Showing posts with label how to market cycling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label how to market cycling. Show all posts

22 August 2014

Designing Bicycle Symbolism - Towards the Future

The Bicycle as a symbol of progress, of renewal, of promising times ahead. This is not a new concept. Indeed it has been around since the invention of the bicycle. Many bicycle posters at end of the 19th century featured promising themes like liberation, progress, freedom. Here's an example:
Vintage Bicycle Posters: Griffiths
In this beautiful poster, there is a lot of metaphorical gameplay. The young woman is riding a bicycle to the future. Dressed in white and seemingly casting fresh flowers as though leaving a trail for us to follow. The old woman is looking backwards to the past as she sits in a bed of thorns, almost resigned to the fact that the future - the bicycle - is passing her by.

When people in most cultures see art or photgraphy, our brain sees movement from left to right and interprets the piece based on that.

The German historian and psychologist Rudolf Arnheim who wrote, among other books, "Art and visual perception – A psychology of the creative eye" noticed that the way many cultures read - from left to right - has an influence on the way we look at art or photography.

‘Since a picture is “read” from left to right, pictorial movement toward the right is perceived as being easier, requiring less effort’.

Bicycles often look better when heading off to the right. In the photo shoots we've done for bicycle brands, we are always careful to shoot the right side of the bicycle wherever possible, so that the chainguard is visible. It just looks better with the chainguard in the shot, but it also looks better heading to the right.
Cycle Chic Photo Shoot for Velorbis
Photo shoot for Velorbis catalogue.


Here are a couple of examples of  'reading' a photo.

At top left, the girl in the poncho looks like she is struggling into a snowblown headwind, which she was. At bottom left, by flipping the photo horizontally, she looks like she is sailing on a tailwind. The pedestrians, as well.

At top right, the bicycle users appear to have an easy go of it with a tailwind. Which they weren't. At bottom right they appear to be muscling into the snow and wind.

The flag at the top is the party flag for the Samajwadi political party in India. In 2012, their rising star, Akhilesh Yadav, won a landslide election in the Uttar Pradesh state elections. Yadav campaigned tirelessly and he rode hundreds of kilometres around the state on his bicycle and organised bicycle rides. Reuters has an article about his rise to power. He thrashed the heir-apparent in Indian politics, Rahul Ghandi by appealing to the working classes, sleeping in villagers huts and aligning himself with the demands of the regular citizens. And the man can even text and cycle at the same time. He's got our vote.

So a bicycle is a fitting symbol for the party. For any progressive party who aspire to be agents of change. I have no idea if the designer thought about the positioning of the bicycle on the flag at the top. Based on this Left to Right perception, the bicycle isn't heading away from us, carrying us to a better future and all the other metaphors you can think of.. The positioning of it - in our perception - suggests that it is going in the opposite direction. Going against the flow, or against the grain, as it were. Which can be symbolic in a positive sense for a political party wishing to embrace change and deconstruct the status quo, but that's far too subliminal. Interestingly, on the political party's Facebook group and elsewhere, there are versions of the flag reversed so it points left to right.

This started out as an article about Mr Yadav and his party's use of the bicycle as a symbol. A discussion started here at Copenhagenize Design Company, however, about how bicycles are positioned in signage and pictograms.

If we suppose that a bicycle heading from left to right is 'positive' symbolism for our sub-conscious perception, then surely bicycle pictograms and signage should feature this directional placement.

We all went over the window to look at the Danish standard on the cycle tracks outside and looked at other examples from around us in Copenhagen.



(Clockwise from top left) The Danish standard as dictacted by the Road Directorate is a bicycle heading from right to left, although the logo of the City of Copenhagen's Bicycle Office - "I Bike CPH" - features a bicycle in the 'positive' direction. The logo for The Green Wave in Copenhagen has the bicycle user in "metaphorical direction neutrality" - could be heading towards us or away from us. I've always percieved this as the bicycle heading towards me, come to think of it. While the standard for Danish signage is right to left, there are variations. Wayfinding for indicating routes on the national cycling network. On the bicycle seat belts on the train to Malmö, the bike heads right.

At bottom right is a vintage sign I cycle past each day, complete with chainguard, fenders and light. Nice. The Danish State Railways tend to use the standard symbol but they are happy to have the bicycle pointing to the right on variations of their signage.


Above are all the traffic signs in Denmark relating to cycling. At bottom left is the signage for bi-directional cycle tracks, which you don't see often for obvious design reasons. But it's there like a retro memory, like the man at bottom right sitting upright with a splendid hat - old Danish signage that we miss so very much. All in all, the pictograms are standardised to feature bicycles heading left.

The traffic engineer logic is that pointing a bicycle to the left indicates potential collision and serves, in their minds at least, to add a safety element to the road signage. Generally, there is a tendency to have the bicycle heading to the right if the signage indicates access or bicycle-friendly facilities, but this is not carved in stone, apparently.
Cykelgade Signage - Fietsstraat
"Bicycle Street - Cars are guests"

We chose, however, to aim the bicycle left to right in our proposal for signage for Bicycle Streets in Denmark. And, even more importantly, we were tired of all the boy bikes in all the pictograms we see around the world, so we made it a proper sit up and beg design with a ladies frame. We like the idea of the Dutch version of their Fietsstraat signs, featuring a cyclist heading towards you, in front of a car. The design, however, is clumsy and it looks hand-drawn. We developed the above proposal based on existing Danish signage. Interestingly, the Dutch signage isn't even official signage, but the Dutch put them up anyway and now people think they are. That's cool.

Farther afield, let's have a look through the Copenhagenize archives to see what's up in the bicycle pictogram world.



Looking from left to right, above, the bicycle symbols are right to left in Zurich, Rome, Ljubljana and Mexico City and then it points to the right in Ferrara. In Vienna, at far right, it's right to left but the crossing signal - one of the funkiest in the world - features a bicycle with casual-leaning cyclist looking right at us. Which sends positive connotations.



In Berlin we spotted what we assume is a vintage design, at left, featuring a chap wearing a suit and riding a normal bicycle. Citizen Cycling indeed. On street and on the parking sign, the bicycles are right to left.


Stockholm can't seem to figure out which way to go.


Nor can Trondheim. Even in Amsterdam they have some variations and varying directions.


In Barcelona, the signage is usually right to left, but left to right on the trains. Suggesting access - supported by the word "access" in three languages, just to be sure you get it.


The Finns work with the right to left concept, as does Antwerp - although they switch it around on the green sign. In Budapest, activists made their own pictogram and spraypainted it on streets all over the city. Great idea, although might have been symbolic to reverse the pictogram.


In Melbourne and on official signage in Riga (is that the world's shortest stretch of bicycle infrastructure?) it is right to left. The bike share in Riga, however is left to right, as is the sign on the door to the train station. The biggest warning on that sign tells you to watch out for the grates if you're wearing high heels. In Tokyo, right to left.


Brazil is a bit confused. At left is a somewhat standard pictogram in Sao Paulo showing the route for the Ciclofaixa each Sunday. The yellow symbol was made by activists - featuring an upright bike heading in the positive direction. On the second-last photo, the sign stating that Volkswagon sponsored the bike lane through a park has the bicycles heading left to right. And yes, we love that irony. The middle photo is from Rio de Janeiro with a rare example of a pictogram straight on. And the pictogram at the right is a newer version that I've seen in use in the city. Nice design, too.


It's a signage free for all in Canada, with different variations across the land. In the US - the only country to put plastic hats on their pictogram people, there is a general standard and it sends cyclists back out into traffic. In New York, this pathway has reversed them in order to show wayfinding.

The French are sending the bicycle backwards, then forwards to a progressive future and then back again. It's all very confusing, although their national standard is the white bike on green.

While some countries still need a national standard and there is an ocean of variations, there are still some people who get it hopelessly wrong. We spotted this, at left, in London in June 2014. It's hilarious. It's a Jackson Pollack interpretation of the British pictogram. At right, even the Copenhagen Metro can screw up. Lovely that it is a step-through frame, but seriously... how many things can you find wrong with that pictogram?

So, after all that, here's a crazy Copenhagenize idea.

Let's get all subliminal. Let's flip our bicycle pictograms on the streets and signage to send a sub-conscious message to all those who 'read' them. It's an inexpensive solution to influence perception of cycling. Think about it when planning your logo.

If, as we mentioned above, ‘since a picture is “read” from left to right, pictorial movement toward the right is perceived as being easier, requiring less effort’, THAT should be the general message on all bicycle pictograms. Send the bicycle from left to right - not only so we can see the damned chainguard - but to broadcast the symbolism of a progressive future.

04 August 2014

Innovative Elevated Cycle Track in Copenhagen


Bryggerampen - the new elevated cycle track in Copenhagen.

UPDATE: 04 AUGUST 2014

New Streetfilm about The Bicycle Snake!

UPDATE: JUNE 16, 2014. IT'S ALMOST FINISHED!



UPDATE: Now they're calling it Cykelslangen - The Bicycle Snake. Construction starts in Sept. 2012 and it will be open for use in late 2012/early 2013.

Unique locations require unique solutions, whatever the city. Construction starts in February on a fantastic and innovative solution to fix an important missing link in the Copenhagen bicycle infrastructure network - Bryggerampen.
Bryggebroen Red
Bryggebroen - bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Copenhagen Harbour.

In 2006, a bicycle and pedestrian bridge - Bryggebroen - was opened across the harbour in Copenhagen, connecting the Vesterbro neighbourhood with Islands Brygge on the other side. It was the first fixed link over Copenhagen harbour for a few centuries. It was an immediate success. Bicycle users from not only Vesterbro but the rest of Copenhagen were given a faster connection to the island of Amager. Easy access not only to Islands Brygge but also to the universities, Danish Broadcasting and the whole new urban development of Ørestad - as well as bicycle users commuting in the opposite direction.

There are currently 8000 bicycle users crossing the bridge each day. That number is estimated to be almost double if it weren't for an irritating missing link on the north side of the harbour. Two options are currently available. You can walk your bicycle down the stairs, using the ramp, to get to the harbourside and on to the bridge or you can cycle a detour around the Fisketorvet shopping centre. Both are a pain. Especially for cargo bike users.
Copenhagen Frozen Harbour Bryggebroen
Harbour bath on the harbourfront and the Bryggebroen cyclist and pedestrian bridge.

In the summer, there is a lot of pedestrian activity on the harbour in this area, with a harbour bath, boat rental, kayak sport and shopping centre customers milling about on the quay. There is no clear division between bicycle users and pedestrians and it is an exercise in weaving to get through to the bridge. In addition, the route involves a couple of sharp corners with limited visibility. All in all, while 9000 people still cycle across the bridge, there were many things to be fixed in order to reach the full potential. Many people ride their bike to the harbour activities, sure, but the majority are just interested in getting from A to B and cycling past this location.

Enter the Danish architect firm Dissing+Weitling - who are also the architects behind Bryggebroen and the bicycle bridge Åbuen. They have designed an elevated cycle track that is, in effect, a 235 metre long bicycle ramp with a gentle slope that will allow bicycle users to travel directly from the bridge at Dybbølsbro to the harbour bridge - Bryggebroen. Separated from cars, of course, but also pedestrians. Below the ramp, people can mill about the harbourfront at their leisure. On the ramp, it'll be A2Bism at it's best.

A solution that is typical for Copenhagen. Elegantly designed, practical, incredibly innovative and with bicycle users at the forefront of the concept. The City sent out a call for ideas and had 20 million kroner for the project. They liked this idea so much that they found an extra 18 million in order to finance it. 38 million kroner in all. That's about $6.6 million or €5.1 million.

Here are some of the renderings from Dissing+Weitling. Bryggebroen is at the bottom right and, at top left, is the upper level at the end of Dybbøls Bridge. Here is the Google Map link of this location. It isn't updated so all the new architectural pearls on the triangular Haveholmen aren't on the satellite map.

235 metres in length, with the columns spaced at 17 metres apart. Lightweight - it's only bicycles who are going to use it - and relatively easy to construct. It is planned to be finished in December 2012. It will be bi-directional - not always an intelligent choice for streets - but at 4 metres wide, there will be ample space for bicycles and cargo bikes.

An aerial view of how the elevated bicycle ramp will skirt past the shopping centre, above the bustling harbourfront.

A gentle slope down to the ground before reaching the start of the Bryggebroen bridge.

View from below. A little bit optimistic, because there will still be bicycles along the harbour, but hey.

We're looking forward to the completion of the ramp and a doubling in the number of bicycle users crossing the harbour at this point. While it's tecnically a ramp, let's chuck it into the bridge category - along with the many other bridges that are under construction over Copenhagen's harbour like these ones.

05 April 2014

Copenhagen - Is Cycling Up or Down or What?

SnowFall RushHour - Cycling in Winter in Copenhagen
It's all so confusing. Numbers indicating rise and falls in cycling levels. Although perhaps not as much as we think.

Firstly, back in 2009 I made a bet with anyone who would take it. Cycling levels in Copenhagen had been stagnant for many years. In 2008, a whole new kind of stupid showed up in Denmark. The Danish Road Safety Council (Rådet for Sikker Trafik - or Rodet for Sikker Panik if you like) decided to expand their ideological campaigns by promoting bicycle helmets. They convinced the Danish Cyclists Federation (DCF) to join the parade. To this day, the DCF remain one of the few national cycling organisations in all of Europe who support promotion of bicycle helmets.

Anyway, hardcore emotional propaganda hit the streets of Denmark in January 2008. As usual with such organisations, there was little science involved. An unsuspecting population were subjected to a one-sided view on helmets and not offered any balanced, scientific perspective. The Culture of Fear is powerful when applied correctly. Now, 17% of Copenhageners wear helmets on average. They are usually the ones involuntarily performing Risk Compensation studies. Keep a careful eye when cycling out there with them.

In this article from 2009 - Cycling is booming - just not in Denmark - I predicted that the rash of bicycle helmet promotion would not cause cycling levels to increase - despite the massive political will at the time. As I wrote:

Here's my bet. Because of the intense bicycle helmet propanganda in 2008:
- the percentage of cyclists in Copenhagen - 37% - will not rise. It will either fall or remain unchanged.


Few colleagues believed it. What happened?

Copenhagen cycling levels fell from 37% to 35% by 2010. That's a lot of people who hopped off the bicycle. The people who made that happen have blood on their hands.

In order to explain the drop, the usual suspects will tell you that it was because there were two hard winters in Copenhagen. So we looked at all the different factors involved, including the weather, and compared it all with Amsterdam. Amsterdam, and the rest of the Netherlands, suffered EXACTLY the same hard winters in the same period. Amount of snow, temperatures, you name it.

Cycling levels didn't fall in Amsterdam. They remained steady. Fewer people drove because of the winters, but cycling wasn't affected.

The emotional propaganda onslaught faded away and, as one would expect, cycling levels started to recover. We're now at 36% modal share of people arriving at work of education in the city and have lingered there for a few years.

The news today in Copenhagen is of a massive increase in cycling in Copenhagen. Numbers from travel survey data from Danish Technical University show the following:

- The average trip length for Copenhageners increase by a whopping 1 km since 2012.
- Copenhageners ride 2,006,313 km a day, compared to 1.3 million in 2012.
- Car trips are down 12%.
- Public transport also increased its modal share from 28% to 32% since 2007.

One of the newspapers in Denmark that is arguably the most anti-cycling - Politiken - try to wrap their pretty heads around why there has been an increase in this article, in Danish. They ask all manner of academics who offer up their opinions.

The journalists claim that the City of Copenhagen's focus on infrastructure is a reason for it. They mention, among other things, the bicycle bridges over the harbour but fail to notice that they aren't even finished being built yet. So that doesn't work. There have been infrastructure improvements on certain streets, sure, but nothing on a large enough scale to boost cycling levels this much.

It's all very simple if you want it to be.

Copenhagenize Traffic Planning Guide

Right here, in all its simplicity.

Copenhagen is one massive building site. 17 new Metro stations are under construction all at once. Last year, work was finally completed on the huge network of pipes providing central heating to most of the city centre, which only contributed to the chaotic construction in the city. In the above article, the DCF - to my delight - recognised this as the reason for the current increase.

If you want to encourage cycling and public transport, make driving a pain in the ass. It is the only way forward and the only way we know to get motorists to change their behaviour.

Trip lengths by bicycle are up in Copenhagen - and car trips are down - simply because it's a pain to drive in the city because of all the construction at the moment. That's it and that's that.

If the City wants to maintain these cycling levels, keep the current chaos, albeit in a nicer form, when the Metro construction is finished.

The new numbers are nice today, but if everything just reverts to the car-centric status quo when construction is finished (and remember that the Metro expansion is already projected to reduce cycling levels by 3%), the honeymoon will be over and it will be abrupt and shocking when it happens.
Mark my words.

It's all so easy if you want it to be.
Don't promote helmets.
Make driving difficult, complicated, expensive.
Duh.

The homo sapiens of a city will always figure out the fastest A to B. We call it A2Bism. We are all like rivers, finding the easiest route. Make that the bicycle or public transport and you are halfway there.

14 February 2014

Malmö Opens Fantastic Bike&Ride Parking at Central Station

13 Février 2014Copenhagenize Design Company was pleased to have been invited across the Øresund to the grand opening of the City of Malmö's brand new Bike&Ride parking facility at the central station. On a sunny morning, the ceremonial ribbon - strung between two cargo bikes - was cut. Malmö is Sweden's leading bicycle city - so much so that it features in the Top 20 on The Copenhagenize Index of Bicycle Friendly Cities. It is a premier bicycle city with around 30% of the population using bicycles each day to go to work or education.

This brand-new Bike&Ride facility will host more than 1,500 bikes and there are even - be still our hearts - dedicated spaces for cargo bikes. There are loads of details; two air pumps, a bike shop, lockers, numerous screens showing train departure and arrival times, restrooms, a lounge if you have to wait for the train. There is even a single shower for the odd "cyclist" who might fancy a spandex ride. Generally, the facility is geared towards the Citizen Cyclist population of the country's third largest city.


DSC_0029



Parking is free at Bike&Ride and there is 24/7 access. It is patrolled by station guards throughout the day. 

There is, however, a separate section for those who want some extra protection. A secure parking area for 700 bicycles based on a subscription service. It costs 80 kroner a month and you get a chip card. Although if you have a transit card, you can combine it with that.

There are numbers painted on the floor to help users remember where they parked so they don't have to wander around looking for a black bicycle in a sea of black bicycles. All of it with a fresh orange colour and cool, Nordic graphic design.

One great detail is the height of the bars in the cargo bike area. Too low for regular bikes to be leaned against them.

Our über intern Dennis, who studies at the University of Utrecht, was impressed with the second tier bike racks. Excellent ease of use, he says. There is a low bar on them to lock your bike to and they require little effort to lift up and put into place.


DSC_0035


Access to the secure parking area is, of course, wide enough for cargo bikes, too.

DSC_0057
One of the waiting areas, with water fountain.
DSC_0026


The Bike&Ride is located under the bus station and connects directly with the train platforms. It's partially underground but it is lovely and bright because of excellent lighting and windows and glass doors. 

All the signs, pictograms and colours (orange and green) used make the facility attractive and user-friendly. We mustn't forget to highlight how important it is to use architecture and design to make sure facilities fit the users. 


DSC_0098




In comparison, the Bike&Ride parking located at Hyllie Station on the outskirts of Malmö that opened in 2010 seems less appealing even if it has the same facilities. 

The upper level of bike parking is hardly used because you have to use a set of stairs with a ramp and the connection to the platforms is not at all direct. In the daily routine of a commuter, anything that makes it more inconvenient, however detailed, will not encourage them to consider changing their mode of transport. A2Bism is what we've always called it and Hyllie Station lacks that.

Let's hurry up and get back to the new facility at Malmö Central. That's the main focus here. The City has proved how serious it is about improving conditions for cycling in an already exemplary cycling city. Their new Bike&Ride should embarrass the City of Copenhagen and they should be incredibly proud of it.
Another 200 parking spaces are located outside, under a XIX century style roof. These spots are closer to the train station but, above all, they are important for the image of cycling. The City wanted to make sure that some bicycles remained outside the station. You don't want to remove them all. It's still important for everyone passing by to remember that Malmö is a bicycle city.

Malmö has a vibrant bicycle culture and, in April, the City will recieve the results of a massive survey dealing with transport habits and we will know how the modal share of cyclists has changed over the last few years. Gathering data is something the Danes and the Swedes take very seriously.
DSC_0059The bike shop called Bicycle Clinic.

DSC_0050
The ticket machines located conveniently at the bicycle parking.


While we're dishing out love for Malmö here on Valentine's Day, we should also recall their brilliant behaviour change campaign - No Ridiculous Car Trips.

Heja Malmö! 



Here's what the parking around Malmö Central looked like until recently:
Malmö Central Station Malmö Train Station Parking
The Bicycle Island

The E-bike Sceptic

E-Bike
I often voice my scepticism about the hype surrounding e-bikes in the many interviews I give, but I realised I'd never written an article about it. So here goes.

There has been an enormous amount of hype surrounding e-bikes.
Rule #1: Whenever there is a thick cloud of hype, there is most often another side to the issue that is being neglected. Which is what I've been exploring. When that thick cloud of hype is generated by profit-based industry, your grain of salt just got bigger.

Baseline
E-bikes serve a purpose. Absolutely. They are a great niche addition to the existing armada of bicycles that have served citizens for 125 years. They have the potential of increasing the mobility radius of cycling citizens - especially the elderly. All good.

Safety and Speed
The first point that should be of interest to anyone working in urban mobility, active transportation or whatever they call it where you're from is the safety aspect. The average speed of Citizen Cycling in Copenhagen and Amsterdam is about 16/kmh. Putting vehicles zipping along at 25 km/h into that equation would not seem to be wise.

If you've been to Amsterdam or, to a lesser extent, Copenhagen, you will know the scourge of the scooters. Fast-moving vehicles that cause injury and death to the riders and others in their path. Adding more scooters to the cycle tracks and bike lanes is hardly beneficial to the development of better traffic safety. Especially when these New Scooters appear suddenly and silently, whereas at least the Old Scooters make in infernal noise.

So, e-bikes to increase mobility radii for people "cycling" from farther distances are generally a good thing. But in densely-populated urban centres with bicycle traffic and pedestrians? Nah. Unwise. Nobody wants more scooters. Unless they use the car lanes. Fortunately, I don't see many e-bikes in Copenhagen and there aren't many in Amsterdam. I only see a few here every week. You can spot them easily. They're the ones braking hard and abrupt at intersections.

The City of Groningen has even taken the step to create e-bike lanes parallel to existing bike lanes, in order to separate these two different forms of transport.

A propos Groningen, when I was working there late last year, a city planner I was speaking to outed himself as an e-bike sceptic. He was concerned about the speed factor - casting faster-moving vehicles into an existing flow. He mentioned that 11% of cyclist fatalities were caused by the fact that the cyclist was on an e-bike. Going too fast, losing control, motorists surprised by a speed faster than the average cyclist. He was also concerned about the lack of interest in such matters.

Interestingly, a headline here in Denmark today was much the same. A study by the Road Directorate found out that 10% of cyclist fatalities were on e-bikes. Going too fast, losing control, etc. Most were elderly citizens, which is similar to the Dutch experience. Today, there are calls for e-bike courses to teach people how to use them.

The point here is that there is clearly a bit of an issue. One that isn't mentioned in the Hype Cloud.

Another interesting point was raised by a Dutch colleague who uses an e-bike on occasion. Dutch drivers are used to cyclists, of course, but they're also used to their speed. Motorists stop when turning, check over their shoulder and then decide to continue with the turn if they can see that the oncoming bicycle is far enough away. My colleague has had to brake hard because the motorist had more than enough time to turn if the cyclist was heading towards them at an average speed, but it is hard to see that the e-bike is doing double the speed.

China
Another point that is invisible in the Hype Cloud is the Chinese experience. They have had large numbers of e-bikes and e-scooters for over a decade. As you can read in this article in the Wall Street Journal called "E-Yikes! Electric Bikes Terrorize the Streets of China". The article doesn't mention is that almost every month, another Chinese city bans e-bikes. Simply because of the alarming rise in accidents and deaths. We don't often fancy looking to China for inspiration, but in many cases we should.

Classification and Branding

I've noticed that there is a bit of a confusion about how to classify e-bikes. The word "pedelec" is used to denote a bicycle with an electic assist motor. You have to keep pedalling in order to get some juice. The motor cuts out at 25 km/h. Let's face it, "pedelec" is not a word that will catch on in the general population. To the pleasure of the e-bike industry, who have been lobbying to get any bike with a motor classified as a "bicycle", even e-scooters. At least over the past couple of years I've noticed that "e-scooter" is used more often, in order to differeniate. Nevertheless, we all need to figure out some clear terminology for the general population.

Marketing and Messaging
When you have powerful industry looking to make some cash behind any product line, you have cause to be sceptical. Unlike the bicycle industry, the e-bike industry is pushing hard to make their products mainstream. In an article on BikeBiz we can read that Hannes Neupert, founder and president of ExtraEnergy, an electric vehicle lobbying organisation based in Germany, has declared that:

“Electrification will kill the mechanical bicycle within a few years like it has killed many other mechanical products. Bicycles…will remain as historical items hanging on the wall.”


He isn't the first. Many e-bike websites feature similar claims. It's odd to see that there are clear battle lines drawn.

I first noticed e-bikes on my radar back in 2010. A rumour that pro racer Fabian Cancellara used an e-bike in a pro race went viral on the internet. The rumour led to a frenzied flock of journalists around the world trying to find out if it was true. I remember saying here at the office when the story hit that "within a week, a company name will emerge". Sure enough, journalists that were fed the rumour found out that a motor existed but it was a couple of milimetres too thick to fit into Cancellara's frame. He was then free from suspicion. The Austrian company that produced the motor was all over the press, however.

I have no idea if the Austrian company was behind it all. It's probably unlikely. I remain convinced, however, that it was one of the most brilliant guerilla marketing campaigns I've ever seen, regardless of who started it.

Since then, I've been wary of the massive industry - like any other massive industry - and their tactics.

"Motorists are hopping out of their cars and onto e-bikes!"
No, they're not. This is one of the standard lines I hear from e-bike proponents. Unfortuately, it is purely anecdotal. There is no data to support this claim. Like most standard lines repeated ad nauseum, you can trace them back to the source, which is the e-bike industry. As this humourous YouTube video suggests, the e-bike industry is desperate in their attempts to brand e-bikes as "sexy" to able-bodied young adults. With limited success.

Many people have an anecdote to tell me. About him or her who now use an e-bike. Of course there are good stories to tell. I  know some myself. My main problem with anecdotes is that they are often presented as The Big Picture. Just because one person's dad or grandmother hopped onto an e-bike doesn't mean that everyone is. But the neo-religious Hype Cloud fogs up the lens sometimes. Another grain of salt, please.

The fact remains that there is only one way to get motorists to change their behaviour. And here it is.

Health Benefits
The health benefits of cycling are well-documented. I've been wondering how they will be reduced with the advent of e-bikes. People will be pedalling less. They won't be getting their pulse up as much, which is incredibly important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It's great if the elderly use e-bikes to extend their active mobility, absolutely. There are benefits there. In the Netherlands, the average age of an e-bike rider is over 60. Lots of elderly people will benefit. I just wonder about the big picture. Nobody else seems to be doing it.


At this point, because I've learned the nature of how many people read blog articles, I'm going to repeat this for clarity:

Baseline
E-bikes serve a purpose. Absolutely. They are a great niche addition to the existing armada of bicycles that have served citizens for 125 years. They have the potential of increasing the mobility radius of cycling citizens - especially the elderly. All good.

All I've done is questioned the Hype Cloud. Looking at important issues like safety. Mostly because too many people are dazzled by the e-bike industry rhetoric and I want to explore both sides of the coin.

I hope that when I'm elderly, I'll be fit and able enough to ride a bicycle. Having an e-option, however, is good. We'll see how it works out when I get there.

I remain convinced that the bicycle as we know it can continue to have a transformational effect on our socities and our cities, just as it has done for 125 years.

Remember, people rode bicycles sans motors in all of our cities for decades and decades. On bicycles heavier and clumsier than modern models. Their offspring can do the same today if infrastructure is put into place to keep them safe.

I believe in the bicycle. From a rational and historical perspective. The e-bike is a nice addition but despite what the e-bike industry tells you, it ain't the new sliced bread.

Those of us working towards creating more liveable cities should be well-versed in both sides of the coin and act based on that instead of blindly allowing the Hype Cloud to envelop us.






27 September 2013

Citizen Cyclists are Forward-Thinking (In Lithuania and everywhere else)


Lithuania wants you to like them. They want to show you how progressive, modern and forward-thinking they are. They use a Citizen Cyclist to hammer home the point.

The Future is Here.

21 May 2013

Hungarian Cycling Promotion Brilliance


Oh those Hungarians. Once again, they show the world that they are leaders in the area of bicycle promotion. Here's the latest film from the Hungarian Cyclists' Club's Bike to Work campaign - or "Bringázz a munkába" if you want to get all Magyar-esque.

The cycling NGO has an ongoing relationship with global advertising firm Young & Rubicam, who have produced some of the films. Something the rest of the geeky bicycle advocacy world can learn from. Mainstream marketing is the key. Taking this product called "urban cycling" and selling it to the 99%. Selling the simplicty of urban cycling instead of overcomplicating it.



The good people at the Hungarian Cyclists Club know that sub-cultural marketing is not an effective way to sell a mainstream product. Unlike many other NGOs around the world who are seemingly intent on merely trying recruit new members to their clique, the Hungarians see the big picture and go after it year after year after year.

Add to that the activists in Budapest who, unlike many elsewhere, embrace the concept of mainstreaming urban cycling and who work together with the other stakeholders to reach the goal. After many years with the world's biggest and most impressive crictical mass rides the organisers last year handed over the reins to the Hungarian Cyclists Club and to Cycle Chic - saying that the city needed to move to the next level now.

There are, rest assured, other cities who "get it", as you can see in this article.

The work the Hungarians produce remains, however, the benchmark for bicycle advocacy in the world. Nothing less will do.












14 May 2013

I Vacuum Copenhagen

Vacuum Cleaner Culture
Vacuum cleaner transporting a ... vacuum cleaner.

I've been saying for years that we don't have bicycle culture in Copenhagen. We just have vacuum cleaner culture. We all have one, we all have learned to use it, we use it. End of story.
We don't have bicycle culture in #copenhagen. We have vacuum cleaner culture
Another vacuum cleaner transporting a vacuum cleaner.

We don't buy vacuum cleaning clothes at a specialty store, we don't wave at other vacuum cleaning enthusiasts on the street, we don't keep 7 vacuum cleaners polished in our shed. It's not a hobby or a fetish or a sub-cultural membership card.

Our vacuums, like our bicycles, are just tools that make everyday life easier.

So I figured I needed a logo.
I Vacuum Copenhagen

10 February 2013

Cycling to Copenhagen Airport

Cycling to the Airport
Standard cycle track in Copenhagen. Sign indicating that you turn left here for the airport.

I will fully admit the irony of my epiphany. It's even a bit silly. The story has, however, a decent ending. The nature of my work involves a great many trips to and from Copenhagen Airport. We're lucky in Copenhagen. The airport is the most efficient and well-designed airport I've seen anywhere in the world. It is easily accessible and is located close to the city. You can get there by bus, metro and train, as well as car or taxi, of course. This being Copenhagen, I knew there was fully separated bicycle infrastructure the whole way out there, as well. From every direction.

Last October, on the eve of a journey to Zurich for my TED x talk, my friend Ole - previously written about on this blog - asked why I didn't just ride my bicycle to the airport. I shrugged and said that I live 6 minutes walk from a Metro station and it takes 25 minutes on the Metro to get there. I'm not a "cyclist" - I don't demonstratively ride my bicycle everywhere. I like to walk and take public transport, too. I ride my bicycle because it's quick, efficient and rational. My Metro journey takes 35 minutes, give or take, and that was the most efficient way to get to the airport.

With that trademark twinkle in his eye, Ole said, "That's what I thought, too..." He pulled out his smartphone and showed me a journey he recorded on the Endomondo app. It's like many other apps for tracking journeys, but being a Danish product, it rightly has "Cycling - Transport" as an option. Ole lives in a different neighbourhood but we live about the same distance from the airport. He showed me the bottom line: it took him 35 minutes to ride to Copenhagen Airport. The same amount of time as I use on the metro. And Ole rides a bog standard upright bike in style over speed.

Damn. There is was. Rationality staring me in the face. I woke up the next morning and hopped on my 60 year old Swedish bike with my carry-on bag for the two day trip to Zurich and rode to the airport.

It took me 39 relaxing minutes on my old one-speed. 11.39 km in all. I parked at the bike rack outside Terminal 3 and waltzed right up the escalator to security. Feeling silly that I hadn't realised it before. Piece of cake.


The trip was, of course, on standard separated cycle tracks the whole way.
Cycling to Copenhagen Airport
One little 400 metre section along the motorway was one of the old-school bi-directional types, which was nice.

Cycle chic. Rode my bike to the airport. In style. #cyclechic bit.ly/VCuOHE
I parked right outside Terminal 3. Luckily, there was space


There is, however, ample bike parking at the airport, as you can see on Copenhagen Airport's website. They are often filled. Many employees live in the nearby neighbourhoods, so they ride to work, although I'm sure others have discovered the simplicity of cycling to the airport.

So. Great for short trips with a carry-on bag. On my longer trips, I have more luggage, obviously. I would love to ride my Bullitt to the airport on these occasions. The problem is that theft of cargo bikes is big business so I am not keen to leave the Bullitt parked all exposed for a week or so.

I rang the airport and talked to a guy in the parking department. He could understand the problem and was kind enough to give me his best guess about which of the bike parking areas would be most secure - an area with a lot of traffic throughout the day and night. Still, I'm not keen to risk it.

There are underground parking levels all over the place. Perfect for cargo bike parking but currently only reserved for cars. At Copenhagenize Design Co. we've approached the marketing department at Copenhagen Airport about providing secure parking for cargo bikes and we're looking forward to hearing from them. The airport has decent facilities for bicycles but mostly because it's in Copenhagen and it's a necessity. Although the bicycle pump when you arrive in the baggage area certainly impressed this guy last year.


The main challenge is that car parking is lucrative. Ole took a photo of this ad at the airport recently. "A hot dog on the platform or a cosy dinner with your partner - Why spend the evening on a cold train platform when you can take your own car to the airport. Park in the airport's best spots: Direct and Standard. Then you'll get home quick to your partner."

So the message is clear. Car parking is big business for the airport. Although creating cargo bike parking facilities would, of course, be modern and marketable. Good for the airport's brand. Let's see if they're up for it.

We've mapped out where the best locations would be and it would be an inexpensive investment with a lot of return in the form of marketing. Just look at how much focus the oil company Statoil has recieved because of their bicycle stations at their gas stations in Copenhagen.

Cycling to the airport is easy, rational and time-efficient. I hope more people consider doing it.

Baggage Handler Commuting
It's also a great way to get around if you work there.

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On the subject of airports and cargo bike, here's an article and film about how I get picked up by friends with a cargo bike every time I arrive at Rio de Janeiro's Santos Dumont airport. Let's face it: a city with cycle tracks to the airport is a modern city.

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Bicycles and Airports set on Flickr right here.