05 November 2009

Political Endorsements from Copenhagenize

City Hall Bike Parking
Some of the indoor bike parking at City Hall in Copenhagen.

So a friend asked me a question the other day. "If there was a 'cyclist vote' in Copenhagen, which parties would top the bill?" The reason he asked was that we're going to the polls on November 17th in municipal and county elections here in Denmark.

Good question. Never really thought of it before. Personally, I look at a variety of issues when considering who to vote for, not just bike stuff. But having a finger on the pulse, I'm willing to give it a shot. Not least because I was just in the States where everyone is keen to make political endorsements, so here goes.

Bicycle infrastructure is a hot topic these days. It's a kind of rebound effect. The whole world has had their eyes on Copenhagen for the past 18 months, having opened their eyes to what we've achieved here. This has bounced back to us and made [some not all] politicians and the press aware of the importance of maintaining our bicycle culture.

This is a local election, so I'm going to stick with my 'hoods. Firstly, I live in Frederiksberg. It's an independent city surrounded by Copenhagen. It's small, with about 90,000 citizens. The city has been ruled by the Conservative party for 100 years. Uninterrupted. It's a great little city with loads of bicycle infrastructure, mostly because they've had to follow Uncle Copenhagen's lead for the past 30 years.

The mayor quiet earlier this year and the vice-mayor took over. For the first time in ages, it looks like the Conservative dominance is wobbly. It's neck and neck at the moment, with the Social Democrats breathing down the right-wing necks.

Here's the funny thing. With many of the other parties mentioning bicycles, infrastructure and safer routes to school, etc., the mayor Jørgen Glenthøj is running these ads all over town:

It reads: "Families and businesses need parking spaces". Seriously. It's hilarious. He's playing the parking card. It's either incredibly stupid or quite clever - given the fact that the competition are talking bikes.

Then again, this is the man who has brought us various campaigns that ignore the bull, as you'd expect from a right-wing party.

These warning stickers showed up recently on zebra crossings. "Watch out!" or "Take care of yourself". Nevermind the cars, place the responsibility on the soft, squishy people. And note the thick sticker isn't even glued down properly so a pedestrian is likely to trip on it. Nice one! He is also the man who brought us this traffic 'safety' campaign:

"She checked her text message and died in the process". We mentioned it in the post about The Sacred Bull in Society's China Shop.

So basically, he's hardly a candidate for the Copenhagenize vote. His competition is a young woman from the Social Democrats, Katrine Lester:

Some of her ads read: "More bike lanes in Frederiksberg" and she goes on about safer routes to school, too. Given the fact that her party is large enough to challenge the Conservatives, I'm going with her. Plus if her party DO manage to defeat 100 years of Conservative rule, I want to be a part of THAT action.

One party that won't be attracting my vote, from a bicycle perspective, is the Socialist Peoples' Party - SF. They make a lot of noise about bicycles but after their ridiculous - and flopped - attempt to get a helmet law passed in the national parliament - and after I conversed with them about it and discovered their lack of research - I won't be making an 'X' anywhere near their candidates.


If we look at Uncle Copenhagen, it's same same but different. The Social Democrats have occupied the throne for a million years and it looks like they'll stay there. The Lord Mayor is quitting so another candidate, Frank Jensen, is running for the spot. Actual quote from this man about one of his goals, "Less 'fuck you' attitude, more sense of community". Cool.

They're not really threatened, but what is interesting is who they're going to rule with. Here, it's the aforementioned Socialist Peoples' Party that are looking to win a load of votes. The coolishly-named Radical Left [De Radikale] were princes to the throne last election but now they are lagging way behind, which sucks.
Bondam and Baisikeli Bike
From a bicycle perspective, anyway. Klaus Bondam has profiled himself as The Bicycle Mayor and many of the fantastic initiatives we've been seeing in Copenhagen are thanks to him. Nørrebrogade closed to cars, the Green Wave for cyclists, 117 intersections with the stop line pulled back 5 metres for cars, etc.

Whatever you may think of him, he is the visionary we've been waiting for with regards to urban cycling. He risks losing his post as mayor of the department of transport, which would not be pleasing.

The Radical Left, in my opinion, are running a cool, fresh campaign and they seem to be talking sense on all matter of environmental issues. It would be a shame to see Klaus Bondam lose the Department of Transport gig.

So. In Copenhagen, vote for The Radical Left [de radikale] or the Social Democrats. The latter because I think Frank Jensen is keen to profile himself with some great projects, among them bike infrastructure. I saw him and Klaus Bondam out for a bike ride around the city not long ago, so that's a positive sign.

For Danes there is an interesting poll on DR's website where you answer the same 15 questions that all the politicians have and you can see which party/person you are in most agreement with - or farthest from. One of the questions is actually about bicycles. "We need to invest in more bicycle lanes/cycle tracks instead of developing the road network". Needless to say I "completely agreed" with that one.

Meanwhile, back in Frederiksberg like most places in Denmark, campaigning by bicycle is a given.

This is also amusing. You have a candidate from the Social Democrats on the left with his bike and one from The Radical Left on the... uh... right with his bike. In the middle, with a campaign car is a candidate from... hmm... let me guess... The Conservatives. It's all right there in one simple photograph.
Right. We're done. Local Danish politics is probably not the most exciting thing for most of you out there, but thanks for putting up with it.

8 comments:

lavardera said...

you need a gorilla campaign to peel up those crosswalk stickers and turn the 90deg to face the cars

Pete said...

Being a highly political American and having spent 5 months in Copenhagen this past spring, I actually find this post very interesting. Thanks for adding your perspective (although based on my brief run-ins with Danish politics, it's hardly surprising!)

dyrlægen said...

I can't wait to see the sticker-gorilla. People would notice that...

on that subject:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ahg6qcgoay4

Anonymous said...

It IS interesting, definitely, from a UK perspective.
WeeE

Melbourne Cyclist said...

Yep, I found that interesting - thank you!

I'm also supporting the sticker guerillas :-)

Kiwehtin said...

Here in Montreal, unfortunately, our incumbent mayor was re-elected last Sunday — though barely — despite corruption scandals in his and the main opposition's parties. The third party, Projet Montréal, had a detailed platform of improving public transit with an integrated, cross-island tram network, and making the city better for pedestrians and cyclists (including turning a major stretch of our downtown Sainte-Catherine into a carfree equivalent of Strøget. It did better than four years ago (in fact winning the whole borough council and the borough mayor's office in the Plateau Mont-Royal borough).

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of media bias against Projet's platform, even though it is pretty ordinary policy for many European cities. The main French newspaper refused to endorse any candidate or party, and the English paper reluctantly endorsed the mayor as the "least of three evils" and accused Projet of being "anti-car" and of having expensive eco-enthusiasms. I know their editorial got a lot of flak from readers on the online forums, but still, we have a way to go yet.

Hopefully four years from now Projet will do better yet.

Mikael said...

the stickers require heat to be removed. you heat them up with a machine to stick 'em and to remove 'em.

and my hair dryer doesn't have a 400 m long cord... :-)

dyrlægen said...

I would have thought that you would have a WiFi hairdryer, M?
and bluetooth straighteners perhaps...