17 December 2010

Ole's 'Old' Autocar

Ole's new Batavus bicycle.

The whole day at the recent TEDx Copenhagen event was brilliant. I was especially thrilled that so many good people came up to me after my own talk and relayed positive feedback. It was quite humbling and inspiring.

I'll have a hard time forgetting one man in particular. His name is Ole.

There is an old children's song in Danish called Oles Ny Autobil / Ole's New Autocar.

Ole's new autocar
drives 8 miles in an hour
(the old Scandinavian mile is 10 km)

Ole said he enjoyed the talk but then he revealed that Copenhagenize and Cycle Chic are the direct reason that he and his family sold their Volvo station wagon. These blogs have generated an incredible amount of positive feedback over the years and it is especially when I'm giving talks abroad that I get fantastic face-to-face experiences with readers.

For some reason, Ole's revelation was more moving and touching. Perhaps because I was on my home turf in Copenhagen or perhaps because Ole and I are around the same age, with kids. I don't know. Anyway, thanks to Ole for letting me know. It is incredibly humbling. And thanks to Ole for One Less Car in this city that I love so much. He has become a role model himself.

The family are no strangers to bicycles - they live in Copenhagen after all - but they took the jump and sold the old autocar. Investing instead in bicycles, including that Copenhagen classic, a cargo bike.

I know the old children's song but never really thought about the lyrics until now. They are, ironically, a wonderful advert for cycling and a healthy warning about the dangers of driving in cars, even if the car in question is a toy car. Here they are, translated:

Ole's new autocar
Drives 8 miles in a hour
The car is red and fine
never smells of gasoline
It can travel at impressive speeds
When it gets a proper start
But one day it crashed into
sister's dollhouse
The doll daddy and the doll mummy
were sitting nicely at the coffee table
Coffee stains and porcelan
were all over the tablecloth
And the poor doll daddy
no longer had a head.

After talking with Ole I revisted an old idea. I have had many people suggest - including private citizens but also, surprisingly, several people from the Danish bicycle industry - that I start a new Danish bicycle advocacy organisation that promotes cycling positively here on the home front.

I have spent some time on the idea and already have a name. It would, however, require a great deal of time and energy which I don't currently have. The idea lives on. However, if like-minded individuals came forward to share the vision and the workload, we might just get it up and running.


Rogério Leite said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rogério Leite said...

Your experience had gave me energy to mantain my own blog dedicated to cycleculture in Recife, Brazil. We have all conditions to use bikes as transport in my 2 Million habitants city, but we still living as CPH in 70´s! Please, still CPH.com and Cyclechic and we´ll looking for its!

Erik Sandblom said...

Reading your blogs encouraged me to read the helmet science and tell others.

I've also blogged about cycling and though nobody has sold a car because of me, I have gotten some positive feedback. I find it striking that many people have all the tools they need to cycle more, but it doesn't occur to them until they run into a bicycle enthusiast.

It seems all kinds of people are ready to bike more. From those who dust off their bikes for the first time in 20 years, to those who start cycling right through the winter, and even those forking out $$$ to get a cargo bike, an e-bike or a folding bike.

Mikael said...

thanks for those lovely comments!

Ruben said...

Thanks Mikael for all your work and inspiration. I should probably let you know I recently set up a local blog inspired by you - http://coffsharbourize.com/

It's a different kettle of fish over here in rural Australia and every bit helps.

Ali said...

Hej Mikael - in the US, there's a great national bike advocacy group called Bikes Belong (http://www.bikesbelong.org/), mostly financed by the bike industry. Their agenda is to put "more people on bikes more often".

It's a model worth checking out if you're serious about the idea of creating a Danish bike advocacy group.


olekassow.com said...

Hi Mikael
Thanks a million for this great post (I'm the Ole that sold his autocar). I'm kicking myself for only discovering it now, but I'm really taken aback by your observations.
Ironically this last week we borrowed some friends' car - well, actually they were going on skiing vacation and asked us to nurse their car - and lo and behold the intrepid car actually lured us into doing silly short trips, which we'd long forgotten about doing. It leads me to conclude that the old four-wheeler is nastily addictive and definitely doesn't belong in our household (and probably not in thousands of others either).
We've found that cycling everywhere (even in a suit going partly by local train - with the bicycle - to a business meeting in the suburbs) is so much more rewarding that using a car. Even the worst days of snow around Christmas were fun, crazy and challenging.
Again, thanks for all your efforts to open people's eyes. I'd be keen to know more about the initiative you're thinking about.
Cheers from Ole