25 October 2014

Copenhagenizing Bangkok - Suvarnabhumi Airport Cycle Track

Cycle Track at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok

A team from Copenhagenize Design Company recently returned from Bangkok where we had the pleasure of working on an exciting project. It is fantastic to be surprised. Thailand's second largest bank, Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), have constructed a 23.5 km long cycle track around Bangkok International Airport - Suvarnabhumi. The beginning of one of the most impressive CSR projects we've ever seen and we are excited to be a part of it. It's not every day projects on this scale see the light of day and we had a fantastic site visit with our partners from SCB, King Power and Superjeew Event.

Copenhagenize Design Company have been hired to take the basic idea and simply make it World-Class. It's a brilliant combination of placemaking, infrastructure, planning and communication for a destination for cyclists and Citizen Cyclists alike. Basically developing what could be one of the most interesting bicycle destinations in the world.


copenhagenize@suvarnabhumi bike track from Viwat Wongphattarathiti on Vimeo.
Copenhagenize Rides the Suvarnabhumi Track

Bascially, SCB, together with Airports of Thailand (AOT) who own the land, took an access road along the perimeter of the airport and resurfaced it in a bright, green colour - 4 m wide - to create a one-way cycle track for recreational/sport cycling. The road is inside the airport's moat designed for flood protection and outside of the fence leading to the runways and airport's operational area.

For obvious security reasons, there is only one access point and the cycle track is one-way along the entire 23.5 km length.
Cycle Track at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok
Mie, Anina and Mikael from Copenhagenize Design Company on the site-visit.

At the moment, the airport cycle track is in a basic form. The cycle track loops around the airport but there are no facilities. It is open from 06:00-18:00 each day. On the Sunday morning that we visited for our site visit, we arrived at 07:30. The security team at the entrance informed us that 6000 people had already entered the track. Six thousand! An astonishing number. On average, there are 3000 people a day on a weekday using it - primarily in the morning and afternoon before and after work but also because the temperature is cooler.

Riding along the 23.5 km length, we never really felt that it was crowded with 6000 cyclists. They all spread out nicely along the track, what with differing speeds.

Cycle Track at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok Cycle Track at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok
There was a great variety of cyclists on the track. The vast majority were kitted out in cyclist clothes and riding racing bikes in a wide spectrum of skill levels. There were groups of riders muscling past at speed and there were couples, friends and individuals enjoying some exercise.
Cycle Track at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok Cycle Track at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok
There were a few kids out on the track, too. Copenhagenize rocked the track on three Bromptons provided by our hosts.

Cycle Track at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok Cycle Track at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok
At the start area, a short 1 km track has been added so that kids - or less-experienced cyclists - can go for a spin as well.

Cycle Track at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok
At this stage, Copenhagenize Design Company is in the midst of the consultation process so we'll have to wait with writing about our catalogue of ideas for how to take this fantastic facility and make it truly world-class.

Until then we are amazed that it even exists.

Bangkok is not exactly known for being a bicycle-friendly city. While Copenhagenize Design Company primarily works with cities on transport infrastructure, this project is too amazing to resist for us. We are convinced that making it into a world-class destination will have a powerful knock-on effect for improving conditions for cyclists in the city itself, where bicycle advocates are fighting an inspired fight.


Like getting this separated bicycle facility put into place on one street in Bangkok.

The airport cycle track may be a roundabout way of doing it, but the local advocates are doing great work so it will all go hand in hand. The Prime Minister of Thailand helped us all out by announcing, on the day before we arrived in Thailand, that he wants Thai cities to focus on bicycles as transport in Thai cities. So thanks, Mr Prayuth Chan-ocha, for that.

23 October 2014

New York Journalist Covers Cycling in Denmark and Scandinavia

This just in... hot off the presses. As always, Copenhagenize has its finger on the pulse of breaking news.

A roving New York reporter covers cycling in Scandinavia.

"If for nothing else the bicycle is blessed in Scandinavia because it saves time."

"No other country has done more for the pleasure and comfort of its wheelmen than Denmark..."

"The construction of pavements takes in consideration what best can serve the interests of cyclists, and cycle paths are provided near all cities, in some instances leading miles away from town into the country."

"...ride to market on their bicycles with baskets strapped to their backs, and other baskets dangling from the handle-bars of the wheel. ... they seldom come to grief, and manage to keep their equilibrium to their journey's end."

From the New York Sun. 19 February 1897. 42,979 days ago (based on today's date)
(The Sun was a New York newspaper that was published from 1833 until 1950. It was considered a serious paper, like the city's two more successful broadsheets The New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune. The Sun was the most politically conservative of the three.)

22 October 2014

Anniversary of the Modern Copenhagen Cycle Track

Happy Birthday Copenhagen Bike Lanes! 25 years of cycling safety
I made the above graphic back in 2008 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the return of Copenhagen's separated cycle tracks.

Now it's 31 years on, but the anniversary is timeless.
Building Bike Lanes
It was in June 1983 that the Copenhagen cycle track returned to Copenhagen. Meaning cycle tracks separated from cars on one side and pedestrians on the other by curbs.

For the record, there were cycle tracks prior to this. Historically, separated cycle tracks criss-crossed Copenhagen but many were removed during the brain fart that was the 50s and 60s where planners decided the car was a good horse to back.

Marking Bike Lanes ca 1915
Here are the first bike lanes being marked out back in... 1915.

Building Bike Lanes in the 1930's
Here is a cycle track being constructed back in ... 1930.

But the return of the physically-separated cycle track in the modern era is a landmark. The City of Copenhagen made a visonary choice in implementing them. Cycling levels plummeted through the 50s and 60s from a peak in the late 1940s. By the late 60s, the modal share hit 9% after a high of 55%. Due... you guessed it... to infrastructure being removed to make space for cars.

Through the 1970s, the focus returned to the bicycle as a solution to transport problems. In 1983, the foundation was laid - in stone - for a return to rationality. Jens Kramer Mikkelsen, head of the traffic department (and later Lord Mayor) was responsible for the paradigm shift. A shift which continued unabated until today, where 41% of people arriving in the City of Copenhagen at work or education do so on bicycles. Of the citizens of Copenhagen municipality, the number is 55% who cycle every day. Only 12% drive cars.

On June 4, 1983 the Danish Cyclists' Union, at a large bicycle demonstration, gave a "Cyclist Award" to Mikkelsen in the form of a two metre long curb to symbolise the physical separation from traffic.

The cycle track was placed on the bike lane on Amagerbrogade at the corner of Hollænderdybet - just after Amagerboulevard - a sacred shrine for bike culture if anyone wants to start a'pilgrimage-ing.


The photo features the Cyclist Award and the two chaps who made it - stone mason Uffe Mohr [right] and his apprentice Egon Albertsen [left].

14 October 2014

Nantes: A City Getting it Right

Cours des 50 otages - Pistes cyclables

A French translation of this article follows the English text.

The city of Nantes in France will host the global bicycle conference Velo-City in June 2015. Before showing up, Copenhagenize Design Company decided to do a scouting tour.

Nantes and its 600,000 inhabitants - including the immediate suburbs - is one of the French cities that decided to implement an ambitious cycling policy. They dared to innovate and to make strong political decisions. We find that inspiring.

To begin with, watch the Velo-City 2015 promotional clip. In this video, Nantes demonstrates that they understand that creating a bicycle-friendly city is not just about building infrastructure but it's most of all about developing a life-sized city where bicycles are merely one of the tools to create an active, creative and liveable city - albeit one of the most important tools. Nantes presents in the video its inhabitants, its urban spaces and its activities.

We have to admit that we have been impressed by the diversity of features included in the bicycle policy. Far from being only focused on building infrastructure, Nantes expands the initiatives to include everything that can support rebuilding a bike-friendly city; services for cyclists; parking; a bike share programme; long and short term rental bikes; collaboration with the local associations, etc.

Bicloo Zone à Trafic Limité

The implementation of their policy has been a success if you consider the fact that the number of cyclists has increased and the modal share rose from 2% to 4.5% between 2008 and 2012 (5.3% in the city-centre). Most importantly, the bicycle users in the city are largely Citizen Cyclists and not hard-core "avid cyclists" dressed in racing gear.

First step - Reducing the Number of Parasites
During rush hour, many streets are still highly congested but when it comes to traffic regulation within the city-centre, Nantes has made a crucial decision: the through traffic has been completely removed from the heart of the city thanks to the creation of a Limited Traffic Area.

The main boulevard running through the city is now only accessible to bicycles, public transport and authorised vehicles (taxis, delivery trucks, shopkeepers), meaning that most cars and motorcycles are no longer welcome. On this boulevard, just like on a pedestal, cyclists ride a 4 meter wide cycle track, slightly elevated. Even if we can criticise the fact that the cycle track is very different from the others (bi-directional, in the middle of the street, elevated), we notice that the Municipality has decided to showcase to the inhabitants that the cyclists are very welcome in Nantes - and prioritized. In addition, the city continues transforming symbolic car-centric places into pedestrian areas (such as the Royale square and the Graslin square). Nantes is Copenhagenizing and modernising itself.

Place Graslin


Building Several Kilometres of Bicycle Infrastructure
In addition to their wider focus, Nantes has, bien sur, built numerous kilometres of separated bike lanes. The colour chosen for the bike lanes is a very light orange. At the intersections, this colour communicates clearly that the space is dedicated to cyclists and orange stripes along the lanes strenghten this communication in some areas.

But let's look at the infrasturcture in detail because it is the backbone of any cycling city. The lanes are wide enough to host the current number of cyclists (3 meters wide for the bi-directional lanes). But when the modal share will really increase, will it be sufficient to cope with the user's flow and capacity? Is the infrastructure capable of evolving and expanding? We're not sure.

Piste cyclable 

Piste cyclable

Piste cyclable bi-directionelle Piste cyclable

A Clear Strategy Can Still Suffer from Drawbacks
We must mention that one clear drawback and that is a lack of homogeneity in the bicycle network. The diversity the design of the infrastruture is such that without a strong knowledge of the city, you can easily lose track of the network. For instance, bicycle lanes are randomly designed. They are in the middle of the street, on the right of car traffic, on the right or left of the tram, shared with buses or pedestrians suddenly for a few metres, first monodirectional then bidirectional. It's a guessing game at times.


Despite the consistency of the orange colour and the creation of two main routes - north-south and east-west- the network remains very complex and not at all intuitive. It makes it quite difficult to get a clear mind map of the bike route you’ll be riding. Moreover, the bi-directional bike lanes already show some limits as this infrastructure is too narrow to host the cyclists at the intersections during rush hour.

The physical complexity of the bike infrastructure has two main impacts. First, the speed of the cyclists is reduced, which turns cycling into a less competitive solution compared to other means of transport (12 km/h in Nantes vs. 15,5 in Copenhagen and 20 km/h on the “Green Wave Routes”). We know for a fact that a bicycle user wants to ride from A to B as quick as possible.


Secondly, the difficulty to visualise a clear cycling itinerary can become a serious deterrent to getting new cyclists onto the infrastructure. This might challenge the ambition of the city to increase the modal share. Can Nantes really reach their declared target of 15% model share for cyclists without making cycling the most practical and easiest choice? Not likely, as it is now.

This challenge is common in many French cities that, on the one hand, develop ambitious cycling networks but, on the other hand, make them too inconsistent when it comes to the type of infrastructure.

Increase the 
Diversity of Services
Like so many French cities, Nantes implemented a bike share scheme – the Bicloo – relying on user-friendly stations (880 bikes and 102 stations). But the city also offers the commuters the opportunity to combine bicycle and train through the development of a bike-train-bike concept (similar to the BiTiBi project). Indeed, let's imagine that an inhabitant of Nantes Métropole cycles from home to a nearby suburban train station, he/she can park the bike under a shelter (or, even better, in a secure bike parking facility at the main train station in Nantes). Then, he/she gets on the train and upon arriving in the city-centre, he/she can rent a bike for a day and return it to the same place before taking the train home.  The City of Nantes has also developed secure bike parking, long term rentals and air pumps and they allow folding bike on the trams – the Cyclotan - as well as offering citizens €300 euros subsidy for buying a cargo bike. allowance when buying a cargo-bike.

Bicloo - station


Bord de l'Erdre

Le Lieu Unique


Important information for our followers attending Vélo-City 2015 - we have already found the Copenhagenize HQ  - near the conference venue. A lovely place on the Erdre river. See you there in June 2015.


VERSION EN FRANÇAIS

Nantes – Une ville qui a compris !


La Ville de Nantes (France) accueillera en Juin 2105 la conférence mondiale Vélo-City. Avant de venir y participer, Copenhagenize a décidé d'aller y faire un petit repérage.

Nantes, 600.000 habitants à l'échelle de l'agglomération, est l'une des villes françaises qui a mis en place une ambitieuse politique cyclable et qui n'a pas hésité à innover en la matière et prendre des décisions politiques fortes. De quoi inspirer.

Pour commencer, visionnage de son clip de présentation de Vélo-City 2015, où Nantes montre qu'elle a compris que créer une ville cyclable c'était avant tout créer une ville humaine où les vélos ne sont finalement qu'un des éléments d'une ville active et agréable à vivre. Nantes y présente majoritairement ses habitants, ses espaces publics, ses activités urbaines.

Ensuite, il faut bien avouer que nous avons été impressionné sur la diversité des éléments de sa politique cyclable. Loin de s'être uniquement focalisée sur la construction de pistes cyclables, Nantes a élargi ses initiatives concernant le vélo sur tous les fronts : services aux cyclistes, parkings, vélos publics, travail avec les associations locales...

Résultat, la part modale du vélo est passée de 2 % à 4,5 % entre 2008 et 2012 (5,3% dans le centre-ville), mais surtout les cyclistes sont des usagers de la rue comme les autres et non des hard-core du vélo, de vrais « Citizen Cyclists » (cf. le blogpost sur Copenhagen Cycle Chic).

Deuxièmement, des kilomètres d'infrastructures cyclables
Nantes a construit des kilomètres de pistes cyclables complètement séparées de la circulation automobile. Orange pâle, c'est la couleur choisie pour marquer les pistes cyclables. Aux carrefours, cette couleur affirme la place des cyclistes et des bandes peintes le long des pistes vient parfois judicieusement renforcer la lisibilité du réseau.

Les pistes sont actuellement assez larges pour accueillir les cyclistes (3 mètres de large mais en bi-directionnelle), mais qu'en sera-t-il quand le nombre de cyclistes augmentera véritablement. Toutes ces infrastructures seront-elles adaptables?


Une ombre au tableau
Toutefois, il faut tout de même signaler un bémol : le manque d'homogénéité du réseau cyclable. La diversité du type de pistes cyclables est telle que sans être un fin connaisseur de la ville, on en perd très vite la lisibilité. La piste cyclable se situe parfois au centre de la rue, parfois à droite des voitures, à droite ou à gauche du tram, partagée sur quels mètres avec les piétons ou les bus, elle peut-être mono- ou bi-directionnelle...
Le réseau est trop complexe et malgré la signalisation des axes majeurs nord/sud et est/ouest, difficile d'avoir une carte mentale claire de son itinéraire. Par ailleurs, les pistes cyclables bi-directionnelles montrent déjà leur limite aux heures de pointes, les endroits d'attente aux intersections autant rapidement saturés.

La complexité physique du parcours alternant entre différents types de pistes cyclables à deux impacts majeurs. Il réduit la vitesse des cyclistes et rend ainsi ce mode de déplacement moins compétitif face aux autres modes de transport (12km/h à Nantes contre 15,5 à Copenhague et 20km/h sur les « Green Waves »). On le sait, un cycliste utilise son vélo principalement parce que c'est rapide et pratique. Par ailleurs, la complexité de lecture du réseau peut dissuader certains usagers à se déplacer à vélo et limite l'augmentation de la part modale. Est-ce ainsi possible d'atteindre 15% de cyclistes ?

Cette remarque est en fait la principale critique que l'on puisse faire aux villes françaises de manière générale. Elles innovent mais complexifient leur réseau.


Une diversité de services 
Comme des dizaines d'autres villes en France, Nantes dispose d'un service de vélos partagés – le Bicloo – et de bornes facilement accessibles (800 vélos et 102 stations). Mais elle permet également la combinaison de transport – vélo-train-vélo (cf. le projet européen BiTiBi). En effet, imaginons qu'un habitant de la région nantaise se rende de son domicile à sa gare locale à vélo, il trouve – à défaut d'un parking sécurisé – un abris à vélo. Il prend ensuite le train et une fois arrivé à la gare de Nantes, il empreinte pour la journée un vélo public et le retourne à la gare lorsqu'il vient reprendre son train.

La Ville de Nantes a développé également des parkings sécurisés disponibles sur la voie public, des pompes à vélo, un vélo pliant autorisé dans le tram – le Cyclotan -, une aide à
de 300 euros à l'achat d'un vélo-cargo, un vélo à disposition des étudiants...


Information à tous nos lecteurs participants à Vélo-City 2015, nous avons déjà trouvé notre QG à deux pas de la salle de congrès, un lieu unique au bord de l'Erdre où nous aurons plaisir à vous retrouver.

13 October 2014

Swiss Family Cargo Bike


No big bicycle urbanist article this time. Just a simple tale of what happens when you loan out your cargo bike. During the summer, a Swiss family from Lausanne checked into my Airbnb room. I have had only wonderful experiences with being an Airbnb host. Half of my guests know my work through the company or through this blog or had the link sent by someone who does, so I get to meet many likeminded people. The other half just like the look of the place so I get to meet fascinating strangers and welcome them into our home.

The Swiss family were cool. They kind of just rocked into Copenhagen without any definitive plan. They just wanted to come here to see this cool, bicycle-friendly city. They even brought their kids' bikes with them on the plane. They had vague ideas of renting a cargo bike - preferably a Bullitt - and riding around the region but were disappointed to discover that Bullitts couldn't be rented and the other places that rent three-wheelers were booked. I was using my own Bullitt at the time, so they enquired about the Triobike three-wheeler I have in the backyard. I said that it probably wasn't THAT great to ride on longer trips, what with the wind and whatnot, but they just shrugged and smiled. They were up for anything. And off they went.

They cycled up the coast north of Copenhagen to the north coast of the island of Sjælland that Copenhagen is on. Then back down again. Then over to Malmö in Sweden to ride around the region. The kids rode their bikes and when one got tired - they were four and six - they just put the bike and kid in the cargo bay and continued.

I heard about their journey but I just received the photos in my inbox. It was, by all accounts, an amazing, epic journey. There are, of course, cycle tracks criss-crossing the nation - especially the island of Sjælland - so THAT was no problem, but respect for doing a few hundred kilometres as a family on a three wheeler, two small kids' bikes and one extra adult bike.

Pit stop at a gas station. Not for gas, obviously.

Heading north from Copenhagen. Stopping at Charlottenlund.

They had camping gear with them, too.

Always fun with some off-roading.

Ooh. And picnics.

Lakeside camping with pre-requisite Danish beer.

Old building-visiting.

Off to Sweden.

A break back in Copenhagen at Baisikeli's café.

Thanks to Simon and Sonia for the photos so I can see what they got up to on my bike!