24 June 2013

Air Pollution is Not on Political Agenda in Denmark

"Good advice for avoiding air pollution from Danish Broadcasting."

The news in Copenhagen this morning is all about air pollution. A new study once again exposes political ineptitude and lack of willingness to reduce motorised traffic in order to improve quality of life, public health and air quality. The study is in Danish, but there is an English abstract on page 12. Opens as pdf.

Basically, the report from DCE - Nationalt Center for Environment & Energy at Aarhus University - states these facts:

67 premature deaths a year in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg from pollution originating in the two municipalities.

540 premature deaths a year in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg from pollution originating in and outside the two municipalities.

1500 premature deaths a year in the Capital Region from pollution originating in and outside Denmark.


The graphic, above, also exposes the persistant Ignoring the Bull that is even rampant in Denmark. One bicycle (no cyclist), one jogger and a bunch of cars.

Toxic
Danish Broadcasting, Astma & Allergy Denmark and Danish Lung Association were kind enough to provide the graphic and ten ways to protect yourself against air pollution.

1. If you live next to a busy street, avoid airing out your home towards the street during rush hour. Air out towards the backyard instead.
Translation: Your policitians will determine whether or not you can open your windows. They are helpless at reducing traffic, despite a whole catalogue of ideas as to how to do so. If you open your windows toward the street, it's like driving without a seatbelt. It's your own damn fault if something happens. Not your politicians.

2. When you're looking for a new home, avoid buying one near a busy street. According to Denmark's Lung Assoc. there is noticeably less air pollution at least 50 m. away from a busy street.
Translation: Your politicians just made shopping for a new home easier for you. With this advice, you can cross thousands and thousands of apartments and houses in this densely-populated city off your list. Nevermind if they are close to shops, parks, schools - or basically everywhere you want to go. The cars aren't going anywhere, you moron. Choose to live there and it's your own damn fault. Not your politicians.

3. If you want to avoid as much air pollution as possible, move to the countryside.
Translation: To hell with the city. We can't change it. We can't modernise. Move to the country and drive your car into the city and let the poor morons who choose to live along your motor vehicle corridors suffer the consequenceso of your mode of transport. Turn up the radio and enjoy the drive!

4. Take your bicycle instead of the car. (Except if you moved to the countryside). In a car you are closer to the exhaust of other cars and it enters your car through the ventilation system.
Ooh. Finally some rationality. Ish.

5. Avoid busy streets in rush hour and try to find an alternative "green" route. Cyclists in Copenhagen can use many green routes.
Translation: Cars ain't going nowhere, dipshit. Everyone else please adjust your routes, taking more time to commute, because our hands our tied. Yes, it's a pain in the ass, but we don't really care.

6. If you drive a car anyway, turn off the ventilation system and roll up your windows when you're in heavy traffic or in tunnels.
Translation: We realise that so few people will actually do this, but we thought we'd chuck it in there for fun.

7. Avoid running or other demanding physical activities outside in places where there is intense air pollution - near busy streets in rush hour, for example. If you live in Copenhagen, you can find green running routes.
Translation: Stay indoors. Join a fitness club. Stay the hell off the streets. All those joggers are a pain in the ass for motorists anyway. Fewer squishy objects to worry about whilst driving.

8. If you live in an area with many wood burning stove, please note that the pollution from them is highest in the evening. If you are bothered by the smoke from your neighbour's stove, try having a chat with them to see if you can reach a consensus about solving the problem.

If it isn't possible, contact your municipality who will deal with complaints about smoke.
Translation: Just go straight to the second option, because your neighbour won't give a shit about your concerns. Althought at the end of the day you're not going to get much joy from the complicated municipal process.

9. Check the daily air quality report on the radio, text TV or the internet and plan your day according to that.
Translation: You are a slave to your politicians' incompetence. It is YOUR responsibility to keep track of air pollution and YOUR responsibility to radically alter your routes and routines in daily life. Your politicians can't help you out. You're on your own.

10. If you're travelling, you can check if there is high air pollution at your destination. If you're visiting an EU country, you can check air pollution at know knowyourairforhealth.eu.
Translation: Given the fact that cities all over Europe have had environmental zones for years, as well as congestion charges, 30 km/h zones, etc, you'll discover that much of the rest of the EU is far better off than you. Lots of great destinations to visit for healthy holidays.

I'll be borrowing a  particle measurement device from an environmental NGO - Miljøpunkt Indre By/Christianshavn in a couple of weeks in order to measure the levels of pollution inside my home - next to an intersection with over 26,000 cars a day. It'll be interesting to see what results we get.

This certainly isn't the first time we've written about air pollution.


2007: Traffic Kills Ten Times More People Than Traffic Accidents
2008: Cyclists Can Breathe Easy
2008: Intelligent Traffic Control Proposal in Copenhagen
2009: Pollution Gives us Stupid Kids
2011: Parasites and Living Lungs
2011: Massive Fall in Air Pollution During World Championships
2011: Noisy Danish Speed Demons
2012: Choke 

2012: The State of Copenhagen Congestion Part 1

Welcome to the New Copenhagen.




19 June 2013

CycleLogistics: Flooding EU Cities with Cargo Bike Goodness



When listening to presentations at this year's Velo City Conference in Vienna, Austria about various city's newly unveiled bicycle strategies, it was easy to see which will be most user-friendly and adaptive to change. Among other criteria of course, the new cycle tracks (or cycle lanes, since some presenters' cities were not onboard with the Copenhagen style...) must boast widths to accommodate cargo bikes.

To promote the cargo bikes' viability as present-day and future transport options for delivery and freight services, we are proud to serve as local partner in the EU project called CycleLogistics. We hope to work with a smorgasbord of nine other cities to replace smelly, antiquated delivery vans with gleaming new cargo bikes. The project is truly a game-changer, pushing the boundaries of bicycles for transportation.

Here's a snapshot of the innovators who represented CycleLogistics' diverse ideas, innovation, and forward thinking via a Velo City 2013 lecture entitled, "Back to the Future: Cycle Logistics and Advanced Sustainability". Their bike enterprises and projects are hitting the ground running. A return to the Dutch or Danish heyday of cycle-led logistics can and will return like a tide.



Outspoken Delivery-- Rob King represents Outspoken Delivery from Cambridge, UK. Why rely on heavy, polluting trucks when this delivery service can pick up goods from city outskirts and deliver them within the city? The service is called "last-mile delivery"-- goods are consolidated, instead of relying on vans that on average are only half full. The goal is to create transit hubs outside the city, where trucks would load cargo onto delivery bicycles instead of vans. But just how much could a bike carry, you ask?...A hefty 250kg with one model and 60kg with another. Check out the presentation slides and don't miss the snazzy video embedded in the Prezi, while you're at it.

Susanne Wrighton of FGM-Amor & Franz Hoelzl of Spar Salzburg, Austria discussed a local initiative from major food retailer, SPAR. Their Bike & Buy campaigns encourage shoppers to do just what the name entails. In total, the 15 Shop by Bike campaigns orchestrated by CycleLogistics will reach up to 3000 people in pilot projects of 1-2 months. Susanne Wrighton and mobility research/ communication company, FGM-Amor in Graz, Austria enlisted 400 participants to shop only by bike. 9 out of 10 said they would continue using their bicycles to return home from shopping after the program's end. Even better, 7 out of 10 said they would cycle for other uses and to other places. Biking is, as we know, infectious.

Retail companies are also jumping on the cargo bike band wagon, as Ton Daggers describes, owner of International Bicycle Consultancy from the Netherlands. His work begins by asking whether bicycles can take the place of conventional traffic vans within cities. His answer, of course, is yes. His company has promoted bicycles for the last 20 years. The bikes he showcases in his presentation are used within the fleet of "big box" retailers and other commercial entities. Some of the bicycles are two-person outfits that enable the transport of even larger quantities of goods. Wouldn't it be cozy to buy a bed from Ikea with your partner and rest assured (no pun intended) that you wouldn't need to get a hold of a car to transport it to your new home?



Originally working from the angle of positive health and movement promotion, Dr. Randy Rzewnicki now works on several projects with the European Cyclists' Federation, based in Belgium. With pure joy and enormous enthusiasm he documented the diverse array of cargo bikes he's seen during his first couple days at Velo City--at the bicycle fashion show, in city streets, and represented in media. He described how DHL now uses cargo bikes to deliver mail and packages. When they buy these bikes, they make a corporate promise to use the bicycle to actually replace one of their vans. Additionally, the FahrRADhaus or "Bicycle House" (play on the word: rathaus or City Hall) was transported to the festival site entirely by bicycle, making it the largest structure moved by cargo bicycle.

Photo by: Sebastian Philipp -- http://www.fahrradwien.at/fahrradhaus/
Their work shows what I wrote earlier: that a city's bicycle plan is only as good as their provisions to accommodate the growth of cargo bike-based business endeavors. The bikes are as eye-catching as they are useful and their business models will stand the test of time and the test of a world switching to non-carbon sources. They will do so with simplicity and ease of use.

CycleLogistics works across borders for cargo bike promotion. For more information, you can like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, watch their videos on Vimeo, or read more on their official website. You can also learn more about our partner cities and the passionate people who make it all possible.

14 June 2013

The Choreography of an Urban Intersection




Part 1 - On bicycles & Behaviour

“Think of a city and what comes to mind? Its streets”. The oft-quoted words of Jane Jacobs from her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities ring true even in 2013. Throughout time, there have been key urbanists who are not satisfied with municipal jobs, tucked away from the citizens. These are the urban superheros. The almost mythic figures like Jacobs or William Whyte who intimately know our cities. 


A little over a year ago, we blogged about an exciting new project to honour these thinkers’ legacies. We put their methods into action in novel and exciting ways. We study the bicycle users' intricacies on a greater scale than ever before.

Enter a simple video camera, an ordinary intersection, and more than 16,000 bicycle users. “The Bicycle Choreography of an Urban Intersection—an anthropological study” was born.

Over 200 hours were logged by anthropologist Agnete Suhr as she studied 12 hours of video footage from our camera’s vantage point above two streets: Godthåbsvej and Nordre Fasanvej. Pedro Madruga logged hundreds of his own hours making sense of the raw data. The result? A delicious mélange of anthropological observation, video ethnography, and quantitative sense-making. There is something ground-breaking here. It is one thing to advocate for people-centered planning. Quite another to get our hands dirty and investigate methods to better accomplish this feat. We classify and categorize the bicycle users’ “desire lines” throughout the intersection. Where they go, but also how they get there. 

Are bicycle users really the two-wheeled tyrants that popular media and common conceptions pin them as? Yup. We’re closing up shop…Just kidding. Three major “types” of bicycle users emerge, separating the steady stream of bicycles into a diverse and differentiated bunch. Each “type” uses the urban theater differently, like the people William Whyte captures on film in the plaza of the Seagram Building in New York City.

Now, in this three part series, we are proud to present you with the study’s most pertinent findings. Stay tuned for the full document’s unveiling in the last segment. This is no fancifully-designed paperweight. We hope that traffic engineers, city planners, flaneurs of all sorts, urban fanciers, and elected officials alike will take interest and make our ‘Copenhagenize Fixes’ a reality.


Let’s begin with what we’ve learned about the users’ behaviours through the intersection. The next edition describes the results of the “number crunching” that came out of studying all these choices and so-called “rule-breaking” behaviours. Our final words cover the infrastructure improvements that we believe will work with these users’ movements and truly transform planners’ prioritization of urban space.

So let’s dive in…What interested us most after hours in front of the video screen? What was remarkable or noteworthy? We focus on bicycle users, but the full document reports on all who were in the road that spring day.

Mixing desires
Desire lines. The footsteps (or wheel rotations) marking movements outside of the mainstream, pre-decided paths. French philosopher, Gaston Bachelard coined the term ‘desire paths’ in 1958. We pay homage to Bachelard and the urban visionary Michel de Certeau by spotting these fleeting desire lines. When stepping outside of the “normal” movements, it was fascinating to watch when bicycle users’ posture shifted. Tiny changes that help facilitate communication amongst other road users. Look for them while you walk or ride.

Occasionally, bicycle users needed to cut through pedestrian crosswalks to change routes. They would either stay on their bicycle, “scoot” along with one foot on the pedal while the other pushes off from the asphalt, or hop off entirely and walk across. In choosing the one of the first two options, the bicycle user sits straighter, glances around more frequently, and generally makes his or her presence known. They resume their normal position once they are again in the cycle-only space. We do not advocate the willy-nilly mixing of road users, yet these small encounters show the lack of drama between pedestrians and bicycle users. They communicate with subtle body language and voila! Safe passage for all. The tape showed no events of angry pedestrians cursing at bicycle users, or similar over-the-top encounters that have become the anti-bike, apocalyptic visions of so many hesitant to embrace bicycles in city streets. Conflicts do occur--and Copenhagen could do a lot more to treat pedestrians with the same level of courtesy that they do cyclists—but our video ethnography revealed no such occurrences.

Pedestrians continuously entered the crossings from the very edges or off the white stripes entirely. As they crossed, sometimes their paths curved in the center, so that they walked in the middle of the stripe by the time they reached the road’s center.

“Follow the leader”
Movement throughout city space is a funny thing because users act according to their own wishes, yet these choices are influenced by others’ movements and choices. We observed this “follow the leader” spirit when bicycle users chose to wait either before or after the stop line at traffic signals. Time after time again, we saw the first person at a light set the precedent for the cyclists who joined them there. If one waited in front of the stop line—while making a box turn, say—rather than the customary position behind the line, small bicycle packs formed nearer this ‘first mover’. If the first mover positioned themselves behind the line, the bicycles who joined them at the light frequently waited behind the light as well, instead of going past the line.



Like the “scooting” cyclist we discuss above, these bicycle users are (perhaps unbeknownst to them) using subtle body language to coexist together. It is fascinating to watch how their movements relate to one another and how their paths intertwine in surprising ways.


Try it next time. Note where you stop and let us know. Are these behavior patterns similar in other cities or not? If one bike stopped at a red light starts to “crawl” forward at a light to roll past the stop line, do others follow? Our own observations saw others “crawl” forward as well. Fascinating fodder for any number of other urban experiments.

The three bicyce users you might meet on Copenhagen’s cycle tracks
Our office has ridden bicycles in 70 cities around the world. It is an understatement to say we are confident in Copenhageners' well-behaved bicycle behaviour. Having the infrastructure to follow, means they will stick to these paths. No surprise here!

So who are these mysterious Citizen Cyclists making their way around Copenhagen? We’ve devoted our work to catering to their needs, telling their stories in the cities where we ride, and generally trying to export their experiences elsewhere. So it makes sense to take an “up-close and personal” glance into how they travel. “Those damn cyclists!” as it turns out, are much more heterogeneous than the average person might think.

Conformists—93% of observed users. They follow the rules. Generally very precisely. They stick to the paths laid down in front of them and follow the traffic signals and road markings how they were intended to be used. Even if the rules governing cyclists were mainly car-centric in origin.

Momentumists—6% of observed users. They follow their desire to keep a steady flow and make adjustments accordingly, including turning right on red or carefully riding through a pedestrian crossing (See the above section for more on this).

Recklists—1% of observed users. The original wild urban poster child for the “bad” cyclist: riding through red lights and turning left like a car. In contrast with the legal method of riding straight through an intersection, turning 90 degrees and halting at the light before continuing in the new direction.

Of the rule breaking we observed, the majority (53%) occurred as bicycle users “crawled” past lines at red lights. Not so grave an infraction as some associate with urban bicyclists. The physical environment (segregated cycle infrastructure) and influence of other road users (stopping location—see previous section) combine to shape cyclist behaviour. In building bicycle culture in other cities, we can use these findings as powerful tools. They show insight into the building blocks for safe, respectful, and successful bicycle mainstreaming.


Part Two - Numbers Speak Louder Than Words



Here, we take the quantitative data from the study and tell a story about our cities. A story about how to understand allegedly ‘rule-bending’ behaviour to discover how municipalities can better relate to these users and the desires of all on our roads today.

Thanks to some solid work by data wunderkind Pedro Madruga, we were able to visualize the finer details of the 16,631 bicycle users’ movements. Let’s return to the three “types” of Copenhagen cyclists that we introduced in the previous section: Conformists (93%), Momentumists (6%), Recklists (1%). The major reason why cyclists bend rules is to keep their momentum. As stated in the previous installment, bicycle users who bend the rules use a posture change that lets them communicate with others. Their more upright and alert position says they are aware of their infraction and the disturbance will soon dissipate. Cycling or scooting through pedestrian crossings made up 19% of the observed occurrences of rule bending and showed examples of these posture changes. The majority (53%) of the minor rule bending occurred as bicycles rolled past stop lines. As they “crawled” over the official stopping area, other bicycles often joined, their behaviour was influenced by the first bicycle’s position at the light. 


We dissected the presence of momentumist behaviour according to travel direction to investigate whether road design has an effect on prevalence of momentumists. Based on similar ratios in all directions, these differences in road design did not seem to influence the rule bending behaviour. Cyclists still bended rules to save momentum. Contrarily, the left turns from North to East had the lowest rule bending ratio: 1% (2 momentumists out of 329 conformists).

When turning right, the most frequently occurring “momentumist” behaviour was turning right on red. Something that is already legal (or changing soon) in many other cities. When turning left, the most common infraction occurred as momentumists saved time by cycling through the crosswalk.
Not even the Recklists were truly “reckless” all of the time. 82% were classified with the ‘other momentumists’ data, so the second largest infraction was running a yellow light while it was turning red (10% of infractions).

In the next section, we will explain  our own “Copenhagenize Fixes” that take these rule bending behaviours into account and work with the 16,631 road users’ movements. One other important detail, often overlooked by traffic planners, is the simple U-turn. 35 were observed throughout the 12 hour observation period. 32 of these 35 occurred in a pedestrian crossing and the remaining 3 took place before the cyclist reached the crosswalk. We believe that deviations such as U-turns, cycling through pedestrian crosswalks, turning right on red lights, and walking outside of walkways are not opportunities for increased policing of cyclists or pedestrians. Instead they are opportunities for city and traffic planners to be more creative with the services they deliver to road users.

We couldn’t be more excited about sharing these fixes with you because of the pragmatic solutions they deliver. They may not fit every city. That is where urban thinkers in every city come in. “Old-fashioned” observation, analysis, and follow-up studies show new ways forward in urban planning. Ironically by returning to the “old” ways.


Part 3 - Copenhagenize Fixes


We now present our “Copenhagenize Fixes”. These fixes are quite simple, but we believe, will go a long way in working with traffic behaviours, instead of policing them.
The graphic above shows the following improvements to the streetscape. Each desire line is given a different letter as a label. The numbers are the number of bicycle users. Two numbers? The first is a mounted bicycle user and the second, a person walking their bike (example: through an intersection).

For bicycle users:

-Bicycle path is extended parallel to the pedestrian crossing, on the inside of the intersection:
We create a safe space for bicycle users to make U-turns, while respecting the traffic flow and infrastructure. As the diagram shows, the edges are curved to facilitate their turning movements. Since the paint follows them through the crossing, the bicycle users are protected from automobile traffic.

-Car stop line is pushed back five metres:
Bicycle users roll past the stop line to distance themselves from cars. Pushing the stop line away from the bicycle users creates more space for cyclists and would probably result in more conformist behaviour, since more than 90% of bicycle users respect the existing infrastructure.

-Additional traffic signal:
Most intersections in Frederiksberg/Copenhagen come equipped with traffic signals, so adding one here closes a missing link in the city’s overall traffic design.

For pedestrians:
-Crossing design:
The crosswalk edges wing out to match the places where pedestrians are most likely to enter the crossing. Throughout our observations, we noted people's tendency to enter the crosswalk from the edges of the white stripes, or step into the crosswalk from the outside of the lines entirely.

The pedestrian crossing is a lower-tech version of the Ergo Crosswalk designed by Jae Min Lim that we blogged about a few years back.

After publishing this document, we've thought more about design possibilities that would push the envelope for this intersection and others throughout the city. Another reason why the document cannot be viewed as a static product of our observations, but the tip of the planning iceberg. A path to new ideas that we will keep developing over time. So while these ideas incubate, we'll keep an eye peeled out our window and in city streets for how best to direct the choreography that blissfully surrounds us.



Read here our report: "The Bicycle Choreography of an Urban Intersection: an Anthropological Study" and let us know what you think.

13 June 2013

The Choreography of an Urban Intersection - Part Three: Copenhagenize Fixes



This is where we believe it all comes together. As the previous two installments in this series have demonstrated, Copenhagenize Design Co. is unveiling a document to help analyse the intracacies at work in urban spaces. In fact, a fascinating intersection out of our very own window. We show that developing alternatives to mainstream traffic planning is possible with basic equipment and hours to devote to studying human movement patterns.

 Without further ado, we now present our “Copenhagenize Fixes”. These fixes are quite simple, but we believe, will go a long way in working with traffic behaviours, instead of policing them.
The graphic above shows the following improvements to the streetscape. Each desire line is given a different letter as a label. The numbers are the number of bicycle users. Two numbers? The first is a mounted bicycle user and the second, a person walking their bike (example: through an intersection).

For bicycle users:

-Bicycle path is extended parallel to the pedestrian crossing, on the inside of the intersection:
We create a safe space for bicycle users to make U-turns, while respecting the traffic flow and infrastructure. As the diagram shows, the edges are curved to facilitate their turning movements. Since the paint follows them through the crossing, the bicycle users are protected from automobile traffic.

-Car stop line is pushed back five metres:
Bicycle users roll past the stop line to distance themselves from cars. Pushing the stop line away from the bicycle users creates more space for cyclists and would probably result in more conformist behaviour, since more than 90% of bicycle users respect the existing infrastructure.

-Additional traffic signal:
Most intersections in Frederiksberg/Copenhagen come equipped with traffic signals, so adding one here closes a missing link in the city’s overall traffic design.

For pedestrians:
-Crossing design:
The crosswalk edges wing out to match the places where pedestrians are most likely to enter the crossing. Throughout our observations, we noted people's tendency to enter the crosswalk from the edges of the white stripes, or step into the crosswalk from the outside of the lines entirely.

The pedestrian crossing is a lower-tech version of the Ergo Crosswalk designed by Jae Min Lim that we blogged about a few years back.

After publishing this document, we've thought more about design possibilities that would push the envelope for this intersection and others throughout the city. Another reason why the document cannot be viewed as a static product of our observations, but the tip of the planning iceberg. A path to new ideas that we will keep developing over time. So while these ideas incubate, we'll keep an eye peeled out our window and in city streets for how best to direct the choreography that blissfully surrounds us.

12 June 2013

The Choreography of an Urban Intersection - Part Two: Numbers Speak Louder Than Words




If you’re just tuning in, this series is dedicated to sharing a snippet of the main findings of our report entitled, “The Bicycle Choreography of an Urban Intersection—an anthropological study”. At the end of the series, we will unveil this report for the first time. Our first segment described behavioural findings from the study. The finer details of the urban theater and what we think really makes ordinary movements “come alive”: micro-communication through body language, subtle shifting at stop lines, and any number of other minute details discovered through close observation. Here, we take the quantitative data from the study and tell a story about our cities. A story about how to understand allegedly ‘rule-bending’ behaviour to discover how municipalities can better relate to these users and the desires of all on our roads today.

Thanks to some solid work by data wunderkind Pedro Madruga, we were able to visualize the finer details of the 16,631 bicycle users’ movements. Let’s return to the three “types” of Copenhagen cyclists that we introduced in the previous section: Conformists (93%), Momentumists (6%), Recklists (1%). The major reason why cyclists bend rules is to keep their momentum. As stated in the previous installment, bicycle users who bend the rules use a posture change that lets them communicate with others. Their more upright and alert position says they are aware of their infraction and the disturbance will soon dissipate. Cycling or scooting through pedestrian crossings made up 19% of the observed occurrences of rule bending and showed examples of these posture changes. The majority (53%) of the minor rule bending occurred as bicycles rolled past stop lines. As they “crawled” over the official stopping area, other bicycles often joined, their behaviour was influenced by the first bicycle’s position at the light. 


We dissected the presence of momentumist behaviour according to travel direction to investigate whether road design has an effect on prevalence of momentumists. Based on similar ratios in all directions, these differences in road design did not seem to influence the rule bending behaviour. Cyclists still bended rules to save momentum. Contrarily, the left turns from North to East had the lowest rule bending ratio: 1% (2 momentumists out of 329 conformists).

When turning right, the most frequently occurring “momentumist” behaviour was turning right on red. Something that is already legal (or changing soon) in many other cities. When turning left, the most common infraction occurred as momentumists saved time by cycling through the crosswalk.
Not even the Recklists were truly “reckless” all of the time. 82% were classified with the ‘other momentumists’ data, so the second largest infraction was running a yellow light while it was turning red (10% of infractions).

In the next section, we will explain  our own “Copenhagenize Fixes” that take these rule bending behaviours into account and work with the 16,631 road users’ movements. One other important detail, often overlooked by traffic planners, is the simple U-turn. 35 were observed throughout the 12 hour observation period. 32 of these 35 occurred in a pedestrian crossing and the remaining 3 took place before the cyclist reached the crosswalk. We believe that deviations such as U-turns, cycling through pedestrian crosswalks, turning right on red lights, and walking outside of walkways are not opportunities for increased policing of cyclists or pedestrians. Instead they are opportunities for city and traffic planners to be more creative with the services they deliver to road users.

We couldn’t be more excited about sharing these fixes with you because of the pragmatic solutions they deliver. They may not fit every city. That is where urban thinkers in every city come in. “Old-fashioned” observation, analysis, and follow-up studies show new ways forward in urban planning. Ironically by returning to the “old” ways.

11 June 2013

The Choreography of an Urban Intersection - Part One: On Bicycles & Behavior




“Think of a city and what comes to mind? Its streets”. The oft-quoted words of Jane Jacobs from her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities ring true even in 2013. Throughout time, there have been key urbanists who are not satisfied with municipal jobs, tucked away from the citizens. These are the urban superheros. The almost mythic figures like Jacobs or William Whyte who intimately know our cities. 


A little over a year ago, we blogged about an exciting new project to honour these thinkers’ legacies. We put their methods into action in novel and exciting ways. We study the bicycle users' intricacies on a greater scale than ever before.

Enter a simple video camera, an ordinary intersection, and more than 16,000 bicycle users. “The Bicycle Choreography of an Urban Intersection—an anthropological study” was born.

Over 200 hours were logged by anthropologist Agnete Suhr as she studied 12 hours of video footage from our camera’s vantage point above two streets: Godthåbsvej and Nordre Fasanvej. Pedro Madruga logged hundreds of his own hours making sense of the raw data. The result? A delicious mélange of anthropological observation, video ethnography, and quantitative sense-making. There is something ground-breaking here. It is one thing to advocate for people-centered planning. Quite another to get our hands dirty and investigate methods to better accomplish this feat. We classify and categorize the bicycle users’ “desire lines” throughout the intersection. Where they go, but also how they get there. 

Are bicycle users really the two-wheeled tyrants that popular media and common conceptions pin them as? Yup. We’re closing up shop…Just kidding. Three major “types” of bicycle users emerge, separating the steady stream of bicycles into a diverse and differentiated bunch. Each “type” uses the urban theater differently, like the people William Whyte captures on film in the plaza of the Seagram Building in New York City.

Now, in this three part series, we are proud to present you with the study’s most pertinent findings. Stay tuned for the full document’s unveiling in the last segment. This is no fancifully-designed paperweight. We hope that traffic engineers, city planners, flaneurs of all sorts, urban fanciers, and elected officials alike will take interest and make our ‘Copenhagenize Fixes’ a reality.


Let’s begin with what we’ve learned about the users’ behaviours through the intersection. The next edition describes the results of the “number crunching” that came out of studying all these choices and so-called “rule-breaking” behaviours. Our final words cover the infrastructure improvements that we believe will work with these users’ movements and truly transform planners’ prioritization of urban space.

So let’s dive in…What interested us most after hours in front of the video screen? What was remarkable or noteworthy? We focus on bicycle users, but the full document reports on all who were in the road that spring day.

Mixing desires
Desire lines. The footsteps (or wheel rotations) marking movements outside of the mainstream, pre-decided paths. French philosopher, Gaston Bachelard coined the term ‘desire paths’ in 1958. We pay homage to Bachelard and the urban visionary Michel de Certeau by spotting these fleeting desire lines. When stepping outside of the “normal” movements, it was fascinating to watch when bicycle users’ posture shifted. Tiny changes that help facilitate communication amongst other road users. Look for them while you walk or ride.

Occasionally, bicycle users needed to cut through pedestrian crosswalks to change routes. They would either stay on their bicycle, “scoot” along with one foot on the pedal while the other pushes off from the asphalt, or hop off entirely and walk across. In choosing the one of the first two options, the bicycle user sits straighter, glances around more frequently, and generally makes his or her presence known. They resume their normal position once they are again in the cycle-only space. We do not advocate the willy-nilly mixing of road users, yet these small encounters show the lack of drama between pedestrians and bicycle users. They communicate with subtle body language and voila! Safe passage for all. The tape showed no events of angry pedestrians cursing at bicycle users, or similar over-the-top encounters that have become the anti-bike, apocalyptic visions of so many hesitant to embrace bicycles in city streets. Conflicts do occur--and Copenhagen could do a lot more to treat pedestrians with the same level of courtesy that they do cyclists—but our video ethnography revealed no such occurrences.

Pedestrians continuously entered the crossings from the very edges or off the white stripes entirely. As they crossed, sometimes their paths curved in the center, so that they walked in the middle of the stripe by the time they reached the road’s center.

“Follow the leader”
Movement throughout city space is a funny thing because users act according to their own wishes, yet these choices are influenced by others’ movements and choices. We observed this “follow the leader” spirit when bicycle users chose to wait either before or after the stop line at traffic signals. Time after time again, we saw the first person at a light set the precedent for the cyclists who joined them there. If one waited in front of the stop line—while making a box turn, say—rather than the customary position behind the line, small bicycle packs formed nearer this ‘first mover’. If the first mover positioned themselves behind the line, the bicycles who joined them at the light frequently waited behind the light as well, instead of going past the line.



Like the “scooting” cyclist we discuss above, these bicycle users are (perhaps unbeknownst to them) using subtle body language to coexist together. It is fascinating to watch how their movements relate to one another and how their paths intertwine in surprising ways.


Try it next time. Note where you stop and let us know. Are these behavior patterns similar in other cities or not? If one bike stopped at a red light starts to “crawl” forward at a light to roll past the stop line, do others follow? Our own observations saw others “crawl” forward as well. Fascinating fodder for any number of other urban experiments.

The three bicyce users you might meet on Copenhagen’s cycle tracks
Our office has ridden bicycles in 70 cities around the world. It is an understatement to say we are confident in Copenhageners' well-behaved bicycle behaviour. Having the infrastructure to follow, means they will stick to these paths. No surprise here!

So who are these mysterious Citizen Cyclists making their way around Copenhagen? We’ve devoted our work to catering to their needs, telling their stories in the cities where we ride, and generally trying to export their experiences elsewhere. So it makes sense to take an “up-close and personal” glance into how they travel. “Those damn cyclists!” as it turns out, are much more heterogeneous than the average person might think.

Conformists—93% of observed users. They follow the rules. Generally very precisely. They stick to the paths laid down in front of them and follow the traffic signals and road markings how they were intended to be used. Even if the rules governing cyclists were mainly car-centric in origin.

Momentumists—6% of observed users. They follow their desire to keep a steady flow and make adjustments accordingly, including turning right on red or carefully riding through a pedestrian crossing (See the above section for more on this).

Recklists—1% of observed users. The original wild urban poster child for the “bad” cyclist: riding through red lights and turning left like a car. In contrast with the legal method of riding straight through an intersection, turning 90 degrees and halting at the light before continuing in the new direction.

Of the rule breaking we observed, the majority (53%) occurred as bicycle users “crawled” past lines at red lights. Not so grave an infraction as some associate with urban bicyclists. The physical environment (segregated cycle infrastructure) and influence of other road users (stopping location—see previous section) combine to shape cyclist behaviour. In building bicycle culture in other cities, we can use these findings as powerful tools. They show insight into the building blocks for safe, respectful, and successful bicycle mainstreaming.

Up next: Get your calculators ready because we’ll show you the numbers behind our behavioural observations.

08 June 2013

Bicycle Seats at the Library

Bike Seat at the Library
Spotted this example of bicycle-related micro-design at our local library today. Carts for use in the library equipped with bicycle seats.

Prams in Copenhagen are like SUVs and too many of them in the library creates congestion. So, the dad or mum can put the kid in the bike seat and wander about the library looking for books to borrow.

Nice.

05 June 2013

Advertising Municipal Ineptitude

Ignoring the Bull
Cities use various methods in order to draw attention to themselves. Tourism campaigns, posters on busstops to advertise events or municipal services. City Branding is also a thing. Countries and organisations do the same. Usually the money is spent on highlighting positive angles.

What often goes unnoticed is that cities have a tendency to spend taxpayer money on broadcasting the sad and undeniable fact that they are completely inept at keeping the streets safe. They try, unsuccessfully, to thinly disguise their incompetence as "safety" campaigns.

Consider the simple idea of school crossing guards. It's a concept well-known around the world. Hey, I used to be one back in the day (and I remembering hating having to do it). I was waiting at the crosswalk by Lulu and Felix's school in Frederiksberg yesterday morning. Waiting for the lovely kids to step out and block the cars and bicycles to allow us to cross.

Then I realised... the concept of school crossing guards are merely an advertisement for municipal ineptitude. The city is telling us in no uncertain terms that they have completely given up on making streets safer - and quite possibly they are unwilling to do so. They even enlist children to help get their message across.

Let's face it, if a city had safe, human streets with intelligently low speed limits and a sincere will to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists then they wouldn't need school crossing guards.


Here is a recent sign (April 2016) from Berlin. Big, expensive, taxpayer-funded sign boldly declaring that Berlin is unwilling to provide safe infrastructure for cyclists.

The sign reads, "2015: 10 cyclists killed by passing cars. Minimum 1.5 meter distance".

Right there in lights. Berlin announcing that they don't really give a damn about cyclist safety.

Unfortunately, many cities, as well as most traffic eningeers and even some planners still dictate the status quo of our car-centric streets. Even in Denmark. The police don't help much either.

Ignoring the Bull
To further my point, the City of Frederiksberg slapped these stickers all over the city recently. They read, "Cross at the Intersection". The helpful arrows direct you anywhere between 100-400 metres to the nearest intersection. They are placed in locations where people try to cross the street.

This city is the most densely populated city in Denmark. 90,000 people in the heart of Copenhagen. 65% of the households don't own cars. Most of the local mobility is done on bicycles, on foot or by public transport. Most of my daily errands involve going to local shops, schools, football facilities, etc. But never mind all that... the City still caters to the automotive minority as though it's 1963. This is another recent example from Frederiksberg.

With it's placement as a municipal island surrounded by Copenhagen, Frederiksberg is riddled with "parasites" - motorists who merely feed off the roads leading through the city without contributing anything to the life of the city or its neighbourhoods. The way the City allows the parasites to flow freely through its veins - despite an entire catalogue of ideas about how to stop or restrict them - is shockingly so last century.

Ignoring the Bull
Fortunately, the citizens are on to them. Someone added a text to one of the stickers, reading: "Frederiksberg loves cars more than you".

Ignoring the Bull - Frederiksberg
It's not, however, like it's the first time. Here's a "keep the cars safe from squishy humans" campaign from a couple of years back. Stickers (badly stuck so pedestrians can trip on them for added drama) reading, "Watch out for yourself" or ""take care of yourself" were stuck onto pedestrian crossings.

Given the population density and car volume in Frederiksberg, the entire city would be a 30 km/h zone - if it were placed in almost any other EU country. Just in: By September 2013, 37% of Paris streets will be 20 or 30 km/h zones.

Car Friendly Traffic Campaign
The City has also previously allowed the greatest car sales organisation in Denmark - The Danish Road Safety Council - to place these stencils on cycle tracks in the city. They read "Watch the side streets" and we've written about this car-friendly campaign before. The cars coming off the side streets have to watch for traffic but the City boldly declared to all that they were unwilling to do anything about anything.

This is not the first city to spend money advertising their incompetence, nor do their ridiculous car-centric campaigns match the fantastically stupid Pedestrian Flag programs in the US, where certain cities declare their ineptitude to the world.

Of course, in New York it's bigger and better. The city there employs high-end marketing techniques to broadcast the message that they are helpless.

It's not all bicycle/pedestrian related either. An expensive campaign in the US focuses on the high death rate of young people in automobiles. No mention of removing traffic engineers from their posts and starting a class action lawsuit against them - no, no... just start a funky campaign - Alive at 25.

Sadly, Ignoring the Bull is still rampant.

01 June 2013

LEGO Urban Infill

The Kids Want the City Back
It's not just about bicycles as transport. The city needs lots of important things. More colour. More citizen interaction. More cinemas, for example. So Felix and I decided to do something about it. There was the perfect little hole in the wall across the street from us, in a doorway. Last December, we decided that a bit of urban infill would be just the ticket. We agreed that we needed a cinema closer to home.
The Kids Want the City Back
We measured the hole and went home to build our Lego Cinema, returning to glue it in place. The kid taking the city back.

The Kids Want the City Back
Because we can.

Lego
I recalled that a few years ago the Danish Architecture Center (I think) put up tables on City Hall Square along with a fantastic amount of white Lego bricks. Passersby stopped up and built whatever their heart desired. The Felix and I spent a good couple of hours there.
Chess Set
Continuing on the LEGO theme, Felix and I made this chess set five years ago. We still have it and use it.
Lego Chess