31 January 2010

Manholes for Bicycles

Manhole Bicycle Ramp
I noticed this tiny detail on the urban landscape the other day. Outside the new university buildings on Karen Blixens Vej. I noticed it because I was heading up onto the sidewalk to park.

Scanning the curb for the lowest point while cycling is one of those tiny bits and pieces of behavourial wayfinding that we never give much thought. On certain stretches on my regular routes I know exactly where the lowest point is so I can life the front wheel and bounce onto the sidewalk. Outside our corner shop, for example.

Anyway, my subconscious scan revealed this ramped manhole and I used it. Seconds later, still rolling towards the bike racks, I realised that it wasn't a flaw. The streets are quite new outside these rather newish buildings. Yes, we still cobblestone wherever we can. Charm, character, tradition.

I parked and went back to the manhole. It was simply designed this way in order for bicycles to get up onto the sidewalk more easily.

Once again, it's in the details. Master planning is great. Designing new initatives for bicycles is great. But this one little manhole on this one little street. It was tilted for bicycle wheels.

Left me wondering. Was this a detail that was funnelled down all the way from the planners or was it the men who laid the cobblestones and slabs and curb who made an inspired impromptu decision? The slabs had to be cut to fit and that's usually done on the spot. Urban mysteries.

Let's not omit the possibility that it was shoddy workmanship that turned into a coincedental bonus for cycling citizens.

Bike Ramp Cosiness
Like this little bike ramp I spotted in a courtyard in the city centre. Some flats but mostly offices. A long line of bike racks with this little curb in the middle. Someone went to the trouble of screwing a bit of metal into the stone merely to make a fraction of time in peoples' day a little bit easier. It's only ten centimetres. Easily hoppable, but no, no. A ramp.

Splendid. And this is a private courtyard so someone - a resident? an employee? - got the idea and passed it along. Presto.

Back to manholes, when the hell am I ever going to get the chance to wangle an a propos about manholes and give my excuse to blog my manhole photos?! It ain't everyday.
Danish Manhole
Like this one. Telling the story of The Steadfast Tin Soldier, the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. As seen out at Amager Beach.

30 January 2010

Slip Sliding Away


I must be getting old. After laughing at the first few topples I wondered why the chap filming didn't get his ass down there with some sand or salt and remove the slippery spot or call the city and have them hurry out to solve it. Then I laughed some more.

I've been putting my foot down a great deal in the slip-sliding snow this week. The tempo has gone down on the bike lanes, especially today after 15 cm of snow last night, but everyone is taking it easy. When you've been cycling virtually every day of your life, like most Danes and Dutch, you're used to challenges like this.

Sad how so many fearmongerers use accident statistics to whip up a whirlwind. They only present the number of emergency ward visits but hardly ever report that the vast majority of injuries are minor and most of the people either cycled away from the hospital or were back on their bicycles the next day after spraining a wrist or ankle or bumping their tailbone or head.

Even here in Denmark these Number of Admissions stats are readily used by many adherants to a societal Culture of Fear development. They often state in indignant tones that the number of cycling injuries that GO UNREPORTED are massive. As though those subversive people who are injured and don't report it are somehow conspiring against them and the system.

A day later you'll hear how the emergency wards are often overrun by people who don't actually need any treatment and how these people are costing society outrageous amounts of money. Stay away from the hospital unless you're REALLY hurt! Unless you're a cyclist, of course. By staying away you are working against the Goal of Portraying Cycling as Extremely Dangerous [and subsequently affecting car sales].

A propos nothing, the emergency ward at the hospital across the street from here has bike racks for about 40 bikes.

Vaguely related: Cycling nurses help thwart hospitalisation.

29 January 2010

Czech Republic's Premier Cycling City and an Exhibition

Czech Photo Exhibition Poster
I can't honestly remember why I didn't blog about this last September. I gave a lecture in the Czech town of Pardubice, in conjunction with an exhibition of photographs.

Pardubice is the premier cycling city in the Czech Republic. They enjoy 18% modal share for bicycles. After sitting in a [vaguely] zero-carbon taxi from Prague Airport and seeing few bicycles on the journey to Pardubice, it was like coming home when we rolled across the city limits. Wham!... bicycles everywhere.
Pardubice City Hall
The lecture was at the City Hall, pictured above. The Mayor and the Danish Ambassador to the Czech Republic were present and it all went smashingly.

What I was most looking forward to was the street exhibition organised by Vojtech, a Czech who studied in Denmark. On Pardubice's main drag, posters were placed on all the streetposts, showing off the diversity of Copenhagen's bicycle culture. 30 posters in all.

I had forgotten to blog about this but there are several more similar exhibitions coming up in various other cities so I rediscovered these photos in the 'archives'. Here's three of them.

Copenczeching
Czech Cycle Chic via Copenhagen
Harry and Skipper in Pardubice
Entitled, respectively: Copenhagen Corner, Copenhagen Date, Copenhagen Dog.

Pardubice - Built In Kickstand Czech Grace
Pardubice is a lovely little city. Most cities with so many bicycles are. Funny that. I love it when bicycles are parked with the pedal leaning against the curb like in the photo on the left. This is how most bicycles were parked when the cyclist was running errands for decades and decades.

When meeting the Mayor he extolled the virtues of the place and it was interesting that he highlighted that the city was famous for its gingerbread and as the birthplace of Semtex. What a contrast.

In the Czech spectrum, as well as the regional one, Pardubice is a leader in developing its bicycle culture. Which ain't a bad thing to be famous for.

Rest assured, Cycle Chic was present and accounted for, even on a whistlestop trip.

Copenhagenize Mix Update

Mix
Here's the latest Copenhagenize Mix.

SHOP AND ROLL
We've posted previously about how Cyclists Make Better Shoppers. It was over two years ago, which is totally vintage in blogland. Anyway, Sustrans in the UK has two pdf's about initiatives in the UK.
Shoppers and How They Travel, wherein they take research from Graz, Austria and replicate it in Bristol. Then there's a similar paper about experiences in Leicester and Edinburgh called Traffic Restraint and Retail Vitality. All about how retailers overestimate how many of their customers arrive by car.
Links via a reader in the UK.

TORONTO
A city councillor, Bill Saundercook, was slammed last fall for proposing lower speed limits, according to the Toronto Sun... War on Cars Continues. Thanks to James for the link.

Since the beginning of the new year, Toronto has suffered a record number of pedestrian fatalities this year. 14 in as many days.

As our reader Luke puts it: "Most of the people were using marked crosswalks and had the right of way. Don't you think that the police are "ignoring the bull"? To use your phrase? Here's the link to the article "Will Police Blitz Curb Jaywalking?" As though restricting pedestrians rather human movement through their urban setting is a noble goal. Bah.

On the other hand, here's an article about the situation from The Globe and Mail which is "naming and blaming the bull", as our reader Kevin puts it. The War on Walking - Toronto pedestrians suffer the most casualties on the city's roads, and traffic experts say it doesn't have to be that way. Thanks to Kevin for the link.

So now the Toronto City Council is pondering reduced speed limits again, apparently, writes our reader, Kate. Toronto Council to Debate Pedestrian Safety.

Oh, but then again, then there's this piece in the Toronto Sun which blames the pedestrians... Heads Up, Pedestrians. Oh bother, it's confusing. Thanks to James for this link.

LONG BEACH, CA.
"Long Beach, the most bicycle friendly city in America", it says on a metallic bicycle sculpture in Long Beach, California. The city's leaders admit that it's a bold and premature statement. But they're working on it.
Long Beach Makes Way for Bicycles
Thanks to the Flying Finn, Ville, for the link.

Astrid from Antwerp calls herself the Low Impact Girl. She's going to spend the next two years doing what she can to reduce her carbon footprint. Go girl.

NEW REPORT ON BICYCLING AND WALKING
The Alliance for Biking and Walking has issued a report entitled "Investing in Biking and Walking Could Save Lives - States with the lowest levels of biking and walking have higher traffic fatalities and chronic disease."
They could have saved themselves a couple of keyboard strokes and just written "Investing in Biking and Walking SAVES LIVES", since there is so much research out there to back up this fact. Nevertheless, it's a great report and available to read over at the People Powered Movement website.
Via a press release.

MELBOURNE
Melbourne continues its copenhagenization with this news from our reader Stuart about $25 million AUD plan to turn Swanston Street into a pedestrian and bicycle friendly thoroughfare. With hints that the plan will extend to the surrounding streets. Sweet. I used to live in Melbourne, on two occasions, so I have an affectionate relationship with the city and am thrilled by this initiative.

- Swanston Street Takes a Walk on the Mild Side
- Cars and taxis banned from Swanston St in $25.6m revamp planned by Melbourne City Council
- The Melbourne Council's website about the project.

In Australia, they're selling bicycles. Period. According to the Cycling Promotion Fund.

SEVILLE
The Spanish city of Sevilla is reclaiming the streets in favour of a more liveable city, according to Sociedad Sostenible.

NEW JERSEY
Andy discovered this old statute in New Jersey which just might be enough legal backup to take your bike on the train for free!
Gotta love it:
"The passenger shall remove any lantern from such bicycle but not any usual bicycle bell or cyclometer nor need he crate, cover or otherwise protect the bicycle."

28 January 2010

Slow Motion Future


I was cycling home with my kids in a snowstorm the other day and my son Felix said, "It's like everything is slow motion!"

He was right. Not only are sounds muffled in snowstorms, but the cars on our street were moving much slower than normal due to the storm and the thick snow.

It actually looked quite nice. The motorists were rolling along at about 20-30 km/h for a couple of hours. It was calm, cool and collected. They were all probably staring at the road what with the ice and snow and reduced visibility, which added to the appeal.

It was a stunning display of spontaneous traffic calming and it gave me a glimpse of what it would be like if the city lowered the speed limits to 30 km/h, like in so many other European cities.

Even in the snowstorm in the film, there were bicycles overtaking cars. How wonderful and human is that? Speed limits for cars that allow bicycles to overtake them. Brilliant.

Driving Makes You Goofy


Vintage Goofy transformed into a madman behind the wheel, posted originally by Carlton over at Quickrelease.tv.

26 January 2010

Copenhagen's Conversation Lanes

Conversation Lane
It's another tiny detail that is all-important in marketing urban cycling for the masses as opposed to the minority.

When the transformation of the now famous street Nørrebrogade [North Bridge Street] was being planned and implemented, I noticed a detail in the terminology used by the City of Copenhagen's Bicycle Office.

Nørrebrogade is not only the busiest bicyle street in the western world, it has also, over the past year or so, been a traffic planning showcase for how to recreate liveable neighbourhoods and prioritize bicycles, pedestrians and busses over cars. It was here the Green Wave for cyclists was implemented, regulating the traffic signals for bicycles so that if you cycle at 20 km/h you'll never put a foot down all the way into the city centre and home again. It was also here that cars were shunted away so that the neighbourhood would blossom once again.

In places there are now bicycle lanes that are double as wide, after another lane was reclaimed from motorised traffic. Simply to accomodate the 38,000 cyclists that use the stretch each day. The width of the lanes is now over 5 metres wide.

Here's the detail. At the beginning the new 'outside lane' - visible to the right of the two Copenhageners in the photo - was referred to as a 'fast lane'. When the lanes were completed there was no reference to the outside lane. Instead, the pre-existing inside lane was now called the "Conversation Lane". Illustrated brilliantly by the two Copenhageners, above.

Why sell speed when the vast majority of people on bicycles are content to take it easy on their way to work or the cinema or a café? Selling speed isn't exactly good for traffic safety. Nor does catering to the minority who like to go faster benefit the majority who don't.

The quicker cyclists now have a space all their own and the Conversation Lane is for the rest of us. It encourages the social aspect of urban cycling.

A little marketing/terminology detail that speaks volumes about the ongoing promotion of cycling in Copenhagen.

And even though the City has an annual bicycle budget of 75 million kroner [$15 million dollars] to maintain the existing infrastructure and build new, it's these very human, anthropological details that make so much difference.

Bicycle Poetry Installation

Bicycle Poetry
Found this bicycle art installation thing the other night in the Vesterbro neighbourhood. Bicycle frames accompanied by poetry. One poem on each side. Lovely.

"I have felt
and thought
and longed
on a bicycle
and I think I will continue cycling
until death rips the saddle away from under me."


and

"I often look out the window
watching for the postman
as he parks his bicycle
at door after door
until he reaches mine."


It's on the corner of Dybbølsgade and Sommerstedgade, if you're in the neighbourhood.

25 January 2010

Advertising in a Bicycle Culture

Copenhagen Bike Culture Advertising
Recently the Danish State Railways [DSB] announced that bikes are now free on all the S-Trains in the Greater Copenhagen area.

It was pretty big news here but DSB launched a comprehensive campaign to let the people know about it. On the busiest bicycle street in the western world, Nørrebrogade, they put up a mock S-train carriage on the bike lane. The morning bicycle rush hour on this street, which averages 38,000 cyclists a day, would find it hard to miss the advertising campaign. Whether people rode through the train tunnel or past it. On this stretch the bike lanes are double wide, around 5 metres.
Copenhagen Bike Culture Advertising
When the cyclists stopped at the red light up ahead, they were given a brochure about the fact that bikes are now free on the trains, as well as a free ticket for the train. Rather cool.
Copenhagen Bike Culture Advertising
Print adverts in a variety of themes about the new initiative feature prominently in the city these days. This advert on an outdoor ashtray, featuring beer glasses as wheels, reads:

"Invite your bicycle back to your place when you've been out on the town.
Bicycles now travel free on the S-trains."


The same spot in the top photos is quite a popular place for people to advertise or raise awareness about various issues.

There are few other place in the city where you can get face to face with so many people. When cyclists roll to a stop at the light - and they are often 50-75 cyclists at a time in the rush hour - you can easily get your message across. 10-15,000 cylists in the morning rush hour... that's a lot of citizens. They can't walk away from you because they're waiting at the red light and they're not hidden inside cars.

This spot sees all manner of activity. For example, our nurses went on strike a couple of years ago and they stood right here with banners to win popular support. They handed out bread rolls to cyclists. Other times you'll get handed fruit or what not with the brochures.
Copenhagen Bike Culture Advertising

Below is the former 'bicycle mayor', Klaus Bondam, handing out bread rolls a while back at the same spot.

22 January 2010

Google Street View Captures Toppling Cyclist in Copenhagen



Google launched their Street View service in Denmark a couple of days ago and there was one photo they enjoyed so much that they leaked it to the press in conjunction with the launch.

The Street View van caught a cyclist taking a tumble outside of Vestergade 12 in the centre of the city. Shockingly, he wasn't wearing protective gear on his hands or arms. :-)

"It's actually a funny story", explained the head of Google's Danish office, Peter Friis to DR News.

"He was riding along when he spotted the Street View car and he wanted to take a photo with his mobile phone and that's when he toppled over."

He explained that the man on the bicycle is a friend of one of the employees at Google Denmark and that he called his friend afterwards to tell him he was in the photo.

"The man himself thinks it's a funny photo", said Peter Friis.

According to Friis it's pure coincedence that the episode was captured on camera. He stresses that the photo wasn't added in order to create hype about the new service.

"The van only drove down that street once and the camera mounted on the van took the photo. Our vans have driven 32,057 km through Denmark so it's not strange that certain sequences are caught on camera."

Update: The man in question was interviewed on the national news tonight. 15 minutes of fame and all that.

20 January 2010

Vintage 'Ignoring the Bull' Culture

Ignoring the Bull Way Back 2
Ignoring the bull in society's china shop is nothing new. The Danish Road Safety Council have been protecting car culture since at least 1957. Above is their magazine called Watch Out!

Ignoring the Bull Way Back Then3
Inside the magazine there is even an advert for reflective clothing.

Ignoring the Bull Way Back Then
"Cyclist and Pedestrian! Protect yourself and your children! Buy Pasma traffic safety clothing with reflective strips. These strips will warn cars and motorcycles of your presence at a distance of several hundred metres. Pasma clothes are available across the country. See demonstrations of the outerwear and trousers at your closest retailer."

"One must be able to see the danger in order to avoid it. Therefore The Danish Road Safety Council recommends Pasma."


You'd think that we would have learned a lot about traffic calming and reducing the danger that cars and motorists pose to pedestrians and cyclists in all the years since 1957. Alas, Bubble Wrap Society lives on and politicians continue to embrace the 'easy' solutions, both here in Denmark and abroad. Placing the weight on the shoulders of cyclists and pedestrians.


Here's a brochure from - shockhorror - Copenhagen condescending to the elderly by suggesting that they wear "bright clothing and reflexes".


These pedestrian traffic safety messages have appeared on zebra crossings reading "Take care of yourself!" (Note the part of the sticker at the bottom right. Perfect tripping system.)
So no news about campaigns to reduce speed limits to ensure higher levels of traffic safety and reduce death and injury, just fearmongering and motor vehicle protectionism. Just like the pedestrian flags in Berkeley and elsewhere.

In Toronto there have been 10 pedestrian fatalities since January 12th. A reader, Autumn, sent us this link about it from CBC News. Are there calls in the city for lower speed limits? One commenter on the article writes "The red hand means stop", which kind of says it all, really.

Andy sent a link about a school in Norwich. "Children face being ordered by police to get off their bikes and walk on the pavement unless they are wearing reflective safety gear during the hours of darkness, although there is no legal requirement for cyclists, whatever their age, to do so."

Here's the article from www.road.cc.


There is a will to inform in some cities, even with the investment in and the production of solid, permanent signage. Unfortunately the message is sent to the wrong recipients. Cyclists and pedestrians instead of motorists.

Ignoring the Bull in Los Angeles - L.A. DoT PSA


Classic example of how not to promote cycling from the Los Angeles Department of Transport. It rarely gets as silly as this.

It's got it all. Ignoring the Bull. Continued marginalisation of cycling as a sub-culture and not a mainstream transport option for regular people by A. Using one of those sporty cyclists to represent ALL cyclists and B. Dictating that the cyclist should 'behave'.

Hands up, how many people would rather hear this dialogue:

"The average car weighs 6000 lbs. The average bicycle with user weighs 210 lbs."

"A typical car travelling 35 mph has 220 times the momentum, or energy, than a bicycle travelling at 10 mph."

"The car has the capacity to kill any cyclist or pedestrian it hits. That's why the L.A. DoT is lowering the speed limits for cars, implementing traffic calming measures to benefit our pedestrians and cyclists as well as building safe, separated infrastructure for bicycle users."

"The car is an important part of our daily lives, but we're dedicated to drastically lowering the chances that a car will kill you as well as increasing fines for drivers who break the law."

"We're clamping down on motorists who don't Drive Right, Stop at the Light or Watch the Road".


Hands up... who's in?

At least, as it was pointed out in the comments, the driver is wearing a motoring helmet so L.A. DoT has something right. Motoring Helmets for Real Safety!

Thanks to Flying Pigeon L.A. for the link.

19 January 2010

The Lakes, Ice and Reclaimed Spaces

The Lakes en hiver
'The Lakes' in Copenhagen are frozen and Copenhageners are enjoying the ice in great numbers. The last time the ice was thick enough that the City allowed people onto it was in 1996 - bloody global warming - so at all times of the day there are people out on the ice. Especially on the weekends there are wonderful crowds of people skating, walking, cycling, sledding out on the suddenly liberated real estate.

Or just people taking a shortcut from one side to the other.


The Lakes used to be a river valley outside of the citys walls. In 1523 it was decided to exploit them and dam them to create an outer line of defence in case of attack by land. They gradually morphed into their current form through the centuries and are now an integral part of city life with pathways along all the banks.

The thing that hits me when The Lakes are frozen over is how much real estate is suddenly available to the citizens. I have no idea how many square metres we're talking about, but you really get the sense that the city has suddenly grown. Standing on the ice in the middle of one of the lakes you experience views that are otherwise unaccessible.

The inner and outer harbour and the beaches surrounding the city are far more accessible to the citizens, be it swimming, sailing, canal boats or private motor boats or sailboats. The Lakes, on the other hand, are more of an aesthetic feature. You rarely use the water. On one lake there are pedal boats for rent, but that's about it.
Bicycle Ice and Texting
So it's understandable that Copenhageners are loving the chance to use the ice. Even if it's just for sending text messages while cycling.

Run Fun3 Run Fun2
Or running along and then sliding. Just for the pure fun of it.

Skates
Given the strong identity of The Lakes on the urban landscape of the city, it is amazing to think that they were very well close to being paved over, at least in part. In 1958, City Plan West was proposed. It basically involved building a motorway - The Lake Ring or Søringen - along the stretch, narrowing The Lakes by 30 metres.

Furthermore, the massive motorway would have featured a hub in the Vesterbro neighbourhood. In fact, the plan called for levelling much of Vesterbro - a working class neighbourhood - and replacing it with a blade runnerish modern neighbourhood with skyscrapers, inspired by London City.

The police station on Halmtorvet is actually the first building to be erected according to the plan. That's how far the City Plan West actually got. Which is kind of scary, really. Actually, the plan was finally killed off for good in 1973 and thank Odin for that.
Bike Icle Bike Ice
The Lakes, while an attractive pearl around the neck of the inner city, still dont' really live up to their potential. There is still too much traffic along the one side, with too many large trucks taking a short cut through the city.

Late last year a Danish architecture firm, Christensen & Co. launched a bold proposal to give the area along The Lakes more life.

It involves burying the busy roads and building underground parking in order to liberate the sunny side of The Lakes and create parkland and pathways, among other things.

They have a blog about the project, in Danish but with loads of illustrations.


Until all of these brilliant, visionary ideas are realised, I'm going skating:
Two Kids Two Sleds Two Skates
Two kids [Felix loves standing up, straddling the crossbar], two sleds [one on the back rack, one in the cargo box with Lulu-Sophia on it], two skates for my feet and one Wifealiciousness on her own bike.

18 January 2010

Free The Cyclists!


Margrete Auken [b. 1945] is a Danish politican for the Socialist People's Party and she is currently a Member of the European Parliament. She wrote the following blog post last October and I translated most of it here.

The Socialist Peoples' Party - SF - do good things for bicycle culture and couple them with ridiculous things like this and like this. Leaves you wondering if you should spank them or hug them. But this MEP is in Brussels, which for the purpose of this post is different.

Free the Cyclists!
Several large European cities are - gradually - starting to realise the blessings of bicycle culture: good for the environment, reducing energy use, better health and the auto-mobility of all traffic users. Both children and the elderly can get around if they can cycle safe and secure.

The city bikes in Paris are a success. In Brussels the bicycles happily turn right at red lights - often on the sidewalk! I cycle myself and it is the most liberating way to get around. And even though the Ardennes mountain range starts in the middle of Brussels, grandma here manages fine with two artificial knees and seven gears!

Bicycles are an obvious solution to the traffic problems in almost all the cities in the world. It is bizarre that they are still ignored. Even in Denmark, Bicycle Nation, the laws are not beneficial to cyclists. We could learn from Belgium where cyclists are not considered "weak motorists" but rather as "strong pedestrians".

They can do almost all the same things: turn right on red and ride through a T-intersection even when the light is red, but they must respect the right of way which here in Belgium is the duty of the strongest: cars stop for bicycles and pedestrians and cyclists stop for pedestrians.

Cyclists ride everywhere on one-way streets [which calms the racing cars]. If the street is too dangerous to ride on, the bicycles use the sidewalks without being yelled at. Many bike lanes are on the sidewalks. There is no war between pedestrians and cyclists. The feeling is that they are in it together!

If it's a little bit tricky to cycle here it's because the roads and sidewalks are in need of repair and because we are too few cyclists and must ride paying extra attention in case the cars forget us.

Denmark is much better in this regard with many more and wider bike lanes, elevators at all train stations and the possibility to take your bicycle on trains.

But just think if we took the consequence of what we know: regardless of laws, cyclists behave like pedestrians and they will always choose the shortest route.

That's what we should base the laws on. Cyclists should be allowed to do roughly the same things as pedestrians, albeit with more focus on right of way for pedestrians as well as signalling.

It is first when we really spoil the cyclists that we'll be a role model. The bicycle's contribution to mobility in an environmentally-friendly society would thereby grow greatly if it becomes possible for them to take them onto various forms of public transport.

Bicycles must be allowed on trains - from Lapland to Sicily - according to a set of EU laws. My Green Group in the European Parliament got that proposal passed into law in 2007. Unfortunately the train companies can refuse if they "find it too difficult". There's still a long journey ahead.

16 January 2010

Bicycle Parking Ahead

Bicycle Parking Ahead
A sign that read "Bicycle Parking 'Forbudt'" Forbudt meaning Forbidden.
Some clever soul removed the appropriate letters so that it now reads:

Bicycle Parking Ahead, or In Advance.

If a cleverer soul came by, they could put and 'H' in between the 'R' and the 'U' and it would read:

"Bicycle Parking Foreskin".

Amusing, perhaps. Funny. Like haha funny. Innit.

Danish Army's Bicycle Battalions (Short History of)


Ah, the wonders of the internet. After having blogged this post about the Danish Army's Bicycle Battalions a while back, Jens sends me a link to this little youtube video about the history of them.

14 January 2010

Copenhagen - Now as a Board Game


I suppose it was only a matter of time. Ladies and Gentlemen:

Copenhagen - The Board Game.

Launched in time for christmas 2009, the game is the definitive Copenhagen experience. The gameplay is a mix between Monopoly and a popular Danish board game, Bezzerwizzer. Players move around the board and battle to develop the city in the best way possible.

Not surprisingly, the players all choose a metal bicycle figurine to move with. Not a motor car in sight. Classic Copenhagen bicycles like the longjohn, the Christiania cargo bike, the upright granny bike, a child on a bicycle, a Pedersen and even a bent-over racy chap. Appropriate here in the world's cycling capital.


The battle to develop the city involves modernity like building communication masts for hi-tech development and erecting wind turbines for generating power. Then there are the human aspects like planning parks and planting trees.


I just like the fact that bicycles feature prominently in the game. The design firm Hello Monday produced the game and they put their heart and soul into the quality of the pieces and the general design. It's gorgeous and built to last. I've seen the game but didn't have time to play it. If any Copenhagners out there have tried it, do let us know what it's like in the comments.


Roll the dice and build an even lovelier city before the next player does.

Here's a link to the website [in Danish] for Det store spil om København

Thanks to Marcel for the link.

30 km/h Zones Work


As it turns out, I didn't get my christmas wish fulfilled. 30 km/h zone for motor vehicles in Copenhagen. Maybe the package is still in the post, but it isn't looking good here in mid-January.

Since wishing for 30 km/h zones - 20 km/h for school zones - there has been a bit of buzz about them. Barcelona is developing more 'Zones 30' based on positive results. A 27% reduction of accidents in one area of the city, for example.

Amsterdam has proposed a similar scheme, too and the Dutch Fietsersbond advocates them. The list of cities and towns lowering the speed limits is growing across Europe week by week.

In an inspired moment of excellent timing, The British Medical Journal published a paper about the effect of 20 mph traffic zones on road injuries in London. It was written by researchers at... The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine... which is strange, but hey.

Effect of 20 mph traffic speed zones on road injuries in London, 1986-2006

Results: The introduction of 20 mph zones was associated with a 41.9% (95% confidence interval 36.0% to 47.8%) reduction in road casualties, after adjustment for underlying time trends. The percentage reduction was greatest in younger children and greater for the category of killed or seriously injured casualties than for minor injuries. There was no evidence of casualty migration to areas adjacent to 20 mph zones, where casualties also fellslightly by an average of 8.0% (4.4% to 11.5%).

Conclusions: 20 mph zones are effective measures for reducing road injuries and deaths.


Hang on... did they just say that we have an effective measure for reducing road injuries and death?! What are we waiting for then?

In this BBC article
, study leader Dr Chris Grundy, a lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "This evidence supports the rationale for 20mph zones, not just in major cities in Britain, but also in similar metropolitan areas elsewhere.

"Indeed, even within London, there is a case for extending the currently limited provision of such zones to other high casualty roads.
"

He estimated that 20mph zones in London save 200 lives a year, but this could increase to 700 if plans to extend the zones were implemented.

Talk of 30 km/h zones is often associated with quiet residential areas, which is fine and logical. I'm looking forward to seeing them in place all over Copenhagen and Frederiksberg. These zones are most effective in densely populated urban centres.

We have a new city council here in Copenhagen, and a new Mayor in charge of the traffic department. Here's hoping that the bicycle/pedestrian visionary-ness of the past four years continues.


This graphic is from this article on SF Streetsblog shows how big a difference speed makes.


Even the Danish Road Safety Council, in their usual [and tiresome] 'try and scare the shit out of them' style which really is soooo last century, have previously tackled the speed issue with their "Take the edge off your speed" campaign. The caption reads "what's your pain threshold?"

[an odd campaign, by the way... who are they speaking to? Motorists or pedestrians? Isn't quite clear.]

Tom Vanderbilt has a write up about this 20 mph/30 km/h business on his always excellent 'How We Drive' blog here. He mentions a website called Twenty's Plenty. A group in the UK who are fighting for lower speed limits.

Safety in Numbers

Spontaneous Drafting
I noticed a little detail the other evening while I was out and about in a bit of a snowstorm. It was a Tuesday at about 21:00ish. Perhaps fewer cyclists than average, what with the snow and wind, but still many on the streets.
Snowstorm Cyclists
Normally when a cluster or crowd of cyclists gather at a red light it doesn't take long for them to spread out once the light turns green. The different tempi of the different people means that the clusters are dispersed. In the heavy rush hour bicycle traffic it's a bit different. A larger school of fish swimming together. But in smaller groups it's more noticable.

What I noticed that evening was that many cyclists were sticking together on many stretches of snowy bike lanes. Simply a variation of the Safety in Numbers concept. It's slippery so you slow down but sitting behind other cyclists perhaps makes it feel safer. The head of the pack carves a route and the other follow along.

Snow Traffic
Unplanned and spontaneous. I doubt that drafting was the sub-conscious reason. You don't see that much in the city. Just some people on bikes forming safe little groups in the adverse weather. Helping each other along without really being aware of it. I like that.