than highlighting that they are strange or aparte, expecially when you're dealing with so many new cyclists that perhaps don't wish to be 'underground'.

There's an important sociological angle worth considering. When an underground group sees their chosen culture going mainstream, it often breeds resentment. "I've been doing this for years, now everyone's doing it!" It's not helpful for mainstreaming urban cycling. This is a quote in a recent New York article:

“There is definitely a downside to biking when bikes become a fashion fad,” If you unleash a herd of teetering, wobbly fashionistas into city streets without any real knowledge of how to ride a bike in traffic, accidents can (and likely will) happen.”

Experience is important, sure. But this is a 'purist' attacking other people riding bicycles. This is a stamp collector mocking people who lick stamps on their christmas card to grandma but who don't place them thoughtfully on the envelope, like stamp lovers do.

You know what? The people who are new to the wild ride at the amusement park hold on tightest. Wobbly doesn't need to be dangerous. If you ask me, the Copenhagen Cycle Chic slogan - Style over speed - is the greatest traffic safety slogan in the history of cycling. It may be irritating to the purists who now have to ride crazier to avoid new obstacles on their previously sacred urban landscape. But really, who cares. Such is democracy and democratization.

I have recieved countless emails from readers on my blogs who tell tales of animosity. Just read this rant against the Cycle Chic movement. Segments of the underground are revolting against the mainstream. Just like they did over 100 years ago when the rich saw their prized toy - the bicycle - go mainstream. They mocked, ridiculed, spit upon the labourers and women on bicycles. History is repeating itself it seems.

All the more reason to stick to our guns and continue to work towards giving the bicycle back to the people. It worked the first time. It'll work again.


In the next installment I'll highlight how we communicate with cyclists in Copenhagen and discusss various behavourial campaigns my company Copenhagenize Consulting is working on for other cities.