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.


burrito said...

I turn into a ridiculous fan girl whenever I get to see someone from Gehl Architects speak. I got to see Jan Gehl speak and he was both brilliant and adorable ("be sweet to the people" - best advice ever). Nice that you get to hobnob with such interesting folks!

Erik Sandblom said...

Lovely. Bicycle proliferation conference =)

Brno seems very nice, I would like to visit. I better not bring my Brompton though, the police will think I stole a child's bike =)

spip said...

Actually, it's not that bad if a cop stops someone, because he thinks that the bike was stolen ...

I do believe that this is one of his tasks, too.

Ed Scoble said...

I don't see anything wrong with the police officer stopping a cyclist because he think the bike is stolen.

I seen too many people riding an obviously stolen bicycle (and sometime paid for it), but the police are powerless to do so sadly.

Mikael said...

stopping the person is fine... but indirectly accusing them and taking their name and number is not cricket. and not a good way to promote a bicycle-friendly environment.

spip said...

It may depend on where you live, Mikael. For me, living in an area where bikes get stolen, it is appreciated.

Even more if the officer didn't get weak to the sheer number of unexpexcted cyclists passing by, still able to deal unbureaucraticly with just getting the personal data, just in case. Really, thunbs up, well handled.

Green Idea Factory said...

It would make a huge impact on the Czechs and other Central/Eastern Europeans if Central/Eastern European women experts were the ones making presentations.

So it would be great if the Danish Foreign Ministry etc. funds a Soft City & Copenhagenization Training Centre, either in DK or abroad...

københavnista said...

Yes what a waste of law enforcement time and money. He should be out catching some real criminals. The ones that steal bikes and stuff.

I hope your bike doesn't get stolen, because you wouldn't expect the police to do anything about it would you.

Henrik B. said...

Having recently had my bicycle stolen and now being caught in the bureaucratic mingles of the insurance companies as to whether my home-build €2000 bicycle "holds an valid frame number or not" (apparently the serial number on my imported frame is not frame number), I can only applaud the officers behaviour however ridiculous it may seem. He's actually acting in a proactive manner towards bicycle-theft which is far more than You can expect from the police in Copenhagen...

Michal Kašpárek said...

With 200 m elevation change, snow falling down four months in a year and the silly regulations in the pedestrian zone, everyone biking in Brno on a daily basis deserves respect.

Thank you for the post!

shuichi said...

I am sorry to find that she was not given the benefit of the doubt.