30 January 2012

Cool and Lost in Translation

Like many Japanese commercials, I have no idea what's going on. The title is even mystical: "about 1988 『峠のやまちゃん』".

But hey. It's 1988. It's Japan. It's cool old men with pipes on bikes. Something those tweed ride people might like, too.

29 January 2012

A Kickstand for Halifax

Copenhagenize Halifax
Off to Halifax in the morning. The purpose of the visit is to kick off The Kickstand Sessions - Bicycle Policy Training Sessions. Copenhagenize Consulting has teamed up with Mobycon from the Netherlands to host comprehensive bicycle policy training sessions for professional planners, traffic engineers, architects, marketing people and NGOs. Both Mobycon and Copenhagenize Consulting see more value in combining Dutch AND Danish best practice and policy in order to provide inspiration for local solutions in cities. There seems to be a bit of "bicycle nationalism" gaining purchase and when the goal is inspiring cities around the world to starting placing the bicycle higher up on the traffic pyramid, all the good experience should be presented all at once. The "bicycle embassies", it would seem, are interested in providing a platform for local companies to present their products to a wider market. Fair enough, it's a market economy. Goods and services must be sold.

We just think cities should be given the chance to see the wealth of ideas at their disposal, regardless of national origin, in order to kickstart an urban planning and traffic engineering revolution.

We're looking forward to launching the Kickstand Sessions in Halifax. Our partners in the city have informed us that a number of city councillors will be attending and the Premier of Nova Scotia, Darrell Dexter, will also be present on the last day to hear what kind of solutions the training session participants have come up with for Halifax and other towns in the province. It's going to be great.

On Tuesday, I'll be also speaking at Dalhousie University with my Four Goals for Promoting Urban Cycling talk - as well as a bit of Bicycle Culture by Design. Thanks so much to the Halifax Cycling Coalition for producing the above poster.

Atlantic Canada, here we come.

27 January 2012

Feeding Time

Bird Bicycle Feeding
Sometimes you just have to stop and feed the swans and ducks on your way home. With a half a bread roll in the fading light of a Nordic winter day.
Felix Cool

Lulu Cool

Lulu Feeding Swans from the Bullitt


19 January 2012

Vintage Enlightenment and Despair

Vintage Copenhagen - HC Andersens Blvd 1904
What a lovely shot. Copenhagen. 1907. Vestre Boulevard. Dug up by our very own Lars Barfred.

The sign on the right reads "Bicycle Lane". Sweet. At first glance it's a nice vintage photograph - coloured for effect - of a street in Copenhagen. And then, as a Copenhagener, you realise... hey... I KNOW that street. That's City Hall on the left and Tivoli Gardens on the right. Vestre Boulevard is now named Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard.

My goodness! Look at how lovely that street is! So liveable. Like a wide street in the heart of a city should be. Look at all that space!

Then you get depressed because you remember what it's like now.

(Thanks to Jason for the link to What Was There and this image)
My Town
The 1907 photo was taken from right about where that black car is, in the middle of the intersection. H.C. Andersen's Boulevard is the most congested street in Denmark apart from the motorways. 55,000 cars a day. It carves a grey scar through the heart of the Danish capital. 250,000 pedestrians cross City Hall Square (bottom right) on a summer's day, at the mercy of the parasites. Over 20,000 bicycle users ride up and down this street each day, as well. Indeed, three of the intersections on this stretch are the most dangerous in the nation for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Dutch National Cycling Council - Fietsberaad - were amazed that a city like Copenhagen wasn't tackling this blatant problem in this report.

There was talk of burying the boulevard and reclaiming the surface space for people a few years back, but that idea disappeared. Just some mumbling about noise reduction asphalt has been heard from city hall.
Surveying Her Kingdom
Here's the boulevard from above, in the same direction as the first vintage photo.
City Hall Facing South, Copenhagen
Same area. Amazing to see what this street used to be like and could be like again if there were any political vision coming out of the city hall, above.
As it is now, six lanes of cars roar through the heart of our city. At speed limits far too high for such a densely-populated area.

The vintage photo is, at once, enlightening and depressing.

18 January 2012

New Campaign - Ignoring the Danish Bull

This campaign from the car-centric Danish Road Safety Council is a prime example of how they are maintaining the status quo and Ignoring the Bull in society's china shop.

According to their warped ideology, cars rule the streets and anyone who dares to challenge this indisputable fact will be eliminated. They use cars - portrayed as anonymous machines (no focus on the invisible driver and no focus on the responsibility of these drivers to take care in the traffic) - to hammer home their point that they are incapable of taming motorised traffic and, I fear, completely unwilling to do so.

The video, above, is a part of the Tag Chancen / Take the Chance campaign, which we had a sneak preview about last year and also here. "Take Chances, just not in the Traffic" is the slogan. It is focused on the foolish youth who dare to believe that cities should be liveable places with safe mobility - a basic human right - for it's citizens.

It features the Danish footballer Christian Eriksen, who plays for Ajax Amsterdam. Filmed in Amsterdam, the Road Safety Council and their cohorts - including the Danish insurance behemoth Tryg who would love you to be frightened into buying their insurance policies - even manage to infiltrate the Netherlands with their message by filming this in that country.

Ironically, Amsterdam, like many other European cities, takes traffic safety seriously by restricting the speed limits for cars and positively promoting urban cycling. The Road Safety Council has no plans for Denmark to follow suit - either on lower speed limits or positive cycling promotion. Which is why the 30 kbh campaign was started on Facebook. Cars are king in their eyes. Get used to it.

It's manipulated reality, which is always a bit desperate. Eriksen is struck down by a speeding motorist (and we're sorry to see him arriving at Ajax stadium in a car and not on a bicycle) even though it is unlikely that a car could get up to that speed on that stretch, or would even try given the lower speed limits. But fukkit. It's dramatic effect. When citizens dare to infiltrate the domain of the automobile, they must pay the price.

Another video in the series features some Danish rapper type named Joey Moe. Wham. He's struck down for daring to challenge the dominance of the automobile. Ironically, we can see him hanging out in front of Bobi Bar in the centre of Copenhagen. It's on this street, Klareboderne:
A traffic-calmed street that ends at Købmagergade pedestrian street, from whence the car apparently is coming from. So, again, fabricated reality. Here's the street on Google Maps.

Vis stort kort

With all the videos, the cars are clearly speeding. Ignoring speed limits and setting their own agenda, with the full backing of the Road Safety Council.

There is no commentary aimed at motorists making them aware of their responsibility as drivers of dangerous machines to take care and drive responsibly. We see this all to often in the current era of traffic campaigns in Denmark, like this one that ignores the traffic rules and goes after cyclists.

There's another film featuring a Danish comedian, Mick Øgendahl. Again, same message. This time with a bike involved, which probably makes this the Road Safety Council's favourite film in the series.

There are other films in the series featuring people you have never heard of if you're from outside of Denmark, so I won't bore with with non-celebrities.

This campaign is particularly tasteless given the fact that a 10 year old girl was mowed down and killed last November - by the same kind of speeding motorist that the Road Safety Council proudly portray in this film.

The point is, as always, that Denmark's journey to renewed car-centricity - we are more car-centric now than at any time since the 1960s - is sad. Not least because a so-called Road Safety Council (basically a communications bureau that doesn't employ anyone with the ability to read scientific research) is intent on ignoring the goal of liveable cities, safe streets, lower speed limits and all the ingredients for a positive urban future. In favour of their own ideology.

That these communication people are even allowed to use money to promote their personal vision of an automobile-based society - and in 2012 - baffles the mind. Ah, yes. The insurance company's fund helps finance it. Follow the money, as ever.

Like we often say, please come to Copenhagen to see how the City of Copenhagen's traffic and bicycle department has developed a fantastic bicycle infrastructure network with brilliant innovation and dedication regarding encouraging more people to cycle.

You needn't bother coming here for our bicycle advocacy or for our (non) promotion of cycling or liveable cities. We are farther from returning to the Anti-Automobile age than we've ever been.

For that, please go to the Netherlands. We never tire of highlighting this fine example of a road safety campaign that places the focus where it must be placed:

Drive With Your Heart

09 January 2012

Copenhagen Cargo Bike Culture

A little film about cargo bike culture in Copenhagen, featuring Andreas Røhl, the head of the Bicycle Office in Copenhagen, Christiania Bikes and Larry vs Harry.

Congestion Charges Bring Life to Cities

Cycle Ballet
There is a constant flow of discussion at the moment about the proposed congestion charges in Copenhagen - one of the initiatives the current government had on their election platform.

Like in Stockholm and in London prior to implementation of their congestion charges, the debate is heated and often rather one-sided.
Copenhagenize is pleased to feature this guest article written by Natalie Mossin and Jane Sandberg. Jane is the CEO of The Danish Architects' Association and Natalie is the Chairman of the Board.

The Danish Architects' Association was founded in 1879 and works to promote the quality of planning and design of our physical environment and to improve and develop the conditions for the architect's profession.

We thought it appropriate to publish some rational thoughts about the congestion charges. Here it comes.

The City of the Future Requires Space for Life

Congestion charges are about what cities will be like in the future and which needs they will fulfill.

The congestion charges have been strongly criticised and they have been divisive. Just the name – 'betalingsring' – or 'pay ring' generate associations of the worst possible kind. Just for a moment let's look away from the debate's unilateral arguments about what we'll lose and instead look at what we will gain, if Transport Minister Henrik Dam Kristensen dares to formulate a visionary goal for the Copenhagen of the future and prioritise cheaper and better public transport.

Danish cities are old and they are certainly not built for our modern transport masses. There is a natural limit to how many motor vehicles that can drive through our existing urban areas. Merely adding more car lanes is not a viable solution. Therefore we need to develop the conditions for other transport forms.

The causality behind the congestion charges is simple: If it costs money to drive into Copenhagen, many people will leave the car at home and choose instead train, bus or bicycle. The result is fewer cars, lower pollution levels, more flow in the traffic and a better urban environment.

The desire for fewer cars on the roads is not a war on cars. It is a necessary regulation of the growing number of cars in the capital region so that the city's logistics – in the future as well – can work. If the congestion charges in Copenhagen are to improve the traffic environment in Copenhagen, a number of important steps must first be taken.

The first step is defining a vision for what kind of city we wish to have in 10, 20 and 50 years. We mustn't discuss congestion charges based on what Copenhagen is like today, but rather how we wish the city to be in the future, as well as which needs it must fulfill.

We're already seeing massive changes in many peoples working lives and everyday lives. It has become more flexible and less rooted to one location, in the way we have meetings on Skype and are online everywhere we go.

These new possibilities for movement and interaction place demands on the city's space, which no longer is merely a terminal for dropping off and picking up goods as well as transport. It is a centre for human meetings – a place for experiences and recreation with a lively street scene that also has room for the as yet undiscovered. This requires space.
Transport Integration
The next step is about public transport, which has to be better and cheaper in the capital at the very moment that the congestion charges come into effect. A large portion of the revenue from the congestion charges must be allocated to this.

The third step is about urban planning. In Stockholm they had a great deal of success with integrating revenue from their congestion charges with the national planning strategy. The local regions have therefore benefited from the revenue and have improved the general infrastructure. Why not do as the Swedes have done?

Improved accessibility on a national level could be a concrete place to start. Even though Denmark is ahead of the game regarding accessible cities, it remains difficult for many wheelchair users, elderly citizens and visual imparied to move around the streets.

Therefore, physical hindrances like lack of ramps on stairs, high curbstones, complex intersections and narrow sidewalks must be given serious thought so that the urban space can be more accessible for everyone.

There was a great deal of resistance when congestion charges were implemented in London and Stockholm. Since then, the negative perception has reversed. In 2006, 56% of Londoners were against the congestion charges. That has now fallen to 39%.

In Stockholm, only 40% were for the charges just before the pilot project was launched. The latest numbers, from 2010, show that 74% now support the congestion charges. If we are to follow in London's and Stockholm's footsteps, the Minister of Transport should take the necessary steps we have highlighted here. In addition, he should enage urban planners, architects and other stakeholders in a dialogue about the goals for the future of the city's life between houses and on the streets of Copenhagen.

It is also of utmost importance that he listens actively to the critics of the congestion charges. Not least the 15 mayors in the municipalities around Copenhagen, as they represent the citizens who will be affected by the new fees. Finally, it is important that we avoid an invisible ”city wall”. It shouldn't cost the farm to drive into Copenhagen.

There should be the possibility for differentiated payment. For example, using GPS technology that can be used with great precision in road pricing initiatives, as long as the cars have a chip that registers where they drive and sends the data to the tax authorities.

An alternative could be to divide the congestion charge between a number of zones in the city.

At the end of the end it is all about prioritising and daring to invest in the future so that Copenhagen, in the future as well, can be a city that inspires others, that is accessible to all, where there is a balance between transport forms and where there is space and life between the buildings.

If this doesn't happen, we will think back to the good old days when Copenhagen was voted the world's greenest city in 2009 and the world's most liveable city according to Monocle in 2008 and where urban planners from all over the world came to Copenhagen to study Copenhagenization and realise we dropped the ball.

Natalie and Jane's article was published in Politiken, the Danish newspaper last week. Here's the link to the Danish version.

08 January 2012

Subversive Bicycle Photos - Los Angeles

Los Angeles. 1900. Spring St. near 8th.
The latest installment in our Subversive Bicycle Photos series is from a city that enjoyed a modal share for bicycles of 20% at the turn of the last century and built impressive protected bicycle infrastructure like this 10 km, elevated cycle track back in 1900.

Alas, the bicycle disappeared from this area that was described like this in an 1897 newspaper article: "There is no part of the world where cycling is in greater favor than in Southern California, and nowhere on the American continent are conditions so favorable the year round for wheeling."

Thanks to our reader, Rick, we found some subversive photographs showing the bicycle as an accepted and respected part of life in Los Angeles in the Los Angeles Public Library archives.

As ever with these subversive photos, do not let them get out. If society at large were to learn that the bicycle used to be an integral part of life for Citizens Cyclists and not just some recent sub-cultural activity for middle-class white men, who knows what might happen. People might realise that riding a bicycle used to be normal and could quite possibly become normal again. Who know what resistance might appear. At the moment it's just this, but it could get worse. We all know what happened when the car industry went after another competitive transport form.

Burbank. 1908.

First Street looking east from Yale Avenue in Claremont in 1915.

Los Angeles. Ca. 1890. 632 South Broadway.

Balboa. Newport Beach. 1940s. Photographer: Herman Schultheis.

Los Angeles Bicycle Police Squad. 1904. Broadway past 6th St.

Los Angeles. 1905. Rambler Bicycles at 207-209 West 5th Street near Spring.

Los Angeles. 1902. Commercial High School participate in the Fiesta Floral Parade with a bicycle float.

Los Angeles. 1915. Hill and 4th.

Los Angeles. Ca. 1904. Main and 9th. Bicycle Parade heading for Griffith Park.

Long Beach. Ca. 1895. Pine Avenue.

Los Angeles. Ca. 1930s. Variety Arts Theater.

Los Angeles. 1899. Spring Street.

From left:
- Portrait of Japanese boy with bicycle and notebook ca 1900.
- Grace Toya with bicycle at the Tule Lake internment camp 1945.
- Los Angeles Bicycle Club 1890s.

Los Angeles High School's Kodak and Bicycle Club ca 1900.

From top left:
- Los Angeles ca. 1930s.
- LA Rooftop Stunt 1930s.
- Ditto.
- Los Angeles "Old Settlers Parade" 1937. Photographer: George J. Cooper

Leela McAdam nee McCabe - winner of the best decorated bicycle for the 1900 Fourth of July parade in Lompoc stands outside her home at 137 South J Street.

Oh, and tell your local bike polo playing hipster that he/she is soooo old school. Bike Polo in Los Angeles, 1930s.

Might be fun to see photographs taken these days from the same locations. Let us know if you take them.

Los Angeles Public Library Photo Archives.

04 January 2012

Overcomplicating Winter Cycling - Why It's Bad

Snowstorm Coolicious
One of the main focuses of this blog has always been on how Copenhagen and other cities have succeeded in increasing cycling levels by approaching the subject using mainstream marketing techniques. Tried and tested marketing that has existed since homo sapiens first started selling or trading stuff to each other.

Modern bicycle advocacy, by and large, is flawed. It is firmly inspired by environmentalism which, in turn, is the greatest marketing flop in the history of humankind. Four decades of sub-cultural finger-wagging, guilt trips and preaching have given few results among the general population.

When sub-cultural groups start trying to indoctrinate and convert the public, it rarely ever succeeds. For the better part of a century, people all over the planet rode bicycles because they were quick, easy, convenient and enjoyable. In hilly cities. In hot cities. In snowy cities.

After the bicycle largely disappeared from the urban landscape because urban planning started revolving around the car and the automobile industry began their dreadfully effective marketing after the Second World War, many regions in the world have been left suffering in a bicycle vacuum.

The result is that an entire generation has been given the impression that cycling is something that a few people do for sport or recreation and not much else. People who take their hobby seriously and who invest in all manner of clothes and gear.

Regular citizens are hardly inspired to join such groups.

Now we are in the midst of a veritable bicycle boom all over the world. It's exciting. It's challenging. We were excited by the cycling revival in the 1970's but, as we all know, that faded to black again. It is of utmost importance that we maintain our current momentum and (re)secure the bicycle's place in our cities.

This will only be achieved if we focus on marketing urban cycling as a normal activity for regular citizens. If we concentrate on the masses who could be cycling, would like to be cycling, might take up urban cycling. When sub-cultures are the most vocal advocates we see that most of the advocacy stems from their own passion for their hobby/lifestyle. It seems that the goal is to get more people to join their ranks and become 'one of them', as opposed to selling urban cycling as it was meant to be from the beginning of Bicycle Culture 1.0 in the late 19th century - individual mobility for Citizen Cyclists.

So. It's that time of year again. All manner of 'how to cycle in the winter' guides are slapped up all over the internet. Year after year the sub-cultures put on their professor hats and look down their nose at the general population while they attempt to 'teach' people how to be just like them. You know... real cyclists.

I have stumbled upon a blogpost with an infographic like this one and a couple of months ago this article featured in a magazine that used to be focused on Citizen Cyclists but that has gone all sub-cultural. (they even name brand names in their 'guide', reflecting the fact that they are dependent on sponsors and advertising and not subscriptions)

While I blogged about this strange phenomenon way back in 2008 after blogging about yet another sub-cultural winter clothing guide on this website, I got curious.

Let's assume a regular citizen wanted to ride a bike in the winter. What if they stumbled upon one of the links with the infographic or guide I just mentioned?

What would this citizen - who, like the majority of the population, doesn't want to be a member of a club or sub-culture - think about what they read?

Dressing in layers? Sure. But you know what? People who live in winter climates know that already, for god's sake. They do it when they walk around the city, taking the bus or train or whatever. So they can probably figure it out when on a bicycle. And, after one day doing so, if they discover they got cold, they'll put extra clothes on the next day.

I own no cycling 'gear' whatsoever. I have, however, a winter wardrobe as I live in a country with a winter climate and I ski, etc.

What would it cost me - Joe Bicycle User - if I followed the 'advice' on these websites? Using the infographic on that website as a guide, I did some quick googling to find out some prices. I didn't spend an enormous amount of time on it, I must admit. So some of the items may be cheaper - or they might be more expensive because I didn't discover 'the coolest brands'.

As you can see, if I don't calculate my bike, I would be easily €870 ($1100) out of pocket in order to be 'just like them'. Sure, maybe there are many people who wish to take their hobby seriously and acquire all that gear, but let's face it. Most people don't. They're just pondering riding their bike in the winter because they've gotten hooked riding it all year.

But it's this kind of sub-cultural crap that the curious, potential winter bicycle users end up with after a google search. Google "winter cycling clothes" yourself and see what comes up. The results are dominated by 'cyclists' keen on recruiting, with little advice aimed at regular citizens. Not a good sign if we are trying to get people to rediscover the simplicity and convenience of urban cycling that people have enjoyed for over a century.

Imagine if the 'avid bowlers' controlled the advocacy for bowling - a fine hobby that provides the bowler with some important exercise and social interaction - like cycling. What would people who just fancied some bowling be led to think?

Here's what it looks like to be a 'passionate bowler' oozing Bowl Love for your hobby. Cheaper than cycling, but still, at €449 ($574), it's no picnic getting started. Funny how that bowling ball, the Storm Virtual Gravity Nano Pearl, resembles some of the names you see on cycling gear. And dude! You're not a 'real' bowler unless you have those handwipes!

Danish Winter
Winter is nothing new. Citizen Cyclists have been struggling through it since the beginning of bicycle culture. In many places, they still do.
Winter Traffic Copenhagen Quartet
Here are some bicycle users in Copenhagen last winter. It was about -10 C and around -25 with the windchill.

Copenhagen February Traffic 3
Anybody who cycles in the winter deserves respect. Anybody who tries to tell the general population that you need anything more than your regular winter clothes to do it... does not.
Copenarctic 02
To be fair, once in a while you'll see some 'specialised' clothes on bicycles in snowstorms in Copenhagen. Like this bicycle user, above. Did she buy that outfit, complete with goggles, in order to cycle in the snow? No. That ski suit was in her winter wardrobe already. The goggles, too, as she enjoys skiing in the winter. They were already in her closet and came in handy.
Winter Traffic Copenhagen Blue
Like this winter jacket.
Snowstorm Boiler Suit
And this boiler suit.

Like we wrote about how Critical Mass does little for winning hearts and minds and providing Joe/Jane Public with a societal mirror to inspire them to ride bicycles, cycling hobbyists doing the selling is not good marketing if we're to capitalise on this bicycle boom and get more citizens to take to the wheel.

Ironically, this link to an article about a woman who is cycling to the South Pole ticked into our inbox whilst writing this article. Besides her lack of cycling gear - she's just wearing winter clothes - the little infobox on the site (above) provides readers with some simple and practical information about cycling in the snow. That's all it really takes.

Spread the word.

For more inspiration, see the Cycling in Snowstorms set and the Cycling in Winter set - both on Flickr.

In addition, this film will show you how to do it.

The Future Isn't Here

The future didn't end up like this...

If you thought the future according to Forum for the Future, Embarq and The FIA Foundation - in the previous post - was spooky and unsettling, it may be good to know that when Big Business attempts to predict the future, they are usually quite wrong.

Above is a whopper of a film - 21 minutes long - that shows General Motors' futurevision from 1940. This was produced for GM's 'Highways and Horizons' pavillion at the World's Fair and it looks ahead to the "Wonder World of 1960".

What a wild guess they took. Wishful thinking on their part, of course. The speaker bangs on and on and on about safety at high speeds and never having to slow down on whopping, billion lane highways like this:

Give the film a chance, despite the length. It's chock full of hilarious quotes.

Here's another film from General Motors, this time from 1956 and GM's Motorama car shows. You'll love the highway model at the end. 'Design for Dreamers', they called it.

Another film commissioned by General Motors, hammering home that highways are the future. Period. This one glorifies traffic engineers - funny when we now know that traffic engineers are largely to blame for the state of our cities.

Interesting, this 'House of Tomorrow', despite the prediction of 'man-made fibres' (follow the money), is a tiny bit more realistic what with hands-free telephones and video intercoms.

Perhaps predicting the details of human life and behaviour and needs is easier than predicting the glorified futurevision of large corporations who fail to see human beings and only large machines and profit.

Not surprisingly, no bicycles were used in the making of these films.

Thanks to Erik for these links.