29 July 2013

Episode 03 - Intermodality - Top 10 Design Elements in Copenhagen's Bicycle Culture


Here in Episode 03 of our series produced by über intern Ivan Conte we explore how Intermodality is a key to Copenhagen's success as a bicycle-friendly city.

You should be able to have your bicycle with you from the moment you leave your home until you get back - all day and night long - without a hitch.

Intermodality, when done right, is Supermodality.



FILM SERIES: TOP TEN DESIGN ELEMENTS IN BICYCLE-FRIENDLY COPENHAGEN
- EPISODE 01 - THE BIG PICTURE
- EPISODE 02 - THE GREEN WAVE
- EPISODE 03 - INTERMODALITY
- EPISODE 04 - SAFETY DETAILS
- EPISODE 05 - NØRREBROGADE
- EPISODE 06 - MACRO DESIGN
- EPISODE 07 - MICRO DESIGN
- EPISODE 08 - CARGO BIKES
- EPISODE 09 - DESIRE LINES
- EPISODE 10 - POLITICAL WILL

22 July 2013

Episode 02 - The Green Wave - Top 10 Design Elements in Copenhagen's Bicycle Culture


Here we are with Episode 02 in our series about what design elements it takes to make Copenhagen a bicycle-friendly city.

Pedro Madruga, Environmental Engineer at Copenhagenize Design Co., talks about The Green Wave.

The Green Wave is coordinated traffic lights for cyclists. Ride 20 km/h and you won't put a foot down on your journey into the city centre in the morning and home again in the afternoon.

On Nørrebrogade, the first street to feature the Green Wave, the number of cyclists increased by 15%. Traffic flow in the intense morning bicycle rush hour was improved, providing Citizen Cyclists with a smoother, more efficient journey.

Now, several major arteries leading to the city centre in Copenhagen feature the Green Wave for cyclists.

Think bicycle first and you're on your way to a more bicycle-friendly city. The Green Wave is a key Design Element in the City of Copenhagen.

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Here is a film we made back in 2009, riding the Green Wave.

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FILM SERIES: TOP TEN DESIGN ELEMENTS IN BICYCLE-FRIENDLY COPENHAGEN
- EPISODE 01 - THE BIG PICTURE
- EPISODE 02 - THE GREEN WAVE
- EPISODE 03 - INTERMODALITY
- EPISODE 04 - SAFETY DETAILS
- EPISODE 05 - NØRREBROGADE
- EPISODE 06 - MACRO DESIGN
- EPISODE 07 - MICRO DESIGN
- EPISODE 08 - CARGO BIKES
- EPISODE 09 - DESIRE LINES
- EPISODE 10 - POLITICAL WILL

17 July 2013

Lulu and the Life-Sized City

Some of you may remember the article about The World's Youngest Urbanist - Lulu-Sophia - a couple of years back. Since then, Lulu-Sophia continues to fire off brilliant, simple and rational observations about her life in Copenhagen. Many of them are simple observations.

We were riding down the cycle track along a busy street once and then turned off onto a bike path through a park. "Ooh, Daddy! Listen to how quiet it is all of a sudden!"

Always simple but poignant. Noticing things on her urban landscape that often go unnoticed.

A few months ago, Lulu-Sophia took it to the next level. We were walking and had stopped at a pedestrian crossing, waiting to cross.

We were quiet at the moment. Lulu-Sophia's urbanist mind was, however, in full swing.

She looked up at me and said, quite simply, "When will my city fit me, Daddy?"

Fantastic. And of course, life as a child in a city is spent staring at the asses of grown ups. Garbage cans are as tall as you. The distance when crossing a street is magnified when you're that short and your legs are that small.

"Don't worry. You'll keep growing and pretty soon your city will fit you perfectly."

She was content with this answer, nodding and saying, "yeah" as she turned back to look around the streets.

As always with Lulu-Sophia's observations, she makes me think. Right then and there I started a longer thought process, wondering if my city fits ME. A process that has become constant as I move about my city and all the other cities I visit and work in.

It's an interesting way of thinking. Does my city fit me? Am I at scale on the urban landscape?

Spring Sunshine 05
If I think about Copenhagen, there are certainly places where my city fits me hand in glove. Riding along the busiest bicycle street in the world - Nørrebrogade - and crossing Dronning Louises Bridge on 5 metre wide cycle tracks, wide sidewalks and only a single car lane in each direction... I feel like my city fits me.

In the medieval city centre - like all medieval city centres... my city fits me. Cities were designed to fit us for 7000 years, after all. Things, however, are different now. Ever since we discarded all rationality and started engineering streets for automobiles.

Even in Copenhagen there are far too many places where my city doesn't fit or makes any attempt to. Consider Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard, that vast expanse of political and engineering arrogance with eight lanes of crap slicing through the heart of the capital. Even on the wide cycle tracks on this stretch, I am not at scale.

Big City Nature Intersection My Town Morning Rush Hour
Top left: Hans Christian Andersen Blvd is the place where flowers die, thanks to the emissions of over 50,000 cars a day. Top right: Looking down at an intersection, from above, you lose all sense of city and realise that the engineering Matrix is firmly in control. Bottom left: This should be the ultimate central geographic and liveable point in the city. City Hall Square. Instead, the boulevard roars through like an angry, swollen river, cutting the city in two.
Bottom right: I count around 22 individuals in motor vehicles (excluding the 60 or so on the bus). Look at the space allocated to them, compared to the 50 odd bicycle users.

Vintage Copenhagen - HC Andersens Blvd 1907 Copenhagen Rush Hour Traffic ca. 1950
It used to be different. At left is the boulevard in 1907 - read more about that here - and at right is the late 1940s/early 1950s, with wide medians.

Another place that I don't feel like my city fits is right outside my flat in the City of Frederiksberg. It's an intersection in Denmark's most densely-populated city and yet the city allows over 26,000 "parasites" to drive through. It's a dead intersection, only used for transport. It's unique in that it's the point where north-south and east-west streets meet. It's also the intersection we used for our Choreography of an Urban Intersection anthropological study.

I use this intersection several times a day and yet I certainly don't feel like my city fits me. My city doesn't seem to give a shit. They are keen to prioritize the cars and their parasties by doing things like this. The street in front of my flat used to be so much nicer. And even during my lifetime.

Ved et kryds med over 26,000 fucking biler dagligt. #ffrederiksberg #dkpol #løgn
But they still have the nerve to put up this poster at the intersection. "Frederiksberg - the healthy, pulsing, green heart of the Capital."

Thinking about other cities, there are some where I feel at scale. Amsterdam, for example. A lot of smaller cities in Denmark and the Netherlands, too. But I'm a city boy so I focus on bigger cities. Most cities have pockets where you feel like you fit, but sadly they are often few and far between.

What about your city? Do you feel like it fits you?

Lulu-Sophia, as ever, inspired me. She instigated a new way of thinking for me - and for Copenhagenize Design Co.. A new goal.

The Life-Sized City. We used to be so good at nurturing life-sized cities. We did it for 7000 years. Now it's time to do it again. With human observation and design principles.

If you follow me, Mikael, on Instagram (@zakkatography), you'll often see The Lulu going about her daily business. Often on bikes.


“Why didn’t you get out of my way?”

(This piece was written for and intended to be posted here at copenhagenize.com, but actually ended up being published on Streetsblog Los Angeles at la.streetsblog.org earlier today so as to be on their front page at the precise moment today ten years later.-Erik)


Cindy Valladares, 3


Theresa Bregalia, 50

I am going to have a hard time writing this.  Because I had really intended to take a break from what I was working on that day and head over to the Wednesday market to have lunch.  It was only a few blocks away from where I lived at the time.  And the variety of things you could find there were and still are, beyond what one finds in a typical farmer's market on any continent.  But something, I can't remember what, spurred me to postpone lunch and get some brilliant idea out of my head into my word processor.

It may have saved me.

Leroy Lattier, 55
Gloria Gonzalez, 35
I did finally take that break when I heard the helicopters. Helicopters are a common thing in Southern California. Geography and road congestion dictate it. But they are not usually a sign of good things having happened. The police use them to patrol.  The fire departments use them to transport persons needing immediate care, usually for trauma. The media use them to cover the story from above. You will know which helicopter is which, because usually the media show up first and "park" high above the area in what can only be likened to a geo-syncronous satellite staying high above a fixed spot.

Kevin McCarthy, 50 
& wife Diana , 41
Movsha Hoffman, 78
The man lived on 25th Street in Santa Monica. He was in his Eighty-Sixth year on this planet. The day was overcast and threatened rain, which it later did, when the 1992 Buick LeSabre was backed out of the driveway.  Just one-half mile (750 meters) away, across the boundary with the City of Los Angeles formed by 26th Street, was the Brentwood Country Mart with its long-extant contract post office.  Mail would have been dispatched from there at the close of the day, at 5pm or thereabouts.  But the man thought that if he took it to the main Santa Monica Post Office, the card he was mailing to his daughter would be sent on its way sooner.  This was further away and he, like many Americans, was of the firm belief, into which they have been conditioned and infra-structurally built, that the only way to make such a journey was via his private automobile. Which he probably would have also done even if he decided to go to Brentwood.  Which he did even though there was and still is a Santa Monica-operated bus that runs on Montana Street just ten or so houses away, every fifteen minutes at that time of the day, on which he could have ridden for just twenty-five cents, the "Senior Citizen" fare at the time. 

Molok Ghoulian, 62 & 
grandson Brendon Esfahani, 
7 months
Lynne Ann Weaver, 47
The car is king in Los Angeles and there are large portions of the population who would not dream of traveling by any other means. This has changed somewhat as gasoline has increased sharply in price since and credit, with which cars are usually purchased, has been more restricted. But it was the Summer of 2003 and these new realities had not arrived. Organizations who lobby for causes important to the elderly in the USA were still Ignoring the Bull in Society's China Shop.



I hope that today at 1:47pm (20:47 GMT) you will join me and take a moment to remember the lives of all ten people pictured on this page. Exactly ten years ago their lives ended just because they were at a Farmer's Market on a closed street and a man, one whose family knew he was no longer fit to operate a motor vehicle, felt he still had the absolute right to travel via automobile.  Just like many still do today.

Should you not wish to read the details of the massacre, stop here.

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Having posted the card at the main post office on Fifth Street north of Arizona Avenue, the man got back into his Buick and headed for his next destination, probably back home.  He would have been able to travel along Arizona Avenue to Fourth Street, where a small "Road Closed" sign would have prohibited travel further west.  At this point the man's Buick hit a Mercedes Benz but failed to immediately halt. Instead the man used his Buick to push the Mercedes out of the way and then began to accelerate his car down Arizona Avenue into the Farmer's Market.  He traveled 995 feet (303 m) at speeds of over 60 miles per hour (100 km/h).  It was over in seconds.  One witness said "People were being dragged under his car,”...“You could see the body parts dangling out. The whole thing was like a scene out of ‘Dante’s Inferno.’ I first heard an explosion and then I saw a body fly up in the air.”

The car finally stopped reportedly because a victims body-part  blocked the movement of a mechanical component of the Buick's undercarriage.  Nine were dead on site, a tenth died in hospital, and dozens were injured.

And as he stepped out from behind the steerin wheel on the last car he would ever drive, the man was heard to exclaim: "Why didn’t you get out of my way?"

16 July 2013

Ten Things Copenhagen Cyclists Say


(Note: Kristen Maddox was an intern for Copenhagenize Design Co. and was quickly elevated to the status of Legendary Interns in the company. She is sorely missed here at our offices.)

Danny Kaye made for an endearing H.C. Andersen in the 1952 film H.C. Andersen that tells the story of the legendary Danish author of The Little Mermaid and other fairy tales. One priceless scene: a group of sailors creaking into Copenhagen's port after a long journey, finally coming home up the Kattegat--the little bit of water hugged by Denmark and Sweden. The nostalgia in the scene is epic. Here are some of the lyrics:

On this merry night 
Let us clink and drink one down

To wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen 
Salty old queen of the sea 
Once I sailed away 
But I'm home today 
Singing Copenhagen, wonderful, wonderful 
Copenhagen for me


As a guest student here for a year to research, I always knew there would be a time when I'd have to return home to Chicago. When the Danish authorities could legally "use force, if necessary" to kick me outside the country's borders (challenge: accepted). A year learning about Danish urban planning and bicycle infrastructure felt like a tremendous amount of hours in the beginning, but like any journey, the ending feels surreal and much to soon.

There are some things I immediately know I will miss about living here. The near instant accessibility to scores of bakeries selling the kanelsnegle, for instance. An illogically delicious, simultaneously gooey and flaky, flat cinnamon bun. Other details are more fleeting: memories of conversations with Danes and other international. The color of light on the pavement after cycling home late at night.

Our work throughout this blog is dedicated to exposing these fine details to an international audience. Hence, the impossibility to squeeze these thousands of details into one small list. But here is a sampling, in no particular order, of the top ten conversations I've had regarding biking in Copenhagen. And one more thing: forgive me if the following list gets more sappy than Danny Kaye's sailor mates after a few swigs of Gammel Dansk.

1) "But of course they must have cargo bikes in Iceland!"
My friend said this in disbelief as I told her about Copenahgenize Design Co.'s quest to find the most northerly cargo bike. The fact that it seemed so odd to her that a place would not have cargo bikes was completely amazing to me.

2) "Can I please just go through this red light?!"
Internal monologue while waiting at a red traffic signal in the rain. No traffic. Past midnight. But the two people next to me were stubbornly staying put, so I did as well. Guess that thing about well-behaved, rule-following Danes is kinda true after all...

3) "Mittens...because you can't bike without gloves in Copenhagen"
Master's student from France here for her studies. She was asked to describe riding a bicycle in Copenhagen in three words. She gave "mittens" as her third word. We spoke with her in February, but her words rang true until April and were often quoted amongst colleagues.



4) "You can turn like that? I never even thought of that!"
A friend's amazement that in Chicago, we all (or nearly all, most accurately) turn "like cars" in the left hand turn lane instead of pulling through an intersection, stopping at the light after turning 90 degrees, and continuing on segregated cycle track. Turning left in Chicago is something that many a new bicycle user fears. Here, it becomes second nature.

5) "Yes, one can learn many things"
New bicycle rider at a Red Cross bicycle training course. The organisation teaches adults who have moved here from other countries and never learned to cycle as children. I was lucky enough to meet some of these people by becoming a volunteer bicycle teacher. One of the participants, a quite gifted older woman said this in Danish while gracefully sailing past me. It was one of those moments that just gives you an all-around good feeling because of the stark truth in what she was saying. Here was someone who initially was hesitant to try this thing that so many of her peers were using since childhood. But look at her now. Confident not only in biking, but in the ability of herself and people in general.

6) "I'm buying a bike when I get home!"
Australian university student's exclamation while talking about biking in Copenhagen. Before this he was saying how hardly anyone uses bicycles in his hometown. With renewed vigor, he'll go home and teach them a thing or two. And luckily, Velo City 2014 takes place in his university's backyard: Adelaide.

7) "But do you ever feel limited by transport there?"
My boyfriend in Chicago, talking to me on Skype. I could honestly answer that in my day-to-day experience, no. I feel fully able to go wherever I please in total security. At 4:00 or at 16:00. Through rain, sleet, snow, or hail. Okay, maybe I've never seen hail while living here.

8) "But what's your guys' bike culture like in Chicago?"
One of the first things my friend and classmate asked me when I told him where I was from. I remember us standing on the platform at Trekroner Station near Roskilde University, during a university organisation-led trip to Roskilde (a town a little more than 34km outside of Copenhagen). He had his bike in hand and the conversation had started to drift to topics other than biking before he interjected with this question. It felt like the most fitting thing in the world to stand in Denmark exchanging notes on bicycle mainstreaming before I had even passed the one-week mark of my stay.

The picture above shows part of an obstacle course arranged by the Danish Cyclists' Federation so that "mini Copenhageners" can practice their bicycle skills.
9) "WEEEEEEE!"
The sound of a gleeful little kid in the front of a cargo bike. All the ones I've seen are adorable. Downy, frequently blonde tiny heads poke out of cargo bike boxes. The particular case I'm thinking of was a little girl in snazzy pink sunglasses. Her arm stuck straight out in front of her. Soaring north through the neighborhood/island called Amager. Completing her completely jovial and free-wheeling image was what she held in front of her. She grasped a biscuit in her outstretched hand as if she wanted it too, to feel the freedom of flying.


10) "[stunned silence]"
So #9 and #10 are cheating, since they are just sounds. #10 cheats even more, since it depicts silence. But regardless. Imagine a caravan of bicycle rickshaws lumbering through the ordinarily quickly-paced cycle track. The drivers are young but the occupants are quite advanced in age. They are elderly folk from a local nursing home that was hooked up with a sweet rickshaw initiative called 'Cykler Uden Alder-- Cycling Without Age'. As part of an event called '100 In One Day', we rode our bikes alongside the rickshaws up the coast of Zealand to a town just north of Copenhagen, called Gentofte. The look on the first passerby's face showed pure wonder. The couple in the rickshaw were suddenly transformed into mightier figures than Queen Margrethe and Henrik, Prince Consort. The passerby simply enjoyed seeing two other people enjoying time in the fresh air.

Copenhagen, you might not notice that I've gone away from your ports and away from my spot at the Black Diamond Library, but I won't stop talking about what my country (and many others) can learn about how to create bicycle friendly cities focused on the people.

So just as I step unto the jet plane I'll run through this list one last time. But not until I check to make sure the smuggled kanelsnegle is hidden from the Beagle Brigade dogs' hungry noses.

15 July 2013

Richard's Not-so-Scarry Car Culture

I explore in my most recent TEDx Talk how the paradigm shifted. How our perception of streets changed from being accepted as a human, democratic space for 7000 years to becoming perceived as the sole and exclusive domain of automobiles.

What is clear is that people generally have a problem seeing differently. You can present them with reams and reams of statistics and evidence that cars have a destructive influence on our societies and that there are too many in our cities but you still hear the same last-century perceptions about how things can't be changed and how nothing should change. It's mind-boggling how people will deftly dance around stats like 35,000 deaths a year on the roads of America alone - and 6 million injured annually - and still come out blind to the obvious danger that citizens are exposed to. "Dude... I still want to drive my car".

In cultures that have not been given the benefit of transport choice (Hi, America!) for a couple of generations, such perceptions are sometimes stronger.

I have a pile of books from my own childhood. Among them are a number of books by Richard Scarry. Scarry's influence on childrens books was - and still is - massive. I get all nostalgic when I see his distinct drawings and many of his books were about cities.

I'm not here to out Scarry as a pawn of the automobile industry... :-) but I've noticed a theme in many of his books, when reading them for my kids over the past couple of years.

Look at the illustrations in the graphic at the top. Crazy drivers causing many accidents. All innocent enough. Car crashes portrayed as innocent, oopsy daisy events that are a common occurance in cities. Nobody gets hurt. It's all silly.

Most of the illustrations above are from a 1973 book. It's perfectly okay to use telescopes and magnifying glasses whilst driving. Driving into the harbour is no cause for alarm. Crash into a picnic and you're just an "impossible driver". Cause havoc on the many street of a tiny town and it's all just okay.

There are a couple of bike examples. Cycling while telescoping and failing to ring your bell when cornering on the sidewalk. By and large, however, it is automobiles that Scarry draws most.

I am wondering, however, about the effect on society when books like Scarry's have, for a few generations, portrayed automobile accidents as comical, crazy things. A normal part of life. Nobody gets hurt, silly rabbit.

A culture that sees a distorted view of itself in the mirror of its art and literature will end up pulling a whole lot of wool over its eyes. Do that and you can't see the Bull in Society's China Shop.

14 July 2013

Episode 01 - The Big Picture - Top 10 Design Elements in Copenhagen's Bicycle Culture


At Copenhagenize Design Co. we have the pleasure of having Ivan Conte interning for us for six months. Ivan is from Italy and he is working on his thesis whilst working with us.

Ivan is producing a series of ten films and this is the first. We wanted to explore the Top 10 Design Elements that make Copenhagen a bicycle-friendly city.

What does it take? What are the design ingredients that have been mixed together to create the bicycle-friendly Copenhagen outside our office windows?

In this first episode we talk about the Big Picture. The design of an overall network of bicycle infrastructure that prioritizes cycling, encourages citizens to choose the bicycle and that keeps them safe.

The Big Picture is the key. As we get through the other design elements episodes we'll explore the details. But this is where we start.

We'll roll out the other episodes over the next eight weeks.


FILM SERIES: TOP TEN DESIGN ELEMENTS IN BICYCLE-FRIENDLY COPENHAGEN
- EPISODE 01 - THE BIG PICTURE
- EPISODE 02 - THE GREEN WAVE
- EPISODE 03 - INTERMODALITY
- EPISODE 04 - SAFETY DETAILS
- EPISODE 05 - NØRREBROGADE
- EPISODE 06 - MACRO DESIGN
- EPISODE 07 - MICRO DESIGN
- EPISODE 08 - CARGO BIKES
- EPISODE 09 - DESIRE LINES
- EPISODE 10 - POLITICAL WILL

08 July 2013

Update: What if Car Commercials Reflected Reality?

Should car manufacturers be forced to include health warnings on their products? Read about that idea here.

Addendum: 19.07.2013.

Yesterday, two gentleman from Citroën Denmark knocked on the door. In Danish, a sudden, unannounced visit is called "fransk visit" or French visit, so that was appropriate. They were from the marketing department and they wanted to discuss, of course, the parody commercial that we had whipped together to highlight the fact that car commercials never reflect reality or fact.

We weren't suprised to hear from Citroën, but their personal visit was an interesting twist. A good, strategic move in a social media age where sober Cease & Desist letters get blogged in 4 seconds.

I invited them in, of course, and we had a pleasant chat on the sofa. They wanted, of course, the parody commercial removed. No surprise. They were sent from headquarters in Paris, who saw the parody on a Turkish blog.

They had also sent an email that morning, before coming. Here it is:

It has come to our attention that your blog copenhagenize.com operated by Copenhagenize Design Co. is displaying and promoting content of an derogatory and offending nature to the brand Citroën. Further the content is produced on the basis of assets belonging to Citroën and which legal rights of usage resides at Citroën. On this basis you are asked to remove the content from Copenhagenize.com or any other site operated by your organization without undue delay, and in the future refrain from displaying the brand Citroën in an offending or insulting manner.

I look forward to your immediate reply.


That line, "displaying and promoting content of a derogatory and offending nature to the brand Citroën", is rather irrelevant. It's a brand, not an individual. We ain't crying rivers because your brand got an ouch on their finger.

Turning that around, I'm sure that many of us would consider the fact that Citroën produces over 3 million cars a year, unleashing them on our city streets, could also be regarded as "derogatory and offending nature to Homo Sapiens and liveable cities".

There was no particular reason that we used Citroën in the parody. They are just Big Auto to us, like all the rest. A cog in the nameless, faceless machine that plays no small part in killing 1.2 million people a year around the world, injuring 50 million, and contributing negatively to the public health.

Citroën has featured in our ongoing series The Car Industry Strikes Back before. In that link you can read about a commercial they filmed in Copenhagen a couple of years ago. One of the most spectacular examples of greenwashing in recent times. Interestingly, I can't for the life of me find a copy of it on the internet. It's as though they have tried to erase all knowledge of it.

At the end of the day, we decided to remove the parody from the blog. It's summer holidays after all. There is wine to be drunk, oceans to swim in. It was good fun, but hey... we can always think up other ways to have good fun. Whether or not the parody shows up on other servers elsewhere in the world is beyond our control. Nor can we control Google and their search engines because anyone could just google If Car Commercials Were Based on Fact not Fiction and find it themselves. We've removed it from "Copenhagenize.com or any other site operated by your organization".

Regarding the  line in the email about "in the future refrain from displaying the brand Citroën in an offending or insulting manner"... yeah, well, no guarantees there.


There is a good tradition of parody gaining the backing of the courts in Denmark, but there are more important battles to be fought and won.

The orginal text of this article:

It's no secret that car commercials are, by and large, fiction. Shiny cars roaring along empty streets devoid of traffic jams or scarring their way through impressive landscapes. Selling the dream. With the emphasis on dream.

So. What if car commercials reflected the reality of life on the roads? What if they had to - or were even forced to by laws regarding advertising standards - highlight the carnage that motorists cause on the roads of the world.

Back in 2009, we blogged about our idea that cars should be subject to the same rules regarding tobacco products and be forced to feature health warnings.

Here at Copenhagenize Design Co. we played around and took it the next level, producing a car commercial based in reality instead of fantasy. Ivan Conte is working with us for six months as an intern and he produced this little taste of real-life advertising.

05 July 2013

The Missing Link: Bremerholm and One-Way Streets


Earlier this year, Mary Hudson Embry wrote about the cycle track addition on Gothersgade. Another "missing link" in the Inner City's bicycle network was just completed, this time on Bremerholm: a small one-way street near Christiansborg (the Parliament and other governmental functions building), Holmen Canal, and Magasin department store. The road leads towards other focal points in the Inner City such as the famous pedestrian street called Strøget. Now that Knippels Bridge is the most biked street in Copenhagen according to the newest 2012 Bicycle Accounts, the new cycle track will allow bicycle users to continue on a straight path from the bridge into the inner city. Before, one would have to risk going against the grain of car traffic or turn either left or right and take a more circuitous route.

Other highlights: fresh bump-free pavement, a separate traffic light for bicycles, and two lanes-- one for those going straight or turning left and another to turn right. 

Before these additions- and admittedly sometimes during their construction process- the area was clogged as everyone and their uncle tried to squeeze past one another. A jumble of interweaving wheels and lots of glances over the shoulder. It's not like it was hellish before, but now it is a whole lot nicer.


Many other cities have what is known as "contra-flow" bicycle lanes or cycle track that run in the opposite way of one-way traffic. These are common scenarios since almost all cities have one-way streets in one form or another regardless of whether they are in ancient city centres or along straight grid-systems. In the world of urban cycling, there are contra-lanes...and then there are contra-lanes. Like many aspects of perfecting bicycle infrastructure, one of the most important things is to make space for cyclists. Squeezing a skinny bike lane in a curving, roughly cobbled street with cars whizzing past at high speeds is not the way to convince people they are safe on two wheels. Instead, planners must provide ample room, a kerb or other barrier so cars cannot encroach, as well as separation from pedestrians who might mistakingly cross into the bicycles. If the street does not contain this segregated infrastructure, a 30km/hr zone will prevent cars from barreling towards cyclists. 


Danish democracy: Folketinget (Parliament) framed by Danish democracy
A new idea catalog was just released last month called: "Idea Catalog for Traffic and Urban Environment in the North Quarter" and the proposals contained therein are recommended for inclusion in the City's budget. The total price for all suggestions would be 20 million Danish kroner or about 2.6 million Euro. Among the recommendations is a stunning proposal to turn Vestergade into a bicycle street. Now, you may be asking yourself what makes this different from any other street in Copenhagen. Good point. 

The entire road will be turned into a bi-directional cycle path, with pedestrian paths on either end and flex parking for deliveries and bicycle parking. The street will remain a one direction street for cars, but their speed limit will be reduced to that of a bicycle's. Something that means bicycles are given the home team advantage. The document reads: "motoring allowed on bicycles' terms". Other road sections would be blocked for car traffic altogether, which is a wonderful improvement in roads that already are heavily bike dominated. Read the entire report here; although non-Danish speakers will have to use Google translate or find a Danish language-endowed friend.
Screenshot from the Idea Catalog document. The street today (on left) and the street with the intended changes (on right).
Could this be a third "missing link" in Copenhagen's bicycle network? We'll be keeping our eyes peeled to find out.

04 July 2013

Pedals, Punctuation

Spring Sunshine 49
Queen Louise's Bridge / Dronning Louises Bro - Copenhagen

I'll have the pleasure of teaching at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) in the fall, on a course run by my colleague and urban liveability expert Bianca Hermansen. The courses are populated by and large by American students doing a semester here in Copenhagen. I'm looking very much forward to it. Especially if there are more students like Lora Matway showing up at DIS.

Lora Matway is a student from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. in her
second year at the University of Pittsburgh who’s been studying in
Copenhagen for the summer. She’s pursuing majors in urban studies and
environmental studies and is especially interested in sustainable urban
living. She likes people-watching and public buses.


She's kindly allowed us to blog her observations from a recent course at DIS. We're thrilled of her usage of Michel de Certeau in her observations. De Certeau was also used in our Choreography of an Urban Intersection anthropological study. Using de Certeau in relation to liveable cities and especially bicycle culture is a given. A must.

Pedals, Punctuation
by Lora Matway

Michel de Certeau’s “Walking in the City” chapter in his book The Practice of
Everyday Life distinguishes architectural design from actual human use through the discrepancy between technical language and vernacular. The bird’s eye model, like the grammar book, is regularly bent and broken by the immediacy of street-level contact that we make with our surroundings.


For De Certeau, urban planners are “grammarians and linguists” whose aim is to punctuate and revise with signs, overpasses, and medians. Meanwhile, the everyday travelers through these spaces scribble in the margins of city streets with their bicycle tracks. Their slang is jaywalking; their refusal to travel in straight lines a run-on sentence; stopping one’s bike to talk, a made-up word.

In other words they—we—are responsible for all things “surprising, transverse or attractive”. Like patches on pants, the visible wear on a place’s original blueprint is its evidence of life.


To tie this theory to something solid I typed “brooklyn bridge” into my Google Image search bar. Google searches are samples of public thought, quilts of input from everyone on anything. And for this symbolic New York bridge a boatload of colorful perspectives showing off its stature and backdrop popped up; apparently there the public eye is caught by design.

Then, I searched “dronning louises bro” (Queen Louise's Bridge) and instead of counting angles and filters I was counting faces and wheels. Here the stitchwork of thumbnails is about human poetry, not steel symmetry. The Dronning Louises Bro vibrates with presence.

People settle over the Dronning Louises Bro in the first place because it’s a nice place to be. The bridge welcomes Michel de Certeau’s street vernacular by being bikeable and walkable. There’s no reason to stay on a bridge like the Brooklyn because it only makes sense to cross it in your car.

If only cars were allowed on the road, the Dronning Louises Bro would perhaps be just as stoic. Instead, its simple wideness and emphasis on cyclists gives it pliability that is much more attractive to the camera lens—and the passing person—than a cold piece of design.


Bikability and walkability are directly proportional to comfort. As humming in person as it is on the Internet, this Copenhagen bridge is unfailingly local and social compared to its lonely American cousin. It is easier to belong to for however long it takes to get across, or drink your coffee, or watch the sun set; its built freedom of speech gives soul to routine comings and goings.


Image search results for "dronning louises bro" (above) and "brooklyn bridge" (below). Try it yourself.