30 November 2011

The Bicycle and the Bush - Man and Machine in Rural Australia

I'm reading an amazing book at the moment, after a correspondence with a reader.. It's called The Bicycle and the Bush - Man and Machine in Rural Australia. The author is Jim Fitzpatrick

Books about the historical role of the bicycle are always a fascinating read for me. Just when you think that everything has been uncovered, nuggets of historical goodness are dug up, cleaned and polished for all the world to see.

At first glance, the title seems a bit optimistic. Surely there can't be THAT much to write about on the subject. The Bicycle and the Bush, however, is filled with brilliant stories, anecdotes and historical references. Australia is in no way a shining light for bicycle culture in a modern context but what an astonishing role the bicycle played in building the nation between 1890-1920.

It never ceases to amaze me when writers produce a work that requires so much research. In addition to a constant flow of nuggets, the book is richly illustrated.

Australian Bicycle History: Bicycle Messengers Australian Bicycle History: Bicycle Ambulance St Johns 1904 Cobar Wrightville NSW
At left: An advert from 1895 for a bicycle messenger company serving the towns in the goldfields of Western Australia. We're not talking about the Village to Madison Avenue here. This is REAL bicycle messenger stuff. Pony Express go home.
At right: A bicycle ambulance that ran between Cobar and Wrightville in New South Wales. This photo is from 1904.

Australian Bicycle History: Rabbit Fence Maintenance
Here's a map of the rabbit fences in Western Australia. The maintenance was done on bicycles along the routes.

Australian Bicycle History: Bicycle Strawberry Picking Australian Bicycle History: Outback 1910 Queensland Northern Territory border
At left: Strawberry pickers on an early version of the recumbent. This version actually had a purpose.
At right: A bicycle on the border between Queensland and Northern Territory in 1910. Workers, including sheep shearers, used the bicycle to travel around.

Australian Bicycle History: Cargo Bike Electra Australian Bicycle History: Accident Insurance 1890s
At left: An early cargo bike in Australia.
At right: The insurance industry - just like today - was keen to shock people into buying insurance. An early Culture of Fear advert for bicycle insurance.

Here's the description of the e-book from the Amazon site:

The Bicycle and the Bush looks at the bicycle’s use in rural Australia from 1890-1920. It is one of the most unusual, innovative explorations ever undertaken into the role of a transport device and its relationship with a society and its environment. This book surveys the machine's introduction, manufacturing, sales and distribution in Australia, and its broader social impact upon urban society, women, the Australian language, and racing, among other things.

Australia is the size of the continental United States. In 1890, beyond the few inland towns of note, it was mostly the province of sparsely distributed agriculturalists, pastoralists, miners, and keepers of isolated telegraph stations and government outposts. There was a need for travel between the widely spaced settlements and isolated homesteads, and the distances travelled were large by world standards; in few other countries did people move so far as part of their regular work routines.

The machine's use ranged from rabbit fence patrols and telegraph line repairmen, to nearly all shearers being mounted on them for nearly 2 decades. On the Western Australian goldfields, in particular (an area the size of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah combined), the remoteness of early settlements led to the most unusual and extensive network of bicycle paths in the world at that time, based upon camel tracks used to supply mining settlements.

The Bicycle and the Bush - Man and Machine in Rural Australia is a must read for Australians suffering from short memory loss. It shows how the bicycle built the land and will hopefully help change the modern perception of the bicycle as being merely a toy for some men in tight-fitting man-made fibres on the weekend. It is also perfect for anyone interested in bicycle history.

It's an e-book and it's available at Amazon. At $8.00, you can't afford not to.

Don't forget the Subversive Bicycle Photos series from here at Copenhagenize.com. We have photos from Canberra, New South Wales and Queensland.

29 November 2011

Save The Street With Bicycles!

Photo from the Facebook group Red H.C. Ørstedsvej! (Save H.C. Ørsteds Street!)

Just when you think you've seen it all, you inevitably see something weird. I was sent a link to a Facebook group called Save H.C. Ørsteds Street! A street in Frederiksberg - the neighbourhood in which I live - is under attack, one would assume. The small businesses in the street started a group to raise awareness about it and they all blacked out their windows in protest, as you can see in the photo above.

Now this being Frederiksberg, in the heart of Copenhagen, it wouldn't be surprising that you'd assume that some evil plan was underway. Something that would jeopardise the quality of life here in Denmark's most densely-populated neighbourhood. What, pray tell, could this Imminent Threat be? Dare we ask?

Um... it's bicycle infrastructure and traffic calming.

Believe or not, once in a while we do still experience minor protests regarding changes to the traffic situation. There aren't many streets left in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg that don't have separated bicycle infrastructure. 35 odd years of implementation of cycle tracks - a great many kilometres running past shops - and yet there is no documentation that it is a negative thing. On the contrary. The benefits are massive for shop owners, local citizens and the quality of life in a neigbourhood. We know this in Denmark and they know it in the Netherlands and other European countries. We've known it for more than three decades.

I want nothing more than for the small, lovely shops on H.C. Ørstedsvej - between Thorvaldsensvej and Rosenørns Allé - to thrive, profit and continue to contribute to life in this wonderful neighbourhood.

It's hard to figure out what they want. The redesign of the stretch will remove some car parking and, apart from cycle tracks, the road will be traffic calmed by creating a dog's leg to slow down the cars. Most of the blacked out shop windows read "No Car Parking Means Shop Death!" Although some said that they supported bicycle infrastructure, just not removing parking.

When all you have to go on is vague perceptions and ideas, without any knowledge, your message is going to be vague.

So I'm going to do two things. I'm going to highlight why they are dead wrong and then I'm going to tell them how to increase sales.

Why They Are Wrong
First of all, they are basing their protest on perceptions, and nothing more. I joined their Facebook group and asked nicely for their documentation. One of the women said they didn't have any and furthermore, they didn't need any!

"Of course you can protest without numbers and facts - just look at Nørrebrogade, Blågårdsgade and Gammel Kongevej, all of which have been thriving shopping districts. I don't think anyone has gone to the trouble of making numbers and facts in fancy reports, but the business association on Nørrebrogade has said that their business dropped between 50-80%..."

Firstly, the reference to Nørrebrogade is far-fetched. The redesign of that street coincided with the global financial crisis. Shops in all neighbourhoods experienced a drop in earnings and using the widened bicycle lanes and car-free zones as an excuse was regarded as weak and irrelevant. Not to mention lacking in credibility. The people who actually live in the neighbourhood and use the shops supported the redesign of the street with a massive majority. They wanted a nicer place to live and shop.

What is most frustrating is that this reliance on perception, instead of facts and figures, serves little purpose. You would think that these shop owners would do research before starting a campaign. Most information is readily available on the internet. I've found the necessary numbers and facts today - although I have a number of documents on my computer already.

They're wrong because removing car parking, calming traffic and putting in cycle tracks will NOT result in "Shop Death". There is no documentation supporting their claims. There is, however, plenty of documentation to show that things are going to get better for the shop owners and the neighbourhood.

Shop owners have a tendency to overestimate the transport forms their customers use to get to the shops. That they overestimate it here in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg is beyond me, but hey.

Here's a graph from three Danish cities showing that shop owners seem to think there are far too few parking spots but that the customers don't agree with them.

Here's a graph from Cologne (Köln) showing that shop owners are way off in estimating how many of their customers arrive by bicycle. You may recall that IKEA here in Copenhagen were suprised to learn that 25% of their customers arrived at the big box stores by bicycle or public transport. Here's how they reacted to THAT news.

Here is a graph from Oslo showing that earnings from customers are pretty equal - interestingly motorists who park in nearby streets spend more money - I'll get to that in a bit. But, again, shop owners are way off in guessing what transport form their customers use to get there.

So let's look at some numbers regarding cars.

H.C. Ørstedsvej is in a neighbourhood in the city of Frederiksberg. So what about the car ownership levels here?
- 63% of families in Frederiksberg DON'T own cars. That's a lot of people who won't really be bothered about fewer car parking spots.
- Furthermore, car traffic has fallen 3% since 2009 and this trend seems to be continuing.
- Virtually everyone in Frederiksberg has a bicycle.
- 36% of the population use a bicycle to get to work or their place of education.

H.C. Ørstedsvej runs roughly between two neighbourhoods in Copenhagen - Nørrebro and Vesterbro - which could easily be considered catchment areas for these small shops. What about car ownership in these places?
- Nørrebro has the lowest car ownership in the nation. There are only 129 cars for every 1000 citizens.
- Vesterbro is low, too. Only 137 cars for every 1000 citizens.
- The average in Copenhagen is 169 cars for every 1000 citizens. That means that 70.9% DON'T own cars.

What about traffic volume in the neigbourhood?
- There are 11,000 cars driving on H.C. Ørstedsvej each day. Most are people passing through. The street is not a main thoroughfare - it's a short cut for motorists bustling from A to B. (or parasites, as they can also be called)
- There are 6500 bicycles on the street each day. The street doesn't lead to the Copenhagen city centre, where most bicycle traffic goes to and from, but on the two streets that flank H.C. Ørstedsvej: 4600 cyclists on Nyelandsvej and 7690 on Godthåbsvej. There are no numbers for Thorvaldsensvej from the City of Frederiksberg but we estimate that the number is between the two previous ones.
- Being a densely-populated neighbourhood, pedestrian traffic is considerable, as well.

Just looking at those numbers - who could possibly be worried about removing car parking? Ah... but then there is still that nagging misconception about "cyclists". Even in the heart of Frederiksberg - in the heart of Copenhagen 'The City of Cyclists', bicycle users don't seem to be taken seriously by these shop owners. Let's mythbust, shall we?

First of all, the ever-popular blogpost here on Copenhagenize.com Cyclists Are Better Shoppers Than Motorists is worth a visit/revisit. Loads of stats for shop owners and bicycle advocates.

And here are some more graphs:

Here's how people get to shops related to distance to destination. Walking and cycling are the prime modes of transport for trips under three kilometres - which certainly applies to the shops on H.C. Ørstedsvej. And it's a national statistic so you can bet it is even rosier in densely-populated neighbourhoods in the cities.

In Breda, Netherlands, they learned that while cyclists spend less per visit than motorists, they visit shops more often and therefore are bigger spenders than motorists on a weekly basis.

The same tendency can be seen in Utrecht, Netherlands.

If you are a shop owner in a densely-populated neighbourhood in Denmark - or anywhere really - and you want to not only survive but also make a good living out of your business - embrace the bicycle user and the pedestrian. Cyclists are also more loyal to the small shops in their neigbourhood, as are pedestrians.

If you want to create a shopping district that is attractive to visitors and that improves the quality of life in the neighbourhood - embrace the bicycle user and the pedestrian and fight for traffic calming and lower speed limits.
The Daily Haul

Here's a rundown of the benefits of bicycle infrastructure and traffic calming:
- Traffic calming and lower speed limits increase the perception of the street as being a nice place to be. In Berlin, cross-neighbourhood traffic - pedestrian and bicycle - boomed when 30 km/h zones were put into place.
- Traffic calming reduces noise pollution which contributes to a nicer neighbourhood/shopping district.
- Bicycle lanes (when properly placed along the curb) act as a traffic calming buffer and then also increase the number of pedestrians. The sidewalks are simply nicer to walk along. Pedestrians are a benefit to small shops. Ever heard of window shopping? Kind of hard to do when driving past at speed in a car.
- Bicycle lanes - not surprisingly - increase the number of cyclists. In Copenhagen, when a street is redesigned with bicycle infrastructure, there is as a rule an increase of 10% or more in bicycle traffic.
- Bicycle lanes increase property values.

How H.C. Ørstedsvej Can Thrive and Profit
Like I said, I want nothing more than these shops in this neighbourhood to rock and roll and thrive. Small shops have a tough time of things and yet they contribute so much to the liveableness of a neighbourhood. What can they do to ensure that this happens? Not least in the midst of a continuing financial crisis? Easy.

- If they're going to protest, they should protest that the City of Frederiksberg's plans for the street are simply not visionary enough.

- They should ask for more parking spots to be removed, keeping only loading zones in place for morning deliveries, like in the centre of Copenhagen.
Former Car Parking Spaces
Instead of one parking spot for a single-occupant vehicle, how about six parking spot for customers who spend more money, like this one on Gammel Kongevej down the road?

Bike Parking in Copenhagen
Or even more bicycle parking/traffic calming like these racks on Nordre Fasanvej?

Copenhagen Bike Parking Zone
Or parking zones like in Copenhagen?

- They should lobby for 30 km/h zones. That would add a fantastic sense of niceness to the street and draw even more bicycle traffic and pedestrians - and their wallets - to the district.
- They should arm themselves with documentation (see all above) in order to present their case to the City of Frederiksberg.
- They could even lobby for making the street a pedestrian zone, with benches and room for markets. People would come from all over the city to shop there. If they pulled THAT off, they would reap the benefits of branding and they'd be famous.

The future is bright for the shopping district, but it could be so much brighter.

28 November 2011

Copenhagen Bicycle Traffic Flow

Copenhagen Bicycle Volume / Traffic Flow
I often return to this graphic that shows the flow of bicycle traffic in Copenhagen between 06:00 and 18:00 on weekdays. I found it in a City of Copenhagen brochure a couple of years ago and spiced it up a bit. For a larger version, view it over at Copenhagen Consulting's website.

This is the traffic volume for bicycles and scooters - although scooters hardly amount to anything so you're basically looking at bicycle traffic. Only the main streets are featured and the thinnest lines represent 2000-2999 cyclists a day. They get thicker as they approach the city centre as other cyclists join the flocks from the neighbourhoods.

The thickest lines in the middle represent 20,000 + cyclists.

The graphic shows the municipality of Copenhagen and primarily the flow of traffic to and from the city centre. It excludes the urban sprawl surrounding the city and all the bicycle traffic there - to and from work/train stations/schools.

Here is the map that corresponds to the graphic:

Vis stort kort

25 November 2011

Avoidable Tragedy with 30 km/h Zone?

Join the Facebook Group 30 kb/h for 30 km/h zones in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg

Last night a tragedy took place right down the street from where I live with my children. A mother and daughter were crossing the pedestrian crossing. A car stopped for them but a van didn't fancy stopping and overtook the stopped vehicle on the right. He plowed straight into the mother and daughter without even braking.

They were knocked 23 metres down the street.

The 10 year old girl died today at the National Hospital. The mother is still in critical condition at time of writing.

Tragedies like this are always more intense when they happen in your neighbourhood or happen to people you know. It is quite impossible as a father to NOT think about my own children - 9 and 4 - who also use pedestrian crossings in the same neighourhood. Those thoughts and feelings are something I try to keep private.

What this post is about is that this tragedy - and others like it - could quite possibly have been avoided. If it wasn't for the increasingly car-centric attitude that grips Copenhagen and Denmark.

This is about 30 km/h zones. Two years ago I blogged about 30 km/h zones for the first time here on Copenhagenize.com. Amazingly, I remain the only person in Denmark who talks about them. Amazing because we have a great deal of knowledge about the positive effects of 30 km/h zones in urban areas and yet the Danish police and politicians remain silent on the issue.

There are many culprits, not least the man who killed the girl and critically injured the mother. He probably won't go to jail for what could easily be considered a murder. He'll be punished, of course, but the punishment will be shockingly inappropriate to the crime. We'll never change perceptions about how dangerous driving is unless people are punished accordingly. Unless driving licences are revoked permanently.

The Danish police are also a primary antagonist. They are a constant source of irritation because of their reluctance to change the status quo in the traffic. They do not support lower speed limits, even though the Danish Road Directorate has recommended it. Compared to other police forces in Europe they have little interest in what other cities and police forces are going and they rarely embark on study trips to learn from other experiences in other cities.

The politicians in Copenhagen and Denmark are also shockingly silent on the issue of lower speed limits. You need a magnifying glass to find references to them in the press and they are often just passing comments. No serious efforts are made to make our cities safer and to reduce injuries and prevent deaths for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Danish Road Safety Council are the automobile industry's best friends. They have had a few campaigns aimed at motorists, including one called "Ta' Toppen af Farten" - something like "Cut Down Your Speed a Bit". They have never gone after motorists in any effective way - never trying to change the perception of driving as normal, merely carrying on the same old, same old status quo.

Today I was sitting with my friend from Classic Copenhagen and we were rather outraged that over 70 cities in Europe have implemented 30 km/h zones and yet Copenhagen is doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. The man who killed the girl was doing 60 km/h in a 50 km/h zone. The mere fact that there are 50 km/h zones in Denmark's most densely populated city - Frederiksberg - is an outrage.

It came out today that the City of Frederiksberg knew that the location of the tragedy was dangerous. In this article in the national paper Politiken it states that "The City of Frederiksberg has known for a long time that the location is problematic for the pedestrians who try to cross Rosenørns Allé."

Last September (2011) the city decided to improve safety at the spot. Their plan? Putting in a wider median between the two crosswalks at the intersection and putting up blinking yellow lights to warn motorists that they are approaching a pedestrian crossing.

Did they consider improving safety by listening to the experiences from the rest of Europe by reducing speed limits to 30 km/h? No.

A couple of flashing lights in a 50 km/h zone. Letting the parasites roll freely through our city streets.

Today we started a Facebook group advocating 30 km/h zones in Copenhagen. We call it 30 kb/h - the kbh is the abbreviation for Copenhagen in Danish. Please pledge your support by joining the group. If you have any other links to studies/articles about the benefits of 30 km/h zones, please add them here to the comments or to the Facebook page page.

Here's why 30 km/h zones make a difference. And why this tragedy may have been avoided. This also applies to cyclists, of course.

More on 30 km/h zones:
Amsterdam's 30 km/h zones

Barcelona's 30 km/h zones

British campaign 20's Plenty - for 30 km/h zones

20mph speed zones cut road injuries by 40%, study says

Effect of 20 mph traffic speed zones on road injuries in London, 1986-2006

24 November 2011

Wheel Art

This is wild and I don't care who knows it.

Rubber Clarification

The Bicycles of Ferrara (10)
A while back we blogged about the beautiful vintage bicycles of Ferrara.

One of the photos was of a rubber thingy attached to handlebars, something many bicycles featured. We were wondering what they were for and you readers had two main theories. One was that it was for stopping shopping bags from sliding down the handlebars. Completely feasible. The other was protecting the handlebars from scratches when leaning them up against walls.

Thanks to our reader, Sauro, in Venice, we now know the truth.

They're called "paramanubrio" - handlebar protectors. Sauro was kind enough to send us these two photos illustrating their use. Sure, they protect the handlebars, but perhaps more importantly, they protect the wall from unsightly markings. I'll bet they're perfect for shopping bags, too.

Yet another fantastic accessory from mainstream bicycle culture. How many other simple and yet functional ideas have gone lost since bicycle culture faded away in the 50s and 60s? I shudder at the thought. We are, however, on the lookout for more.

23 November 2011

Toyota - Car Industry Strikes Back

Here's the latest installment in the Car Industry Strikes Back series here on Copenhagenize.com. This time from the land of the rising fun. Nippon.

Toyota, like the rest of the car industry, is worried about the increasingly negative perception of the automobile, rising oil prices and the demotorization of our societies.

After decades of transport dominance, the car industry is under threat, not least by bicycles as transport, but also public transport.

How to tackle it? Famous person. Ridicule. A slogan or two. A series of high-end commercials based on a much loved Japanese anime series.

Cue hapless (car-less) geeky guy on an outing with his girlfriend, using public transport. Enter cool guy with a Toyota who drives off with the girl. Geeky guy subservient in front of famous person character (Jean Reno as Doraemon) begging for four wheels.


20 November 2011

Good Goods Tranport

Second Hand Transport
I've been moving stuff by bicycle lately. In lieu of my Bullitt - thanks to everyone who asks about it but no, it hasn't been recovered ... yet - I use my Velorbis. The front rack is a godsend. Above, I was heading back from a second-hand shop. Nothing massive, just a chair and some stuff in a bag.

It's interesting when you're strapping something to a bicycle in Copenhagen. You notice many eyes on you when you're trying to figure out how best to get the stuff to stay on the bicycle. You're watched by people on the streets and you can see it in their eyes... they're watching you and figuring out how they would do it. You feel pressured, in a way. "Am I doing it right?" "Do they see a different way of doing it that I've missed?" Once you get the stuff on and strapped down and start riding away, the interest fades. Done deal. He's off.
Shop by Bike
With the grand opening of Casa Copenhagenize - Bicycle, Bed and Breakfast - I needed some extra linen and duvets, etc. Here's my load from Jysk; two duvets, linen, four sets of duvet covers and pillow cases, two pillows, nine towels, a lamp and some other stuff.

Shop by Biccycle
Another trip to IKEA yesterday. A table, a big lamp, a whole bunch of picture frames and a pile of other stuff that you end up buying when you're at IKEA. You know, stuff you don't need.

Here's a post from a couple of years ago about what it's like to ride to the big box IKEA north of Copenhagen.

And let's not forget that IKEA in Copenhagen loan out free trailers and bicycles for their customers.

19 November 2011

Australia's Helmet Laws

Laughed out loud more than once.

16 November 2011

Copenhagen Bicycle Parking Checklist

The City of Copenhagen has published a little folder called Checklist for Bicycle Parking - (opens as .pdf, in Danish). It is part of the City's "City For Everyone" (By for alle) strategy, based on the Principles of Universal Design. The City for Everyone strategy is mostly aimed at accessibility for pedestrians, mobility impaired, the elderly, etc. Here's an English brochure the City has about it (pdf).

Here's a translation of the Checklsit for Bicycle Parking.

What is good bicycle parking?
It is not only of great importance to cyclists but also for people who use the space where bicycles are parked. Lack of bicycle parking - or badly designed bicycle parking - results in bicycles being parked in inappropriate spots and that restricts accessibility in the city. It is therefore very important that bicycle parking is included in urban planning and that is is designed correctly.

Good bicycle parking makes it easier and more convenient for cyclists to move around the world's best bicycle city. At the same time it ensures better accessibility to all the things the city offers for all the other citizens. The checklist contains eight short and concrete considerations that should be included when creating new bicycle parking facilities.

1. Are the bicycle racks close to the destination? Maximum 30 metres away.
2. Are the racks placed optimally in relation to the destination? For example in relation to access.
3. Is there sufficient space between the racks to ensure access to them? There should be a minimum of 150 cm free space for putting the bikes in and taking them out. 200 cm is preferred.
4. Does the number of racks match the number of bicycles at the location?
5. The bike racks should be of a good quality - see the design manual - and have 50 cm between each bicycle.
6. Is there niveau-free access to and from the racks?
7. Does the location of the bicycle parking require lighting to achieve a satisfactory level of sense of security?
8. Does the cyclist have a good overview of the whole parking facility? This applies mostly to larger parking facilities in order to ensure sense of security.

The 'City for Everyone' project has seven 'commandments' regarding accessibility that the employees at the City's Technical and Emvironmental Administration (Transport and Environment Dept.) must use when working in the development of more accessible public spaces.

1. The City should be designed for people of all ages with different needs.
2. We will work towards a safe, secure, pleasant, convenient and comfortable city.
3. Accessibility must be improved each time an employee of the Technical and Environmental Administration is involved.
4. Accessibility is a natural part of our daily work in the Technical and Environmental Administration.
5. Our point of departure is in existing solutions and processes.
6. We will use Copenhagen solutions - for example, the Copenhagen sidewalk, etc. (the Copenhagen sidewalk is a design. Paving stones and cobblestones)
7. Accessibility funds must give accessibility to the City.

14 November 2011

Copenhagen in 1962

Here's an old travel film from PanAm, from 1962, about Copenhagen. It's long so what I'd like you to do is:

jump forward to 18:37 

on the timeline for some brilliant footage of Copenhagen.

Bike Culture Taxi Bike Culture Taxis
While I know that all taxis in Denmark are equipped to take two bicycles, I didn't know that this was also the case in 1962.

Here's the direct link to 18:37 on YouTube.

Thanks to Eric for the link.

11 November 2011

Danish Cycling Pioneer - Carl Georg Rasmussen and his Leitra

Carl Georg from Leitra_30
At today's opening of the Bicycle Innovation Lab in Copenhagen we presented the first film in our series about Danish Cycling Pioneers. First up is the Grand Old Man of velomobiles, Carl Georg Rasmussen, inventor of the Leitra.

We spent the day at his workshop in the country north of Copenhagen and filmed him talking about his passion, his career and his love of his product.
Carl Georg from Leitra_26
Carl Georg is 76 years old now and he still cycles 10000-12000 km a year. He recently returned from Stockholm in one of his velomobiles (as they're called today).

The series is about these individuals and the products they invented. The formation of the idea, the techniques used in developing them and their entire journey.

It took two energy crisises in the 1970s for Carl Georg to finally go to work on the Leitra - the granddaddy of all modern velomobiles. He is a civil engineer and he worked on designing planes and gliders. This expertise led to his basic idea for the Leitra. His philosphy was to make a cycle that worked and then afterwards place a cover onto it.
Carl Georg from Leitra_14
His first prototype was finished in the early 1980s and he continued to improve upon the design for many years afterwards. As a boy of 15 he saw a drawing of a kabinecykel - "cabin bike" - in a hobby book from a 1930s model made of wood and he went to work building a version for himself which he rode around in for a couple of years. It was heavy, however, and his work in airplane design later led to his use of plastic and carbon fibre for the shell.

He called it Let individuelt transport - or Light Individual Transport - and shortened it to Leitra.

Interviewing Carl Georg was a pleasure. So many fantastic anecdotes. Like when he was pulled over in 1982 by the Copenhagen police. They wanted to know what on earth he was riding in. "A cycle with weather protection", he replied. They called the station and were told to confiscate it immediately. It sounded dangerous, the way the officers described it. He got it back after writing to the Ministry of Justice's traffic division after convincing them that it was actually a great machine. He took it to the State's car inspection and they approved it except for one point. His eye level was too low and they wouldn't approve it.

Fortunately, he had a friend with an MG sportscar and he went to his place and measured the eye level with a ruler. Discovering that his friend actually sat 2 centimetres lower in the MG than Carl Georg in the Leitra.

Another letter to the Ministry. He asked them how they could let MG cars drive around, approved, on the streets with such a low eye level. Shortly afterwards he recieved approval to ride the Leitra in Denmark.

Denmark has never been a great velomobile nation. Carl Georg has survived thanks to loyal customers in Germany, Holland and Austria. He mentions that the Dutch brands, who started ten years after him - and inspired directly by him - had a much easier time of it. They had a home market right away, whereas 80% of the Leitras produced were exported.

Carl Georg has taken part in all manner of bicycle events. Paris-Brest-Paris, Sjælland Rundt in Denmark and many others. His Leitra performs impeccably.

Carl Georg from Leitra_32
I had a go, as well. I can't see myself ever owning one, to be honest, but my goodness what a brilliant ride. I got out smiling like a Cheshire cat.

Leitra Carl Georg from Leitra_5
Choosing Carl Georg as the first in the series of Danish Cycling Pioneers was a given. The man who gave Europe the velomobile and who dedicated his life to his work. We salute him. And thank him for his contribution to cycling.

Carl Georg from Leitra_31

See also www.leitra.dk

10 November 2011

The Traffic Garden in Utrecht

Another pearl from Streetfilms.org. The Traffic Garden in Utrecht. Teaching children to cycle, drive and walk - together.

09 November 2011

Bicycle Innovation Lab - Denmark's First Cultural Centre for Bicycle Culture

This Friday, in Copenhagen, Copenhagenize Consulting is proud to present the opening of Denmark's first cultural centre for cycling - Bicycle Innovation Laboratory. Together with our colleagues at the NGO Miljøpunkt Amager we've created a space where Danish bicycle culture can be celebrated, as well as further developed.

The Bicycle Innovation Lab - B.I.L. for short (which, by some strange coincedence looks remarkably like the Danish word for car - 'bil'... hmm) has been made possible through funding from the government's Bicycle Fund (Cykelpuljen) administered by the Danish Road Directorate.

I first developed the idea that Danish bicycle culture needed a physical home back in 2008. A place where ideas could be fostered and discussed. A launch pad for innovation. Now, three years later, the time has come.

This Friday that home will open its doors to the public. Danish bicycle culture enjoys global exposure thanks to the internet and not least thanks to both Copenhagenize and Cycle Chic. We can now offer not only citizens but visitors to the city a place where they can enjoy a focused view of our diverse bicycle culture.

Our inspriation sources for the cultural centre include the Danish Design Centre and the Danish Architectural Centre.

Heels and Brolley
B.I.L. will be many things gathered under a big bicycle umbrella. The nature of the funding means that B.I.L. will grow along a upwards curve. In the first phase:

- There will be a Bikeotheque - a library where people can borrow various bicycles for three or four days.
- We will create a forum for keynote speakers from around the world to present their ideas on urban cycling.
- We have built a workshop for citizens to come and learn to build their own frames, work on their bicycles and, hopefully, develop new ideas.
- We'll be leading urban planning bicycle tours in 2012 for interested parties.

Lulu B.I.L.
The list of upcoming projects is long and exciting but let's just get this puppy inaugurated first, shall we? We're done painting, welding, sawing and building. We are looking forward to sharing now.

And we'll kick it off at 11:11 on 11.11.2011.

Here's the Facebook group, too.

If you're in Copenhagen on Friday, you're welcome to come to an Open House between 14 - 17.

Bicycle Innovation Laboratory is located at:
Holmbladsgade 71
2300 Copenhagen S.

Hope to see you there!

08 November 2011

Occupy Wall Street Needs BIKES!

A request for cargo bikes and trailers - as well as regular bikes - from the Occupy Wall Street crowd. Wonderful.

This is what CycleLogistics is all about. Getting things done by bike.

Hope they can get some bikes donated.
Thanks to our reader, Katie, for the link!

07 November 2011

Parasites and Living Lungs

Golly. What a lovely place to live.

When I was in Ferrara, Italy a couple of weeks ago I was having a good chat with a colleague who works for the City. We were looking at a map of the city and he was filling me in about the various traffic and bicycle-friendly initiatives in place. For example, Ferrara doesn't have a congestion charge - it has a congestion BAN. Non-residents are not allowed to enter and goods transport must pay a fee. Eight cameras are installed around the city to photograph number plates. If you're caught in the city without a permit, you are fined €100. Ah, simplicity.

Anyway, he was telling me about a main route through the city and plans to tackle the motorists who use it. He called them parasites. I thought it was a bit out of character for him but he kept using the word. Finally, I had to ask why he was using the word and he looked at me quizzically and said that it was simply the word they used.


First attested in English 1539, the word parasite comes from the Medieval French parasite, from the Latin parasitus, the latinisation of the Greek παράσιτος (parasitos), "one who eats at the table of another" and that from παρά (para), "beside, by" + σῖτος (sitos), "wheat".
Coined in English 1611, the word parasitism comes from the Greek παρά (para) + σιτισμός (sitismos) "feeding, fattening".

What a great word. The host organism is, of course, the city off which they feed. The streets outside my flat as I write this are relatively free of parasites. The ones that plague Copenhagen aren't your traditional parasites. They aren't noctural. They desert their host organism on migratory patterns, scurrying back to their formicaries in the afternoons, only to return to feed upon their host in the morning. To continue their infestation and causing all manner of illnesses that the host organism is unable to defend itself against.

Traffic pollution with its toxic emissions and noise pollution, a lower perception of safety for pedestrians and cyclists, traffic accidents that kill and maim, reduced property prices and so on.

Parasites. It's a brilliant way to describe the motorists who roll down these streets, contributing nothing to the liveableness of my neighbourhood and others, hardly making a dent in the economic well-being of the shops, paying their taxes in other municipalities. Rumbling past, spouting the residue of their combusted fossil fuels behind them to the funky tunes on their radio while they text away on their telephones.

It's an epidemic and yet there is no Dustin Hoffman to help us. Only visionless politicians worried about getting elected for another term, organisations and NGOs who have become too politically correct to rock the boat and traffic planners who geek out over technical manuals and aerial maps instead of remembering what it is like to be a human being on the streets.

And I'm referring to Copenhagen. I know how much more infested other cities are.

On the flip side I tweeted a thought today: "Bicycle users are the transportational lungs of a city. Let's do what we can to get more of them, shall we?"

A simple sentiment. Forests and green spaces are often referred to as lungs in countries and cities. Bicycle users are much the same. I certainly don't hope my body is used to convert carbon dioxide but the 37% of my fellow citizens who choose to ride a bicycle each day are a rolling metaphor for photosynthesis - as are all bicycle users in any city. What a lovely word. From the Greek φώτο- [photo-], "light," and σύνθεσις [synthesis], "putting together", "composition". Using the energy from sunlight to do their magic.

For every kilometre we roll, we are putting money into the pockets of the state and the municipalities. 23 cents for every kilometre in Denmark. For every kilometre driven by a motorist, we as a society pay out 16 cents. Net loss. Parasitism at its finest. And that latter number is even with 180% tax on cars in this country. I shudder to think what the net loss would be in other countries.

Do I get a tax break for cycling in my city? Not that I'm aware of. Free bicycle every couple of years? Nope. A discount for not owning a car on my car share subcription? Nah. I get safe, secure infrastructure to ride around on with my children - I'm grateful for that. But I'd rather do it without the parasites in the car lane next to me. Give them tramways down the main arteries - like we had for decades and decades last century. Subsidise public transport - it's Europe's most expensive - and let the parasites evolve into useful creatures. I can live with that.

My friend Lars often dishes up great Facebook updates. Here are some recent ones:

More people ride bicycles to work and education than cars.
23% of Copenhageners have a car - 100% have a bicycle.
Nevertheless there are 2.5 times more car parking spots than bicycle rack spots.
One parking spot costs between 50 and 800 times more than a bike rack.
A parking spot takes up 12.25 times more space than a bike rack.
Society earns money for each kilometre driven by car and makes money every time someone rides one kilometre on a bicycle.
Cars kill around 1000 Copenhageners a year and make thousands more ill.
Nevertheless, the five political parties in City Hall have spent 1.2 billion kroner (€161 million) on new parking spots for cars since 2005 - but have no programme for bike racks.
What's this all about?

And then this list of nine things to do in Copenhagen:

1) Transform Hans Christian Andersen's Boulevard (busiest thoroughfare and most polluted) into a tramway and bicycle street flanked by a non-commerical tree-lined allé like Prado in Havana.
2) Transform Søgaderne into Denmark's largest playground for children and adults.
3) Car-free city centre.
4) Make Israels Plads into a square without traffic except for busses on Frederiksborggade.
5) Create drive-in bicycle parking facilities over the railway lines by Central Station, Vesterport, Østerport. Drive-in bicycle parking under Nørreport. 3000-5000 parking spots for bicycles each spot.
‎6) Bicycle express routes in and out of the city that follow the S-train net - with underpasses and overpasses so you can ride from Køge, Farum, Hillerød, Frederiksund to Copenhagen.
7) Cover the entire railway yard by the Central Station and make the countries largest sports facility.
‎8) Free choice between a resident's parking permit for 4000 kroner (€537) - instead of the current 600 kroner (€80) - a year or a free car share subscription, paid by the city.
9) All A busses (main routes) converted to tramways.

All rather simple ideas. None of them are out of reach of visionary politicians. We just need the visionary politicians.

We need the exterminator to rid us of pests.

We need people who can see the value in creating an even greater armada of living lungs and who dare to move towards that goal.

Vintage Parking Lock - Husqvarna

Husqvarna 1948 with Parking Lock
Took me a while to figure this one out. I've acquired a vintage, Swedish, Husqvarna bicycle from 1948. If you turn the handlebars quite far to the side, there is a little click sound. A friend of my Ivan enlightened me. It's a parking lock and it used to be standard on many bicycles back in the day. Like the lifting handle for Citizen Cyclists I've written about before.
You have a kickstand and you park your bike. The front wheel will often fall towards the lean and that makes the bicycle less stable. With the simple parking lock it keeps the front wheel straight when parked. Simple design solution. Love it.

Love it so much I made a film about it. Because it can be hard to explain what the hell it is I'm on about.

06 November 2011

Newspaper Carrier for Bicycles

Newspaper Carrier_1
Quite possibly one of the coolest vintage accessories I've ever acquired. The newspaper carrier. I bought it at a bike shop in Ferrara, Italy. My Italian collegues, upon seeing it, all remarked "Ah, yes, very normal in Italy". It was a "must have" moment at the bike shop.

Newspaper Carrier
This model is designed not only to carry your newspaper, but it's wide enough for you to fold your paper to the article you're reading and ... well... read it whilst cycling. These were, I found out, very widespread in Italy for several decades. In Ferrara I spotted a few of them and one man rode past with his paper folded as such. I missed the photo, though. Of course I had to buy a copy of the legendary La Gazzetta della Sport newspaper with it's famous pink paper to put on the newspaper rack.

I'll just have to avoid riding past areas that feature this sign, I suppose. Spotted in the Netherlands.

Six Day Race
And while my newspaper carrier is more practical than reading a paper like this guy in this middle of the night shot at a historic Six Day Race, he certainly looks cool.

There are other kinds of newspaper holders in Italian bicycle history. This style is merely for carrying your paper. Sheesh. Can't even use it for reading it. How impractical.

So many beautiful and practical accessories in bicycle history. So many of them relegated to the history books by four decades of branding cycling as a sport or recreation and not much else.

Here's an earlier post about Reading on Bicycles from Copenhagenize.

03 November 2011

Cars and Sharks

Sharks, Pools & Bikini Babes: What Can Go Wrong? - Watch more horror
What we have here is a brilliant metaphor for our Ignoring the Bull concept. It's fantastic.

Our reader, Paul, sent us the link. Deep in the forest of The Culture of Fear, the voice of rationality is a mere whimper. People go to amazing lengths to justify ignoring the problem - all manner of excuses are invented. The automobile is the shark. The pool is our cities. It's all spelled out right here, in typically corny, Hollywood fashion - which is often simple and effective.

Sure, the voice of rationality in the trailer may not be appropriate to translate directly over to a bicycle context. "Don't go in the pool..." cannot become "Don't ride your bicycle..." but apart from that, this is a fine illustration of the folly of the Culture of Fear and the effect it has on our lives.

Another good piece of satire relating to the Culture of Fear is this clip from an American sit-com:

02 November 2011

Ferrara's Vintage Bicycle Fleet

The Bicycles of Ferrara (54)
Many things amazed me about visiting Ferrara, Italy last week. It's a brilliant cycling city with 30% modal share. They don't have a congestion charge, they have a congestion BAN. You pay to get into the city centre if you have stuff to deliver and you can have a resident's permit if you live inside the old city walls. But other than that it's a no-drive zone. There are eight locations with cameras tracking number plates and if you're in there without a permit you get sent a €100 fine.

I've recently blogged about the amazing amount of elderly bicycle users in the city. Both the women as well as the gentlemen - over at Cycle Chic. I've never seen so many bicycle users over 'a certain age' in one place anywhere in the world.

Another thing that kept astounding me was the bicycles. Easily 80% of the bicycles ridden in the city are vintage. The bike racks outside the train station alone must be the greatest gathering of vintage bikes in one spot on the planet. Each and every day of the year. Seriously, if you're into vintage bicycles this is where you go to drool. I have no idea how to even angle this blogpost into any form of structure.

The Bicycles of Ferrara (53)
Rod brakes. Everywhere. Easily 40-50% of the bicycles have them. Brilliant.
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It ain't just vintage bicycles by known brands like Bianchi. I spotted dozens of brands I've never heard of and am unable to google.

The Bicycles of Ferrara (7)
Piaggio bicycle seat. Wider than thou.

The Bicycles of Ferrara (6) The Bicycles of Ferrara (2)
Retro (style) skirtguards and front/back racks and skirtguards abound in Ferrara.

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I'm quite sure I had grips like these as a kids. I'm also quite sure I miss them terribly.

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Don't even get me started on the chainguards.

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The number and style of the mini-bikes in the city would have Copenhagen fashionistas sobbing into their Gucci scarves.

The Bicycles of Ferrara (13)
Like in any mainstream bicycle culture, personalisation is at a premium.

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Vintage head badges. Sigh.

The Bicycles of Ferrara (10)
Anyone know what that rubber thing is? I saw them on loads of bicycles.

The Bicycles of Ferrara (30)
I found a cool bike shop - mostly a repair shop but with vintage, restored bikes for sale in the window. A 1920 Raleigh with original components anyone? €1000.

The Bicycles of Ferrara (36)
A Vicini ladies bicycle with toolbag - €450.

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A second world war British army bike with original leather straps for carrying the rifle. €400.

The girl who owns the bike shop was cool and we had a chat about all the bikes. I asked her - and at several other bike shops - where it was possible to buy vintage bikes like the ones on the street. Nobody knew. The girl said that it was hard to find them. "People don't sell them often", she said with a shrug. "They just like them too much." When I tried to press her a bit on the subject she shrugged again. "I don't think about bikes when I'm off work. I have other interests." Brilliant. She is a bike shop owner and mechanic who lovingly restores vintage beauties but bikes are not her whole life. I loved that comment.

The Bicycles of Ferrara (25)
Her shop was filled with vintage parts, too. Lying around in baskets. I asked if some of them were for sale but she wasn't keen. "I need them to repair the old bikes in the city", she said rather matter of factly.

A few bits and pieces were on sale she told me.
The Bicycles of Ferrara (22) The Bicycles of Ferrara (21)
Wheel locks and bells.

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Dynamo motors, headlamps and head badges.

The Bicycles of Ferrara (31)
I spotted this lifting handle on one of the vintage bicycles for sale. She said they used to be normal on Italian bikes but hard to find these days. No, it wasn't for sale. You may remember this lifting handle that used to be standard on Swedish and Danish bikes back in the day.

I did purchase a newspaper carrier for the handlebars from the shop... photos coming as soon as it is installed on my bicycle.

The Bicycles of Ferrara (48)
And, rather appropriately given the fact I was attending a CycleLogisitics meeting, a cargo bike selling nuts.

See the whole photo set Ferrara's Vintage Bicycles on Flickr.