30 April 2010

Mexico City Repeals Bike Helmet Law

Reforma Sunday Family Crowd
When it rains, it pours. A little while ago I blogged about how there appears to be a growing resistance against bike helmet laws around the world. Then I got word from my network of a couple more developments.

Mexico City repealed their bike helmet law back in February 2010.

Let's face it, it wasn't much of a law since there was little enforcement and it was, essentially, unenforceable. Back in 2008 there was a bicycle count including over 26,000 cyclists and 93% of them didn't feel the need to wear a helmet.

The main reason for the push to repeal the helmet law was the upcoming implementation of the city's bike share system, Ecobici.

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy [ITDP] were instrumental in getting the law repealed but there was also support from within the city government.

Back in December I blogged about how the helmet law in Israel was up for repeal, as well. From what I've heard the lobbying was successful and adults are no longer forced to wear helmets. Any more info on this is appreciated.

Basically, the helmet law in both places stood in the way of bike sharing programmes that would serve to encourage more people to cycle. Programmes which have been successful in achieving this goal in Paris and Lyon and 24 other French cities, as well as Barcelona and Seville and other Catalonian/Spanish cities and many places around the world.

The Australian Helmet Hurdle regarding bike share programmes is well-known. Nevertheless, there are still crazy ideas floating around in that country like making cheap helmets available at corner shops so that if you spontaneously want to grab a public bike for a short trip somewhere, you'll have to first piss all over that spontaneity and go into a shop to buy a cheap helmet.

In short... Got a helmet law? Don't bother with bike share programmes until you repeal it.

Reforma Sunday Quatro Amigas

Cop Doing the Right Thing

Naughty Motorist
Spotted outside my flat. A motorcycle cop ticketing a motorist for something. All while a Copenhagener cycles gracefully past.

29 April 2010

Russian President on Copenhagen Bicycle Culture

Moscow Cycle Chic
Moscow Cyclist - from the Moscow Cycle Chic photo set.

The Russian president Medvedev has just wrapped up a state visit to Denmark. During the back slapping/see-we're-best-of-friends press conference about all matter of stuff, a Russian journalist asked a question that caused both the Danish PM and the Russian president to smile.

The woman asked PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen about the many cyclists in Copenhagen, "How hard was it, from an investment perspective, to make Copenhagen a bicycle-friendly city?"

She then asked Medvedev what his opinion was about the bicycle as transport, as she was puzzled by seeing so few cyclists on the streets of St. Petersborg.

The PM gave all the credit to the City of Copenhagen for the high level of cycling in the city and underlined that it was an effort that has taken several years.

"But basically, it is the public's demand for bicycle infrastructure that makes it happen. Danes want to cycle and that puts pressure on cities to make it happen", said Lars Løkke Rasmussen.

He added that he had spent his summer holidays last year to cycle from Denmark to Paris and that he noticed that "the Danish bicycle infrastructure is superior to anything you'll find in the rest of Europe." [Ed: Feel free to rip THAT one apart, my fine Dutch friends, with my support. Because it's quite a silly comment... perhaps he didn't ride through the Netherlands.]

Medvedev answered that he was a big supporter of cycling and he told the story of the time he saw the prime minister in another country arrive at a meeting by bicycle. It impressed him.

"It's correct that Russia isn't very advanced regarding bicycle culture. We have another transport culture. We need bike lanes but the motorists don't always behave as we would like them to. Many motorists don't understand what a cyclist is doing on the road. I would like to see more bicycle lanes in St. Petersborg", he said and added that Russia had a lot to learn from Denmark.

Moscow Zebra Crossing
Urban Immobility in Moscow.

Via: JP.dk. Thanks to Rasmus for the link.

The Green Machine, by Iain Boal - All 5 Episodes

I blogged episode one a few days ago, and here's the complete set of episodes for your internet convenience. I recommend watching them all. Fascinating stuff.

All together they are about 1 hour in length, divided into five segments.












I had the pleasure of attending - and filming - a brilliant lecture by one of the planet's foremost bicycle historians, Iain Boal. Everytime I am in his company I learn outrageous amounts about the history of the bicycle. He was invited by Copenhagen Museum in conjunction with their current exhibition Copenhagen by Bicycle. His lecture was based on a lifetime of research and thought but also in his new book, out this fall (2010) called The Green Machine - A Brief, illustrated history of the bicycle in a planetary perspective.

As Iain says at the beginning of episode one:
"The real history of the bicycle is more interesting than the mythification. Frankly, things are too serious. We have to have a grown-up history of cycling and of the bicycle. I'm going to upset some purists, but that's okay. I've upset myself."

THE GREEN MACHINE : A BRIEF, ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE BICYCLE IN PLANETARY PERSPECTIVE
Iain Boal will present a new illustrated history of cycling, one designed for the 21st century and its interwoven crises. Drawing upon the artifacts of cycling history currently on display in the City Museum of Copenhagen, Professor Boal will trace the heterogeneous origins of the bicycle, busting some Eurocentric myths along the way. It is a fresh story that celebrates the bicycle's freewheeling sociability and the part that human-powered mobility must play in the human settlements of the future, but refuses to be blind any longer to the bicycle's entanglement with capitalist modernity's brutal labor process or its complicity with the automobilism that has paved the planet, rendered cities unconvivial, and now threatens the biosphere itself.

Iain Boal is an Irish social historian, resident in California since 1985. He is associated with Retort, a group of writers, artisans and artists based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is affiliated with the Geography Department and the Institute of International Studies at UC Berkeley, and the Community Studies Department at UC Santa Cruz. In 2005/6 he was a Guggenheim Fellow in Science and Technology. He co-edited Resisting the Virtual Life: The Culture and Politics of Information, City Lights Press,1995, and was one of the authors of Retort's Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War (Verso, 2006). The Green Machine will be published by Notting Hill Editions, London, in the fall of 2010.

Lock, Stock and Barcelona

Barcelona Street Installation and Protest
During my stay in Barcelona recently I walked past this clothing rack securely locked to a lamppost. My friend Txell told me the story.

Locking your bicycle to benches, lampposts, railings, etc is not allowed in Barcelona. One chap who had his bicycle lock cut and his ride removed by the city couldn't be bothered to pay the €60 fee to get his bicycle back.

Instead, he invested the money in a whole bunch of locks and promptly proceeded to lock all manner of objects to lampposts and railings all around town. This clothing rack is one of the lesser impressive objects. Txell has seen a sofa locked up and a microwave oven, too.

This humble protest action has become street art installation and it still continues. Brilliant.

28 April 2010

Budapest Critical Mass 2010


What a brilliant little film from this spring's Critical Mass in Budapest.

27 April 2010

The Green Machine by Iain Boal - Part 1 of 5


I had the pleasure of attending - and filming - a brilliant lecture by one of the planet's foremost bicycle historians, Iain Boal. Everytime I am in his company I learn outrageous amounts about the history of the bicycle. He was invited by Copenhagen Museum in conjunction with their current exhibition Copenhagen by Bicycle. His lecture was based on a lifetime of research and thought but also in his new book, out this fall (2010) called The Green Machine - A Brief, illustrated history of the bicycle in a planetary perspective.

As Iain says at the beginning of episode one:
"The real history of the bicycle is more interesting than the mythification. Frankly, things are too serious. We have to have a grown-up history of cycling and of the bicycle. I'm going to upset some purists, but that's okay. I've upset myself."

In episode 1 Iain discusses the origins of the bicycle, starting with the Draisine, invented by the Keeper of the Forests at Mannheim, Carl von Drais. He explains that von Drais' tinkering was far from a coincedence. The invention of the bicycle was an direct result of the eruption of Mount Tambura in what is now Indonesia. The global effects of the eruption caused The Year Without a Summer and massive crop failure all around the world, including Europe. The price of oats skyrocketed and, consequently, so did the price of keeping horses. There was, in short, an energy crisis and Von Drais was forced by necessity to seek alternative transport forms.

He highlights the history - and myths - surrounding the next milestone, Kirkpatrick Macmillan's Scottish bicycle from 1839 and continues on to the modern mythology surrounding the emergence of the mountain bike in the 1970's. Along the way he firmly trashes the fraud still thriving today that Da Vinci invented the first bicycle.

This is Part 01 of 05.

THE GREEN MACHINE : A BRIEF, ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE BICYCLE IN PLANETARY PERSPECTIVE
Iain Boal will present a new illustrated history of cycling, one designed for the 21st century and its interwoven crises. Drawing upon the artifacts of cycling history currently on display in the City Museum of Copenhagen, Professor Boal will trace the heterogeneous origins of the bicycle, busting some Eurocentric myths along the way. It is a fresh story that celebrates the bicycle's freewheeling sociability and the part that human-powered mobility must play in the human settlements of the future, but refuses to be blind any longer to the bicycle's entanglement with capitalist modernity's brutal labor process or its complicity with the automobilism that has paved the planet, rendered cities unconvivial, and now threatens the biosphere itself.

Iain Boal is an Irish social historian, resident in California since 1985. He is associated with Retort, a group of writers, artisans and artists based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is affiliated with the Geography Department and the Institute of International Studies at UC Berkeley, and the Community Studies Department at UC Santa Cruz. In 2005/6 he was a Guggenheim Fellow in Science and Technology. He co-edited Resisting the Virtual Life: The Culture and Politics of Information, City Lights Press,1995, and was one of the authors of Retort's Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War (Verso, 2006). The Green Machine will be published by Notting Hill Editions, London, in the fall of 2010.

Kobra Bicycles


Swedish National Television [SVT] has a cool programme called Kobra and they placed their focus on the bicycle in an episode entitled "Will the bicycle outcompete the car?"

The entire episode is available for viewing online right here. It's available online until 15 June, 2010.

Now, it's in Swedish, not surprisingly, but three of the four interviews are in English. There is a great bit about Camille J. McMillan, cycle racing photographer on the job in Belgium, an interview with David Byrne and a short bit with me. A telephone interview as I was unfortunately not available when they were filming in Copenhagen. Then there's a bit in Svenorsk, I think, about Gehl Architects work in Mexico City.

Growing Resistance to Helmet Laws?

Do I dare say that there is a growing resistance to helmet laws? It would seem so. There is more media attention of late on the subject.

And then there's this quote:
"We are the safest and healthiest human beings who ever lived, and yet irrational fear is growing, with deadly consequences — such as the 1,595 Americans killed when they made the mistake of switching from planes to cars after September 11. In part, this irrationality is caused by those — politicians, activists, and the media — who promote fear for their own gain."
Dan Gardner, Canadian author of "Risk"

Here's a few bits and pieces from around the world:

English Bay: Loggishness
Here's an article from MetroNews in Vancouver.
Nanny-state helmet law may hurt cycling - by Derek Moscato - 26 April 2010
Brad Kilburn can’t be thrilled to be an outlaw in British Columbia. But the avid cyclist has become exactly that since last year.

Kilburn, you see, no longer wears a helmet while riding his bike. The Richmond resident, who has commuted to work by bicycle for the last 26 years, has come to the realization that mandatory helmet laws are actually bad for cyclists and Metro Vancouver’s cycling environment.

“It’s too bad well-intentioned individuals have harmed cycling advocacy by forcing riders to wear helmets,” he told me. Kilburn also maintains the same law is hampering Vancouver’s attempt to set up a bike sharing program.

He’s not alone in his assessment of helmet laws as more hindrance than help. In 2007, Saskatoon’s city council rejected a bylaw that would require bikers to wear helmets. One councillor wisely cited Canada’s obesity epidemic as a reason to distance the city from punitive measures that would discourage folks to get on a two-wheeler.

This is not to say that cyclists shouldn’t wear helmets. Most should — especially children, and those who ride in heavy traffic. But forcing riders to wear head protection in every circumstance has had the effect of killing any spontaneity and enjoyment from cycling.

Not only do helmets give some riders a false sense of security, they also send a message to motorists that cyclists are somehow better protected — and less vulnerable — in the case of a collision.

Sadly, the law is symptomatic of the nanny-state mentality that is so pervasive today.

Last September, Colin Clarke, a bike safety expert and former coach with the British Cycling Federation, published a detailed report entitled “Evaluating bicycle helmet use and legislation in Canada.”

According to his report, “helmet law effects in Canada appear to have resulted in the public being fined, subject to police involvement, loss of cycling health benefits and a reduction in civil liberties, as well as additional accidents and longer hospital stays for head injury.”

Canada, his research concludes, should emulate the cycling culture of the Netherlands, where helmet laws are unnecessary because of “good cycling facilities or wide on-road cycle lanes that avoid high speed and heavy vehicle traffic.”

Sadly, the sensibility that exists in Holland and even Saskatoon has yet to prevail in B.C. And that means cyclists like Kilburn will have to continue riding on the wrong side of the local law.


Derek previously wrote an article about how the province's helmet laws were a hindrance to Vancouver's plans for a bike share system.


Meanwhile, Down Under, Sue Abbott continues to push for, at the very least, a debate about Australia's restrictive helmet laws. Here she is with her MLA George Souris in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, with a copy of the European Cyclists Federation campaign brochure "Ask me why I cycle without a helmet".

Sue, you may recall, was ticketed for riding without a helmet and decided to fight the ticket. The first judge ruled against her, but when she took it to the next judicial level, the judge quashed her conviction. While the appeal was dimissed, she is no longer a criminal, doesn't have to pay the fine and her unexpected half-victory is important.

I first blogged about Sue here, then here, then here.

BoyBikeSummer
Cycling at the summer house in Sweden.

Meanwhile, back in Europe, a Swedish politician, MP Camilla Lindberg has proposed a motion to the Swedish parliament - Riksdagen - for repealing that country's child helmet laws on moral grounds. A bold and brave move as well as a necessary one in The Age of Obesity.
Thanks to Erik from Ecoprofile for the Swedish link.

26 April 2010

Beyond Bike Lanes

This just in from UTNE Reader

Beyond Bike Lanes
Despite a recent boom in the number of U.S. bicyclists, fewer than 1 percent of us regularly bike to work. According to the January 2010 Governing magazine, a number of city planners see that statistic as evidence “that some more radical bicycling strategies are in order.”

“It’s time to think beyond bike lanes, [the planners] say, and start using bike-only traffic signals, traffic-protected ‘cycle-tracks,’ and other street designs that are common in European cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where up to 40 percent of all trips are made on two wheels.”

Obstacles to achieving this sort of Scandinavian efficiency include red tape, legal concerns, and wariness about departing from the bible of urban street design, the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which has been slow to adopt bike-friendly designs.

The good news is that forward thinkers at the National Association of City Transportation Officials, representing more than a dozen major cities, have banded together to launch Cities for Cycling, an information clearinghouse that allows municipalities to experiment with nonstandard designs and share best practices. Portland, Oregon, is already forging ahead with bike boxes, marked areas at intersections that allow bikes to wait at red lights in front of cars.

24 April 2010

Eco2 Bikes - Greenwashing the Bicycle

Eco2bikes bicycle bike danish
I hadn't really thought about the concept of greenwashing... bicycles... before. Wifealiciousness showed me a Danish bicycle in a fashion magazine - Eurowoman. One I had never heard of before. The text - short and sweet like most captions in fashion magazines [to be read inbetween sips of café lattes] - read, "A bicycle doesn't pollute and while you pedal you get fit. Danish Eco2bikes bicycles are made of aluminium, which is easy to recycle and the bicycles feature an environmentally-friendly lacquer."

Hmm, thought I. Since when did aluminium become a USP for bicycles?! And is an 'environmentally-friendly' lacquer really that vital in the race to save polar bears?

So I googled this brand and found the Eco2bikes website, looking forward to a warm and fuzzy 'Yeah! We're saving the fucking planet!' sensation of idealism.

Um... well... looking through the website I couldn't find any Golden Ratio for their design concept. I couldn't see glaciers re-freezing and un-calving. I just saw a white bicycle. Looks like most of the other bicycles since Bicycle Culture 1.0 - 130 years ago or so.

All I could vacuum up off their website was this:

We are streets ahead of our competitors when it comes to ensuring that our bicycles are eco-friendly and made of recyclable materials. The result is an uncompromising product.
There are no details about how their bicycle are more eco-friendly than others nor any details about the recyclable materials. Maybe they are referring to the aluminium frame which is "easier" to recycle? Couldn't find info about the magical lacquer manufactured from sustainable plants grown on happy and productive eco-communes in Nicaragua, either.

Hang on... just found it. Buried on the page featuring their co2 calculator. How innovative.
"The frame of your new bicycle is made of aluminium, which is easy to melt down when it reaches the end of its useful life in many years' time. The bicycle is lacquered with water-based lacquer from a supplier certified according to ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 14001:2004. In brief: No compromises."
That's it. That's their environmentally-friendly, world-changing offer to you, the consumer.

By choosing the Eco2, you can be sure of getting the market's most environmentally friendly product in its manufacture and choice of materials. With an aluminium frame and energy-saving external gears, you will move with a lightness you have never experienced before.
So... external gears are now energy-saving? The vast majority of the Danish/Dutch population who ride with internal gears are eco-sinners/Bushites/Exxon shareholders, or what?

At this point I was already sniffing 'lame' and this is when 'greenwashing' started to trickle into my mind. I could find no reference to any ecologically-friendly design guidelines, like the OKALA from the Industrial Designers Society of America or anything near it.

If you're looking for the cheapest bike on the market, this is not the place for you. The Eco2 combines functionality, comfort and design in a unit that matches both the hectic city beat and more tranquil surroundings. Your first encounter with the Eco2 is the design - created by bike lovers. When you take hold of the handlebars for the first time, you will feel an ergonomic shaping you have never felt before. And that's how it is in every detail.
Let's be honest. Every bicycle combines functionality, comfort and design that matches the hectic city beat and more tranquil surroundings. The design? The ergonomic shaping? All I can see are green-coloured gear cables running from the handlebars into the frame and on to those planet-saving external gears.

Here's the funny bit. The price. In the Eurowoman article it's listed at 7995 kroner.

That's $1600. €1050. Seriously.

If you're going to sell a bicycle for that price, at the very least do something spectacular with the design. You're Danish, for god's sake. This is DesignLand. Hell, just something new and interesting. Like Ri'saikl, Biomega, Retrovelo, Larry vs Harry. If white bicycles are your nasty thang, then how about Strömmen?

As it is now, the Eco2 bikes just look like every other white city bike on the market in Denmark, among them:

Except for the green gear cables, of course. Above you have a:
- Taarnby white city bike with a RRP of 4199 kroner [$840/€560]
- Raleigh white city bike with a RRP of 5299 kroner [$1050/€700]
- MBK white city bike with a RRP of 4299 kroner [$869/€570]

Just when we have enough work to do countering the profiteers who continue to attempt to overcomplicate cycling we now have to deal with people selling bicycles like this.

I travel around the world speaking about how ramming 'health' and 'environment' down peoples throats doesn't get them onto bikes - infrastructure and taming the automobile does. Then I get home to find this.

Bicycles are, by nature, environmentally-friendly. Even the ones without the external gears and green gear cables. If you want a white bicycle, one that is medicine for the urban landscape, choose another brand and save thousands of kroner.

Portland Bike and Lane
In the midst of writing this post I remembered that I was once offered an 'eco-friendly' bicycle. It was in Portland, last October. Jay Graves from BikeGallery offered me a bike on which to ride around the city and it was a American brand. A Trek. I recall them telling me that it was 'eco-friendly' but that was in one ear and out the other. All I remember was that it was a cool ride and a nice blue colour.

So, checking out the bicycle behemoth's website I found the page about the bike I borrowed, the Belleville.

First thing I noticed was a reference to the above-mentioned OKALA guidelines. Not to mention a more detailed description of why Trek thinks their bikes are eco-delicious. They've gone to the trouble to tell me about it. As a consumer, I appreciate detail and despise used car salesman techniques.

Greenwashing the bicycle, indeed.

23 April 2010

The Draisine is Back!

Barcelona Draisine
I've seen all manner of retro stuff - retrocity, to coin a word (rhymes with velocity/atrocity)- in this booming bicycle age but how wonderful to see a new Draisine! No, no... they're not pedals, they're footrests. Carl von would be so proud.

As seen in Barcelona.

And thank Odin for the spotting, 'cause I've been wondering for ages how I'd work this next bit into a blogpost.


Photo from the IVCA website.

From June 2-6, 2010 Denmark will be hosting the 30th IVCA rally on the island of Møn! (International Veteran Cycle Association... duh)

From the website:
The Danish Vintage Bicycle Club will present an engaging programme, in which you will be able to partake of Danish cuisine. [EDITOR'S NOTE - Nobody has ever come to Denmark for the cuisine.]

You will also get a taste of the island’s past in its famous cliffs, whose interesting geological formations are mingled with the remains of prehistoric wildlife. [EDITOR'S NOTE: You'll be wanting to taste the cliffs after partaking of Danish 'cuisine']

Other highlights include:
The rally will centre at the village hall of Hjertebjerg. You can look forward to taking part in a Century ride with shorter alternative routes, a picnic ride to the cliffs of Møn, a show-and-tell event at the local school, an excursion event with sightseeing divided into groups, a costume ride to the market town of Stege followed by a gala evening, in addition to traditional events such as the AGM and the flea market. There will be a flea market for those not attending the AGM. There will also be an extra surprise for all participants; disclosed at the evening "hygge-hour".

The Nordic medieval town of Stege, dating back to the thirteenth century, has bags of atmosphere in its narrow streets, not to mention the tempting regional specialities of beer, candy, pottery, art, etc.

The dinners will be served by a local Chef who is very well-known for the traditional Danish Cuisine and has been praised several times by media as well as by the customers. The same Chef will also serve the three included lunch meals. The Danish Cuisine is known for pork, calf, ox, fish and vegetables.

After registration the opening ceremony will take place and there will be a briefing for the great event of the evening – the World Championship.

The Championship will be held in three different classes:
- Hobby Horses. Replicas are eligible for participating.
- Ordinaries before 1900.
- Ordinaries after 1900.

Online registration.

Bicycles and Bragging Rights


Thanks to our reader, Ken, for this advert from Batavus, the Dutch bike brand. He sent a link to David Hembrow's blogpost about the advert and the bestselling bikes in the Netherlands.

And David translated the throaty sounds emitting from the characters as this:

The first guy says "Hey neighbour, ESP, ABS, fog lamps, 16 inch rims and 6 gears."

The second guy says "28 inch rims, 8 gears, high power lights and computer integrated in the steering. My wife and daughter have the same."


We get our marketing priorities right in established bicycle cultures. :-)


And while in the Netherlands, the policewoman in the previous post would probably just start shooting if she saw this roll past the school in the morning.
From the always excellent photo website by Thomas Schlijper.

22 April 2010

I Fought The Law and the Law Run

My Bike is Dirty
I finally returned home late last night on yet another spooky flight from Prague with only 6 passengers, with departure from an empty apocalyptic airport in the Czech Capital, just like the airport in Brussels. Strange days.

I ended up getting one of the first flights out of Barcelona. Destination Brussels and on to Prague, where I was scheduled to speak at the first National Bicycle Conference in the Ministry of Transport, together with Jan Gehl who unfortunately couldn't make the trip from Copenhagen due to the ash-ish.

Wonderful to be home although my time in Barcelona was amazing. I was speaking at the 3rd Catalan Bicycle Congress in the city of Lleida before the ash attack forced me to take cover in a four star hotel across from the cathedral in Barcelona. Thank Odin for well-stocked mini-bars and a few thousand cafés/restaurants withing walking/cycling distance.

Barcelona stunned me. The city has gone from bicycle-non existent to bicycle metropolis in only 5 short years. It even makes Paris pale in comparison. Bicycles are everywhere, not least the Bicing bike share bicycles, on which I explored the city with friends. Txell from Barcelona Cycle Chic loaned me her card.

I'll get back to Barcelona - because I have to and you have to hear about it - in coming posts.

In the meantime, an amusing anecdote from this morning. Woke up tired but thrilled to see the kids. Presents were handed out accordingly and breakfast consumed. We hopped onto the Bullitt and headed for drop off duties at school/daycare.

There is often a police officer at the roundabout on the corner where the school is located. I've never really figured out why and have assumed that they keep an eye on the crossing guards or the cars stopping to drop off kids.
Two Kids Two Sleds Two Skates
We were a bit early and the crossing guards weren't out yet. We rolled gently around the roundabout, with Lulu-Sophia in the box and Felix straddling the crossbar, like in the above photo, which is how we prefer to ride. There is a seat attached to the crossbar, visible in the top photo, for Felix to sit on if he's tired after football practice or something.

The female police officer spotted us halfway round and I could see ants crawling into her police issue pants. We approached her and she waved us over. The first words out of her mouth had a nasal, hysterical quality.

"That is an incredibly dangerous way to ride!"


"No, it is not. (Gud er det ej, in Danish)", replied the Danish Bicycle Ambassador.

"Yes it is..."

"No. It isn't."
I replied, getting irritated.

So far, there were no legal implications involved. It was only this individual's perception of safety and rationality that differed from mine. Which really shouldn't even be part of a conversation. Keep your personal fears to yourself. Afraid of flying? Fine. Don't fly. But don't tell me that I shouldn't. And don't bloody well stand there selling your fear within earshot of my children.

Anyway, this agitated policewoman was glacing frantically around the Bullitt, looking for something to scold me about.

"And... and... he isn't allowed to ride like that!", she exclaimed, pointing to Felix.

"Of course he is. This bicycle is fitted to accomodate passengers", said I, pointing at the bicycle seat attached to the crossbar.

"He has to be strapped in!"

"No, he doesn't. He's big enough and besides, you can't strap someone onto a bike seat."

At this point I could see she was out fishing, far from dry land.

"How old is he?", she asked accusingly, trying suddenly and unsuccessfully to appear authoritative.

"I'm eight", replied Felix.

"Oh... um... oh... well... um... then he's just barely over the edge...", she stuttered, meaning over the legal age for having to be 'secured' to a bicycle as a passenger, making it sound like we were THIS CLOSE to being guilty.

She looked at Felix and said, "so you'll be riding your own bike next year", now trying to be cheerful.

"I already ride my bike", said the boy indignantly - you don't diss an eight year old Copenhagen kid by suggesting he hasn't learned to ride - and I added, "What are you talking about? This is Denmark. He's been riding on the bike lanes since he was three and a half!"

"Oh... um... well... then you get a high five..." she mumbled to Felix as she fidgited about, trying to get away. She forgot, however, to put up her hand for the high five and Felix didn't raise his. He just looked at her like she was strange. Which she was. She looked like she was about to say something else but then just turned on her heels and walked away, trying desperately to look busy and important.

Little Lulu-Sophia, in the cargo box, asked with that charming questioning tone that two year olds have, "Wha wa dat?"

"It was a casting call for Police Academy 4", I replied, even though the cinematic reference was lost on both of them. And off to school we went.

What a collossal waste of time and energy, even though it only lasted two minutes. I'm quite sick and tired of such fear-mongering based on personal emotions rather than anything else. When it comes from a police officer, who should be balanced and rational, the irritation is magnified. Perhaps because they spend their days in cars they have been rendered useless in the cause of promoting cycling positively.

When I got home I checked up on the traffic laws just to be sure. The Departmental Order of Bicycle Fittings and Equipment, which is a horrible translation of Bekendtgørelse af cyklers indretning og udstyr m.v. 1). Just to see if I was, indeed, a criminal in need of a fine and firm spanking.

Chapter 1 - Fitting
§ 1. A bicycle and trailer or sidecar must be fitted and kept in such a condition so that it can be used without danger or inconvenience. CHECK

§ 2. A bicycle must not be fitted to accommodate more than three persons. Although there can be room for one or two children under eight years - according to § 10 CHECK

Point 2. A bicycle must have a maximum of four wheels. Trailers must have a maximum of two wheels. CHECK

Point 3. The wheels must be equipped with tyres or other elasctic wheel coverings with similar qualities. UH... CHECK

Chapter 2 - Weight and Dimensions
§ 3. A bicycle must not - in either loaded or unloaded condition - have a width wider than 1 m CHECK

Point 2. On two-wheeled bicycles the handlebars must not exceed 70 cm in width. CHECK

Chapter 6 - Carrying of Passengers
§ 10. A bicycle must not carry more persons that it is intended for. Children under eight years may be brought on the bike when specially fitted seating is included. CHECK

Point 2. Specially fitted seating for children must be fitted according to the child's height and weight and the spokes must be covered. CHECK - BUT NOT REALLY APPLICABLE

Point 3. Children carried on a bicycle must be responsibly secured. CHECK - BUT NOT REALLY APPLICABLE , AS HE IS OVER 8

Point 4. Carrying child passengers must not restrict the cyclist from having complete control over the bicycle or from being able to signal. CHECK

Point 5. The cyclist must be at least 15 years old. CHECK - BY 27 YEARS

The Danish traffic laws for bicycles are at once ridiculously detailed in the rules about technical specs like reflectors, lights and size. Interestingly, there are rules about length and width of bicycles but none dicatating height - so bring on your Tall Bikes!

Generally, any fine you recieve on a number of points are completely open to interpretation by the officer. Which makes it easy to go to court if you think the fine was wrongfully issued.

Hans from Larry vs Harry has a friend who was had a fine overturned in court. He rode a long john with his daughter sitting on an upturned milk crate. She was secured by a rope. The officer was of the hysterical variety and a fine was issued along with a lecture. The judge, however, was more rational and the fine was overturned.

This entire episode was perhaps a notch more irritating as I have just returned from that most amazing cycle city Barcelona, where citizens ride freely and creatively through the streets, unhindered by obsessive and unecessary Nordic lawmaking.
Barcelona Doubling

19 April 2010

Bicycles and Airports


Saw this photo on a Danish website reporting about which airports are open or closed. Can't see which airport it is, but it's a cool shot.

Frankfurt Airport Bicycle
And whenever I'm in the dull, dreary hell that is Frankfurt Airport, at least I always see bicycles parked or being ridden around by the staff.

Volcano Victimisto part 3

i've been trying to get to prague, in order to speak at the national cycle conference on wednesday, which wasn't really feasible on a bicycle... :-)

The conference is co-hosted by the Danish embassy, so if neither me nor Jan Gehl can show up, it's kind of a shame.

turns out the Danish embassy there have a ticket for me via brussels tomorrow. IF the airport in brussels is open then. if I miss that window then it's just a question of trying to get home to Copenhagen.

I have another option which is borrowing a friend's car and driving to Prague, but then I'll have drive it back to Barca... and then I'm stuck here again.

A car rental company has a few cars left in the luxury class. I could get an Alfa Romeo Spider, cabriolet, and drive to Prague. But on top of the price to rent it, there is a one way drop-off charge of €3600 !! Money makes the world go round.

Bus companies are sending busses south to pick up Danes all over Europe. The price for a bus seat and 24 hours on the bus home? €275-300. Money makes the world go round.

Heard of a Danish family with two kids here at my hotel in Barca that bought a car. Simply bought one and drove it home.

Thanks for all the helpful and interesting comments about the bike option to get into france.

Hans from Larry vs Harry was trying to arrange a Bullitt Rescue Chain for me. He put together a list of 20 Bullitt owners all along the route from Barca to Copenhagen. Maximum distance was about 150 km between Bullitt owners all though France and northwards.

Would have been cool if I had the time to ride all the way home. Would take a month or so, but hey.

18 April 2010

Volcano Victimisto Part 2 - Still considering

Thanks so much for the the comments and help on the previous post.

It's a mad idea. I will not ride all the way to Copenhagen - that would take forever and I don't want to, to be frank.

But just to get on the road in some sense, get into France, get closer to home. Do SOMETHING. Many years ago I walked from Northern Spain to Paris with nothing but a backpack and a sleeping bag. Using rural routes and with a set of rules for the journey. THAT was the hardest 30 days of my life. Sleeping in fields, under bridges, in abandoned buildings. I'd opt for small hotels this time, with cafés along the way like the old Tour de France riders. A cognac and coffee after lunch and 'allez'.

Although adopting a "C'est la vie" attitude and taking it easy here in Barcelona is not a bad idea. I do have work to do and do want to get home to the family as quick as possible.

My main hurdle is that I am expected in Prague, to speak at the National Cycle Conference on Wednesday. That's not looking good. Jan Gehl from Gehl Architects should also be attending. No word on whether he can make it.

There are many Danes trying to arrange transport in cars from all over Europe. This might be an option, although the hotel I'm at says that there are no rental cars until Tuesday or Wednesday.

Nor busses or trains. And the French trains are still on strike, last I heard.

Alors... I could take a bike on the train to Girona and then start pedalling from there. A Lycra-free escape across the Pyranees. :-) Still working on a bike. Have a friend, Txell from Barcelona Cycle Chic, who has a touring bike. I'll be speaking to Koos from Biketech bike shop here in Barcelona later today.

IF... and this is really IF... I do this... should I do this on a Brompton, a Bullitt, a touring bike or an upright bike?

17 April 2010

The Volcano Victimisto's Stupid Idea

So. Here's the stupidest idea I've had in many years.

As a Volcano Victimisto, stuck in Barcelona, there is little chance of getting home. Staying at this four star hotel in this amazing city is quite cosy, to be honest. Like I've tweeted, it's not a bad place to be stranded.

There are no flights and no idea when we can fly. The volcano is belching a bit extra day and there are reports that there is five or six more days with ash. There are no seats on international train departures from Spain until Wednesday. Busses are booked as well and car rentals are, too.

But so here's me thinking...

If I could get to Toulouse, in south-central france, I might have a better chance of getting a train.

So. By bike? Some of you readers know about this sporty side of cycling. How many kilometres a day could I average? Sure, there's the Pyranees. And so what? They're just a stiff headwind off the Baltic Sea. I might need a couple of extra gears.

This is in no way a launch party post. I'm just toying with the idea. Chuck your sporty cycling advice into the comments to help me consider the idea.

I'll need a bike, but we'll see what we can scrounge up in Barcelona.

Hmm. I'll get another bottle of vino tinto from the minibar.

16 April 2010

Do NOT Park in the Bike Lane!!!

Mexico City Orange and Red
A bus full of Dutch exchange students were stranded in the northern Danish city of Aalborg because an angry cyclist stole the keys to their tourist bus.

The students stopped at a supermarket and their chauffeur parked illegally on the bike lane.

This irritated a local cycling citizen so much that he first scolded the Dutch angrily and then went into the bus and took the key.

"He simply takes the key out of the ignition and then disappears. So we have a bus chauffeur without any keys to a Dutch coach", said Peter Redder fra North Jutland Police.

The Dutch were able to get the bus moved and had to spend an extra night while they waited for reserve keys to be sent from the Netherlands. The Dutch admitted that it wasn't clever not to have extra keys and that they realise they shouldn't have parked in the bike lane, but they weren't too thrilled by the episode.

No, the photo above is not from Jutland, but Mexico City... sue me.
Via: P4 Nordjylland. Thanks to Kenneth for the link.

14 April 2010

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bicycle Parking

Danish Foreign Ministry
I've met the Danish ambassador to Czech Republic on two occasions and whenever he speaks about Danish bike culture he mentions the bicycle parking outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I was at a meeting there a couple of days ago and figured I'd take a photo of the massive amounts of bicycles parked there by the staff. There are also ministry bikes for the employees to use to get around town for meetings.

With English-language eyes the ministry's web address could be amusing - um.dk - 'Um...'

13 April 2010

Give Me Barcelona Tips! Quickly!

Maptastique
I leave tomorrow morning for Barcelona, invited to speak at the 3rd Bicycle Congress of Catalonia in the town of Lleida on the 15th.

But I arrive in Barcelona tomorrow and have about 5 hours before my train to Lleida. Give me tips! Bike share bikes? Easy or hard? What to see? Where to go?

Cheers!

12 April 2010

Things You Get to Do in Brno

DoW Lars Gemzoe and Mikael Colville2_7.4.2010
So. I've returned home from a lovely conference in Brno. It's Czech Republic's second largest city and capital of Moravia. Wonderful wine district, too. The Danish embassy invited me to speak at a conference put on in connection with the Dreams on Wheels exhibition that opened on the same day. There's lots of great stuff about speaking at conferences like this around the world.

One of them is that you get to ride all sorts of bicycles. In the photo, above, we nicked the Danish ambassador's Christiania bike and went for a ride. I'll get to the identity of the passenger in a moment.
Brno VIPs
You also get to stand in rows for photos, which gives it all a fancy feel. From left; Director of the Foundation Partnership Mr Miroslav Kundrata, our Secret Guest, The Danish Ambassador to Czech Republic, Ole Moseby, the Danish bicyle ambassador (small 'a'), Deputy Mayor of Brno (Traffic) Mr Martin Ander and Deputy Mayor of Brno (Culture) Mr Daniel Rychnovsky.

The Ambassador, after buying the Christiania bike, actually uses it to get around Prague when on official business. He's even ridden it up the hill for a meeting with the President of the whole damn country, dismounting in dapper style whilst all the other ambassadors got out of Audis and BMWs. Brilliant.

Brno Dreams on Wheels Ambassador
You also get to drink local sparkling wine at openings of Dreams on Wheels exhibitions while the Ambassador speaks.

Brno Lars Gemzøe Soft Cities
So this is the man in the cargo bike. Or The Man. Lars Gemzøe from Gehl Architects. He an I were both invited to speak at Brno City Hall. Me with my Four Goals for Promoting Urban Cycling lecture and Lars with his Soft Cities lecture. Brilliant stuff.

Brno Lars Gemzøe Soft Cities2
Lars has been an associate of Jan Gehl since the late sixties and he co-authored, among other publications the legendary book Life Between Buildings with Gehl. We had a smashing time. He is only marginally less legendary than the legendary Jan Gehl. What a goldmine of experience and information.
Brno-Bicycles Only 17-09
Sometimes you get to see interesting signage. There is a lot of political will, it would seem, in Brno to make the city a more bicycle-friendly place. But there is work to be done. This sign is for a pedestrian zone (apparently that car driver is excepted) and bicycles are only allowed between 17-09. Evenings and the middle of the night. Nothing wrong with pedestrian zones, but don't let cars park there and how about signage letting the cyclists know about alternative routes.
Brno LawBreakers
You also get to see funny stuff. We were a group of about 20-30 people on bicycles riding to the City Hall for the opening of the exhibition and the conference. This copper had pulled over this girl.

He saw the first bike roll past and looked up to shout at them - there wasn't any bicycle riding allowed on this street, either. Then a dozen more bicycles rolled past, including the deputy mayor and the Danish ambassador. His face was priceless.

I stopped up and asked why the girl was stopped. She said that she was walking her bike and the cop stopped because he thought the bike didn't look like her bike. He thought it looked too big for her and was basically accusing her of stealing it. It was her mother's bike - she lives in Vienna and was borrowing while at home in Brno. She didn't get a ticket but he took her name and address in case someone reported the bike stolen.

What a waste of law enforcement time and money.

But hey. A great trip and thanks to everyone who made it happen.

10 April 2010

Mainstream Cycling Surge?

Vienna Puch
How strange. Three bits of borderline rationality in the media regarding cycling within a few days of each other. Are we - dare I say it - slowly moving towards a mainstream surge?

Firstly, Peter Walker at The Guardian backs (oddly) Tory leader David Cameron in this bit about the politician cycling without a helmet.

Then Lloyd Alter at Treehugger chimes in, citing Copenhagenize in his rational volte-face.

But the pearl is a brilliant piece by Janice Turner in The Times entitled Cycling Should be Dull, Not an Extreme Sport.

Be sure to read the whole thing, but here's a lovely bit:
Because elsewhere cyclists are just that: a random cross-section of humanity. Not a Lycra-clad male vanguard pumped with aggression and self-righteousness. In Europe’s top three cycling nations — Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands — timorous old people cycle, women as often as men, children bike off unaccompanied to school. Cycling is not a moral manifesto or a carbon offset. It does not require DayGlo or £500 alloy wheels or attitude. Cycling is, as it should be, banal. Because it is safe.

The day when the cycling sub-cultures in emerging bicycle nations become 'people who cycle differently than the majority' instead of merely being 'those people who cycle' is moving closer, it seems, judging by the media over the past year or so.

Hope is ahead. How far? Dunno. But ahead.

Thanks to all the readers who sent in the links.

Iain Boal - Bicycle Historian

Iain Boel
Iain Boal is an amazing person. I met him last year here in Copenhagen where we went to visit the Copenhagen by Bike exhibition at the Copenhagen Museum. This Irishman is a bicycle historian and social historian, resident in California since 1985.

He's returning to Copenhagen to speak at the same Copenhagen Museum on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 17:00. I highly recommend stopping by if you can. It's not everyday you get to listen one of the foremost bicycle historians in the world. Indeed, when we hooked up last year, I was entranced by listening to him speak about the history of the bicycle. My brain hurt afterwards. Brilliant stuff.

He is publishing a new book - The Green Machine - in the fall of 2010 and he'll take us on a journey through some of the lesser known aspects of the bicycle's history. He also punctures some of the enduring myths along the way. We'll hear him speak about how a violent volcano eruption in Indonesia in 1815 affected the birth of the bicycle in Europe. He'll tell about how the invention and growth in poplularity of the rubber tyre for bicycles led to genocide in Congo.

Here's the brief synopsis of his upcoming book:

THE GREEN MACHINE- A BRIEF, ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE BICYCLE IN PLANETARY PERSPECTIVE
Iain Boal will present a new illustrated history of cycling, one designed for the 21st century and its interwoven crises. Drawing upon the artifacts of cycling history currently on display in the City Museum of Copenhagen, Professor Boal will trace the heterogeneous origins of the bicycle, busting some Eurocentric myths along the way.

It is a fresh story that celebrates the bicycle's freewheeling sociability and the part that human-powered mobility must play in the human settlements of the future, but refuses to be blind any longer to the bicycle's entanglement with capitalist modernity's brutal labor process or its complicity with the automobilism that has paved the planet, rendered cities unconvivial, and now threatens the biosphere itself.


Iain Boal at Museum of Copenhagen
Vesterbrogade 59
Copenhagen
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
17:00

09 April 2010

Reader's Choice

Danish Design
Thanks to everyone who voted for Copenhagenize.com's Twitter feed [@copenhagenize]on the Treehugger Best of Green list in the best bicycle twitter feed category.

Congratulations to Jonathan and the gang at Bike Portland for taking the top spot, and we're thrilled to have been the Reader's Choice. Thanks!

I'm pleased that two blogs with focus on everyday cycling took the two spots.

06 April 2010

Bicycle Medicine

Bicycle Medicine
In my lecture about Four Goals for Promoting Urban Cycling [I'm off to Brno, Czech via Vienna today] I highlight all the amazingly positive aspects about cycling and its effect on public health, pollution and society in general.

I call it A Multi-vitamin Viagra pill for the urban landscape.

I thought I'd play around with some graphic design last night and present cycling as a pharmaceutical.

05 April 2010

Go Green, Go Dutch, Go Die!

Copenhagener Going Strong
Here we have a couple of Copenhageners who are partipating in a "strenuous activity beyond the capability of some people and that may cause minor, severe and/or permanent injuries or death to people who are not in sufficient physical fitness, training and/or experience."

La Famiglia
And here we have two individuals who have "Acknowledged that some Bicycling is a test of their physical and mental limits and carries with it, regardless of physical fitness or experience, the potential for death, serious injury and property loss. They have assumed the risks of participating in Bicycling. They certify that their level of fitness is appropriate to participate in Bicycling which they are voluntarily undertaking."

What am I on about? One of our readers, Dottie, is a lawyer in Chicago and she loves urban cycling. The Dutch Embassy and Consulates in the US and Canada have a bike ride roadshow called Go Green, Go Dutch, Go Bike! wherein they promote cycling and the wonderful Dutch bicycle lifestyle. So far, so good.

Dottie thought she'd sign up for the Dutch bike ride in Chicago on May 8th, 2010, co-sponsored by the Active Transportation Alliance.

After filling in name and address and 'emergency' telephone numbers, she ended up at the Waiver and Release section which takes up two-thirds of the webpage. As Dottie wrote to Copenhagenize.com:

"I thought you might be interested in the following "waiver and release" I was required to agree to when registering for the Go Green Go Dutch Go Bike! event that the Dutch Consulate is sponsoring in various North American cities. The Chicago ride is being hosted by the Active Transportation Alliance, a bicycling and pedestrian advocacy organization, and this is their language.

I'm a lawyer, so I understand the importance of participants signing waivers, but this language seems extreme and unnecessary, not to mention ironic considering the message of the ride. Anyone who stops to read the language should be scared shitless. Also, note that we are apparently required to wear helmets, even though the ride will be on a lakefront bicycle path, completely separated from motorized traffic.

A lot of this language is legally unnecessary, especially this bit that bothers me the most - "Bicycling is a test of a person's physical and mental limits." Ridiculous. I'm hopeful that the helmet rule will not be enforced."


I've included the entire text at the end of this post. But first, here's another intense action shot of highly-trained, risk-taking persons participating in Bicycling. Taken from the 4th etape of the Tour de France last year:
What a Ride
Right... take a minute to recover from THAT intensity... okay... ready?

I wonder what the Dutch Consulate makes of all this? At a similar event in Vancouver, all the participants were clad in Roadside Garbage Collector Chic in the form of hi-viz vests. So much for celebrating the relaxed world of Citizen Cyclists in the Netherlands.
This much be, for example, how the French feel when, after a couple of centuries of exporting excellent cheeses, see 'Cheese in a Tube' in supermarkets in other countries.

"Um... excusez-moi... that's not what we meant..." Lost in translation, indeed.

It's perhaps one thing that the hotel I stayed at in Portland (yes, THAT Portland) had a hellfire and destruction waiver release for guests to sign if they wanted to borrow a bicycle. [The text is in the middle of this previous post.] I would, however, expect more from an advocacy group dedicated to cycling.

So here comes the Waiver and Release text for the Dutch Bike Ride in Chicago. Ambulances will be standing by along the route. And remember to enter to win the Gazelle bike with a top speed of about 12.4 km/h!

What you're about to read is not just a silly, unecessary legal form. It is, quite simply, the death knell for the future of urban cycling in America. Choose a song from this site to listen to whilst you read the text.

If this is the way cycling is marketed, presented to the public - both cyclists and the 'bicycle curious' - and branded - and by an advocacy group to boot, then I firmly believe there is little hope for a sea change in urban cycling.

And before the usual "you don't understand... this isn't Copendam/Amsterhagen... we don't have bike lanes and all that..." comments roll in, just let me say that a sea change IS afloat in many a country without adequate infrastructure (yet) and with a all-dominant car culture. The marketing... the marketing is right on the money. Urban cycling is being sold properly and effectively and those countries will start reaping the societal and health benefits in no time.

Waiver and Release
By clicking below, I hereby acknowledge that bicycle riding, bicycle racing and bicycling events (“Bicycling”) are strenuous activities beyond the capability of some people, and may cause minor, severe and/or permanent injuries or death to people who are not in sufficient physical fitness, training and/or experience. I have made my own determination as to whether I am able to safely participate in Bicycling. I recognize that the Active Transportation Alliance (“Active Trans”) has not evaluated my ability to participate in Bicycling. I also recognize that advice dispensed through Active Trans may not be appropriate for me, and it is my responsibility to make this determination.

I acknowledge that some Bicycling is a test of a person’s physical and mental limits and carries with it, regardless of physical fitness or experience, the potential for death, serious injury and property loss. I assume the risks of participating in Bicycling. I certify that my level of fitness is appropriate to participate in Bicycling which I am voluntarily undertaking. I certify that I have sufficiently trained or prepared for the Bicycling I am undertaking and I have not been advised against participation in such activity by a health care professional. I agree to wear an ANSI, CPSC, or SNELL approved helmet properly at all times while participating in Active Trans bicycling activities.

04 April 2010

Personal

Yellow Suddenly
Sometimes, for reasons known only to yourself, you suddenly feel the urge to paint your handlebars and rod... yellow.

See how Copenhageners personalise their bicycles over at Cycle Chic.

02 April 2010

Brits Slaughter the Postal Bicycle

Cycle Chic: The Royal Danish Post
So the Brits are ditching their bicycle postmen. Royal Mail is calling it "modernisation" and citing "safety" as the reason. Over a century of not only tradition but also role models for urban and rural mobility will soon be lost. It's just mad.

Does anyone know which company will be providing the vans to replace the bicycles? Was there lobby work at play? Wouldn't surprise me.

With a sigh of disgust I just figured I'd chuck a whole bunch of photos of postmen and women in Copenhagen doing what they've done for over a century.

Copenhagen Post Posten

Postal Service Sleetstorm

The Post Doesn't Stop Harbour Postman

Royal Danish Post Postal Worker

Postal Stylish Postal

Postal Carriers Autumn Postman

Royal Post

Cycle Chic as Danish Stamp danish stamp 2
And here's a spot of Cycle Chic on the left and a stamp celebrating Danish postal workers.