30 June 2010

Lycra Makes You Act Illegally

Tour of Denmark 2008
Le Tour de France starts soon and there was an interesting article on a Danish online newspaper entitled "Put on your cycling clothes, throw out the rulebook"

Here's a bit of it translated:

"When we put sport into cycling, we forget both traffic laws and safety equipment.

Maybe the neon-coloured cycling jersey is a little tight around the stomach, but in the head it's easy to imagine you're on your way to a historical stage win in the Tour de France.

The interest in hobby cycling moves up a gear when the French race rolls over the tv screens with dangerous sprints with built-in risk for crashing and the dramatic mountain stages where even the strongest crawl to a halt.

But when we as hobby cyclists on every level pull on our cycling shorts, jersey, helmet and sunglasses and roll out onto the Danish roads, we apparently forget that the usual rules for cyclists still apply to us.

'When hobby cyclists [ed: motionscyklister in Danish, which means 'exercise cyclists'] put on all their gear there is an unfortunate tendency to not worry about the rules and to respect others. It's unlucky, because they're very visible in the traffic', says Vice Police Inspector Kristian Thomsen from East Jutland Police."

Visible indeed. When most Citizen Cyclists look like this, the lycra crowd do stand out. Even just cycling around Copenhagen, I am slightly faster than most and overtake more cyclists than people overtaking me. Still, I'm only rolling around at about 20 km/h and not breaking into a sweat. Who are the people who blow past me? People with gear who tsk tsk those who are riding casually along. Muttering and swearing under their breath and shaking their heads demonstratively at every moment they are forced to touch their brakes.

Fortunately, it's rare. Maybe we should reserve certain routes for these commuters and leave the rest of the safe infrastructure for the rest of us? Or speed limits for cycling? Just not 10 km/h, like a section of a bikeway in Brisbane.

Toronto Brutality - Now With Bicycle Cops

Just got this in an email from the war zone that is Toronto.

My name is Geoffrey Bercarich, age 26 and life long resident of Toronto, Canada. I was
attacked and held illegally by Toronto Police in the “g20 jail” on Sunday June 27th,

I was riding in a special critical mass of cyclists, there was 600 cylists riding in group to take the media spotlight away from the property damage done to the city core the day before.

The bike ride was peaceful and no street laws where broken. The mass ride was riding
along Yorkville and this is where I was attacked. A police cyclist blocked my path directly in front of me; another police cyclist struck me in the face, hitting my teeth with his fist.

Another police cyclist threw his bicycle into mine causing me to fall to the ground. The
squad of five police officers threw me onto the fallen police bike, pushing me down onto
the bicycle and beat me in the face and the groin. The officer that struck me first held
my knees open as another hit me repeatedly in the groin. I was then turned on to my
stomach and my face was smashed into the street repeatedly, leaving a pool of blood.
This all happened without any notification by the police officers as to what crime I
committed or why they were attacking me. As the beatings continued I repeated in a
strong voice, “I am not resisting.”

I was now on my stomach with my arms restrained behind my back with my face being
pushed into the street under the knee of another police officer. A large group of police
set up a line of police bikes to stop onlookers from getting a clear view on what was
taking place. The police threatened the witnesses with arrest under the charge of
obstruction of justice. As the beatings continued the officers repeatedly kneed me in the
head, lower and upper back. There is heavy bruising around my right shoulder, cuts and
bruises on my right knee and right elbow and my chin has a large cut that likely needed

As I was being beaten, I cried out in extreme pain, “Stop the insanity.”
I was removed from the street, dragged into the near by parking structure on Yorkville
Avenue . The arresting officers’ number was 8114, and his commanding officer was Sgt.
Hicks. All other officers on site had no visible badge number and would not identify
themselves. The police told everyone in the parking structure to leave or face arrest
under the charge of obstruction of justice. They then spoke about taking me into a
corner without any cameras. I was barely conscious as the beatings continued against
the wall of the parking building. They threatened to beat me if i did not remain silent, i repeated one thing, “I am complying”.

The officers then read me my rights and told me I was under arrest for inciting. All I
could think about was my handcuffs, I could not move or feel my hands. I asked them
repeatedly to loosen my handcuffs. Finally after thirty minutes of the police pushing my
head into the wall, Sergeant Hicks ordered them to loosen my handcuffs. I was indebted
to his mercy.

I was sent to the G20 jail site on Eastern Avenue and Pape. I arrived at the makeshift
jail at 2pm, and I left by midnight. All charges dropped, no explanation given. I was let
go under a verbal promise not to go to a protest again. I am now in fear for my life, I live in this city, I am active in the public life and workings of the city. I fear for they will pick me up and bring me back to the detention center at anytime.
G20 Detention center on Eastern Avenue.

I was brought to the detention center at 2pm, I left at 12am, my life would change
between those ten hours. I was the first to be placed in one of ten holding cells. The
holding cells where in a giant studio space with extremely filthy floors. Vomit and piss
where present everywhere. The holding cell was ten feet wide and four feet deep. There
was a latrine in every holding cell, the latrine was full to the point where it was
overflowing onto the cells floor. I was the first to be brought into the holding cell.

By the end of the day 25 people where being held in that cell, and all of us were handcuffed for the entire duration of our stay, other people in other cells told us they have been there for more than thirty hours. The cells became overcrowded to a point where people where handcuffed to the floor outside the cells.

I was beaten bad by the police, I asked for a medic and was laughed at by every police
guard on duty. They told me there where more people hurt in worse ways then me. Not
one medic was ever seen and no one that I knew of received any medical attention. Of
the 25 people in my cell, half where not protesters, two needed medications that they
never received and myself with open wounds and a handcuffed, bruised arm and

We where given a two day old stale cheese and butter sandwich, and given a
small cup of water every five hours. The police guards had a unlimited supply of apples,
bottled water, roast beef sandwiches and chocolate covered strawberries that they were
eating in front of our cells. Some cell mates where so desperate for food they eat the
thrown away apple cores left on my the cell wall. No one in the entire holding facility got a phone call to the outside world. I have two friends that have yet to be seen or heard from for over three days.

As I was let out, the officer escorting me got lost, thereby taking me through most of the detention facility. No one person had received a phone call, and the people that have
specific charges laid against them were being held in one person cells that do not have
enough space to lie down. As I walked past their cages, i saw the look of fear, anxiety
and the loss of hope that can only be seen thorough the fear for losing ones life.
I now live under the fear that the Toronto police will raid my home and take me away to
the dentition center again. I fear I have gotten away with my freedom and they will take
it back at anytime.

Please help.
June 28th 2010

Police Clear Bicycles

Bike Clearance 1
Came across these policemen clearing a bunch of abandoned bicycles off the streets the other day. They had been tagged, of course, and people were given a decent amount of time to remove them - or show that they were in use.
Bike Clearance 2
Funny... in Danish they are called "herreløse" bicycles - which I suppose translates directly to "master-less" - like dogs who no longer have a master to take care of them.

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.

28 June 2010

Post Velo-City Rush

I don't even know where to start.

Velo-City Global 2010 wrapped up last Friday, although for some of us it continued right up until Sunday night.

It was a brilliant week. Absolutely brilliant.

My brain is still spinning with all the good experiences and all the wonderful people I met. The social strength of the bicycle indeed. As I said in my keynote speech, isn't it amazing that the simple bicycle can generate enough content to fill a four day conference attended by over 1000 people from every continent? That a machine invented 125 years ago can serve to bring us all together on an academic - but also on a social level?

I was interviewed by the Velo-City organisers and one of the questions was that while many people were keen to chat with me... what did I get out of all of this? The list is long but the most important thing I cycle away with is this: The Buzz.

I've watched this mainstreaming of The Bicycle for over three years now and the curve is consistently upwards but I really am struck by the energy radiating from all the participants. I really sense that there is an irreversible buzz and drive about not only returning The Bicycle to the urban landscape but creating the culture and infrastructure to make it possible.

There were many faces I recognized from the Velo-City 2009 conference in Brussels but this being a global conference there were so many new ones - and from unexpected places. The city of Ottawa, for example, sent 11 people to Copenhagen. I met Turks and Romanians, Calgarians and Koreans.

I'm going to put my money on this bicycle thing. On the fact that the curve took a sharp turn upwards and that there is no peak in sight. Not with this much interest. Not with this much blossoming political will to build infrastructure and the ever-widening mainstream support all over the world.

Feel the buzz. Trust me, it's magical.

I enjoyed every conversation with all the people I talked to. It was brilliant to meet you all.

Now I'm left with a billion photos to edit through. I'll get started.

24 June 2010

Copenhagen Bicycle Superhighways

Here's a film from Current.com about the new bicycle superhighways being built here in Copenhagen.

Last winter I rode around with the lads from Trunk Films - it was bloody cold that day. -5 and with the windchill we hovered around -20. Beautifully filmed, despite the frozen cameraman fingers!

21 June 2010


New Yorkers in Copenhagen
Sorry for not having the time to write of late. After my visit to Dublin [WHAT a cycling town!] I've been busy preparing for the Velo-City Global 2010 Conference.

It kind of kicked off today, even though it starts tomorrow. I took Janette Sadik-Khan - NY's Commissioner for Transport [can never remember all those fancy titles] and a group of New Yorkers - and a Chicagoen - on a little tour of Copenhagen's bicycle life´, together with Jeff from the League of American Bicyclists.

It was a lovely bike ride around the city. Showing off the highlights.

Tomorrow morning I'm hosting - again with The League - a tour around the city for a large group of American and Canadian delegates, with a stop/photo op at the American Embassy for good measure.

Then Velo-City kicks off at noon. Should be great. I'll be giving my keynote at 09:30 on Wednesday.

Welcome to Copenhagen, everyone!

15 June 2010

Velo-City 2010 - Countdown

City of Copenhagen at Velocity
The Copenhagen stand at Velo-City 2009 in Brussels last year.

The Velo-City Global Bicycle Conference 2010 is fast-approaching. The list of participants is long and exciting and it's great to see so many NGOs represented, as well as people working for cities and towns.

The Velo-City teams reports that 180 presentations on cycling from all over the world are on the programme, in the form of sessions, round-table discussions and what not.

Topics include:
- Mega-cities
- Campaigns for reducing short car trips
- Cycling in cold, hilly cities
- Bike-share services
- Green urban development
- Developing cycling in developing countries
- Road safety research
- Cooperation between NGOs and city administrations

There is a list of Plenary Speakers who, according to the Velo-City website, are "Handpicked for their expertise in cycling’s global potentials and challenges, the plenary speakers at Velo-city Global will offer new, valuable and comprehensive insights. The plenary presentations will deal with pertinent questions such as:

- Cycling as quality of life
- Co-benefits of cycling
- The social status of cycling
- Cycling as democracy and freedom
- The global status of cycling
- Creative cycling innovations
- Collaborations for the future

The list of Plenary Speakers features the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, Frank Jensen, Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard (mayor of the technical and environmental department in Copenhagen), Connie Hedegaard (European Commissioner for Climate Action), Enrique Peñalosa (former mayor of Bogota), Gil Peñalosa (renowned consultant and social marketing strategist),
Jan Gehl (rock star urban planner and architect), Janette Sadik-Khan (Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation), John Whitelegg (visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University), Lake Sagaris (Canadian urban planner and journalist living in Chile), Pan Haixiao (Professor and Director of Land Use/Transport Studies at Tongji University in Shanghai), Dr. Vandana Shiva (world-renowned Indian environmentalist and philosopher). Oh, and me.

The president of the European Cyclists Federation, Manfred Neun, states proudly that it is "The best programme we've ever had".

Where I normally travel about with lectures about marketing bicycle culture and promoting bicycle culture positively, I'll be presenting something quite different and I'm looking forward to it.

I get to wander deep into my own private forest and get back to Bicycle Culture Origins. I'll be sharing my observations as a Bicycle Anthropologist after three and a half years of staring at this thing called Bicycle Culture. Boiling it all down to the core - people. How large numbers of Citizen Cyclists can benefit a city and a society, the aesthetic, the secret marks cycling citizens leave on the urban landscape, the eight postures used by Copenhageners to wait at red lights, the Galapogos Islands of Bicycle Culture - Denmark and Netherlands - and the subtle evolutionary differences between the two, the five senses relating to cycling and suchlike.

It'll be a pleasure to meet so many people working for a better bicycle future, right here in my backyard.

And please... don't forget the Cargo Bike Races on Saturday!

14 June 2010

Vacuum Cleaner Culture

Vacuum Cleaner Culture

When I travel around with various lectures I tend to open with a crash course in understanding Copenhagen's bicycle culture. I explain how my friends and colleagues get a kick out of the demand for me to travel around the world talking about something as dull and everyday as 'bicycle culture'. I call it Vacuum Cleaner Culture. I have even made a logo to explain this.

We all have a vacuum cleaner, we've all learned how to use it and we all use it. But we don't go around thinking about our vaccum in the course of a day. Only when the bag is full do we roll our eyes and sigh. Kind of like when our tire is flat/chain is loose and we chuck our bike into the bike shop.

We don't have a 'stable' of vacuum cleaners. We don't buy vacuum cleaning clothes from our LVS or wave at other 'avid' vacuum cleaning 'enthusiasts' on the street. The relationship to our bicycles is the same as to our vacuum cleaners. They're both merely incredibly effective and useful tools for making our daily lives easier.
We don't have bicycle culture in #copenhagen. We have vacuum cleaner culture
In my Four Goals for Promoting Bicycle Culture lecture I compare the marketing of bicycles from the dawn of the Safety bicycle in the late 19th century - and up to the early 1950's - with the marketing of vacuum cleaners in the post war years.

It was all mainstream marketing. Aimed at selling the product to regular citizens, as opposed to sub-cultural groups who fancied the Ordinary (penny farthing) and other contraptions.

When technology made vacuum cleaners accessible and affordable, the same marketing prinicples were applied as to bicycles.

ANYWAY... one of our readers sent us a link about a vaccum cleaner fetishist. A boy who LOVES his vaccum cleaners.

I got a kick out of this. Of COURSE there are people out there who fetishize about simple, practical machines. Why not? It's just not for everyone. (I bet he rides a lazy bike - a.k.a. e-bike, but that's another story...)

For fun I thought I'd search for stats about how DANGEROUS vacuum cleaning is. I figured this writer over at Spacing Toronto could use some inspiration for articles that don't promote cycling negatively.

Imagine that. According to the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents in the UK, there were the following statistics regarding vacuum cleaner related accidents:

Object or product involved: Vacuum Cleaner
Year Victims
2000.... 9,118
2001.... 9,104
2002.... 10,783

Where are the safety nannies on THIS issue?! Every bloody household must have a vaccum cleaner! And these stats are only for the UK. How much carnage is going unchecked around the world?

13 June 2010

Where Proud Old Bike Brands Go to Die

Where Proud Old Bike Brands Go to Die
A few years ago, many of the classic old bike brands in Denmark started to get bought up by a handful of companies. Some names disappeared but others were so ingrained in Danish bicycle history that they stuck, even if it was a massive company doing the selling. SCO is one of them.

SCO - or Smith & Co. was founded by Robert Jacobsen and Ivar Smith in 1905 and for many years was among the most popular brand in Denmark. You still see classic SCO's on the streets and they're lovely machines, like their mini-bike version below, from the 1960's.
A trend began not many years ago where bicycles started appearing in supermarkets, including many of the classic brands. Gone was the iconic sticker proudly proclaiming a 10 year guarantee on the frame and gone was that special sensation of buying a bicycle from a bike shop. Now it was broccoli, beer, butter and a bicycle. Like in the above photo from my local supermarket, where modern versions of the SCO are on sale like so many discounted cans of beans.


12 June 2010

Traffic Calming with Bicycle Parking

Traffic Calming with Bike Parking
The City put in a traffic calming measure on this street next to Saint Hans Square in the Nørrebro neighbourhood.

It was a perfect opportunity to plant some bike racks on the raised curb sections. This area is a hotbed of bars, cafés and restaurants so both the narrowed street and the bike racks are fantastic details.

I also enjoy the symbolism of a car being forced to slow down and navigate past long rows of bicycles. It's like a sandwich.

11 June 2010

Polite Bicycle Warning

Airport Bicycle Parking (2)
How lovely and polite, this tag placed on a bicycle at Copenhagen International Airport.

"Undesirable Bicycle Parking
With respect for the free passage of passengers and the emergency services, we ask you to please place your bicycle in the established bicycle racks in the future."

Airport Bicycle Parking
And on another part of the bicycle was this tag:

"Is this bicycle in use?
Remove this tag before 16.05.2010 so we can see that it is in use. Otherwise the bicycle will be removed by the police."

10 June 2010

Cargo Bike Race Course Announced

The upcoming Svajerløb 2010 - Danish Cargo Bike Championships - which Copenhagenize.com is co-sponsoring now has a finalised course.

There is an island in the middle of Copenhagen, surrounded by canals, on which the Royal Library and the Parliament are located. Most of the streets will be closed off so there will really be a good, old-fashioned street race feel to the day.

1.3 km circuit, starting at the Royal Library by the harbour, heading down a dreadful Paris-Roubaix inspired cobblestone street, past the national parliament, down along the ancient stock exchange - Børsen - and back to the start area to load car tires, newspaper bundles, et al, on to the bikes for the final lap.

Any of you who are here for the Velo-City Global Bicycle Conference really should show up and, if you're up for it, sign up for the Team Relay. It's the most relaxed, folksy event of the day. It only costs 50 kroner [$10] to enter a team. You need a cargo bike, though. Check with Baisikeli Bike Rental.

I've learned that there will also be the Danish Championships in Brompton, as well! So be sure to enter that if you wish. Seven laps for the Bromptonites, but only one winner.

One thing is for sure, it'll be a great day out and if you're a visitor you'll never see so many cargo bikes in one place as you will that day.

09 June 2010

Field Day for Bicycle Cops

Field Day
There was a wonderful Turkish festival on the City Hall Square in Copenhagen last Sunday. Easily 10,000 people were in attendance to hear music, cultural events and to hang out in the sun.

Along one of the streets there were a long line of posh cars parked. Illegally. The MC announced that the cars should be moved and that the police were on their way.

A few moments later a couple of bicycle cops - a man and a woman - rolled up and uncerimoniously began writing tickets. Interestingly they went to work in the middle of the row of cars. Focusing on these two convertibles and not the lesser expensive cars on either side. Police officers making bitter class choices? Anyways...

Cars getting tickets from bicycle cops is always a hoot. If I ever get a traffic ticket, I hope it'll be a bicycle cop that dishes it out.

They had finished writing the two tickets for these two cars when the motorists both came sprinting up. In vain. The young guy on the right was well ready to argue but some older Turkish chaps on the sidelines told him to chill and he did. The other guy played it cool and took his ticket with a shrug.

All fascinating to regard. The show had a bit of a sour ending, though. I walked over to the male cop, when they were done, to ask him a simple question. I am, as a rule, polite and smiling. I wanted to know if the bicycle unit would continue after the one year test phase which was ending soon.

He was mumbly and vague and said he was quitting the unit soon anyway. Which wasn't an answer to my question. He told me to call his boss if I was so interested. I said I didn't need to when I was standing in front of an officer from the bicycle unit. He just laughed nervously.

So much for a bicycle unit bringing officers to street level to interact with the citizens. Putting a human face on police enforcement. Grumpy twat. Him... not me, you stupid reader.

The Smiling Blonde Cop was the focus of all the press when the Bicycle Unit launched last year. Have they all gone sour now?

08 June 2010

Have Beer Keg, Will Pedal

Great little film about those two bedfellows - beer and bicycles. From San Diego and surrounding area.

Thanks to Rich for the link.

Danish Crown Prince in DC

Photo from Berlingske.dk

Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark is on an official visit in Washington DC and today he was on a bike ride with a bunch of people. He's seen above, with a politically correct helmet, but riding relaxed in best Citizen Cyclist style next to Congressman Tom Petri, from Wisconsin, with other politicians and athletes in tow.

Danish TV channel TV2 reports that a female motorist rolled down her window and shouted at the cyclists on the bike ride, saying that they were blocking traffic. Ah... world's collide. :-)

The Crown Prince (he's even got his own website!) is a cool chap by all accounts. When I first moved to Copenhagen some 16 years ago I was a party in a flat and my friends pointed at a guy saying, "That's the Crown Prince of Denmark". I didn't believe them, of course, but the 'guy' confirmed that he was in fact the Crown Prince when I went over to ask. As you can see in the photo, the Crown Prince is no stranger to bicycles. He's Danish, for heavens sake. Nor is his brother, Prince Joachim, with whom I went for a bike ride in Mexico City.

Indeed, the Crown Prince is known for cycling his kids to daycare and school on the family cargo bike. A really down to earth chap.

If only that motorist knew that before she shouted at him and the others. He's just a Citizen Cyclist.

And if you live in DC, keep your eye out for the Cultural Attaché from the Danish Embassy, Torsten Jansen. Quite possibly the most dapper cyclist in the city on his Pedersen bicycle and the architect behind the Crown Prince's visit.

07 June 2010

Bicycle Orchestra from the Netherlands

Fietsharmonische Orkest
When I was in Lleida, Catalonia in April attending the 3rd Bicycle Congress, the conference arrangers hired 't Brabants Fietharmonische Orkest - or The Brabants Bikeharmonic Orchestra - to entertain the participants and locals alike.

What a great bunch of chaps, both on and off the bicycle. They travel all around Europe entertaining with their oompah music and everything revolves around the bicycle.

Here's a little film I whipped up with the boys on the bike. Much easier showing a film about musicians than trying to write about it, dontcha fink?

Fietsharmonische Orkest

Fietsharmonische Orkest Trailer
They have a driver who pulls the bike on a trailer around Europe to the various gigs. The volcano had paralysed air traffic - I was stuck in Barcelona for four days - but these guys bit the bullet and all rode home in this camper. Respect.

Website: 't Brabants Fietsharmonische Orkest.

Mobile Bike Workshop in Copenhagen

The Bikeman
There are very few things that can't be done by bicycle in Copenhagen. We often blog about the various cargo bike variations in this city.

Meet Jacob - aka The Bikeman. He's a bike mechanic with a rolling workshop. He has everything he needs in his cargo box, including a portable stand for suspending bikes. He'll go anywhere you need him to on his Bullitt in the city centre.

Jacob also has arrangements with various companies. He comes out during work hours and the employees can go down and get their bikes adjusted, tuned, de-squeaked, whatever you need. No need to sacrifice your bicycle for a day by chucking it into a bikeshop. Brilliant.

The professional bikeshop comes to you.

If you're in Copenhagen and need to get a hold of The Bikeman, ring 28 40 35 67.

06 June 2010

Bicycle Sales 1896-1944

Husqvarna Bicycle Sales
An interesting historical document. The number of bicycle sold by Husqvarna Weapons Factory from 1896-1944.

Funny... a weapon manufacturer selling bicycles. But Husqvarna was founded in 1689 and focused on weapons from the start. Over the course of a few centuries they branched out to produce bicycles, but also sewing machines, kitchen equipment, motorcycles and chainsaws.

Interestingly, sales peaked during both world wars.

04 June 2010

Vintage Swedish Bicycle Adverts from Monark

Advert from 1940's for Monark's new 'beauty bicycles' [beautycyklar], as they were called back then. The sign says The New Fashion.

Selling bicycles as practical but gorgeous lifestyle accessories and not as sports equipment. A fine example of what I talk about in my travelling circus... um... lecture series... about marketing urban cycling.

"The lines of the lady's jacket match the lines of the bicycle..." or so they tell us at 0:22.

Monark is one of the grand old brands in Swedish bicycle history.

Good old Charlie Norman sings a 'beauty song' about beauty bicycles. Brilliant vintage advert from the 1950's.

An advert for Monark's Traffic School, from the 1950's. I love that kid-sized cargo bike. They have them at my son's school, too.

An animated advert from the 1950's. From the days before Culture of Fear.

Here's the boxer Ingemar Johansson - national hero - in a 1950's advert for Monark Bicycles. Interestingly, and unusally, in this advert they bang on about the health benefits of cycling - on a Monark, of course. Which fits well with the period in which the film was made and the focus in advertising on athletes like Ingemar, who were role models for an entire nation. Adverts with athletes often emphasised health and vitality.

Oh and here's another Monark film relating to cyclesport.

Sk8er Boy

Skates and Stick
Ah. Summer.

03 June 2010


It was kind of funny really. In the morning rush hour, at 08:34 on a workday, on Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard (with 25,000 cyclists a day) a woman with a cargo bike [bottom right, pulling up her track pants] decided to stop suddenly on the bike lane and... clean out her cargo bike.

All the other Citizen Cyclists who had just been launched off the light on the other side of the intersection had to suddenly brake and merge and work their way past the woman, who calmly gathered up trash out of her cargo bay and walked over to the garbage can [hidden behind the man with the purple bag] to chuck it out.

Amazingly, given how high-octane, adrenalin-based the fantastically dangerous activity of cycling to work is, nobody 'came off their bikes' - or whatever it is people call it.
But one cyclist out of the few dozen in this flock is already on her way up over the sidewalk, which of course means that all cyclists are outlaws corroding the societal fabric from within.

Any of our Danish readers care to translate "lack of 'situationsfornemmelse'" in the comments - as in the woman's lack of situationsfornemmelse?

The Bicycle Fiets the Hell out of Driving

Displacement activity. Playing around with t-shirt designs. A Danish t-shirt with a Dutch word. Viva l'Europe. Available on a t-shirt from the Cycle Chic/Copenhagenize online boutique. Oh, and a canvas shopping/tote bag. Oh, and a coffee mug.

And with this I step firmly into the wasp's nest. Buzz.

02 June 2010

Playmobil Cycle Moods from Madrid

This is just brilliant. Well done, Jerónimo, from Madridcyclechic! Great music, great mood. Please blog/tweet this onwards onto the playmobil superbicycle highway (aka internet)

Invading Urban Space - Repel the Invasion!

Git yer roll of quarters ready, pilgrims! It's time to try and get that hiscore in [Urban] Space Invaders. Sent to Copenhagenize by Antoine, in New Zealand. The dapper, two-wheeled host with the most of Bike Friendly North Shore.

Check out their Flickr photostream for some NZ shots.

Stat Attacks - Numbers as Weapons in Discouraging Cycling

There was a recent, symbolic raid on bicycles last week where the police went after our cycling citizens for fun and profit.

There was coverage on every news channel about the police handing out fines and in every broadcast and in every newspaper article one number was mentioned. 20,000 cyclists are admitted to hospital every year in Denmark. It had absolutely no context for the bike raid, but it was repeated again and again.

I was thinking about the affect heuristic in relation to how we should be promoting cycling. Wikipedia has a page about the affect heuristic but Eliezer Yudkowsky has a great article about it on the excellent Less Wrong blog - a 'community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality'.

As Yudkowsky puts it, "The affect heuristic is when subjective impressions of goodness/badness act as a heuristic - a source of fast, perceptual judgments. Pleasant and unpleasant feelings are central to human reasoning..." A paper I'm looking forward to getting my fingers on is The affect heuristic in judgments of risks and benefits. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making by Finucane, M. L., Alhakami, A., Slovic, P., Johnson, S. M. (2000)

The affect heuristic is in play more than ever in modern society, thanks to the regrettable development of The Culture of Fear. Not least here in Denmark.

The "20,000 cyclists admitted to hospital" isn't a number that a dozen journalists googled by coincedence. It's a number sent out in a press release so that journalists don't have to think for themselves. Not surprisingly, it's the Danish Road 'Safety' Council who controls the distribution of such statistics. They really should open a car dealership on the side.

Stats like that one have incredibly negative effects on risk perception. Over the past two years, the flow of negative stats has increased. The main problem is that if you have a leak of negativity, you should also have a plug. We need a plug here in Denmark. We need a counterweight to the car-centric flow of information. We need people to fight for cycling, because we're killing it off. That's what bicycle advocacy is all about.

Looking around the world at colleagues I've met there are many who work hard at plugging. Fietsersbond, the CTC in the UK and FUBICY in France spring to mind. Countering the negative press and destructive stats that filter out of other organisations. Cyclists up in the UK! Um, yes... but cycling is up so actually the number of accidents is down. Safety in numbers principle. Duh...

If you keep repeating something like "20,000 cyclists end up in the hospital every year", it starts to sink in that cycling is 'dangerous'. This is the affect heuristic at play in all the wrong ways.

In the press we never hear details about these emergency room visits. Many, if not most, are minor injuries to arms and legs. We don't hear whether or not most cyclists walk out of the emergency ward and ride home, which is quite likely. I recall a stat from Norway about how 90% of cyclists who visited a hospital were on their bike again within the week. An important detail to include, don't you think? Provides a rational balance to the shockhorror angle.

I was at the hospital last week, actually. Just for some tests. Got talking to the doctor who told me that she commutes by train from Odense - an hour and a half away from Copenhagen. I asked, innocently enough, if she had a bike parked at the Nørreport train station - which is a 10 minute ride from the national hospital.

No, no... she 'didn't dare cycle in Copenhagen'. I assured her that we live in one of the world's two safest countries to cycle in. She was interested to hear that but she's been affected - affect heuristic again - by the negative press cycling has had over the past two years.

The City's Bicycle Office knows that scaring people off of bikes doesn't do anyone any good. In an interview with a Toronto newspaper, Andreas Rohl, project manager for Copenhagen's cycling infrastructure, said "We try to never talk to the public about cycling safety. [...] We just feel if we start to talk publicly about safety, people will start to doubt if cycling is safe..."
How Not to Promote Cycling
This is apparently how the Road Safety Council 'sells cycling' in Denmark

Let's look at numbers. Danes cycle 30% less than they did in 1990. According to the brilliant research by Prof. Lars Bo Andersen at the University of Southern Denmark, if will still cycled those 30% we could save 1500 lives a year through the health benefits of cycling. We both spoke at a conference last year, actually, and I asked him about it. He said that the 1500 number is low. Way too low. I'm looking forward to seeing what number he comes up with.

Shouldn't this positive news about the health benefits of urban cycling be repeated constantly? Shouldn't stats like this be one of the plugs to stem the flow of car-centric information?

Let's look at the 20,000 number with layman's eyes.

According to the national statistics, 18% of Danes cycle each day.
There are 5,540,241 people in Denmark, according to the latest numbers from last month.

That means there are 997,243 people commuting to work or school each day. Let's be realistic but, at the same time, conservative. Let's make that number 1.3 million to include short trips by bike that never get counted in commuting stats. It's probably much higher.

So... 1,300,000 people use a bicycle each day.
20,000 are admitted to hospital for minor or major injuries.
That means that only 1.5% - probably lower - of our daily cyclists are unlucky enough to need medical assistance.

On the other hand, those 1.3 million people ride every day.
1.3 million people times 365 days = 47,450,000
20,000 hospital admittances is 0.042%.
Goodness... that looks good.

Which headline is most positive and likely to encourage people to cycle?

20,000 cyclists hospitalised each year!


Only 1.5% [or 0.042% if you like] of cyclists hospitalised each year! Most of them for minor injuries!

Traffic deaths are always tragic. No doubt about it. In Denmark every around 45-50 cyclists are killed in traffic accidents. Like everywhere else, the majority die in accidents with cars. Which is why we shouldn't ignore the bull.

Let's say 50 cyclists lose their lives each year.
Out of the same 1.3 million Danes.
That's 0.00384%.

Let's balance that with the fact that, according to the comprehensive research by Prof. Lars Bo Andersen, cyclists live seven years longer, are less ill whilst alive and enjoy a higher quality of life.

And I recall reading that BECAUSE we cycle so much we save 600 lives a year! That's AMAZING news! Where are the headlines?

"Cycling is safe!"
"Safety in numbers... get on your bike and make cycling safer!"
"600 lives saved every year by cycling!"
"Save your life! Ride a bike!"

Etcetera. Ad libitum.

There is much talk of risk per kilometre [or mile] travelled. This is probably the most car-centric twist on traffic statistics in history. I heard a year or so ago that this way to angle the stats was an invention of the car industry, but I've never been able to find out where it originated or when it was first brought into use. Which all makes it feel a bit like the mystery surrounding the invention of Cap-and-Trade C02 trading schemes by Enron and Goldman Sachs and Al Gore.

If risk per kilometre was worth anything, space travel would be the safest form of travel. However, after a quick google, I learned that 32 astro/cosmonauts have lost their lives, out of 517 people who have travelled in space. Not great odds. I'll stick to my bicycle. It takes me to the moon and back every day.

The whole point is that those of us who wish to promote cycling should focus most intensely on countering the attempts by others to brand cycling as dangerous. Including those who provide negative affect heuristic statistics.

It's promoting cycling, it's basic marketing.

We're not doing it good enough. It's madness.

01 June 2010

Copenhagen is Getting Ready

Yes, indeed. Copenhagen is getting ready to welcome the world to Velo-City Global 2010 bicycle conference later this month.

Here's the trailer for the event, featuring my boy Felix.

Sushi and Bicycles - How Marketing Bicycle Culture Should be Easy

The Sushi Bicycle
The Sushi Bicycle - Selling Sushi at Copenhagen Beaches

In a recent post - 'If You Want Cycle Transport, Make Cycle Transport Sexy' by Brian Glover - I delved briefly into a comparison between the journey of sushi from obscurity in the western world to being a mainstream culinary dish.

I still can't find the link to a study I read about a few years back that used the proliferation of sushi restaurants as a yardstick in research to determine how age affects peoples desire to try new things in life. Eating new foods, voting for different political parties, listening to new music.

But it got me thinking about sushi and comparing it to 'bicycle culture'. It's particularly relevant as I so often hear - either whilst speaking in other countries or here on this blog things like "you don't understand... we live in a different culture."

I don't buy that at all, which is why I focus on marketing, anthopology and the fact that the behaviour of homo sapiens - and changing that behaviour - is quite universal. Now, there are differences in marketing in different countries. Canon has a camera that is sold around the world. In Japan, they sell it as the Ixy [cutesy name], they sell it as Ixus in Europe [grand, like a Greek god] and the same camera is called Powershot on the American market.

Carmakers have always battled with finding names that cross borders. A name which sounds great in a dozen languages may flop in one other. Volkswagon discovered that their Sharan model didn't fly in the UK because the girl's name Sharon has negative associations with a 'certain kind of girl'.

The Mitsubishi Pajero is sold as the Shogun in the UK and as the Montero in Spanish-speaking countries and North America because pajero means wanker in Castilian Spanish. The Buick LaCrosse was sold as the Buick Allure in Canada, as la crosse means masturbation or swindling in Québécois slang. It's all called badge engineering.

The products are, however, all the same. They're still just selling cameras and cars to consumers. Cellphones, mobiles or handys all do the same thing.

How did something as bizarre [to the western palate] as sushi conquer the world? Raw fish on sticky rice served with a green, horseradishy paste and dipped in soya sauce? Now available at in Canadian prairie supermarkets and in Moscow cafés.

Surely, if something as bizarre as sushi can become mainstream by leaping across well-protected and fiercely defended culinary and cultural borders then there must be good odds for the bicycle's return to the urban landscape.

The bicycle is universal. I know many people who have never even tried sushi, but I don't know anyone who can't ride a bicycle. Even if they never ride one, they've learned it and enjoyed it.

A couple of generations ago, our families were eating the same, largely unchanged, cuisine as their ancestors. The bicycle, however, was not unfamiliar to them.

So what was sushi's journey to success and globalisation? Can we use the example in marketing mainstream bicycle culture?

Theodore C. Bestor wrote an article in Foreign Policy ten years ago called How Sushi Went Global.

Little mention of any Japanese food appeared in U.S. media until well after World War II. By the 1960s, articles on sushi began to show up in lifestyle magazines like Holiday and Sunset. But the recipes they suggested were canapŽs like cooked shrimp on caraway rye bread, rather than raw fish on rice.

A decade later, however, sushi was growing in popularity throughout North America, turning into a sign of class and educational standing. In 1972, the New York Times covered the opening of a sushi bar in the elite sanctum of New York's Harvard Club. Esquire explained the fare in an article titled "Wake up Little Sushi!" Restaurant reviewers guided readers to Manhattan's sushi scene, including innovators like Shalom Sushi, a kosher sushi bar in SoHo.

Japan's emergence on the global economic scene in the 1970s as the business destination du jour, coupled with a rejection of hearty, red-meat American fare in favor of healthy cuisine like rice, fish, and vegetables, and the appeal of the high-concept aesthetics of Japanese design all prepared the world for a sushi fad. And so, from an exotic, almost unpalatable ethnic specialty, then to haute cuisine of the most rarefied sort, sushi has become not just cool, but popular.

The painted window of a Cambridge, Massachusetts, coffee shop advertises "espresso, cappuccino, carrot juice, lasagna, and sushi." Mashed potatoes with wasabi (horseradish), sushi-ginger relish, and seared sashimi-grade tuna steaks show Japan's growing cultural influence on upscale nouvelle cuisine throughout North America, Europe, and Latin America. Sushi has even become the stuff of fashion, from "sushi" lip gloss, colored the deep red of raw tuna, to "wasabi" nail polish, a soft avocado green.

Fish Boat
In Walter F. Carroll's paper SUSHI: Globalization through Food Culture: Towards a Study of Global Food Networks - (opens as .pdf) he writes about Sasha Issenbergs's book The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy, saying that:

"He suggests that there is much to admire in the worldwide sushi trade and argues that it shows that “'virtuous global commerce and food culture can exist'.

What makes that trade potentially virtuous for him is “on a new landscape of consumption, power is decentralized, and supply and demand are regulated not by moguls but by local ideas about value and taste”.

Carroll continues:

"From beginnings in the Little Tokyo section of the city in the 1950s, eventually “sushi had found its second home”. Although some types of sushi were available in Little Tokyo, sushi’s wave of popularity in Los Angeles came with the movement of Japanese managers and executives to the United States when the Japanese economy was thriving during the 1960s. Their expense accounts enabled them to enjoy the relatively expensive sushi in Los Angeles. It was at this point that nigiri and fish maki began to be available. This led to the launching of new sushi restaurants and the increasing visibility of the dish. Issenberg (2007), from whom I draw this account, also notes some of the barriers to the acceptance of sushi in the United States, noting that “while foreign flavors have long seeped into American foodways, sushi had unique challenges.

Unlike other “ethnic foods,” in America, sushi was not an inexpensive, neighborhood-based food. “In large part because of its celebrated aesthetics, Japanese food was always seen as fussy haute cuisine” and this slowed its acceptance."

Perhaps I got carried away there, but I found it interesting. Sushi conquered the world. Surely the bicycle's journey back to our cities and towns should be a piece of cake.

Sushi was 'trendy' in L.A. and then New York, where it stranded for a while - but didn't go away. The Theory of Diffusion of Innovations came into play. The Innovators took hold of sushi. It moved over to the Early Adopters and then the Early Majority. It's now been embraced by the Late Majority and, in the case of sushi, there are probably many Laggards who will never try it. Nevertheless, it's a success.

The bicycle is 'hot' again, all over the world. With a bit of luck, the trend won't fade and we will continue to sell urban cycling positively, in order to allow the bicycle to tango its way into the lives of the Early Majority. We're well on our way.

I can't wrap this up [in newspaper] without a fish metaphor. Johannes V. Jensen was a famous Danish writer. In his novel Gudrun, from 1935, he compares the cycling Copenhageners to schools of fish:

"If one is bumped by a car, the whole school is bumped. It's a nerve one has in the elbow, a flock function, which Copenhageners have learned so well that it is second nature".

Dead Fish
Disclaimer: This post is about comparing sushi and bicycle relating to marketing and trends. It has nothing to do with overfishing, declining fish stocks, etc. I'll recommend my friend Taras' book Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood (Taras Grescoe 2008) on THAT subject.

And I'm probably never going to have the chance to blog this video of mine on a bicycle blog again, so here goes: