29 June 2010

Bike Parade Pisses off the Locals

One of the extra-curricular events at last week's Velo-City 2010 conference was a 'Bicycle Parade' through the streets of the capital. There were about 1500 participants, most of them delegates from around the world at the conference.

Selling the idea of a bike parade to Copenhageners is tough. Very few would show up for a vacuum cleaner event. Nevertheless, it was a lovely ride in the bright sunshine - at an incredibly slow pace compared to the rides I've been on in Japan, Budapest, San Francisco or even La Rochelle.

I've got loads of photos to upload but above is a teaser from Clarence of Streetfilms, who had a ball in Copenhagen during the conference.

There was loads of music and chats with good friends. This bicycle ride thing is rather foreign in Copenhagen. During the activism of the 1970's and 1980's there were massive rides by citizens demanding safe infrastructure but it's been awhile.

I was looking forward to seeing how Copenhageners reacted to a large, slow-moving group of people on bicycles blocking the early evening traffic.

There were people who stopped to look at the spectacle, but most of them were on foot or leaning out of windows. They were smiling, as a rule.

If you looked at the traffic - bicycle and motorized - it was a different story. Many participants noticed how people were pissed off at having the streets blocked. Car horns honked and sour faces peered out from inside windscreens.

Even the two-wheeled traffic was annoyed at the hindrance. It got to a point that several of us rolled past warning them that it could take 10-15 minutes for the parade to pass. This information was usually greeted with a 'tsk' or a muttered swear word as they turned their bicycles around to look for alternative routes.

I enjoyed the ride but it's clear that blocking the streets with a bicycle parade didn't appeal to those who were trying to get somewhere else. An interesting anthopological observation from mainstream bicycle culture.


l' homme au velo said...

Great Video,everybody very Relaxed and enjoying themselves that is how it should be. I dont agree with Traffic being in the Cities and Towns or Villages anyway. It should be for the People,Reclaim the Streets for Pedestrians and Cyclists.

Normally in Dublin the Streets are Blocked up at Rush Hour by Traffic in a Huge Mass and they also disregard those narrow little Cyclelanes. The Cars make no attempt not to Drive on them and they do not get out of the way of Cyclists. So when there is a Mass of Cyclists they take great Umbrage at being inconvenienced by being not able to take over the Entire Road. Cyclists have every right to the Road as Motorists do but they seem to forget that very quickly.

I would like to see Traffic barred completely like some of those Italian Cities and elsewhere. It does not affect Business in any way it only encourages it,and anywhere they have made it Traffic free People love it being free of all the Pollution and are free to Roam without looking over their Shoulders all the time.

portlandize.com said...

I think it's the same in places that don't have mainstream bicycle culture :) We went on the tweed ride here in Portland earlier this year, and at the few places where we had to hold up traffic to get everyone through an intersection (we were a much smaller group, about 150), it was clear people were annoyed at having to wait when they had a green light. We didn't have too much honking or anything, though we did get shouted at once or twice.

We experienced the same thing though, that many pedestrians and people in their houses and such were quite amused by it and were waving to us and taking pictures and whatnot, people hanging out of their house windows and such.

Green Idea Factory said...

I had generally the same experience as Mikael but also remarked to him immediately afterwards that it seemed like the routing was kind of crazy on purpose - e.g. at one point we went through a cemetery three-abreast - in order to show us how Copenhageners and Frederiksbergers could deal.

But one interesting detail is that on certain parts of the route on wider streets with separated bike paths, the group ride was in the middle of the street, leaving the bike paths alone for the most part. This happened kind of naturally but seems like a good way to organize things like this more intentionally.

The ride also slowed down a lot of buses.

lagatta à montréal said...

Green Idea, yes, a parade should definitely take up the main part of the street, whether it is a parade walking, cycling or on horse-drawn or motorised floats. Would be silly to have it on the bicycle path.

I don't think this parade was for Copenhageners; it seemed to be more for the guests, showing off the infrastructure and creating a media event. Not a big problem one-off.

Green Idea Factory said...

@Lagatta:Thanks, what I meant was that it was good to leave the bike paths for the people who needed to get somewhere. It is also rather poetic.

Anonymous said...

I think part of the problem is that the parade was not well-publicized enough, nor was it an annual event. When people know of a disruption before embarking, they are less likely to be annoyed when they encounter the disruption.