22 September 2014

Car Industry Strikes Back - Smart Hates Peds


Here is (yet) another piece to fit nicely in our ongoing Car Industry Strikes Back series.

Yep. All this growing momemtum for liveable cities, civilised streets after almost a century of destructive, car-centric traffic engineering is really starting to irritate Big Auto. Smart is no exception. In an almost laughable direct extention of the automobile industry's invention of the concept of jaywalking (as highlighted in this TED talk), Smart decided to use "fun" and "gameification" in order to keep the sheep that are pedestrians down. Under the thumb. Under control. In the name, of course, of their kind of safety. They call it:


They are really grasping at straws, Big Auto. This generation is abandoning the automobile and so here comes the spin... new, smart generation... for loving the city. Those of us who love cities rarely have a love of the automobile. We're tired of death, injury, destruction. The new smart generation can see through Big Auto's attempts to spin things their way once again. "To hook them back to the car" as this former head designer at BMW actually told the crowd during his keynote.

So, funny dancing crossing lights to keep pedestrians "safe". Give me a break. 30 km/h zones like in over 120 European cities keep pedestrians and cyclists safe. Traffic calming does, too. External airbags on cars - placing the responsability on the potential murderers, too. Reducing the number of cars in cities is a no-brainer for the new, smart generation. Eliminating car ownership in cities altogether is actually a thing.

We who are new, smart and of this generation don't buy this blatant ignoring the bull. The paradigm is shifting. We are rejecting the car-centric streets that we inherited from the past century. Let the pedestrians dance wherever the hell they like in the Life-Sized City. It's the future of cities. It's back to the future, too. Seven thousand years of liveable cities will NOT be ruined by 90 odd years of deadly mistakes by traffic engineers and Big Auto, who have more deaths on their conscience that most dictators. The liveable city is rising once again, carried on the shoulders of a new, smart generation.


15 September 2014

LED Busstops in Copenhagen


Photo: City of Copenhagen/Rambøll

Here's a little story about some innovation soon to show up in Copenhagen. In a city with many busstops and cycle tracks, there is the question of coexistence. For a number of years, the City of Copenhagen has worked hard to establish islands at busstops for the bus passengers to use when disembarking. It really is the baseline for infrastructure and the City, by and large, prefers it over anything else. Since the City starting retrofitting busstops to provide islands, safety has increased dramatically across the city.

In 2015, The City of Copenhagen will establish LED bus islands at certain locations where there isn't space to build a proper island. When there is no bus, there will be a green strip along the curb. When a bus rolls up, the LED light show will expand across the cycle track to indicate to all traffic users that passengers have the priority. When the bus leaves, the LED lights revert to the green strip.

The Mayor for Traffic and Environment, Morten Kabell, said, "We know that tradtional bus islands are a good idea but don't have space everywhere for them because some streets are too narrow."

"Therefore it will be exciting to see that if a lighted busstop can create a better sense of safety for both parties, create a better flow on the cycle track and create space for bus passengers".

The pilot project will start next year, with a budget of $400,000.

Bus Waiting
This is an example of a standard bus island. The cycle track continues between the sidewalk and the island. In this instance, the law dictates that passengers have to wait for the cyclists to pass before crossing to or from the island.

Frederiksberg Fail
There are, however, a number of locations where space is limited. This kind of situation will be perfect for the new pilot project. In locations like this, the law dicates that the bicycle users have to stop to allow the passengers to board and disembark the bus.

Generally, in detailed observations that Copenhagenize Design Co. have done, there is not a lot of drama at busstops. Things do get a bit tight in the rush hour, sometimes a bicycle user and a bus passenger will bump into each other. Generally, this LED solution will clearly mark out the territory for all parties involved. Many people aren't clear about the rules - or the fact that they differ between places with an island or without.

This solution is a positive addition to the traffic equation in Copenhagen.





11 September 2014

The Arrogance of Space - Paris, Calgary, Tokyo

The Arrogance of Space Paris - Eiffel Tower 001
Yeah, so, there I was on summer holidays with the kids, standing atop the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Been there, done that many times before, but it's always a beautiful experience looking out over a beautiful city. If you're afraid of heights, the rule of thumb is "don't look down". When you work with liveable cities, transport and bicycle urbanism... it would seem that this rule applies as well. Don't look down.

I did, however. I looked down at the intersection on Quai Branly where it meets Pont d'Iéna over the Seine. This is a place with easily hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and more and more cyclists. It is also clearly a place dominated by The Arrogance of Space of last century traffic engineering. It is a museum for failed, car-centric traffic planning - sad and amusing all at once.

You may recall my earlier article about The Arrogance of Space in traffic planning. I talk a lot about it in my keynotes, this Arrogance of Space and I decided to revisit it.
The Arrogance of Space Paris - Eiffel Tower 002
I did a simple thing. I squared off the photo with (very roughly) one square metre squares. It's not totally exact and it doesn't really matter. Creating this grid, I gave the urban space colours based on who it is intended for. It's pretty self-explanatory above.

Worth noting, however, that while I reluctantly gave the goofy bike boxes the "space for bikes" colour, I refused adamantly to do so for the sharrows in the intersection. They are ridiculous and should never, ever, be classified as bicycle infrastructure.

With the colours you soon see how much space is allocated for motorised transport. Arrogantly so.

The Arrogance of Space Paris - Eiffel Tower 003
Removing the photo gives you an even better idea of the blatant injustice of space allocation.
The Arrogance of Space Paris - Eiffel Tower 004
In this version I roughly mapped out the actual space taken up by the motorised vehicles (dark red) and bicycles (dark purple). There were only two bicycle users and a pedicab with two passengers in the intersection at this moment. Yes, cars take up a lot of space, but man... look how much space they don't even occupy. Space that could easily be reallocated to a few hundred thousand pedestrians and many bicycle users.
The Arrogance of Space Paris - Eiffel Tower 005

When you actually count the number of individuals using the space the injustice becomes more and more apparent. The Arrogance morphs into pure mocking of the majority of citizens and visitors to the city. Pedestrians clustered together at crossings waiting for The Matrix to reluctantly grant permission to cross. Bicycles thrown to the hyenas into the middle of the Red Desert.


The Arrogance of Space - Paris Montparnasse 001
Clotilde, an urban planner here at Copenhagenize Design Company, gave me another photo. This one taken from the Montparnasse Tower in Paris. The intersection is Boulevard du Montparnasse around Place du 18 Juin 1940.
The Arrogance of Space - Paris Montparnasse 002
Here is the space allocated to motorised transport... including, it's worth noting, a number of buses.
The Arrogance of Space - Paris Montparnasse 003
Simplied further, there is an arrogant ocean of red and bits and pieces of painted bike lanes. Bikes heading to the right can use the bus lane on the Boulevard, which isn't exactly pleasant. I've tried it.
The Arrogance of Space - Paris Montparnasse 004

Here are the individuals using the space. Buses are great, of course, so let's count on 50+ people on board. But still a shocking amount of space for a few red dots. Only one bicycle user in the middle of nowhere safe. This photo was taken in 2011, by the way, so a lot of that "dead" space is probably repurposed.

The Arrogance of Space - Calgary 001
For contrast, I found this photo taken from the Calgary Tower in my archives. The first Arrogance of Space article was based on Calgary, so let's revisit the city. Sure, I shot this photo facing south and that's the roof of a car park in the foreground, but let's add some colour.
The Arrogance of Space - Calgary 002
Mars. The Red Planet.
The Arrogance of Space - Calgary 003
I only marked out the space I could see, so sure... that sidewalk at middle right will continue to the left, but I couldn't see it.
The Arrogance of Space - Calgary 004

In a liveable city you should be able to climb to a high place, look down at any given moment and see humans in the urban theatre. In this shot I could only see four human forms.

The Arrogance of Space Shibuya Tokyo 001
For contrast to the contrast, this is the view from my favourite hotel in Tokyo, overlooking the Shibuya crossing - which just may be the world's busiest crosswalk. I don't stay anywhere else when I'm in Tokyo simply because I love this view.


There are often bicycles in the crossing, as you can see in the film, above, that I shot a few years ago. There are probably more bikes in the bike parking areas around nearby Shibuya Station than in many countries.
Shibuya Parking - one of the many bike parking areas near the station.

The Arrogance of Space Shibuya Tokyo 002

The Arrogance of Space Shibuya Tokyo 003
Time for some colour. No bike infrastructure here but goodness me... look at that blue.
The Arrogance of Space Shibuya Tokyo 004
According to my EXIF info I took this on Friday, May 22, 2009 at around noon. Not so busy at this moment, but still great to see. Pedestrians here get their own signal in all directions, including diagonally.

If we want to change our failed traffic planning tradition from a previous century, it's time to change the question.

05 September 2014

The Copenhagenize Desire Lines Analysis Goes to Amsterdam

Cover Page Graphic

Nine intersections. 19,500 cyclists. Nine hours. All in a city considered as a model for many urban planners. The Copenhagenize Design Company Desire Lines analysis tool headed south to Amsterdam to study bicycle user behaviour and how it interacts with - or is affected by - urban infrastructure.

In ca lose collaboration between Copenhagenize Design Co. and The University of Amsterdam in the guise of Marco te Brömmelstroet - and for the City of Amsterdam - nine intersections in the city were filmed during the morning rush hour in order to complete the world's largest study of bicycle user behaviour. We're pleased to reveal the results of our study and showcase some of the data, analyses and desire line maps. 

The bicycle infrastructure in the City of Amsterdam is rather different from the typology used in Copenhagen ,where we did the first anthropological studies of the cyclists - The Choregraphy of an Urban Intersection, and others. It was therefore interesting for us to observe the trajectories and behavioiur of Dutch cyclists crossing over-crowded intersections. The Desire Lines are more numerous and more complex, while in Copenhagen, the vast majority of bicycle users stick to the rules and react positively to the infrastructure which is more uniform and simplified. It has been fascinating for us to be able to compare the two cities, as well. Do we really have the World's Best Behaved Cyclists in Copenhagen or can the Dutch compete with that?


Monitored intersections in Amsterdam

The behaviour of Amsterdam cyclists is a recurring theme in public debate in that city. In many of these discussions, the majority of cyclists are deemed to display a strongly anarchistic attitude – e.g. ignoring red lights, cutting corners, etc. Our Desire Lines tool is the perfect way to figure out if these perceptions are true or false and to feed the debate with precise data. The study demonstrates how the cyclists respect the infrastructure as well as exploring whether or not the infrastructure fits the behaviour of the cyclists and whether there is room for improvement.

In our study we address the general research question: How do Amsterdam cyclists interact with design, each other and other road users and how do they experience it all? Nine intersections were allocated to a group of three first-year sociology students from the University of Amsterdam. They used our tried and tested methodology called the “Desire Lines Analysis Tool” and filmed the intersections. Then they went to work counting the cyclists and observing/studying the behaviour. In addition, the students conducted some interviews to gain insight into the experiences and emotions of cyclists at these intersections. Cyclists were classified as Conformists, Momentumists and Recklists - as they always are in our Desire Lines studies.

Here are the data collected at the intersection named Nassauplein (mapping of the trajectories of the cyclists + classification of the cyclists).
Print Print
Behaviour of the cyclists at the intersection Nassauplein


To read about the eight other intersections, you're welcome to download the full report here - - it's a pdf and it is 10 mb. 

At the end of the analysis of the nine intersections, here are our conclusions:

Generally, the outcome of the Desire Lines Analysis suggest that the infrastructure at these crossings is under severe pressure by the sheer number of cyclists in peak hour traffic. As a result, the limitations of these infrastructure are challenged every day by the users.

Behaviour of the cyclists at the 9 intersections in Amsterdam

Although 87% of all 19,500 cyclists conform to all rules, there is a significant group that follows shortcuts, use sidewalks, adapts right-of-way rules or ignore traffic lights. Below, we also offer some more detailed reflections:
  • The nine intersections are very crowded. The video material is from February, so we expect even more cyclists in spring and summer
  • The general impression is that traffic is highly chaotic during rush hour but there were no serious conflicts observed
  • Most cyclists are used to this chaos, but many are also irritated by it. Even to the extent that they tend to avoid it by deviating from the existing infrastructure
  • The width of the cycle tracks does not fit the numbers of cyclists during rush hour. In most directions and on most crossings there is continuous ebb and flow
  • There is a significant lack of waiting space at the traffic lights. This is especially the case for left turning traffic
  • The large majority of cyclists are “conformists” but the number of “momentumists” and “reck­lists” are substantial. Most crossings have a large number of different Desire Lines:
- around the «vluchtheuvels» (small "islands" at each corner)
- in the middle of the intersection when the traffic light is green for left turning traffic
- on the sidewalks (to cut corners for right turning) or on islands and the space between the car and bike lanes
- cycling in a wrong direction down a bi-directional track to avoid waiting at the traffic light when there is a long line

Cyclists are more likely to bend traffic rules when the intersection is crowded. They are then almost “forced” to bend the rules. This rule bending behaviour often resolves apparent capacity problems or repairs ineffective right-of-way situations.


With this analysis we have developed a quite substantive set of systematised knowledge on cyclists’ behaviour in Amsterdam. There is a need to look at these crossings with these insights to develop design solutions that meet this new reality, in which cyclists are the dominant mode.

Despite the impressive level of bicycle infrastructure, cyclists - and pedestrians - are still subject to an all-dominant car-centric traffic planning culture inherited from the previous century. Even in the amazing bicycle city that is Amsterdam, cyclists are second-class citizens squeezed into another traffic culture and - like Copenhagen - not enough is being done to accommodate their mode of transport. A radical change of mentality in bicycle planning is long overdue.

01 September 2014

Taking Matters into Our Own Hands - Nordre Frihavnsgade


Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. Even in Copenhagen.

There is a street in a densely-populated neigbourhood in Copenhagen - Østerbro - without any cycle tracks. I know, I know... it's like a street in New York without honking taxis or a street in Paris without cafés populated by moody philosophy students. It's weird. Also because it's a long street in a thriving neighbourhood and it's one of the streets in the city with a far too high levels of incidents involving bicycles.

It's weird because it's a perfect street for cycle tracks. It's also weird because only 29% of households in Copenhagen even own a car but politicians and the City say that taking out car parking on this street would be "difficult".

A local politican, Jonas Bjørn Jensen, when campaigning for the last election decided to ask people in the neighbourhood if they wanted cycle tracks. Over 90% of the people he asked said, "yes".

Together with Ole Kassow from Purpose Makers and Thomas Lygum Sidelmann from Urban Action we at Copenhagenize Design Company decided to just do our own proposed street design. Enough talk. Let's get some imagery onto the table.

Above is the street as it looks now. Nordre Frihavnsgade (don't try to pronounce that please) is a central street in the Østerbro neighbourhood connecting Strandboulevarden, Trianglen and Østbanegade. It's an important shopping street and has a lively environment, with schools and shops and... life. There are 5800 bicycle users a day and 5300 cars. Ole Kassow, who lives nearby, has spoken with many locals and the general consensus is that the street doesn't feel safe. It's not nice to cycle on it. There are also many pedestrians crossing back and forth to the various shops and cafés and other destinations.

Bizarrely, the street is a 50 km/h zone, except at the narrowest section where it is "only" 40 km/h. One thing that Copenhagen sucks at is the fact that they haven't embraced the 30 km/h movement like the rest of Europe. If this street was in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Vienna, etc etc. it would be 30 km/h. Years ago.

Copenhagenize - Nordre Frihavnsgade

Copenhagenize - Nordre Frihavnsgade

Anyway, we decided to visualise what the street should look like. Our point of departure was that if cycle tracks are ooooh so difficult for the City of Copenhagen, then we will give them an easier, cheaper solution. The Dutch have their fietsstraat and while the Copenhagen Police have been vocal opponents of them - and most everything else that would improve cycling in the city - there is finally a pilot project on Vestergade in Copenhagen as we speak.

So we made the street a "cykelgade" - a bicycle street - dictating that cars are welcome as guests on the street but they have to drive at the tempo that the bicycle users dictate.

We designed a Danish version of the Dutch Fietsstraat signage, as well. Based on the Danish standards for pictograms and font.
Copenhagenize - Nordre Frihavnsgade
Here is the street in it's full length. Our proposal would improve the street greatly. It would benefit local businesses, make pedestrians feel safer and it would be a new benchmark for neighbourhood planning in Copenhagen.
Copenhagenize - Nordre Frihavnsgade
While there is nothing regarding bicycle infrastructure that we can learn from the Americans, the parklet concept is something that we can happily subscribe to. We included them in our designs to also plant this idea in the minds of Copenhageners. More of these would be fantastic.

It is vitally important to create visualisations. Talk is fine but when you design a visualisation, suddenly you have a whole group of different people who understand what you're on about. They are really powerful tools for change.

Cross your fingers for a positive development on this street.