31 May 2010

Bicycle Culture Theme Park

Get yer driving gloves ready, Ferrari World opens this October in Abu Dhabi. A massive theme park dedicated to the Italian carmaker. Featuring, among other things, the world's fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa. Safety goggles are a must - 'it's that fast' they say.

Funny... Batavus World doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it? :-)

But hey, we could just cover Amsterdam and Copenhagen in massive, climate-controlled domes and open two theme parks called Bicycle Culture World! It'll be a fietsfest! Cykeltastic! We'll hire Holger to supervise the covering of the streets.

I wouldn't mind. You'd have to park on the outskirts of the city and ride bicycles all around. Maybe we could put the parking lot on the Bicycle Island off the coast of the city.

It would one big Tommorrowland.

Maybe in Yesterdayland kids can try those old-fashioned car thingys and giggle about how 'totally weird' it must have been to have these things in city centres.

Pushin It
Ooh! Ooh! Be sure to try the Wind in Your Hair roller coaster, powered by a combination of wind turbines and human-powered stationary bikes. You sit in a cargo bike box and whee!
Christmas Tree Batteries

Then buy your kids balloon animals made out of bicycle tubes. The little ones can enjoy a spin on the Squeaky Chain ferris wheel.

Fruitbike Copenhagen Crepes City Hall Square
All the food and drinks would be served off of bicycles.

All the hotels would have beds made out of big ol' cargo bikes:
Bike Bed

Come on, people... let's brainstorm. What other attractions could Bicycle Culture World offer?

Thinking Differently & Leaders/Followers

A couple of great talks from TED.com featuring Derek Sivers. In relation to both our popular post by sociologist Dave Horton about Making Cycling Strange and to Brian Glover's observations about “Why do you choose to do something that, in the eyes of 95% of your society, marks you as a freak and a loser?” - this talk by Silvers offers up something for you and your personal meta-universe to chew on. Fortunately, urban cycling is much easier to tackle than Japanese addresses and Chinese doctors.

And here's a great talk by Sivers about How to Start a Movement. Again, fortunately, starting a movement like the Cycle Chic movement or even the concept of Copenhagenize (whatever that is) is considerably more straightforward than a lone goofy dancer on a hill. Even though cyclists in many countries are regarded as such. :-)

30 May 2010

Such Stuff as Fear is Made On

When Shakespeare wrote the line "...such stuff as dreams are made on", 'stuff' meant fabric. Indeed, in Danish, 'stof' is just that, fabric.

I've been wondering about these bicycle helmets on the market that are covered in fabric or even leather. Are they more dangerous than other kinds of bike helmets?

I'm sure we can agree that one of the basic, important qualities of a helmet is that it's slippery. If you're a helmet-wearer and your head strikes asphalt - which is never a smooth surface - I'm sure you'd rather have your helmet slide along the asphalt, as opposed to snagging. That wouldn't be very good for your neck.

While cycling is fantastically safe, most serious head injuries are the result of so-called angular or rotational acceleration, which leads to diffuse axonal injury (DAI) and subdural haematoma (SDH). These are the most common causes of brain injury in all traffic accidents.

Minor injuries are usally the result of linear acceleration. A straight-forward impact without any rotation.

Modern bicycle helmets are only tested for linear impacts and have little effect in preventing rotational ones. In the tests they are dropped straight down onto a flat or slightly-rounded surface from a height that is roughly the same as a cyclist's or pedestrian's head. They simulate a speed of about 20 km/h. They are only tested for impact on the top of the helmet, not the sides or front or back. A vertical fall. They aren't tested for an oblique, or angled, fall which is the most common type.

Nor are they tested with a anything that resembles a human body and all the forces that are involved with many kilograms of body attached to a helmet or impact with a car. There are even studies that suggest that risk of rotational injury is higher with a helmet on. In other words, even low-speed lateral forces can be converted to the far more dangerous rotational forces. Wikipedia has lots of links about it, and the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation has a page.

Anyway, I was wondering if there was any tests or research done on these new fabric-covered helmets but I have been unable to find any evidence that there is. Landing obliquely on asphalt at any speed is like landing on sandpaper. Racing cyclists shave their arms and legs in order to reduce this sandpapery friction and thereby reduce the severity of road rash caused when body hair slides along asphalt.

The same principle applies to ventilation holes on a helmet as well as to fabric on a helmet. Surely the one thing we can all agree on is that a helmet should be slippery. Even if these fabric covers are easily detachable it certainly seems to be an unecessary risk to run - increasing the chance of having your head snagging on asphalt.

In the midst of my checking around, I recieved an article from a reader out of Australian Cyclist - a lycra mag from Down Under.

They expressed much the same concerns about fabric snagging on asphalt and basically dissed the concept.

"...the typical helmet's smooth, sleek surface is not as much for sporty effect as to prevent it from catching from things during a fall. 'They're shiny and smooth so if you fall off an hit the asphalt it doesn't snag. If it snags you can break your neck'. (says Michael Peel, program director for fashion at RMIT University's School of Architecture and Design)

The Yakkay brand from Denmark does not meet Peel's endorsement on these grounds. This company has created covers for BMX-style helmets that look like fashionable hats and is recieving rave reviews around the world. Peel points out that while he likes the look, the cloth covers could snag in a fall. Ultimately that's the key point with helmets. They are worn as a safety device, not a fashion statement. Anything that adds to style but detracts from safety is a step in the wrong direction."

I've even seen helmets on the market covered with leather, which would seem even more risky than fabric. I recall hearing that some 'stylish' helmets produced for the City of New York featured fabric but the city couldn't get them insured so they were dropped.

I've recently learned that a helmet manufacturer, Giro, made a soft-shell helmet that came with a helmet cover. This was in the early 1990's. They were taken off the market because, among other reasons, the higher risk of neck injury and brain injury caused by the snagging of the fabric on the asphalt.

I think that if companies that produce fabric-covered helmets should be required to produced comprehensive evidence from laboratory tests that show without a doubt that they do not increase the already worrying risk of brain injury.

Whilst researching all this I stumbled across a Swedish company called MIPS. They have developed a new kind of helmet that has a thin layer of liquid between the two shell layers designed to reduce the intensity of rotational impacts. The outer shell rotates a bit upon impact. What's interesting about their website and their video, above, is that they're basically saying that existing helmets don't do much for you.

Ever Lazer helmets call rotational injury The Absolute Enemy.

Marketing or fact? Who knows. I'm not in the market for a helmet so it doesn't matter much. But if were a helmet-wearer I'd stick, at the very least, to smooth and shiny plastic outer layer and not many ventilation holes.

More money-hungry producers of fabric-covered helmets:
- Tail-wags

Related: Denmark Promotes Walking Helmets
- Helmets for Motorists
- More Helmets More Motorists - New Design
- Articles on Bicycle Helmets

If You Want Cycle Transport, Make Cycle Transport Sexy by Brian Glover

Long-time reader Brian Glover sent me this article he has written in reponse to my recent post about Cycling Isn't Fun, It's Transport. I have no idea why on earth I'm publishing a critique of myself, but then again, it's Sunday late morning and I'm hungover, vulnerable and incapable of making balanced judgements. So here goes.

No, Cycling isn’t “Fun,” It’s Transport – But If You Want Cycle Transport, Make Cycle Transport Sexy.
Guest article by Brian Glover

Last week Mikael wrote the post Cycling Isn't Fun, It's Transport, taking on the U.S. cycle advocates – ever cheerful, ever wholesome, ever useless and ignored – who seem to assume that people will take up bicycles as transportation because it’s the right and moral thing to do. His answer: “/I don't give a shit... I want to get there quick./” And he’s absolutely right: anyone who thinks mainstream people are motivated by ethics and altruism, in the U.S.A. or anywhere else, should come talk to me about some amazing Florida real estate. He’s right to say that people will choose the bike over the car only when it’s the fastest, most convenient, most direct way to get where they want to go. Cities should rebuild their streets to make that a reality.

And yet... I think Mikael is being more than a little disingenuous here. For several years now, he’s been telling us to “Copenhagenize the Planet,” and a surprising number of people seem to think that’s a good idea. I’m one of them.

Yes, we like those bike paths. Yes, we love those little railings for cyclists to grab at stoplights. The infrastructure of Copenhagen is efficient and practical, and Mikael photographs it alluringly. Really, though, “Copenhagenize” is not selling asphalt and blue paint; it’s selling style.

For people in “developing bicycle cultures,” Mikael offers an alluring ideal, which often involves attractive women (and men) in tasteful clothes, undoubtedly on their way from fabulous apartments to up-to-the-minute offices or chic restaurants and bars, all of which we can imagine filled with well-designed Danish furniture. For a lot of people, this will look like the good life, or at least one version of the good life.

But here’s the problem: for a lot of people in my “developing cycling culture,” the Copenhagenize fantasy does not look like the good life. In San Francisco, New York, Portland, and a few other cities, sure, people are likely to agree. In those few places, Americans really aren’t too different from their urban European counterparts. They want the same things, more or less, and follow the same styles (again, more or less).

Mikael’s graphic design aesthetic, for instance, rides hard on Helvetica (see “American Apparel”) and faux-hand-stenciling (see “Every Indie Band Ever, Pretty Much”). If I were selling stuff to the average 30-something yuppie in Brooklyn (or the people who love him/her), I’d do exactly what he’s doing. But the vast majority of Americans don’t find that lifestyle or its signifiers appealing. It’s not just true that most Americans live in automobile-dependent suburbs; they /like/ living in automobile-dependent suburbs. Even when cycling clearly is the fastest, most convenient way to get somewhere, they won’t do it, and they’ll look with disdain on anyone who does. From inside the head of a person in a developing cycle culture, Mikael’s photos look very different. He wants us to see freedom, convenience, and status appeal; here in the States, his audience is likely to see something that’s not just weird, but threatening. I can’t speak for other non-cycling nations, but I suspect that a lot of the same principles apply. Let me explain.

In any culture – as far as marketing is concerned – what matters is status. People will buy things if they think they’ll get approval and envy from the people around them. In mainstream U.S. culture, driving a car in a city that has been designed only for driving cars is a high-status activity. It implies that you have a lot of private property (power, wealth, respect) and that you don’t have to enter into public, shared spaces (vulnerability, poverty, disrespect).

In the worldview through which most Americans understand their lives, a car is an extension of the suburban home: independent, private, isolated. And in that worldview, isolation is a good thing. In this world, apartments are bad. Urban life as Mikael presents it is bad. Interactions with strangers are bad. We need protection from strangers, and a mobile steel-and-glass box – the bigger, the better – is the best way to get that protection.

Transportation biking, then, is a low-status activity – a /very/ low-status activity. That’s why the original survey that got Mikael all steamed up is so ridiculous; it asked

“Why do you choose to bicycle to work?,”

but it should really have asked

Why do you choose to do something that, in the eyes of 95% of your society, marks you as a freak and a loser?”

No one will say this out loud, of course – it’s not polite – but it’s the truth. And no one will answer this question honestly, either, but if they did, the choices would look like this:

A. I am too poor to get around in any other way. I have no choice. I
am abject.

B. I have had my rights as a citizen stripped from me because of
repeated, unforgivably bad behavior (i.e. drunk driving
convictions). I am an outcast and a pariah.

C. I think most mainstream people are idiots, and I actively seek
out their disapproval. I am a rebel. If the majority of people
around me start biking, I’ll hate that too.

D. I genuinely don’t care what other people think of me. I am an
independent thinker. I also have enough job security and social
status that I can afford not to care what other people think of me.
I am either uncommonly strong, or uncommonly privileged.

(As for me, I’m a combination of C and D. I hope.)

When a mainstream American sees a person on a bike (without the signifiers of cycling as a sport – an entirely different thing, status-wise), he or she sees one of those four categories, and none of them look appealing. The poor (A) provoke either pity (Democrats) or disdain (Republicans). The other three categories are actually threats – whether through degeneracy (B), subversion (C), or class oppression (D). Urban Europeans will generally provoke the same reactions, even when they’re not on bikes – so Mikael’s plan to “Copenhagenize the Planet” probably won’t get far here, without some major revisions.

What, then, is to be done? I do think it’s possible to market cycling to the mainstream here in the U.S., and in developing cycling cultures around the world. But the way to make that happen is to tie cycling to high-status lifestyles in specific local cultures. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. Though it may trouble Mikael to admit it, “Denmark” is not a magic word for everyone. So, advocates and marketers need to look at what people really want; to be crude about it, they should market cycling in ways that, for the mainstream of a given local culture, just might get you laid. What we need is a new model of cool/smart/sexy/desirable, a lifestyle model that is indigenous to the local culture but incorporates many of the underlying elements we see in places like Copenhagen.

I live in North Carolina – and not in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, or Asheville, but pretty deep in the conservative “red-state” area. Here in Greenville, the current model of the good life includes a big suburban-style house, a really big SUV, a significant dose of evangelical Christianity and a lot of college football. This may not appeal to readers from other parts of the world, but that’s the point: local culture does matter.

But even here, and in much of the South, I can see possibilities. For instance, I think a "Charleston" approach would appeal to quite a lot of people -- blonde sorority girls on updated beach cruisers, tailgate parties with kegs and dogs (arriving by bike trailer), couples who look like George W. and Laura Bush (or even better, Cindy McCain) pulling up on expensive city bikes to big ol' Victorian houses in dense, Spanish-moss-draped neighborhoods right out of Southern Living. Ladies who lunch, pedaling stylishly in pastels to an azalea-shrouded church that isn’t an exurban megacomplex. Maybe even U.S. military dudes in uniform, riding European bikes in a German city (sorry, Denmark – we’ve got more bases there). People do have some positive mental frames for urban lifestyles in this region, but they’re a little bit submerged right now; it’s time to go out and activate them.

Wherever you live, though, the point is to determine who the high-status people are. They're the ones you need to reach, and they’re the ones you need to co-opt. Others will aspire to follow them. Once cycling becomes a high-status activity, people will do it even where the actual road infrastructure isn’t very friendly – just as they now refuse to do it, even where the roads are pretty good. Like every culture, bicycle culture is all in your head.
by Brian Glover, May 2010

Copenhagenize replies:

Firstly, thanks to Brian for taking the time to write this article and to send it to me.
I won't get into details, but I'll add a couple of comments.

1. I am so-o-o-o-o going to change the Copenhagenize.com banner graphic.
2. Changing the status of cycling is really the foundation of what I try to do. It is the cornerstone of the Cycle Chic concept, of which Copenhagenize is an extension. Why has Cycle Chic rolled out around the world over the past three and a half years? It presents images, not only from Copenhagen but around the world, of cycling in a different light. Of cycling how it used to be. The world was ready for this, apparently. The first photo I took was recently called The Photo That Launched a Million Bicycles, which is a wild, humbling tagline, but the status of cycling has changed and continues to change. All over the world.

Not only in the large cities, but in Charleston, in Flagstaff, Georgia, Sacramento, on the Change Your Life, Ride a Bike website - and beyond. Lodz, Poland. Bandung, Indonesia. And so on. And so on.

Changing the social status of cycling - of ANYTHING - cannot possibly begin in areas outside of large, urban centres. It's a fact of life that First Movers live in Big Cities and that the ideas they adopt, if successful, filter down to the rest of society.

The Law of Diffusion of Innovation highlights how we are all divided up into five groups; Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards.

Cycle Chic - to use an phrase that highlights the marketing of urban cycling - has been wildly successful at targeting Innovators and Early Adopters all over the planet and we are moving steadily towards Early Majority in many regions. In this context, the Innovators are not cycling enthusiasts and/or advocates but rather Citizen Cyclists taking to the streets. People who have elegantly leapt over traditional advocacy and the outdated and ineffective messages associated with this advocacy.

3. My use of Helvetica and my graphic design aesthetics are aimed at Innovators and Early Adopters and not at the 'heartland', whether in the US or France or anywhere else. The wheels start turning in the cities and, with luck and hard work, the momentum will be achieved and filter down. The people who read Southern Living do not read this blog, for example. On Copenhagenize.com the readership is, very roughly, traffic planners, urban planners, bicycle advocates. A more focused group. I speak to this group, not to their neighbours across the street. But by speaking to the 2000-odd daily readers on Copenhagenize.com, perhaps the ideas that people think are good will spread on the tailwinds.

Most readers of Cycle Chic probably don't read Southern Living either, to be honest. But they are certainly closer to the trend pulse. On the Cycle Chic facebook group, the members are 53% women and 43% men [the remaining 4% are companies/orgs etc] and this is the same on the blog. Most are interested in fashion/lifestyle/design/urban living.

Matthew Broderik on a bicycle.

These are the people to whom urban cycling must be sold, and sold differently. Seeing fashionistas and celebrities on bicycles, seeing major fashion brands using bicycles in their adverts... all this is good. Whether the purists like it or not. This is a repeat of the bicycle boom in the 1890's where urban cycling went mainstream and transformed our societies. Individual mobility, liberation of the working classes and of women. All through a simple product with an excellent design but also through positive marketing.

Something's Fishy
I remember a fantastically interesting study about sushi. About how a team of researchers used the spread of sushi restaurants throughout America as a yardstick to determine how people in different age groups react to trends and at what age they start getting 'stuck in their ways' and start to refuse trying new things, foods, ideas.

I can't for the life of me find the link, but selling urban cycling and mainstream bicycle culture is much the same as sushi's global march. There are now sushi bars in the strangest places. Deep in heartlands where massive steaks once ruled supreme there are now places selling tiny bits of raw fish on sticky rice.

The advantage that urban cycling enjoys over sushi is that it has already gone global - over a century ago. It in public domain and not restricted to one foreign culture. Very few people have to learn to ride a bike - they've done that. Learning to eat - and enjoy - raw fish from a foreign culture is a considerably greater challenge.

I don't actually feel that I'm selling "Danish bicycle culture". I merely show what is possible in a large city - and one with the third-largest urban sprawl in Europe. I don't really know or care what 'Copenhagenizing the Planet' means. It's just a way of expressing possibilities, encouraging a change of thinking, highlighting how the bicycle is one of the key elements in the [re]creation of liveable cities.

But the words 'copenhagenize' dates to the beginning of the 19th century and originates in America. :-) It features in the splendidly named "Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States - By the Best American and European Writers" from 1899. It's a naval military phrase that refers to the practice of the British Navy to confiscate all the ships of a defeated adversary, as they did with the Danish Navy following the Battle of Copenhagen in 1807.

"But, even when it was repealed in 1809, the belief that Great Britain would "Copenhagenize" any American navy which might be formed was sufficient to deter the democratic leaders from anything bolder than non-intercourse laws, until the idea of invading Canada took root and blossomed into a declaration of war."

Which has nothing to with bicycles, but hey, at least it's in a CYCLOpædia...

But I digress... which is a good sign that I should shut up. Thanks again, Brian, for the chat.

Bike Lanes on Bloor

The annual Bells on Bloor Musicial Ride in Toronto took place yesterday. They want to see bike lanes on Bloor St.

Looks like a wonderful day out!

There's a photo set by Martin Reis on Flickr about the ride.

Thanks to Hamish for the link.

Paving the Way for Cyclists

Filming With Room for Bicycles
This scaffolding platform appeared across the street one day last week. It was constructed for a camera crane - the long thing on top - for filming a scene from a drama series for Danish Broadcasting. It took all night to erect, it was used for a few hours and then took ages to dismantle.

It's an interesting example of how the bike lanes have priority here. This stretch of bike lane is medium-sized, with about 10,000 cyclists in each direction each day. Blocking the bike lanes on main thoroughfares is out of the question. The platform allows for free access for cyclists. Usually the sidewalks must also be kept free. In this rare case, the pedestrians have to share the bike lane for a few metres, but it's only for one day.
Generally, when you have construction work you must keep the lanes clear, as illustrated in the photo, above. Cables are led over the lane and nothing, as a rule, restricts the smooth flow on the pavement.

Stripes in the Bike Lane
In this example, construction forced the closure of the sidewalk and bike lane. Pedestrians had to cross to the other side of the street, but space was made for a temporary bike lane on this side, due to the volume of traffic.
Bike Lane

Go with the flow. And keep the flow going.
Even temporary signs for car traffic, annoucing street closures, straddle the bike lane.

29 May 2010

Yehuda Moon in Copenhagen

Yehuda Moon in Copenhagen
Yehuda Moon in Copenhagen. I swear to Odin, he was right there in front of me. Okay, it's actually Anthony Siracusa from Memphis and he had never heard of Yehuda Moon, but hey.

And how weird is this... I go onto the Yehuda Moon website just now and they have a look-a-like contest running.

Copenhagen Parking

Here are the bike racks outside the main entrance to the National hospital - Rigshospitalet - yesterday. A few thousand bicycles. This doesn't include all the other buildings on the campus.
Parking Outside Just One Bar
And this is what most Copenhagen bars look like in the middle of the night. This is a cool bar in the meat packing district at about 03:00 last night. The night is still young and the bars are crowded. The bike parking looks like this outside each and every bar. The bicycle is the nocturnal transport king.

Copenhagenize Brutally Attacked by Lycra Warrior!

Copenhagen, 28 May 2010.
For Immediate Release.

In a shocking display of road rage, Copenhagenize and another innocent Citizen Cyclist were brutally attacked on the bike lanes of Copenhagen yesterday morning.

In the morning rush hour on Tagensvej, at the intersection with Nørre Alle, Copenhagenize was waiting on the right side of the lane, along the curb, for the light to change with a few dozen other cycling citizens.

On the left side of the bike lane was a young women. Suddenly and apparently without any reason, a cyclist [pictured above] rolled down the middle of the bike lane between Copenhagenize and the young woman. [The lanes are wide enough to accomodate three cyclists on this stretch].

But suddenly, the cyclist tried to pop out of his clicky-cycling shoes and violently tipped to the left, shouldering the young woman so violently that she tipped over. Narrowly avoiding certain death by... putting her foot down. Then the cyclist overcompensated for his wobble and shouldered Copenhagnenize with such intense force that my bike and I tipped to the right. I, too, was on the verge of certain death. Only my lightning-fast reflexes saved me from slamming into the sidewalk and getting a bit of dirt on my jacket or something.

Even worse, my Bullitt cargo bike scraped against the curb! The paint is clearly, kind of, scratched.

Before I knew what hit me, the cyclist continued his rampage after regaining his balance. First, without any warning, he turned to the young girl and apologised very sweetly! She just shrugged and nodded. Then, turning his focus to his second victim, Copenhagenize, he smiled and apologised profusely! Yes! Profusely!!

I was helpless. All I could do was smile back, slap him on the shoulder and say "No problem!"

He then rolled forward and waited for the light to change before riding off towards the city. Without even looking back at the carnage!

See?! Cycling is dangerous. Cycling shoes and gear are weapons of mass destruction. I'm shopping for one of those helmets ASAP and driving to work until I get one. Can anyone recommed a lawyer and a shrink?

28 May 2010


Cool graphics in this little advert for 2MileChallenge.com.

27 May 2010

How Many Bicycles?

I hate questions that can't be answered. I'll get to that. Firstly, my friends at Baisikeli, who took these photos, are used to getting their fingers on used Danish bicycles.

They rent old Danish bikes to tourists in order to finance sending bicycles to their workshops in Africa. We've blogged about them before. They get previously stolen bikes from insurance companies and they also scour the countryside looking for bicycle auctions in small towns or police auctions, in order to acquire more bicycles for Africa.

In the photos above and below, they stumbled across a man out in the country somehwhere who has spent years collecting old bicycles. A lot of old bicycles. What you see in the top photo is only about 1/10th of what he has. He spends his time restoring them, but it's gotten out of hand.

Many of the bikes are from the 70's and 80's, but there both newer bikes and much older bikes in the piles. Some real pearls to be found. A real bonanza.

So here's the question that will never, can never be answered. How many bicycles are out there in Denmark? Used and unused?

400,000 bicycles are scrapped every year in this country. Danes buy, on average, 500,000 new bicycles every year. I'm craps at maths, but that's 100,000 bicycles left over in a statistical no-man's land - each year.

A million bicycles each decade.

Then you have all the old bicycles in places like the farm, above. All the bicycles in sheds in summer houses. All the bicycles in the cities. On the muddied bottoms of lakes and canals.

The city in which I live, Frederiksberg, which is in the middle of Copenhagen, just gathered up almost 3000 abandoned bicycles from bike racks in the city in their bi-annual clean-up. There are only 90,000 citizens in Frederiksberg.

Think about all the other bike racks in all the other cities in Denmark.

How many bicycles in Denmark? Old and new? Total?

We'll never know the truth.

Cargo Bike Races - 26 June 2010

Poster for Danish Cargo Bike Championships 2010 / Svajerløb [UK version]
The people have spoken. When I asked about which design you all prefered for the poster for the upcoming Svajerløb - Danish Cargo Bike Championships - a while back, you were very clear.

The internet is, at times, a cosy place bubbling with a collaborative, creative spirit. I had posted the three rough designs and was thrilled to recieve an email from one of our readers, Richard Melcher. He loved the design and offered to help out, being a graphic designer. The result is seen in this blogpost. We collaborated on finishing and polishing. Thanks so much for a fruitful, creative collaboration, Rich!

Poster for Danish Cargo Bike Championships 2010 / Svajerløb [white] Poster for Danish Cargo Bike Championships 2010 / Svajerløb [2wheeler]

ANYWAY... This blogpost is the announcement of the 2010 Svajerløb - or Danish Cargo Bike Championships to be held on June 26, 2010. Presented by Firmacyklen.dk & Larry vs Harry.

It's on the Saturday after the Velo-City Global conference wraps up here in Copenhagen. I've had many emails from readers who are attending the conference and who have said they're hanging out for a couple of days, so I've been sure to tell them to start forming some cargo bike teams for race day.

There will be various disciplines. Two-wheeled cargo bike race [Men and Women], three-wheeled cargo bike race [Men and Women] and the always popular Team Relay. Especially this last discipline will be perfect for some international teams! Let's see what you GOT!

All the races are the same format as they have been for the better part of a century. One lap with an empty cargo bike and then into the pits. Each participant has to load up their bike with two car tires and a bundle of newspapers before shooting off for the final lap.

It costs 50 kroner [$10] per race you enter and all the entry fees go directly to prizes. You'll need a cargo bike to take part, but Baisikeli has some for rent if you can't borrow one.

The last svajerløb was held in 1960, until Firmacyklen.dk and Larry vs Harry re-launched it last year. We're hoping to make the races stick. It's a fantastic, timeless tradition that celebrates the integral role of the cargo bike in Danish history.

Svajerløb 2009: Cycle Chic Racing Style Svajerløb 2009: Baisikeli Relay
Team relay in a tutu and on a Christiania bike or, on the right, an ambulance bike.

Copenhagen Cargo Bike Race 1950 Svajerløb 2009: Longjohn
Old school and new school. The photo on the right was from the races last year.

The website for the races is now up and running, with an English version as well, so if you're in Copenhagen be sure to enter or, at the very least, show up on the day for cheer for the participants. The brilliant people from the bike club Amager Cykel Ring will be selling sausages and cold drinks and there will be beer on sale from Ørsteds Beer Bar.

- Register to take part online and sign up for newsletter.
- Photos from last year's race.
- Film about last year's race.
- Copenhagenize's coverage of last year's race.
- History of the Svajere - the original bike messengers (70 years before Kevin Bacon)

26 May 2010

Dublin Then and Now

Dublin Cycle Chic
Dublin Then. 1961 to be precise. On the Flickr photo page there was a discussion about what location this was.

Times Change by Ian, aka Inuitmonster on Flickr.

Dublin Now. This is a photo Ian took from the same location in Dublin.

Which do you prefer?

On the subject of Dublin, there'll be a cracking Cycle Chic party in June. Read more at Cycle Chic and enter Cycle Chic photos to the Flickr group to win tickets to the event.

25 May 2010

Abraham Lincoln on Bicycle Advocacy

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.
The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion.
As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.
We must disinthral ourselves and then we shall save our country.

Abraham Lincoln, December 1862.

Puncture Repairs Banned in Denmark

Bicycle Repair Kit
Vintage tire repair box.

You'll be excused for thinking that May 25th is the Danish version of April 1st. The press last week featured articles about The Danish Working Environment Authority's [Arbejdstilsynet] new rules regarding working conditions in bicycle shops.

Bike mechanics are now required to wear gloves and masks when repairing punctures using the vulcanized rubber glue for sticking patches on tubes. In addition, they're required to install a ventilation system in their bike shops.

These rules will effectively kill off the possibility of getting a puncture repaired in Denmark.

Sure, many people can fix flats themselves. However, many local bike shops [I have 22 bike shops to choose from within a 1 km radius of my flat], earn a fair chunk of their income repairing flats. I always chuck my bike into the shop to have it done. It costs 50 kroner [$10] and if I'm on my way to a meeting, I don't fancy getting my hands dirty or risk getting oil on my suit. It's quick, easy and supports the bike shops. Yes, the purists will roll their eyes, but such is life for many in established bike cultures.

Or used to be.

"Some of our members have been instructed to a install ventilation system and use masks, but the ventilation system isn't feasible. It's simply too expensive", said Søren Sørensen from the Danish Association of Bicycle Retailers [Danske Cykelhandlere] to Danish TV2. The Association represents over 400 bike shops around the country.

A ventilation system can easily cost 100,000 kroner [ca. $20,000] and that is simply out of reach of most bike shops.

The 'problem' is the glue used in the process. The Working Environment Authority highlights that short term effects include eye and skin irritation, nausea, headaches, and dizziness. Long-term exposure causes similar effects but can also affect the central nervous system and cause brain damage.

Søren Sørensen admits that the only option is putting on a new tube instead of fixing the puncture. A new tube costs roughly 100 kroner [$20] more than a patch on the old tube.

"A new tube is, of course, a better repair option than a patch, so you can't compare it. But in some instances it's overkill with a new tube", says Sørensen.

The Association of Danish Bicycle Retailers isn't thrilled about the new rules. Nevertheless, they sent a sign out to members to put in the window stating that they no longer can repair punctures.

"We think the new rules are unreasonable. Nobody is patching up tubes from 8 in the morning to 7 at night and I've never seen documentation proving that there is more illness or increased mortality rates among bicycle mechanics", added Sørensen.

Indeed, there doesn't seem to be any real documentation about this 'problem'. These new rules are based on "May possibly cause..." instead of "Has been proven to cause several cases of..."

Which is hardly the foundation for rules and regulations. If the Working Environment Authority wishes to be logical, then I am looking forward to their next move: Ventilation systems installed in automobiles used as workplaces, like taxis, minivans, trucks and buses. There are studies that show the level of dangerous microparticles is higher inside of motor vehicles than if you're cycling alongside.

So... masks and ventilation systems for these workers who use their cars/vans/trucks for their work. Wouldn't that make sense? At a glance, such rules would certainly have a greater positive health effect than gloves/masks/ventilation for exposure to a few millilitres of rubber glue each day.

The war on bikes started by the Danish Road Safety Council continues to enlist the strangest mercenaries. It really is rather ridiculous. Fortunately, none of the bike shops that I frequent are bothered by this and I shall continue to have free access to tube repairs and, in the process, continue to support these shops.

Via: TV2 and assorted media.

Five Schrader Valve Cores

Not surprisingly, there has been some satire about the issue. The Danish daily, Politiken, satirised it by publishing a fake letter from the Working Environment Authority to a fictional bike shop. I translated it here:

To: Ejvinds Bicycle Shop, Valby

The Danish Working Environment Authority has, on our recent visit, determined that there is bad air in your bicycle tubes, which can in the long run cause serious lung infections in your employees. We have also seen that in your bicycle sale you have a large number of pannier racks on offer, which can cause serious injuries, including broken bones if your finger gets caught in one.

We hereby ask you to immediately establish a ventilation system for your bike tubes according to European Union environmental standards, as well as put up warning signs and alarms near the pannier racks you have on display.

You have until Thursday last week. Best regards, Arbejdstilsynet

Ingen lapning
And it didn't take long for a cartoon like this to appear. The Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen cycling on flat tires rolls past a bike shop with a sign in the window reading "No Puncture Repairs". The two leaders who stand to win the next election - Helle Thorning Schmidt and Villy Søvndal - are peering out with glee at the hapless PM. As seen in Berlingske Tidende newspaper.

Police Target Bicycles This Week in Copenhagen

Remember - Stop For Red
It reads "Remember. Stop for red".
I've never stopped for red here, unless pedestrians are crossing. Sue me.

The police in Copenhagen don't often bother cyclists. When they do, they're kind enough to announce it in advance. This week is "Go After Cyclists" week. The police will be focusing on cyclists in the traffic in the hope of filling some quotas. Funny thing is, I don't recall ever seeing a "Go After Pedestrians" week. And I certainly don't see any long-term concerted effort to "Go After Motorists", which would save lives. But hey...

Here's a blogpost from a while back about a previous, symbolic 'bike raid week' in the Danish capital in 2007.

So, if you're riding around the city this week, chill. Wait until next week to navigate along your "Desire Lines" and experiment with the anthropolgical mapmaking of your personal urban mobility routes. Save your rolling casually across zebra crossings, turning right on red lights when there are no pedestrians in sight - and all the other bits and pieces - until next week. A fine will set you back 500 kroner [$100]. Money better spent in cafés and bars in the spring and summer months.

I've been peering closely at this bicycle culture for over three years. Documenting it in photos and on this blog daily. It is so incredibly rare that I ever see Copenhageners on bicycles blowing through a zebra crossing, sending pedestrians scrambling or flying across an intersection and causing cars to screech to a halt, like I see in other cities.

I see cyclists rolling across zebra crossings, sure. I see cyclists turning right on red, sure. I do it myself every single day. But it is hardly ever at the expense of other traffic users. It is almost always at a pedestrian pace. The Great Structural Fabric of Society does not fray at the edges when Copenhageners or Danes do such minor things anymore than it does when pedestrians cross against the light.

Urban mobility.

Bidding With Bicycles

So. You want to make bid to be nominated to host one of the largest and most prestigious sports events on the planet - The FIFA World Cup in football. You're two small countries who join forces as potential host nations. Ready to welcome the world in either 2018 or 2022.

You've done your hard work and prepared the bid. Now you're ready to deliver it. What better way to do so than sending a flock of dapper men in suits on bicycles to do the job. Real men on real transport.


The Holland/Belgium bid has my vote.

Okay. I can't vote. But you know what? I LIKED it on Facebook! Ha! Take THAT, Sepp!

Thanks to Marie for the link.

More Health Warnings

Photo via KingDumb on Flickr.

A stencil after my own heart. From the brilliant Urban Repair Squad blog. They highlight some great initiatives from around the world.

I've whipped up some health warning stickers if anyone is interested in either buying them or printing out the .png file themselves. They're inspired by my Ignoring the Sacred Bull blogpost from a while back.

Let's face it. If we start spreading the word that driving - while a necessary part of our societies - is not everything it's cracked up to be, we'll be turning a whole lot of people onto cycling and public transport. Bad thing? Nah.

24 May 2010

Segways Illegal in Copenhagen

Vélo Hommes - Cycling Chaps in Paris
Segways look like something out of The Jetsons and should never have evolved from a drawing on paper to a working model.

The Danish police don't seem to fancy them either. They're cracking down on Segways in Copenhagen. A company Segway Tours CPH have been running Segway tours of the city. 399 kroner, according to their website. They've been running the tours for a year or so.

(You can rent a bike and get a guided tour with Bike With Mike for only 260 kroner, enjoying a wider radius of sightseeing and fitting in with the local population instead of sticking out like a sore, geektech thumb)

But Segways are illegal in Denmark. They're not approved by the Danish Transport Authority.

So it wasn't odd that last week the Danish police cracked down on a Segway tour. The riders... or I suppose we should call them 'standers'... were instructed to walk their machines back to the tour office and the company was told that they would get a fine if they were spotted on the streets again.

According to an article in the Danish daily, Politiken, Segway Tours CPH bought nine Segways for 400,000 kroner when they opened. They had expected the approval from the Transport Authority to take six weeks but it's still in the process. Three years and counting. The problem is how to categorize the vehicles. Sidewalks? Bike lanes? Roads? Where do we put them? What ARE they?

Another Segway company in Copenhagen has halted operations until closure is reached in the case. The police have not cracked down on Segways before because most police officers weren't aware of the lack of approval. But now the police are on it.

Fortunately, there are ample opportunities to rent bicycles in Copenhagen if you're coming for a visit. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

It's green, it's cool, it's safe and easy.

Via: Politiken (in Danish)

23 May 2010

South African Bicycle Portraits

Fantastic film about the making of a book about everyday cyclists in South Africa.

21 May 2010

Long John on the Bridge

Long John on the Bicycle Bridge
Classic Long John heading over the bicycle bridge, Bryggebroen. One of 8500 cyclists using the bridge each day.

20 May 2010

Copenhagenize Goes to Saint Petersburg

Vintage cycle chic in St. Petersburg from St. Petersburg Cycle Chic.

I'm off to St. Petersburg tomorrow for three days. I'll be speaking at the opening of the Dreams on Wheels exhibition. On Saturday the public is invited to the opening as well as a bicycle ride through the streets of the city. The exhibition is at Loft Project Etagi.

Here's the schedule for Saturday:
14.00 – public gathering in exhibition room Chugunniy Pol
15.00 – welcome speech by the Danish Consul General, Jens Worning Sørensen
15.10 – Opening speech by journalist & Cycling Ambassador, Mikael Colville-Andersen
15.30 – Dreams On Wheels delegation of 15 bikes starts the bike ride through the city centre
15.35 – The public bike ride begins, following the DOW delegation
17.30 – Bike ride ends
18.00 – 18.30 Short concert in Chugunniy Pol with local band "Segodnya Nochyu"

Looking forward to riding in St. Petersburg with the locals!

Mukhtar's Birthday

It ain't bicycles, but it's Copenhagen! Thanks to Koll for the link. A bus driver, Mukhtar, gets the surprise of his life when a 'flash mob' (this used to be called candid camera) start singing the Danish happy birthday song for him and the festivities continue. What a lovely birthday present for the man.

19 May 2010

The Safety Gang!

It's time to dive headfirst into a shallow pool of Safety! Yay!

18 May 2010

Give Us a Shout

Update: 08 April 2013.
City of Copenhagen reports that 7944 potholes/issues have been reported by the citizens. The City has repaired 6396 of them. 911 of the shouts were rejected.

The City of Copenhagen's Technical & Environmental Administration (what other people refer to as Dept. of Transport) has launched a new website called 'Giv et praj', or 'Give Us a Shout' in English, wherein citizens can make the city aware of various issues on the urban landscape. The City will then endevour to fix the problem and you can also track the progress on the website. How cool is THAT?!

There are various categories and, surprise surprise, cyclists are one of the main ones. The city encourages cyclists to report:

- Uneven asphalt, holes or bumps on the bike lanes
- Curbs without ramps for cyclists
- Intersections without a turn lane for cyclists
- Cycling shortcuts that can be improved with a bit of asphalt.
- Missing bicycle symbols on the asphalt.
- Places that could use bicycle-friendly signage.

In addition you can give the city a shout out about:
- Bikes that are taking up space
- Good cycling ideas
- Missing lane markings for cyclists
- Unnecessary hindrances

On the website you can enter the address or place it on an interactive map, as well as upload a photo of your shout out if you have one. You can also see all the other shout outs from your fellow citizens on the map.

The website is for everyone, not just those of us who cycle. There are also categories like garbage issues, animals (dead animals and rats), grafitti, lighting, parking, signage, trees and bushes and roads.

The Giv et praj website is in Danish, but it's still lovely. Isn't this how living in cities should be? Citizens interacting with the administration and having a concrete and positive effect on the daily life of the metropolis.

17 May 2010

No Bicycle Parking

No Bicycle Parking
There was a photo competition hosted by a newspaper years ago wherein people were invited to send in their interpretation of 'Danishness'. The winning photo was a bicycle parked in front of a 'No Bicycle Parking' sign.

Now, above, I finally have my own version. Love it.

No Parking Sign in Copenhagen
Although I did take this one a few years ago. The sign reads, "Bicycle Parking Prohibited".

15 May 2010

The Oh so Efficient Bicycle

The Most Efficient Machine in History
Iain Boal's now famous chart of transport/motion effciency.

The Green Machine.

Copenhagen Rush Hour

Bicycle rush hour on Torvegade in Copenhagen. A YouTube classic which I revisited recently and figured I would repost here.

14 May 2010

Cycling Disclaimer Obsessions

Thanks to Bojana for the link to a strange waiver on the website of the town of Perth, Ontario, Canada. It's not as ridiculous as the waiver required for a quiet bike ride in Chicago, as mentioned in the Go Green, Go Dutch, Go Die post, but what makes it odd is that you have to sign it before downloading... cycling maps.

Cycling maps. I just had to repeat that. In order to download the pdfs of the Perth & District Cycling Route maps, you first need to read this disclaimer text:

This cycling map has been developed to assist in planning bicycle trips throughout the County of Lanark. Users of this cycling map are responsible for their own safety and use these routes at their own risk. Users should consider not only route conditions but also their level of experience, comfort level riding in traffic, traffic conditions and traffic volume, weather, time of day, and any obstacles, such as construction or potholes, when cycling on any route within the County of Lanark. Certain of the roads and highways on this cycling map, including Highway #511, have high traffic volume and are used regularly by transport trucks. Cyclists should exercise the same level of caution whether riding on a route designated by this map or any non-designated route.

The County of Lanark, Town of Perth, Perth & District Chamber of Commerce and others involved in the design and publication of this map and the cycling routes are not responsible for any loss or damage users may suffer as a result of using this cycling map or the cycling routes. The County of Lanark, Town of Perth, Perth & District Chamber of Commerce, and their directors, officers, employees, owners, volunteers and staff do not warrant the safety of any route, highway, road, street or designated cycling route shown on this cycling map.

Hang on... you're not finished yet. After reading the disclaimer, you then have to read AND AGREE TO the following waiver:

Waiver: Having read the foregoing material and as a condition of using this cycling map, the users of this cycling map waive, release, and discharge, for themselves and their heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns, any rights or claims which the users have or may hereafter have against the directors, officers, employees, owners, volunteers and staff of the County of Lanark, Town of Perth, Perth & District Chamber of Commerce and other sponsoring businesses and organizations, for any and all damages which may be sustained by the users directly or indirectly in connection with their use of this cycling map or the cycling routes.

Goodness me. Talking about overcomplicating a simple issue. I wonder if damages include paper cuts?

Do motorists in Ontario have to sign waivers before acquiring road maps? Considering how many car accidents there are, you'd think they would need to/be forced to.

Maybe all GPS gadgets should have the voice state things like:

"Turn left, 500 metres... at your own risk and releasing the company who produced this GPS machine from all liability..."

"Continue straight, 1 point 3 kilometres... fully accepting that you are doing so entirely at your own risk..."


On the other side of the planet, I am researching things to do and see in Abu Dhabi and read on a tourist website that:

"Though cycling is a common mean of transportation for the locals, it has become a favourite leisure activity these days. Abu Dhabi provides many bicycle lanes that go through the skilfully developed public parks, gardens and roads in the city."

Which sounds lovely. Although on another site they were mentioning the Corniche, a boardwalk along the sea and highlighting that it was perfect for walking/promenading "although the more adventurous visitors could rent a bicycle and ride on the bikes lanes."

Adventurous? I guess I'll be Hillary and the Corniche of Abu Dhabi will be my Everest...

Double sheesh.