30 December 2011

Experience the Volkswagon Beast

Sandra from the always brilliant Classic Copenhagen blog spotted this today here in Copenhagen and posted it on Twitpic. An installation commercial for the new Volkswagon Beetle. It translates as:

"Experience the wild animal - or beast, perhaps - on TheBeetle.dk".

As street ads go, I've seen better. And while this doesn't exactly fit into our Car Industry Strikes Back category, the 20-something creatives who thought this up and patted each other on the back afterwards have inadvertantly given us an image of our urban future.

Isn't this exactly what we're working towards? How we should finally - for the first time since the 1920's - stop ignoring the bull in society's china shop? Restricting the bull. Caging it. Taming it. Keeping it from killing, injuring and polluting. This campaign is anti-car without even meaning to be. Hilarious.

I'm happy to experience the beast on their (really quite cool) website. As long as they stay off our streets.

And, for what it's worth, off our cycle tracks... that wide ass flatbed is sticking out over the track.

29 December 2011

Plastic Fantastic Bike Racks

Bike Racks Hedehusene_7
You'd be excused for not having a clue what you're looking at right now. Innovation sometimes goes wrong, but at least the thought was a good, noble one.

Bike Racks Hedehusene_3
Bicycle racks outside Hedehusene Station, west of Copenhagen. I know about them and have seen them from the train to Roskilde countless times. There aren't many places that still have these bicycle racks anymore so when I rode to Roskilde for christmas (previous post) I stopped to take some photos. A rather overcomplicated attempt to provide covered parking for bicycles to protect them from the rain. I've never actually seen them in use, so I was suprised to see that four or five bicycles were parked underneath the plastic fantastic contraptions.

Bike Racks Hedehusene_1 Bike Racks Hedehusene_6
A good idea that never fit in with the Danish desire for ease-of-use and convenience.

If anyone knows when these racks were developed, please let us know in the comments.

28 December 2011

The One Minute Idling Rule

Bicycle Ride Home from Roskilde
These posters are up all over the city of Frederiksberg at the moment, where I live.

They read, quite simply: "Idling your motor - Maximum 1 minute - When you idle your motor your car emits chemicals dangerous to health. Show consideration and turn off your motor."

Hmm. Your car does it. Like it's alive and has a mind of it's own. Why, oh why, can it not just state that YOU emits dangerous chemcials when YOU idle your car? It's the motorist who is doing it, controlling the situation. Let's slap that responsibility on that motorist with a simple rewording, for god's sake.

With THAT said, there have been rules in place for many years in Danish cities regarding how long you can idle your motor. They don't apply to traffic jams, but just when you're sitting there... um... idle.

The regulations in Frederiksberg for this one minute limit have been in place since 1989, based on recommendations from the Environment Ministry back in 1982.

Pollution comes from various sources. Power stations, wood burning stoves and traffic among them. Frederiksberg states that 90% of the pollution in this city comes from cars.

If this hadn't been the regulation since the late 80s, I doubt that it would be put into place today, given how car-centric things have become. But it's nice that it's there.

27 December 2011

Ed van den Elsken Fietsen

Brilliant film from Ed van den Elsken. As our friend Angela called it, "A short movie about cycling in the pre cycle chic era". Fantastic footage from Amsterdam.

60 km to Christmas and Back

Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_8
This year I decided to ride my bicycle to christmas. The kids were already with their mum down at grandma's house in Roskilde, west of Copenhagen, so I just needed to show up on the 24th, which is christmas in Denmark. Lovely sunshine that day, so I hopped on my Velorbis, wearing my respectable christmas clothes of course, and carrying a bag of presents on the front rack.

I had just downloaded the Endomondo app for the smartphone, too. I don't normally have a clue how far I ride around the city - and don't know anyone in Copenhagen who does. I know how long it takes to get to places, not how many kilometres. But this app sounded like fun so I tracked the journey to Roskilde and the journey back again.

The Endomondo app has an option for 'Cycling - Transport' which is great, even though they still call everything you do a 'workout'. I figured that riding 30 kilometres and averaging 20 km/h would get me there in about an hour and a half. It takes an hour to get there with bus/train/walk, so 30 minutes extra was no big deal. On the way out, however, there was a pesky headwind of about 9 metres/second so it took a bit longer. Not to mention the hills. But no matter. It was a lovely ride. On the way home a tailwind of about 11 metres/second pushed me back to Copenhagen.

It was nothing special, just a nice bike ride. If it had been raining, I would have taken the bike on the train.

The route is simple from Copenhagen to Roskilde. It's an almost completely straight line along Roskildevej. Roskildevej was built between 1770-1776 as a replacement for the old King's Way (Kongevej). Kings had various Kongeveje around the country for their use and then there were other roads for everyone else. Roskilde was an important town and home of the national cathedral where most of our kings and queens are buried so building the road was a given. The prime minister, J.H.E. Bernstorff, hired a French road expert in 1764, Jean Rodolphe François Marmillod, to carry out the work on this and other routes including, not surprisingly, Bernstorffvej north of Copenhagen.

Before the motorways were built, Roskildevej was the main artery leading to Copenhagen from the rest of Denmark.

I don't get out of Copenhagen much so it was going to be interesting to see what it was like to ride those 30 km. You know, the quality of the bicycle infrastructure, the wayfinding, etc. So I took some photos.

Bicycle Ride to Roskilde Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_1
At left: About five kilometres into the trip. Protected cycle tracks still under my wheels and they are quite wide. There are about 4000 cyclists a day on this section of the route.
At right: Farther out. About 10 km. Wide, protected cycle tracks. I might as well just say now that there were protected cycle tracks on the ENTIRE route. Every single centimetre of it.
Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_2 Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_3
At left: Nice and wide.
At right: Shot backwards. Cycle track and loads of buffer space between the cycle track and the road. Nice, since the speed limits were between 60 and 80 km/h.
Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_4 Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_5
At left: It was christmas so there wasn't much traffic. The 23rd of December is the big travel day here so there were few cars and few cyclists. Most people at this time of day - 14:00-16:00 - were already at their destination. Nevertheless, there were other cyclists on the route, most with bags of presents.
At right: Many of the neighourhoods in the suburbs were designed in the 1970s and feature bicycle and pedestrian ways that are completely separated from the roads. We'll be getting out to some of these towns in the spring to show you all what they're like.
Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_6
Vis stort kort
The only time the cycle track deviated in form was leading up to a large roundabout located next to a big box store area featuring IKEA and others. Then the cycle track turned into a right-turn lane and if you are heading straight or left, you moved out into this bicycle lane up to the roundabout. Here's the link to the roundabout on Google Maps.

Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_11 Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_12
At left: I love the old milestones along the way. 20 km from City Hall Square here.
At right: I hit a stretch of bi-directional cycle track just past the 20 km mark. There was still a cycle track on the opposite side of the street, this bi-directional section was pure A to B due to access to this side of the road and various businessess, etc.
Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_13 Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_14
At left: Every time you hit a town - in this case Hedehusene - the cycle track looks like it does in every city in the country.
At right: Here was the narrowest section of cycle track, heading under this old railway bridge.

Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_17 Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_18
At left and right: The cycle track was much wider under the motorway.
Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_16 Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_19
At left: Five kilometres to go to Roskilde
At right: Roskilde Cathedral. One km to go.
Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_10 Bicycle Ride to Roskilde_15
In the Danish national anthem the praises of our hills and valleys are sung. You forget about it in Copenhagen sometimes, but head out of town in any direction and the landscape is rolling. I didn't rise out of the saddle at any point, but the hills surprised me. Long, gradual inclines. You can see the altitudes on the Endomondo links at the top, I think.

Bicycle Ride Home from Roskilde Bicycle Ride Home from Roskilde
The plan was to ride home after christmas evening but when I went out to the bike at 01:00, the front tire was punctured. Fixing a flat at 01:00 in the morning after loads of red wine was not a preferred option. So I slept there and left the next day, after fixing the flat.
At left: On the way home I saw lots of great things, too. Right turns at red lights allowed for cyclists.
At right: Signage for the route number on the national cycling network. Denmark was the first country in the world to develop a national route system for bicycles, thanks to this man.
Bicycle Ride Home from Roskilde Bicycle Ride Home from Roskilde
At left: Confusing road signs for motorists. Me? Just head straight.
At right: Bicycle and pedestrian tunnel through the earthen sound dykes separating the noisy road from a residential neighbourhood.
Bicycle Ride Home from Roskilde Bicycle Ride Home from Roskilde
You can beat this section of the route. Wide and gorgeous cycle tracks under the motorway.
Bicycle Ride Home from Roskilde Bicycle Ride Home from Roskilde
At left: You can ride your bicycle safely to the tractor/farm equipment shop if you like.
At right: Or to any of the big box stores along the entire route.

23 December 2011

Massive Fall in Air Pollution During World Championships

World Championships 2011_15
For one brilliant week in September 2011, the air pollution levels from car traffic in Copenhagen fell by a whopping 30%. The City of Copenhagen took a bold step in planning the Road Racing World Championships in cycling this year by deciding to close off most of the city centre to car traffic during the event. While most people have tried to calculate the massive boost the event had - and will have - on tourism, Copenhagen's brand and what not, it turns out the event improved the air quality for the citizens of the city.

It didn't have anything directly to do with the professional cyclists racing around the city. The ban on cars in the city centre of Copenhagen meant that 60,000 cars and trucks were kept out and 75 streets were car-free.
Car Free Copenhagen_1
Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard during the World Championships.

A few months before the event we had an idea at Copenhagenize Consulting. We were talking about the study done after 9/11 where temperatures were measured in the US for the five days that air traffic was grounded in the US. It was a unique opportunity to measure the effect that air travel has on the climate. An opportunity that wasn't likely to present itself again anytime soon. We realised that closing off Copenhagen's city centre to car traffic wasn't something that was likely to happen anytime soon - or indeed anything that any other city dared to do - and that it would be a brilliant opportunity to measure before, during and after pollution levels in the city.

We promptly sent off the recommendation to the City's bicycle office and they were excited about the idea. As it turns out, they didn't have the chance to measure the air quality. The city has one permanent measuring station on Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard - the starting area for the bike races - but that wasn't going to be enough.

Fortunately, the good people at the environmental NGO Miljøpunkt Indre By/Christianshavn had precisely the same idea and they had the chance to get out and measure. Which is fantastic. Their report came out last week and they could show that there was a reduction of 30% in the dangerous, ultra fine particles from car traffic. 30% is amazing. Legendary.
Beautiful Sign
Signage in Copenhagen stating that Hans Christian Boulevard and parts of the city centre are closed for the World Championships.

I spoke to Hanne Christensen from Miljøpunkt and Jens Hvass - the brainchild of the idea - about their project. Hanne told me that she measured the particles at 14 different spots in the city before, during and after the World Championships. She rode around on a cargo bike and used the sexily named 'P-Track, model 8525 Ultrafine Particle Counter' to carry out the measurements.

"We wanted to show that Copenhagen could be an idyllic city without all the cars and a far less concentration of the floating, ultra fine particles from emissions that end up in our bodies. We counted on showing how clean the inner city air is when people ride bicycles and the streets aren't filled with car motors."
Langebro Rush Hour
Bicycle traffic increased splendidly during the World Championships.

Interestingly, measuring in the start area along Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard during the race days didn't show any reduction in particles. This was largely due to the many diesel generators running in the area and used for the race - mostly by the media.

Hans Christian Andersen's Boulevard is a nightmare and a strange glitch on Copenhagen's journey to becoming a more liveable city. It is a wide boulevard with 50-60,000 cars a day (and about 20,000 cyclists) and it cleaves the city in two. There is little political will to do anything about it. Even the Dutch Fietsberaad was puzzled about how it was allowed to exist in their paper about Copenhagen - City Full of Cyclists.

Hanne Christensen from Miljøpunkt measuring from her Nihola cargo bike.

Measuring air quality along the route didn't produce any great results either. While the lycra-clad racers were C02-free, they were accompanied by a fleet of 100 Skodas speeding after them, an armada of motorbikes and helicopters and loads of diesel generators groaing away in the start area.

Elsewhere, however, a sharp reduction was clearly measured, almost from one day to the next. 30% in all.

There is a lot of talk about putting a congestion charge ring around Copenhagen, like in Stockholm, Oslo and London. It is estimated that this congestion charge ring will reduce the levels of ultra fine particles by 5-10%. We support wholeheartedly the idea of congestion charges but one of the problems is that it will really only reduce the level of private cars - which pollute 'less' that vans and trucks. Companies will just pay the charge and keep driving into the city while motorists will return to public transport.

In many European cities there are Environmental Zones which weed out the worst offenders. We blogged about this back in 2008 (are you embarassed City Hall?) Our former Mayor in charge of traffic and environment, Klaus Bondam, had a great idea that was never realised - when pollution levels are too high, you stop the traffic entering the city.

With all that said, we now have numbers showing how reducing car traffic in Copenhagen reduces emissions and improves air quality and public health. Bring on the congestion charges. Make them tougher than ever. Set an example. Copenhagen wants to have 50% modal share on bicycles by 2012... uh, no... 2015... uh, no... 2025. There is no way this will happen unless we stop ignoring the bull.

Regarding Klaus Bondam and his amazing work for cycling in Copenhagen: I don't know if it's more frustrating to live in a city without any visionary politicians at all or to have had one for four years - of the kind that only appears once in a generation - and then to be left in a vacuum of nothingness afterwards.

Oh, by the way... if you want to relax in the spot with the best air quality in Copenhagen, visit the Library Gardens between the Parliament and the Royal Library. It's an oasis for clean air.

The report from Miljøpunkt Indre By/Christianshavn is available - in Danish only - as a .pdf here.

22 December 2011

Commerce and Bicycles

Our friend and colleague Thomas Krag presented this paper early in the millenium and we've long since thought it appropriate to translate it into English. At long last we're happy to present it here. We used some of the findings in an earlier article here on the blog - Save a Street - With Bicycles!

There is often a conflict of interest between shoppers’ wishes regarding parking and the actual plans to calm
traffic in the city, i.e. the efforts to promote bicycle traffic. In addition many retailers are of the opinion, that
cyclists are not good customers. There are a good number of studies available regarding shopping and traffic
behaviour, and attitudes towards the two, that can help bring some perspective into this discussion.

This paper will deal with:
- general trends in shop and retail development
- current knowledge of relation between transport and shopping patterns
- views and facts regarding types of customers and access to car parking
- perspectives in planning

It's also available as a pdf in English - 'Commerce and Bicycles' - as well as in the original Danish - 'Handel og Cykler'.

Innovative Bike Rack in Aalborg

Aalborg Bike Rack_4
On a recent visit to the northern Danish city of Aalborg - to speak at a Social Media conference - I spotted these innovative bicycle racks outside the Nordkraft cultural centre. Aalborg has a healthy bicycle culture but they only have a modal share of about 20% or so.

These racks are a variation on the double-decker bicycle rack so often seen in Denmark, and these stands have spots for four bicycles. Two on the ground and two in the air. Space-saving solution that was used by two bicycles when I first checked it out and then two more when I left.
Aalborg Bike Rack_3
Plus, it looks lovely. Street art featuring bicycles and a practical parking solution all at once.

Aalborg Bike Rack_1 Aalborg Bike Rack

Copenhagen Parking
Double decker bike racks are nothing new. Many places in Denmark feature them - most often, it seems - at train stations. It never ceases to amaze me how people from places where bicycle culture isn't mainstream so often say, "how do you get the bike UP there?!"

We lift it.

Once you've seen a Copenhagen supermum lifting her upright bike up onto the top rack in a flash, you realise it's no big deal. If you - as an average healthy person - can't lift 20-odd kilos you may have other issues that need to be addressed. Sure, there are double-decker bike racks that have been designed that make it easier, which is nice, but decades of these racks in action show that in a mainstream bicycle culture they are well-used and work.

Double Decker Bike Rack Double Decker Bike Racks

21 December 2011

Support Dublin Cycling

UPDATE: 22 December 2012: The City of Dublin has allowed for a six month extension, so that Dublin's cycling officer can keep his job. Result! Read more here.

Dublin City Council are set to end a key role aimed at promoting cycling and making road conditions safer for cyclists. They're sacking the city's cycling officer.

The city - every city - needs someone to speak up for bicycle users in planning issues, transport discussions, everywhere.

Please sign the petition: http://bit.ly/t6GXen
Campaign Video: http://bit.ly/uCqkiZ
Follow the hashtag on twitter: #dublincycling

Campaign Letter
Dublin Cycling Campaign Information: http://bit.ly/rMFcnd

Campaign in the media
Irish Times: http://bit.ly/sObhl2
The Journal: http://bit.ly/tKTsuE
Trade Union TV Video: http://bit.ly/shUx4V

19 December 2011

Car Industry Strikes Back - Skoda

Thanks to Cian for the link to yet another addition to our Car Industry Strikes Back series, this time from Skoda. Short and sweet, it features two kids who are executing a rather badly-planned escape.

"We need more space, Billy", says the girl when Billy drops the suitcase.
"I need more time, too", says Billy, after longingly glancing at the Skoda.

Escape aborted due to indequate planning. Bicycles are for kids. Bicycles are impractical for carrying things. Message sent.

Um... Why don't they have backpacks? Why doesn't Billy use the rope in his bag to tie some of the gear onto the bicycle? Why isn't the girl helping carry stuff? Why doesn't the girl have a bicycle - what kind of family does SHE come from, for god's sake?

It's an advertising bureau who had to come up with a film to match the Great Escape slogan and they were having a rough day at the brainstorm. Weak dramaturgy.

If they have two bikes they would be long gone and wouldn't get stuck in traffic. Haven't these kids ever seen ET?!

Maybe this is a societal warning. Maybe the ad men are sending secret messages. Maybe they're our allies and are telling us that our children spend so much time in front of the television and computer that they have haven't been allowed to develop basic skills through play that would prepare them for Great Escapes. They've grown up in Bubble Wrap society of bike helmets, Thudguard "safety hats" and Buddy Bumper Balls and are hopeless at preparing even a simple run away from home. They've grown up with the automobile dominating their every movement and have not developed the imagination that would allow them to think differently.

My kid could figure out how to get all that stuff on his bike. His girlfriend would have her own bike and they would be able to coordinate an effective escape. Hopefully they won't feel the need to... :-)

Then Skoda has this ad in the same series:

Rather liveable neighbourhood, lots of life on the street, but this guy drives an embarrassingly short distance from the park to his home. Everyone else is walking around and enjoying life except for him. Hmm. I'm really wondering now if the ad men are speaking to us in code.

16 December 2011

The Future of Transportation?!

It's 8:44 in the morning here in Copenhagen. It's Friday and the weekend beckons. I've started the day with a laugh. Not a smile or a chuckle. A good, healthy belly laugh. Thanks to our reader Baljeet, in Australia for the link.

You may know our "Car Industry Strikes Back series" here on Copenhagenize, wherein we bikeslap ads from car companies and car insurance companies for targeting bikes in their advertising because they are see as a threat to the market share.

Here's another example, but from an unexpected and highly-amusing corner. It's an appeal to Australian Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese and it's endorsed by Terry Dodds, Group Manager Public Works for the City of Ryde, in NSW, Australia. I have no idea about Mr Dodds' involvement apart from his endorsement.

Watch the film. It's actually quite cool for the first two minutes. A great, inspirational build-up until 02:20... then... I laughed out loud.

The whole voiceover is inspiring for the first half.

"Never before has an opportunity presented itself that is so simple it can improve our urban transport problems and our way of life. An opportunity that can save billions of dollars in transport infrastructure. An opportunity that many countries have whole-heartedly adopted and are now enjoying the benefits of. The social benefits, the lifestyle benefits, the environmental benefits. It's an idea that is as simple as the wheel itself. It's the... Personal Mobility Device (PMD)"

THIS is solution for congestion, rampant transport costs, enivironmental concerns?! This is the new wheel? The new sliced bread? The PMD? There is nothing else? That's the gist of this film. The Final Solution for saving the planet.

That's IT? And let's see the studies for these stats, please. How about The Economics of Bike Lanes?

The film is well-made, but I'm sorry... the PMD?

The film makes it sound like countries around the world have vast armadas of these electric contraptions filling their sidewalks. Come on. Seriously. All the effort that went into this film and this is the point? The PMD?

"Forward-thinking countries are embracing this challenge head on. Australia is not."
Mr Albanese is urged to make these PMDs legal on sidewalks in Australia. Because... um... this "archaeic law" restricting them is the only standing in the way between us and total planetary salvation.

Then there are the bits about how bicycles are inferior to these 'devices',

"In Canada, a study showed them to be far superior in stability to bikes and mopeds..."

Can we see that study please?

And this:

"Because they have an electric motor, more people will use PMDs over the physical challenge of a bike. White collar workers don't want to arrive at work sweaty. HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED WHY LESS THAN 1% OF COMMUTERS CYCLE TO WORK?"

Yes, I've wondered. That's what I wonder every day here at work. But for the love Odin, this myth about sweat is starting to piss me off.

Canberra, Australia 1950
Canberra. 1950s. The PMD people don't want you to see this. Or these photos from New South Wales. Or these from Queensland.

Yes... we know that. But it's not because PMDs aren't allowed on sidewalks.

"Never before has an opportunity presented itself that is so simple it can improve our urban transport problems and our way of life. An opportunity that can save billions of dollars in transport infrastructure"... Yes there has been an opportunity. The bicycle transformed human society more quickly and more efficiently than any other invention in human history. And it's happening again, all over the world.

Send lawyers, bikes and money
White collar workers - like all Citizen Cyclists - take it easy when they ride.

At the risk of sounding like Will Smith in I, Robot...

Listen. Fine with PMDs, e-bikes and all these vehicles. Fine that they are a supplement to the existing bicycle market. But please... let's keep it real. The bicycle has served us well for 125 years and will continue to do so. The massive marketing budget of the e-bike/PMD industry risks tipping the balance. We risk telling an entire generation who are just now returning to the bicycle that a motor is the only way to go and that 'old-fashioned' bicycles are 'hard work'. Despite 125 years of solid evidence to the contrary. This film is like so much of the marketing of e-bikes and other vehicles. It's a follow the money tale that paints a picture that is distorted and not a little ridiculous.

PMDs and Segways don't fight obesity and lifestyle illnesses. Bicycles do. We're still waiting for the studies that show the lessened effect on public health that e-bikes have - compared to bicycles.
PMDs and e-bikes are still largely coal/nuclear powered, depending where you live, so spare us the preachy 'oh so green' over-exaggerations.
Then there is the question of battery disposal and lithium.
And so on, and so on.

I don't give a toss whether Mr Albanese changes the laws regarding PMD usage on sidewalks. There will never be enough of them to matter. This film, however, highlights how the bicycle continues to irritate people who want to make money off of alternative vehicles.

You don't target something unless it is a real threat. The bicycle - in all it's simplicity - is the tool that will transform society and our cities. History is repeating itself.