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.