30 August 2012

Escolas de Bicicletas - Bicycle Schools - Part Three

Sao Paulo CEU Paulistano_20
Here's a follow-up article about Copenhagenize Consulting's Escolas de Bicicletas - Bicycle Schools programme in Sao Paulo - together with the city's Education Dept.

The entire project is exciting. In the last article I met some of the kids who will be riding to school in convoys from their local community and participating in the curriculum about bicycle culture and history.

Another important aspect of the project is the bicycles that the kids are riding. It would have been easy enough to buy 4600 bicycles - 100 per school - but with projects like this you can to take things to the next level.

In the photo at the top you're looking at the bamboo required for making a bicycle frame.

The Escolas de Bicicletas programme also involves the production of 4600 bamboo bicycles for the children. A world unto itself in the project, far removed from the development of the curriculum, training the educators and monitors and collaborating with 46 schools.

Flavio Deslandes_3
Luckily, there's a man for that. Flavio Deslandes is a Brazilian bicycle designer living here in Copenhagen. He has been working on bamboo frames for a decade or so and collaborated on a high-end bamboo bicycle for Danish brand Biomega.

Flavio's own brand, Bambucicletas, is up and running in Brazil and South America, with plans to expand into Europe.

He agreed to design the bicycles for the Escolas de Bicicleta programme and construction of them is in full swing.

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Constructing 4600 bicycles is a tall order. At one of the schools in Sao Paulo, CEU Sao Paulistano, a workshop and assembly line has been developed by Flavio Deslandes.

True to the nature of the project and the spirit inherant in it, the people who are working to construct and assemble the bicycles are locals from the surrounding community. Twelve men and women were trained in the art of making bamboo bicycles. From cutting the bamboo to glueing it into the metal joints to adding the bike bits like brakes and gears and wheels. Bicycle empowerment, indeed.

Sao Paulo CEU Paulistano_19
Here's a bamboo bicycle frame kit.

I met up with Flavio earlier this week here in Copenhagen and he told me that there have been some growing pains with the assembly process, but by and large it is going well. It's a massive logistic undertaking but once the technical details are in order, it's a smoother process.

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Over 40 bicycles are constructed each day. After the resin hardens, the bicycles are sent downstairs to get their wheels and gears and what not. Then they're ready to roll.
Sao Paulo CEU Paulistano_24
The project was barely underway when other Brazilian cities started to call, hoping to get the programme onto their home turf. We're considering creating a guide to the project for other departments of education in Brazil to follow, based on our Sao Paulo experiences.

Here's me in the final assemply workshop. Photo by Daniel Guth.

Sao Paulo CEU Paulistano_1
The slogan for the project is "Pedalling for Education". Appropriate, we think.

Previous articles about the project
Part one.
Part two.

27 August 2012

Copenhagen's "Strøget" Turns 50

Johannes V Jensen
Copenhagen's famous pedestrian street "Strøget" turns 50 on September 2, 2012. There will be festivities up and down the street in celebration.

Here's a post that shows the origins of the idea can be found in 1913. Originally published on 11 August 2009.

I dipped into the archives the other day and found an interesting article from 1913 about traffic on the main thoroughfare in Copenhagen - 'Strøget'.

In the early 1960's Strøget, the main street running east-west through the city centre, became quite famous. It was closed off to cars and transformed into a pedestrian zone.
Copenhagen 1951 Copenhagen 1964
Strøget 1951 and in 1964.
Strøget now. (on a very quiet morning, believe me)

There were protests back then. Cries of "we're not Italians! We don't want to walk!" were heard in the city. Shopkeepers feared for their businesses. Fortunately, the idea was implemented by the City of Copenhagen. They had seen some of the great ideas by urban planner Jan Gehl.

This was a turning point in the modern life of Copenhagen. Cars were taking over, fewer people were cycling and the city was congested and polluted. Visionary political decision-making and urban planning was needed and it arrived.

Since then, Copenhagen hasn't looked back. The fears of the shopkeepers were soon allayed - indeed there is nowhere in the world where pedestrian zones or bike lanes have caused commerce to suffer. These two urban planning instruments only serve to increase the number of pedestrians and act as a form of traffic calming. Streets become, quite simply, nicer places to be.

I was suprised, however, to discover that a well-known Danish writer Johannes V. Jensen was quite a visionary. In the article I found there was a discussion about the increasing traffic on Strøget back in 1913. 'Omnibusses' had made their debut and motor traffic was on the rise. The city's backbone was under threat. Various personalities were asked about what should be done about the street. Should bikes be banned? What about pedestrians? Should cars and omnibusses prevail?

Here's what Johannes V. Jensen wrote:

"I find the increasing traffic on Strøget extremely dangerous, says Johannes V. Jensen. It should have been banned ages ago. These "arks", these omnibusses wouldn't be tolerated anywhere else in the world. In Seville, where there are similar narrow, winding streets, all traffic is banned. In China it's been like that for centuries.

All vehicles, including bicycles, should be banned from Strøget. It's the only promenade we have in the city. It isn't pretty, it needs more trees, but the people have made their choice and it should be allowed to exist in peace."

What a visionary.

Strøget's transformation was a success. To this day it is only for pedestrians and the network of pedestrian streets in the centre of the city has expanded, along with Shared Space stretches and traffic calming measures. Johannes V. Jensen was, indeed, quite the visionary. Unfortunately, he died in 1950 so he didn't get to see it happen.

Johannes V. Jensen is also interesting to a cycling Copenhagen due to one novel in particular. Gudrun, from 1936. An extremely modern novel for its time, it features a girl named Gudrun who is content with her working life and doesn't harbour much thought for following the usual path of 'husband, children, housewife.'

She cycles over Knippel's Bridge each day to work and Jensen has several lovely passages that describe cycling in Copenhagen.

"In the stream of cycles over Knippels Bridge we see Gudrun again, pedaling steadily. As though her and the machine are one. She is Copenhagen and Copenhagen is her."

He also compares the cycling Copenhageners to schools of fish:
"If one is bumped by a car, the whole school is bumped. It's a nerve one has in the elbow, a flock function, which Copenhageners have learned so well that it is second nature".

There is another passage that I can't seem to find in my notes about how the cycling girls of Copenhagen are all blonde and they make you think that they are all members of the same family.

The 'cycling girl' as a cultural icon in Danish history lives on, as does Johannes V. Jensen's vision of a car-free city centre.

Copenhagen Bicycle Culture Infographic

Emma Sivell's Copenhagen Cycling Infographic
It's the infographic age and it was just a matter of time before one showed up about Copenhagen's bicycle culture. This cool one is by graphic designer Emma Sivell. We were happy to help her out with some of the stats.

Click on the infographic or click right here to see the infographic on Emma's website.

26 August 2012

Svajerløb 2012 - Danish Cargo Bike Championships

Svajerløb 2012_2
Last Saturday was this year's Svajerløb - Danish Cargo Bike Championships here in Copenhagen. The races were run at Carlsberg, like last year and it was fantastic day. Above are all the participants at the end of the day.
Svajerløb 2012 - Hans from Larry vs Harry
Hans, from Larry vs Harry, started the proceedings by welcoming everyone and then yours truly took over the mic as announcer.
Svajerløb 2012 - Italians
One of the best things about this year's races was that we had so many people from abroad who made the trip to participate. Above is Francesco, who brought two of his Bicicapace bikes and his his family and he took part in the Individual Two-Wheeler race and the Team Relay.

There was also a wider selection of bike brands participating. Batak was there again this year and there were Omniums, Longjohns, Shortjohns, you name it.

Svajerløb 2012 - Specator Svajerløb 2012 -Spectator
Our kids were the best spectators, of course. Don't let these quiet moments fool you.

Svajerløb 2012 - Team Relay Medallists
Here are the medallists of the Team Relay. Team Bullitt confidently defended their gold medal from 2011.
Svajerløb 2012 - Two Wheeler Champions
There was drama in the Individual Two-Wheeled discipline this year. The race went right to the wire. Jumbo from By-Expressen - a Copenhagen messenger company - took the honours on the top podium this year, dethroning the otherwise untouchable Claus Bullit (behind the beer bottle at left)
Svajerløb 2012 -The Two-Wheeler Final
Here is the line-up for the final. 12 bikes. Bullitts but also a short-john and an Omnium.
Svajerløb 2012 - Claus Bullitt
Claus Bullitt was first into the loading zone after the first lap.
Svajerløb 2012 -The Champion
It was Jumbo, however, who squeezed past him on the last stretch on his Omnium cargo bike.

Svajerløb 2012 - Ladies Champion
In the Ladies Individual Two-Wheeler final, Charlotte bettered her second-place from last year and took gold. Fanny from Klara Geist in Berlin took second and Hans' wife, Signe, took third, but wasn't present for the ceremony.
Svajerløb 2012 - Vintage Cargo Bike Champions
Here are the winners of the Vintage bike discipline - only old school cargo bikes allowed. The silver medallist, Trevor at left, is from Australia. Which makes him the Australian Champion, of course. Good onya.

Svajerløb 2012 - Fanny Svajerløb 2012 - Music
Fanny and Willi, from Berlin, provided the music and speaker system on their Bullitt, with one of their great Klara Geist speaker systems.
Svajerløb 2012 - 3Wheeler Medal Ceremony
Medal ceremony for the Three-Wheeler discipline. Leif dominated the field and walked away as Danish champion for the fourth year in a row on his Kangaroo. Somebody, please... give him some competition! Second and third place went to two Berliners on Christiania Bikes.

Svajerløb 2012 - Hans und Arne Svajerløb 2012 - 3Wheeler Medal Ceremony_1
Here they are at left - Hans and Arne - going for a practice spin. And here are the winners (at right). Leif got a medal, but we're sure he'll remember the Cyclelogistics cargo bike pencil holder even more.

Svajerløb 2012 - Lasse and Steve Svajerløb 2012 - Brandon
Steven from Grid Chicago - going for a ride with Lasse from Bicycle Innovation Lab - was in town for the event, together with Brandon, at right, dressed in true Svajere style for the day.
Svajerløb 2012 -Birte Svajerløb 2012 - Bride to Be
The audience darling, however, was Birthe. She was on a bachelorette outing with a group of girlfriends, being ridden around in a Christiania bike. They came past and entered the Team Relay with a team called Team Love. That's the spirit! We enlisted the services of the bride-to-be during the medal ceremony, handing out the medals and cheek kisses to the winners.

Svajerløb 2012 - Bullitt Wheelie
This guy popped wheelies on his Bullitt like it was nothing. Riding back and forth on the back wheel. Only a handful of people on the planet can pull this off. God knows I've tried. Impressive.

See you all next year!

History of the Svajere - Copenhagen's original bike messengers.
More on Svajerløb 2009
More on Svajerløb 2010

25 August 2012

Citizen Crosswalks in Paris

STRESS FREE - La prise de l'étoile - VOEUX 2012 from Xtnt - Urban Theater on Vimeo.

Parisian pedestrian activism. Love it!

Monumental Motion Exhibition on the Road

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My "Monumental Motion - a cycling life in the capital of Denmark" photo exhibition - produced together with the Danish Foreign Ministry's Public Diplomacy Office -  continues to travel and will do so for another year or so.

It's been brilliant to attend some of the openings - when my schedule permits - and meet inspirational people in cities around the world.

All the exhibitions have been great. Like any photographer it's a thrill see your work on display. The world premiere in Ljubjlana, Slovenia last year has to be the best exhibition thus far. The City has a permanent exhibition space along the river and the photos of Copenhagen's cycling life were blown up to an impressive size.

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The vice-Mayor of the city spoke at the opening, as did the Danish Ambassador and myself. There was also a photo competition for local photographers to take photos of their cycling city and I got to award the prizes for the best photos (bottom left).

Ljubljana is a fine little bicycle city, with about 10% modal share. As always, it's the infrastructure that counts, as we wrote about here in this article about the city.
Monumental Motion Exhibition in Budapest

Monumental Motion Exhibition in Budapest Monumental Motion Exhibition in Budapest
Monumental Motion also made an appearance in Budapest. Thanks to Aron from Hungarian Cycle Chic for these photos.

Monumental Motion photo exhibition opening in Zagreb
The opening of the exhibition in Zagreb, Croatia earlier this year was also a great day. We rode to the opening with the Danish Ambassador cycling his wife in a Christiania bike and with the Mayor of Zagreb alongside.
Riding to the Opening of Monumental Motion - Press Scrum Riding to the Opening of Monumental Motion - Press Scrum

Riding to the Opening of Monumental Motion - Press Scrum Zagreb Interpretation for the Mayor
There was a bit of a media scrum at the opening. At bottom right, the Mayor's interpreter translated the English from me and the Ambassador but I can't guarantee that he liked what was being said.
Zagreb Cycle Catastrophe-001
The reason was a little diplomatic crisis leading up to the opening. The  Danish embassy had contacted the City of Zagreb during the preparations for the exhibition. They asked that IF there were any plans for a cycle track on the road outside the Technical Museum then PERHAPS the City could push it forward to coincide with the opening of Monumental Motion.

The City went ahead and painted a bike lane based on this request. A nice gesture, but all they did was paint over the existing sidewalk and not on the street. The Danish Embassy quickly said, "Um... sorry... that's NOT what we meant... we meant a PROPER cycle track" but it was too late. The Embassy promptly announced that the new strip of paint was NOT what they meant and they didn't wish to be associated with it.

The press, of course, was all over it. You expect that in emerging bicycle cultures, but anyone could see that it was a botch job.
Zagreb Cycle Catastrophe-002 Zagreb Cycle Patterns
First of all it is bi-directional. Second of all it's on the sidewalk and, in places, leaves pedestrians with 50 cm to walk past. Three clicks on Google and you can find Best Practice from Denmark or the Netherlands. It boggles the mind.

When I heard about the gesture I was flattered. When I saw it, I rolled my eyes and happily send to the various media that it was rather embarassing the the traffic engineers had done it like this.
Zagreb Cycle Catastrophe
Here's Bo Weber, Ambassador at one of the sections of the bike lane. We had quite a chuckle.

Besides that, the opening was fantastic and the audience at my talk in the evening was one of the best.

Riga Motor Museum - Monumental Motion
In Riga, Latvia, the Motor Museum was the venue. Love that irony. Although they had some cool vintage bicycles on display.
Riga Motor Museum
Brilliant tricycle design! Such fine lines.

Riga Motor Museum - Breznev's Crashed Rolls Riga Motor Museum - Breznev's Crashed Rolls
Here's a fun fact from Riga. The Motor Museum features a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, owned by the former President of Russia, Leonid Breznev. He crashed the car - allegedly drunk - in Moscow in the 1980s. The Museum acquired it after the end of the Cold War and have a Brezhnev mannequin sitting behind the wheel of the crashed Rolls.

Rolls Royce, however, have a policy that their cars must never be shown dented or crashed. Bad for the brand. They got wind of this Latvian museum displaying the famous Silver Shadow and promptly threatened them with expensive lawyers.

Riga Motor Museum Riga Motor Museum
The museum stuck to their guns. Rolls Royce, on a visit to the museum, thought that the facade above the entrance was a copyright infringment - a copy of their grill. It was a coincedence. Finally, Rolls Royce backed off. The museum wouldn't budge and the car was a historical item. The car company ended up sending a vintage statue of their hood ornament as a gift.

Berlin - Bicycle Culture by Design
Then there was Berlin, where the Monumental Exhibition was on display in Felleshuset - the common cultural centre shared by the Scandinavian countries. I gave a talk, too, and there was a debate afterwards.
Cyclelogistics - Connie Hedegaard EU Commissioner for Enivironment
In Strasbourg, the venue was the European Parlimentary Association's building. Denmark held the presidency of the EU at that time (Jan-Jun 2012) so it became a platform for Danish politicians. Which was cool. Nicolaj Wammen - Danish Minister for Europe gave a fantastic speech. The former Mayor of Aarhus is amazingly fluent in English and I haven't heard such a moving speech from a Danish politican in either language - for years. He's Obammen!

Above is the EU Commissioner for the Environment, Connie Hedegaard. She did her thing as well. She's so relaxed and cool. I gave her and Wammen a Cyclelogistics cargo bike pencil holder for the desk.

Monumental Motion - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Photography by Nima Baharlooie.

The exhibition showed up in Ho Chi Minh City in connection with the 40th anniversary of Danish diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Would have loved to have been there but that's why it's great to have a Crown Prince who could do the honours.

You can almost guess that the gentleman, above, is saying "we have those in Vietnam!"

Monumental Motion - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
And here, Crown Prince Frederik is most likely saying, "I have a cargo bike like that at home..." When his wife isn't borrowing it.

Antwerp Monumental Motion_1
To wrap up the article, Antwerpen. Great exhibition, great audience for the talk. Former Mayor Klaus Bondam gave a presentation, too. He's still in demand even since his term ended back in 2010. But nobody wants to hear from the current politicians in Copenhagen. They want to hear from politicians who have actually done something.

The exhibition was opened in a fancy way. The official provincial ribbon was to be cut by the official provincial golden scissors.

Chris, from the Province of Antwerp, had his son with him and I promptly handed him the scissors and let him do the honours. Future generation and all that. It seemed appropriate and he loved it.

Contact your local Danish Embassy or Consulate if you'd like to see the Monumental Motion where you live.