28 February 2011


My Apples
So. I bought some groceries and didn't have room for the apples on the front rack. That's what the hook on my back rack is for.

25 February 2011

Lyon Pushes for More Bicycles

Lyon, France's third-largest city is moving quickly forward to create a more bicycle-friendly future. Above is the Mayor of Lyon and other dignitaries opening a double-wide lane for cyclists in a shared bus route corridor.

Is France the Next Big Thing when it comes to bicycle infrastructure and increasing the number of Citizen Cyclists?

Here's an article about Lyon's intiatives:

Since July 2003, Greater Lyon has established and developed what it called "the soft mode map". The plan revolves around a simple desire: to offer a clean alternative to car use by developing green travel in the city - whether by bicycle, scooter, rollerblades or walking.

With an estimated price of €90 million for the period 2008 to 2014, the plan is aiming at soft mode expansion to 5% of modal share for bicycle use by 2014 and 7.5% by 2020. To meet this objective, the action plan focuses of adding over 200 km of cycle paths, at 30 km per year.

The balance sheet at the end of 2010 outlines the types of development achieved: 25% of the infrastructure are bicycle paths, 25% are greenways (mix of pedestrians and bicycles, as is the case, for example, on the banks of the Rhone), 24% are on-street bike lanes, 16% are bi-directional bike lanes, and 10% are bike lanes shared with busses.

Encompassing all of this typology, 400 km of routes have already been built in the city - 90 km of it since 2008.

However, Gerard Collomb, mayor of Lyon, said that "despite excellent progress, the dialogue continues with merchants, who are not particularly thrilled to see all the construction work outside their storefronts."

Another field of action to promote bicycle use is the development and diversification of services, in particular the bike share programme Vélo'v.

The traffic information signs will also be requisitioned in April 2011 in favor of Vélo'v, and communicate timely data.

Jean-Louis Touraine, deputy mayor, summarizes the soft mode plan initiatives. "There is maximum satisfaction since the introduction of intermodal facilities and offerings.

The safety of all is pretty well assured. And we achieved a 15% drop in traffic, which is a significant shift, and which will continue to improve. With this strategy, we ensure that cyclists are better respected and the pedestrians are better protected."

On Wednesday, Senator-Mayor of Lyon, Gerard Collomb, inaugurated the two-way path serving the axis between Place Jean-Macé/avenue de Grande-Bretagne.

It is a double-laned bicycle route in a single bus corridor, and it will link to many existing routes.

Via: Villes Cyclables on Twitter and Le Progres newspaper)

And here's a little film from Lyon in 2008 showing citizens protesting for bicycle infrastructure:

Traçage de la piste cyclable - Chambéry (73) - 23/02/08
Uploaded by chichechambery. - Watch the latest news videos.
The city listened.

Thanks to Martin on Twitter for the link to the film.

Break Free

Stuck in Traffic
This just in from our friend Antoine in New Zealand. We like.

Better Than School

My Bicycle
Can't for the life of me remember who gave me this. Please come clean in the comments if it was you. It was back in 2009.

Cool text.

24 February 2011


Lovin' this little activism film from 1minutetosavetheworld. Thanks to Vincenzo for the link.

23 February 2011

Temporarily Permanent

Temporary Bike Lanes
If you have to make temporary bicycle lanes, it's ever so nice that they're done properly. The construction of the new Copenhagen Metro City Ring is well underway around town, not least in my neighbourhood. The area around the existing Frederiksberg Metro Station is a chaos of construction and the city has moved the bicycle lanes and pedestrian traffic as a result. It's only a stretch of a couple of hundred metres or so but it's an important link.

The lanes are paved nicely and there are many bicycle pictograms to hammer home the fact that its for bicycles. It's not often that I ride on bi-directional bike lanes in Copenhagen and it feels a bit odd when I do, after being used to having protected cycle tracks on each side of the street. The only real bi-directional stretch is the Green Path that cuts across the city - which this section is a part of. I do, however, appreciate that this stretch is so well-made and not a clumsy, temporary solution. On the other hand it is necessary to make it properly, as there are easily over 5000 cyclists a day riding past this spot. That is probably a  low number given the fact the shopping centre on the left attracts many customers each day.
Public Transit, Copenhagen
Frederiksberg Metro station looks like this from above today. Another platform/station will be added to accomodate the City Ring.

Public Music
On the square by the station last weekend there was a pleasant surprise. There are speakers on Solbjerg Square, embedded beneath the ground. There is often music playing on the weekends. I've heard some cool jazz before. At the moment the many speakers are all part of an orchestra playing classical music. Each speaker is an instrument and it feels like you're in a concert hall. You can walk or ride your bike around the square and feel like you're moving through the orchestra pit. Brilliant.

21 February 2011

Provincal - Bicycle Infrastructure

Traffic Calming Frederikssund 2
I really should get out more. I rarely get to the provinces - whether Danish or otherwise. That's just me. I prefer cities. Once in a while, however, I find myself out there. In the Danish town of Frederikssund last summer I spotted these two simple traffic calming measures. Simply narrowing the street with islands and only allowing for one way traffic through the squeeze.
Traffic Calming Frederikssund
The bicycle lane, of course, allows for free passage. In a small Danish town like this there is often a combination of painted lines, as above, and physically separated cycle tracks - depending on the traffic volume of the street.

Cycle Tracks - Even in the middle of nowhere, Denmark
On a trip to small town in Jutland for a football tournament that my son was playing in, it was reassuring to see that along every road there were cycle tracks - and they were cleared of snow even way out there. Again, bi-directional tracks in some places and - if the traffic volume is sufficient - a track on either side of the highway.
Bornholm Bike Lanes
With over 10,000 km of bicycle lanes, paths and tracks in Denmark, you can get pretty much anywhere you need to go on a bicycle. Whether between two small towns or all the way from east to west/north to south.
Provincial Bike Lanes
This cycle track connects two towns - one of 7000 inhabitants and the other with 10,000 - that are about 20 km apart.

19 February 2011

Outside My Window

I'd forgotten about this little artsy-fartsy film I made three years ago.
Time for a re-post on this lazy Saturday. 30 minutes outside my flat window.

Australian Helmet Science - For Motorists

helmet for motorists head protection for motorists helmet for motorists

Since posting about mass-produced motoring helmets and later Protective Helmet-ish headbands for motorists I was curious to learn more about the latter, produced at the University of Adelaide.

It's taken a while but I finally recieved the study done in 2000 at the Road Accident Research Unit at the U of Adelaide, called CR 193: The development of a protective headband for car occupants (Andersen, White, McLean 2000).

A chap at Road Safety Policy, Department of Infrastructure & Transport in Australia was kind enough to send a link to the Australian Government website wherein the study is presented.

I don't think cyclists should be bullied with helmet promotion and threatened with legislation when there exists a very real and present danger to car occupants. I think that the car lobby as well as the general population should be presented with more data and facts about the dangers of driving.

It's only fair and logical.

From the Australian report we can read about the background for the study:

"Car crashes remain a significant source of head injury in the community. Car occupants have an annual hospital admission rate of around 90 per 100,000 population. Of drivers who are admitted to hospital, the most serious injury is usually to the head (O'Conner and Trembath, 1994).

In a previous study, McLean et al. (1997) estimated the benefits that are likely to accrue to Australia from the use of padding of the upper interior of the passenger compartment. This study specifically examined the effects of the ammendment to the United States Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 201 (FMVSS 201) in which passenger cars have to pass head impact tests with the upper interior. That report estimated the total annual reduction in harm to the Australian community to be around $123 million.

But more impressive were the estimates of introducing protective headwear for car occupants. The authors of the report estimated that the annual reduction in harm would be in the order of $380 million. The benefit of padding the head is that the head is protected from strikes with unpadded automotive components, exterior objects and in vehicles that predate any eventual introduction of padded interiors."

These are Australian numbers so the numbers for annual reduction in harm would be even higher in the EU or US.

The tests were a success, which is great news for drivers and car occupants:

"The results from Phase 3 indicate that a headband can greatly reduce the severity of an impact to the head. HIC was reduced by 25 percent [...] when compared with an impact with no headband."

The RARU headband prototype covers 44% of impact points usually suffered by car occupants. You can see on the photos at top that the protective area was actually extended when the prototype was designed so this 44% must be a bit higher.

The researchers go on to recommend further work on the subject:

"The results from Phase 3 indicate that a headband can greatly reduce the severity of an impact to the head. HIC was reduced by 25 percent [...] with the use of 25 mm of BB-38 polyurethane, and 67 percent with the honeycomb cardboard prototype, when compared with an impact with no headband."

"We recommend that further investigation is made into materials of a honeycomb structure to find a material of the correct crushing strength and durability. We also recommend that prototypes be developed further to be included in a testing program that would include other vehicle structures tested over a range of velocities."

It gets extremely difficult to ignore the bull when you're looking at this kind of science.

If we're serious, as societies, about really saving lives, these headbands should be promoted on all levels. There are two positive effects: One is that there will be fewer head injuries among car occupants. The other is that we would be informing people of the danger of driving and thereby branding driving as dangerous which will only serve the cause of encouraging people to consider safer transport options like... oh I don't know... cycling?

Take the Poll:

Here's a link to the Australian Government website about the motorist headbands.
Here's the study as a .pdf: The Development of a Protective Headband for Car Occupants

18 February 2011

Copenhagenize Rides Ciclovia in Mexico City

Here's another one for the It's About Time file. After whipping together a little film about UNAM's bicycle friendly university the other day I figured it was time to whip together a film about riding the Ciclovia in Mexico City.

The Reforma Boulevard is gloriously wide and it was recently repaved - providing a brilliant surface for the people of Mexico City to go for bike rides, rollerblading, promenading, you name it.

We wrote about The Joy of Cycling in Mexico City featuring photographs of the day, and now we present you with moving images.

17 February 2011

Australian Call For Motoring Helmets

Click for larger, readable version. Opens in new window.

One of our readers in Australia, Peter, sent us this article written in 1989 by Alan A. Parker. It's an interesting backward glance to the days when Australia were debating mandatory helmet laws.

The latter half of the article is interesting. In it, the author discusses motoring helmets and, indeed, calls for them. I found this bit to be enlightening:

"There is an embarassing silence from the police and the police unions about their willingness to enforce bicycle helmet laws but, in the closing days of 1987, they went public with the proposal that motorists should wear helmets which they regard as a worthwhile change in the law that they are prepared to enforce."

Hadn't heard that one before. That the police went public backing motoring helmets. A little piece of the puzzle falls into place.
Helmets for Motorists - bilisthjelm
Our article from back in May 2009 about Australian motoring helmets - "The World's First" - produced by Davies Craig was greeted with chuckles at first. Until we started looking into it and discovering that motoring helmets have been taken seriously, as we wrote about later.

But the question of WHY Davies Craig would start producing them has remained vague. We were aware of studies showing the benefits of motoring helmets from the late 1990's but Davies Craig were selling theirs in the late 1980's. A company wouldn't invest in a product like this unless there was a good reason. So it's interesting to learn that motoring helmets were on the agenda and that the police, at least for a while, were backing their use.

Davies Craig, on the box, say that they had spent 3 years developing the motoring helmet so the subject must have been topical for a while.

With that, said, the author questions self-enforcement of helmet laws. He was, it must said, correct. Over 20 years later, the police in most Australian cities may ticket cyclists for riding without, but it's not a priority by all accounts and often it is the exception. Except in Melbourne where urban cyclists are constantly hunted down like vermin.

The author calls for equality, saying that bicycle helmets are perfect for car occupants and he even proposes making them a standard feature in new cars:

"The design rules for all new cars should be changed so that all new cars come with a complement of bicycle helmets with built-in clips to conveniently store them, on the back seat or under the dashboard, so as to minimise the inconvenience to motor vehicle users."

He also hits the bullseye when he writes that:
"It is very difficult to take politicians and car driving safety experts seriously when they know so little about head injuries that they don't wear a bicycle helmet in their own cars. I have been wearing a bicycle helmet for ten years because it protects me yet I have never seen any of the hundred or so big-mouthed helmet advocates, who don't ride bicycles, wear a helmet in their car. I wonder why?

Perhaps the Cain government should set an example and have all MPs and government drivers wear helmets?"

The big-mouthed helmet advocates are still out there and still driving without helmets so little has changed on that front apart from the names and faces.

In all the time we've been writing about the issue of motoring helmets I have never heard any good excuse why we shouldn't promote them. From anyone. Even the cycling helmet advocates avoid the issue like the plague.

Even though the issue of motoring helmets could be the singlemost potent weapon in the bicycle advocacy arsenal.

Toilet Roll

Bathtub Bike
I just fired off a quick tweet about "World's First Cargo Bike Bathtub?", feat. Lulu-Sophia two summers ago.

Minutes later, Brian Jones tweeted back: "I raise your cargo bike bathtub by a whole fleet of toilet trikes..." Damn. That's hard to compete against... :-)

What should we call them? Last week we featured the Piecycle. What about Poocycles?

Normal Everyday Images

Might just be me and my secret wish for nicer photography, but it seems that there is an increase in imagery in the Danish press featuring bicycles. Or rather, an increase in the quality of the imagery. I've noticed one national daily, Berlingske Tidende (founded 1749) upping their artistic sensibilities of late. Like the photo, above, taken in Aalborg yesterday morning. It's a simple article about the weather but it features a cyclist rolling on the bike lane in the snow (past all the cars on the road, of course). The temperature was about -10 C, with a wicked windchill.

Then there was this weather article from late last year about rain and wind. Beautiful shot. Like all of these photos, showing cyclists adds a human element to the story. In a country like Denmark we can relate to the weather when we see a fellow citizen struggling through the elements on a bicycle.

Cycling Weather
The same newspaper used to have Bicycle Weather included on their weather page in their print version. Showing the temperature and wind direction as well as the times for turning on your bicycle lights. I don't know if they still feature it. Technology has dictated that most papers get fed weather data from one or two sources and the weather reports in the newspapers are more homogenous (read: dull) now.

Even Visit Copenhagen - the city's tourist bureau is gradually waking up and smelling the bicycles. About time, too. The above photo features in an article about a new winter festival called WonderCool.
Snowstorm Brochure
This is a photo on a brochure for Adult Education courses [Italian for Beginners, Learn to Knit, etc] from 2006. There are few countries where a photo of a female cyclist struggling through a snowstorm would be used to sell a product. A product that involves getting out on cold, dark winter evenings to learn how to make pottery. But hey, this is the normalcy of cycling here and such images are understood by the population.

15 February 2011

Streetfilms: Moving Beyond the Automobile

Streetfilms.org launches a ten part series called Moving Beyond the Automobile. First installment is ready to go. Great stuff, as always.

"For the first chapter in our Moving Beyond the Automobile series we'll take a look at Transit-Oriented Development, more commonly known by its "TOD" acronym in transportation industry circles. TOD is a high-density, mixed-use residential area with access to ample amounts of transportation. There are usually many transportation nodes within its core and contains a walkable and bike-able environment.

We decided to take a look across the Hudson River at New Jersey's east coast where over the last two decades the amount of development has been booming. Transportation options are as diverse as you can get: the Hudson-Bergen light-rail, multiple ferry lines, PATH station, NJ Transit commuter trains, and buses are all plentiful, while in some areas car ownership is as low as 40% to 45%."

Bicycle Friendly University - UNAM Mexico City

It was a long-time coming this little film. It's about the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and how bicycle friendly the university is. I shot it when I visited Mexico City last year and spoke at UNAM's architecture faculty about promoting bicycle culture.

I figured I'd whip it together after reading James' article on The Urban Country about how McGill University in Montreal has banned bicycle riding on their campus.

After rolling my eyes and lamenting the lack of rationality at such an esteemed place of learning I revisted the footage from UNAM.

UNAM Library UNAM Mural
The main campus, by the way, is stunningly beautiful and is a World Heritage Site. The campus is largely car-free and as far back as 2004 they started a bike share programme called BiciPuma. It has since grown and the university has wonderful bicycle infrastructure all over the campus.

The university's bicycle friendly policy and resulting infrastructure and facilities are the yardstick by which all other universities should measure themselves. Bicycles mix easily with pedestrians and the bike lanes have priority when running through car parking areas. It's all calm and relaxed.

McGill's anti-bicycle policy is an embarrassment. It's another example of rules being written by people who don't ride bicycles and who haven't bothered to do their research into the subject. Instead choosing to ban bicycles based on personal perception of danger and risk assessment. We're used to that in cities, but this is a university...

Universities should be the first bastions of bicycle culture, not just because they are places of learning that often (not always) set examples, but also because they tend to be unique, autonomous zones in the position to dictate traffic rules and policies.

Golf carts could be traded in for three-wheeler cargo bikes for maintenance people to get around, bicycles could be made available for staff use and students who choose to ride a bicycle should be encouraged, embraced, thanked profusely and welcomed at their place of study.

Addendum: The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) just fired off this link to their Bicycle Friendly University programme, so I'd better include it here in a jiffy...

14 February 2011

Bike Guarding Car

Dog guarding the bicycle gate
We're in quirky-land today. Cool gate in Tampere, Finland built up around a bicycle frame.
From JeromesPOV on Flickr.

Thanks to Oscar for the link.

Simple Bicycle-Friendliness


It's often in the details. If you're cycling down the street in the background (which is my back street) you're going to do one of two things when you get to the end. If you're turning right, it's easy. You turn onto the cycle track and continue on.

If, however, you want to turn left you have to get across the street to the cycle track in the foreground. The City of Frederiksberg made it easier for by claiming half a car parking spot for the purpose of creating a passageway between the parked cars.

A few painted lines and a pictogram.

Bikes Here
Here's another example just around the corner.

The Return of the Bicycle for Citizen Cyclists

I wish it had a soundtrack but this is a brilliant archive film from the 1960's and 70's in Amsterdam, showing the lowest point in the city's proud cycling history. Copenhagen was on a parallel journey at the time so it even offers a Copenhagener insight into what this city was like after over a decade of urban planning revolving around the car. Images of the modern cycling cities of Amsterdam and Copenhagen are now freely available on the internet, so this film is an excellent way to see how bad it was when the car was given free reign as well as seeing the transformation from then to now. Narrow streets choked with cars now calmed with bicycle infrastructure and car-unfriendly intiatives that not only served to bring back the bicycles but also re-transformed the city into a liveable place. A place for people. Look at all those cars. I wonder where they went?

"Yeah, but where do all the cars go?" is the latest desperate grasping at straws by the cycling Pamplonan boys who enjoy a brisk 'running with the bulls' and the accompanying rush of blood to their lycra shorts. Hating on bicycle infrastructure, fighting tooth and nail the promotion of cycling for regular citizens and now using 'where do we put the cars?!?!' as an excuse.

I realised something the other day...

Cities for People
I'm just about finished reading Jan Gehl's new book - Cities for People. Like his previous books, it's an important volume. Every page has a number of 'Aha!' moments. Such simple ideas that it boggles the mind that more cities are doing them.

What I realised was that this is not a book for those who despise bicycle infrastructure. To them, automobile traffic is a necessity. It defines the way they like to ride bicycles. Removing the cars would take away their roller coaster. Shame for the few but fantastic for the other 99.9% of the population, as well for making our cities nicer places to live. Cities for People is a book for that 99.9%.

Throughout the book, Gehl focuses on pedestrians but when bicycles are mentioned, they are placed alongside pedestrians. Which is, of course, how most people ride bicycles in cities - if given the chance.

If we return to the film at the top... there were still people cycling in Amsterdam during the low period, just like in Copenhagen, as you can see in 'rush hour' clip, but the number of cyclists was dwindling.

It took the massive grassroots protests of the 1970's and 1980's to force urban planners and politicians to return to planning for pedestrians and cyclists.

Cyclist Demonstration on City Hall Square 1970s - Copenhagen
This is what it looked like in Copenhagen at a protest rally in the 1970's. Regular citizens in their thousands demonstrating for safer streets and the re-implementation of bicycle infrastructure.

Vintage Protest
In order to draw attention to the need - and desire - for infrastructure white crosses were painted on the asphalt where cyclists had been killed. In the late 1960's there were roughly 300 hundred cyclists killed every year in Denmark. Last year, in 2010, there were 19.

The power of the people triumphed. Cycle tracks are the Tahrir Square where Citizen Cyclists continue to gather to show that fighting for The Common Good can suceed and from where the dictators who only wish to serve the interests of the few are banished.

Jan Gehl's book Cities for People is published by Island Press. Reading it restores hope. It is rich with images and examples from around the world.

On the shift to bicycle culture, Gehl writes that when bicycle use rises:

"Biking simply becomes the way to get around town. Bicycle traffic changes gradually from being a small group of death-defying bicycle enthusiasts to being a wide popular movement comprising all age groups and layers of society from members of Parliament and mayors to pensioners and school children.

"Bicycle traffic changes character dramatically in the process. When there are many bicycles and many children and seniors among them, the tempo is more stately and safe for all parties. Racing bicycles and Tour de France gear is replaced by more comfortable family bicycles and ordinary clothing. Cycling moves from being a sport and test of survival to being a practical way to get around town - for everyone.

"This shift in culture from fast slalom bicycle trips between cars and many infringements of traffic regulations to a law-abiding stream of children, young people and seniors bicycling in a well-defined bicycle network has a big impact on society's perception of bicycle traffic as a genuine alternative and reasonable supplement to other forms of transport. The shift in culture also brings bicycles more in line with pedestrians and city life in general, and is one more reason that bicycles have a natural place in this book about city life."

Isn't this the goal? Isn't this where we are headed. In many places, yes. Thanks to clever urban planners and visionary politicians.
In far too many places, no. No thanks to the white noise of certain sub-cultures.

13 February 2011

Bicycle Parking at Train Stations in Denmark

I've been helping out John Pucher from Rutgers University with some statistics for a new book he's writing. We were looking into bicycle parking in Denmark. I found the numbers to be interesting.

The infographic above (hopefully) spells it out. Total number of parking spots at 297 Danish train stations and the number of spots reserved for bicycles and cars, including the occupancy rate of those spots.

It applies to the national rail network and the S-train network serving Greater Copenhagen. I've combined the two in the stats. There are many trains that have, not surprisingly, occupancy rate of + 100%. A town like Lystrup has a bicycle rack occupany rate of 283%; 250% in Mørke, 147% in Odense, 208% in Svendborg, 121% at Copenhagen Central Station.

The country's busiest train station - with S-trains, Metro and regional trains - is Nørreport with 102,189 passengers a day (53,004 arriving/49,185 departing). It has 996 bicycle parking spots (it's going to be renovated and will include more) and an occupancy rate of 97%.

There is no car parking at the station, nor is there at the nation's terminus, Copenhagen Central Station.

In comparison, John Pucher tells me that there are 38,280 bicycle parking spots at train and bus stations combined in the United States.

John was looking for stats not only for regular parking spots but also bike cages, bike lockers and bike stations (manned parking). We don't have any bike lockers in Denmark but there are 82 bike cages at various stations where you can lock your bike up in a secure 'cage'. There are only one or two bike stations in the country, including one a the Central Station. The idea simply hasn't caught on here. I can't see myself using one. I want quick access to my bicycle, but that's just me.

I'm looking forward to the next publication by John. Until then, he and Ralph Buehler have updated their overview article entitled, "Walking and Cycling for Healthy Cities," Built Environment, Vol. 36, No. 5, December 2010, pp. 391-414. It opens as a pdf.

Here's the abstract:

Walking and cycling are the healthiest ways to get around our cities, providing valuable physical activity for people on a daily basis. These forms of active transport also generate indirect public health benefits by reducing the use of automobiles, thus diminishing air, water, and noise pollution and the overall level of traffic danger. This paper provides a broad overview of the role walking and cycling can play in making our cities healthier. First, we summarize the scientific evidence of the health benefits of walking and cycling. Second, we examine variations in walking and cycling levels in Europe, North America, and Australia. Third, we consider the crucial issue of traffic safety. Finally, we describe a range of government policies needed to encourage more walking and cycling: safe and convenient infrastructure such as sidewalks, crosswalks, bike paths and lanes, and intersection crossings; traffic calming of residential neighborhoods; integration with public transport; land-use policies that foster compact, mixeduse developments; people-friendly urban design; improved traffic education; strict enforcement of traffic regulations; and reductions in motor vehicle speed limits.

Source for infographic: Danish Ministry of Transport

Underwater Citizen Cyclist in Cancun

Thanks to Aaron from Streetsblog San Francisco we have something easy and quick to blog here on Sunday. A new underwater sculpture museum off the coast of Cancun features what Aaron called "an underwater Citizen Cyclist statue".

Thanks for the link, Aaron. To see what other statues are featured you can check out this link or see this film:

I'm sure Cancun lives up to the dream of tropical holidays for many but personally I find it hard to take a place seriously when its location was determined by a computer programme when the developers were planning Cancun. I read that in Taras Grescoe's 'The End of Elsewhere: Travels Among the Tourists' (2003).

11 February 2011

Noisy Danish Speed Demons

I've been quietly looking into noise recently.

There was an article back in November in a Danish newspaper about the negative effect traffic noise has on the population. A good, informative article stating that 800,000 Danes are exposed to harmful levels of traffic pollution in the form of noise alone. That's about 15% of the population.

The article goes on about how very little is being done in Danish cities about reducing traffic noise. 400 million kroner were earmarked by the current government for noise reduction in 2009 but the government only manages the national roads. They have spent money on reducing noise on motorways but it's the municipalities that manage the city streets - along which most people live, 90% of them in fact - and here there is little being done. Shockingly so.

What didn't really surprise me was that the article didn't mention anything about speed reduction. It was all about windows. Classic 'ignoring the bull' talk once again. Indeed, investing in new, sound reducing windows is an effective way of cutting out the traffic noise. They can result in a 12-15 dB reduction. Property prices even rise if the windows are sound-reducing.

But is it all just about windows, I wondered?

Firstly, what is wrong with traffic noise? There have been studies in Denmark that show that traffic kills 10 times more people than traffic accidents. Car emissions and noise pollution knock off 4000 Danes a year and although most succomb to the emissions, noise plays a role as well. Between 200-500 people die prematurely from heart disease and high blood pressure due to traffic noise.

A comprehensive European Union study called Silence states that:

"Research shows that noise can kill, as it increases the risks for high blood pressure and heart attacks (3% of heart attacks in Germany are due to road traffic noise). Noise disturbs sleep and heavily impacts on people’s quality of life. Besides its health and social costs, noise has economic consequences in terms of reduced housing value and taxes, as it is a relevant reason for people to move out of cities into suburban areas."

According to The World Health Organisation's Guidelines for Community Noise about half of the EU citizens (EU 15) are estimated to live in areas which do not ensure acoustical comfort for residents: 40% of the population is exposed to road traffic noise with an equivalent sound pressure level exceeding 55 dB during daytime, and 20% to levels exceeding 65 dB. At night, more than 30% are exposed to sound levels that disturb sleep (exceeding 55 dB).

If you look at the infographic we whipped up at the top, you can compare the decibel levels for various daily noises. The Danish noise limits are also listed and what is striking is that the noise that cars and trucks make when passing by (whilst talking on mobiles or fiddling with the radio) at 10 metres is higher than the noise limits in residential areas for road noise. Right there we have trouble.

The City of Copenhagen has a goal that all its citizens can sleep peacefully and free of traffic noise in 2015. By all accounts the City is way behind and it is not likely that they will reach the target.

So how to fix it? And I don't mean ignoring the problem and merely suggesting everyone get new windows.

There is resurfacing the roads with noice reducing asphalt. The city of Frederiksberg in which I live is in the process of doing so. Although it seems like an enormous investment for a reduction of only 1-2 dB.

Especially when I started looking into the benefits of reducing speed limits. With over 70 cities having implemented 30 km/h zones around Europe there are now well-documented statistics that 30 km/h speed limits save lives.

What about noise though? Well, it turns out that lowering speed limits DOES have a positive effect on noise pollution.

Among other sources, Nordic Road and Transport Research informed me that:

"When reducing the actual speed by 10 km/h, a noise reduction of about 2-3 dB can be achieved."

Ah, but there is always a catch.

"Reducing speed limits alone is not enough, because driver compliance with the new levels is low. Different types of traffic enforcement are therefore necessary. The political acceptance for the measure is often low."


"The advantage of this measure is that it is efficient from the first day of implementation, and cheap compared to other measures."

In order to get some more details I emailed Kåre Press-Kristensen, M.Sc in Environmental Engineering, Ph.D. and consultant for the Technical University of Denmark. I asked him if speed reduction had a meaningful effect on noise reduction.

He replied:
"Yes - it has a great effect on reducing noise. How great depends on the speed limit before reducing it. Normally, speed limits are reduced by only 10 km/h at a time and the following applies:

70 --> 60 km/t noise reduction of 1.8 dB
60 --> 50 km/t noise reduction of 2.1 dB
50 --> 40 km/t noise reduction of 1.3 dB
40 --> 30 km/t noise reduction of ca. 0 dB

There is, as you can see, no linear connection and 40 to 30 km/h doesn't offer any real result.

But: 60 --> 30 km/t reduces 2.1 + 1.3 + 0 = 3.4 dB - which is a bit more than an halving of the noise. On the other hand there aren't many stretches where this will happen.

The above also presupposes that motorists will stick to the new speed limits. When the speed limit in Copenhagen is reduced from 60 km/h to 50 km/h there is only estimated a reduction of 4 km/h in the car speeds."

Indeed. Incredibly cheap compared to resurfacing the city streets with new asphalt. AND you get an even higher reduction in noise levels for a fraction of the cost. Although if a city is going to resurface anyway, then why not kill two birds with one stone and lower the speed limit at the same time? 10 or 20 km/h less. From 50 km/h to 30 km/h. What an amazing, cost-efficient result. Good for noise pollution. Good for saving lives in traffic and reducing injuries. Good good good. Just add some extra resources for policing the motorists accordingly and you're there.

Astoundingly, lower speed limits hardly register on the political agenda in this car-centric land. There was some talk of 40 km/h zones a while back, but that seems to have faded. The police control the speed limits in Denmark and they are not willing to accommodate the idea of lowering them. As we've highlighted here. And without politicians who are willing to push for them, the idea is dead in the water.

In fact, just yesterday, the current right-wing government bucked the global trend and RAISED the speed limit on 10 stretches of highway in the country, from 80 km/h to 90 km/h. Boggles the mind.

Another study, called "Reducing speed limits on highways: Dutch experiences and impact on air pollution, noise-level, traffic safety and traffic flow" states that traffic pollution from emissions can also be reduced through lower speed limits. Up

So... we have a tool - a traffic safety Swiss Army knife - for:
- reducing injuries and deaths to pedestrians and cyclists
- traffic calming neighbourhoods
- reducing traffic noise pollution and saving lives
- reducing traffic emission levels and saving lives
- encouraging bicycle traffic and public transport usage

All it takes is changing the numbers on some signs from 50 to 40 or 30. That's it. Changing signs.

Are we doing it in Copenhagen or Frederiksberg or Denmark?


A bit extra:
On this website I learned that we're even farther behind regarding speed limits:

In the EU, only France applies lower general speed limits for bad weather conditions. In case of rain or snow, the speed limit for motorways changes from 130 km/h to 110 km/h and at rural roads from 90 km/h to 80 km/h. In case of fog (visibility less than 50 meters) the speed limit on all types of roads is 50 km/h.

Both Finland and Sweden apply different general speed limits in wintertime. In Finland, the speed limit at motorways changes from 120 km/h to 100 km/h and, on main rural roads, from 100 km/h to 80 km/h. Similarly in Sweden the speed limits change respectively from 110 km/h to 90 km/h and from 90 km/h to 70 km/h.

In France, it is common to reduce the general speed limit by 20 or 30 km/h on a temporary basis, generally in case of high temperatures, with the aim to reduce air pollution and smog.

Politiken's article: "Bilstøj buldrer ind gennem vinduet" af Anders Haubart Madsen - 25.11.2010

10 February 2011

My Bicycle is Heavier Than Your Bicycle

My Bicycle is Heavier Than Your Bicycle
Got me a new frame sticker.

Bike Lane Cash

Bike Lane Immortalised
It's rare that I have cash in my pockets as everything is debit cards here - from a pack of gum to you name it. But a had a 200 kroner note the other day and it surprised me to see that it's a new design! That's how rare I see cash.

Anyway, it's of Knippels Bridge over the harbour and, right there on the money, is a bike lane. To the left of the sidewalk. It's seperated up to the bridge and on the other side but over the bridge it's a painted line. It's very wide and features about 20,000 cyclists a day.

Now I'm sure the artist was focusing on the tower that controls the drawbridge and the spires of the city in the background, but I'm also sure that it's the first time bicycle infrastructure has featured on national currency. :-)

09 February 2011

Piecycle in Seattle

Merlin Rainwater (probably not a real name, but you never know in the North-west :-) ) sent us this link to a college student who is doing a roaring trade in... pies. In Seattle. On a bicycle. The piecycle, of course.

Brilliant stuff. Although if got himself a fast cargo bike, he could quadruple his trade. But then he might need a bigger oven, too.

Here's an additional interview with the Piecycle man from Cakespy.com.

Slovenia - Promoting Cycling Positively

Yanez from the Ljubljana Bicycling Network in Slovenia sent us the link to this film comparing the benefits of bicycles vs automobiles. It's in Slovenian, but it's completely understandable. Wonderful shots of urban cycling.

Are the Slovenians giving the Hungarians a run for their money in the Promoting Cycling Positively Championships?

08 February 2011

La Ciudad en Bici

I'm going out on a limb here and guessing that this is a film about bicycles. Saw a Chilean flag, so I'm guessing it's from Santiago, with a spot of Copenhagen.

We're here to inform.

Beautifully filmed, though.

Another Sign That Bikes Are Hot

Yellow Money
Internet nostalgia... remember those spam emails that flourished a while back (I'm sure they're still around) where the sender pretended to be the son/nephew/cousin of some African despot who had $10/$20/$30 million bucks in - as a rule - oil money but needed someone in the west to fence the money?

Bikes are the new oil. Bikes are hot. First it was the adult entertainment industry and now it's the scammer-rama crowd.

Check this out, recieved today at Larry vs Harry's inbox:

From: Collins Consults
Date: 8. feb 2011 12.14.49 CET
To: collins.abutu@yahoo.com

Dear sir,

The Federal Ministry of Youth & Sports Development,Nigeria,wants a capable supplier to handle the supply of 30,000(Thirty-thousand) units of Sport bike project.

Payment is 100% Telegraphic Transfer upon contract signing in advance before delivery.

Therefore if you are interested and capable of handling the contract ,contact us as soon as possible via email or telephone.


Collins Abutu
Collins Consulting.
#117 Clifford Road,Aba,

We're gonna be rich! Rich I say! HAHAHA! I'm going to Disneyland! It's easier than withdrawing money from an ATM!

Car Ferry Converted to Offices

Car Ferry Converted to Offices
I saw this converted car ferry docked on the harbour outside of NOMA the other day. From car ferry to gorgeous offices. What a lovely place to work.

I can be jaded about the internet once in a while, taking it for granted quite often, but then you realise how fantastic it is. Here's the ferry - Fritz Juel - on its last journey arriving in Svendborg harbour in 2001.

Audi Greenwashing

Audi - isn't it always Audi? - takes the piss out of environmental hysteria with this advert. Classic 'Car Industry Strikes Back' material. This isn't just greenwashing, it's an entire spa weekend with scrubbing, cleansing, de-licing and detox.

But incredibly effective, well-made and pushing all the right buttons.

Interestingly, not a single bicycle in the advert though. They could have easily written into the script a cyclist with a plastic water bottle or something like that. I'm disappointed they didn't.

Man, if I had a mere 1/10th of the budget of this film to play with, we'd see some serious bicycle promotion.

Thanks to Aron for the link.

07 February 2011

The Most Expensive Bicycles Commercials Ever Made

Copenhagenize is proud to present the most expensive bicycle advertisements ever made.

Produced by Hyundai, they show us once and for all how people need to 'snap out of it' and stop being hypnotised sheep just driving around our once liveable cities.

These are not yet finished editing, however. The above film needs to have the title card reading 'BORING' removed in order for the message to be complete.

All the films need insertion of a new pack shot at the end. Of a bicycle, of course.

Oh yeah, new voiceover:
"Snap out of it. The 125 year old bicycle. Think about it. "

Here's the shot from the storyboard that we're working on for the end of each commercial.

Longjohn Cargo Bike with homemade kickstand

Amazing what you find in your inbox. In a futile attempt to clean up in the Copenhagenize inbox I found this photo, sent in by a reader back in ... December 2009. John was kind enough to show us his homemade longjohn and his unique idea of having the cargo bay tip. For easier storage and a built-in kickstand.

Better blogged late than never!

(Apologies to all those whose emails get buried...)

Rainbow Bicycle

Tim from Urbanophil sent us this little film. Once again, Copenhagenize's finger is firmly on the pulse. Only 314,000 people seen it already.

Normally I criticize (mock) overcomplication of the simple bicycle, but this is in a league of it's own. On the vimeo page it says:

instrument of mass destruction.
(complicated technical solution to aide in simple acts of vandalism)

So there is at least an admission of overcomplication. But with that said, I love this little film. You can just feel the passion and energy that went into creating this loveable little monster of a machine. The bicycle as a protest tool. Same as it ever was.

Surfer Friendly Bicycle Signage in Ubatuba

Update: 26 November 2013: New photos of Ubatuba bicycle parking added! Scroll down.

Denir, from the Books & Bicycles blog in Brazil sent us these shots from his holiday to the Brazilian town of Ubatuba. It's a surfing mecca and is even nicknamed 'Capital do Surf' so signage in the town is often surf-related.

Which also applies to the 'ciclofaixa' or bicycle lanes in the incredibly bicycle-friendly city. Painted lanes, sure, by they are nice and wide - see the red/yellow markings at bottom right in the first shot.

Having realised I'd stumbled upon a potential holiday paradise, I did a spot of googling. The name Ubatuba alone just sounds like a surfer paradise and could be worked into 50 different Beach Boy songs.

I found this article, in Portugese, about the city wherein it says that 80% of the students of this school ride bicycles to school each day. Impressive.

And staying at a little pousada like this one is about €70 a night - about the same as a crappy, two-star tourist hotel in Copenhagen. Nice.
Ubatuba, Brazil - Bicycle Paradise
Some recent photos from Zé from Transporte Ativo, the Brazilian mobility NGO, showing bicycle parking in Ubatuba.
Ubatuba, Brazil - Bicycle Paradise

What we need is a list of bicycle-friendly destinations to visit. Ubatuba, Barcelona, Seville, Ferrara, Bordeaux, San Sebastian, various Scandinavian/Dutch/German cities, etc. Preferably places uninfected by the Culture of Fear.

Signage influenced by local branding is great, too. There are often rigid design manuals to be adhered to, which is fair enough, but being able to tweak the rules a bit would offer up some interesting signage. The Dutch, for example, could just hang Gouda cheeses up from signposts with a bicycle pictogram carved through.

It would go well with their tulip island visible from space.


05 February 2011

Portland: The Dream of the 90's is Alive

This is funny.
Not quite sure if it's a very effective or positive way to brand the city of Portland. Or an advertisement for mainstreaming bicycle culture - or mainstreaming anything.

But funny it is. And it gets better:

Brooklyn's Markowitz Mocks Bicycles

Fading Away Already

Caroline Samponaro from Transportation Alternatives in New York sent this message via Facebook regarding comments that Brooklyn's Borough President Markowitz gave at his State of the Borough Address. I'll just let her do the talking:

"Borough President Markowitz made a mockery of street safety last night at his State of the Borough Address. Contact him today to let him know his lack of leadership on this issue is unacceptable. Let him know that playing politics with safety is not OK with the Brooklyn-ites who put him in office.

Email Marty today and cc your elected official and ask him to explain his lack of leadership: askmarty@brooklynbp.nyc.gov

CC your City Council Member on your email. You can find out who yours is here.

In recent months the Borough President has consistently dismissed the facts on how bike lanes and pedestrians street safety investments are reducing crashes for all street users and eliminating speeding-a leading killer on our streets.

The day before his State of the Borough address, the moment when he speaks to his constituents about how he plans to work on their behalf in the year ahead, safe streets advocates and families of cyclists and pedestrians killed or injured by cars in Brooklyn asked Marty to speak up for street safety. We asked him to let us know how he would work for safer streets in 2011 to prevent needless crashes and loss of life in Brooklyn. See the summary of this request here.

Not only did he not speak for safer streets at the State of the Borough Address, he mocked it. His response to a request to get serious about street safety was to further politicize a basic right that all New Yorkers share: safe passage on our public right of ways--our streets. Read more here.

2011 State of the Borough Address - As prepared for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz - February 3, 2011

[Borough President rides in on bike lane]

Welcome to beautiful Sunset Park, Brooklyn, USA, and the 2011 State of the Borough address!

As you can see, I’ve taken advantage of the Department of Transportation’s newest bike lane. Of course, I can tell it’s still under construction, because the D.O.T. hasn’t yet removed all the seats in the auditorium to make room for it!


As I’m sure you noticed, I made my entrance tonight on what I like to my senior cycle, so I hope you understand that I am not against bicycles. I’m not even against bike lanes. I’ve supported their creation around Brooklyn, including 9th street near Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Greenway that runs from Greenpoint to Sunset Park.

But for the majority of New Yorkers, it is simply not feasible to make bicycles their primary mode of transport, and unfortunately that’s the direction I believe the City’s policy is heading. They are trying to stigmatize car owners and get them to abandon their cars, when the fact is, even many bicyclists also own cars!

Cycling is no substitute for mass transit, and there are still tens of thousands of Brooklynites who live far from public transportation and who rely on a car to reach their jobs and live their lives. But of course, we must have a comprehensive plan that insures the safety of drivers, walkers and cyclists. And we should all remember to show respect to one another—drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, everybody who uses our streets. I have been a vocal critic of the Prospect Park West bike lane because I think it is a perfect example of how not to install a bike lane. It has disrupted the aesthetics of one of Brooklyn’s most beautiful thoroughfares and made it more dangerous to cross the street safely, especially for seniors, young children and parents with strollers.

Did he really say that?
"Cycling is no substitute for mass transit..."
"But for the majority of New Yorkers, it is simply not feasible to make bicycles their primary mode of transport..."

Talk about out of the loop. Go get him, Brooklyn.

Bicycle Cops Booking Motorists

Bicycle Cops Booking Motorists
Saw this yesterday on my way to a meeting at 1508. Four cops were pulling over cars. Two cops in a squad car and two bicycle cops. Couldn't figure out why, but hey. Nice symbolism.
Field Day
Like this shot from last year. Here's the story about it.

Ticketed Outside School
And this one outside my son's school. Here's the story about it.
Paris Bike Cops Give Car Ticket
And here are some bicycle cops in Paris doing the same thing.

The police in Melbourne, however, attend to much more important matters.