Showing posts with label holland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label holland. Show all posts

06 February 2013

AnsaldoBreda (Part One)

Snow and Ice build-up damage to the underside of trains recently delivered by AnsaldoBreda for "Fyra" service between Amsterdam and Brussels. (Source: Dutch Railways)
(NB: This post contains some links to news stories in languages other than English. Please let Google Translate be your friend)

Denmark, Belgium, and The Netherlands are three small countries that share many similar characteristics. All three are Constitutional Monarchies, all three share a border with Germany, all three stare down the North Sea, all three think strong black licorice is delicious, all three have languages that, when spoken, make a person sound like they have a throat ailment, all three have strong bicycle culture...okay, Belgium is doing some catch-up on that one...and all three have ordered intercity (long-distance) trains from AnsaldoBreda intended to be a backbone of rail service in each country.

The company which now titles itself "AnsaldoBreda" was created through a merger of Ansaldo Trasporti and Breda Costruzioni Ferroviarie in 2001. It is a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, a conglomerate which in 1993 also acquired other now-unrelated divisions of the former Gio. Anslado & C., which also use the name "Ansaldo" as a prefix in their names.  For example Ansaldo STS is a signals and automation company also owned by Finmeccanica but run separately from AnsaldoBreda, though they do work together on some products.

Finmeccanica is partially (30%) owned by the Italian State.

AnsaldoBreda's V250 sitting in the Yard
(Confused already? Wait for the next paragraph, and blame the European Union and their market directives about the seperation of rail operators form raill infrastructure)
Earlier this month, Fyra...which is a brand of train service operated by a company called High Speed Alliance BV...a joint venture between "NS Hi-Speed" (which itself is a joint-venture of the Dutch Railways and the airline KLM)...and the Belgian Railways...

(i.e. (KLM+Dutch Railways)+Belgian Railway=High Speed Alliance ="Fyra", a marketing brand of train service)

...completely suspended operations of its new V250 trains built by AnsaldoBreda.

The V250 trains only began service this past December, years after they had been promised, and had immediately become notorious for delayed and canceled trips.

Credit: SergioGeorgini via Wikimedia
InfraBel is the Belgian track infrastructure authority and is separate from operator the Belgian Railways. On Thursday, January 17th, InfraBel discovered train parts on its portion of the new, specially engineered high-speed rail line ("HSL4") that runs from Brussels to the Belgian-Dutch border.

These parts were soon discovered to have fallen off of the V250 after a particularly snowy day. Except these were conditions that did not result in damage to Fyra's HSL4 companion, the Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV)-based high-speed trains run by the train operator Thalys (Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam and v.v.) on the same tracks.

The Amsterdam-Brussels city-pair had for over 50 years been serviced by an hourly joint Dutch-Belgian operation named "The Benelux train" (originally the trains had been slated to continue south from Belgium to the City of Luxembourg). These trains stopped at major cities between Amsterdam and Brussels, including the "other" Dutch Capital, The Hague. These trains were slower than the both Thalys and the V250, but they offered service not requiring payment of a surcharge (Thalys) or a reservation (Thalys & Fyra) and most importantly...

...The Benelux trains carried bicycles

No box or bag required, just buy a bicycle ticket and roll on board into the designated bike storage area.

Fyra had been running limited Netherlands-only services using traditional electric locomotive-hauled train cars/carriages/wagons from Amsterdam to Breda, a city in the Netherlands which has no relation to AnsaldoBreda or predecessors, on the Dutch counterpart rail line to HSL4, the HSL-Zuid ("High Speed Line South"). This service had been implemented in this form because the V250s were delayed, as was the completion of both HSLs.  (The Amsterdam-Breda trains are still running today, BTW)

So, finally, the V250s which had been ordered eight years prior, entered service and began to offer mostly fares priced above what the old Benelux train had been charging, did not make a stop in The Hague, and...

...Fyra would not carry bicycles!

Nope, no way no how. Okay, if it was a folding bike, like a Brompton, in a bag, that would be alright, but no regular bicycles all...on a train...that operates(or did for a while) in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Such Heresy! Indeed, even the Thalys trains, allow a bicycle to travel inside a slip cover of certain dimensions with the front wheel removed.

As of today, nineteen days later, the V250s sit in a storage yard awaiting further repair which had been promised "within a few days" and a decision on whether to return the NS HiSpeed owned V250s to AnsaldoBreda will be made in three months time. (The Belgians immediately cancelled three undelivered trainsets)

 Fyra has announced that a shortened version of the Benelux train will return in two weeks, which is quite an amazing task given that the planning of train "path-slots" on the busy railways of Belgium and the Netherlands normally takes one or two years. Whether these substitute trains will take bicycles is not known. They will stop in The Hague, but owing to corridor capacity having been already reassigned, will not continue to Amsterdam. Connections at Rotterdam will be available. not supposed to look like this after it snows.
Needless to say, the whole situation is a scandal for the press in both countries to focus upon, the rail executives of both the Dutch and the Belgian Railways have been called before the Belgian Parliament and to meetings with the Dutch Government as well as television news interviews.

Fyra/High Speed Alliance is losing many millions of euros on refunds and in revenues. Because the V250 was to be the premier train product initially on the international service, and was to eventually replace the locomotive-hauled trains on the domestic service to Breda the City, it has itself become referred to as the Fyra Train. Or "Failra". Some speculate that the name is an acronym for"Forget Your Rapid Arrival".  #Fyra has trended on twitter in both countries and has been used to describe other delayed and problematic AnsaldoBreda and Finmeccanica products.

AnsaldoBreda's IC4, also sitting in the Yard.
And this is not unlike the situation Denmark's State-owned Railways (known as DSB) has found itself in with its IC4 trains, or as the Flemish-/Dutch-speaking press now prefers to call it, "The Danish Fyra". More about that, and other AnsaldoBreda failures in part two next week, but the mere existence of these now delayed and outdated-design products may have an impact on the use of cycling on both sides of the Wadden Sea.

The Internationally-renown Transit-Oriented-Development expert Robert Cervero of the University of California at Berkeley, in the USA, will tell you that bikes and walking are superb means of transport, but that they do have their limits, and that to extend the walk- or bike- shed you need a mechanical means to move mass amounts of people in to, out of, and between employment, activity and other centers (or "nodes" as planners are want to call them). Trains provide an ideal means of doing this, and have the benefit of being able to carry large numbers of people, and people with bicycles, per departure something that buses still have a hard time doing. Bicycles can be used at both ends either to get to the station, and/or complete the journey's "last mile".

In Denmark, trains are now operated with the idea that one can bring a bicycle on board with no dis-assembly required and at little or no additional cost, so as to have one's own bicycle when you arrive the destination. However, space on the long-distance InterCity trains (which the IC4 was intended to operate) is limited and now requires a reservation in the summer

In The Netherlands, the preferred practice is to offer excellent and/or plentiful bicycle parking at the local station, and plentiful, easy to rent bicycles at most destination stations. Like Denmark, one can, outside of rush hours, also roll an assembled bicycle on to a train, and though one must buy a ticket for it, no reservation is required. This was also the policy on the Benelux Train into Belgium.

CalTrain Bike Car
The trend in Europe, and for that matter in North America, is that in the past twenty-five years, more and more local and regional trains have been either redesigned to accept, or replaced with rolling stock better suited for bicycles. At the same time, longer-distance Intercity trains in Europe have been upgraded to high-speed trainsets, moving away from the traditional locomotive-hauled cars/carriages/wagons into which a bicycle car could be easily introduced; on some routes, the only train using this older arrangement is the overnight train with sleeping accommodations Many of these newer high-speed trainsets were designed to be as light-weight and as low profile as possible for maximum efficiency. They were designed years before the beginning of Bicycle Culture 2.0 and so usually either ban bicycles like Fyra or made transportation of bicycles a bit of a hassle like Thalys.

Refurbished TGV-PSE with newly added bicycle storage area
The original TGV was designed in the mid-1970's, and, after conversion to electricity due to the same 1973 Oil Crisis price spikes that gave rebirth to cycling in Denmark and the Netherlands, entered service in 1981. The first trainsets are now reaching 30-plus years in service and so are being rebuilt to extend their lives. As these first sets are refurbished, bicycle accommodations are being added to them making them more friendly to bicycle carriage than newer trainsets. The big problem for cyclists with the delays to the IC4 and the Fyra V250 programs is that these are still new trains, just not built with bicycle carrying capacity in mind, and if their "teething" problems are ever fixed, their service life-clock will then start. They will at that point probably be decades away from their mid-life re-buildings during which a storage solution for assembled-bicycles might be installed. In Denmark presently with the IC4s, where bikes are allowed to be taken aboard, software and coupling issues are such that often only a single trainset, not the intended four, is the maximum allowed to operate each departure to which the IC4 has been assigned. So bicycle and seating capacity on these departures is lower than it was intended to be.

In Part Two, I'll present the track record to date of the clowns at AnsaldoBreda and why they are leeches on the rail and transit industry.

30 November 2012

TED x - Bicycle Culture by Design - in Zurich

I gave this TEDx talk in Zurich back in October. It was released online today. Bicycle Culture by Design - the abridged version.

If anyone is interested, here's my script. Some deviations, but mostly the same as the talk. Hopefully, watching the TEDx talk is better than reading the words, but hey.

I'm an optimist.
But I want to put the next 15 minutes into perspective and I need your help.
I'd like everyone to clap at the same tempo as me. Not loud, just softly. Like this.
Thank you. For every time we clapped our hands someone, somewhere in the world was injured in a car accident. 96 beats per minute.

50 million people a year are injured in car accidents. 1.2 million are killed by cars. In both the EU and the US 35.000 people are killed every year by cars. Do you know what that is? That's a 9/11 – collapsing World Trade Center towers every single month. And every month for the last 60 years - at least.

I can't possibly be alone in thinking that this is insane. There is no war on this terror. We have accepted a status quo in our socities that is quite unacceptable.

I wanted to find out why we had reached this point and, more importantly, what we could do to make things better and to think differetly.

Let's look at the streets themselves. What are streets? For 7000 years since cities first were formed streets had a very singular definition. People gathered in them, transported themselves, sold their goods, children played in them. Streets were an extension of our homes and our living rooms. They were public domain. Probably the most democratic spaces in the history of homo sapiens.

Now many people seem have a perception that streets are the sole and exclusive domain of automobiles. I discovered that two things happened to cause this massive paradigm shift in our perception of streets.

Firstly, in the rapid urbanisation of the late 1800s and early 1900s engineers were the urban heroes of the day, tackling all the urban challenges thrown at them and doing it well.

However, when the automobile appeared, people started dying and nobody had a solution to the accelerating traffic safety problem. Almost in desperation, engineers were handed the job, in collaboration with the automobile industry who saw an opportunity. Almost overnight, streets become regarded as public utilities, like water supply, electricity or sewers. Puzzles to be solved with mathematical equations.

Secondly, the automobile industry had a problem. They had products to sell but people hated them. They employed effective tactics like marketing and ridicule to change peoples perception. The automobile industry started campaigns against what they called jaywalking. In the American slang back then, a jay was a mocking term for a country bumpkin, who didn't know the ways of the big city.

People were ridiculed for trying to cross the street in the middle of the block – a 7000 year old habit. Boy scouts were enlisted to hand out flyers chastising these people. People who were against cars were labelled as old-fashioned and standing in the way of progress. This was all effective. Nobody likes to be called old fashioned or ridiculed.

Pedestrians were herded into these crosswalk things. Children were shephereded into newly invented things called playgrounds and finally, these irritating obstacles were removed. The stage was set for a paradigm shift. Probably the greatest paradigm shift in the history of our cities.

And here we are. Welcome to the tail-end of 100 years of traffic engineering where science was applied to social planning and human streets – for the first time in 7000 years. No one has figured out how to make traffic flow better or ease congestion. Not to mention stop alot of people from getting killed and injured.

Streets now carve up cities like angry rivers slicing through sand. What's more is that traffic engineering is largely unchanged since about 1935. Sure, there is more technology for gathering data and analysing it, but the mindset hasn't evolved.

Imagine if education, health care, parenting, architecture, design... you name it... was stuck in 1935? What a world. And yet we continue to fund it in its current form.

We're living in cities controlled by bizarre, often outdated mathematical models and equations, impact assessments, cost-benefit analyses. Even lovely cities like Copenhagen or Zurich.

It sometimes feels like we're all characters in The Matrix.

Cities around the world can't even put in a separated cycle track, widen a sidewalk, implement traffic calming measures or lower speed limits – because it doesn't fit into some computer-generated mathematical model down in the engineering department.

Is there a way out of The Matrix? Urbanization is on the rise again, now more than ever. We need new solutions in a hurry.

Should we really be engineering something as organic and human as urban streets? It's the people in a city who define it. Shouldn't we be studying their behaviour, their patterns and movements, desires and needs, in order to understand how to develop our cities? It worked for 7000 years. There's a pretty good chance it'll work again. There are two things we need.

One is something we all share. Basic human observation. In 1958, the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard described the idea of Desire Lines. For example, this is a street corner in Copenhagen. On the busiest bicycle street in the world. The city discovered that several hundred cyclists were riding over the sidewalk to get to a parallel street. Instead of handing out tickets all day long, they observed. Accepting that there was probably a very good reason for this.

A temporary cycle track was put in and, later, it was made permanent. The sub-conscious desire lines of the citizen cyclists were respected.

This is the view from my hotel room in Halifax, Canada earlier this year. Fresh snow on the Commons, the public park in the heart of the city. The green lines are the original pathways, perfect for 19th century promenading. But the red lines are where the people actually walked and biked in the morning rush hour. Perfectly carved desire lines through the snow. A modern city watches... and redesigns accordingly.

We love desire lines at my company. We filmed an intersection in Copenhagen for 12 hours one random day in April. Mapping the desire lines of every single one of the 16,558 cyclists who passed by. And that's not even a busy intersection for bicycles in Copenhagen. I can tell you that no mathematical model can replace 12 hours of intense human observation when you're searching for new, modern, urban solutions.

In my work developing bicycle infrastructure and culture in cities around the world I am constantly amazed at how few planners and engineers have actually tried to ride a bicycle in their city – or even spent any serious time as a pedestrian. It's all maps, data, traffic flow. Come on... Designing bicycle infrastructure without having tried to ride a bike is simply not possible.

Here's the second key to modernising our cities. Something we all know well.


We all have a relationship with design. We're all designers. And a designer thinks differently. They place themselves in the mind of the user of the product. That human being at the other end of the design process. They think about functionality, useability and user-friendliness. They work with concepts like the Four Types of Pleasure. Physio, Socio, Pyscho and Ideo-pleasure. Designing a city for pedestrians or cyclists – or any aspect of a liveable city – should be like designing for any other product on the market.

It should be like designing a chair. When you all came in here you sat down. It was esay and intuitive. Imagine if riding a bicycle or walking in a city was that easy and intuitive.

Design is also a powerful tool if applied correctly.

It can be seductive, too. Making us forget price and perfomance. 80% of us don't actually need that smartphone in our pockets. But my goodness we saved up and hurried down to buy it. Seduced by design.

Safe, well-designed bicycle infrastructure seduces people to use it. Make the bicycle the quickest and easiest way from A to B and people will ride. They did for decades – every city in the world was a bicycle city back in the day.

Good design also improves human behaviour. I hear the same thing all over the world. Those damn cyclists. Breaking the law, running red lights, riding on sidewalks. Shaking the very foundations of our society with their behaviour. Well, I have one, simple response to that. Those cyclists haven't been given adequate infrastructure – or worse... none at all. Not to mention the fact that they are forced to abide by car-centric laws.

But in the morning rush hour in Copenhagen when a few hundred thousand people ride a bicycle to work, it's different. A hundred or so cyclists at each traffic light cycle.... wait for the light to change. Because they're on well-designed infrastructure. Citizens don't want to break laws but they will react positively or negatively to urban design.

They will also micro-design for us, if given the chance. With their desire lines and other ways of expressing their needs.

The foundations of the good cities of the future must be built on human observation – anthropology and sociology – and design.

As well as listening carefully to the thoughts and observations of the leading minds in the field.

Like Lulu.Sophia. She's five but I've been recording her urban observations for a year and a half. It started when we were riding to the hardware store. We stopped at a red light. (improv the bit about Lulu-Sophia)

Lulu-Sophia has a brother. Felix. He's ten. I thought it would be interesting to get his third grade class to redesign the roundabout outside their school. A badly engineered roundabout. Without too much input from me, they went to work. Apart from wanting glass roofs over the cycle tracks so they wouldn't get wet... most of their ideas were great. And rational. Based on experience and human needs.

When you think like rational, logical children, you free your mind.

The idea of glass roofs was funny. But in cities in the Netherlands they are installing rain sensors on the bicycle traffic lights. When it rains, cyclists get priority at intersections.

In Copenhagen on the main arteries leading to the city a Green Wave is in place. Ride 20 km/h and you hit green lights all the way to work. On bicycles.

What would the streets of a city be like if a team of five year olds, third graders and young design students be like? They would be beautiful. They would be safe.. And you know what... they would work.

I'll tell you what's old fashioned and standing in the way of progress. Engineering cities instead of designing them.

But you know what? This is not all about bicycle infrastructure, pedestrian facilities, traffic calming, urban design.

This is about erecting monuments. Monuments that we the people design and erect. To liveable cities. Monuments to the past, present and the all important future. Monuments that make cities better. Saving lives instead of destryong them or wiping them out.

We are the architects. We are the designers. These are our cities.

I'll leave you with this quote.

Cities are erected on spiritual columns. Like giant mirrors they reflect the hearts of their residents. If those hearts darken and lose faith, cities will lose their glamour.

A 900 year old quote. More true today than ever before. Let's make our cities and hearts shine. Let's take this paradigm and shift it. Back where it belongs. Back to the future. Let's allow these monuments to rise all over the world.

12 November 2012

External Airbags on Cars - Update

Here's another update about the Dutch external airbags on cars to protect cyclists and pedestrians. Informative little film. Looks like the project we've written about previously is coming along nicely.

Also, it's refreshing to see some rationality included in the commentary:

"A cyclist has limited chances of survival in accidents over 40 km/h - the average accident speed. Commercially-available cycle helmets offer some protection but in limited scenarios and at a maximum speed of 20 km/h..."

07 September 2012

Copenhagenizing Rotterdam

Earlier this year I was working in Rotterdam, a city I had never visited before. You get the impression from Dutch people in the rest of the Netherlands that Rotterdam isn't really Dutch. Generally, the attitude is that Rotterdam isn't very cool. The only way to figure it out is to go there.

I was invited to do a spot of Copenhagenizin' at the City of Rotterdam. A brainstorm session about how to promote cycling and perhaps develop a brand for the City's cycling intiatives. A great day with great, positive people. A real pleasure. I was excited to get a Rijkspas - "Kingdom Pass" upon arriving the offices:
Rotterdam Cards
But soon realised that it was a golden pass to the entire Kingdom of the Netherlands that would get me free beer and cheese and... uh... bouquets of tulips. Just coffee and lunch, but hey.

Copenhagenize Consulting was hired by De Verkeersonderneming, a consortium of partners aimed at improving traffic conditions in the city. The partners include the City of Rotterdam, Rotterdam Metropolitan Region, the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water management and the Port of Rotterdam Authority.

Rotterdam Cycle Chic Rotterdam Paulien
The first order of business was, of course, a tour of the sites in the city. Paulien and Hans led me around on a windy, chilly day. Getting to and from the train station with my rolling suitcase was also by bicycle in typical Dutch style - surprise surprise:
Rotterdam Transport Form

Rotterdam felt Dutch to me. Sure, the city centre with it's modernish skyscrapers and the massive river lends a mid-Atlantic feel to the place, but it wasn't some alien planet like people from other cities would lead you to believe. Although De Verkeersonderneming has a bike campaign called I do it My Way, which hints at New York.

Rotterdam Bicycle
There were still more bicycles parked at the central train station than are on the roads in, say, Australia at any given time of day.

Rotterdam Paulien Parking
Parking was the same as everywhere else in the Netherlands.

Rotterdam Supermum
The same wonderful Supermums were out and about.

Rotterdam Boys Rotterdam Cycle Chic_1
The people with whom I shared the cycle tracks looked the same.

Rotterdam Cycle Track Rotterdam Cycle Track and Entrance to Petrol Station

Rotterdam Street Design Rotterdam New Bicycle Bridge
As did many of the cycle tracks and they also have a new, funky bicycle bridge (bottom right). They are also crowdfunding a spectacular bridge in the city, Luchtsingel. Which has nothing to do with this article... it's just damned cool.

Rotterdam Cycle Lane
There were some weird infrastructural abberrations, but fortunately not too many.

Rotterdam Cycle Track on Bridge_1
There are, however, bridges. Lots of them. King-size bridges compared to many cities.

Rotterdam Cycle Track on Bridge_5

Rotterdam Cycle Track on Bridge_4

Rotterdam Cycle Track on Bridge_2
All of them with bicycle infrastructure, of course.

The city felt alot like Copenhagen in a way. Cycle around the centre of Amsterdam and you feel like your're in a wonderful bicycle anthill. Amsterdam is, because of it's layout, Amsterdam and there will never be another city like it. With bridges and motorways and the river, Rotterdam is a distant cousin to Copenhagen. Cycle tracks everywhere (although with some crucial missing links in the network that priortize cars) and a relaxed feeling on the cycle tracks.

If you go to the Netherlands, experience the quintessential Dutchness of most cities. But go to Rotterdam, too. Just to see how a big, "mid-Atlantic" city does things. Whether or not they will move forward based on the brainstorm is up to them. But the potential for the city is massive, given the right political will and the desire for changing to a New Millenium, designed city for people instead of cars.

I enjoyed the city

13 April 2012

Sorry, I was Speeding Slightly

Once again, the Dutch prove that they are the only country on the planet that completely refuses to ignore the rampaging bull in society's china shop.

Here the focus is - rightly and intelligently - placed on the motorist. The ones who possess the capability to kill and maim. Boy, what a simple concept. Bizarre it hasn't caught on. The Dutch campaign makes everything these car-centric monkeys dressed as clowns here in Denmark look like car advertisments, what with their insistance on maintaining the status quo regarding the role of the car in our society.

Mark over at Bicycle Dutch has a write-up about it, including interesting graphs about speed limits and the distance required to stop at various speeds.

28 February 2012

Car Addiction is an Understated Problem and other films

It's be three and half years since I first blogged this video, made by students at the Dutch Film and TV Academy. I'm surprised it only has 5424 views on YouTube. It deserves so much more.

The dialogue goes like this:

Motorist is shown an ink blot.

Doctor: What do you see?

Motorist: Car.

Doctor: (Voiceover): The first phase is denial.

Motorist: Car.

Motorist watches bicycle films.

Doctor: (Voiceover) You have to present the addict with the cure for the problem.

Motorist gets onto stationary bicycle.

Doctor: (Voiceover) Then they have to take their own initiative.

Motorist outside on bicycle.

Doctor: (Voiceover) When they can do it on their own, we'll let them go. Car addiction (or slavery) is a underestimated problem. We have to help these people.

Doctor's last line: Yeah, somebody has to do something about traffic jams.

Then there's this one. Italian asks how the guy got there today and replies, "Bicycle". Italian men laugh. Italian men get into car and explode.

Tagline: Cyclists live longer.


Voice from PA system: "Attention to the owner of the blue Saab 900, license plate XB22BH. You have forgotten to enable your handbrake."

"Attention, the blue Saab is rolling towards the yellow Lotus."

Tagline: No inconveniences? Take the bike!

Tagline at the end: If siting on a bicycle is like this... we do we sit in traffic jams?
Ride your bike to work. It's a good cause.

22 February 2012

Danish Bicycle Infrastructure History

Copenhagen Vintage Cycle Chic
The seeds of bicycle culture in Denmark were first sown 120 years ago. We found a fascinating article about some of the historical aspects of Danish bicycle infrastructure history and thought it relevant to include it here.

The first bike lane in Denmark was constructed on Esplanaden in 1892 and in 1896, Copenhageners were allowed to cycle on the side of equestrian paths.
Marking Bike Lanes ca 1915
Marking out bike lanes in Copenhagen, 1915.

Bike lanes along roads weren't, however, constructed back then, despite the rising number of cars on the streets and the rise of the bicycle as transport. There was a battle for space in the cities. Between bicycle users, trams and horses and carriages.

It was in 1923 that bicycle users and pedestrians were first allowed to use the one metre wide shoulder on country roads. Nevertheless, many bicycle users chose to avoid the shoulder because of the refuse that collected there, choosing instead to ride farther towards the middle of the road where the coast was clearer and the surface smoother.

Every year, members of the Danish Cyclists Federation collected many kilos worth of horseshoe nails and other sharp items from the roads surrounding Copenhagen. The loose, and sharp, stone chippings were also a pain. In 1918, the Danish Cyclists' Federation (DCF) complained to the regional authorities about these chippings but their concerns fell on deaf ears. Then again in 1922 the DCF published their demands in 98 newspapers: "Denmark's Cyclists Demand Bike Lanes Along Roads!"

There was a need for separated bicycle infrastructure, either with curbs or bollards, and it was time to demand them.

"If there isn't a boundary between the car lanes and the bicycle lane, then the bicycle lane isn't worth much. We have sad experiences from the country roads outside of Copenhagen", said Max Tvermoes, Vice Chairman of the DCF in 1922. The seed was planted in the minds of traffic planners about the importance of bicycle infrastructure. They had spent great amounts of money and energy in the first decades of the 20th century upgrading roads with better surfacing. The result was that cars became easier to steer and could travel faster, which made it more dangerous to ride bicycles.

The time was ripe for catering to the vulnerable traffic users. On the islands of Funen and Bornholm there was talk of constructing bike lanes along the country roads in 1922/23 but they didn't materialise. In Copenhagen region a cycle track was built along Roskildevej to Glostrup.

In 1926, the first experiences with building bicycle infrastructure appeared in print. The larger towns had implemented a lot of infrastructure, even though it was difficult finding space for cycle tracks in the narrow streets. City Engineer Rygner, from Odense, presented the many cycle tracks leading out of town in a published folder.

The Technical Road Committee (Den Tekniske Vejkomite) published a guide in a traffic publication - Dansk Vejtidsskrift - about how traffic departments could design roads that matched the demands of modern traffic. This included, of course, bicycles. The Committee recommended two types of bicycle and pedestrian lanes. Either placing the lanes on filled in ditches alongside the roads or placing them on the far side of the ditches, creating a buffer between the bicycle users and the cars.

Royal Danish Automobile Club 1922 - School
Royal Danish Automobile Club attempted to 'educate' cyclists with a school brochure from 1922.

Bicycle users in the 1920s were 'irritating' to motorists. They often rode in rows and crossed the streets when it pleased them to do so. Using the streets like seven centuries of city citizens before them - just on two wheels. Traffic behaviour was a new phenomenon now that cars started multiplying. It was in 1924 that red reflectors were made mandatory on the back of bicycles but tackling the growing number of accidents involving cars was tricky. Giving each traffic user group a section of the streets was the way forward.
Copenhagen Nørrevold 1918
Nørrevold, Copenhagen, 1918.

In December 1928, Denmark's Cycle and Auto Industry Association and DCF tried to call attention to the problem of traffic accidents - contacting all the authorities they could, from the government to the local parish councils.

Curb-separated cycle tracks, painted lanes or bicycle streets?
By the mid 1920s the construction of bicycle infrastructure had become such a hot topic that it was discussed at the AGM of the Association of County Councils in July, 1929. Separating traffic was a compelling necessity, even though it cost money and demanded space, stated Vice-chairman Henningsen of the National Tax Council (Landsoverskatterådet) in his speech at the AGM. His main message was that cycle tracks should be of high quality, otherwise cyclists would just use the road. But which solution was best and least expensive?

Cycle tracks physically-separated by curbs or grassy strips, bike lanes on the side of the road and separated with painted lines or cycle tracks parallel to the roads and separated with grass, trees or ditches? Or perhaps it was necessary to build fully-separated bicycle roads? There were many opinions on the subject around the country

County Inspector Troelsen from Aalborg, in his speech about "bicycle stripes", said that on the country roads of Northern Jutland the bicycle users didn't mind cycling on the narrow painted lanes on the shoulder of the roads. The county road adminstration had therefore widened the asphalt on the sides of the road to allow for one metre on either side for bicycles.

Aalborg town had built physically-separated cycle tracks along the roads leading to the town centre but they were little used. "Building physically-separated cycle tracks along our country roads is, in my opinion, the wrong approach". They were also more expensive to build.
Bike Lanes on Country Roads 1930s
Bike Lanes on Country Road, 1930s

Holbæk County supported cycle tracks parallel to roads. They also painted lanes to separate bicycle from cars like was popular in Germany at the time. They were a cheaper solution in case the roads needed widening, and many roads did back then because of increasing traffic.

Bicycle roads were widespread in the Netherlands due to the densely-populated areas that were rare in rural Denmark. That country had a Bicycle Tax for financing a national network of cycle tracks. A Bicycle Tax was discussed in Denmark, too. Taxign bicycle rubber was a proposal to pay for cycle tracks, but it never ended up happening.
Building Bike Lanes in the 1930's
Building a cycle track in Copenhagen, 1930

County Road Inspector Ellert, from Holbæk, proposed in 1933 that the motorist tax should also be used to build cycle tracks because motorists also benefited from them.

Denmark's first Traffic Law, in 1923, was revised in 1932. Using existing bicycle infrastructure was made mandatory. This was certainly relevant in cities and towns where there were many cycle tracks, but less so in the countryside. In 1930, there were only around 88 km of bicycle infrastructure along roads. In 1933 this had increased to 342 km but that was only 4% of all the country roads. Hardly adequate for what was then the world's most cycle-friendly nation with 44% of the population using bicycles each day - 1.5 million people.

In the second half of the 1930s, safer bicycle infrastructure came into focus. The cheap solution of painting stripes on the edges of roads didn't protect the cyclists.

The Netherlands shared this view. The head of the Town Planning Office in The Hague said, at the International Road Conference in 1938, that "The usual reserved stripes for cyclists, with only a line separating them from the road, can only be regarded as surrogates".

Even though Danish traffic community wasn't crazy about the idea of building safe, physically-separated infracture because of the high price, they were positive about buffer zones between bicycles and cars. This could mean a "dead zone" comprised of trees planted in a wide grassy area or a ditch.

Bicycle Infrastructure Research and Steep Hills

In the 1930s, building bicycle infrastructure was the focus of many traffic studies that tried to determine how cycling conditions could be improved on the Danish country roads. Advantages and disadvantages about the various designs were studied. For example, should the infrastructure be on both sides of the roads or bi-directional on only one side. Traffic engineers investigated different types of surfacing that could be used on cycle tracks. Gravel, "bitukalk" (a mix of bitumen and chalk), cast asphalt and cement concrete.
Proposal for Cycle Track Design 1937
Proposals for Cycle Track Design, 1937.

The need for bicycle infrastructure was also analysed. It was determined that cycle tracks were necessary if there were 100 bicycle users - or 100 motor vehicles - an hour on a stretch of road.

Analysis of the many steep hills in the country also took place. One of the steepest hills, in Holbæk County, has a 10.7% grade - which was considerably more than the recommended steepness for implementing cycle tracks, which was 2.5%-4%, depending on the length of the incline. In the Netherlands the maximum grade had to be 2%, but Denmark is far more hilly. (Danes sing the praises of their hills and valleys in the national anthem)

Danish traffic planners did a flurry of measurements and counts to document when a hill was too steep. They did field work to study when bicycle users got off their bikes on hills and pushed them up and when they managed to cycle up.

Traffic departments could read the results of these volumes of information and recommendations in publications issued by the splendidly named Danish Road Laboratory's Road Committee (Dansk Vejlaboratoriums Vejkomite). In 1938 the publication was called "Views on the Implementation of Bicycle Lanes, Bicycle Stripes and Pedestrian Paths" and in 1944, "Bicycle Lane Fixtures".

Translated freely from the Danish from a brilliant article by Mette Schønberg - Head of Denmark's Vej og Bro Museum in Dansk Vejhistorisk Selskabs magazine Trafik & Veje, September 2009, pages 36-39.

10 November 2011

The Traffic Garden in Utrecht

Another pearl from The Traffic Garden in Utrecht. Teaching children to cycle, drive and walk - together.

07 September 2011

Drive With Your Heart

ADDENDUM: I felt the need to bump this blogpost up today.

After the latest series of articles here on Copenhagenize about how many traffic safety campaigns blame the victims and place undue responsibility on everybody except the motorists I once again find myself in love with the Dutch.

Drive With Your Heart [Rij met je hart] is a government campaign placing focus directly on those who drive cars, highlighting their enormous responsibility in the traffic.

Here's the film version of the campaign. Google translate renders the speak like this:
'Cars today are full of things that protect the driver: belts, crumple zones, airbags, ABS, electronic stability control..."

"And there is an element in the car that protects other road users."

"That part is in you. Drive with your heart.'

Note that the woman on the bicycle is actually turning left onto a pedestrian crossing. Correct me if I'm wrong but that is technically illegal. Brilliantly, there is only focus on the motorist.

There is light at the end of the tunnel when you realise that there are people out there thinking up campaigns like this and government agencies spending money on them.

The car-centric Danish Road Safety Council - and pretty much everyone else - has a lot to learn.

Just found another film from the same campaign in 2007. Translation anyone? Isn't it something like "distractions can come from anywhere... Lower your speed."

Addendum: Thanks to Suzanne from the heroic for this translation:
"On the street you may encounter anything, including your neighbour's little girl. Drive with your heart."

Dank je wel to Anneke for the link.

06 September 2011

Bicycle Watchdog in Tilburg

A campaign from the Dutch city of Tilburg. We're taking a wild guess and thinking it is to stop people from parking there. Please enlighten us, Dutch friends. :-)

Bike Guard Dog
Here's a Copenhagen version of guarding your bike parking spot.

05 August 2011

New Advert for Dutch Cycling Federation - Fietsersbond

You never know what they'll come up with next, but you look forward to it every time. The Dutch Cyclists Federation - Fietsersbond - is the national advocacy organisation in the Netherlands. We know them well here at Copenhagenize, we love them and we are continuously inspired by them.

This is their new commerical to encourage people to join up. Like in the music video/commercial that Copenhagenize produced for the City of Copenhagen's Bicycle Office where they requested "real-life situations" from the streets and bike lanes in the city (feel free to count the traffic misdemenours in the film), the Fietsersbond have elected to funk up the show with some trick riding, some law-breaking and general, all-round, good-natured recklessness. Wonderful. We wish we had this kind of bicycle advocacy in Denmark. And everywhere.

20 January 2011

Cycling Sucks

Charming film made by a group of Dutch students! Love it.

Via @iamnotacyclist on Twitter.

19 January 2011

LED Lights Warn Motorists and Protect Cyclists

This. Is. Brilliant.

Once again, once again it's the Dutch who refuse to Ignore The Bull and choose instead to place the responsibility on the motorists. There is the External Airbags on Cars to protect cyclists and pedestrians and now there is this.

Look at that film. Not only are there speed bumps in place to slow cars (and provide the cyclists with an even surface), the LED lights warn cars when bicycles are crossing. At the moment there are LED pedestrian crossings at some 20 locations in the Netherlands. In Papendrecht there is now a variation on a roundabout for cyclists as well.

According to local authorities this is intended to be a sustainably safe roundabout because of the elevated bicycle and pedestrian crossings and islands.

But apparently these measures were insufficient to ensure the safety of cyclists, so additional striking LED lighting was installed in the road surface. The manufacturer provided software made specifically for this location, which would ensure reliable detection of cyclists.

The use of LED lights to warn drivers of cyclists is not entirely novel. At the Nansenplein roundabout in Goes, LED lights have been incorporated into the road surface that start flashing when cyclists are approaching. At the same time the warning signs on either side of the crossing will light up as well.

The Dutch Fietsberaad says that "the use of flashing LEDs is controversial, however. According to opponents to this approach, drivers might start counting on being warned of cyclists by means of LEDs, even where this is not the case".

However, a combination of lights and speedbumps, however, make this solution quite brilliant indeed.

Copenhagen is experimenting with LED lights to warn motorists about the prescence of cyclists. You can read about this and see a film about it in this earlier post, LED Lights for Cyclists and Motorists

Via: Fietsberaad

06 January 2011

Artistic Parking Zones in the Netherlands

We've written about parking zones before. The City of Copenhagen has been testing painted zones in order to help people park a little less chaotic. It was tested in Amsterdam as well, and in both cities it seemed to work quite well.

My friend Michiel from the Dutch Fietsersbond (Cycling Union) sent me the above film about a Dutch artist, Roosmarijn Vergouw, who created sculptures of parked bicycles using only tape and, in the process, discovered that people will park in the zones when they're there. She calls it Fietsenzwermen - Bicycle Swarm (I'm guessing).

It's amazing to see how disciplined the cyclists became when there was tape on the ground.

Vergouw now has an idea to do a similar project using spotlights. The City of Amsterdam's Bicycle Office is interested in hearing more.

Here's a Dutch-language article about it in the Fietsersbond's magazine - opens as a .pdf.

17 December 2010

Winter Cycling NL/DK

A fine little winter cycling video from Alicia over at the Cycling Without a Helmet blog, filmed in Leiden, Netherlands. In a tweet someone mentioned the difference in speed between bicycles and cars.

I filmed this last year outside of my flat window during a snowstorm. Seeing the cars crawl like that was brilliant and it gave me a taste of what safer, lowered speed limits would look like if any visionaries suddenly appeared at City Hall one day.

By the way, I know many people in other countries find it mind-boggling, but none of these cyclists have studded winter tires. Just regular bicycle tires. Works fine.

15 December 2010

Selling Snow to the Inuit?

København Amsterdam Cimber Sterling
I saw this advert in a national paper last week. Cimber Sterling is a low-cost Danish airline and they're advertising cheap flights to Amsterdam. One-way tickets for €53 / $70. But that's not the point of this post. Here at Copenhagenize we go weak at the knees whenever we see positive bicycle-related advertising. In fact, Denmark used to rule supreme in this genre. Here are three tourism posters from the late 1940's:

Copenhagen - Gay Spot of Europe Denmark - Country of Smiles and Peace Denmark - The Country for your Holiday
Not to mention the modern classics produced by Danish illustrator Mads Berg.

At first glance you'd think the Cimber Sterling ad was selling snow to the Inuit. "Hey, bicycle nation #2! Come and visit bicycle nation #1!"

However, things have changed. This advert is very poignant here in 2010. Perhaps even more than the admen working for Cimber Sterling know.

It offers asylum, if even for a weekend, from The Culture of Fear - Danish Branch. It offers you the chance to escape the intolerably unscientific safety-nannying of the communication consultants at the Danish Road Safety Council and Danish Cyclists' Federation, not to mention the negative branding of cycling in this country, by travelling to Amsterdam. Where it is still legal to double on a bicycle.

Come to Amsterdam. To freedom. Climb to the mountaintop. Look down the other side. Visit Amsterdam. Visit bicycle freedom.

04 December 2010

Copenhagen: City (full) of Bicycles

The Dutch national bicycle council - Fietsberaad - has published a paper called "Bicycle policies of the European principals: continuous and integral".

In it they compare and analyze the bicycle culture and infrastructure in five Dutch cities and five other European cities. Among the latter, Copenhagen. I've included the chapter on Copenhagen here. It's a long post, but worth a read. As is the entire paper. The link to the .pdf is at the bottom of this post.

It's interesting and curious to read what foreign eyes see when looking at the bicycle life in Copenhagen. There are some discrepencies in the stats and opinions in the paper and I've included my own comments in red.

Most of the paper deals with the CITY of Copenhagen, which is a small city, and not the entire Copenhagen metropolitan area/urban sprawl. It can often be misleading if you've never been here. The text below is an abridged version. Read the pdf for the full text. Off we go:


Unlike most large cities in Europe, Copenhagen has a true bicycle tradition. Bicycle use is widespread among all groups of residents. As usual, part of the explanation is rooted in history, but at the same time the systematic and large-scale bicycle policies of Copenhagen local authorities have been remarkable in recent years.

In 1920 the compact city of Copenhagen had 225,000 inhabitants, by 1950 this had grown to more than 770,000. This strong growth at a time when bicycles, unlike cars, were available to all, is a major element in explaining the high degree of bicycle use. This also marks the start of a true tradition, a lifestyle where cycling is perfectly normal, in a way that is comparable to the Netherlands. Since the 1950’s bicycle use fell strongly, in accordance with overall trends in Europe (as well as the number of inhabitants: back to 550,000), but this trend has reversed from the early 80’s onwards. Presently (2009) Copenhagen has 518,000 inhabitants.

The Copenhagen metropolitan area has over 1.5 million inhabitants, which is particularly high in relation to the overall number of Danes: 5 million. Copenhagen is more or less equivalent to Denmark.
[Ed. Copenhagen Metro area is about 1.9 million. Population of Denmark is 5.4 million. The city has the 3rd largest urban sprawl in Europe]

General and increasing bicycle use

Since the mid-70’s bicycle use in Copenhagen has been increasing, particularly in the town centre and its immediate surroundings. Counts on major routes around the town centre clearly demonstrate this:

Trends in bicycle use in Copenhagen: cyclists towards the town centre over inner city cordon, morning peak hour 1950-2005

The figure clearly demonstrates the essence of the Copenhagen story: over the past 30 years the number of cyclists visible in the confines of the quite compact inner city has quadrupled in the morning rush hour; and doubled over the past 15 years… All data on bicycle use show positive trends only.

The percentage of bicycles in all transportation of Copenhagen residents has grown to 32%, considerably higher than the average in the Netherlands. Significantly higher than bicycle percentages in that other European bicycle capital, Amsterdam, as well (even though that city with its 756,000 inhabitants is considerably larger and therefore less easy to cycle). There bicycles account for some 28% of all transportation:

public transport CPH - 15% AMS - 18%
bicycle 32% 28%
car 26% 27%
walking 24% 24%
other 3% 3%

For sure, several towns in the Netherlands have considerably higher percentages for bicycle use, as much as 40% even. But those are small towns – less than 200,000 inhabitants.

Copenhagen local authorities mainly release data on commuter traffic. And usually not simply the commuting behaviour of Copenhagen residents, but the reverse: the modal split towards jobs in Copenhagen. That is the meaning of the 37% in 2008 mentioned among other data in the policy monitor and in many presentations on Copenhagen.

This number is high anyway for Copenhagen as many employed live in or near the city; much more so than is usual in the Netherlands, particularly in Amsterdam. These circumstances provide part of the explanation. In addition it is still truly remarkable that in 1996 a mere 30% of all Copenhagen employees commuted by bicycle whereas at present this has grown to no less than 37%.

Overwhelming bicycle use – and a particular cycling culture

Observing the Copenhagen morning rush hour is a phenomenon. Even for Dutchmen who
know all about bicycle towns. The numbers of cyclists continuously visible on the busiest routes, are incredible. One thing stands out immediately: Copenhagen truly is a ‘city of bicycles’ – in the sense that bicycle use is overwhelming. On the busiest routes more than 30,000 cyclists a day. These are numbers unknown elsewhere in Europe. In rush hour this provides unique images: continuous overtaking, a kind of bicycle caterpillar slowly spinning round itself. And at every traffic light a queue of cyclists – three abreast.

To a Dutchman these numbers are impressive, but so are the characteristics of the cyclists themselves, as these differ greatly from what is common in the Netherlands:
- highly visible: considerable numbers of cyclists are wearing a helmet; approximately 1 in 6.
[Ed. The intense, propaganda-like helmet promotion of the Danish Road Safety Council and the Danish Cyclists Federation has increased the number of helmets over the past two years. I covered this - and the negative results - in my recent TED c Copenhagen talk.]
- the bicycles are almost without exception nice, well-maintained, new – and often the sporty type.
- the manner of cycling is sporty as well. A considerable number of people pedal at a fierce pace. At traffic lights almost half of all cyclists are actually panting.
[Ed. A fascinating observation. One that I've never experienced myself. Very strange. I think I've documented rush hour in Copenhagen in photos and films enough to be able to say that this postulate is a bit far-fetched. It is true that the speeds are higher than in the Netherlands and in the morning rush hour there are testosterone cyclists muscling their way along, but take this postulate with a grain of salt.]
- certainly the morning rush hour consists nearly completely out of commuters and hardly any children on their way to secondary schools.
[Ed. This is misleading. Makes it sound like kids don't ride bicycles. However, most parents drop off their kids at school in their neighbourhoods and then continue on into the city to go to work. The bicycle traffic at schools in the surrounding neighbourhoods and suburbs is impressive.]
- cyclists obey traffic regulations quite well. In Copenhagen people do not feel this way, as other road users complain in considerable and increasing numbers about cyclists’ behaviour. But compared to cycling in the Netherlands, everything is extremely tidy and disciplined. Over 90% of cyclists stop at a red light. Riding three abreast, with passengers on the back, mobile phone in use – rare occurrences. Choosing your own route across any type of public space, as long as it is a shortcut from X to Y – is compared to the Dutch cyclists’ behaviour almost never to be seen.

Extremely utilitarian
Probably everything is connected to everything else. And an ‘external factor’ like the relatively extremely low risk of theft will certainly be a crucial variable in all of this: better bicycles/other cyclists.
[Ed. Roughly 17,000 bicycles are stolen in Copenhagen each year]

But the most striking feature is that Copenhagen appears to possess quite a specific cycling culture. Maybe basically different from the predominant cycling culture in the Netherlands.

Two catchwords appear to apply to Copenhagen cyclists:
- conscious: the conscious choice of a proud adult.
- rational: a deliberate choice, based on the clear advantages of bicycle use.

There is a good reason for Copenhagen cyclists to say they cycle mainly because it
is fast, simple and healthy.
[Ed. The majority of Copenhagen cyclists say they choose the bicycle because it is fast and easy. 56%. Only 19% say they do so because it's 'good exercise'.]

The word lifestyle may be highly appropriate, since this refers more or less to a conscious decision by individuals, whereas the word culture refers more to an individual’s environment.

The very word lifestyle is frequently used by policymakers and people connected to the Copenhagen bicycle scene. That cycling lifestyle translates into a different street scene when compared to the Netherlands.

Cycling is less of a statement there, less conscious, less emphatic. Cycling in the
Netherlands often looks less utilitarian as well, more relaxed.

Differences in cycling culture between Copenhagen and (for instance) Amsterdam should not be exaggerated, of course. From a European point of view, after all, the similarities are much more striking. With a bicycle percentage of 32% it is almost inevitable that bicycle use is high among all age and social categories. In recent years bicycle use has grown particularly among the elderly. Cyclists are evenly distributed over all income categories, unlike car owners (mainly higher incomes) and public transport users (mainly lower incomes).

Cycling is simply ‘socially accepted’. In Copenhagen it is pointed out that it is not unusual to see ministers and local authorities cycling to work.

Effecting a bicycle lifestyle
Nevertheless, there are differences in cycling culture and lifestyle at official and political levels in urban cycling policies that should not go unmentioned.
First of all: officially cycling policies are a mature and particularly independent issue. Copenhagen possesses a bicycle team of currently 6 people. Projects are implemented everywhere in the organisation; the bicycle team is a clear and well-known information and co-ordination point. And within the bicycle team cycling culture, lifestyle and promotion of Copenhagen as bicycle town is an important issue.

Witness the presentations, among them by manager Andreas Røhl, on cycling in Copenhagen: mainly dealing with the position of the bicycle in Copenhagen – and much less with the details of cycling infrastructure. The main emphasis is on what cycling means for the city and its inhabitants. External champion is Gehl Architects, the bureau of the famous Jan Gehl, strongly contributing to positioning Copenhagen as ‘a people approach’: urban design specifically for people. Gehl Architects uses to this end the striking images of streets full of cyclists versus empty streets or streets full of cars. And catchy slogans: A city full of bicyclists is a friendly city – a people city.

The Copenhagen bicycle team is also involved in more theoretical foundations of promotion: ‘mainstreaming’ bicycle traffic.
“A mainstream bicycle culture needs to be flexible enough to embrace both mass culture and individual sub-cultures in order to be thoroughly successful. Cycling
being as mainstream as it is, there is need for a common debate on the positive aspects of everyday cycling . (...)

To meet these demands, the City of Copenhagen has set off a new campaign based on the brand “I bike CPH”. This brand communicates positivity, participation and
ownership - and a sense of community that is as flexible as the bicycle culture out on the streets. The campaign includes happenings on street level as well as an interactive web 2.0 community.”

Pro-cycling politics
Secondly: in local politics cycling policy is very much an item. To a certain degree it was a political issue in the latest local elections. And it is generally assumed that pro-cycling choices of nominee politicians were truly effective in those elections. Andreas Røhl provides several reasons for political support for cycling. The well-known social advantages (less congestion, environmental concerns, health, urban life) but he also mentions the possibility of some more inherently political motives: projects can often be implemented within a single term in office;
bicycle policies are relatively inexpensive and highly visible. And finally, emphatically: 60% of voters have a bicycle as their main mode of daily transport.

This stronger political drive behind local bicycle policies goes with radical and clear objectives that are communicated as much as possible, too: 50% share of cycling to work and school (previous target 40%); 50% fewer casualties; 80% of all cyclists to feel comfortable. And that in 2015, an emphatic and major element in a larger ambition: becoming the world’s eco-metropolis.
[Ed. Unfortunately there is little sign or hope that these goals will be reached. Cycling levels have fallen since 2008.]

Perfect monitoring
The attention paid to interaction with the inhabitants in Copenhagen cycling policy is matched by heavy monitoring of that policy. In the Bicycle Account biennial developments in bicycle use and safety have been recorded since 1996, as well as
facts about the immediate results of municipal cycling policy. However, the most important and most frequently used part of the Bicycle Account is a standard bicycle satisfaction survey. There cyclists award scores on eight essential elements of cycling policy.

The overall judgement of the cyclists (Copenhagen cycling city) is high and has been rising since 1996. Nevertheless there is a clear gap between the very high appreciation of the general issue of Copenhagen as a cycling city and the verdicts on actual bicycle facilities.

There is hardly a positive trend there, on the contrary. The greatest decline is in the width of Copenhagen bicycle paths. This appears to be a direct consequence of the policy’s success: increasing numbers of cyclists on the same infrastructure – leading to crowding. The numbers in recent years may actually now lead to congestion on bicycle paths along certain stretches of roads and in rush hour.

Bicycle paths with a width of 2.20 metres can only handle approximately 2,000 cyclists an hour. Whereas rush hour numbers are approaching 3,000 cyclists on the busiest routes. Widening to 3 metres is advisable on the busiest routes and is being considered by local authorities.

Raised adjoining bicycle paths
Remarkable cyclists, remarkable numbers of cyclists - but certainly also remarkable bicycle facilities in Copenhagen. The range of facilities is severely limited. Where many other towns demonstrate a wide range and combination of bicycle lanes and bicycle paths, depending on time of construction and local circumstances, Copenhagen has almost no bicycle lanes separated from car lanes by markings only (18 km of bicycle lanes compared to 338 km of bicycle paths). Standard the bicycle paths, on either side of the road, are at least 2 metres, often 2,5 metres wide. A typically Copenhagen phenomenon is that these are usually ‘(raised) adjoining bicycle paths’, according to Dutch terminology. The Dutch ‘separate bicycle paths’,
with a clear distance/verge between car lane and bicycle path, are rare in Copenhagen. And ‘solitary bicycle paths’, with their own route, can occasionally be found, but then emphatically as part of a specific network, the green routes (see below).

The raised adjoining bicycle paths are a success in Copenhagen. No one is advocating
fundamentally different types of facilities. Which is remarkable, particularly when combined with high numbers of cyclists. In the Netherlands it might be a cause for concern: no more than a kerb between the bicycle path and motorists; a great risk of falling when overtaking and landing among the cars. Not so in Copenhagen, maybe partly due to the fact that people seem to be cycling 2 (or 3) abreast relatively less often.

Highly similar bicycle facilities along highly similar roads. Because that is certainly also a factor: the Copenhagen bicycle network is concentrated along heavy radials, meant for motorists as well. Which leads to situations along stretches of road and at intersections that are or may be more or less similar. The best standard solutions are looked for in intersections, just like along the stretches of road (with raised adjoining bicycle paths). Where ‘best’ usually translates into ‘safest’.

Since the bicycle path is so close to motor lanes, the most logical and common mechanism is essentially turning inwards at intersections. Making cyclists more visible. Copenhagen bicycle paths usually change into bicycle lanes a few metres before an intersection, lead straight across the intersection (since the 90’s often marked in blue with white bicycle symbols) and change back into bicycle paths beyond the intersection.

Experiences with the blue intersection markings are positive. Studies show an increase in safety. In particular the number of accidents between cyclists going straight ahead and on-coming left-turning motorists has clearly fallen.

The search for the best solution is however still on regarding intersections with lengthened or shortened raised-adjoining bicycle paths. The solution for some of the conflicts is clear: cyclists meeting a red light should be positioned somewhat closer to the intersection than motorists waiting as well. Problems are caused by cyclists arriving at the intersection when lights are green. And that happens a lot, due to the huge numbers of cyclists on those radials and the long green phases on those radials for bicycles and cars (together). That makes right turn lanes for cars highly advisable anyway. At the busiest moments, however, the situation is visibly ‘wrong’. Motorists will eventually use even the tiniest gap in the rows of fast bicycles.

In this respect it seems inevitable that increasingly a decision is made in favour of conflict-free solutions between cyclists going straight ahead and cars turning right.

Implementation of the bicycle network

Bicycle facilities in Copenhagen go back a long way. Initially these were mainly recreational bicycle paths along arterial roads. The first bicycle path dates from 1920. By 1930 this had already grown to 130 km of bicycle paths. After 1945 the main issue was segregation of traffic types on the busiest main roads. Many bicycle paths were constructed particularly along new main roads. Presumably thanks in part to these facilities bicycle use stood its ground, even in the decades of decline and minimal attention by policymakers. The network of bicycle paths has since been almost completed - almost one hundred years of bicycle path construction bears fruit. Overall there is approximately 340 km of bicycle path nowadays (2009). And although this is by and large complete, there is still some degree of expansion every year.
[Ed. The oft quoted length of bicycle infrastructure - 340 km - is only in the municipality of Copenhagen. Gehl Architects have counted 1000 km of bike paths in Greater Copenhagen. In addition, the claim that the first bicycle path dates from 1920 may not be correct. Here is a photo of bike paths being marked out from 1915. And here's a photo of building a bike path in the 1930's]

In 2008 another 5 km of bicycle path was added (and 4 km hugely improved). According to local planners there is still some 50-60 km to go.

Network choices: traditional radials versus park routes
The bicycle network of raised adjoining bicycle paths covers to a large degree exactly the same routes as car traffic. The busiest bicycle routes are the traditional radials that are also preferred routes for motor vehicles. This decision in favour of ‘convergence’ has a number of consequences. Cycling in Copenhagen means cycling in the noise and pollution of motor vehicles. At the same time it is also a very direct route - and cyclists are relatively little bothered by traffic lights on the radials themselves, as they are carried along in the long
green phases for the neighbouring motor vehicles.

Huge numbers of cyclists do this on a daily basis, as the radials are so attractive – both to cyclists and motorists. Just look at the map: the busiest routes in Copenhagen are the last 3-4 km of five clear radial routes. As well as the route along Langebro and Hans Christian Andersen's Boulevard, slightly less typically radial.

The convergence of bicycles and cars on those radials also explains most of the emphasis in Copenhagen bicycle policies. The large amount of attention to safe bicycle infrastructure on intersections is closely linked to the large numbers of intersections on those radials and their heavy load. And it is no more than fitting that Copenhagen should be one of the first cities to introduce green waves for cyclists. The first route where this was realised was a 2200-metre stretch of road with no fewer than 12 traffic lights.

Green Wave on Nørrebrogade (2004)
Nørrebrogade is the main bicycle axis in Copenhagen. Near the town centre at the time 30,000 cyclists a day, alongside 17,000 cars. A little over 2 km further along there were 15,000 cyclists and 16,000 cars. The effects of the green wave along 12 traffic lights (with considerable green phases in the main direction anyway) with a standard speed of 20 km/h, could easily be demonstrated. In the morning rush hour towards the town centre the advantage to cyclists was 2.29 minutes (6 stops less); in the opposite direction 1 stop was gained as well as 35 seconds. Effects in the afternoon were more difficult to gauge, as there is no clear rush hour. The effect (out of the town centre) is smaller, but still clear: 1.13 minutes advantage thanks to 3 stops less.
[Ed. See a film about Riding the Green Wave in Copenhagen.]

Green routes
All attention has gone, both in the past and the present, to the bicycle facilities along these busy radials. The alternative has been positioned radically different in Copenhagen. Alongside or in contrast to the adjoining bicycle paths along arterial routes there are no routes with the same function through residential neighbourhoods, along low-traffic roads. There are only ‘green cycle routes’. Literally green: to a large extent winding through parks and complete car-free areas. There has been a distinct search for routes over longer distances and complete routes; even a complete network. There are some 22 green routes planned, each on average 5 km long. Of the overall 110 km some 41 km have been realised at this time. The speed is not impressive: in 1995 there were already 29 km in existence.

The network of green routes is emphatically not meant to be utilitarian. Copenhagen states:
“The green cycle routes are for recreation, bicycle exercise, running, walking, skateboarding and other games on wheels. In addition, they offer anybody cycling to their place of work or education the opportunity to cycle all or part of their daily journey through peaceful, green, car-free and bus-free surroundings.”

Inevitable network choices: low(er) car traffic

Few direct routes, only to a slight degree aimed at the major destinations, slow to be effected – it will be clear that in this way there will not be an alternative for the functional ‘convergence’ routes for a long time. And therefore the inevitable problems on the convergence routes will have to be addressed on their own. There are various solutions possible–- and the beginnings can be discerned in Copenhagen as well:

- if the numbers of cars and bicycles become prohibitive at the busiest intersections, the time has come for the best but also most expensive solution: different levels. Copenhagen has more or less started on this road.
- The numbers of bicycle bridges and tunnels are still quite low, but increasing. As well as the realisation that this is necessary.
- if the numbers of cyclists on those busy radials outgrows the available room, additional room will have to be found. At the expense of motor vehicles.

It is quite remarkable that this is already occurring in Copenhagen, and without too many problems: parking spaces are being sacrificed in favour of raised adjoining bicycle paths. All over the town the desire to decrease the number of lanes for car traffic will be growing. By now there is a precedent: Nørrebrogade has been closed to through traffic since 2008. This caused 40% fewer motor vehicles in rush hour, which pleased 67% of the local residents and added aprox. 5000 cyclists to the aprox. 30.000 that daily passed the most popular part of the street before the redesign.

Nevertheless Copenhagen – cycling capital in numbers of cyclists – is remarkable for the room still afforded to cars very close to the town centre. Heavily-used car routes at a distance of less than a kilometre from the town centre. Remarkably short car queues outside rush hour. The most extreme example: the intersection Gyldenløvesgade/Søgade: the radial route has 9 lanes for cars, at 900 metres’ distance from the market (Nytorv). There Copenhagen appears to be a true car city!

Indirectly, without much ado and very cautiously, steps have been taken towards a kind of alternative network along low-traffic roads. Nørrebrogade is a first instance: closure for motor vehicles has shifted this route to some degree from the ‘convergence-radials network’ towards a ‘low-traffic network’. The bicycle bridge in a green route across the busy Ågade/Åboulevard (2008) makes that route much more functional and to a certain extent radial as well.

The bicycle bridge Bryggebroen across the harbour at Islands Brygge (2006) created a new functional route - and attracted 3,000 cyclists from the very first day, a number that at the latest count (2009) had increased to 8500.

What makes them cycle so much?
When all is said and done, it is still confusing to see the huge numbers of cyclists on the cycling axis' in Copenhagen. In part this is some sort of optical illusion, a result of the strong clustering of all cyclists on those radials. Nevertheless Copenhagen is still the cycling capital of Europe, even in percentage of cycling. The quality and quantity of the bicycle infrastructure clearly match this. At the same time, however, the quality of the cycling network does not appear to be the cause for the numbers of cyclists and their rapid increase. In bicycle infrastructure Copenhagen is far less of a capital. And by no means is Copenhagen the car-free capital.

So after all still a ‘culture’ or ‘lifestyle’ – whatever that may be? To a certain degree this may be so. But some more tangible factors can be discerned, particularly when compared to Dutch towns:
1. the low numbers of car ownership in Denmark, in particular Copenhagen, due to high purchasing costs (almost twice as high as in the Netherlands). In the Netherlands car ownership per head is 21% higher than in Denmark. Amsterdam has 42 cars per 100 inhabitants, Copenhagen 22 – although it is not sure the data are comparable.
2. few opportunities for parking cars in the Copenhagen town centre. Of course this holds for visitors in many other towns as well. But Copenhagen appears to be exceptional: even employees struggle to find parking space. Major companies do not have private parking garages to a much lesser degree.
3. Low numbers of bicycle theft. Even in the Netherlands we know the spiral may be upward or downward: less theft, better bicycles, nicer to cycle, cycle more often, et cetera.
Yet it remains hard to explain. And the reality remains overwhelming: Copenhagen is indeed a city (full) of cyclists. And because it is so hard to explain and in several respects it appears the cycling climate may be improved a lot, a continued increase of bicycle use seems to be likely.
- provided cyclists will demand their rightful place, even in traffic behaviour...
- provided Copenhagen will reduce the role of cars near the town centre, as dozens of other towns in Europe have done...
- provided cycling will be even nicer and more relaxed by additional improvements in the network.
[Ed: Copenhagenize agrees wholeheartedly with these recommendations. Let's hope someone is listening.]

Link to the paper as .pdf: The Fietsberaad - Bicycle policies of the European principals: continuous and integral