01 January 2011

Copenhagenize Origins

Copenhagenize
While the origins of Cycle Chic™ are quite widely-known, we thought it appropriate to highlight the origins of the Copenhagenize blog and company.

It is closely-associated with the Cycle Chic story in that after collecting a great many photographs of regular people on bicycles in Copenhagen and around the world, Mikael Colville-Andersen began noticing all the other aspects of a cycling life in the World's Cycling Capital. He also noticed how the rest of the world were reacting to his constant stream of photos.

A journey of social-documentary began. The Cycle Chic blog enjoyed enormous popularity from the very beginning and readers started asking questions about Copenhagen's bicycle culture. Colville-Andersen started seeking out the answers and, in the process, he became curious as to how Copenhagen reached the level of cycling it now enjoys. What was the journey? How did it come about? What were the historical influences?

Those questions and more launched Copenhagenize - the blog - and continue to be at the core of what the blog is about.

At the very beginning, back in 2007, the blog was called Cycleliciousness. It featured photos and commentary about Copenhagen's bicycle culture. After a while, Colville-Andersen discovered a blog with a similar name - Cyclelicio.us. He thought that perhaps a name-change was in order - to avoid confusion and to be original.

Colville-Andersen then coined the phrase "Copenhagenize", choosing the -ize suffix as opposed to -ise because of the many North American readers at the time.

Upon coining the phrase, he googled it right away to see if there were other instances out there, in the interest of avoiding another Cyclelicious confusion. There was nothing at all on Google - apart from a naval military reference from the splendidly-named "Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States", published in 1899:

But, even when it was repealed in 1809, the belief that Great Britain would "Copenhagenize" any American navy which might be formed was sufficient to deter the democratic leaders from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...

The word described the British habit of taking a defeated adversary's navy home with them, as Admiral Nelson did after bombing Copenhagen in 1807.

The word "Copenhagenize" was therefore wide open, unused and available. The domain www.copenhagenize.com was purchased.

The blog grew and became more and more popular. It was, as it is today, a voice for "Citizen Cyclists" - another phrase coined by Colville-Andersen to describe regular citizens - or "bicycle users" - as opposed to "cyclists". The latter is a word that generates too many specific images and opinions and mostly refers to the cycling sub-cultures.

In the early days of the blog, Copenhagenize was the sole voice for advocating everyday cycling without fancy gear and carbon-fibre wonderbikes. In late 2007 there were hardly any other bicycle blogs that weren't focused on racing or recreational cycling. Now there is an armada of blogs out there advocating a return of the Citizen Cyclist to our cities and towns. An armada that won't be 'copenhagenized' anytime soon.

Copenhagenize grew quickly as a catchphrase on the internet. Always closely associated with Copenhagen and mainstream bicycle culture it soon became a conceptual word to describe liveable cities and all the elements involved with (re)creating them.

The popularity of the Copenhagenize.com blog continues to this day and is stronger than ever. The name Copenhagenize is now used in the consultancy company Copenhagenize Design Company, which advises cities, towns and organisations about how to design and implement bicycle infrastructure as well as designing marketing and behavioural campaigns for promoting cycling positively.

The name Copenhagenize lives on.

2 comments:

john.calaway said...

Mikael -- You've probably thought of this but "Copenhagenize" works as a homophone too, "Copenhagen Eyes", e.g. the dude with the camera, Copenhagen's observer, how you see her in your mind's eye, etc.

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic site! I'm telling everyone I know about it,especially my friends who only ride for sport. Thank you!!!