30 May 2015

Hacking a German "Safety" Campaign with Rationality



Nice with a bit of activism and rationality on a Saturday. Thanks to our reader Jochen, who sent us some photos from the streets of Germany in reaction to a campaign from the German Ministry of Transport, above. Next to a photo of Darth Vader the text reads: "The saga continues, thanks to the helmet. Works in every galaxy. And on the bicycle."

This set cyclists and activists to task.


Billboard in Bonn: "Now I'm single... thanks, helmet."
Photo: Jochen 

In a country where only about 10% of cyclists wear plastic hats, the Ministry of Transport decided to chuck some taxpayer money into a campaign. A lazy move from politicans whose ignorance about the importance of encouraging cycling, building infrastructure and the health benefits of a cycling population has now been broadcast to the planet. They are basically using taxpayer money to advertise how ignorant they are. There's the first problem with their campaign.

The choice of Darth Vader is as strange as it is awkward - for the Germans. World War II Nazi helmets were the direct inspiration for Vader's helmet, as you can read here:

"Costume designer John Mollo took it from there, fusing elements of various real-life uniforms associated with war and evil. To design Vader’s infamous black helmet, Mollo looked to the black, shiny headgear Nazis wore during WWII."

One might argue that Mr Vader is not exactly an appropriate role model. One of the first things his mentor, Mr Hitler, did when assuming power was make Germany's largest cyclist organisation illegal. (they were also socialists, which was handy).

The Ministry also willfully ignores the advice of the European Council of Ministers of Transport in 2004 - which included the German Minister of Transport at the time - in a report entitled National Policies to Promote Cycling:

"[...] from the point of view of restrictiveness, even the official promotion of helmets may have negative consequences for bicycle use, and that to prevent helmets having a negative effect on the use of bicycles, the best approach is to leave the promotion of helmet wear to manufacturers and shopkeepers. The report entitled 'Head Injuries and Helmet Law for Cyclists' by Dorothy L. Robinson, Bicycle Research report No. 81 (March 1997) shows that the main effect of the introduction of the general helmet law for cyclists in Australia was a drop in bicycle use."

Even research from the German Hannelore Kohl Stiftung was happily swept under the rug:



Be sure to check www.motoringhelmet.com for more reasons why driving with a helmet is a good idea. It links to our blog articles about the subject.

Imagine. The Ministry of Transport in Europe's largest country completely and utterly Ignoring the Bull in Society's China Shop.

But hey. Shortly after appearing, billboards around Germany that featured the Darth Vader campaign began to feature added text. The Force is strong within the rational Jedi fighting for liveable cities...


The saga continues in Bonn. This billboard now reads: "I have dandruff. Thank you, helmet."
Photo: Jochen


Bonn: "I am a monster. Thanks, helmet."
Photo: Jochen 

And from Frankfurt: "Works in every galaxy. And on stairs."
Photo: Heppo

Frankfurt: "Works in every galaxy. And in the shower."
Photo: A friend of Jochen Erdelmeier

Frankfurt: "Works in every galaxy. And while doing housework."
Photo: Heppo

Frankfurt: "Works in every galaxy. And in cars."
Photo: Heppo

Frankfurt: "Works in every galaxy. And while walking."
Photo: Heppo

Bike Share by the People, For the People

Din Bycykel / Your City Bike
Saw a lovely thing in my neighbourhood today. Copenhagen's new bike share system. Parked right there under a tree. In contrast to the failed one still operating, this system is free, it doesn't have safety issues with a distracting tablet screen, it doesn't weigh as much as a hippopotamus, it doesn't have a noisy motor and it doesn't have constant tech issues at a docking station.

Din Bycykel / Your City Bike
The sign on the side reads:

"Hi, my name is Christian Liljedahl and I've made this City Bike (bycykel) for Copenhagen and for you. Use it and park it somewhere useful so others can enjoy it when you're finished.

If it's flat or broken, send me a text on (telephone number) or donate a puncture repair at the closest bike shop. You can also make your own City Bike. Find out more on DinBycykel on Facebook."

This is brilliant. This made my day. In a country where 400,000 bikes are scrapped every year and The Establishment (City of Copenhagen, City of Frederiksberg, Danish Railways, Danish Cyclists Federation) all insist on lame solutions like the GoBike ($10,000 per bike), People Power is fantastic.

More of this, please.

27 May 2015

The Desire Lines of Cyclists – The Global Study – is in the starting block






Copenhagenize Design Co. has decided to take our unique Desire Lines Analysis Tool to the world. We are launching a new project that will span continents.

The Desire Lines of Cyclists – The Global Study – is the natural evolution of our original Desire Lines analysis of cyclist behaviour and how cyclists react to urban design called The Choreography of an Urban Intersection. The results of which were unveiled by CEO Mikael Colville-Andersen at Velo-City 2013 in Vienna. This study from Copenhagen in 2012 was based on video-recorded observations of 16,631 cyclists during a 12 hour period. We explored the anthropological details of bicycle users and how they interact with other traffic users and the existing urban design. Three categories of cyclists were identified: Conformists, Momentumists, and Recklists.


Choreography of an Urban Intersection and Copenhagenize fixes

Thanks to this study we created a new methodology to analyse urban life: the Desire Line Analysis Tool, which is designed mostly to decode the Desire Lines of cyclists. The main purposes of the analysis is to get a thorough understanding of bicycle users and to rethink intersections to fit modern mobility needs. Like William H. Whyte before us, we want first to observe people. We employ anthropology and sociology directly to urban planning - something we feel is sorely lacking.

With increasing focus on re-establishing the bicycle as transport in cities around the world, understanding the behaviour and, indeed, the basic urban anthropology of bicycle users is of utmost importance. Rethinking the car-centric design of intersections and infrastructure is necessary if we are to redesign our cities for new century mobility patterns.



Desire Lines of cyclists turned into a permanent lane in Copenhagen


Until now there has not been any concrete way of mapping cyclist behaviour. Copenhagenize Design Company’s techniques utilise Direct Human Observation in order to map cyclist behaviour - and gather a motherlode of valuable data from it.

These two last years at Copenhagenize, urban planners, anthropologists and urban designers have worked on testing, improving and realising new studies in Copenhagen. Using the city as an actual-size laboratory, we observed, analysed, mapped thousands of cyclists' behavior. You can watch our video here, and read our studies here, here, here, here, and here.

Afterwards, we went to Amsterdam, a city considered as a model for many urban planners, and in  collaboration with The University of Amsterdam, Copenhagenize Design Co. worked on nine intersections and 19,500 bicycle users.

Amsterdam - Side by side
Cyclists riding side by side in Amsterdam

Now, we want to expand our proven methodology to other cities around the world and compare different approaches of bicycle urbanism focusing on the way cyclists react to urban design. This study will take us to Europe, South and North America, Asia and Africa.

Cycling is booming everywhere in the world and municipalities are investing in infrastructure across many cities. Nevertheless, data are lacking and a deep understanding of cyclists' behavior and expectations is required. It’s the right moment to get a thorough understanding of the current situation and avoid well known hurdles in the design of infrastructure to match cyclists expectations.

We will start this global study in the two world-wide bicycle friendly cities, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, and use them as references of the study.

Then, we will study intersections in Cape Town (South Africa), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Mexico City (Mexico).

Finally, we will analyse bicycle users crossing an intersection in New York City (US), Paris (France) and Tokyo (Japan). 3 metropolis, 3 different ways to design urban infrastructure and to manage cycling policy.

Paris - Sept. 2014 - Carrefour St Michel
Cyclist on a Vélib in Paris sharing the lane with buses


We will compare all these cyclists and figure out the balance between the behaviour due to varying infrastructure - or lack thereof - and the bicycle culture/habits of the inhabitants. We’ll highlight both the cultural differences and the universality of human behaviour. We truly believe that well-designed infrastructure leads to better behaviour from cyclists - whereas the lack of consideration for cyclists when municipalities design bike infrastructure leads to negative behaviour.

In each city we will team up with a local partner, and we are extremely glad to announce that we will work with the organisations Future Cape Town, ITDP Brazil and 3x3 Design in New York City.

Copenhagenize is also keen on working in close cooperation with the local authorities and has already get the support of the municipalities of Paris and Amsterdam. Our local partners and us are searching for financial support to make the most of the project in each city.

The more data and knowledge that will be gathered on cyclists, the higher the chances are that towns will be turned into bike-friendly cities with all the right infrastructure.

The results will be presented using maps, statistics, qualitative analyses and appealing graphic representations. We will reveal how people respect or disrespect infrastructure, how they interact with pedestrians and motorists, what are their normal trajectories and Desire Lines. All bicycle-friendly cities should have a perfect knowledge of the evolution of the number of cyclists, but also a sociological big picture of them and a deep understanding of their behavior. 

07 May 2015

Lego and Bicycles - Together Forever

Citizen Cyclists 001
When you live in a home with over 20 kg of Lego, using it comes naturally. I noticed five years ago that I didn't have a lot of Lego bicycles. I soon discovered that they are rather hard to come by, despite the fact that Lego is, of course, Danish. In America, for example, the quickest way to get a Lego bicycle is buy the ambulance set. Seriously. Selling fear of cycling in a Lego box.

But back in 2011 I wanted to do a rendition of the Copenhagen rush hour in Lego bicycles. I stripmined eBay in four countries buying bikes and mini-figures that resembled normal people. Finally, shot a series of photos like the one up top.
Lego Cycle Chic
My inspiration also had a root at the Legoland theme park. I spotted this cyclist, above, from the age before the mini figure, which makes them awesome. From the age before rubber tires and asphalt, too, it would seem - so even more respect.

Bicycles in LEGO sets
Looking around the internet I discovered that there are/were sets that featured Lego bicycles, as you can see above. Then, of coursre, I discovered a nerdy website listing all Lego sets with bicycles in them. Ever.

Here are some photos from the original Lego rush hour shoot back in May 2011:
Citizen Cyclists 016 Cycle Chic Bike Gang
Citizen Cyclists 011 Citizen Cyclists 006
Citizen Cyclists 012 Citizen Cyclists 014
Citizen Cyclists 007 Citizen Cyclists 002

Citizen Cyclists 005
I tried to get all sorts of different people represented. Workers, doctors, parents, you name it.

Copenhagenize Lego
Late last year I did another shoot, featuring more bicycles and style of citizens.
Copenhagenize Lego Copenhagenize Lego
Finally managed to get a cargo bike built.

At Copenhagenize Design Co. we make holiday cards with mini-figures featuring ourselves in Lego. That's me in the middle.
Eyes in the Back of My Head Lego bicycle chic
What else can I pull out of the archives? Cycling home with Lego containers for storing... Lego? Check. And a photo from Sandra at Classic Copenhagen featuring Godzilla-sized cyclists at the Lego flagship store in Copenhagen.

Legocentration Lego
Lego and urbanism? You bet. A few years ago the Danish Architecture Center (DAC) had Lego on tables on the City Hall Square and Felix and I hung around for ages constructing buildings. We always show up at DAC when they do Lego events.

The Kids Want the City Back
Felix and I also addressed a bit of urban decay with a Lego-based urban infill solution across the street from our house.

SF CM Legogirl 03
When speaking in San Francisco back in 2009 I rode in the Halloween Critical Mass and met this fabulous local with her home-made Lego accessories. Wasn't a fan of the critical mass thing, though.

Chess Set
No bikes here, but Felix and I made this chess set years ago and it is still used. The most Danish thing I know.


Lego can be used in many ways. The Danish version of the morons on the left are right here. You have your version, I'm sure.

But hey. Lego ain't going anywhere. Bicycles ain't going anywhere. I'm going to keep on combining the two.
Vélomonde

05 May 2015

The Best Bike Story This Week

The Lulu rocking the Bullitt on the school run today #thelulu #copenhagen
Yesterday I took back ownership of my own Bullitt cargo bike, when The Lulu and I picked it up at Larry vs Harry. You might have heard it was stolen back in March. After a week or so, I resigned myself to never seeing it again. I lived in hope, because another time it was stolen, the Danish internet helped me get it back.


On Sunday evening, I got this photo sent via MMS and on Facebook. WTF. My bike parked outside Larry vs Harry. It was found at Christiania by a guy named Danni and taken from there and put outside Larry vs Harry. An amazing story. I called Danni and he was all like "no problem...".

I got the details of the story yesterday when we picked it up from Claus. And it is amazing.

I realised I know Danni. I chat with him every year at the Svajerløb - Danish Cargo Bike Championships and I chatted with him at the recent bike flea market. Ironically, about whether or not I had found my Bullitt.

Danni's own Bullitt is well-known here. He extended the frame to make it extra long. This shot is from the flea market a few weeks back. He has a kid around the same age as The Lulu, too.

So it turns out Danni was out for a ride on his motorcycle and ended up at Christiania. He saw three Bullitts behind the Månefiskeren café and he recognised one of them. Mine. Still with the map of Copenhagen on the cargo bay and even the Copenhagenize Design Co. logo sticker intact.

Danni rode his motorbike home to Hvidovre - a suburb of Copenhagen - and returned with his minivan. He put my Bullitt in the back and went to a bike shop to buy a lock. He then drove it to Larry vs Harry and locked it outside the shop. He let Claus from Larry vs Harry know it was there and he, in turn, notified me.

How amazing is that. 30 km and a couple of hours out of his day. Just to get the Bullitt back for The Lulu and I.

I'm speechless. Grateful. Amazed.

Thanks Danni. The Lulu is making him a drawing and I'll figure out a suitable gift.