29 June 2011

Bicicleta Bogotá

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Bogotá! Copenhagenize just returned home from Bogotá, Colombia where our friends at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) invited us to speak at their Transport Systems Summit. This energetic team has done amazing work the past year, a few of their projects include opening new Bus Rapid Transit systems and building protected bicycle lanes along the Reforma in Mexico City. Their world wide strategies for sustainable transport and urban development are unparalleled. Now they are taking it to the next level, combining these technical innovations and sustainable concepts with positive communication. Communication that wins hearts and minds. So we headed to Bogotá for a little inspiration.

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Citizen cyclists, a little calm in the middle of a two way traffic storm. These bicycle paths/walkways dividing the traffic were easily my favorite aspect of the city. Some were brick, some were dirt, all were surrounded by trees and flowers. An A to B style greenway. We like it.

Not always easy to get to though, the city also features separated lanes like the one shown in the top image. Implemented in 1995, the bi-directional paths that are level with the sidewalk don't exactly follow best practice, but hey they are well used. And we're impressed with the 300+ kilometer CicloRutas bicycle highway networks across the city. Here's a city and bicycle route overview, a huge map for a huge city, the bicycle paths are the dotted orange lines:
Map of Bogota

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Signage on CicloRutas, this section sees about 15,000 bicyclers every day.


Rain or shine, there were always lots of vendors along the way. Some selling papaya mango passion fruit drinks from cargo bikes, others with bicycle repair stands. Regardless the venture, it is obvious that bicycles are an important and established aspect of Bogotáno culture.

Just when I thought I'd seen everything bicycle culture related a girl could see- I mean we live in Copenhagen, the city of cyclists, for goodness sakes- Bogotá happened. I am still awed and inspired by the fabulous people we met, the visionary politicians, and the transit systems (more developed than those in the American cities I grew up in). Many many thanks again to the ITDP for making the trip possible through all your hard work and for the adventures in bicycle and transit culture. We'll be writing more about it the next few days.

28 June 2011

Mayor Ford and Jarvis Street, Toronto

DSCN2479
One of our readers, Kevin, sent us this email exchange between him and the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. We've blogged about Rob Ford a few times before. It is regarding the Mayor's decision/proposal to remove the bicycle lanes on Jarvis Street.

----------------
06/25/11 07:56
Please do not remove the Jarvis bicyle lanes.

1,000 cyclists on Jarvis Street depend on those lanes for safety. There is
simply no justification for removing these lanes. The street is working fine for
everyone.

The biggest concern against the Jarvis Street bike lane prior to implementation
was significant delays in travel times for motor vehicles. A staff report
released in April shows that these delays have not materialized. Updated traffic
counts (see page 17) from the City of Toronto showed that following the
installation of bike lanes on Jarvis Street, motor vehicle volumes remained the
same while cycling volumes tripled. It makes no sense to remove a bike lane from
a street that works for all road users. This is wasteful spending at City Hall.
In fact, Mayor Ford, you were asked during the 2010 election if he would remove
the Jarvis bike lanes if elected. Your answer was no because it would be a
waste of money. You were absolutely correct then.

As a business owner living and working in the city of Toronto, I drive (yes
drive) Jarvis regularly. The addition of bike lanes has not impacted traffic
flow in my experience. I believe it has actually made driving on Jarvis more
pleasant! Motorist behaviour has become more civilized on this route.

I also believe that the constituants that live and work on Jarvis are finding it
a more pleasant environment as well. At the very least they should have been
consulted before Mr. Parker and your committee made this move. Surely that
would have shown respect for taxpayers.

--------------
From: Mayor Ford
To: Kevin
Sent: Tue, June 28, 2011 9:57:43 AM

Thank you for your email regarding the bike lanes on Jarvis Street. I appreciate hearing from you.

Toronto's economy loses billions of dollars every year from gridlock and traffic congestion. We need to make the situation better - not worse. The Jarvis Street bike lanes experiment has been a failure. Ninety-four percent of commuters now face longer commutes on Jarvis Street. Over 15,000 commuters each day are suffering from longer travel times, for the sake of 600 additional cyclists.

The City should remove the bike lanes as soon as possible and improve travel times for thousands of daily commuters. City staff have been directed to develop a low-cost plan to do so. Bike lanes were never intended to be installed on Jarvis Street. The original Environmental Assessment recommended against installing bike lanes - but City Council amended the report to approve bike lanes anyway.

As promised during the mayoral election, I am dedicated to delivering customer service excellence, creating a transparent and accountable government, reducing the size and cost of government and building a transportation city.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts. Please feel free to contact my office again at any time.

Yours truly,

Mayor Rob Ford
City of Toronto

--------------
to Mayor Ford
date 28 June 2011 17:37

Mr. Mayor

Simply put you are dead wrong.

Toronto does indeed have a gridlock problem, sir, but it is not caused by bicycle lanes. It is caused by an ever-growing number of automobiles on the road and aggressive, antisocial driver behaviour. Auto-centric development and an addiction to the personal automobile is the failure here Mr. Ford......not the Jarvis bicycle lanes.

Please don't insult my intelligence by going on about how how 15,000 commuters are suffering because of the bicycle lanes. I have driven it in an automobile Mr. Ford, any length in commuting time is insignificant. I don't consider a couple of extra minutes of commute time as suffering. I will also point out to you, sir, that Mount Pleasant is gridlocked all the way down from Eglinton...none of Mount Pleasant has bicycle lanes to blame the gridlock on.

Mr. Ford, it is not the 1960's any more. You will never reduce gridlock in Toronto until you reduce the number of automobiles. No matter how many bike lanes you rip out or how many roads you think you can build.

Thank you for mentioning in your email that you are dedicated to creating a transparent and accountable government. In light of that statement would you please explain to me why you are going to great lengths to fight the audit of you campaign expenses. I believe you yourself said "let them audit, I have nothing to hide".

Kevin

Not Something You See Every Day

Heron Bicycle
Just when you thought you'd seen it all in Copenhagen's bicycle culture... a bicycle used by a heron as a perch.
Herons and a Bicycle
This chap feeds the herons in Frederiksberg Gardens. It appears that he has trained them, despite them being wild, to some degree. They got spooked a couple of times and then used hand signals to get one up on the handlebars. He was trying to get one up on his knee, too. Speaking to them in low, calm tones. Fascinating to watch.

You'll often see herons around the city. I took this a couple of years ago:
Heron

26 June 2011

Pain and Pleasure

14 Below Zero - Broken Hand
Haven't been on a bicycle for 7 days. The reason? A couple of cracked ribs. I've tried each and every day to cycle, but it hasn't been possible. When a simple cough is enough to bring tears to your eyes, riding a bicycle is a long shot. A serious blow to my pride but hey, at least I can walk around the neighbourhood. Which is nice.

Many Danish cities have small cars like these to measure the level of comfort on the bicycle infrastructure. I have a better, cheaper idea.

The city should just give citizens with broken or cracked ribs a smartphone, with activated GPS and a live line to a person at the Bicycle Office. Then they just ride around the city. Every time an OWWWW! or groan is heard, the GPS location is registered. That way the city will be able to map the spots that need maintenence.

So I thought I'd add this article which originally appeared on Cycle Chic. Copenhageners - and others - cycling with injuries or disabilities.

Like the shot of a Copenhagener in the morning rush hour riding with what looks like a broken - or at least injured - hand, above. Still looking cool as you like.
Bicycle Crutches 02
Then there is this Copenhagener carrying her crutches with her on her bicycle. Fair enough, she might have been heading to the hospital - across the street - to deliver the crutches back.
Double Crutch
Then I remembered this shot from a while back of a girl carrying her crutches and getting doubled by her mum. The bicycle is a versatile tool. I know several friends who, after many years playing sports, have problems with their knees. They are invariably advised to ride a bicycle by their doctors.

If you also make the bicycle the quickest and safest way to get around a city, people will do so - whatever their handicap. The bicycle is a freedom machine for the people.
Mobility Five Wheels, Three Arms
The dapper gentleman to the left may have reduced mobility for whatever reason, but he can get out and about with ease on this tricycle. Note his cane sticking out of the back.

I see the man in the right photo quite often. He rides a tricycle and only has one arm. A friend of mine knows him and I'm told that he only has one leg, too. He lost his limbs in a landmine explosion in the country he was born. He still gets about with ease on his wheels. Both of these gentlemen were impeccably dressed.

Disabled Motion
I took this photo in Tokyo. The man had some form of disability with his legs. It required effort for him to get the pedals to turn but you can bet that it was a fraction of the effort he'd use when walking.
Casting Call Crutch Bike Crutch Bike
The lady on the left has a kind of cast on her leg, but still rides. The two photos on the right are from last winter. The boyfriend was holding the girls' crutches and she moved slowly along - injured foot wrapped in plastic - on a child's bicycle they had borrowed. It was icy so the crutches were probably more dangerous than helpful so the bicycle stepped in to assist. They were heading to the hospital down the road.

Vienna Cyclist Sticks
I spotted this lady in Vienna, Austria. Carrying her walking sticks to help her after she got off her bicycle.

This quaint sign on this tricycle reads, "Slightly Disabled".
Invalidecykler
What with all the bicycle options for disabled - whether permanently or temporarily - it's not surprising to see a parking sign like this outside my local library. It reads "Invalid Bicycles", reserving a space close to the door for those who need it.
Bicycle Cane
If it is ripe old age that has reduced mobility, the bicycle still serves a purpose. I see this lady all the time in my neigbourhood. Always walking her bicycle with groceries in the basket. Perhaps too unstable to ride, but using the bicycle as a kind of crutch. Lovely.

Addendum. The cracked ribs were bicycle-related. After winning my first heat at the Slow Bicycle Race at the Cycle Chic Bloggers Conference in Barcelona. I sped up to the camera that was filming. I braked hard and the brakes were rather sensitive so I flew forward into the handlebars. I had a wrench in my inside pocket and it seems to have been this metal object that spread the impact out over a larger area. I was riding a Brompton. They'll be hearing from my lawyers. Okay... lawyer. Singular. But hey. :-) No... I did not fall off the bicycle. Yes, I had been drinking. No, I didn't have a bicycle helmet taped to my chest. Yes, the injury was worth all the fun we had in Barcelona.

24 June 2011

Bicycles and Car Share in Dublin


Very a propos the previous article here on the blog, here's a great video from our friends at Bear Bicycles in Dublin, made in collaboration with the car share programme Go Car.

Combining bicycles and car share is a no-brainer. Shame on you, Mr Lord Mayor person in Copenhagen.

1726 New Car Parking Spots in Copenhagen ?!?!?

Barcelona Pity the Motorist
Here's the biggest FAIL of the year so far from Copenhagen's politicians. It was agreed the other day to spend 161 million kroner [€21 million / $30 million] to establish 1726 new parking spaces for cars.

1726. Parking spaces. For cars. In Copenhagen. Not 1700 but 1726.

We've be highlighting for quite a while now here on Copenhagenize how Denmark and Copenhagen are becoming increasingly car-centric. At the expense of cyclists, pedestrians and transit-users. Mind-boggling, I know.

Even more mind-boggling is that the Lord Mayor, Frank Jensen, rallied a majority in the city council to vote for it. Not, however, the mayor for the Traffic and Environmental Administration (Dept of Transport), Ayfer Baykal. She walked out of the negotiations.

"We are spokesmen for cyclists, the collective traffic and pedestrians. We prioritise quality sidewalks, wider cycle tracks, more trees on the streets and green city spaces instead of more asphalt and loads of cars in the streets", she said.

At least we have some sensible politicans left after Klaus Bondam left the bicycle scene.

All sorts of quotes came out of city hall. Politicians pleased with themselves about their decision. Lord Mayor Frank Jensen said:

"Copenhagen is a modern, green metropolis where we prioritise collective traffic and bicycles very, very high. But there should also be space for those Copenhageners who have a car. With this vote we ensure a bit better conditions for them and create a framework for the city's growth."


Boy, he makes it sound like a lot of people have cars in Copenhagen. So who, exactly, are these parking spots for?

Because car ownership is, on average, only 17.7% in Copenhagen Municipality. The neighbourhood with the lowest car ownership is Nørrebro, at 12.9%. Vanløse has the highest at 23.2%.

Even if you measure by household, rather than by individual, and include company owned cars also operated for private use, the household average for 2010 is 28.1% in Copenhagen Municipality.

Have a look at this graph from a sustainability report from Aalborg University:


And we're spending 161 million on a tiny minority? That money could be used for 20 km of cycle tracks!

Former mayor in charge of traffic Bo Asmus - who is now gone - proposed investing in electric cars last year despite Copenhageners saying that they would rather have more and better bicycle lanes.

Now, once again, the majority is not being heard. We spending money on something that isn't there and isn't needed. Ironic that the Lord Mayor was splashed all over CNN recently about how fabulous and green Copenhagen is and then he pushes for this vote.

So, what's the alternative? Apart from listening to the wishes of Copenhageners and betting on bicycle traffic and public transport? There are several. One is pushing the plan for a proper bike share system forward.

Then there is this one. Car share. Here's an article about the programme I subscribe to.

Make Up Your Mind
The car share companies wanted car sharing to be integrated in the parking strategy in city hall.

They've done their homework, too. Shame it was ignored by Frank Jensen and his cronies.

According to Delebilfonden [Car Share Foundation]:
- There are currently 150 car share vehicles in Copenhagen. They have made 600 parking spots redundant.
- There would be 2400 few cars in the city if the number of car share vehicles rose to 600.
- 2400 fewer cars frees up 2400 parking spots - which is 60,000 square metres of urban space.
- This is would reduce car traffic by 45,000,000 kilometres a year.
- With a reduction of 10,500 of C02 each year.
- And an increase of 1,600,000 passengers a year on public transport.
- Not to mention an increase in cycling.

Where is the polictical support for car sharing? It would cost a fraction of the price of 1726 new parking spots.

At the moment, car sharing per 1000 citizens looks like this:

It's a clear cut solution with immediate and noticeable positive effects. It's cheap. It's practical. It's a solution tha reflects the reality that few people actually own cars. It's traffic planning for morons.

------

Another FAIL from Frank Jensen recently was his proposal for parking tickets for bicycles. Here's an article about his 'vision' in a Danish newspaper.

I asked the head of the Bicycle Office in Copenhagen, Andreas Røhl, what he thought about this idea. He thought about it for a moment while formulating a fitting, diplomatic answer. "This is not the kind of policy we usually work with".

My god, this is all so amazing. You've all been reading along on the blog for a while, seeing the best of what we do here in Copenhagen. Now you get to be a witness to how we are picking it all apart. Parking for cars. Bicycle helmet promotion. Money taken away from bicycle infrastructure.

Please learn from our mistakes. Please take away the good and use it wisely, but make sure you let Frank Jensen and politicians like him show you how NOT to build a green city.

Links, mostly in Danish
- Københavnere får masser af nye parkeringspladser
- Liberal Alliance - Bilister har ikke brug for kommunal hjælp

Sources:
- Car ownership stats: Bæredygtighedsprofiler for bydele i København - Statens Byggeforskningsinstitut, Aalborg Universitet · 2009 (Sustainability profiles for neighbourhoods in Copenhagen)
- "Delebiler fjerner biler fra byrummet og reducerer CO2" from Delebilfonden.(Car share removes cars from the city and reduces C02)

Thanks to Miljøpunkt Amager and Lars Barfred and Rasmus for the links.

Strange Cargo Bike
Demotorization

23 June 2011

Copenhagen's Gated Communities

I was thinking about my previous post about why Montreal has changed my perception of Copenhagen. I like my neighbourhood in the city of Frederiksberg, which is a municipality surrounded by Copenhagen municipality on all sides. My kids go to school and kindergarten here and you always seen people you know when you walk or cycle around. It's a bit dull if you think about liveable streets, though, as are many neighbourhoods in Copenhagen.

In many ways, the reason is, in part, architectural. A majority of of the blocks of flats in the neighbourhoods surrounding the ancient city centre were slapped up in tact with the industrial revolution. Late 1800's to early 1900's. To accomodate the rush of workers who were moving to the city.

Fair enough. But have a look at the map below.


View Larger Map
At first glance, there is a lot of green. Looks nice. But notice all those squares that surround the green spots. Those are courtyards. Nice courtyards, renovated in most cases with playgrounds for kids and benches/tables for sitting at. Most of them are shared spaces used by the many people in the many flats that surround them. I like my courtyard and every courtyard I've had. It's a little 'espace libre' where you can relax.

Looking at those courtyards is as close as you'll get, however. They're really nothing more than gated communities. Even Copenhageners when walking down the street and passing an open port to a courtyard they don't know will stop and stick their head in. A gate was left open and it's always fascinating to be allowed an illicit glance into a hidden world. It's like looking at a stranger's bookshelf or rummaging through their fridge.

So when the green bits are locked away and only the locals that surround them are allowed access, that leaves you with the street as public domain. Look at the map again. All the flats in the densely-populated neighbourhoods border the sidewalks. The streets are, in a way, canyon-like.
Snowfall
This is an example of what I mean. Sure, on this street there's not much traffic so there is no need for cycle tracks, but the street is not exactly inviting, is it? Unless you have a key to get into the luxurious spaces afforded in the courtyards. But you don't, as a rule. Only your own.

Are these streets 'liveable?' Not if you think about it. There ARE exceptions, don't get me wrong. Wonderful exceptions. Everyone knows what they are - that's where everyone goes to hang out. Saint Hans Square in Nørrebro. Istedgade in Vesterbro. Etc. But they return home to their flat overlooking a street in it's barest sense on the one side and a private courtyard on the other. If they want to read a book outside they'll head to the gated community at the back.


View Larger Map
There are other exceptions worth mentioning. Above is a map of a little neighbourhood called Kartoffelrækkene - or Potato Rows. Brilliant narrow streets in the best terraced housing style. Tiny backyards and tinier front yards, which only serve to make the residents take over the street and use it as it was meant to be used. Great, liveable neighbourhoods. Ironically, many architects live in neighbourhoods like these. They don't build buildings or neighbourhoods like these, no no no, they just live in them and build big glass buildings in other peoples' neighbourhoods.

View Larger Map
The city centre is same same but different. There are courtyards but they are tiny and date back centuries so the streets are more alive. Well... during the day anyway. When they're filled with tourists and shoppers. Very few people live in the city centre, you see. It should be the throbbing, vibrant heart of the city - indeed the nation - but after the shops close it rolls over and goes to sleep.

Most of the interesting nightspots are in the neighbourhoods so us Copenhageners go there, leaving the city centre to it's tacky discotheques frequented by surburbanites who came in on the train for a Friday or Saturday night. You can ride a bicycle piss drunk down the oh so famous pedestrian streets on a Saturday night and not have to worry about hitting Swedish tourists.

So where are the foreign consultants coming to Copenhagen to tell us how to create more liveable neighbourhoods? How to revive our city centre? Bring them on.

The solution - and this isn't from a bicycle consultant point of view either, believe it or not - is reclaiming more space from cars. Creating wider sidewalks and space for residents to hang out, play, be a part of the urban fabric - facing the city and not the enclosed walls of their courtyard. More on-street tables and chairs and benches. Lower speed limits for cars. More traffic calming.

If you come here, visit the street called Nansensgade. We CAN manage it if we try.

Be astounded at our bicycle culture. Be amazed at the way the bicycle contributes so much to the fabric of our urban life. Absolutely. But please send someone to fix our humdrum streets.

I'm left wondering... is it the architecture in our densely-populated neighbourhoods that has caused Danes to be reserved as a people? Or is it Danish reserve that led to the building of such inadvertantly gated communities?

At least on our bicycles we participate in society and all share a sense of humanity in the way we are elbow to elbow with each other on our way from A to B. At least we have that. At least we can inspire other cities to do the same. But we're beginners when it comes to liveable neighbourhoods.

But when we're at A or B we aren't a part of very much in a societal sense.

Car Industry Strikes Back Update


Here's the latest in the Car Industry Strikes Back category.

Okay, calling this advert "striking back" is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration but as Marc from Amsterdamize points out, the auto-insurance company behind the film apparently thinks that driving on bike lanes and sidewalks is perfectly acceptable urban behaviour.

In other not-so-striking striking back news from auto-related people, we know that Cycle Chic has been a great inspiration to many over the years.

We find it, however, odd that we have inspired the website Be Car Chic, too. The site is a rather feeble attempt to brand automobiles as chic here in the Age of Demotorization.

If you look at the URL - becarchic - it looks like the name of one of the chemcials that cars emit in our cities. But I digress...
http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
Sure, it's a tiny little website - more of a weak nipple flick than a 'striking back' but it shows the same tendency that we're seeing all over the world. All the focus on more liveable cities, bicycle transport and public transport has pushed the automobile industry and their disciples into a corner for the first time in two or three generations.

Let's face it, cars aren't chic. Some cars are cool, sure. My first car was a 1967 Ford Mustang and I have a thing for the BMW 2002 Alpin, but using a form of transport that pollutes our cities with emissions and noise, that scares our citizens and kills pedestrians and cyclists, that costs us billions in road maintenance and that takes up space that could be used for reestablishing liveable streets will never be chic.

What it is slowly becoming - once again for the first time since the first Anti-Automobile Age - is socially unacceptable. And that is both inevitable and perfectly acceptable.

Barcelona and Bicycle Culture

Barcelona Traffic Light
So leaving Montreal for a moment, then you have Barcelona. A city that puts a thousand other cities to shame for how they have managed to plant fertile bicycle culture seeds and are tending a lush and growing garden. Traffic lights for bicycles are nothing new, but I love these shiny, new versions in the city.
Barcelona Cycle Chic June 11 (34)
Every city is unique in their layout, needs and solutions. Barcelona has many incredibly narrow streets but they also have grand boulevards like the one above, Diagonal. Side street, sidewalk, bike lane, main boulevard and then repeat on the far side.

Barcelona Cycle Chic June 11 (32)
The bicycle infrastructure in the city is far from perfect, far from Best Practice, but my god it is well-used by the city's Citizen Cyclists. You'll see a rush hour for bicycles in Barcelona that would be considered an alien sight in most cities in the Anglo-world.
Bicilona Txell 005
Those pesky on-street bi-directional lanes are in place on many streets and while they are far from optimal, they are really used and send positive symbolism. Most of the bicycle users in the city are regular citizens who aren't out to pump up their testosterone levels so the pace is civilised. What's more, riding around the city you really get the feeling that the motorists are adapting well to seeing so many bicycles on the streets.
Barcelonan Infrastructure_2
On this street, and many others, these blocks are used to separate the bike lanes from the street and prevent cars from driving in them. My local friends say that especially in the morning there are delivery trucks parked in the lanes on commercial streets but I never saw one car in a bike lane.
Barcelona Red on Red 2
Barcelona has painted lanes across intersections, like many cities in the world these days.
Barcelona Cycle Chic June 11 (1)

Barcelona Train Barcelona Train Station
Combining bicycles with trains is also incredibly simple. The crew from the Cycle Chic Bloggers Conference headed by train from Plaza Catalunya to the small city of Saint Joan Despí, about 10 km away. My first question was whether so many bicycles were allowed on the train. My Barcelonan friends just shrugged. Sure. Why not? We didn't even need a ticket for the bicycles. We ended being about 20 bikes in two cars on the train for the trip. Brilliant.
Saint Joan Despí Cycle Chic Tour Tram
On the trip back from Saint Joan Despí we took the tram to Barcelona. Again, all of the bicycles fit on board, no ticket was required and nobody minded that we took up a bit more space than normal. Not even the conductor who came on board to check tickets.

Barcelona Cycle Chic June 11 (13)
And what could be better than seeing a cargo bike selling fruit by Port Vell?! And a Christiania Bike, no less!

22 June 2011

Bugging Me

Montreal Kids
It is quite extraordinary really. I just can't seem to get Montreal out of my head.

I've traveled the world, living in 10-odd countries and visiting quite a few others. There are many places I love and I always love to return to Copenhagen. There are other places I'd like to live, sure, but coming back home is always a pleasure.

I can visit other cities like Amsterdam or Paris or Barcelona - or other cities on an equal footing - and feel at home there.

What is it, then, about Montreal that is so fascinating? What is it that makes the city so damned liveable? Fair enough, I'm mostly talking about the Plateau and neighbourhoods like Mile End, but it is really quite extraordinary how the streets are alive.

This time upon returning to Copenhagen I'm looking around the city and seeing it quite differently. It seems somehow dead. Quite an epiphany, as you could well imagine. There are many aspects of life here that are wonderful and gorgeous and that I can't live without. The bicycle culture adds volume upon volume to the urban library and the neighourhoods are certainly liveable - some more than others. But the streets seem empty compared to Montreal. There, children hang out on the sidewalks, using the streets like they were meant to be used. The atmosphere is relaxed.

While in the city I tweeted things like "Montreal makes Berlin look like a gated community somewhere outside Phoenix". Berlin is the role model for so many cities and it is a fantastic place. But Montreal has something else.

The concept and definition of Copenhagenizing, relating to bicycle culture and traffic, is certainly something special and something worth exporting. It is something that would fit in well to Montreal.

But talking about 'Copenhagenizing' as some larger urban planning movement is not really something I subscribe to.

This city has many things to learn from other cities. Montreal, certainly. As well as Barcelona and Berlin and Amsterdam. Too many things to be set up on a pedestal for world-leading liveable streets. In the urban planning perspective, Copenhagen needs a great deal of copenhagenizing, instead of all this overrated urban planning focus on Danes waving their magical wands to transform other cities.

We can inspire Montreal bicycle-wise, absolutely, but Montreal could teach my city a great deal of things about making the city a nicer place to live.

It is still bugging me. Montreal is a riddle and one I wish to solve.

16 June 2011

The Greatest Secret Bicycle City


I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Or maybe a big one. In the race for reestablishing the bicycle as a feasible, accepted and respected form of transport, many cities are keen to bang their drums to show off their bicycle goodness. All of the noise is good noise - every bike lane, bike rack, lowered speed limit, et al are great news and important for the symbolism of cementing the bicycle on the urban landscape.

The secret is this. There is a city in North America that is steadily working towards planting bicycle seeds. I often see internet lists about the most bicycle friendly cities in North America and just as often this city isn't on them. Which is wrong.

The reason is a cultural one. English North America looks in the mirror when measuring itself. Europe is another planet and measuring yourself up against the bicycle boom in cities like Paris, Seville and Barcelona won't let you top any bicycle traffic lists. Fair enough. Compare yourself with other cities in your region and measure your progress. Nothing wrong with that.

This secret city, despite being firmly placed on the North American continent, still gets ignored and overlooked. (No, it's not Portland) It's in a region that doesn't speak an English dialect. (No, it's not Wisconsin) A region that has its own unique cultural heritage and identity. (No, it's not Alberta)

This city, and region, don't figure in the daily consciousness of most North Americans because they're just too damned "foreign". Ish.

But I was there very recently and I was amazed with what I saw. And I've seen stuff.

I saw the most impressive bicycle rush hour one afternoon. More impressive and with greater numbers than anywhere else in North America. By far.

I saw more separated bicycle infrastructure in this city than anywhere else in North America. One of the cycle tracks dates from 1986! Beat that. You can't. Sure, many of the cycle tracks are on-street bi-directional ones, which we threw out of our Best Practice in Denmark a couple of decades ago, but they area there and they are used and they are a good start.

I rode on a cycle track that features 9000 daily cyclists. And this is nothing new for them.

I stayed in a borough in the city - one of the highest-density areas in North America - that has one of the lowest car-ownership rates in North America and that can boast a modal split for bicycles of over 9%. City-wide it's at about 2.3%, just so you know.

This borough showed me that bicycle culture is alive and well and that focusing solely on bicycle commuting doesn't get you anywhere. The bicycle can get you to work and back, sure, but it about making the bicycle a part of your daily life. There are, after all, schools to drop off at, shops to shop at, cafés to sip at, cinemas to be entertained at, and so on.

This city is a role model for a continent. It can teach lessons worth learning if there were people from other cities willing to learn. It has the country's largest cyclist organisation who have been representing Citizen Cyclists for 40 years. I ate at their café, too! How cool is that.

I had lunch with the Mayor of the aforementioned borough and saw in his eyes the kind of visionary politician that every city should have. A man who dares to believe that his vision of his city's future can be achieved and who isn't afraid to suddenly change a busy street to one-way for cars and put in bicycle lanes in both directions on either side of said street. I felt his passion and was charged by it.

This is a city that can put on two bike rides / events in three days, organised by the aforementioned cyclists organisation. The first one drew 17,000 people on bicycles for an evening ride. The next one drew 25,000 for a 50 km tour of the city. Read those numbers again. 17,000 on a Friday evening. Then 25,000 on the Sunday.

This is a city that fascinates me. Not only for what it is doing for bicycle traffic and culture but for it's stunning liveable-ness. I live in what is regarded as one of the world's most liveable cities. I can go to other like-minded cities and feel at home. Then I land in this city and wonder how the hell they do it. How the hell it many neighbourhoods are lightyears ahead of Copenhagen, Amsterdam and anywhere else in the way the streets are used by people. For all the talk of Liveable Streets, this city lives the dream. Walking the walk and talking the talk.

I am simply obsessed by this. I simply need to find out, in detail, how it can be. I want the recipe. I'm willing to bust my ass to find it, write it down, absorb it. I want to be taught.

I'm still working on my love affair with their french fries served with gravy and cheese curds, but I have seen North America's promised land. I've been to the mountaintop (and rode up and down their mountain and hills on a three-speed upright bike... easy) and I've seen down the other side.

Every waking moment... okay, that's an exaggeration... I'm thinking about returning. To experience, to learn, to soak up their the city's vibe.

14 June 2011

Coexistence from Vélo Québec


Cool campaign film from my friends at Vélo Québec - Canada's largest cyling organisation - for their current Share the Road campaign. Well... share the road until a proper infrastructure network is completed.

12 June 2011

Rock Ur Bike in Roskilde - Bike Event


Copenhagenize is pleased to be involved in the creation and design of a bike event that will take place in conjunction with the Roskilde Festival and Roskilde Municipality on June 26th, 2011.

Rock Ur Bike will take place on Sunday, June 26th. Roskilde Festival starts on June 30th but the camping areas open on June 25th and warm up music starts on the Sunday, to entertain the tens of thousands of festival-goers.

It is a simple celebration of the bicycle as an integral part of society. As the poster says, "Pimp your bike and ride show-off through the city!". The ride is inspired by the crazy bike goodness at Burning Man festival in the USA.

Roskilde Festival, since its inception in 1971, has become one of Europe's largest music festivals, with 80,000 people taking part, not to mention over 20,000 volunteers.

The City of Roskilde is a bit older. A thousand years older, give or take. This year the city has a bicycle campaign to promote cycling called Roskilde Cykelby and the idea of combining the city's campaign with the massive Festival prescence in the streets was a obvious one.

Copenhagenize Consulting has been involved in creating the event together with Roskilde Festival and Roskilde Municipality and we're looking forward to it. Very much so.

We're hoping that festival guests and locals from the city will gather to celebrate the Iron Horse, pimp their rides and enjoy the 5 km ride out to the Festival grounds, stopping at Musicon - the music and culture institution - along the way. Rolling music will be provided by Copenhagen Showband, who also performed at the bike parade during Velo-City last year in Copenhagen.

A bicycle song has been composed by Danish singer Sys Bjerre and will performed at the start of the ride.

There are prizes, too! There are armbands for the first 300 participants to the warm-up concert on Sunday afternoon at the Festival. Then there is a Christiania cargo bike up for grabs in the Recycle category. Creme Bicycles are sponsoring two fine bicycles for the most creatively-pimped Gentleman and Lady.

Rock Ur Bike kicks off at 12:00 on Stændertorvet in the heart of Roskilde and we expect to be at the Festival grounds by 15:00.

Get pimpin' your ride. Celebrate the bicycle. Show off your ride and your bike love in Roskilde on June 26th!

Rock Ur Bike Facebook Group with information and inspiration.
Join the group in support even if you're not going to make it.

Remember to sign up for the event on the Facebook event page.

08 June 2011

Give Him His $50 Back, NYC


Gotta love this.

07 June 2011

Doing Dutch


One of our readers, Michael, was kind enough to send us the link to this cool little montage film he made - from the always brilliant streets of Amsterdam. Thanks, Michael!

02 June 2011

Car Industry Goes to Next Level


We are always pleased when Cycle Chic inspires. This is not, however, what we had in mind. The car industry, in this age of demotorisation, are bumping things up a notch.

I am in Montreal and Ottawa this week, presenting one of my talks, and discussing how the car industry has spent a century perfecting the art of selling their products. A lot of bicycle advocacy, on the other hand, is small groups of sub cultural enthusiasts trying to get the larger population to be just like them, instead of employing basic marketing techniques to encourage people to ride.

The growth of Cycle Chic mirrors the marketing techniques employed between 1880s-1950s and it interesting to see how it has gone from a blog with nice photos to becoming Bicycle Advocacy 2.0.

The city of Murcia, in Spain, has a cycle chic blog and Cycle Chic Belgium is run by an environmental NGO. Several other cities have contacted us about starting cycle chic blogs and today Montreal Cycle Chic will launch here in... Montreal. I am heading down to the bar shortly.

Montreal Cycle Chic is an intiative of Velo Quebec, Canadas largest cycling NGO. They recognize the value of the concept and its ability to encourage people to ride bicycles.

From babes and dapper chaps on bicycles to mainstreaming bicycle advocacy. Nice.