27 September 2012

Desire Lines of 16536 Bicycle Users

The Bicycle Choregraphy of a Copenhagen Intersection
Here's the cover graphic of Copenhagenize Consulting's upcoming anthropological project tracking the Desire Lines of all the bicycle users in one Copenhagen intersection over 12 hours one day in April. We blogged about it earlier.

Here's a .pdf of a larger version, if you fancy that. Opens in a new window.

We filmed the intersection for 12 hours and anthropologist Agnete Suhr crunched the behavioural patterns over two months. Counting bicycle users and cars, tracking desire lines and observing the general behaviour of the bicycle users.

While it was a ballet of human-powered movement, it was also a spectacular display of mediocrity. There were only a handful of "rogue cyclists chipping away at society's foundations with their reckless behaviour" out of 16,536 Citizen Cyclists.

As we always say, well-designed infrastructure breeds good behaviour.

While data maps are great for tracking... data... observing 16,536 bicycle users gives you a whole different perspective and debunks a lot of perception about urban cyclists.

This intersection with it's 16,000 + cyclists is not one of the busy intersections in Copenhagen. We chose it because it is an east/west and north/south point, because it is a transport intersection without any shops or reasons to stop and, well, because we could film it out of the office window.

The purple line in the middle is the bike messenger who pretended he was a car and use the car lane. "The" meaning one guy out of 16,538 people on bicycles. There were a couple of other half-hearted attempts to be a Volvo, but only one who lived the automotive dream. Although he popped back onto the cycle track after the turn. There's one in every crowd. Sheesh.

The full results of the project will be released soon.

26 September 2012


Just got home from this year's Cycle Chic Conference in Budapest and it was a wonderful coincedence that Marc from Amsterdamized was in town at the same time. Haven't seen him for a long while - we're both busy, of course.

It was great to see him. He was in town to speak at a conference and design exhibition with the Dutch Embassy. So, I drank their free wine at the exhibition.

Budapest Cycle Chic Fashion Show_31 Budapest Cycle Chic Fashion Show_32
The next night was the Cycle Chic citizen cyclists fashion show, so his camera was busy.

And later we dished up some free drinks and food for him at the afterparty. What goes around comes around.

Amsterdamize Copenhagenize
What we do.

Amsterdamize Copenhagenize_1
What people think we do.

In a nutshell it was (and always is) a pleasure to meet one of the strongest and most important voices in the global urban cycling/liveable cities movement and... well... just hang out and drink with him.

19 September 2012

The State of Copenhagen Congestion - Part 5 - The 2013 Budget

Driving Cars Kills Your Street Cred
The State of Copenhagen Congestion - Part 5
The 2013 Budget
by Lars Barfred
(with Mikael Colville-Andersen)

Last week we wrote about a candle in the dark for Copenhagen traffic priorities. The light, however, was blown out in a local storm, it seems.

Friday last week the politicians at Copenhagen City Hall - led by a Social Democrat majority - declared they had finally reached an agreement on the annual budget. They announced there would be more green mobility to the amount of $15 million USD for improving bicycle mobility, bike racks, etc. That’s the same amount as has been the average for the last five years or so. An amount equal to 1/41th of what the city and the government funnel into investments in better mobility for cars, as we wrote about in a previous piece in this series few weeks back. Basically, nothing new under the sun.

Well, as it turns out, the reality is much different. In 2013 there will literally be no new bicycle infrastructure projects set into motion. Only projects which are under construction - or can´t be cancelled without penalities by the end of the year - will be finished in 2013, according to the press secretary of the Lord Mayor's office.

If you look through the appendixes to the budget, as we have done, it turns out that the City decided to postpone $14.5 million USD of the 2013 budget to 2014 and even later. Along with $10 million USD worth of projects budgeted in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Every year, the government decides on a ceiling for public investments and services, which the municipalities must operate beneath. The reason Copenhagen is stretched so thin and restricted in its financial maneuveurability is that the City has commitments from previous years for new expressways for cars, new car parking and mini-Metro investments.

Non-bicycle infrastructure investments are so massive that, for 2013, there is less than $500,000 USD for new bicycle infrastructure. All the while the City is building a 40% capacity upgrade to the largest in-road to Copenhagen, the North Harbour Tunnel. This road will lead to, among other places, the Nordhavn development. Which was a perfect candidate for a modern, progressive, car-light development on a par with Vauban. Or indeed city areas all over the world.

Once again, the car lobby strikes back and the politicians bend over backwards to accommodate it.

The mini-Metro, which is the most expensive investment in public transit in the history of Copenhagen, is designed to run in the inner-city on distances which are today travelled by bicycle for more than 80% of trips. Guess who will be travelling in this underground worm when its finished. Cycling rates will fall. You heard it here first.

Although many bus passengers will be forced to use the mini-Metro instead because once it starts operating, many bus routes will be closed in order to increase car capacity on inner city roads.

They will be desperately needing that capacity, with the North Harbour Tunnel infusing more and more cars into The New Copenhagen.

09 September 2012

Bikes, Copenhagen and Disneyland: what we have in common

I'm heading to Los Angeles this week and I just remembered an article I wrote for the L.A. Times' Bottleneck section. It seems to have disappeared from their online version, but why not just chuck it up here. It's four years old, but hey. If you're following the latest series of articles here on the blog, you can see that The New Copenhagen only vaguely resembles the Copenhagen we thought we knew.

Bikes, Copenhagen and Disneyland: what we have in common
Los Angeles Times
August 08, 2008

A warm hello from me in Copenhagen -– the World's Cycling Capital. The sun is shining here in Copenhagen and the weather begs for a trip to the beach. It's a great city for cycling and on days like this you'll see over 50% of our population riding their bikes to work, school, the supermarket, the cafes and the beach.

While thinking about this article for the L.A. Times I found a reference to cycling in Los Angeles the other day: "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."

It's from a 1897 newspaper article, back during Bicycle Culture 1.0 and back when 20% of all trips were made by bike in Los Angeles. Impressive stats and an impressive cycling history in L.A.. We all know what happened later on, but it's cool to think that we used to have the bicycle in common instead of just Lego.

It's a funny old world. Despite healthy doses of globalization and an internet that makes ideas travel across borders quicker than you can Google "Paris Hilton naked," there are some areas where huge gaps are found. The Bicycle as a Feasible Transport Form is one of them.

While in America an effort is being made to reintroduce the bicycle to a nation that only has 1% of all trips made by bicycle, the goal in Copenhagen, Denmark, is to increase the percentage of daily cyclists from 36% at present to 50% in 2015. Here in the self-proclaimed World's Cycling Capital, modern Copenhageners have chosen to cycle in great numbers for the better part of four decades.

By all accounts we are on the cusp of Bicycle Culture 2.0 (Beta), what with oil prices skyrocketing, focus on the environment, peak oil and global warming. Back in Bicycle Culture 1.0, the gap between citizens of western nations was marginal.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the bicycle reigned supreme. When the safety bicycle -– the design we still use to this day -- was invented and all but eliminated the goofy penny-farthing (high-wheel) bikes from the scene, the world embraced it. It was a liberation for many groups in society.

The working classes could afford one and they were the first wave of cyclists on the street. Next came women and the first real women's liberation movement in history. The bicycle removed existing frontiers in cities, enabling people to travel farther and faster than ever before. It is even said that the bicycle improved the gene pool, allowing isolated farm workers or villagers to increase their mobility radius in the search of partners.

The scene was the same in America and Europe, as well as Asia. Hundreds of thousands of cyclists on the roads. Ironically, the world's most impressive separated bike path was built to connect Pasadena to Los Angeles in 1900. At that time 20% of all trips where made by bicycle in the Los Angeles region so the construction of the eight-mile Arroyo Seco Cycleway -- an elevated, multilane, wooden bike path, complete with streetlights and gazebo turnouts -– was a given.

The advent of the automobile age put the bicycle out to pasture. In America, the bicycle went from pleasant and feasible urban transport vehicle in the early days to child's plaything in the prosperous postwar years. Then the sports industry got a hold of it and spent decades selling cycling as a sport or recreation. Where it remains today, sadly and wrongly branded as a sweaty, dangerous and equipment-dependent activity and not much else.

While many people conjure up pleasant images of European cyclists bumbling happily over worn cobblestones in ancient city centers when they think about "cycling in Europe," it hasn't always been the case. The automobile had the same effect on us as well. Copenhagen was a congested, polluted city in the 1960s and more and more cars were being bought.

This is where our paths part. It took some radical political willpower in the Danish capital to start reversing the tide. We started pedestrianizing our city center and creating bicycle-friendly infrastructure. There were protests, sure, but the cries died out as soon as people realized that commerce increased and that the city was a lovelier place to be.

Now, 40-odd years on, a progressive network of separated bicycle lanes blankets the city. Doctors, students, parents with kids in a cargo bike, lawyers and shop assistants are all apart of a pleasingly aesthetic flow of human-powered goodness. Fifty-six percent of Copenhageners say that they ride their bikes because it's easy and fast. Only 1% ride for environmental reasons.

Bicycles are normalized transport vehicles and they are the lifeblood of the city, not the domain of impenetrable subcultures with political leanings. With my Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog I try to show how my fellow citizens ride each day. In style, with ease and every day of the week. When I coined the phrase Cycle Chic I had no idea how it would expand and spread across seas and continents. I figure that we all have Bicycle Culture 1.0 in our DNA. It's a part of our common history. Once you remove the geeky sport/recreation angle from cycling it's easy to remember that your family members, only a few generations ago, rode their bike each day in their normal clothes.

It makes the jump back onto the bicycle so much easier. We just have to do what we used to do so well. What's more, we have the opportunity to do it so much better.

One of your boys, Walt Disney, made a trip to Copenhagen back in the day and visited our Tivoli Gardens –- the 165 year-old amusement park in the heart of the city. He was promptly inspired to build Disneyland in an orange grove in Anaheim. Tivoli's founder, Georg Carstensen, said in 1844 that "Tivoli will never, so to speak, be finished." Walt echoed his words just over a century later by saying, "Disneyland will never be finished as long as there is imagination left in the world" and that Disneyland should try to emulate Tivoli's "happy and unbuttoned air of relaxed fun."

These sentiments can be just as well applied to Bicycle Culture and the Bicycle as a Feasible Transport Form. Imagination is required, as well as public and political will, but two out of three are an excellent start.

So here's me wondering ... who's the next Walt Disney "over there" who can see bicycle culture for what it is and what it can be and implement an upgraded version in the City of Angels?

Take back the bike culture.

07 September 2012

Copenhagenizing Rotterdam

Earlier this year I was working in Rotterdam, a city I had never visited before. You get the impression from Dutch people in the rest of the Netherlands that Rotterdam isn't really Dutch. Generally, the attitude is that Rotterdam isn't very cool. The only way to figure it out is to go there.

I was invited to do a spot of Copenhagenizin' at the City of Rotterdam. A brainstorm session about how to promote cycling and perhaps develop a brand for the City's cycling intiatives. A great day with great, positive people. A real pleasure. I was excited to get a Rijkspas - "Kingdom Pass" upon arriving the offices:
Rotterdam Cards
But soon realised that it was a golden pass to the entire Kingdom of the Netherlands that would get me free beer and cheese and... uh... bouquets of tulips. Just coffee and lunch, but hey.

Copenhagenize Consulting was hired by De Verkeersonderneming, a consortium of partners aimed at improving traffic conditions in the city. The partners include the City of Rotterdam, Rotterdam Metropolitan Region, the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water management and the Port of Rotterdam Authority.

Rotterdam Cycle Chic Rotterdam Paulien
The first order of business was, of course, a tour of the sites in the city. Paulien and Hans led me around on a windy, chilly day. Getting to and from the train station with my rolling suitcase was also by bicycle in typical Dutch style - surprise surprise:
Rotterdam Transport Form

Rotterdam felt Dutch to me. Sure, the city centre with it's modernish skyscrapers and the massive river lends a mid-Atlantic feel to the place, but it wasn't some alien planet like people from other cities would lead you to believe. Although De Verkeersonderneming has a bike campaign called I do it My Way, which hints at New York.

Rotterdam Bicycle
There were still more bicycles parked at the central train station than are on the roads in, say, Australia at any given time of day.

Rotterdam Paulien Parking
Parking was the same as everywhere else in the Netherlands.

Rotterdam Supermum
The same wonderful Supermums were out and about.

Rotterdam Boys Rotterdam Cycle Chic_1
The people with whom I shared the cycle tracks looked the same.

Rotterdam Cycle Track Rotterdam Cycle Track and Entrance to Petrol Station

Rotterdam Street Design Rotterdam New Bicycle Bridge
As did many of the cycle tracks and they also have a new, funky bicycle bridge (bottom right). They are also crowdfunding a spectacular bridge in the city, Luchtsingel. Which has nothing to do with this article... it's just damned cool.

Rotterdam Cycle Lane
There were some weird infrastructural abberrations, but fortunately not too many.

Rotterdam Cycle Track on Bridge_1
There are, however, bridges. Lots of them. King-size bridges compared to many cities.

Rotterdam Cycle Track on Bridge_5

Rotterdam Cycle Track on Bridge_4

Rotterdam Cycle Track on Bridge_2
All of them with bicycle infrastructure, of course.

The city felt alot like Copenhagen in a way. Cycle around the centre of Amsterdam and you feel like your're in a wonderful bicycle anthill. Amsterdam is, because of it's layout, Amsterdam and there will never be another city like it. With bridges and motorways and the river, Rotterdam is a distant cousin to Copenhagen. Cycle tracks everywhere (although with some crucial missing links in the network that priortize cars) and a relaxed feeling on the cycle tracks.

If you go to the Netherlands, experience the quintessential Dutchness of most cities. But go to Rotterdam, too. Just to see how a big, "mid-Atlantic" city does things. Whether or not they will move forward based on the brainstorm is up to them. But the potential for the city is massive, given the right political will and the desire for changing to a New Millenium, designed city for people instead of cars.

I enjoyed the city

Dutch Rationality Saves Childrens' Lives

Next Generation
It started with a tweet from my colleague Angela from Mobycon in the Netherlands the other day:

Happy to read less and less children are injured or dead on our roads. A big 'thank you' to all who contributed to that! #safety #NL

That sounded great. She sent me the link to the research and I saw that it was another colleague, Theo Zeegers, from the Fietsersbond - the Dutch National Cycling Organisation who was the author. He was kind enough to translate his article into English.

Theo - like the Fietsersbond in general - is a wonderfully rational person and one of the leading minds on the science of cycling and of bicycle helmets. He's always an inspiration to talk to.

Basically, as you'll read below, casualities among child cyclists in The Netherlands is at an all-time low. It's often difficult to penetrate the dark cloud of The Culture of Fear with rationality but Theo does so here.

Bear in mind that helmets are virtually non-existent in The Netherlands. The Dutch know more than any other nation on earth that safe infrastructure and traffic calming are the only way to improve cycling conditions, save lives and to encourage people to ride bicycles.

Casualties Among Child Cyclists The Netherlands - The facts
by Theo Zeegers, Traffic Consultant, Dutch Cyclists’ Union (Fietsersbond)

The debate about the safety of children on bicycles erupts frequently in the media.
Usually it is implicitly assumed that children on bicycles are highly vulnerable. The figures indicate that this is not the case.

Hence for future use I list the relevant facts on casualty numbers for young cyclists in the Netherlands. The source is the database of COGNOS SWOV. In all cases, the actual (elevated) numbers are mentioned. As a result, there would be no (strong) effect due to the problem of under-registration. I will consider both age 0-11 (children) and age 12 t / m 17 (youth). I use the most current data where available. As a consequence, data on fatalities date from 2010, where those on severely injured dated 2009.

Contrary to popular belief, the number of fatalities among young cyclists is low. In 2010, two cyclists in the age group 0-11 years and 13 from the age group 12-17 were killed in traffic. That is 1% and 8% of all bicycle fatalities in 2010. That is historically low.

Graph 1 shows the trend in the number of fatalities among cyclists children over the last 15 years in absolute terms, graph 2 in relative terms. It is clear that there is a particularly strong downward trend over this period. Especially for children under 12 years, the results are so good that further improvement are unrealistic.

Graph 1: Trend in fatal bicycle victims (absolute) over the years for the age classes 0-11 years and 12-17 years.

Graph 2: Trend in fatal bicycle victims (relative to all cyclist fatalities) over the years for the age classes 0-11 years and 12-17 years.

One might assume that the decrease among the victims of cycling children is caused by the fact that children cycle less and less. The statistics on mobility in The Netherlands do not support this hypothesis. According to these statistics bicycle use increased between 2005 and 2010 among children and adolescents even slightly (MON, Ovin, CBS (2)).

Casualties in hospital
Graph 3 shows the distribution in the number of hospital casualties among cyclists for different ages. What stands out immediately is that the number of victims rises from 40 years on and that there is an isolated peak for young people between 12 and 18 years. The latter peak is attributed to the high bicycle use in that age group. Youngsters cycling about three times as more as children (CBS, 2010). Closer examination shows that the number of casualties among children under 11 years are the lowest of all ages. Again, children appear again particularly low scoring in the statistics!

Graph 3: Number of hospital casualties over the different age cohorts. X-axis: age in years. Y-axis: number of hospitalized casualties per cohort year.

The trend over the last 15 years is shown in Graph 4. There is hardly a trend, until 2001 there was a slight decline followed by a similarly weak increase.

Chart 4: Trend of the number of hospital casualties among younger cyclists over the last 15 years. X-axis: years. Y-axis: number of hospitalized victims per cohort year.

The number of fatalities among younger cyclists is strikingly low and this number drops significantly.

The number of hospitalized casualties among children (until 11 years) is low. The number of hospitalized casualties among youngsters (12 to 17 years) is high, which can be explained by the high bicycle use in these age classes. Over the years, there is hardly a trend: in recent years may be a slight increase.

Thanks to Theo for the translation.

Cities and nations have a choice. Either they put their faith in car-centric ideology or they boldly step into the New Millenium and starting designing their cities for people instead of machines.

If you haven't read about the Fietsersbond's idea for airbags on the outside of cars - placing responsibility in the correct place - read it here.

Here is some contrast to show how twisted things can get when you don't take science seriously and are hopelessly glued to an old-fashioned, last century mentality.

There was a study released in a medical journal recently - from near the bottom of the third division of the medical journal leagues - about how helmet promotion for kids has had a whopping result in reduction of head injuries in Sweden. Here's an abstract.

What the paper doesn't tell you - or any of the Swedish press covereage - is that the number of children cycling in Sweden is falling. From over 80% in 1988 to 40% in 2009.

And here in Denmark, we're seeing the same negative trend. The number of children cycling to school has fallen 30% over the past 15 years. In addition, the number of children being dropped off at school in cars has risen 200% over the past 30 years.

The City of Copenhagen's Traffic Dept did an internal study a while back, looking at the body of science about helmets and came to the same conclusion of most European cycling NGOs - that the science is divided and the negative effects outweith the positive. They used Thomas Krag Mobility Advice to assist them with the study.

The Danish Cyclists' Federation
, who also run the so-called Cycling Embassy of Denmark, have alienated themselves from most other national cycling NGOs in Europe by willingly promoting bicycle helmets, together with the car-centric Road Safety Council.

This featured in their membership magazine recently:

The difference between the Danish Cyclists' Federation / Road Safety Council and other European NGOs is that they don't have any qualified researchers employed. If you're looking for the face of the Virgin Mary in your tea leaves, you'll probably end up seeing it at some point.

They happily quote a study from The Danish Accident Investigation Board, without knowing which individuals provided the "science" on bike helmets in the study is a sign that they they found the Virgin Mary's face smiling back at them. They also trash Dr. Ian Walker's study in the process, and others. Unbelievable.

For inspiration in promoting cycling positively and rationally, look to the people who are improving traffic safety and rethinking how are cities should be designed instead of organisations who are scaring people off of bicycles and happily stoking the fire of the Culture of Fear and worshipping at the alter of the automotive status quo.

 Look to the Dutch and other cycling NGOs in Europe. Ignore the pretenders.

Later in the day after writing this I read the .pdf OECD report: "Cycling Safety: Key Messages - International Transport Forum - Working Group on Cycling Safety". The International Transport Forum at the OECD is an intergovernmental organisation with 54 member countries. It's a dry, sober report as one would expect from the OECD but it presents a very interesting view about helmet promotion and legislation.

Helmet usage reduces the severity of head injuries cycle crashes but may lead to
compensating behaviour that otherwise erodes safety gains.
One area that has received vigorous research focus is on the safety impact of bicycle helmet usage and helmet-wearing mandates. As discussed below, these two must be treated separately.

Studies addressing the safety impact of helmets can generally be split into two groups: those that focus on the way in which bicycle helmets change the injury risk for individual cyclists in case of a crash and those that focuses on the generalised safety effect of introducing measures (typically campaigns and/or legislation) to increase helmet usage among cyclist. The first group generally finds that wearing a bicycle helmet reduces the risk of sustaining a head injury in a crash (head injuries are among the most severe outcomes of cycle crashes) though recent reanalysis of previous studies suggests that this effect is less than previously thought (Elvik, 2011). (Ed.: Cyclists with helmets have 14% greater chance of getting into an accident, says Elvik. )

To be clear -- these studies indicate the possible reduced risk of head injury for a single cyclist in case of an accident. The effects must not be mistaken for the safety effects of mandatory helmet legislation or other measures to enhance helmet usage.

The safety effect of mandatory helmet legislation as such has been evaluated in far lesser studies than the individual risk in case of an accident. The safety effect of mandatory helmet legislation is a result of a series of factors:
- reduced injury risk (due to increased helmet usage)
- increased crash risk (due to an often claimed change in behaviour amongst cyclists
who take up wearing helmet)
- less cycling (leading to a reduced number of accidents and injuries, but also to a
- higher accident risk for those who still bike)

Whether bicyclists change behaviour, when they start to use a bicycle helmet seems very uncertain (and difficult to prove), but it is evident that mandatory helmet use might reduce the total number of bicyclists. It is also possible that cyclists who continue to bike might represent a behaviour which is different from the behaviour of those who stop biking. In the end this could very well lead to an overall change in behaviour.

05 September 2012

State of Copenhagen Congestion - Part 4

Motorway 16 north of Copenhagen.

The State of Copenhagen Congestion - Part 4
The Congestion Commission
by Lars Barfred
with additional info by Mikael Colville-Andersen

In Denmark, during autumn 2011, right-wing politicians and the media attacked the center-left government proposal for a congestion ring around Copenhagen. Their attack, which wasn't much more than a bunch of media hysteria was, surprisingly, successful.

In early 2012, the Social Democrats lost the courage to push forward with the congestion ring plan because of the massive media coverage of the opposition from the right-wing parties, the car owners' association and the Danish Industry association. Despite the fact that they went to the election with the congestion ring as a primary point. Most humililating for them was the opposition from a number of Social Democratic mayors from the municipalities around Copenhagen. The only neutral opinon poll actually showed a small majority of voters favoured the congestion ring.

As a compromise, the Government decided to form a commission to address the Copenhagen congestion and pollution challenges. Trængselskommissionen - or The Congestion Commission.

The commission assignment is to:

1 Analyse basic challenges of the capital-area traffic system.
2 Analyse advantages and disadvantages of a range of initiatives.
3 Suggest a strategy and financing.

Whereas the goal of the Congestion ring was to reduce car traffic by some 30%, the commission started out with lowering the bar to less than zero. Now the vague objective is to lower the growth of car traffic.

They are not considering whether or not growth of traffic may not be a benefit to society. Rethinking how we develop our cities is also out of the question. Nor are concepts like reducing urban sprawl, giving people incentives to move closer to work, reducing car-centric shopping malls in favour of more closely-knit city environments with local shops. Not at all.
Prior to the first meeting, a range of literature and analyses were listed for consideration. None of them included cycling or other modes of active transportation. In addition, all the presentations after the first meeting have all completely ignored cycling.

The Danish Transport Minister, Henrik Dam Kristensen, said upon launching the Commission:
"I extremely pleased that we will now have a broad commission that will contribute with solutions for how we can reduce congestion and pollution in the Copenhagen region. The Commission's proposals will be important input in the negotiations for financing investments in public transport in the coming years".

Hmm. Here's what the Commission is doing.
The Commssion has formed 7 focus groups, but not one is aimed at promoting cycling as transport or any form of active transportation.

They seem to have forgotten that the bicycle is the primary transport mode for citizens and, among all commuters, it is second to the car.
Had the congestion ring been implemented, all research suggests that cycling would have become the primary choice of the majority of commuters in and out of Copenhagen. The research also shows that even if public transport was free, only 5% of motorists would leave the car at home.

Of the seven focus groups, two are about cars and one is about a national road-pricing system - even though the Commission is only supposed to address issues affecting the Copenhagen region. Neither mention bicycles. Another project is about financing congestion reducation. Again. No mention of bicycles.

Two focus groups are about public transportation and here there is passing mentions of bicycles regarding connectivity to stations and busstops.

One group is about low emissions transport and bicycles are mentioned as one of many solutions, including electric cars, trains, busses, metro, tramways, etc. Walking and running are completely ignored.

The last is about general road usage and effectiveness and, rather than being focused on modes of transport - like which mode has a better capacity utilization of road lanes than cars - it's focused on improving light-cycles in intersections and other “intelligent” traffic systems (ITS). There are brief mentions of cycling. It's mind-boggling to see this group struggle with light-cycles and traffic flow after 85 years of traffic engineers failing to do anything about it.

The outcome of this Congestion Commission will certainly not be a modern capital city and society based on an innovative rethinking of transportation, with an emphasis is on active transportation. Their approach is very last century and old-fashioned. Incentives for electric cars and major investments in car infrastructure and public transportation are the primary focus. Car traffic will, sadly, continue to grow.

Even our supposed friends among the NGOs in the Commission don´t really have a great appreciation for cycling as transport. I got a mail the other day from one of the members of the commission. He wanted to reassure me that bicycles would be remembered in the solution. However, he noted, the real problem with traffic is the out-of-town commuters, and the distance is too great for cycling. Therefore, public transit is the primary solution.

I am certain that he could not be more wrong. First of all, we know that motorists are notoriously difficult to recruit to public transit. At least cycling is still individual transportation and independent mobility.

Not so Free Way

Distance is many things, and not a static. From 2003 to 2009 the average distance between home and work rose more than 10%, thanks to large tax-deductions for commuting more than 22 km daily. The deduction increases the attractiveness of moving away from the cities to areas with cheaper housing.

Affordable housing in the city would on the other hand attract people to move closer to work, which is the most cited reason to move away from Copenhagen. And less traffic & traffic noise is a top 3 complaint among both residents and former residents. Which explains how congestion is an evil cycle, chasing ever more people out of the city, only to see them return every morning in their polluting noisy car.

Distance is also not a static of length. If you are on a bicycle, distance is a combination of the effort needed and of time. A high-class route that is pleasant, mostly flat, without intersection that prioritize cars and smooth asphalt will feel shorter than a shorter route with plenty of intersections, potholes and close to the pollution and noise of roads.

The current Cykelsuperstier - "Bicycle Superhighways" - are not that super, really. They are made of a patchwork of existing bike lanes and most have not been improved to a reasonable level.

Instead, a new, visionary network should be the first thing on the agenda. It should be laid out to follow the regional train network (S-tog) and the coastal train line. That would give six radials from the City to the most populated areas in the region. Reaching out 25 - 40 km from the city centre.
The lanes should follow the track above and below cross roads and have on- and off-ramps, as if it was an expressway for cars. At roughly 5, 10 and 20 km from the City Centre, the six radial lines should be interconnected by ring routes of a superior quality.

And wouldn't it be cool if the routes included soft running tracks, as well?

That’s the right solution to maximize bicyle transportation. It may be much more expensive than what politicians are used to investing in cycling in Denmark, but much less than investing in car infrastructure like expressways, tunnels, bridges and parking.

The future maintencance costs are even lower and, as we all know by now, the health benefits are much, much, much higher.

It's embarassing that Danish politicians seem to have forgotten this and refuse to embrace the mentality of the new century and work towards a paradigm shift.

Best Magazine Cover Ever

The Most Dangerous Invention in the World_1
If this isn't the most beautiful magazine cover in the world, I don't know what is.

The Most Dangerous Invention in the World. The Car.

It's the cover of Profil magazine, out of Austria. I picked it up in Vienna earlier this year. As I understand it, Profil is a business magazine. Leafing through it, it's filled with men in suits saying stuff in German.

This article, however, is beautiful for its stunning rationality. It's a bold cover and the accompanying article spells out why the car is, indeed, the most dangerous invention in the world and so destructive to our societies.
The Most Dangerous Invention in the World_3
Unfortunately, my German is rather dodgy but that's what infographics are for!
The Most Dangerous Invention in the World_2
The article features an interview with Vienna's wunderkind Vice-Mayor, Maria Vassilakou. According to this website, her splendidly complicated German titles are:

Vice-Mayor and Vice-Governor, Executive City Councillor for Urban Planning, Traffic & Transport, Climate Protection, Energy and Public Participation. She doesn't need a business card, she needs a t-shirt. But hey, times are a'changing in Vienna and Ms Vassilakou is behind the movement for a more liveable city. If only such visionary politicians grew on trees.

The article, in German, is available online right here. Hopefully your German reading skills are better than mine. I'll leave you to it. The most important thing is that this magazine cover and this article exist. A paradigm shift is imminent. Designing cities and streets instead of over-engineering them. Thinking about quality of life instead of traffic data flow. Nice to see that some cities are taking their responsibility seriously.

The Most Dangerous Invention in the World_4
This is a list with car ownership stats for various countries. Austria is high on the list. Who knew that the Dutch owned so many cars?

04 September 2012

State of Copenhagen Congestion - Part 3

Copenhagen Rush Hour
The State of Copenhagen Congestion - Part 3 - The Bright Side
by Lars Barfred
(with additional info by Mikael Colville-Andersen)

Read Part 1 // Read Part 2 -

In this series, we are bluntly criticizing the politicians, the City planners, the Police and the Congestion Commission, as you may have figured out. I also need to pay my respects to the people who stick their neck out.

Just after Part 1 of the Series was published, the mayor of the City's DoT, Ayfer Baykal, announced that her party SF (People's Socialist Party) aims to make yet another important shopping street much more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.

The first shopping street that was transformed and made pedestrian-only was Strøget, back in 1962. The street just celebrated its 50th anniversary this past weekend.

Back then, everyone predicted sudden death for all the shops. It never happened and today it's the most expensive retail real estate space in Denmark, and has been for decades.

The second big tranformation is the famous bus/bike street, Nørrebrogade, which was also criticized for killing retail. Few of the critics choose to remember that the street refit coincided with the financial crisis, which affected shops all over the nation. Or the fact that the people who actually live in the neighbourhood WANTED the new street and are happy about it.
Also, many people, unfortunately, have become so accustomed to the externalities of big cities, that they become “qualities” associated with living in the “big” city (Copenhagen really isn't big).

It is true that the initial test phase and the latter full reconstruction took a long time to complete and, coupled with the financial crisis, was hard on local trade but now it is finished. The increased number of pedestrians, public transport commuters and cyclists (bicycle traffic up 15%) far outweigh the reduction in potential car-driving customers. Most of the motorists were, as Italian transport planners call them, parasites anyway and only 29.1% of Copenhageners own cars so the benefits of more busses, cyclists and pedestrians were clear from the start.

Nørrebrogade has become revitalized and again attracts new investments from retailers, restaurants and cafés. The hustle and bustle of the cars has been replaced with massive numbers of people on bikes and on foot. You can't shop at 50 km/h, but you certainly can on foot or on a bicycle. It's really reassuring - just the experience of crossing the road has become a sheer delight.

It boggles the mind that resistance against traffic calming still exists. Last year we wrote an article about some shopkeepers who are complaining about traffic calming on H.C. Ørstedsvej. Saving the Street With Bicycles. As you can read, there is little rationality involved, only wrong perceptions.

The third street to be tackled, if SF have their way, will be Amagerbrogade. The goal is a 50% decrease in the number of cars on this main artery - like Nørrebrogade.

“The City is made for people, not metal boxes”, said Mayor Ayfer Baykal, and rightly so. One gets the feeling she is already looking at city elections in 2013. Last Monday she broadened out the perspective to include at least a handful more of the main streets in a number of the neighbourhoods. Strategically it was good timing, what with the 50th anniversary of Strøget.

Politicians in the wealthy and arch-conservative neighbourhood, Gentofte, were quick to denounce the plans as paralyzing for their city, fearing it will end up as a parking lot for Copenhagen.

Another town just outside Copenhagen, the much more progressive Lyngby, is more realistic and praising the step by step approach to reduce car-capacity. Now Lyngby can develop in a similar pace, and has decided to start metering parking, which until now has been free. Lyngby also participates along with a host of other capital region cities in building light rail systems and bicycle superhighways.

The national conservative newspaper, Berlingske, not only reported the story of more traffic-calmed shopping streets, but they made it the top-priority and called it "war" with an editorial entitled The Capital Hates Cars.

They are furious to a degree I suspect must have been pure rage. Virtually every sentence in the editorial is wrong. It would make Paul Ryan proud. I have never seen such poor journalism.

From complaining about absurdly high parking prices (even though 75% of parking in the City is free and less than 1% breaks even on cost or makes a small profit) to complaining about no parking spaces at train stations (research shows almost all stations have available parking), and then forgetting (or choosing to ignore) the fact that most people who take the train prefer to get to the station by bicycle.

Then this newspaper continues to blame the City for lack of investments in public transit - which they never blamed the right-wing government for neglecting - and guess who neglected the public transit system for a decade.
Finally, knowing it not to be true, they predict the sudden death of retail, again!

After playing an instrumental role in killing Copenhagen's congestion ring, Berlingske now have a taste of blood in the back of their throat. My bet is that they are going to continue charging like an SUV.

Berlingske claims that the city is implementing a congestion ring through the backdoor, which I think would be fair since it has been the policy of the city for a decade and a half to reduce car traffic, but I am not that optimistic. While that would be great, the initiatives fall short of reducing car traffic by 30% within a time-frame of, say, ten years. Something a congestion ring could do in just 1 - 3 years.

But I do complement the strategy. Political parties like SF and Enhedslisten (the far left) are trying to bang the drums more and more about creating 0040 km/h zones, restricting cross-town traffic through densely-populated neighbourhoods and redirecting it to the larger street system. The larger street system gradually, I hope, will be shared more and more equally with bus/light rail lanes, and wider bicycle lanes. And one day 40 km/h is maybe lowered to 30 km/h - like in so many other European cities - or even 20 km/h.

It will be interesting to see if the center party (Radikale Venstre), who originally spearheaded Nørrebrogade, and the Social Democrats will support a city for people, or if they will continue the last couple of years insistence on promoting and facilitating more car growth.

Lulu Interpreting Bicycles

Cargo Bike by Lulu
So, Lulu - aged 4 (the world's youngest urbanist) - says to me, "Daddy, what should I draw?"

I said, "How about a cargo bike?"

Off she went.

Here's her interpretation. How she regards our cargo bike and its role in our daily lives. Love it. Says it all.

Lulu Bicycle Drawing
Here was her first interpretation of a bicycle. Danish design minimalism. Deconstructing a bicycle to its basic ingredients. Well... except for pedals.

Lulu Bicycle Drawing
Here was her first interpretation of herself with her bicycle.

Lulu Bicycle Drawing
And this was her first interpretation of a cargo bike - using our Bullitt as inspiration.

03 September 2012

State of Copenhagen Congestion - Part 2

Policeman Hunting Cyclists
The State of Copenhagen Congestion - Part 2
by Lars Barfred
(with additional info by Mikael Colville-Andersen)

An unlikely authority plays an an active role in maintaining a high volume of car traffic in the city and ensures that bicycle infrastructure and facilities are not allowed to proliferate.

The Copenhagen Police fight virtually anything that would risk increasing bicycle mobility. Bizarrely, they can veto any initiatives that the city suggests - without having to base it on accident statistics or research and they even consistently ignore the guidance from the National Police, who support allowing cyclists to turn right on red. They also soundly ignore recommendations from the City, the Road Directorate and the Transport Ministry that lower speed limits should be implemented in the city.

The Police share the same concept of traffic safety as The Road Safety Council. A concept of judging what saves most lives in each unique situation. Unfortunately, they have no real understanding of the traffic system as a whole, which makes it easy for them to maintain very strict rules for vulnerable road users.
They have no concept of the many side-effects of bad bicycle mobility or the general health consequences for road users or their surroundings. The result is that they sub-optimize the traffic system. Or rather, optimize it for cars.

Indeed, regarding car traffic, they have an altogether different concept which makes car mobility trump the mobility and safety of vulnerable road users. They are completely and utterly unable to explain to anybody why this is. It just has to be like this, otherwise they can't control traffic, they say.

If a certain spot on the traffic map has a high accident rate, the Police seek solutions that reduce bicycle mobility. In their last century mentality, less bicycles means less accidents - instead of working towards reducing the root of the problem - the motorists and their cars. The Copenhagen Police are legendary in their ability to Ignore the Bull.

Despite successes in places like Paris and Belgium, bicycles are still not allowed to turn right on red. Even though:
- 76% of cyclists deem this safe
- research shows that turning right on red is neither more or less safe that doing so on green
- it is technically legal within the framework of the highway code
- the Police are incapable of proving that it leads to more accidents.

When it comes to local car restrictions (or lack thereof), however, the police's theories are based on what they believe the motorists can accept. Many of you may find this hard to believe but it is true.

The speed limits of a certain road are set based on the 85th percentile concept. "The speed at or below which 85% of all vehicles are observed to travel under free-flowing conditions past a nominated point".

This remains a standard for traffic engineers in many regions, but it is hardly suitable for 21st century cities. Fortunately, movements like 30 km/h zones and traffic calming are serving to reverse this last century mindset. Well, not in Copenhagen...

If a road past a school has a 60 km/h speed limit, the Police will only approve a lower speed limit if the road design is changed so drastically that 85% of the motorists would not be speeding. This means that lowering speed limits becomes very expensive, instead of being a question of buying new speed limit signs.

If the city wants to make a cycle track, it must not go through the intersection if it means that a right-turn lane must be sacrificed. Even though right-hook accidents are what kill the most cyclists. Why? Because this would reduce car mobility and the Police won't accept this. And remember... don't ask them why, they don't have a clue.

The Police also have a firm understanding of car traffic - well, all traffic modes - as a fixed entity. They do not consider that people could make active choices and change transport modes. If a road has 50,000 cars it’s a law of nature in the Police mind. They must be catered to, period. Traffic evaporation and induced traffic are not concepts that the Police's mental model of traffic can handle.

At the moment, Copenhagen is preparing a new 5-year Traffic Safety plan, and held a conference to get input and ideas from stakeholders. The Police respresentative - Søren Wiborg - had two contributions:
1) He was outraged that the Danish Cyclists Federation did not advocate mandatory helmet use
2) he thought that cyclists ran too many red lights

Both of these comments were volunteered completely out of context. What is worrying is that Mr Wiborg is seeking to extend his influence to politics, representing the Social Democrats.

A couple of years ago, Mikael debated with another Copenhagen Police representative, Mogens Knudsen, at the National Cycling Conference. The ignorance of the Police was exposed for all to see.

In Copenhagen, the city tries to make all one-way streets contraflow for cyclists which, in most cases, is rarely a source of accidents. Nevertheless, you guessed it, the police believe it to be incredibly dangerous and will not allow it unless a painted, double line separates bikes from cars (yes, a painted line). This makes parking on that side of the street impossible, since a car can not cross a double line.

In the city centre, the ruling Social Democrats cannot accept less, cheap public roadside parking, so no matter how small the street, no matter the fact that a car never drives more than 20 km/h in the street or that the street provides ample space for two way cycling - the Police will not allow it. And, once again, the Police are unable to back up their views with accidentsstatistics, research or any other fact-based reasoning. Not to mention rationality.

There is a double standard, which by all extents favours the motorists. You really have to wonder where that car favourability comes from, because it is not a part of the Policing jurisdiction or their responsibilities.

As a result, new bicycle infrastructure becomes absurdly expensive, and is increasingly seen as invasive by pedestrians. This translates into the non-growth in modal share since 2003/2004 in Copenhagen.

The Police have a responsibility to help keep the public safe. They should not take an interest in how transport modes are prioritized in our cities, nor should they act as a one-sided enforcer of the motorist-lobby.

The Police don't encourage citizens to take the law into their own hands and play policemen, and rightly so. There are things the Police are good at. But they happily dominate and restrict traffic planning and the quest for safer cities - a field they know absolutely nothing about. Although it doesn't stop them from hunting cyclists for fun and profit.

The Police in Copenhagen have blood on their hands because of their reluctance to assist traffic safety and the development of a more liveable city, and yet they are not accountable to any other authority. In addition, no politicians seem willing to challenge the Police's brutal domination of our city life and our streets. It's unacceptable and must be stopped.

Other examples of Police ignorance stopping plans in Copenhagen:

The famous Nørrebrogade solution launched by former Mayor Klaus Bondam, which transformed the busy artery with wider cycle tracks, green waves for cyclists, restrictions on through traffic for cars was a much bolder project. The idea was for a completely car-free street. The proposal, to everyone's amazment, sailed through the different departments in the City, getting a stamp of approval from the most unusual suspects - given the visionary nature of the plan. Car-free and bicycles and busses sharing the asphalt.

The idea sailed on to the Police and it was promptly killed by a desk cop - with no logical reasoning, just a comment that bicycles and busses sharing a street "wouldn't work". The result was a reworking of the proposal that the police finally approved - wider cycle tracks, cars allowed - but no through traffic - and bus zones. It remains a major setback for a much-needed paradigm shift for liveable cities.

The other issue is mentioned above - speed limits. Despite recommendations from people who actually know what they're talking about, the Police refuse to allow lower speed limits in densely-populated areas. Imagine that. The 30 km/t zone movement is 25 years old. Over 80 cities in Europe have implemented them - with amazing results for improved traffic safety - and yet the Copenhagen Police don't have a clue about them. Blood on their hands, indeed.

Read more about 30 km/h zones here:
- 30 km/h Zones Work!
- 40 km/h Zones Stopped by Police
- Avoidable Tragedy with 30 km/h Zone?
- Facebook group for 30 km/h zones in Copenhagen

02 September 2012

Copenhagen Cargo Bike IKEA

Trip to IKEA Trip to IKEA
It's been a while since we've written about cycling to IKEA in Copenhagen. I headed out there with the kids yesterday to pick up a few things. Lulu on the Bullitt and Felix on his bike. Lulu clearly drew the long straw, especially considering the rolling terrain you meet once you leave the city. She sang the whole way.

Above and below are some photos from the journey.

Trip to IKEA Trip to IKEA
One of the most popular articles on this blog was a few years ago. IKEA did a transport study of their customers and found out, to their surprise, that about 25% of their customers rode bicycles or took public transport. They promptly started a bike borrowing scheme to accommodate their customers who wanted to get their stuff home by bike and trailer. They were surprised, but shouldn't have been. Only 29.1% of Copenhageners own a car so other transport options are a given.

You may also recall an earlier trip to IKEA that I documented a few years ago. This is a different route than the one we took yesterday, cycling along one of the motorways leading in and out of the city. In both cases, there are safe, separated cycle tracks the entire way.

If I had wanted to go the IKEA west of Copenhagen, there are cycle tracks on that route, too. In this post about cycling 30 km to christmas, I passed the other IKEA, so you can get an idea of the route.

If you're interested in the route yesterday, we tracked it on the Endomondo app.
The trip out.
The trip back.

You can Streetview the route if you like.

Trip to IKEA
We tracked it for fun. To see how long it took and then, on the way home, to see if Felix and I could beat the time. On the trip back, I forgot to turn off the app until we were in the house, but it gives you an idea.

The Endomondo app is cool if you're into stuff like that. It has "Cycling - Transport" as an option, which is about all I need. Although I don't need it very often. Very few people I know in Copenhagen know how many kilometres they ride - they just know how long it takes.

I don't really get people in other countries who boast about their XXXX km/miles a year. Sure, nice with some stats I suppose, if you're into that but when you are a regular bicycle user, you don't seem to need to prove you are. You just get on with it.

 Shop by Bicycle

I'll always ride to IKEA. If there is something too large to carry home on the bicycle - like beds and stuff - I'll get it brought out by their delivery service and ride home by bicycle with as much as I can carry.

Along the route yesterday there were a few other Copenhageners on cargo bikes heading back and forth and many on bicycles. Makes sense, really, for many IKEA trips.