13 January 2010

Holding On to Cyclists in Copenhagen


Pling. All of sudden this little bicycle-friendly detail showed up on the urban landscape in Copenhagen one day. I'm quite sure that very few people have noticed it, except for the people who roll up next to it. Which is the point, really.

I'm talking about the railings that the man is holding onto and resting his foot on. It's located on a little traffic island on which cyclists who are heading straight on wait. The City of Copenhagen has implemented this double railing simply as a convenience for the cyclists who stop here. A high railing to grasp with your hand and a foot railing for putting your foot up, if that's what you fancy doing. Either way you can also use the railing to push off when the light changes.

The foot rest reads: "Hi, cyclist! Rest your foot here... and thank you for cycling in the city."

Another example of the city using the 'Hi, cyclist!' behavourial campaign/communications template that I developed for them.

Holding Onto Cyclists
It's a tiny detail. No bells and whistles, just a simple idea to make a tiny fraction of the day a little bit easier for a small percentage of the cycling citizens of the city.

Which is precisely why it's brilliant.

Cyclist Convienence
This may not be a direct example of a 'Desire Line', but it certainly is a fine example of the City understanding human behaviour and basic anthropology.

Because people are always going to lean:
Finger on the Pulse Lean
Copenhagen Lean Lean on Me

And people will always put a foot up if they can:
Take a Load Off Tokyo Red Light Waiting Casual Stop *
When riding about in schools of Copenhagen cyclists and rolling up to a red light, the cyclists along the curb will all wait with a foot on the curb. If there is a traffic light post close enough to the sidewalk there will, as a rule, be a hand resting on it and holding the person in question up.

Why not spoil a few cyclists with a fantastically cheap and practical idea? A couple of metal railings. Slap 'em up. Make a few hundred cyclists a day feel loved.

Fair enough, it's not a solution that can be implemented at every intersection. Nobody wants metal railings all over town. But find a place where they work and just do it. At some other intersection, perhaps another idea will fit perfectly.

Bicycle Culture Buddhas

Smooth Metal Surfaces
Actually, if you cycle about in Copenhagen take a look at the light posts next to where cyclists wait for lights to change, you'll see a tiny anthropological detail. I called it Bicycle Culture Buddhas.

The metal is rubbed smooth on precisely one side of the post from all the cyclists' hands that lean up against it. Just like the tummies of so many Buddhas.

Human traces. Urban spaces.

33 comments:

Clever said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clever said...

my first thought is that this is meaningful mainly for a population whose coaster-braked bikes make starting and stopping in the saddle comparatively awkward. a hand-hold lets them push away when the pedals are stuck in a dead spot, and since even a few seconds of track-stand are difficult, the pole prevents needing to get off!

Kiwehtin said...

Track-standing is really not practical when you have to wait for an extended period at a light or at a stop sign while waiting for a gap in cross-traffic on a main street. And even for shorter waits, track-standing is really a bit of a (usually young 'n' athletic male) subcultural subsegment of the larger biking community. It's not for everyone, hence the usefulness of the arm and footrests.

Klaus Mohn said...

This rules SO HARD.
Paris streets are full of poles, barriers, etc that have the sole puropse of preventing drivers from driving or parking antisocially. It's sad, the streets are so littered visually compared to, say, pictures from the fifties. And i'm not even talking about advertising.And then you see this simple, helpful, plain HAPPY thing or cyclists... wish we could have it everywhere.

Melbourne Cyclist said...

This post made me smile - thank you!

Chris Hutt said...

This is a clever idea. Based on observations of real life human behaviour, simple, durable, low tech and low cost. There's little to say against it except that it might be visually intrusive in some locations, but the idea can be modified, say with just the footrest or just the handrail, to make it less so.

Nick said...

Certainly a lovely idea if the intention is an innocent as claimed.

The cynic in me can't help but wonder, however, if this is not also a backhanded way of forcing pedestrians to cross only at the crosswalk. These look like the famous railings in London and so many other cities that are thought to make things safer for pedestrians but only further alienates them and makes them feel like cattle. I don't know how often pedestrians in Copenhagen 'J-walk', but in other cities these devices are used to reign in the scofflaws who arrogantly think they have a right to walk around the city unhindered.

Kensington High St. famously decreased accidents after they removed the railings.

Mikael said...

Nick: there is no sidewalk next to this railing. there is a crosswalk in front of where the bikes wait, but pedestrians dont' walk next to the railing.

it's a unique solution tailor-made for a unique location.

denmark is one of the most pedestrianized countries in europe so we don't often restrict pedestrian movement.

so take off your cynic hat and go back to your happy place for a nice cup of cocoa... :-)

blighty rider said...

Superbly simple! The foot rail is a double rail to stop the foot from sliding off.
Well done Copenhagen.

townmouse said...

Um, look. This is getting ridiculous. Do you think you and the Dutch could just stop with the bicycle infrastructure for a bit so the rest of us could catch up? And maybe if you guys have the equivalent of VSO or the Peace Corps or something you could send some traffic enginers to the developing (cycle) nations like the UK?

Anonymous said...

Sweet. Love having the ability to "stay in the saddle" at long stops and some times a high curb can be used. Maybe these have another purpose beyond cycling fun, sidewalk love handles? Quickies at red lights?
Jack

BicyclesOnly said...

Would love to see these in NYC. It is not only a convenience for cyclists but also teaches cyclists not to "shoal" (spread out horizontally jockying for position to enter the intersection first instead of waiting in line).

On the other hand, in a traffic environment like ours in NYC where cyclists' presence often is not anticipated or respected, positioning oneself at the extreme right instead of in front of the motor vehicles may reduce safety. Perhaps we could introduce them on the few European-style cycle tracks that have been installed.

lagatta à montréal said...

This is wonderful. Cyclists seek out the places such amenities exist by accident.

I'm in my 50s and have arthritis that sometimes flares up. It is fine now, but a few years back, the "launch" was very difficult - after I got started I could cycle as well as anyone. We want people to be able to keep cycling at all ages.

I had never heard the term "track-stand". I am able to balance on my bicycle long enough to respect a stop sign and look both ways, but not for the period a traffic light is red. The technique as shown in wikipedia has absolutely nothing to do with workaday cycling.

It is not like those horrible intersection railings I've seen in Rome - and sometimes pedestrians actually had to take underground tunnels!

neil said...

Too cool!

Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest!

W. K. Lis said...

It may also help in control jaywalkers. Pedestrians would tend to be funneled to the crosswalk, instead of starting their walk early.

Mikael said...

controlling jaywalkers? what about controlling the cars?

anyway, these barriers are NOT meant to be implemented where they may impede pedestrians, nor will they be implemented in places where they may do so.

stanspangenberg said...

Nice idea, but this will never work in Holland. A structure like this will certainly be used by other cyclists to lock there bike on to it from both sides. And then it becomes useless.

Shaw said...

nice, and you don't have to put your foot into a cold puddle either. Too bad here in sunny Florida, where there is bicycle weather year round, no one can ride their bikes because American drivers are on the warpath against them.

nurytche said...

nice place for biker's

Clarence Eckerson Jr. said...

I gotta say, this is super clever. And when you see facilities like this, it just makes you feel respected by your city. Nice!

wvcycling said...

This is a really neat, inside view of the little things that make cycling in such a prefecture so accepting. Or is it the amount of cycling that demands these things that makes them accepting? Chicken or the egg??

GoodPeace said...

This is cool, and I can't wait to get on my bike tomorrow and look for it - especially during wet wintertimes, I try to avoid putting my feet in the snow, and rather rest it on the curb or something else.

With regards to the pedestrians in the crosswalk, I could actually hope this thing will incline cyclist to stay put behind the line in front of the crosswalk - rather than being a dipshit riding into the crosswalk.
The down side of so many cyclists here in Copenhagen is the terrible selfish behaviour by so many of them. Of course, if it's even more comfortable to stay outside the intersection while you wait for your turn, cyclists may actually do it....

Anonymous said...

First, this is a brilliant, and thoughtful, idea. I can't see any downside to it at all in an urban setting.

Second, I concur that you need to start an international bicycle outreach corps to help underdeveloped and developing nations (like the United States). We're struggling to develop a commuter bicycle culture here in Los Angeles and need aid from developed nations like yours! ;)

Larcery Díaz Barrantes said...

Que interesante idea..Felicitaciones

Kyralessa said...

For those who are wondering, "Why don't the cyclists just put their feet down?"...

Bicyclists often use types of pedals that allow you to clip your foot into the pedal. When you stop, you have to unclip (and when you go again, you have to reclip), which is a bit of a hassle.

But if you can lean on one of these, you don't have to unclip/reclip. Not a huge issue, but certainly something that makes cycling a teeny bit more pleasant.

Frits B said...

Found this via Anna in Vienna:
http://derstandard.at/1262208799183/Radkasten-Der-schwungvolle-Rotlichthenkel

Mikael said...

Kyralessa: nobody uses those kinds of pedals here. 500,000 people on bicycles every day and maybe a fraction use them.

Charlie O said...

I noticed this the other week too, it came out of nowhere! Have used it several times and appreciated the friendly messaged from Københavns Kommune.

Just a shame it's next to such a busy road. I started cycling on the other side of the lakes now to avoid all the exhaust fumes from the traffic on my way to work in the morning.

stefano said...

I'm Italian from Milan, where riding your bike is a life threatening adventure....when i saw the rest bars i couldn't undertstand what that thing was for...then i read it and i could not believe it!!:-)
Happy i moved here, also for this little but very smart details.
Stefano

Footrests said...

This is a really neat, inside view of the little things that make cycling in such a prefecture so accepting. Or is it the amount of cycling that demands these things that makes them accepting? Footrests

South San Francisco Gym said...

Hey...
Its too cool as well as interesting.. i really like it...
thanks for you to share it with us..
carry on..

z rest footrest said...

Superbly simple! The foot rail is a double rail to stop the foot from sliding off.
Well done Copenhagen.
Thanks for post..

Miguel Barroso said...

A Swedish designer, took the idea and designed a differente iteration: http://www.designboom.com/design/bikers-rest-by-marcus-abrahamsson-for-nola/