Showing posts with label "short john". Show all posts
Showing posts with label "short john". Show all posts

31 July 2011

The Chairman of the Bike

Little wheel, big wheel.
Great shot from my friend Sandra, from the Classic Copenhagen blog.

21 July 2011

Cargo Bikes in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Sao Paolo Cargo Bike_2
I am left with thousands of impressions from my recent trip to Brazil. One of the bicycle-related impressions that is not easy to forget is the incredible use of cargo bikes.

In Sao Paulo, I was thrilled to see an armada of bicycles that would make a Copenhagener feel at home. The bicycles we call Short Johns - aka butcher's bike, chimney sweep bike, delivery bike - feature in amazing numbers in the city. Performing the tasks they were designed for - light goods delivery.
Sao Paolo Cargo Bike_1 Sao Paolo Cargo Bike_3
The photos above and below were taken outside the public market in the city centre. The bicycles look rough but ready and are in constant use. All of them are Brazilian makes - indeed Brazil still has an independent bicycle industry. The two biggest companies make 3 million bicycles a year between them - in country.
Sao Paolo Cargo Bike_4 Sao Paolo Cargo Bike_5

Sao Paolo Cargo Bike_6
I didn't get to hear this horn, but would have loved to. It has a pump - at top - that must generate a hell of a noise through that horn.
Sao Paolo Cargo Bike Sao Paolo Cargo Delivery (2)
Throughout the city there are Short Johns in action. I heard from a friend in Sao Paulo that one of the McDonalds delivers by bike! If anyone in SP can photograph that, send it along. Supermarket deliveries by bicycle are also very popular.

Thanks to João Lacerda for snapping this shot of a delivery bicycle from McDonalds delivering 'food' in Sao Paulo. There aren't many places in the world where McDonalds delivers - so great it's by bicycle.

Sao Paolo Cargo Bike_8
Now Brazil is hardly a third-world country anymore and their financial boom is clear to anyone. When you travel with the almighty Danish krone, most places feel cheap. Hell, going to America is like going to India... but I was amazed that the prices in Brazil were on a par with Copenhagen, Sure, working as a bicycle delivery guy may not be considered the top of the corporate ladder for most, but you certainly don't get the impression that it's the very poorest who are doing it. There are respectable uniforms and bicycles with the company name on the side.
Sao Paolo ShortJohn Delivery
Like in other cities - the bicycle delivery guys in New York City spring to mind - these are the working class heroes of the bicycle world. They have my utmost respect. And I love their bikes.

03 July 2011

Bogota Cargo Bike Culture

iphone 2011-04-07 346
One aspect of Copenhagen's bicycle culture that always gets us reaching for a camera are the cargo bikes. Transporting goods from A to B. It was lovely to see people doing the same in Bogotá.

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Bicycle taxi transporting people from A to B.

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Taking potatoes from the market to home.

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Cargo bicycle drink vendor.

26 April 2011

Dig This

Archeology and Bicycles
I end up riding behind these two chaps on my way to the Copenhagenize Consulting offices in the mornings. The new Metro line is underway and the first phase - like in any many cities with a long history - involves archeologists and historians from the Copenhagen Museum.

You can't stick spade into the ground without hitting history so archeologists are on the front lines when excavation begins.

The two chaps in the photos ride through town with their gear, heading for the dig, on two of the Copenhagen Museum's fleet of short john bikes.

Old Bomb Shelter under City Hall Square
Spotted this the other day. A WW2 bomb shelter under City Hall Square. Not exactly old, of course, but still interesting to see it dug up. The text reads; "Abuse (of the facility) will be punished according to the law."

19 March 2011

Bicycles and Fighter Jets

Saw this photo in a Danish newspaper, Politiken, this morning. The Danish air force sent F-16 jets to Sicily today and this photo shows one of the planes being prepared for duty. I love that there are two classic Danish short john bicycles parked next to them. The bicycle used when maintaining expensive fighter jets.

Six F-16s fly off this morning to take part in the global push to battle a dictator who is slaughtering civilians... No... not Yemen, silly! They only have sand and dead civilians! We mean Libya, of course. They have oil and dead civilians. So off we go to war.

08 March 2011

Short John for Short Kids

Cool Kids Short John
Spotted this outside a supermarket. What a cool little short john for kids. Front racks are all the rage in Denmark - everybody is slapping them on their bicycles. Perfect on a kids bike.

07 December 2009

Copenhagen Bike Messengers and My Dad

Copenhagen Bike Messenger ca. 1950
Photo courtesy of and © Copenhagen City Museum / Københavns Bymuseum.

This is not a photo of my dad. I wish it were. I wish I could have found a photo of him while perusing the photo archives of the Copenhagen City Museum but those odds are quite astronomical.

While it's not him, it almost could be. During the Second World War my grandmother - my dad's mum - died and one of his aunts took care of him. He moved from Northern Jutland to Roskilde, near Copenhagen at the age of 15. He got a job, like many Danish boys, as a bike messenger boy in the town. Not long after, he got a job in Copenhagen, working for a green grocers on Gothersgade.

Again, he was a bike messenger, riding out to the so-calle 'Vegetable Square' - where shops stocked up on wholesale greens and fruits in the morning - on a Short John like in the photo or a large three-wheeler. He also delivered goods to customers during the day and he lived with the family who owned the shop.

So this photo, for me, is a brilliant and unexpected glimpse into my father's youth. By the looks of the cars it is from the 1940's.

Copenhagen 'By-Expressen' - Bike Messenger Company
Photo courtesy of and © Copenhagen City Museum / Københavns Bymuseum.

Here's another glimpse into the history of bike messengers in Copenhagen. A company, 'By-expressen' or City Express in English lined up all their messengers for a photo. What a brilliant flock of well-dressed young men.

Copenhagen Bike Messengers on City Hall Square
Photo courtesy of and © Copenhagen City Museum / Københavns Bymuseum.

Here's one of the cycles my dad also rode around the city. They're still present on the streets, but they have been largely replaced by the many brands of three-wheeler cargo bikes we see in the city. The Copenhagen SUVs.

Copenhagen Cargo Bike Race 1950
Photo courtesy of and © Copenhagen City Museum / Københavns Bymuseum.

Cargo bike races were a main fixture for decades. Here's a photo of a cargo bike race in 1950 featuring classic Danish Long John bicycles. In this case it was part of 'Fagernes Fest' - a festival and competition for the unions. Bike messengers would compete against each other, just as barrelmakers would do the same, and so on for all the different types of jobs. These festivals were very popular. Just look at the crowds above.

We posted about the revival of the 'Svajerløb' / Cargo bike races last year and we're looking forward to the 2010 race, too. Next year marks 50 years since the last official cargo bike race in 1960.

Bike messengers in Denmark were called 'svajere' and they were well known for being cheeky and loud and for their use of 'colourful language'. Back in the 1920's and 1930's, if the 'svajere' whistled a tune you could be sure that it would be a hit. In this clip from a Danish film, the woman playing an actress visits the bike messengers to get them to whistle a tune from her theatre show to guarantee that it will be a hit. Just look how well-dressed their were in that era:

We do, of course, still have bike messengers in Copenhagen after all these years. With and without cargo bikes.
Important Delivery Bike Messenger Messenger Boy
They are a part of the long, proud history of bike messengers in Copenhagen.

22 April 2009

Svajerløb 2009 - Danish Cargo Bike Championships

What a lovely day. The first 'svajer' race in almost 50 years took place last Saturday - April 18th - in Copenhagen.

'Svajere' - as we blogged about previously - were the bike messengers that ruled the streets of Copenhagen for decades in the first half of the 20th century, riding their huge box bikes and livening up the streets with singing, whistling and banter.
Svajerløb 2009: Longjohn
This year, the Svajer race was revived - aka The Danish Cargo Bike Championships.

It was a fantastic day out on Israels plads. In the video above, my son [aged 7] shot the shaky video and I supplied the stills. The first song is a 1930's tribute to these 'svajere' - asphalt cowboys, they were called - and the second song is from the 1970's where Povl Kjeller sings about how happy he is about his bike.

'I like my bike / it takes me far and wide / easy and fast / and it doesn't pollute like those other oil bastards [cars]'

Anyway, the Danish Cargo Bike Championships was a festive affair in bright spring sunshine. I don't think I've ever seen so many cargo bikes gathered in one place. The course was set up around the square with a fine mix of smooth straights and cobblestoned corners.
Svajerløb 2009: Belinky
There was a race for three-wheelers, with Leif Harup on a Kangaroo taking the gold medal and the three-wheeled glory. Then there was several heats for two-wheelers and Thorsten Rentel beat Hans Fogh by a spoke in the final. In both disciplines the riders rode first without cargo and then had to put three tyres on the bikes to finish.
Svajerløb 2009: Harry
There were many Bullitts from Larry vs. Harry, a good number of Dutch Bakfiets and quite a few Belinkys. Add to that Christiania Bikes, Longjohns, Short Johns and the aforementioned Kangaroo. Baisikeli was present with one of their ambulance bikes from their African workshops.
Svajerløb 2009: Victory for Africa
The relay race was a treat, with teams of four sharing a bike first without and then with a tyre on board. Here it wasn't just speed demons taking part. Girls in skirts, friends, collegues, you name it. All enjoying the race. It was Team Bullitt from Larry vs. Harry that took gold, however.
Svajerløb 2009: Cycle Chic Racing Style
The newly formed Copenhagen Bicycle Police Unit were supposed to show up and race against bike messengers on fixies but they backed out at the last minute. Chicken shits. I'm figuring that they were afraid of losing so soon after their debut on the streets. And they would have lost as the fixie boys were bloody fast. They beat an All-Star team on Bullitts in the final race.
Svajerløb 2009: Cornering Svajerløb 2009: No Pain No Gain

The course was quite cool. The faster bikes easily hit 40 km/h on the stretches without cargo and the tight cobblestone corners would do Paris-Roubaix proud. In the breaks between races Copenhageners on cargo bikes tried out the course with their kids.
Svajerløb 2009: Families
Not only did the Police let the race down, but the Danish Cyclists Federation [DCF] didn't fancy participating either. Unbelievable. The finish line was almost right outside their offices and shop but they didn't want to be involved with the race and I heard that they declined even writing about the race in their membership magazine. "We did a piece on recumbents a while back, so no thanks." Recumbents are not cargo bikes, as far as I'm aware. And these 'svajer' races are a historical event. The people who arranged the race were quite shocked that the DCF didn't want to know.

But then again, who needs a dusty old cyclist federation living in the past and married to the car-centric Road Safety Council when you have.... Copenhageners. Regular citizens showing up to race or to watch and to see the revival of these historic races. Not to mention passionate people arranging the whole day, including, Larry vs. Harry and a cycling club Amagerringen who manned the barbeque and helped out big time and the City of Copenhagen's Bicycle Office.
Svajerløb 2009: Relay Race Start
The date is set for 2010 - April 10th. Mark it in your calendar. It's going to be bigger and better.

Addendum: Danes don't have a patent on these historical races. Here's a great website highlight the history in other countries of cargo bike races. Great reading.
Svajerløb 2009: The Final
You can see all my photos from the day over in this set on Flickr.

16 December 2008

Blue Barrister Bicycle

Lawyer's Bike
A lovely blue Short John outside of the City Courts. It's a company bike for a firm of barristers. There is a veritable boom in the number of company bikes in Copenhagen this year. It's great advertisting.
Send lawyers, bikes and money
Caught these bicycling barristers last summer, heading away from court.

27 April 2008

Cargo Bike Culture

14:02 - 19 Copenhagen Minutes 14:11 - 19 Copenhagen Minutes
Cargo bike culture in Copenhagen. The first five photos were taken in the 19 Copenhagen Minutes set. The last one was not but it's classic Copenhagen shot of a mother transporting her newborn.
14:07 - 19 Copenhagen Minutes 14:13 - 19 Copenhagen Minutes

14:16 - 19 Copenhagen Minutes Oh Baby

19 February 2008

Slices of Copenhagen Cargo Bike Life

I was running some errands the other morning, on a brilliant sunny day in the mid-winter. It was chilly, around freezing with a wind chill that took it down to -15 C.
Here's a series of cargo bikes I saw on my way:
City Hall Square in Copenhagen on morning. He's riding either a Sorte Jernhest [Black Iron Horse] cargo bike or a Bellabike.
Cargo Crossing
A Bellabike making the crossing over Nordre Fasanvej.

One person adjusting the iPod to find the perfect sunny winter's day music and another contemplating the light changing on his Nihola.

Boing Boing
A Winther Kangaroo hanging with friends in the bike rack.

A couple of Copenhageners commuting together. He's on a classic Short John delivery bike.

Dad on his way to work after having dropped off the kids at daycare with an older Winther Dolphin trailer.