31 March 2010

Practical and Behavourial

Picking Up The Kid
I experienced a strange little behavourial shift in myself recently. I use my two bicycles rather equally - the Velorbis and the Bullitt cargo bike. When not transporting kids, the Bullitt cargo bay is a respository for my bag. I just chuck it in, instead of having it slung around my shoulder.

I discovered that I missed this ease-of-use when riding the upright Velorbis. I stuck the bag, Copenhagen-style, on the back rack under the rat trap. Which is what I've always done and, indeed, what most people without baskets do.

Then I got a front rack put onto the Velorbis. These front racks have been a main feature for over a century, especially on Short Johns or delivery bikes/chimney sweep bikes or whatever you want to call them.

Interestingly, they're experiencing a bit of a revival these day in Copenhagen. As soon as mine was on, I noticed that I was just slapping my bag onto the front rack and securing it with a bungee cord. Super quick and easy.

Then I realised that the damned thing was much more practical than I had imagined. The other day I had to go pick up my boy at a friend's house. I just put his bike on the front rack and off I went.
Felix At Speed
And here's Felix riding home on it, which he loves to do.

The Kids Heading For School and Daycare
We only have about 450 metres to the school and the daycare so we often just walk, but now the front rack is a perfect perch for Felix, while Queen Lulu gets to sit on the 'bulldog' seat on the crossbar. They both love it.

I was actually telling Felix about how I saw lots of kids sitting on front racks in Amsterdam and he said, "Maybe if someone sees us, they'll think we're from Holland!" Poor kid doesn't realise that it wouldn't get us any street cred/dates/free beers, but the thought was nice. :-) He enjoys seeing the pictures of people riding bicycles in other countries that I bring home. I think it's important to show him the global diversity of bicycle culture, whether established or emerging.

The Felix and his Bicycle
The bicycle he's on in the pervious picture, higher up, is getting a bit small for him, but he masters it like an Apache masters his horse. This bike, above, is waiting in the wings for him. A retro Raleigh chopper. He needs about three more centimetres before I unleash him on the bike lanes.

Briefcase Hooks on Back Racks - Design Details

Attaché Attached
A while ago... I'm guessing over a year and a half... I recall a reader emailing me with a request for a post about a bicycle culture tiny detail in Copenhagen. The little hook thingy found on most back racks. It's a practical solution to a question that arose about a century ago. How to transport your briefcase on your bicycle?

While I'm quite sure this isn't a uniquely Danish thing, it does however seem to live on more in Denmark than elsewhere. The Dutch evolved a culture for using pannier bags while the Danes preferred the basket. Not many men used a basket and for the better part of a century, briefcases were what men carted around. In the style of the one in the above photo. Soft leather.

Widespread use of these briefcases - I'm making a qualified guess here - faded away in the late 1960's. When the grassroots movement to reinstate the bicycle on the urban landscape started in the mid-70's it was borne, by and large, by the flower power culture of the 1960's and the briefcase was something for 'businessmen'.

Anyway, these briefcase hooks are still widespread. I had a look at the bicycles in the four bike sheds the people in our buildings use and there were many back racks with hooks. I've been seen to use them when transporting diapers home from the supermarket.

Back Rack With Hook
Here's my bicycle, the Velorbis, with the back rack hook thing. A little metal pin, which rises up when you lift the rat trap, holds the strap of the briefcase, or whatever you're carrying, in place.

A simple little design addition from Bicycle Culture 1.0 carried on well into Bicycle Culture 2.0.

Beauty and the Bike in Darlington

Beautiful little film about the brilliant Beauty and the Bike project in Darlington, UK. Absolutely wonderful stuff.

Speed Limit Lottery - Win Cash and Prizes! Fun Theory Winner

The winning entry in the FunTheory.com contest is this one. The Speed Camera Lottery. Violators pay money into a pot. To qualify for the winning prize, don't speed. Interesting theory. Fun may be an exagerration, compared with many of the other creative entries in the contest on the FunTheory.com site.

FunTheory is a site is dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better.

Cyclist's Best Friend

Where's the Robosaurus when you need it? A hero for liveable cities, protecting pedestrians and cyclists alike.

30 March 2010

AMEX Demands Money From Innocent Danish Cyclist Victim

Photo: Bax Lindhardt for BT

This is Helle Kühl. In May 2009 she was knocked off her bike by a car near Copenhagen's Central Station. The car was a rental driven by an American woman who was insured by American Express.

According to the Danish newspaper BT, the police have said that the American woman wasn't used to watching for cyclists and, after the accident, couldn't understand that it was her fault. Helle Kühl was heading straight on through an intersection. A right-turning bus had stopped for her but the American woman, who was turning left across the intersection, didn't.

American Express, through a collection agency, has been hassling Helle Kühl for $3106.41 - about 16,000 Danish kroner - for the damages to the car.

Helle Kühl said to BT newspaper: "This is completely insane. I'm an innocent victim and now they want me to pay 16,000 kroner because I got run over. This is an Americanization of the situation".

There were many witnesses to the accident who back Helle Kühl op and who gave her their names at the scene in case she needed them to witness. Her Danish insurance company handled their side of it efficiently, paying out for a new bike, clothes and the traumatic experience.

American Express has, however, sent five emails and two letters to Helle Kühl demanding 16,000 kroner for the damages to the car. She has tried to refer them to the car rental company and their insurance, to no avail. They continue to pressure her with their letters and emails, even though they have said earlier that the case was closed.

Here's the letter from the collection agency, Vengroff & Williams Associates, which Danish Broadcasting has acquired.

It reads: "The hire vehicle that our client was in charge was damaged by you and American Express has paid the rental company for the damages incurred to their vehicle. We now seek to obtain payment from you as the third party liable for the damages caused."

Helle Kühl doesn't have to pay according to Danish law and a number of legal experts have stated clearly that she shouldn't worry about it. However, she may have to pay for a lawyer to tackle American Express and get the case closed. If she doesn't she is worried that she may have problems travelling to the US in the future.

According to Danish Broadcasting, American Express have stated that they are looking into the case and are "taking it seriously".

Let's hope so.

Via: The Danish newspaper BT's article "Innocent Traffic Accident Victim Sent Massive Bill" and Danish Broadcasting Corp. (DR).

29 March 2010

Short Attention Span and Advertising

Week in and week out I get inundated with emails from people who want to advertise either here on Copenhagenize.com or over at Cycle Chic.

It's quite amazing that most of the emails are for products that have nothing to do what I write about or take pictures about. Goes to show that one pops up in a Google search and the person in question doesn't bother to do their research. Even after writing posts like this at Cycle Chic, or this one, two days later I get an email from someone wanted to pay to advertise their "cycling trousers" for urban cycling. "Avoid chafing and wear and tear!" Oh bother, as Winnie the Pooh would say.

Anyway, this email arrived today, from China. Perhaps the products are of interest to some of you, out there. Seriously. Maybe Carlton can get cheaper lycra gear for his I Pay Road Tax cycling clothes or some of you out there want to get some kit for your local club. Who knows.

Being multilingual and having made major embarassing faux pas' in several languages, I deeply respect people who try to communicate in languages other than their own.

However, I am quite fascinated by the Ruing Jerseys and Pants. So often when feeling remorse and only wishing to rue my situation, I lie on the sofa wishing I had the appropriate clothing in which to do so.

Dear sir,
We are a cycling wear manufacturer from Guangzhou China. We produce the item same as you displayed on your website. [WHERE ON MY WEBSITE?! PLEASE TELL ME SO I CAN REMOVE IT QUICKSMART!]
We have been in this line for 15years and about 1000sets are exported per month to your country. We also offer other sports wear,such as the ruing jersey, ruing pant, and rubgy wear.

Delivert time including shipping approx 18-25days,
Price for short jersey is 18USD.for short pant is 13USD.
The 0.5% discount will be given if your quantity will meet 200pcs.

Meterial discriptions:
Jersey: 100% polyester 140 gsm quick dry fabric, elasticated cuffs and hem (or non-slip rubber grippers at cuffs and hem);
Shorts: 80% polyester and 20% lycra 230 gsm quick dry elastic fabric, non-slip rubber leg grippers, Coolmax high density foam chamois.

Jersey: 100% polyester 140 gsm UV protective and quick dry fabric, silicone grippers at cuffs and hem;
Shorts: 80% polyamide and 20% lycra 230 gsm quick dry elastic fabric, silicone leg grippers, Coolmax silicone gel chamois.

We hope can do business shortly. Many thanks and best regards!

Best Regards!

Jocelyn Zeng - Sales Executive
Culture Sport international Ltd.
Tel: (86 20)22107414
E-mail : jocelyn@nimbuswear.com

Airbags Instead of Bike Helmets

I received an email from a friend at the Dutch Cyclists Union - Fietsersbond. In the subject line it read, "Airbags instead of bike helmets".

Back in June 2008 I blogged about Bicycle Airbags on Cars and about how the Danish Cyclists Federation were interested in getting the Traffic Safety Board to investigate a Dutch study that suggested external airbags on cars would save cyclists' lives. That was the last we heard of it in this country.

But the Dutch... oh, the Dutch... Undefeated World Champions in Bicycle Advocacy and Societal Rationality... (no, let's not forget the Hungarians...) they've kept at it. The idea of airbags on cars to protect cyclists started as a kind of a "what if..." story in the Fietsersbond's magazine a few years ago.

Now the idea is nearing fruition. In a press release from early March 2010 the Fietsersbond boldy declares that cars will be equipped with airbags for cyclist collisions by 2015.
Beans Bicycle Air Bag
The Dutch do their homework. Like any self-respecting advocacy org they have traffic consultants dedicated to scientific issues and they know that bicycle helmets don't have a lot going for them as far as effectiveness goes. They know that the mere promotion of helmets reduces cycling and they've read the chilling results of the mathematician Professor Piet de Jong's study about the heavy price helmet laws inflict on countries and regions.

So, in an inspired moment of rationality, they decided to put forth the idea of putting air bags on the machines that cause the damage - the cars. No ignoring the bull here. Place the responsibility where it belongs.

The airbags for cars idea met a great deal of enthusiasm in the Netherlands. So much so that funding has been given to test the idea.

And the email I recieved today was about the Dutch Transport Minister pledging €1 million more for further research. Here's the minister saying stuff about it in Dutch:

The crash test in the film is one of a series to determine where cyclists land on cars in order to figure out where the airbags should be placed. The next step is the completion of a detection system for pedestrians and cyclists. Then there is a test on the streets of Amsterdam.

"Thanks to this detection system, an airbag will be activated in the event of a collision so as to considerably cushion the impact of a cyclist’s head on the windscreen. The cyclist will not die from his injuries, and will have a good chance of coming out virtually unscathed."

"The test in Amsterdam will take a year. The researchers of Autoliv and TNO Automotive want to know if the sensors on the front of the car will function well under all weather conditions. The test car will be fitted with a button which the driver must push in special situations, such as a collision or near collision. The recordings of the detection system’s cameras will be saved. The researchers want to analyse the observations of the system. A collision sensor is fitted in addition to the sensors - the cameras - that will recognise cyclists. This collision sensor registers when a cyclist is indeed hit and an airbag should be activated. These extensive tests are needed in order to make sure that the system is fully reliable. The airbags should only be activated when a cyclist or pedestrian is hit. It is not supposed to activate when the car hits a pigeon or post."

Mandatory Airbags on Cars?
‘The airbag is expected to be taken into production in 2015, but that of course depends on the wishes of consumers and car manufacturers’, says Van de Broek of TNO.

‘That’s an amazing result’, says Theo Zeegers who is responsible for the project on behalf of the Fietsersbond. ‘We’ve come much further than we’d ever hoped for.’ The costs involved are as yet unknown, but Zeegers expects it will be a couple of hundred Euros per car. He pleads for the airbag system to become a compulsory part of each new car. ‘Just compare it to the compulsory introduction of the catalytic converter.’

A compulsory airbag on the windscreen will add a couple of hundred Euros to a car’s price tag. But what does it yield? According to Zeegers, it may save dozens of cyclists’ lives in the Netherlands. In terms of the EU we are talking hundreds of lives."

The airbag system is a big success for the Fietsersbond. ‘In collisions with passenger cars in which the cyclists dies, it is nearly always the head injuries that are fatal. That’s why we’ve been busy for years trying to find out how we can make cars safer for cyclists’, says Zeegers.

TNO carried out an exploratory study on the instructions of the Fietsersbond four years ago. They expected the shape of the front of a car to largely determine the seriousness of the injuries. Ultimately however, it emerged that airbags on the exterior of a car may save many a cyclist’s life. But they have to be in the right position.

The TNO studies showed that cyclists often benefit little from an airbag system specifically developed for pedestrians. In a collision, pedestrians end up with their heads on the hood or the lower part of the windscreen. That is often different for cy-
clists however. Their heads usually do not hit the hood, but the upper part of the windscreen. If they are unlucky, their heads even hit the hard metal window stiles. This is where airbags for cyclists should be fitted.

Dead or dizzy
So we know that an airbag can drastically cushion the impact. But by how much? Researchers express the force of the impact in Head Injury Criterion (HIC). This HIC value should stay below 1,000. For the elderly, this value should even be below 600. During computer simulations carried out by TNO in 2008 it emerged that in a collision at 30 kilometres per hour, the cyclist endures an HIC value of 3,700. Hardly anyone would be expected to survive such an impact. With the airbag however, the HIC value dropped to 590. All a cyclist will suffer from in that case is a headache and dizziness.

Here's a link, in Dutch, to the Fietsersbond's page about this exciting project.

Bicycle Customer Service via YouTube

My friends down at Larry vs Harry had a little problem. The good news is that sales are booming and that includes online sales. They're shipping off bikes to far-flung destinations on a daily basis.

The tricky bit is that two-wheeled cargo bikes like the Bullitt are quite normal in Denmark and the Netherlands but still a bit exotic elsewhere, because they have parts that don't resemble parts on other bikes. Larry vs Harry discovered that they were getting loads of emails and telephone calls from customers who had questions about how to assemble certain parts of the bicycles.

Contact with happy customers is a joy for any business, whether it's bicycles or buttplugs, but coaching via telephone and/or email is time-consuming for both parties and there is still the risk that the bicycles may be assembled incorrectly. Can't have that. The solution? Larry vs Harry called up Copenhagenize Consulting to produce three How To films that will guide customers through the process of assembling three of the trickier bits.

The films had to be:
A. Fun to make.
B. Informative.
C. In the spirit of Larry vs Harry. Whatever the hell that means.
D. Far removed from the techgeek world of bicycles.
E. So incredibly funny that only a handful of people will get it. Kind of like watching Monty Python dubbed into German.

I went with a kitsch, home-made 'look and feel' in the sound design and editing and Harry went with... uh... costumes. Match made in heaven. Do you KNOW how hard it is to shoot and edit BADLY? It ain't bloody easy. But we had a laugh.

It's Elvis Schwarzenegger Goes to Hollywood in a Dogme 95 film. Not surprisingly, Copenhagenize Consulting is NOT credited... :-)

The Larry vs Harry Assembly Movie Part One - The Steering Rod

The Larry vs Harry Assembly Movie Part Deux - The Front Fork

The Larry vs Harry Assembly Movie Part Drei, Schatzi - The Steering Arm

28 March 2010

The Folly of Bicycle Licences

Cycling in Copenhagen2
Once in a while the issue of "bikes should pay" rises to the surface like bubbles of methane in Lake Kivu. In the UK, they're tackling it quite well with the I Pay Road Tax project. Several readers have sent links to Jonathan's post over at BikePortland so I figured I'd do a post about it.

Regarding bike registration in Europe, there are half a billion citizens in the European Union alone. 100 million of them ride a bicycle for transport according to the European Cyclists' Federation. None of them are inconvenienced by bicycle licences, least of all the Netherlands or Denmark - the two countries with most bike usage.

I posted about this ages ago and since then I've heard that a number of cities have actually calculated what the administrative costs would be. None of them have found that licensing bicycles was cost-efficient. Lately there is talk 'over there' about a symbolic appeasement fee. Cyclists paying a fee to get the motorists et al to shut it.

Here are three counter-arguments to bike licensing from my ragged little bag of opinions:

1. Road Usage and Wear and Tear
Firstly, imagine the logistical nightmare of registering tens of millions of bicycles. You need to pay to develop or adapt a computer system to register them and you need to hire people to run the system to issue registrations and pay for producing licences.

Consider the aforementioned impact on the roads. Your average car in 2005 weighed 1650 kg [3582 lbs]. My best guess as to the average weight of a bicycle is about 13 kg [30 lbs].

Based on those numbers, a bicycle weighs 0.8% of a car.

You don't need a degree in rocket science to see that the weight impact on the roads made by bicycles is marginal. Let's say a car registration costs $100, based on various factors including wear and tear on the roads. Based on that figure, a bike registration should then cost 80 cents.

Then you'll have to subtract from those 80 cents. In Denmark we have road taxes and environment taxes built into our car registration, not to mention weight taxes, depending on the car's size. A car's environmental impact is considerable, but a bicycle has none. Let's say a 50% reduction in the 80 cents fee for zero environmental impact, just to pick a number.

40 cents per bike. That 40 cents would be reduced to almost nothing after you subtract adminstration fees. Indeed, you'd be well into a negative number.

I'm not an economist, but I can already see that the project would not be very profitable. The enforcement issue is another ball of wax. I, for one, would prefer my police force to take care of business more important to society that checking cyclists for registration papers. In short, developing a registration system for bikes would be a monumental waste of taxpayers money and that is in nobody's interest.

All that money gone to adminstration of bike licences could be spent on infrastructure and campaigns to promote cycling.

It is also worthwhile to consider the very simple fact that more bikes with a marginal impact on the roads means less wear and tear. This reduces the necessity for time-consuming and expensive road works to fix the potholes, etc. It will be cheaper for motorists, not to mention much more convenient, not having to suffer as many construction delays.

2. Health Impact
The cyclist, besides having a marginal impact on the roads, will also end up benefiting society on a whole by transporting him or herself by bike. The health benefits are many and they are well-documented. In direct relation to cars, it is interesting to point of some of the many studies regarding pollution.

The level of dangerous, polluting microparticles inside a car are much higher than outside - on a bike, for example. There are a couple of links to earlier posts below regarding this.

Cyclists Can Breathe Easy
Traffic Kills 10 Times More People Than Traffic Accidents

In addition to it being more dangerous to sit inside a car than outside one, consider this excerpt from the above link:

In Denmark almost 4000 people die each year from pollution from cars. That number is ten times higher than those who are killed IN the traffic. According to a recent study, breathing the pollution from the automotive traffic is more dangerous than merely being the traffic.

3400 people die each year from illnesses directly related to the particles released from the exhaust of cars. On top of that there are 200-500 people who die prematurely from heart disease and high blood pressure caused by the noise generated by traffic. Yes... just the NOISE!

I can't even begin to imagine how these numbers will mulitply when applied to any North American city.

So... cyclists are actually reducing health care costs and, in effect, freeing up hospital beds for those who need them. They are also increasing their health levels - which will give them fewer sick days and a more effective working life, thereby contributing more positively to the economy.

In Denmark we've determined that cycling is much more cost-efficient than cars. Indeed, for every kilometre cycled the nation enjoys a net profit of 25 cents. For every kilometre driven by car, the nation suffers a net loss of 16 cents. Due to a host of health factors, wear and tear/road maintenance factors, etc.

In Copenhagen a study has determined that for every kilometre cycled, the city earns $1.10. Pure profit. Based on the value of our cycling citizens living longer - 7 years - and being less ill whilst alive (subsidizing those poor motorists and their illnesses as we slog away at work with fewer sick days) as well as the value of health care costs saved.

So far there the 'should cyclists pay' debate is frightfully unbalanced. Which is why there is every reason that cyclists should:

3. Get Paid To Ride
All of the common sense above should somehow lead to rewards for cyclists. A city council that builds segregated bike lanes, thereby encouraging citizens to ride, will be spending less on road works and public health.

Tax cuts for cyclists. Tax rebates when you buy a new bike. You name it. There's a wealth of creative options out there.

Instead of demanding that cyclists pay, motorists should be buying us beer and thanking us on behalf of themselves, their children [present or future], the nation and society in general. (insert operatic climax with full orchestra here...)

So. Bicycle registration and 'licences'? Doesn't make sense. Common or otherwise. Or let's start a shoe tax for those pedestrians sponging off our public funds.

Bikerakk - I Used to Be a Car Tyre

Bikerakk is a New Zealand product - a bicycle rack made from steel and covered in a softer outer layer made from four used car tyres.

The rear wheel is a glass disk that can be used for signage.

To be honest, the production process seems to be a trifle overcomplicated just for a bike rack. A rubbery outer layer made of car tyres is a gimmick that doesn't serve much purpose unless you have some fancy, expensive wonderbike, which most people don't. Sheesh, if I was worried about scratches on my bicycles in this city, I would bubblewrap them and leave them in the cellar.

BUT... with all that said, it's symbolism, which we like here at Copenhagenize. It's the bicycle as a symbol in cities and towns. The more symbolism the better if we're to reestablish the bicycle as a feasible, respected and accepted transport form.

The Bikerakk is bold and oversized which is all the better. It's a sculptural addition to the cityscape. The "I used to be a car tyre" slogan serves to push the message even further. The company who produces them is negotiating with various city councils to implement the rack.

Thumbs up.

Bikerakk's website.

Thanks to Shane in NZ for the link to this article.

The Race for Lithium for Electric Cars and Bicycles

Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia. Photo: Ezequiel Cabrera/Wikipedia

The coming boom in batteries to electric cars and Lazy Bikes (electric-assist bicycles) means a boom in batteries with which to run them. A new race for natural resources has begun.

Enter Lithium, the world's lightest metal. For 150 years it's been nickel and lead that have been used in batteries but the advent of lithium technology has allowed for a revolution. Longer battery life, lighter batteries in our laptaps and mobile phones and iPods. Lithium weighs 1/20th of what nickel and lead do.

Lithium is also used in anti-depressive medicine, ceramics and nuclear power. With all this talk of electric cars and bicycles, the demand for lithium is on the verge of exploding. Lithium is the new oil.

Enter Boliva. This developing country sits on at least half of the world's supply of lithium, most of it in underground salt layers beneath the world's largest salt flats in Salar de Uyuni, in south-west Boliva. Between 50% and 70% of all the lithium in the world, according to some studies. Most of the lithium in the world comes from Argentina, Chile, China and Australia at the moment. Bolivia is Lithium Central but the country's lithium production is still in the early stages of development.

Whoever figured out that it was Boliva that was sitting atop all that lithium must have pumped their fist in the air and hissed "Yes!" Thank goodness it's a developing country. There's money to be made and there's nothing more irritating than developed nations getting richer when it can be corporations.

In order for the electric car boom to happen - literally - supplies of lithium need to be secured and protected. Toyota recently entered into a collaboration with an Australian mining company and invested $100 million in order to ensure they have supplies from mines in another developing nation, Argentina. Others will soon follow suit. The whole Better Place project that hopes to place 100,000 electric cars in Denmark and Israel within 5 years will be a dead fish if there is no sufficient lithium supply.

There are sceptics who fear that lithium will be placed on a pedestal like oil was/is and become a leading strategic natural resource. The Lithium War sounds rather sci-fi, doesn't it? But wars and natural resources have a tendency to go hand in hand. Some warn that the world will run out of lithium within a few decades. There is still masses of research underway to develop more efficient batteries using old school nickel and lead. Then there are those who say that there is more than enough lithium to go around. Between 18-20 million tonnes in Bolivia alone. Enough for more than 5 billion electric cars (not a reassuring thought). Globally, there is about 35 million tonnes of lithium at the moment.

Others name lithium as a world-changing resource because there may be many more uses for it. Lithium can be harvested from sea-water, although in smaller amounts.

Some experts have warned that the demand for lithium will escalate dramatically and prices will rise fast and furious if Bolivia doesn't start producing enough lithium to satisfy the automobile industry. The whole electric car revolution could fall flat on it's face and that would render Bolivia's lithium reserves worthless and there goes the 'Next Middle East' and 'New Saudi Arabia' hopes.

There are many big question marks regarding exploiting the stores of lithium under the Bolivan Salar de Uyuni. Environmental impact is one, of course. Harvesting lithium is, apparently, not as nasty as oil. But when heavy industry moves into remote areas of the world to get busy, the result is rarely pretty.

At the moment, the Bolivian government is reluctant to allow foreign companies access to the lithium adventure. Which is understandable, really. They are quickly developing a small facility to suck up the lithium from the underground and it is expected to be fully-functional this summer. Next step is a mammoth facility, roads and infrastructure, electricity, et al. The country's goal is a yearly production of 30,000 tonnes within a couple of years, which is about 30% of the global market. The country aims to produce batteries for cars by 2014.

The Lithium Adventure has begun. How it ends depends. Unfortunately we know all to well the result when corporations and nations gear up for securing natural resources.

All I can say is thank goodness I have a bicycle with a "rye bread motor" (rugbrødsmotor) as we call it in Danish. Just feed me rye bread and I'll pedal.

Via: Greenpacks as well as the excellent article in Politiken by Søren Kitaj from 28.03.2010.

Human Powered Poetry

Cycling in Copenhagen
Some shots from last week. Copenhageners adding each their instrument to our symphony of human-powered movement. These shots are taken at around 16:00. Most traffic is heading away from the city centre (in the last shot) but there is still considerable traffic heading into town.
Cycling in Copenhagen2

Copentraffic Today

Cross Section of Copenhageners

27 March 2010

Art and Bicycles

I was at the launch of a rathing exciting concept last weekend. Theory & Practice was established in Moscow and involves arranging lecture evenings and events aimed at injecting intellectual stimulation into society. They're expanding into other countries and last Saturday Theory & Practice Copenhagen launched. One speaker was invited, an artist, and he invited three others. A great evening that pulled a full house in on a Saturday night.

ANYWAY... the first speaker was explaining the inspiration for his art and several works/artists who inspire him showed up on the screen. A number of them were bicycle-related. I'm probably the last bicycle blog to cover this subject, but hey.

Above, the famous Picasso work, Tête de Taureau from 1947.

Then there was Simon Starling's work with the not-so handy title, "A Charles Eames ‘Aluminium Group’ chair remade using the metal from a ‘Marin Sausalito’ bicycle / A ‘Marin Sausalito’ bicycle remade using the metal from a Charles Eames ‘Aluminium Group’ chair" from 1997.

Here's the Danish artist Morten Steen Hebsgaard's work "Ladder Bike - Made in China/Remade in Denmark".

And finally, Willem de Kooning's "Woman and Bicycle" from 1952/53.

26 March 2010

Copenhagenize to Prague and Brno, Czech Republic

Praha Traffic
I have a few lectures lined up in April, among them two trips to the Czech Republic. The first is a seminar in Brno on April 7th, 2010.

"The Seminar should support the cycling and walking transportation as an equal and integrated part of the transportation system and as a suitable way of transport to work. Top experts will introduce examples of good architectonical and transportation solutions of cycling transportation in Denmark, and compare the development in the Czech Republic."

Lars Gemzøe from Gehl Architects will be speaking there, too, which is brilliant.

Later in the month, on 21 April, 2010, there will be a Czech national cycling conference in Prague - Cyklokonference - and I'll be showing up like a stray cat there, too.

Vienna Question!
When travelling to Brno I fly to Vienna. Any readers have good tips on how to kill five hours in the city? Details, please. And hotspots for Cycle Chic photography, too.
Thanks in advance.

Czech Cycle Chic via Copenhagen

25 March 2010

Police Steal Bicycles

Bike Racks and Wrecks
A normal project to remove unused bicycles from outside the train station in the town of Slagelse went awry. The police 'nicked' a whole bunch of bikes.

Like in many countries, bikes are taped around the wheel and, on the announced day of clearing up unused bikes, any bike with unbroken tape is removed. Alternatively, a tag is placed on the bicycle which the owner removes if it is in use.

In Slagelse, however, it went a bit wrong and many bicycles that were still in use were removed by the police.

One man who discovered his bicycle was gone called his insurance company and informed them that his bike was taken but he knew who took it. The insurance company said that the bicycle wasn't stolen if the police took it.

Normally, everything would end happily, since the city keeps the bikes in storage for some weeks before they're either destroyed or sold at auctions. This time, however, the bikes were driven straight to the landfill.

The problem of responsibility remains. Danish State Railways and Slagelse city agree that the police officer on the scene who decided which bikes were to be removed is responsible.

400,000 bicycles are scrapped each year in Denmark. Plus a few extra this year in Slagelse.

Via: Ekstra Bladet

How Uninspiring - E-bike Race

Ladies and Gentleman, I give you:

The most uninspiring cycling promotional video of all time

It was Todd from Green Idea Factory who dubbed it thus, and I wholeheartedly agree. A group of MEPs [Members of the European Parliament] and EU Commissioners took part in an "E-bike race".

E-bikes have already been dubbed "Lazy Bikes" and associating themselves with MEPs and EU Comms in a 'race' is probably not the ideal way to sell their product.

I would how many people threw their bicycles into the nearest canal and headed for a car dealership after viewing this? :-) Are the modern Lazy Bikes the New Segways?

There was a craze in Denmark and other European countries after the Second World War involving putting small motors on bicycles. They were promptly called "røvskubbere" or "ass pushers". I've already heard this phrase applied to e-bikes.

Having cycled in a host of cities around the world with varying topography, including the topographically overrated San Francisco last October, I personally can't see the point, unless you're elderly. But that's just me.

Has anyone calculated the environment impact of an explosion in the number of batteries on these bikes? It's optimistic to think that every single one will be disposed of in a responsible manner, just as it's optimistic to think that none will end up in canals, lakes or landfills.

However, if you feel the need to acquire one, at least get one that has some style and elegance and that is free of 'dorkness' or 'geekacity':

Velorbis' new Elechic, for example.

24 March 2010

Berlin Rubble & Hamburg Glacier

I usually let others do the fine and noble work of recording crappy bicycle infrastructure for posterity but here's an exception. A friend of mine, Claus, was in Berlin not long ago and he just couldn't help taking these photos of the bike lane he was riding on.

Berlin uses gravel when it's snowy and icy, apparently. The snow and ice were gone but the gravel remained. It was, by all accounts, a nightmare to cycle on.

What gets me is that the road, to the left, is completely clear of gravel. Nary a pebble to be seen. What on earth stopped the street sweeper from swerving a bit to the right?

Now this design of bike lane, running behind parked cars, is NOT recommended - it's actually quite bizarre to see this kind - but with the bike lane's proximity to the street you'd think the gravel would be removed.

This is Berlin. They boast 10%+ modal share [although only in the summer, even though they have the same climate as Copenhagen]. This city should know better.

To Claus' amusement, he found a shell in the rubble that was the bike lane surface.

Which reminded me of this photo, sent by reader Viry in Hamburg a while back. The bike lanes had disappeared and were forgotten until the spring thaw. Fair enough, this winter was harsh and funding was stretched for snow removal, but again... this Hamburg... they should know better, stuck in the middle between Holland and Denmark.

23 March 2010

Down With "Avid Cyclists"

Red Light Moments
This is an article by a Guest Writer, invited to post here on Copenhagenize.com. Michael Druker has a great blog entitled Psystenance - Sustainability through the mind's eye and he wrote this article a few days ago. I fancied inviting him to allow me to post it here, and he kindly obliged.

Down With "Avid Cyclists"
As if it wasn’t enough that we scare people away from cycling with our exclusively car-oriented infrastructure and even a socially constructed fear of cycling, we also do it by marginalizing cycling as something done only by the kind of people who cycle. Make a mental count of how often you’ve seen news reports or commentary refer to “avid cyclists”, and the number of times you might have used this term yourself.

Banish “avid cyclist” from your vocabulary. Self-marginalizing language like this is why we can’t have nice infrastructure.

By using and condoning the use of this term, we help reinforce our tendency to neglect the impact of the situation and over-attribute behavior to characteristics of the person. In other words, labelling those who willingly cycle as “avid cyclists” is a way of setting aside the difficult and interesting problem of how to make our cities conducive to cycling — in favor of the easy story of cycling as something “other”, as something done by people who aren’t normal. Why bother making the city a better place to cycle if the only people who will do it are the ones who are already cyclists? Why waste city money on them?

Note the division into us (normal people) and them (avid cyclists). Never the twain shall meet. Is that true? No, it is not.

I claim that in most North American cities, while you will find many people riding a bicycle for utility/transportation, most people who cycle are hardly avid. Do they cycle in the dark? Do they always cycle on the road? Do they cycle in any part of the city? At any time of year? The answers are an emphatic no. And the reason is that the majority are cycling when the situation makes it easy and attractive for the person who considers the possibility. Avid cyclists should be resilient cyclists, but actual North American cyclists are fickle. With their recreational bikes and the poor infrastructure they have access to, they are fair-weather, back-roads cyclists.

Some places seem so far into the motor kingdom that cycling as transportation appears patently absurd to many. Thus, to brave the unfriendly conditions, cyclists must be avid — doing it as a sport, as exercise, to prove a point. Yet this describes fewer places than you think. I know it absolutely doesn’t describe Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, however “avid cyclist” still seems to be the mindset here.

There is a poignant irony in the number of obituaries a search for “avid cyclist” turns up. If instead of marginalizing cycling, we facilitate it through infrastructure and encourage regular people to ride, fewer people will die on the roads and those who cycle will be healthier for doing so. We need to free cycling from the shackles of recreation. We need to get utility bicycles into our bike stores. And instead of the conversation being about cyclists, we need to make it about regular people taking advantage of the two-wheel mobility available to them — because it is effective and enjoyable.

22 March 2010

Bike Infrastructure Building Boom in Denmark

Photo: Joan Karlsen/jv.dk

Pretty much everywhere you go in the countryside there are dedicated bicycle lanes running parallel to the roads, enabling cyclists to ride from town to town with the same accessibility as motorists.

There are, however, black spots on the map that lack high-quality separated infrastructure. The national government's financial boost for bicycles from last year [launched on my birthday, actually] has now transformed into projects that are actually being built. 1 billion kroner [$200 million] was offered up for bicycle projects and it resulted in a storm of applications from towns, cities and orgs wanting funds for a variety of things.

Above is a bicycle lane being built between two towns in Jutland. The article from the provincial newspaper jv.dk is about how it ended up being 800,000 kroner [$160,000] cheaper because the costs for archeological digs was less than planned and lower labour costs than expected. It's part of a 5 or 6 km stretch connecting two towns, Brørup and Foldingbro.

There's a link on the page of the article to a related article about another bike track being built. By all accounts there is massive investment in bicycle infrastructure all across Denmark.

I posted last October about a call for building bicycle infrastructure to aid growth in times of financial instablity and in February 2010 the Danish minister of Finance encouraged Danes to buy bicycles as a boost to the economy for the same reasons.

Bad times for global finances. Massive good times for bicycle infrastructure in Denmark.

Bicycle Sales

Reforma Sunday Cycling Sales
We're used to selling stuff from cargo bikes in Copenhagen but this is such a lovely shot from Mexico City. A man selling wares from the back of a bicycle.

21 March 2010


Here's a bit of bikevertising in Copenhagen. It's an advert for a company that leases stuff like tv's, computers, appliances, etc. The text reads:

"Call 8x8 unless you can fit 42 inches in your bicycle basket!" Speaking the language of the market in which the company operates. The funny this is that I'll bet many people who read the ad did the same thing as I did... actually working out in my head if I could, in fact fit a 42 inch flatscreen in a bicycle basket. At the end of the day it would probably be a bit tricky. But that's what cargo bikes are for...

Nike Bullitt
Speaking of which, this shop has a Bullitt from Larry vs Harry. They sell running gear and they designed a custom box for the bike, shaped like two Nike shoeboxes stacked on top of each other. Instantly recognizable on the streets. Great branding for the company.

20 March 2010

Fewer Cars Means Fewer Traffic Fatalities

Driving can seriously harm you and others around you
February 2010 was a banner month for traffic fatalities in Denmark. 'Only' 13 people died in traffic accidents in February. The record low for a month is 12, back in January 2006. February 2009 saw 22 deaths.

The reason is the hard winter and the countless snowstorms we've had in this country. Fewer people ventured out onto the streets in their cars, opting instead for other transport forms. And traffic moved slower because of the conditions.

This little bit of news was splashed around the media here. It's good news, absolutely.

I just continued to be fascinated that no one mentions two very simple observations.

1. Fewer cars on the roads equals fewer traffic fatalities.
2. Slower moving cars on the roads equals fewer traffic fatalities.

This logic just doesn't register in the media or the Road Safety Council. Ignoring the sacred bull in society's china shop thrives even here in Denmark.

No one is saying, "Hey! Why can't we have fewer fatalities ALL YEAR?! Now we know how!"

There is no talk of reducing speed limits and implementing 30 km/h zones in our cities, despite scores of European cities having done it or planning to do it. There are shockingly few campaigns to get people to choose other transport forms in their daily lives. Instead the 'authorities' choose the cheap bubble-wrap approach to traffic 'safety'.

The national goal is reducing the number of traffic fatalities to a magic number of 200 per year. At the moment it's around 400 on average. This will never happen unless we start selling cycling and public transport positively and start taming the bull.

But we are gripped by The Culture of Fear and we're loving it. Lapping it up.

Here's a re-post of what slow-moving traffic looks like outside my window. If only it were every day.

18 March 2010

Sit Up Straight, Sydney

Here's a cartoon that accompanied an article in the Sydney Morning Herald:

"Sydney will never be a bicycle-friendly city until it develops a ''second cycling culture'' which encourages relaxed European-style riding without the compulsory use of helmets, experts have warned."

John Pucher does most of the talking in the interview but renowned documentarist turned cycling blogger Mike Rubbo is quoted as well.

It's an interesting angle in the article. Mr Rubbo has gotten hold of the upright bike angle in order to differentiate what I call Citizen Cyclists from sports enthusiasts. Indeed, his blog is named Sit-Up Cycle.

In every city on the planet where cycling is mainstream transport, the majority of the people you see resemble the chap on the right, and on bikes like that. Hilly cities, flat cities, cold cities, hot cities, established bicycle-friendly cities and developing bicycle-friendly cities.

Using this bicycle design angle is fresh. It is, after all, the most popular bicycle design on the planet. Should we guess by 10 to 1? It's worked for more than a century in every country and across every topography.

The sports bike manufacturers have had free reign regarding marketing for a few decades in many countries. They may have encouraged a few people to join cycling clubs, take up recreational cycling on the weekends and maybe even inspired some cycle sport stars who we love to watch in Le Tour or the Giro. Great but hardly mainstream. Hardly re-democratizing the bicycle and re-establishing it as transport in any great numbers.

So why not focus on bicycle design in order to sell urban cycling to the masses? Upright bikes may be exotic to many in countries like Australia now, but they used to be a main feature on the urban landscape. Maybe it's time to let the 'other' bike brands have a go. The Batavus', Velorbis', Pashley's, et al. Let a whole new demographic realise that they don't have to invest in space age bicycles and all the gear. Tell them, "Um... you don't actually have to look like a 'cyclist' to ride a bike..." And pssst... it's safer sitting upright...

They couldn't do worse for selling cycling than decades of sports branding. I'll bet they'll get a lot further, a lot quicker. The results will be brilliant for society. The sports industry won't give up without a fight, of course, but a little competition never hurt. We're talking about a 'second cycling culture' after all, not a replacement cycling culture.

Although judging by many of the comments under the article, there is an uphill battle. Then again, it's the City That Hates Bikes...

Copenhagen Mix - Links from around the world


My Bike Number is a free registration service where you print out a QR code and stick it on your bicycle. Link from An Affair With Fashion.

The City That Hates Bikes. Link from Reuben.

And this article Safety Experts Urge Cyclists to Sit Up and Take Notice. Sydney will never be a bicycle-friendly city until it develops a ''second cycling culture'' which encourages relaxed European-style riding without the compulsory use of helmets, experts have warned.

Hackney, London is A Cycling Hell according to Crap Waltham Forest in this post called Crap Cycling and Walking in Hackney. Oft heralded as London's bicycling mecca, there's little bicycle infrastructure to speak of and that's a problem (surprise, surprise).

Green Lights for Bikes - Providing for bike riders at traffic signals. From Bicycle Victoria.

The Bristol Bike Project is a short documentary about a bike recycling workshop on City Road in Bristol. If you know of anyone with an old or unwanted bicycle then you could consider contacting The Bike Project at www.thebristolbikeproject.org

What's Stopping Women From Cycling. Link from Mark at I Bike London.

Here's a BBC clip about the pedi-cabs in Phnom Penh. Link from Ed.

A blogpost with cool photos about Scientists on Bikes.

San Francisco
Cycle Tracks - Smartphone app from San Francisco. Link from Greg.

Contraflow lanes for cyclists being considered by council in Dublin, says Padhraig.

New York
Biking the Big Apple by James from The Urban Country.

Share the Road Green Paper in Canada. Link from Autumn.

First our Toronto bike sharing program comes under fire and now we learn that the police are "powerless" to enforce no parking in bike lanes. Link from Duncan.

17 March 2010

Designing Streets in Northern Climate Cities

Danish architecture/urban planning firm Gehl Architects were at a conference in Montréal last month, at the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre. Here's a webcast of the presentations from the Gehl Architects chap, Kristian S. Villadsen.

All about Designing Streets as Public Spaces in Northern Climate Cities. Brilliant stuff.

If the embed code doesn't work the link to the webcast is right here.

15 March 2010

The end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized

This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.

Read that again...

This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.

Who said THAT?

None other than United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in this blogpost.

Here he is addressing the National Bike Summit.

Talking the talk but goodness me the talk is appealing and rather visionary.

- Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
- Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
- Go beyond minimum design standards.
- Collect data on walking and biking trips.
- Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.
- Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal)
- Improve non-motorized facilities during maintenance projects.

What an attractive list.

Thanks to Jeff from League of American Bicyclists for the link.

A sea change for bicycle policy in America indeed.

The Joy of Bicycles in Mexico City

Reforma Sunday Angel
After my recent visit to México City I am left with a myriad of impressions from all the different events. I'll get to blogging about them but sitting here wondering where to start there is one thing that keeps elbowing itself to the forefront of my mind.

Joy. The joy of cycling.

Each Sunday, the massive Reforma boulevard in the heart of the city is closed off to cars until 14:00. The citizens of the city take to Reforma to... go for a bike ride.

I've been on bike rides in many cities over the past couple of years but for some reason the experience in Mexico City last week was simplified and yet poignant. When riding in the very inspiring Critical Mass in Budapest you are actutely aware that there is a purpose overshadowing the simple art of going for a bike ride. There is politics and societal change on a big ol' soapbox. Which is great, sure, but in Mexico City it was just... a bike ride.

Thousands of people enjoying the simple joy of cycling. Not out to prove anything, not intent on being seen and keen to show off their 'gear' or what have you. Just families, friends, couples riding up and down the boulevard.

I can't actually remember experiencing this sensation before on my copenhagenize travels. Perhaps the bike ride in La Rochelle, France comes close, but it is still far off the mark.

Reforma Sunday Smile
This smile from one of four young friends on funky bicycles says it all. Summed up right there.

Reforma Sunday Family Reforma Sunday Crowd_1
Reforma Sunday Father Daughte Reforma Sunday Family Crowd
The number of families, large and small, was amazing. So many kids, too. Reforma has a the smoothest, newest asphalt surface so it was wonderful to ride on.

The idea stems from Bogotá, where these closed off streets have been happening for a few years. It's a brilliant idea and a great step on the way to reestablishing the bicycle on the urban landscape. I have heard, however, that the police in Bogotá are now confiscating bicycles from people who don't wear a helmet. [No reports of car confiscations for automotive traffic violations]. So thanks, Bogotá, for the previous inspiration. Hope you enjoyed your stay in the urban cycling spotlight. Shame you have to go.

Reforma Sunday Piggyback Reforma Sunday Father and Daughter 2
Here's my friend Peter handing out a flyer for the Dreams on Wheels exhibition to a father and daughter. And, on the right, a dad on a Kickbike giving his daughter a push.

The street is closed to traffic but there are a couple of massive roundabouts where we had to stop for cross traffic. I'm guessing we had a stretch of about 4 km to ride on, not including the traffic calmed old town up near Zocalo. Eight lanes of take-it-easy and enjoy-the-ride goodness in the splendid Mexican sun. Far from any destructive and virtually pornographic obsession with safety.

Reforma Sunday Pink Trike Reforma Sunday Trike
I loved seeing the great numbers of kids on trikes or bikes with training wheels out with their mums and dads.
Reforma Sunday Chopper Heaven
Bicycle-wise, there was the wildest collection of bikes to be seen. Old cruisers, chunky mountain bikes, Chinese workhorse bikes, you name it. And, like above, an astonishing number of retro-chopper bikes, like right out of my childhood. Unbelievable.

Reforma Sunday I Bike CPH
And the ever-present I Bike CPH t-shirt.
Reforma Sunday Dog
And dogs in baskets.
Reforma Sunday Standing Room
And the occasional new bike from Mexico City's recently launched Ecobici bike share programme.

Ah. The simple joy of going for a bike ride.