29 January 2013

Trouble-free Mobility in the Winter in Copenhagen

Poster Prototype 02
Nice and simple. A welcome sight in the morning in Copenhagen.
After a snowfall - most often during - the sidewalks and cycle tracks are cleared of snow, allowing for trouble-free mobility.

Read more about winter maintenance:

- The Snow Slinger - eating snow drifts for breakfast
- Copenhagen runs out of salt - priortizes only cycle tracks.
- Protecting Trees with Salt Guards - and keeping cycle tracks clear
- The Ultimate Bike Lane Snow Clearance Blogpost

California Gold - or why we must re-Copenhagenize Los Angeles


Huell Howser died earlier this month

"Who?", you ask?

Huell Howser was a television presenter in California who, though he had worked on commercial television, and even on syndicated U.S. Hollywood gossip programming, was known for his down-to-earth presentations about life in and attractions in the "Golden State", a style of television he successfully transplanted from his birthplace of Tennessee.

"But I am not in California, so I have never seen him, right?" you say.

Yes, well, you see, there is this industry based primarily in Los Angeles that makes these things called "Talking Motion Pictures" which you have perhaps viewed?  Because of this and the further industries it has spawned, there is a lot of creative work done in and around Los Angeles and throughout California.

Which is why when something appears even just on local media in Los Angeles, it quickly gets relayed to the rest of the planet via happenstance or satire.

Just ask Bob Crane (you can't actually as he is dead), Gary Owens, or more recently, Jim Thornton.

So you've likely heard or seen Huell, no matter where you are on this planet, if you are a fan of Winnie the Pooh,  or more prominently, The Simpsons, where he was repeatedly parodied as the character Howell Huser

What's this have to do with Copenhagenize? A while back, Mikael wrote a post here about the history of Cycling in Southern California that was resplendent with photos taken over one hundred years ago showing how much bicycles were used in the region.  Another post reprints an article Mikael wrote for the Los Angeles Times, the city's major newspaper, recounting the Bicycle Culture 1.0 that Southern California experienced .

 Now it's one thing to read the scripts, but Huell made a movie.  If you've got 27 minutes, why not sit down and enjoy the "Bikes" episode of Howser's premiere program "California Gold", "A look at L.A.'s bike history with stops at the Pasadena Museum of History, [and] a Sunday Morning ride back in time as Huell uncovers other important stops in L.A.'s Bike History"
(With thanks to the Chapman University Huell Howser Archive)

 Why is this important?  Because there is most certainly an existing and rebounding bicycle culture in Southern California, which is growing quite rapidly. But what is important to realize is that Hollywood very much imposes its street-view on the rest of the world, so it's culture of automobile domination gets presented as the norm. Even when it makes absolutely no sense, as happens when films are made in an east coast U.S. city, including one which is (or was once) actually considered to be "Medieval" in by Urban Planners and Geographers. So if cycling were to become as normal on the streets of Los Angeles as it is in Copenhagen, then, perhaps, one day, some of those movie people might get the idea to portray it as such in one or many of their films.

And imagine what that might lead to.



28 January 2013

Free Copenhagen Trains on your Birthday

Happy Birthday! Ride the trains for free!
I just recieved a quite brilliant text message from Danish State Railways.

"Congratulations with your birthday tomorrow!
You can travel free in all zones on the S-train (the trains serving Greater Copenhagen) on your birthday. Just show your ID, your DSB loyalty card and this text message on the train."

This is brilliant customer care. Free trains on your birthday! I'm stunned and pleased.

More from DSB:
This is how DSB markets their bicycle-friendliness in a mainstream bicycle culture

This is back when they made it free to take your bicycle on the trains.

This is their idea of having bicycle pumps on their trains.

26 January 2013

A Short History of Traffic "Engineering"

A Short History of Traffic Engineering
A Short History of Traffic "Engineering"

24 January 2013

Citizen Cyclists in Dublin Want Infrastructure

Dublin Infrastructure_5
I've just been reading an interesting article based on a study called "Determining bicycle infrastructure preferences - A case study of Dublin". It was published in 2012 by Brian Caulfield, Elaine Brick and Thérèse McCarthy. In short, it assessed users' preferences for bicycle infrastructure in Dublin.

The National Sustainable Transport Policy in Ireland included in its plans to "reduce work-related car commuting by 45-65%". In addition, it aims to have a modal share of 10% cyclists by 2020, which means that cycling is now, more than ever, in the spotlight in Ireland.

The research involved talking to the users and documenting their preferences for cycling facilities. They differentiated between avid cyclists and regular bicycle users.

Respondents were asked to select their favourite type of cycling infrastructure, we it off-road bike paths, greenways, etc.. There were also asked to choose between two options:


The preferences of the respondents were divided by gender, how confident they were at cycling (five categories from 'completely confident' to 'not at all confident'.

Here are the preferences of the respondents:
  1. Direct routes: Both experienced and non-experienced cyclists alike (56.4% in all) stated this was the most important preference.
  2. Infrastructure type: The off-road bike path was the number one preference under the cycling infrastructure options. This was followed by green lanes. The least preferred option was “no-lane”.
  3. Adjacent traffic speed: Respondents prefer lower adjacent traffic speed.
  4. Traffic volumes: 69.1% of respondents said that lower car traffic volumes would encourage them to cycle more.
Among other results, it is clear to verify that an adjacent traffic speed of 30km/h is more important for women than it is for men. Another interesting fact is that off-road bike paths have higher significance for respondents with less confidence.

The results mirror what we know from many other cities with mainstream bicycle culture. Citizen cyclists want infrastructure. If you build it, they will come.

Design like you mean it.


You can read the article here.

23 January 2013

User-Centric Design

Diseño centrado en el usuario
Great graphic from our friends in Chile at Ciclismo Urbano.
Car-centric design at the left.
User-centric design on the right.

22 January 2013

Design and Bicycle Culture

The city on bike from Bicycle Innovation Lab on Vimeo.

In this interview with the third session of Copenhagen's Bicycle Innovation Lab's "The City on Bike" series, I discuss the importance of Design in remastering our cities, together with designer Jens Martin Skibsted - designer of Biomega bicycles.

Danish Bicycle Pioneers: Larry vs Harry

Danish Bicycle Pioneers: Larry vs Harry from Copenhagenize on Vimeo. The second portrait in the series of Danish Bicycle Pioneers for Bicycle Innovation Lab. The first was a portrait of Carl Georg Rasmussen - father of the modern velomobile. This time it's Lars Malmborg and Hans Bullitt Fogh - Larry vs Harry - designers of the Bullitt cargo bike. Probably the hottest bicycle on the planet right now. The classic Danish longjohn, which transformed cargo bike culture back in the early 1920s, remained unchanged for more than 85 years. Nobody thought to make it better, lighter, faster. Until Larry vs Harry.

21 January 2013

Cyclists' demonstrations – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Cyclists’ protests can be a good thing arising out of a bad thing. Confused?
by Pedro Madruga

The Good
The number of actions protesting for more cyclist and pedestrian rights is becoming more common, large-scaled and with increased outcomes.  Most of us are aware of the protests in Denmark and Netherlands during the 70’s, aiming mostly for increased safety. If you're not aware of that then here’s a whole article waiting for you here.

Back then, a message was sent to politicians: the ink was made of cyclists and pedestrians and the paper was the city hall square – as you can see in the below picture (Copenhagen). It figuratively said: “enough”.



And it worked. Without violence, just pure human kinetics.

Throughout history there were several protests were cyclists and pedestrians claimed for better rights. Just last year, a massive protest gathered 10 thousand cyclists in the UK and 50 thousand in Italy.  And the list goes on, whether it is in France, U.S., Greece or anywhere else.

And there's also a number of demonstrations promoting bicycle use. A slightly different subject. 

The Bad
The cause that leads people to go outside and protest for or against something (or someone) is often the downside of the whole process: everyone was/is tired of seeing all-white painted bicycles furnishing their cities. Also, too many pedestrians were/are killed, including children in both groups. «Stop the child murder» was a pressure group and one of the reasons for protests in the 70’s, in Netherlands. An example where a bad thing led to a good thing.

The Ugly
Inertia. Living in the past. From politicians to professionals. Possibly from me and you too. There’s still more to strive for: if one pedestrian or one cyclist dies, then we have failed our goal by one person.

But not everyone is suffering for inertia, far from it. Laws have changed and will continue changing due to these demonstrations.

The future (will be) good In Portugal, there was a demonstration on Saturday, 19th of January. 27 cities around the country will ask in unison for better rights on the road for pedestrians and cyclists. This wasn’t the first attempt at better conditions for cyclists and pedestrians on the road: 13 years ago, José Miguel Afonso was organizing a protest with similar reasons as now. He died two weeks before that protest, hit by a car while cycling. The protest never happened.

When you have emotion backing up a reason to protest, good outcomes are expected - if you do it right. Lean back in your chair and look at your computer screen: “the good” sub-chapter of this post has much more info. Good things have happened before and will continue to happen.

The future can only be good.

-
Footnote: all cyclists' protests mentioned here were peaceful and non-confrontational. Unlike the movie referenced in the title of this post.

Cargo Bikes Are the New Ice Cream Truck


Oswalds Isbar
If you're a regular reader of Copenhagenize, you've probably seen us blog a photo or two of cargo bike vendors. The ice cream bar is, hands down, one of my favorite cargo bikes to see cruising around town. 

With bicycle culture, and now cargo bike culture, emerging around the world it's refreshing to see examples from cities that aren't Amsterdam or Copenhagen. Here's one straight out of Winnipeg, Canada: The Dickie Dee Ice Cream company.
Having been to wonderful wintry Winnipeg recently for the Kickstand Sessions it's hard to imagine ever getting a hankering for an eskimo pie or a popsicle. Nevertheless, after being founded in 1959, Dickie Dee rode their way to the top - becoming one of the largest vending companies in North America - selling creamsicles and ice cream sandwiches straight from the front of their fiberglass cooler box cargo bikes. 

Here's to hoping we hear a few more of those handle bar bells jingling around town.

16 January 2013

Danish Congestion Commission Flops

Cycle Chic irony. Bike lights shaped like cars. #cyclechic #bike #copenhagen

"The Danish Congestion Commission is regarded, apparently, as a "good solution" as a plaster on the wound for the dropped congestion charge ring that would have reduced automobile traffic by 30%. A congestion ring that "nobody" allegedly wanted - except of course for a majority of Copenhageners who live with the pollution in a city that looks more and more like a parking lot with randomly scattered homes. We would have preferred that it looked more like a park with densely-populated neighbourhoods."

Thus writes the newly-formed, Danish bicycle advocacy association Cykelrepublikken - The Bicycle Republic - on their website in a sharp criticism of the Congestion Commission. We've critised the Commission previously here on Copenhagenize but now their work is done and the documents handed in.

Cue the anti-climax. The reports are disappointing and not a little shocking in their complete uselessness. Here is the translation of Cykelrepublikken's article about the failed Congestion Commission.


The Congestion Commission's ambitions were diminished greatly. From a goal of reducing car traffic by 30% to just hoping to reduce future growth in car traffic. The ruling party Social Democrats are banking heavily on car traffic at the expense of cycling and with investments of around 30 billion kroner in a new harbour tunnel and 50 billion kroner in an extension of the mini-metro so that motorists won't be inconvenienced by pesky busses and cyclists at ground level.

The goal of the Commission in brief:

"The Commission will present, in Janaury 2013, a catalogue of ideas with advantages and disadvantages of the different proposals regarding reduction of congestion, noise and air pollution in the capital region and an overall strategy in August, 2013."

Today - January 16th, 2013 - is the day that the Congestion Commission will finalise their idea catalogue that will form the basis of their overall strategy after summer. CykelRepublikken has learned that cycling has been completely and utterly ignored, despite the fact that it's the most used transport form in Copenhagen. Out of the seven work groups in the Commission, none have focused on cycling or walking as transport forms. They have focused on:

- National road pricing
- Public transport - including how to get cyclists to instead use the much more expensive public transport.
- Improved conditions for motorists, including a proposal for removing the cycle tracks on Bredgade and Store Kongensgade (two main streets in the city centre) in order to make room for more car lanes. The cyclists are expected to be moved to other streets like Borgergade.
- General traffic - although here cycling was at least regarded as a transport form.

In the analysis phase there wasn't a single analysis of how cycling is affected by car congestion. Nothing about accessibility, how much the distance a cyclist is willing to cycle is reduced, insecurity, the reduction in children cycling to school in Copenhagen or any health consequences at all. They have merely stated that they didn't look into it too much.

The Danish Cyclists' Federation (DCF) participated in the Congestion Commission. Their work was of an unusually bad quality. They just put their name on the paperwork and used it as an alibi. DCF's grand idea is giving cyclists a tax break, which is unlikely to shift a single motorist over to a bicycle. The Transport Ministry has even documented that even if public transport was free, only 5% of motorists would switch their car for bus/train/mini-metro. Motorists choose their car because its easiest for them. If they are to get out of their cars, then driving has to become more inconvennient and the alternatives faster and more convenient and appealing. It's not finance that plays a role.

The conclusions from the Congestion Commission are that there should be two things for cycling. One is not cancelling the national bicycle fund - Cykelpujlen. This fund is for municipalities to apply for 50% funding of projects like bridges over motorways when new motorways like Nordhavnsvej block for cyclists using Lyngbyvej.

The second is that there is continued development of Bicycle Superhighways - Cykelsuperstier. There is, however, no vision that these should be of a such a higher quality than the existing cycle tracks in the area that cyclists would be able to see a difference. In other words, 90% advertising and 10% improvement of some existing cycle tracks.

All of this means that there is nothing different on the horizon. Cycling will continue to fall nationally and in Copenhagen, as investments in cycling will continue to be only 1.5% of the Danish transport investments.

The rest of the Commission's conclusions are business as usual. On the national traffic political scene there is no limiting car traffic at all but rather methods for making driving easier for motorists. There are a few points of light like looking at making motorists pay a larger share of financing for parking. Recommendations that will, most likely, be rejected by the government. In the same as the last government swept the recommendations of various commissions under carpet with "that's interesting, but it's not our politics."

There are many transport researchers and NGOs in the Congestion Commission and it will be interesting to hear how ineffective they have been, like the DCF. Only interested in public transport or just steamrolled by the Transport Ministry, the head of the Commission Leo Larsen (from massive infrastructure company Sund & Bælt that thrives on car traffic), the Danish AA (FDM), Danish Industry, Danish Chamber of Commerce, the rabid business association Copenhagen City Center, unions like LO and the government's political reps.

Cycling is the only transport form that for a broad segment of the population can deliver speed that rivals cars in cities, zero pollution, no traffic deaths, a minimum of space on the urban landscape and it also improves public health. It is also one of the most inexpensive transport forms to expand and maintain for both society and the individual.

It simply doesn't make sense that the Commission isn't looking at how to maximize cycling and only then look at the other transport forms on a minimal basis when necessary.

Cykelrepublikken challenges every Danish transport researcher to a debate about our claim - that the goal of the Congestion Commission will never be reached through the Commission's work. The idea catalogue contains nothing that will significantly reduce congestion, noise and air pollution in the Capital Region for the government.


Cykelrepublikken has shared all the Congestion Commission's documents in a Dropbox folder so the individual can get their own overview - if what we are saying seems to bizarre to be true.

The documents can be found right here.

Welcome to The New Copenhagen.

14 January 2013

Bicycle Systems

We appreciate every kilometre of cycle track the City of Copenhagen builds. We even like their construction signs indicating that the next 120 commutes are going to include not-so-convenient detours until that cycle track is put into place.

So please, don't take it as ungrateful when we say, "you're doing it wrong." These days, phrases like bicycle planning, active transportation master plans, the bicycle network, and complete streets could fill one of those word clouds more quickly than a Dane washing down a sliver of herring with a shot of snaps. Fortunately, bicycle strategies abound in progressive urban planning. Unfortunately, few actually address the planning of bicycle infrastructure as a system, in the same way they would a new metro or bus system.

We've blogged about the new Copenhagen Metro City Ring before. No opinion on it today. I simply want to point out (the obvious) that the metro is being implemented as a system. When it's finished in 2018, there will be no missing stations, no stations that lack stairs, an elevator or an escalator to depart the station, no stop will be unnamed.

The same is true of bus systems, highways, airports. The signage, the connections, the efficiency of their infrastructure is vital to the success of those systems.

When it comes to bicycles, even the most elementary definition of infrastructure, "the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities needed for the operation of a system" has been disregarded.

The missed opportunities for increasing the number of citizen cyclists because considerations of signage, facilities, and efficiency have been ignored, are unreal. We'll take a closer look at the numbers in another post but for now just wanted to leave you with this food for thought: bicycle infrastructure is like any other transportation system, design it like you mean it.

09 January 2013

Cycle Paths & City Traffic 1945-1995 in UK, Denmark, Germany


«We are nourishing a monster of great potential destructiveness.»
Colin Buchanan, 1960. Quote referring to the car-oriented planning in a report for the Minister for Transport, UK.

It was a privilege to read, over the last few days, a thesis written by Joe Goddard - a friend of Mikael's. The thesis’ full title is “Cycle Paths and City Traffic 1945-1995” and it was a work submitted to the University of Bristol, in order to obtain the Master of Arts degree in the Faculty of Historical Studies. Amazingly, it was written back in 1995. Back then there were hardly any papers about bicycle infrastructure or bicycles at all so Mr Goddard was quite ahead of the modern curve.

Dr Joe Goddard is now Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Copenhagen. His most recent book is also fascinating:


Three countries are analysed regarding their cycling policies from 1945 to 1995: Britain, Germany and Denmark. It is important to mention that, in this fifty year period, there were several stages involved. One detail stands out immediately after reading Goddard’s work: all countries started with similar approaches to cycling.

The interesting fact, however, is that they now have totally different levels of cycling. In the author’s opinion, that happened due to four different factors throughout this 50 year period analysis:
  1. Government policies;
  2. Social factors;
  3. Industrial complex;
  4. Influence of national cycling groups.
But let’s analyse each period:

Before 1945
In all three countries the first cycle tracks were created before the war (see table below). The levels of cycling were high in that period and remained somewhat the same until late 60’s or 70’s (when the car “boom” happened). The author also refers that Denmark had a late industrialization when comparing to the other countries, and also high density agglomerations, which may be one of the causes for the cycling levels then and afterwards.

Cycle Paths & City Traffic

UK Transport Advisory Council Report - 1930s

After 1945 to late 50’s
Right after the war, the bicycle and public transport dominated urban traffic in Denmark. The country was not as destroyed by the war as several other countries were, which deeply influenced urban planning.  Moreover, since the  40’s, at least, that Denmark has the same cultural preference for bicycles and a continued proactive investment in cycling infrastructures, regardless of changes in governments. In a few words, the country was coherent when it comes to cycling and cycling policies. Curiosity: in this period, it wasn't the car that threatened levels of cycling in Denmark: it was the number of mopeds.
Cycle Paths & City Traffic
Colin Buchanan, 1960

The cycling levels in Germany had “boomed” on this post-war period. 
Social movements were influential in this period: Britain had The National Cycling Charity (CTC) and Denmark had the Danish Cyklistforbundet (DCF); on the other hand, at the time Germany had no significant cycling lobbyists.

Late 50’s to mid 70’s
In all three countries this was the car era. Cycling levels were very low and most planning models were based on the American one, due to the fact that it was associated with progress.
Cycle Paths & City Traffic
Figures for UK
 
In Germany, the cycling policies were planned at a municipality level and the national government only provided guidelines. Until the late 70’s, the government had a very low activity when it came to cycling policies.

Furthermore, with all the destruction caused by the war and subsequent rebuilding, the planning model shifted to a supposed more modern one: the American model. This meant that commutes covered longer distances, which started being covered by using a car. Cycling planning had a strong influence of motorisation, which meant that cars had the priority. The American model influence was so deep that some planners even mentioned that «it would be better if cycling didn't exist» (pg. 35).

From the 70’s to 1995
Cycling renaissance.
This is where countries started to really differ in cycling numbers. In Denmark, the bicycle regained space again mostly due to government policies. The oil crisis had a deep contribution in increasing cycling levels.

Cycle Paths & City Traffic
UK: Transport Policy - A Consultation Document - 1976

In Britain, the discussion of segregation versus integration is seen by the author as an influence on low cycling levels. Also, most cycling schemes are «localised, and commercially financed rather than socially inspired.»

Cycle Paths & City Traffic
Figures for UK

In Germany, the counter-culture started to rise as a social factor that influenced cycling lobbyism. It is very important to mention that Germany is a very particular case: the influence of the car industry and manufacturers on the whole economy was outstanding – it probably still is. Nonetheless, cycling levels are greater than in Britain, where the car industry doesn’t have as much influence as in Germany.

The author refers to the fact that cyclist lobbying levels may differ, hence the amount of influence. The social factor in Germany started to be very important in this period: cycling was seen firstly as a counter-culture.

All four factors mentioned previously had a direct influence on cycling levels. Throughout the different periods after the war, these four factors oscillated, in some cases more than others. On a final and personal note, while reading the work, it was possible to understand that some mistakes that were done by these three countries are still being done all over the globe.

However, the relevance of social movements is demonstrated in Goddard’s as being so strong that they could – and did – influence government policies on cycling.

-
Interesting facts:
Facts Britain Denmark Germany
First cycle track (year) 1937 1905 (now regarded as 1892) 1897
Segregation or integration of cycle tracks Integration Segregation ‘Radweg’ – Shared pavement between cyclists and pedestrians
Most evident cyclists movement CTC DCF The People

If you're interested in reading the pdf of the thesis, Mr Goddard has kindly made it available. You can view or download it here:
Cycle_Paths_City_Traffic_1945-1995_Joe_Goddard.pdf
Please cite Joe Goddard, of course, but also Copenhagenize if you write about it or quote from it.

Car Chaotic


Great little video from Italy, made by Ivan Conte. Look what kind of inhuman cities we have created with our primitive, vehicle-based traffic engineering over the past century or so. Pedestrians are at the mercy of the motor vehicles, sure, but at the root at the mercy of traffic engineers who fail to plan for pedestrians and cyclists.

Chaos ensues. Pollution runs riot. Cities are dead or dying ... unless we choose to think differently.

08 January 2013

Bicycle Tube Dispenser in Copenhagen

Bike tube dispenser
Our intrepid correspondant Lars Barfred spotted this bicycle tube dispenser outside Loke Cykler (a bike shop) in Griffenfeldsgade, in the Nørrebro neighbourhood.
50 kroner ($8.00) for a tube.

There's no school like the old school.

Random fact: Loke, or Loki, is a Norse god. Often regarded as a bit of a trickster, he also helps the other gods in important matters. Which is the case, it would seem, with this bicycle tube dispenser.

04 January 2013

Reflective Material on Cars. Seriously

Vienna Cycle Chic-007
Out of the many articles on the subject of rationality and logic here on the blog, you may remember our proposal for health warnings on automobiles from a while back.

Another logical idea that we have pitched around is forcing motorists to add reflective material to their cars in order for cyclists and pedestrians to see them better. It usually garners a chuckle and a "yeah, why don't we?!"

But why don't we?

It's not such a crazy idea. According to a study from Monash University Accident Research Centre in Australia (the same people who developed protective headwear for... motorists - do you have yours yet?) black cars are more likely to be involved in crashes, whilst white, gold and yellow cars are least likely to suffer the same fate.

It was a 20 year study using data from more than a whopping 850,000 accidents. That's what we like. Data to back up an idea.

Black cars are 47% more likely to be involved in crashes. Black cars were the bad guys, but the study shows that grey, silver, red and blue cars also faded into the background. That must easily cover 80% of the vehicles on the market.

Even during daylight, black cars were up to 12% more likely to get into a crash than white cars. At dawn and dusk, that figure rises to 47%.

Here's a pdf of the Monash University study.

Enter the Danish Police.

As you've probably figured out from reading this blog, the Danish Police are hardly modern visionaries when it comes to working towards liveable cities. They are one of the primary hindrances to our work.

They have, however, inadvertantly hit the nail on the head.

According to a press release on their website, all new Danish police cars from 01 January 2013 and police motorbikes under 2 years old will feature improved reflective markings. This is seen in other countries already but now it's coming to Denmark.

In addition to making the police more visible in the streets, it will increase safety and sense of safety both the citizens and the police. The cars will be easier to see...." - according to the press release.

Surprise, surprise. Although not surprising that the Danish police have proposed the same idea for all cars in the nation.

Wouldn't that be logical? Rational? Legislation - simultaneous with reduced speed limits and especially 30 km/h zones in cities - forcing cars to dress up like christmas trees and drive slower.

Are we serious about saving lives?

Anyone who works with urban design, planning or bicycle advocacy worth who is worth their salt is well aware of the folly of demanding that cyclists and pedestrians dress up like christmas trees or construction workers. The bicycle boom continues unabated and there are countless people out there trying desperately to make a buck off the trend - this is, of course, nothing new. Products that continue to sell danger and fear and instilling in the general public the profiteers desired perception of danger and fear. It's classic culture of fear tactics. Textbook stuff.

Most of the products have little conclusive evidence to back them up, not least all the ridiculous reflective gear that is swamping the market. We're not talking about reflectors on wheels or on front/bike of bikes here, by the way. We're talking about the shit that's flooded the market recently.

It's all follow the money. Which is old news, we know that.

Unfortunately, there is little money to be made in rationality and logic. As we have banged on about for years here on the blog, placing the responsibility on the most dangerous traffic users - the motorists - is the priority. Imagine if all this wasted energy on useless gear was channeled into serious advocacy to transform our cities into more liveable urban spaces.

Seriously. Imagine.

Rationality is the new black.

The Police Officers of New York City

Brooklyn Bridge The New Copenhagen - a collection of urban planning tales from a modern progressive city turned 1950s old school urban theatre - was a running theme last year. Unfortunately, our decision makers and law enforcers gave us plenty of reason for it to be. We're kicking off 2013 on a more positive note... and with that, here's the story of a brief encounter I had with the New York Police Department last summer.

It's late evening. Jens and I are cycling home from a Broadway show (Rock of Ages, unexpectedly good). We're on cloud nine from the show, the drinks, and a cool light breeze that matches our mood sweeps through the air. We've left Manhattan and are weaving our way through Brooklyn. There are no bicycle lanes, but traffic is sparse.

We come to a red light and, well, stop. Three policemen lean against the corner shop just a few metres from us. We nod. They nod back.

One of them says something to us, that neither of us hear. We (uncomfortably) smile and nod at them again, both running through a mental checklist:

Bike lights? Check.
Can they tell we've had a drink? Probably hopefully not.
Is that really a ticketable offense? Doesn't matter, we'll play the European tourist card.

Then another officer jokingly offers, "Hell, you're on bikes, there's no way we could catch you."

Third officer chimes in, "No, really, you guys go ahead. We won't ticket you."

Clueless (idiotically so, in retrospect) to what they're going on about, Jens and I sit patiently at the light, silently begging it to turn green so we can escape this awkward and confusing encounter.

A few hours later it dawns on me. Duh. They wanted us to run the red light. A free pass to run a red light.

My goodness what a lovely realisation. Logic and situational awareness. A friendly human interaction.

With bicycle cultures emerging all around the world, the gap of understanding between motorists and cyclists, law enforcement officers and cyclists, only seems to grow. Which is why that one conversation, over the course of one red light, lasts in my mind - an indication of hope for bicycles regaining respect as urban transport, and that this year, perhaps even the enforcers of The New Copenhagen will come around.

03 January 2013

World's Youngest Urbanist Again

Pepper Street. #copenhagen #crosswalk #lost
Lulu-Sophia, who I called the World's Youngest Urbanist last year and who features in my recent TED x talk from Zurich constantly fires off simple and logical observations from the urban theatre.

Yesterday we were out shopping on our cargo bike and we spotted these two red peppers that had presumably fallen off a bicycle. We chatted about them and then off we went. Lulu-Sophia was quiet for a moment and then said:

"Daddy, I bet they'll get run over and squished."

"I'm sure they will."

"I think it'll be a car that runs them over."

"Why?"

"Because cars can't see them. Cyclists can see them but the people in cars can't."

Ah, yes. Indeed.

The interaction with the urban landscape is heightened on a bicycle or on foot. And motorists can't see shit.

Lulu-Sophia's observations are always out of the blue, simple and poignant. Wonderful to see how she notices what goes on around her. Not long ago we turned off the cycle track parallel to the street onto a bicycle path through a housing development.

"Ooh! NOW it's quiet all of a sudden!"