31 March 2015

Make Life Shine - Yes, You Volvo



Volvo's new attack on pedestrians and cyclists is insulting to every traffic user. They have developed what they call "Life Paint" and expect pedestrians and cyclists to spray it on. The problem is that Volvo - and other automobile manufacturers - are the problem. They make products that kill 1.2 million people a year around the world. 35,000 alone in both the European Union and the USA alone. Not to mention the millions injured by cars or the many millions killed slowly by emissions. They continue to pass the buck, to set up smoke screens to make us focus elsewhere and forget the true problem. Look at every tactic the tobacco industry has used over the past 20 years and you see it mirrored in Big Auto. Volvo claims to lead the way in safety, but their Life Paint cannot hide their true colours.

Quite simply, we've started a petition. Enough of this Ignoring the Bull in the China Shop.

Make Life Shine. 
Sign it at Change.org

Instead of targeting the vulnerable traffic users and continuing the victim blaming, we insist that Volvo offers free Life Paint to every Volvo owner on the planet so that cars can be illuminated better in cities and rural settings. Get the spray can at the local dealer or get it shipped for free. Spray that car immediately.



We know a few things:

- Black, grey and silver cars - in that order - are more likely to be involved in crashes, according to a Monash University study. Based on 20 years and 850,000 car crashes. Reflective paint on cars is a no-brainer.
- Cars and motorists kill. You read the stats, above. There is a 9-11 every month in America alone and it's been there every single month for over 60 years. Volvo, of all car companies, should be tackling this head on instead of blaming the victims.
- Volvo should be lobbying intensely for mandatory reflective paint in every market that they operate in. Their Life Paint should be the jewel in their safety crown. Instead, it's tear gas in the eyes of the victims.
- Why stop there, Volvo? What about rational ideas like helmets for motorists or making motorists responsible by forcing them to have external airbags? These ideas exist for good reason. There is science to support them. What about health warning legislation on all automobiles? The ills caused by tobacco are virtually the same as those caused by Volvo's products.

Sign the petition to get Volvo to offer Life Paint on every car on the roads today.

See the ridiculous Life Paint here:
http://www.volvocarslifepaint.com/



Car Industry Strikes Back - Volvo Paints a Grim Picture


The latest piece in our ongoing Car Industry Strikes Back series writes itself. This time it's Volvo doing its best to draw your attention to the fact that motorists kill obscene amounts of people - including themselves - by placing the responsibility on cyclists and pedestrians. It's a smoke screen and this time it's sprayed on. It is Ignoring the Bull in Society's China Shop taken to the next level.

Volvo Life Paint. Seriously. Life paint.

But hey... it's not for the 35,000+ people killed by or in cars in the EU alone by Volvo and their Big Auto homies (around the same in the US and 1.2 million worldwide - not to mention the tenfold more killed by pollution from cars and trucks or the hundreds and hundreds of thousands more injured...).

And no, it's not rational ideas like helmets for motorists or making motorists responsible by forcing them to have external airbags.

It's spray on paint.

No, not for cars, even though black cars are most likely to be involved in collisions. No, it's not rational stuff like reflective paint on cars or health warning legislation on all automobiles.

It's for you on foot or on a bicycle because you are an irritation to motorists. You are a squishy bug ruining their paint job. You are a threat to their mobility dominance. You must be ridiculed with calls for reflective vests/clothing and a variety of ways to hate on pedestrians.

Now you have the gift of Big Auto paint to spray on your irritating person.

http://www.volvocarslifepaint.com/

I don't think we realise how slippery a slope it is we are on as a society when morons like this produce crap like this and actually get taken seriously.

Fortunately, we have a better idea for Volvo. Make Life Shine.

12 March 2015

New Bicycle Bridge - Cirkelbroen - Is Coming

Circle Bridge / Cirkelbroen - Bicycle & Pedestrian Bridge in Copenhagen
This is exactly what you like to see on a spring morning in brilliant sunshine in Copenhagen. Yet another bicycle/pedestrian bridge being put into place on Copenhagen Harbour. The Circle Bridge - Cirkelbroen in Danish - is designed by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson and will fix a minor glitch in the mobility network in Copenhagen.


This beautiful but modest bridge will connect Christiansbro and Applebys Square. A subtle, but important link in making the entire harbourfront walkable and bikeable. On the above map you can see the new and coming bicycle bridges in this section of the harbour. Yes, pedestrians use them, too, but in Copenhagen they are referred to as bicycle bridges first and foremost.


The bridge is a gift to the City of Copenhagen from the Nordea Foundation (they're a bank) and it is 32 metres long. For a budget of 34 million kroner ($4.8 million) you get an artistic bridge designed by a famous artist. Interestingly, the entire Bicycle Snake had about the same budget.

Sorte Diamant
Here's a view from the Black Diamond / Sorte Diamant on the opposite side of the harbour. You can what the mouth of the canal looks like without the bridge.

But hey, it's a gift so who cares. The form of the bridge is rounded, with no straight line from shore to shore. Normally, the design of a bridge for bicycles involves a straight line. The artistic licence on this bridge creates an aesthetic obstacle course. At this location, it is not a problem. This is not a major bicycle route, nor will it ever be. The main focus in on the recreational use of the harbourfront and creating access. So an exception is totally permissable.


Olafur talks about his creative thoughts in this YouTube video, in Danish. The masts reflect the masts of the many ships in Christianshavn Canal. The bridge is a swing bridge, to allow access from the harbour to the canal and vice versa. The many canal tour boats plying their tourist trade will just scoot underneath.

Circle Bridge / Cirkelbroen - Bicycle & Pedestrian Bridge in Copenhagen
The bridge was originally meant to be finished in 2012 but the same malady struck it as struck the Innner Harbour Bridge farther east. The company who was building them went bankrupt and things rolled to a halt. The locals in this area of Christianshavn are among the whiniest and least willing to see Copenhagen change, so there was also a delay as some of them tried their case against the bridge in the courts. All water under the bridge now.


Circle Bridge / Cirkelbroen - Bicycle & Pedestrian Bridge in Copenhagen
Today, work is underway. The components are constructed and are being set into place. Spring is upon us. A new bridge is blossoming. Copenhagen just got a little bit cooler.

10 March 2015

My Stolen Bullitt


Here we go again.

Out into the backyard this morning with The Lulu, heading for school and then off to work. Something was missing. It was big and red and quite gone. My Bullitt cargo bike was not where it should be. Locked with the mother of all chains in our bike shed. It was stolen.

The first thought was "Damn... my logistics this week are screwed." Second thought... "I liked that bike". You know you live in a mainstream bicycle culture when the thoughts occur in THAT order.

I walked around the backyard in vain hope. Then I noticed that another Bullitt wasn't parked in its normal spot. It was gone, too. Double Bullitt thieving in the dark of the night. In a secure, locked backyard.

Fun having to explain to The Lulu, aged 7, about why people do such things. She's no stranger to bike theft, but still, she was as upset as me, so we had to tackle the subject on the spot.


It's just a bike, I know. But it's a bike that we use alot. For transporting stuff like just two days ago at the recycling centre. For building snowmen. For just getting around town. For all our daily needs.


Someone is going to have to break the news to Tigger this evening. THAT ain't gonna be pretty.

This has happened before. Hey, it's a bicycle culture. Back in 2011: My Bike Was Stolen! Back then the story had a fairytale ending against all the odds and thanks to social media: My Bullitt is Found!

I even got my vintage Swedish bike back once, too.

While I don't harbour hopes of repeating those fairytales, you never know. There are loads and loads of Bullitts in Copenhagen now, compared to back in 2011 but anything could happen.

My bike has some unique markings. Sure, the first thing the bike thief does is remove them, but sometimes they just stick it in another backyard in another part of town for a while. There's a pattern to this cargo bike theft.

So, here are the things that make it recognizable:


- A little sticker on the front.
- A Copenhagenize.eu sticker on the front panel.
- A map of Copenhagen on the cargo bay.


- The handlebars are unlike many Bullitts in Copenhagen. My mother taught me to sit up straight, so they are not low and straight, but high and suitable for a gentleman.
- There is a GoPro base on the front of the bike and, down by the front wheel on the left, there is another GoPro solution. (not pictured)
- On the back fender there are white, reflective chevron stickers, just like on The Lulu's bike.

Sigh.

Hvis du ser cyklen et eller andet sted i København, sms eller ring på 26 25 97 26.

04 March 2015

The Copenhagenize Current - Stormwater Management and Cycle Tracks


Cloudburst in Copenhagen. July 4, 2011. Photo via DJ Ladze on Flickr. With permission.

Climate change challenges are clearly defined in Copenhagen and in Denmark. 1000 km of dikes protect many parts of the country from the sea, but the new threat is the water from within and from above. Our fate has become being inundated with torrential rain that floods entire neighbourhoods. The existing sewer system is completely inadequate to tackle the volume of water from cloudbursts.

It is something that is a reality for us living in Copenhagen and in many Danish cities and there is a great deal of political focus on it. Just have a look at this bad boy pdf featuring Copenhagen's Climate Adaptation Plan.



There are already many ideas and intiatives on the table in Copenhagen. Much is said and written about creating "Cloudburst Streets", like the one, above. Creating green space that becomes "blue" during cloudbursts and acts as a stormwater delay. Other streets may get a green strip down one side with the same effect.

Fantastic. An excellent excuse to greenify many areas of the city and a perfect way to avoid complaining about removing parking spots and whatnot from last-century minds.

Greenification of streets and creating reservoirs for overflow of rainwater are fantastic additions to the urban landscape. Exploiting the need for water runoff solutions to create more green space in cities is brilliant. Not every street in Copenhagen, however, has the space to accommodate wide, green reservoirs or green channels. What of the many other streets?

Urban space is affected greatly by the new climate reality in Danish cities. It is, however, urban space that can help solve the problem we face.

Which is why we are developing The Copenhagenize Current.


Like many ideas, it starts with personal experience. That's me, on the left, on Istedgade in the Vesterbro neighbourhood, during a cloudburst that flooded the whole 'hood. Farther down the street, there were people kayaking. Like many great ideas, it starts in the bathroom of a bar on a Saturday night. We had been discussing climate adaptation in the office at Copenhagenize Design Company. Standing there one night, I considered the existing, traditional system, attached to the wall and then noticed how space on the floor was being used for "excess water runoff" in case of spray or bad aim. A supplementary system that also assists during mopping and general cleaning.

Couldn't that simple idea be applied to streets? Including my own, where the businesses in the cellar were flooded beyond repair in 2011? What about using existing urban space to design a stormwater runoff system.


Like any good idea spawned in a nocturnal bathroom, you get your kids to help with a Lego model. We have existing space. Copenhagen's comprehensive network of cycle tracks on main streets are there and they're not going anywhere - thank goodness. Real estate that is in use and integral to city life. Bicycles, however, are lightweight vehicles that cause little wear and tear on the infrastructure. Therefore, I thought quite simply, why not create high-volume rainwater trenches underneath the cycle tracks?

That is what The Copenhagenize Current is all about. Using existing space for rainwater managment in extreme weather conditions and, while we’re at it, improving infrastruture for the city’s cyclists.


In a nutshell, The Copenhagenize Current involves digging trenches under existing cycle tracks, implementing precast, concrete containers and covering them with pre-fab, concrete slabs. It is a basic cut and cover operation. On streets without adequate space for wide medians that can be dug out and act as reservoirs for stormwater, the Copenhagenize Current can act as an incredibly efficient, high-volume system to expedite the drainage of streets and lead water away from vulnerable areas. Copenhagenize Design Co.s architect Steve Montebello has worked on the designs and calculations.

We have designed the Copenhagenize Current to lead high-volumes of water through vulnerable neighbourhoods. The Cities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg have been discussing dredging one of the Lakes - Saint Jørgen's Lake - and lead stormwater to it from surrounding areas so it can act as a temporary reservoir.

This is what it might look like, complete with redesigned lakefront. The Copenhagenize Current can be used to lead water to such a lake reservoir solution.


Using pre-fabricated concrete slabs that can bear the weight of thousands of bicycles - and still allow for crossing motor vehicles at intersectionss - allows for implementation of a number of other features. LED lights can be built into the slabs to further visibility of the cycle track. In addition, heating coils can be embedded in the surface, under the final layer of asphalt, to melt snow and ice during the winter.

Having pre-fab slabs will also provide a smoother ride for cyclists, minimise the risk of potholes and make maintenence of the cycle tracks easier. So much goodness.


The design allows for a maximum amount of drainage grates so that all water at every point can easily fill into the concrete trenches. Grates on the surface will serve to drain water coming from the sidewalk onto the Current. The Current can also work independently of the existing sewer system or together with it, depending on need.


The water flow routes in Copenhagen. Most lead towards the harbour or the sea.

Added Value
Apart from the obvious benefits of the Current, namely the fast removal of stormwater from streets and protecting surrounding neighbourhoods and buildings from flooding, there are points that provide an added value to our design.

Improved Accessibility to Cables
Most cables related to urban life are buried beneath sidewalks and, to a lesser extent, roads. We have considered the idea of creating cable trays on the wall of the concrete trenches to provide easy access to certain types of cables.

Inspiration for Improvement
The design serves an important purpose - stormwater protection for cities. The design can also encourage municipalities that are reluctant about widening existing bicycle infrastructure on certain streets to finally do so by implementing the Current. Gammel Kongevej, with the narrowest cycle tracks in the capital, springs to mind.

Cost-Benefit
Maintenance costs on cycle tracks will fall due to the reduced need for repairing potholes. Better infrastructure encourages cycling, as well. The pre-fab slabs are easily replaced on an individual basis if need be.

Stormwater Fountain
We would love to see the Current end in a pipe that leads under Skt Jørgens Lake or in the harbour. The mouth of the pipe positioned above the surface. During a stormwater surge, the force of the water rushing to the destination will create a fountain. A spray of water - that can be designed - that will celebrate the rain - and the human solutions for tackling it.

Silvacells

Accommodation can be made for pipes leading off of the Current onto side streets or into parks where silva cells under trees and/or vegetation are located.



When the climate - or rather humans - throws you a curve ball, you have to think out of the box. Especially when your box is quickly filling up with water.



03 March 2015

The Depressing Rise of Squiggletecture - and how to design a bicycle/ped bridge

Architectural competitions are great. A flurry of designs emerge from Photoshopland that allow you to gauge the current mood, trends and ideas. If you're lucky, there are a few ooh and ahh moments. We were sitting here at the office looking at the many entries for the open competition for the Nine Elms to Pimlico Bridge in London. A pedestrian and bicycle bridge across the storied Thames. The NEP Bridge competition, on their website, declares they are looking for:

"...exceptional, inspiring designs for a new bridge at the centre of the world’s greatest city. The successful entry will have to win the hearts of Londoners who are tremendously proud of their river and its rich architectural heritage.

There are considerable challenges and engineering feats to overcome. The design must work alongside the cutting edge architecture emerging on the south bank as well as the elegant frontages on the north. The landing points on both sides must integrate sensitively with their surroundings and provide a smooth and safe experience for the pedestrian and cyclists who use it.

This bridge is also a badly needed and valuable piece of infrastructure for London. It has a very strong transport case, will support the city’s growth and has significant funding commitments already in place. Developing an inspiring, beautiful design will allow us to take the project to the next stage and ensure this project comes off the page into reality in a much shorter timeframe."
Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council and co-chair of the Nine Elms Vauxhall Partnership

Architecture and design is a question of taste. What I like might not be what you like. I'm not going to bother talking about which designs appeal to me. Here at the office we started looking at the bridge from the mobility perspective and, as is our lot, from the perspective of citizen cyclists who want to get around their city. Basing our focus on the many bicycle bridges in the Netherlands and Denmark. In particular, Copenhagen has seven new bicycle bridges either just openend or on the way. Leaving the personal taste up to the individual, we looked at pure mobility.

Like Ravi Govindia says, above, it's a badly needed and valuable piece of infrastructure with a strong transport case that will support the city's growth. It has to provide a smooth and safe experience for pedestrians and cyclists.

In the competition brief it says that:
- "...it must be inspiring, elegant and functional in its design and perfect in its execution."
- "Provide a safe and attractive link for pedestrians and cyclists crossign the river, encouraging movement between the two banks."

I'm not really a big fan of architects dabbling in urban planning. So few have the knack for it. So, with that in mind, what is the State of the Architectural Bridge Nation?

Welcome to the Weird World of Squiggletecture
What is up with these squiggles?! It's perfectly fine to think out of the box. Not much gets accomplished if you don't. But there is a clear, and perhaps, disturbing trend which I have hereby dubbed Squiggletecture. There is an alarming number of renderings that have discarded straight lines.

What is a bridge? Isn't it just a vital mobility link from one side of a body of water to another? Isn't that really the baseline for every decent bridge in history? Look at a map of Paris or any other city with bridges. They are straight. From one shore to the other. Providing no-nonsense A to B for the people using it. Only then do differences in design and aesthetics come into play.

Look at the selection of designs, above. A2Bism had a cement block chained to its feet and it was thrown into the river. It's sleeping with the fishes.

You wonder who thinks stuff like this up. Are they all former interns at Foster + Partners? Wherever they cut their teeth on Photoshop, it is clear that these are people who do not ride bicycles in a city - or who didn't even bother trying before they started doodling a bicycle and pedestrian bridge. Let alone people who walk very much on their urban landscape. These are all designs for meandering tourists licking ice cream on a Sunday afternoon. People with nowhere to go and nowhere to be. These aren't designs for a city in constant motion and citizens moving purposely about.

The ramps. Seriously. Look at all those squiggletecture ramps. Round and round we go, slowly descending to the river bank like a flower petal on a summer breeze. Not exactly what any human in a city wants, now is it? Then look at some of those sharp turns on the bicycle ramps. Best Practice for grade and curves on bicycle infrastructure has been around for almost a century. Would it have hurt to spend a little while on Google? Or on a bicycle? Unbelievable.

One of the designs has a fancy waterfall - bringing inspiration to London from.... 1980s Edmonton, Canada. But really, the water is a visual shield to disguise the Danteesque inferno in the middle that forces cyclists to descend to several levels of mobility hell.

Here's a thought. Is this pornographic obsession with ramps a subliminal product of decades of car-centric planning? Is there a little voice embedded in the minds of designers and architects that says, "hey... if you have get up or down from an elevation, use a winding ramp. That's what they do in car parking garages and on motorways..." Has car infrastructure dominated so thoroughly that it's hard to plan for other forms of transport?

Whatever. These designs would be great for a Bridge Over the River Why. London certainly doesn't need anymore of this.

It is apparently easy to draw a (curved) line between Illustrator's improvement of their Draw a Curve function and design renderings. There are only 30,000 hits on this how-to film, but I bet 10,000 are from people responsible for the all the photos about this point.

I can lament the fact that there is so little anthropology at play in architecture but assuming that anybody who walks or cycles in a city is a meanderthal shows a lack of understanding of human nature. Stop with these curves, already. It's Magpie Architecture, nothing more. Bling your badass bridge all you want, just don't force people to alter their urban trajectory because you learned a new trick in Illustrator.

There will always be exceptions to this. The new Circle Bridge in Copenhagen by Olafur Eliasson is one. It is not at a location, however, that is - or will be - a vital mobility link. It's just a modest connector bridge across a canal for cyclists and pedestrians. Any bridge that is expected to get a decent share of cyclists wouldn't be designed like this.

Ah, you might say. What about the Bicycle Snake/Cykelslangen in Copenhagen? Isn't that curvy and all that? It is, indeed.



Firstly, it has to navigate a 90 degree turn around the corner of a building. But you don't force cyclists to do 90 degree turns, so they swept it elegantly around the corner for comfort and safetly. The bridge slopes down to the harbour bridge and, with an expected 16,000 A to B cyclists a day, the graceful curvature nudges people ever so slightly to keep their speed in check on the descent.

The designs for the NEP Bridge, above, just curve for no particular reason. With no regard for getting people where they want to go. Instead, there seems to be a distinct focus on increasing travel times by creating a mobility obstacle course.

Speaking of obstacles, it was surprising to see that designs were actually sent in that just discarded the idea of ramps altogether and rolled their dice on... stairs. Big, fancy, modern bridge across the river of a major world city and you have to navigate stairs to get there. Although some designs feature elevators to further slow you down and one chucked in escalators for bikes.


One of the designs has a small box in the corner showing the Everest slope and upselling it by declaring the intention to implement "Place making across the bridge and its landing position". Just look at the place they imagine making. Ooh. Sticky.

If you want to create a bicycle and pedestrian bridge in 2015, can we agree that stairs and elevators should not be your point of departure?
A lot of the renderings only provide conceptual ideas and it's sometimes hard to see details. Nevertheless, it wasn't all squiggletecture, curve balls and epic climbing expeditions. There are designs that make sense. There seem to be some common denominators. One of them is that the designer/architect has probably actually tried to ride a bicycle in a city. Another is a clear separation between the two user groups.

The design at top left does so rather elegantly, with a cycle track down the middle. As does the design at bottom left. At bottom right is a design similar to what you see over the Brooklyn Bridge. Doesn't make it a good thing, but at least the designer was thinking about A2B and dividing space between cyclists and pedestrians.

I was going to start commenting on which design(s) I like, but then I remembered I said I wouldn't that at the beginning of the article. So nevermind.

What is going to work, regardless of design, is a bridge that provides an intelligent A2B without irritations or detours at either end. A bridge that understands pedestrians and their needs and expectations, absolutely, but also one that does the same for cyclists. Again, that's bascially almost every city bridge ever built prior to the dawn of automobile culture.

There is one sentence in the competition brief, mentioned above, that would benefit from being rearranged like this:

"...it must be functional in its design, perfect in its execution and also inspiring and elegant."

It's a modern lifeline across a river in a world city, not a coffee cup.

Functional design first or don't bother.