31 July 2011

Barcelona Bicycles? Rent? Borrow?

Cycle Chic Conference Barcelona 2011 - 045
I'm off on holidays on Tuesday. The kids and I are off to Barcelona for ten days or so. Nope, that's not us in the photo, above, but we'll be looking a lot like that in a couple of days.

Any of our readers know where we can rent decent bicycles? We'll need one for me and my daughter - so a child's seat is required - and a smaller bike for my nine year old son. I don't fancy the standard tourist rentals. Maybe there is another option that you all know about?

We'll do as the locals do, of course, although the example in the above photo is not a practical solution in the long run for getting to and from the beach each day, as well as riding around the city.

Bicilona 012
Something like this for Daddy-o and SuperGirl. And the kid's bike, too. In a perfect world a Bullitt or another cargo bike would be great.

Please let me know if you have any tips.


I like cities and holidaying in cities. I was a bit late in arranging a holiday this year but I had Barcelona, Bordeaux, Montreal and Paris in mind. I was turned on to the HomeExchange.com website by a friend here in Copenhagen who uses it regularly. I can certainly recommend it. If you don't know it already, it hooks people up for home swapping. You borrow someone's home in another city and they stay in yours during the same period. No nasty hotel bills and a great way to see a city from a local perspective. With all that said, we'll be staying at a friend's flat in Gracia but there were many great swaps between Copenhagen and the other cities.

I have a list of cities that I fancy, of course, but planning a holiday with the kids I realised that I was looking for cities that are bicycle-friendly. Some other cities were on the list, but when I realised that there was little bicycle infrastructure there, they got bumped off the list. I want to be able to ride with my son and daughter on safe bike lanes. It ended up being Barcelona because of the beaches and liveableness of the place, but certainly also because of the public transport and the bike infrastructure and many 30 km/h zones. I've been to Barcelona a number of times over the past couple of years but I'm looking forward to embedding me and the kids in the city and experiencing the liveableness first hand. What makes the city and the neighbourhoods so lovely? We're going to find out.

Looking forward to hooking up with friends in the city as well.

The Chairman of the Bike

Little wheel, big wheel.
Great shot from my friend Sandra, from the Classic Copenhagen blog.

29 July 2011

Chicago Cargo

It's always lovely when someone switches to pedal power and makes some life choices. It is, however, just a little bit cooler when an American truck driver decides to ditch the semi and get into the cargo delivery business on a cargo bike in Chicago after 500,000 truck driving miles.

Brandon started Chicago Cargo and got himself a Bullitt cargo bike. As he says himself, "Logistics and pick-up/delivery is a game I know well and enjoyed as a truck driver, yet I wasn't able to do the other thing I love, riding my bike! Hopefully being the owner/operator of a cargo bicycle delivery company will provide me a healthy balance and a successful business."

Brilliant stuff. You can follow @ChicagoCargo on Twitter.

The film was made by Zipments.com.
If you're in Chicago, you can check out Bullitts at Copenhagen Cyclery and Splendid Cycles in Portland are a major Bullitt dealer, too.

28 July 2011

The Flying Pigeon

The Flying Pigeon Bicycle from yulu canada on Vimeo.
The Flying Pigeon. A billion Chinese can't be wrong. What a gorgeous film. Marketing bicycles for Citizen Cyclists with perfection.


25 July 2011

Sao Paulo Bicycle Life

What with all the travelling I do to speak in cities around the world I always get the pleasure of meeting up with not only the politicians and policymakers but also the local cycling crowd and advocates. It is a constant source of inspiration to see what the latter group is doing on the ground and to experience, with them, the conditions for cycling in their city. I feel priviledged to have met so many amazing people around the world and to have ridden bicycles with them in countless cities.

I can't put a finger on it, but the crowd in Sao Paulo, were somehow a cut above the rest. I had such an inspiring time with them all during my four days in the city. And what a mad city. There are seven million cars - with 3000 new cars hitting the streets each day - and one million motorbikes. The motorbikes are insane. They are like swarms of wasps in the traffic with the high-pitched whine of their motors and the way they surf madly through the traffic. Two motorcyclists are killed each day in Sao Paulo.

The cyclists are fighting for a more bicycle-friendly city and their struggle in Sao Paulo makes North American cities look like Dutch or Danish cities. I tweeted it when I was there, but cyclists in Europe, North America and Australasia should try riding in Sao Paulo in order to realise how good the conditions are where they live.

The cyclists are hardcore. They are fearless and yet strong, sober cyclists. The ones I rode with, when faced with a bus or car that was going to cut them off, made their prescence known but they shouted positive messages, as opposed to that very Anglo tendency to get all aggressive.

All in all, cycling through the city for four days with these people was inspirational and enjoyable. Sao Paulo has a long journey ahead towards re-establishing the bicycle as transport and building bicycle infrastructure.

The city, like so many others, transforms itself on Sundays for the Ciclofaixa, where safe routes are cordoned off for bicycle rides and the bike lanes through some of the parks are filled with families enjoying a ride.

Sao Paolo Ciclofaixa
Sao Paolo Cycle Lane

Sao Paolo Ciclofaixa_16 Sao Paolo Ciclofaixa_13
Sao Paolo Ciclofaixa_9 Sao Paolo Ciclofaixa_10
Sao Paolo Ciclofaixa_2 Sao Paolo Ciclofaixa_14

Sao Paolo Ciclofaixa_18
Sao Paolo Ciclofaixa_19
Ironically, Volvo sponsors the blue, painted bicycle path through one of the main parks.

Sao Paolo Train Station Secure Bike Parking_1 Sao Paolo Train Station Bike Parking
There are some decent facilities for parking at certain train and metro stations, which is alway encouraging.

Sao Paolo Bike Joy
One of the oddest things in the city is this 14 km long bike path along the river - the stinkiest damn river I've ever plugged my nose at, but hey. Great with a bike path for a bike ride, but access to the path is only available at three train stations and the path closes at night.

Sao Paolo Bike Facilities - Bathroom and Water
There are facilities along the way - bathrooms and water - which, again, is cool. There were some cyclists but there were mostly regular citizens going for a ride on the Sunday I was there.

Sao Paolo Breakdown Repair
And on the Sunday there were bicycle repair bikes present if anyone had a technical problem or a flat.

Sao Paulo is lightyears behind other cities in the quest for bringing the bicycle back. These single blossoms on an otherwise bare tree are, however, a sign of hope and optimism. And so many good people advocating for the bicycle are the nourishment that will help the garden grow.

23 July 2011

Copenhagenize's Airport Shuttle in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro - Airport Bicycle Shuttle from Copenhagenize on Vimeo.
There are very few cities in the world where you can get picked up at the airport by friends on bicycles and then ride into the city on safe, separated bicycle infrastructure. Rio de Janeiro, however, is one of those cities. The Santos Dumont airport in Rio de Janeiro
is a smaller airport located only 2 km from Rio's downtown business center. After my talk and meetings in Sao Paulo for Copenhagenize Consulting I flew into Santos Dumont.

Some friends were picking me up by bike. On a cargo trike that would bring a folding bike to the airport and carry my baggage back to my friend Tiago's flat in Le Blon. Another friend, Ze Lobo, from Associação Transporte Ativo - Active Transportation came along, too. The weather was great and we set out in the late afternoon. A hundred metres or so from the terminal we hopped onto a bike path and never left bicycle infrastructure for most of the 16+ kilometre ride.

Okay, except when we took a detour to a bar to have a beer and some snacks, but that was through a quiet, residential neighbourhood with 30 km/h zones.

Here's the route we took.

View Rio de Janeiro Bicycle Airport Shuttle in a larger map

What a brilliant way to arrive in a city - to ride a bike through it. You can ride from the airport in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, of course, but there are also great train or metro connections. In Rio it is brilliant that you can ride if you don't want to take the metro or a taxi or bus.

22 July 2011

Monumental Motion - Photo Exhibition

Monumental Motion

At Copenhagenize Consulting we are thrilled and humbled that we are growing by leaps and bounds and are involved in so many fascinating urban planning and communications projects around the world.

There needs to be space, however, for our roots. Photography and culture. I'm pleased to announce a photo exhibition called Monumental Motion - in association with the Danish Foreign Ministry's Public Diplomacy Office - that is ready to travel around the world. It was no easy task narrowing over 10,000 photos down to 50 that somehow highlight the diversity of our bicycle culture but now it is done.

The photographs are ready to be shown and I'm ready to attend the openings to give an in depth talk about the finer points of Copenhagen's bicycle culture. Here is the press release from Copenhagenize Consulting:

Monumental Motion - A cycling life in the capital of Denmark
Press Release - 22 July 2011

Cities and nations are often defined by the monuments they erect. Monuments and structures that stand as historical records of great moments or periods in history.

Denmark and Copenhagen are no exception. However, one of the greatest monuments is our bicycle culture and the vast network of bicycle infrastructure that we have erected as a living legacy of sustainable living and livable cities.

Each and every day in Copenhagen, hundreds of thousands of citizens go about their daily lives on bicycles. Each of them everchanging bricks in a vibrant, architectural structure of human-powered movement. Wind turbines are a poignant symbol of modern Danish society but the constant mass motion of our cycling citizens is organic, dynamic and, perhaps, the greatest monument Denmark has ever erected.

In this unique photo exhibition, photographer and CEO of Copenhagenize Consulting, Mikael Colville-Andersen, highlights 50 photographs that define a cycling life in The City of Cyclists.

For over 4 years he has documented bicycle culture in the Danish capital and, surprisingly, he is the first person to do so in such great detail in 125 years of the bicycle.

The result is 50 photographs - chosen out of over 10,000 - that tell a story of how the bicycle plays an integral role in Copenhagen life. Our relationship to our bicycle is often the same as to our vacuum cleaner. Everyone has one, everyone uses it, but the vacuum cleaner and the bicycle are merely efficient and practical tools for making our everyday lives easier.

21st century cities will be defined by their efforts to reestablish their once prominent liveable qualities. The focus is increasingly on making our cities nicer places to live. The role of the bicycle in this noble effort is undeniable. It is the most important tool in our urban toolbox.

With this photographic series, Mikael Colville-Andersen hopes to highlight the variety of ways that Copenhageners of all age and wage brackets use the bicycle in their daily lives.

The exhibition premieres in Ljubljana, Slovenia in September 2011. Mikael Colville-Andersen will travel to the various cities where the exhibition will be shown and give a unique talk about how the bicycle plays its role in Copenhagen - and can do so anywhere else.

If you're interested in having the exhibition shown where you are, please contact the Danish embassy, consulate or Danish cultural institute in your region for more information regarding the exhibtion.

21 July 2011

Cargo Bikes in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Sao Paolo Cargo Bike_2
I am left with thousands of impressions from my recent trip to Brazil. One of the bicycle-related impressions that is not easy to forget is the incredible use of cargo bikes.

In Sao Paulo, I was thrilled to see an armada of bicycles that would make a Copenhagener feel at home. The bicycles we call Short Johns - aka butcher's bike, chimney sweep bike, delivery bike - feature in amazing numbers in the city. Performing the tasks they were designed for - light goods delivery.
Sao Paolo Cargo Bike_1 Sao Paolo Cargo Bike_3
The photos above and below were taken outside the public market in the city centre. The bicycles look rough but ready and are in constant use. All of them are Brazilian makes - indeed Brazil still has an independent bicycle industry. The two biggest companies make 3 million bicycles a year between them - in country.
Sao Paolo Cargo Bike_4 Sao Paolo Cargo Bike_5

Sao Paolo Cargo Bike_6
I didn't get to hear this horn, but would have loved to. It has a pump - at top - that must generate a hell of a noise through that horn.
Sao Paolo Cargo Bike Sao Paolo Cargo Delivery (2)
Throughout the city there are Short Johns in action. I heard from a friend in Sao Paulo that one of the McDonalds delivers by bike! If anyone in SP can photograph that, send it along. Supermarket deliveries by bicycle are also very popular.

Thanks to João Lacerda for snapping this shot of a delivery bicycle from McDonalds delivering 'food' in Sao Paulo. There aren't many places in the world where McDonalds delivers - so great it's by bicycle.

Sao Paolo Cargo Bike_8
Now Brazil is hardly a third-world country anymore and their financial boom is clear to anyone. When you travel with the almighty Danish krone, most places feel cheap. Hell, going to America is like going to India... but I was amazed that the prices in Brazil were on a par with Copenhagen, Sure, working as a bicycle delivery guy may not be considered the top of the corporate ladder for most, but you certainly don't get the impression that it's the very poorest who are doing it. There are respectable uniforms and bicycles with the company name on the side.
Sao Paolo ShortJohn Delivery
Like in other cities - the bicycle delivery guys in New York City spring to mind - these are the working class heroes of the bicycle world. They have my utmost respect. And I love their bikes.

"Nutcase is putting cyclists' safety at risk"

There was recently a consumer test of bicycle helmets in Denmark, performed by The Danish Consumer Council in their magazine Tænk (Think). The test involved 15 different skater-style helmets. Two of the helmets failed in the test. One was Etto's "Psycho Street" and the other was Nutcase Helmet's "Street" model. The one with the very appropriate DANGER text on it. (The perfect text, by the way, to describe the helmet industry's eagerness to portray cycling as more dangerous as it is in the interest of profit.)

Of the two helmets that flopped, Etto immediately called back the helmets in question and offer refunds to consumers.

Nutcase Helmets, on the other hand, refused to react to the results of the test. They replied that their helmets met the demands in "their own tests".
Nutcase Etto Psycho
The head of the consumer tests, Niels Ebbe Jacobsen, says, "Nutcase is putting cyclists' safety on the line when they choose to keep their helmets on the market. It could cost lives at the end of the day."

The Etto helmets failed the safety test, which gave them a failed grade. The Nutcase helmet failed on the shock absorption test. Well, not the shock absorption tests in their own heads, just the ones by the Danish Consumer Council. Conveniently, the helmets allow free access to the ears, allowing you to stick your fingers in and sing loudly, "Lalalalala! I'm a princess! Lalalala, I'm raking in the profits!!!"

Another example, while we're on the topic, of helmet manufacturers who happily ignore safety warnings in the name of cash is the Danish Yakkay helmet brand. We've covered that previously.

Okay, with all this said, let's add some grains of salt.

The Danish Consumer Council have little knowledge of helmets and their limitations. They merely look at the European Union standard, EN1078, and test the helmets to see if they meet the requirements. They don't even have a test facility themselves, instead outsourcing to a German facility. They do not question the fact that the EU standard is one of the weakest in the world or that the phelmet industry is involved in deciding the standards. Which is kind of like the tobacco industry sitting at the table when health warnings and smoking laws are decided upon.

They don't question the fact that helmets are only tested for impact on the top of the helmet and not on the sides or front or back and that they don't protect against dangerous rotational injuries. All of this is perhaps more of an issue for The Danish Council of Ethics and similar councils abroad.

The article itself is from a freebie newspaper and the journalist clearly just copy/pasted it together inbetween sipping coffee and checking his emails. He quotes the usual suspects from the Danish Road Safety Council - again, a council that doesn't have any scientific experience - or respect for science - and runs campaigns based on projecting their own perception on fear onto the population at large rather than using facts or worrying about the negative effects of helmet promotion. For example, as the European Council of Ministers of Transport have said in their report "National Policies to Promote Cycling":
"Though helmets are widely accepted as reducing the severity of head injuries, the issue of mandatory requirements for helmet use has been controversial for a long time. PROMISING, a research project commissioned by the European Union and coordinated by the SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research (2001), suggests that from the point of view of restrictiveness, even the official promotion of helmets may have negative consequences for bicycle use, and that to prevent helmets having a negative effect on the use of bicycles, the best approach is to leave the promotion of helmet wear to manufacturers and shopkeepers. "

Then there is this article "How helmet promotion and laws affect cycle use" and our previous article by sociologist Dave Horton about Fear of Cycling and Helmet Promotion. In addition there is The Culture Fear relating to bicycle helmets.

There are an awful lot of people in this fear game who don't have much knowledge about helmets. Most are foolish, lazy people who are not aware of the consequences of promoting sub-standard safety equipment that is only designed to protect a head from non-life threatening impacts, on the crown of the head, in solo accidents under 20 km/h and instead giving people (read: consumers with cash to spend) the impression that helmets will save their lives.

Then there are those who profit from selling helmets. At least their relutance to address the facts is clear cut. It will affect profit. Doesn't make it right, but at least their intentions are clear.

All of this is rather nonsensical when you consider that most helmets on the market don't do much more than line the pockets of companies.

Whilst researching all this I stumbled across a Swedish company called MIPS. They have developed a new kind of helmet that has a thin layer of liquid between the two shell layers designed to reduce the intensity of rotational impacts. The outer shell rotates a bit upon impact. What's interesting about their website and their video, above, is that they're basically saying that existing helmets don't do much for you.

Ever Lazer helmets call rotational injury The Absolute Enemy.

So. Will Nutcase:
A. Withdraw their faulty products from the market?
B. Start producing and promoting motorist helmets instead? At least THAT will have a positive effect on promoting cycling and speed the journey to fewer car trips by scaring people out of cars, instead.

Here's the gist of the article translated into English:
Two of the most sold bicycle helmets are not safe enough, a new test from the The Danish Consumer Council's magazine Tænk (Think) shows.

The helmets from Etto and Nutcase are not good enough at absorbing shock and that increases the risk of serious injury.

Etto is recalling the helmets in question but Nutcase refuses to respond. The helmet producer said to Tænk that the helmets pass their own tests.

”Nutcase is putting cyclists' safety at risk by keeping the helmets on the market. It could cost lives at the end of the day”, says Niels Ebbe Jacobsen, head of testing at Tænk.

The helmets from Etto and Nutcase are popular skater-type helmets. In Tænk's test, skater-type helmets received lower marks compared to other styles because of reduced ventilation.

Although many skater helmets like Mango X-ride did just as well as traditional bicycle helmets in tests.

19 July 2011

Cyclists Square in São Paulo

Sao Paolo Praca do Ciclista
Having now returned home from a Copenhagenize speaking gig in São Paulo and a Cycle Chic event in Rio de Janeiro, I'm sorting through an ocean of photographs and films I took/made. My friends in São Paulo figured they needed a bit of real estate to call their own in the city. They decided that a small square was appropriate. It is here they meet for their Massa Critica rides and other events. For ages they kept covering the street sign with the name of the square with their own name: Cyclists Square or Praca do Ciclista. Sticking the new sign up so it looked identical to the original.

The city tired of removing their signs and ended up giving in to their desires. Renaming the square Praca do Ciclista. Brilliant.
Sao Paolo Praca do Ciclista_4
There are many subtle and lovely bits of stencil grafitti around the square. There is a statue of some Peruvian-born famous dead guy on the square who is now an unwitting symbol for the cyclist struggle. Forgot to take a photo of him. Whatever.
Sao Paolo Praca do Ciclista_2
Sao Paolo Praca do Ciclista_3
Sao Paolo Placa Cyclistas
Sao Paolo Praca do Ciclista_6
Sao Paolo Praca do Ciclista_5

Cycling With Friends

I could do this. Just don't feel like it.

12 July 2011

Budapest Bicycle Signage

I'm lovin' this new sign in Budapest. Spotted on Critical Mass Hungary's FB page.
Nobody promotes cycling so positively as those brilliant Hungarians.

07 July 2011

Saint Joan Despí, Catalonia - Bicycle Friendly

Saint Joan Despí Cycle Chic Tour_9
Often all the talk is of larger cities when discussing advances in bicycle culture and infrastructure. Last month, at the Cycle Chic Bloggers Conference in Barcelona, we were all invited to a town 10 km from Barcelona called Saint Joan Despí.

The Mayor of the town was keen to have us visit and Txell, from Barcelona Cycle Chic (and an ocean of other bicycle advocacy orgs) arranged for us to do so.

Barcelona Train Station Barcelona Train
Getting there was the first task and we decided to take the train. The first thought from this orderly Nordic mind was - can 22 people with bicycles get on one train?! Our Barcelonan friends just shrugged. Sure, why not? There is, of course, loads of room for bicycles on the train and even though we filled both compartments - and then some - nobody minded and everything went smoothly.

Saint Joan Despí Architecture 003
We were greeted by the mayor at the train station in Saint Joan Despí, as well as a group of city officials and police. The bicycle tour of the city included detailed guided tours of the two masterpieces of the architect Josep Maria Jujol. Brilliant. Perfect for a Cycle Chic conference. Not all bike geek stuff but art and culture as well.

Saint Joan Despí Cycle Chic Tour Saint Joan Despí Police Escort
We toured the city and sampled the bicycle infrastructure, led by a police escort of three cops on bicycles. Whenever we stopped somewhere we were provided with the most secure bicycle parking in Spain:
Saint Joan Secure Bike Parking
The police guarded our bikes for us. Nice.

Saint Joan Despí FC Barcelona 001 Saint Joan Despí FC Barcelona 005
Another non-bicycle related highlight was visiting FC Barcelona's massive training centre in the town. They play at Nou Camp, 4 km away, but this is where Barca trains each and every day. If just being there made me giggle, learning that there is no public access to the centre - it's guarded like a military installation - sent me over the moon. I kissed the grass accordingly and picked some of it to take home for my son - who keeps it in a metal box and places one blade in his goalkeeper gloves before each match.

Saint Joan Despí Bike Lanes
We toured the bike lanes - and there were many - and the Mayor was pleased to show us an example of the city's investment in bike lockers.

Saint Joan Despí Bici Box
This is a town of 30,000 people and there are 14 bike lockers - each with space for either seven or fourteen bicycles.
Saint Joan Despí Bici Box_1 Saint Joan Despí Bici Box_2
Joni from Dutch in Dublin blog and owner of Bear Bicycles watches as the Mayor demonstrates. Being a Cycle Chic Bloggers Conference, we were all well-dressed. But that's, of course, not possible. Riding a bicycle in the heat and on hills. Maybe we were a mirage.
The bike locker system is a subscription system with works with a chip card. Very effective. I think it's about €30 a year. Imagine... some large cities don't even have that many bike lockers.

Saint Joan Despí Cycle Chic Tour_4
The tour of the city ended up at the main library where we were treated to some lovely food and live music.

The Mayor recieved a Cycle Chic t-shirt. In the photo (taken by the everpresent camera of the Hungarian Cycle Chic gang), Esther from the Catalonia Bicycle Club - BACC - just realised she had to translate it. The Mayor is cool and he accepted the gift - even after having it translated... he was still talking to me afterwards, so that was a good sign.

A brilliant trip to Saint Joan Despí. Thanks to the Mayor and his staff for making it so memorable for the Cycle Chic blogger crew. Bicycles, infrastructure, facilities, music, art, architecture, football. Couldn't have been better. And thanks, too, to BACC for all their help and great camaraderie.

Saint Joan Despí Cycle Chic Tour Tram
The time came to head back to Barcelona for a night out. We opted for the tram and, once again, I was amazed that nobody cared that we took up a bit more space than normal. Taking bicycles on the trains and the trams is, also, free. A ticket conductor came on board at one point but nothing about the bicycles was mentioned. He just deftly stepped around them without batting an eyelash.

I could show you photos of how the night developed, but in some countries they somethinng called NSFW.

Bicycle culture in Catalonia is alive and well.