Showing posts with label quotes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label quotes. Show all posts

27 August 2012

Copenhagen's "Strøget" Turns 50

Johannes V Jensen
Copenhagen's famous pedestrian street "Strøget" turns 50 on September 2, 2012. There will be festivities up and down the street in celebration.

Here's a post that shows the origins of the idea can be found in 1913. Originally published on 11 August 2009.

I dipped into the archives the other day and found an interesting article from 1913 about traffic on the main thoroughfare in Copenhagen - 'Strøget'.

In the early 1960's Strøget, the main street running east-west through the city centre, became quite famous. It was closed off to cars and transformed into a pedestrian zone.
Copenhagen 1951 Copenhagen 1964
Strøget 1951 and in 1964.
Strøget now. (on a very quiet morning, believe me)

There were protests back then. Cries of "we're not Italians! We don't want to walk!" were heard in the city. Shopkeepers feared for their businesses. Fortunately, the idea was implemented by the City of Copenhagen. They had seen some of the great ideas by urban planner Jan Gehl.

This was a turning point in the modern life of Copenhagen. Cars were taking over, fewer people were cycling and the city was congested and polluted. Visionary political decision-making and urban planning was needed and it arrived.

Since then, Copenhagen hasn't looked back. The fears of the shopkeepers were soon allayed - indeed there is nowhere in the world where pedestrian zones or bike lanes have caused commerce to suffer. These two urban planning instruments only serve to increase the number of pedestrians and act as a form of traffic calming. Streets become, quite simply, nicer places to be.

I was suprised, however, to discover that a well-known Danish writer Johannes V. Jensen was quite a visionary. In the article I found there was a discussion about the increasing traffic on Strøget back in 1913. 'Omnibusses' had made their debut and motor traffic was on the rise. The city's backbone was under threat. Various personalities were asked about what should be done about the street. Should bikes be banned? What about pedestrians? Should cars and omnibusses prevail?

Here's what Johannes V. Jensen wrote:

"I find the increasing traffic on Strøget extremely dangerous, says Johannes V. Jensen. It should have been banned ages ago. These "arks", these omnibusses wouldn't be tolerated anywhere else in the world. In Seville, where there are similar narrow, winding streets, all traffic is banned. In China it's been like that for centuries.

All vehicles, including bicycles, should be banned from Strøget. It's the only promenade we have in the city. It isn't pretty, it needs more trees, but the people have made their choice and it should be allowed to exist in peace."

What a visionary.

Strøget's transformation was a success. To this day it is only for pedestrians and the network of pedestrian streets in the centre of the city has expanded, along with Shared Space stretches and traffic calming measures. Johannes V. Jensen was, indeed, quite the visionary. Unfortunately, he died in 1950 so he didn't get to see it happen.

Johannes V. Jensen is also interesting to a cycling Copenhagen due to one novel in particular. Gudrun, from 1936. An extremely modern novel for its time, it features a girl named Gudrun who is content with her working life and doesn't harbour much thought for following the usual path of 'husband, children, housewife.'

She cycles over Knippel's Bridge each day to work and Jensen has several lovely passages that describe cycling in Copenhagen.

"In the stream of cycles over Knippels Bridge we see Gudrun again, pedaling steadily. As though her and the machine are one. She is Copenhagen and Copenhagen is her."

He also compares the cycling Copenhageners to schools of fish:
"If one is bumped by a car, the whole school is bumped. It's a nerve one has in the elbow, a flock function, which Copenhageners have learned so well that it is second nature".

There is another passage that I can't seem to find in my notes about how the cycling girls of Copenhagen are all blonde and they make you think that they are all members of the same family.

The 'cycling girl' as a cultural icon in Danish history lives on, as does Johannes V. Jensen's vision of a car-free city centre.

30 December 2010

Modern Life

I'm in Calgary, Canada for Christmas so I haven't been updating of late.

How is everybody? Hope your holiday season was/is lovely.

I read something interesting the other day. Via Bill Bryson's book about Shakespeare I read about John Stow's mammoth work Survey of London.

In it he laments the development of modern life and how: "...the traffic in the city had grown impossible and that the young walked less than ever..."

The book was published in 1598.


09 November 2010

The Evil Deity

After about a month of studying cases, I put to my first term torts students a couple of hypothetical questions. The first concerns an ‘evil deity.’ ‘Suppose,’ I ask my students, ‘such a deity were to appear to you, as president of this country or as controller of our legal system, and offer a gift, a boon, which would make life more pleasant, more enjoyable than it is today. The gift can be anything you want — be as idealistic, or as obscene, or as greedy as you wish — except that it cannot save lives.’ Later I will drop even that requirement. ‘The evil deity suggests that he can deliver this gift in exchange for one thing … the lives of one thousand young men and women picked by him at random who will each year die horrible deaths.’

When I ask, ‘Would you accept?’ my students almost uniformly answer, ‘No.’ Indeed, they are shocked that one could even ask the question. I then ask, quietly, what the difference is between this gift and the automobile, which takes some fifty-five thousand lives each year.

– Guido Calabresi, Ideals, Beliefs, Attitudes, and the Law, 1985

Thanks to Alberto for this.

07 October 2010

Los Angeles & CicLAvia

LA Tweed Ride
In a few days Los Angeles will be experiencing the first CicLAvia bike ride, modelled on the popular car-free Ciclovia bicycle days in Bogota and Mexico City, among other places. It's on Sunday - 10.10.2010 and you can read about it here.

There was a time when bicycles were a regular feature on the urban landscape in L.A.. At the turn of the last century 20% of all trips in the city were by bicycle.

This is a great quote from a 1897 newspaper article:
"There is no part of the world where cycling is in greater favor than in Southern California, and nowhere on the American continent are conditions so favorable the year round for wheeling."

I included the quote in an article I wrote in the L.A. Times' Bottleneck Blog a couple of years ago. Also mentioning the fantastic separated infrastructure built to connect Pasadena with L.A. - the Arroyo Seca Cycleway.

Have a great ride, Los Angeles!

21 August 2010

Something About Worldwide Cycling

Halfdan Rasmussen was a Danish poet - and resistance fighter during WW2 - who was well-known both for his nonsense verse for children and his societal critique. In one of his books - Tosserier i udvalg from 1960 he included a satirical song/poem that rings incredibly true in 2010. The illustration, above, is from the poem, picturing a devil on a bicycle.

It is a satirical piece taking the piss out of motorists and their disdain for cyclists. It dates from 1960 when urban planning in Denmark was already starting to revolve around the car and people were buying them in large numbers. Cycling levels were falling and - like we see even today here in Denmark - cycling was getting a heap of bad press.

It is incredibly difficult to translate it quickly, not least because it's designed to rhyme in Danish, but here's the meat in the sandwich:

Something About Worldwide Cycling
Speech given at KDAK's AGM by the President of The SADMBIIPD Party
"Sammenslutning af Dannebrogsmænd med benzindrevne indretninger købt på dollarbasis" or "Union of Danish Patriots with Petrol Driven Vehicles Bought with Dollars"

Dear party members! Those who are gathered here today to speak about the motorists' cause
know all too well that it isn't Hamlet or Van Gogh that are society's motor today.

He who wants to feel must learn to hear the motor-driven song in his blood
if he wishes to follow the times and drive the past farther behind us.

As we all know our chosen party is elected legally by the voters
with percentages from the agricultural and heavy-machinery industries.

But if our party will be known as one that honourably pays its debts
it is, however, here we must danse and leap if we are to profit from society.

There is, however, one thing that makes our fight difficult, in every respect;
People with a knife up their sleeves
who knock the lamp out of our hands in order to build foundations on sand

These methods and this fanaticism, pretending to be something they're not
label themselves as savage cyclists that is financed by foreign powers!

Those of us who drive our cars to our daily chores, to watch over our proud old nation
meet each day, both here and in Herning, the pedalling provocation of the masses

Nothing is sacred for these subjects who create chaos and remote-controlled defiance
in order to profit from future generations who have a completely different currency than us!

Therefore, and without wavering one bit, but because of reasons that demand an answer
we should stand firm and fight these tormentors - in order to preserve the tormentors we have.

Those who wish to cycle must cycle on the path, in a democratic and noble way
Because like it says in the encyclopaedia, pigs in fine clothes are still just pigs!

So we must and will fight like lions and strike these mad dogs of cycling
before they maul us all, large and small.

It is cycling that threatens the nation, the king and the long arm of the law
It is cycling that squeezes the lemon, like a baby hyena at it's mothers breast

Countrymen and farmers, from Jutland and Denmark alike, at home and abroad, at sea and on land!
Like Holger Danske we throw down our gloves and shout at every cyclist, 'STOP'!

Stop, because you're driving our country into the ditch!
Stop before the hour to light your bike lights arrives
The abyss before us is enormous. The canyon is wider still.
The greatest day will be that when the cyclists leave!

Sound familiar? :-)

Thanks to Hans for the poem.

17 November 2009

Opinion Piece Comedy

A reader in Indiana sent us this brilliant clipping from the Indianapolis Star in 1980.

This is brilliant. Have a read. It includes such classic quotes as:

"Not only are bicycles dangerous, they are as antiquated a form of transportation as the rickshaw. In no advanced city on earth will you find civilized people cycling to work. The urban cyclist is generally a crank, either profoundly antisocial or hopelessly narcissistic and following the strenuous life in hopes of achieving immortality or a legendary sex life. When you encounter him give him a wide berth and never turn your back on him."

01 July 2009

Cyclo Brevity

My reading this past week brought me past George Bernard Shaw and this quote, a propos fearmongering and The Culture of Fear:

"Newspapers are unable, seemingly to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization."

Indeed. And how appropriate given the hysteria many papers, especially the tabloids, exhibited by the press about cycling and 'safety'.

And I returned, for reasons nothing to do with cycling, to Philip Larkin's great death poem, Aubade:

"Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others.

Courage means not scaring others. Boy, there are a lot of people out there who should reflect on that.

Bicycle by Paul Fattaruso
While we're in brevity mode, I can recommend a book of bicycle poems by Paul Fattaruso called... "Bicycle".

Brilliant stuff. Simple, elegant poems about bicycles. Example:

"Of all the hidden cities, the city of abandoned bicycles is the most perfectly hidden. One can listen a long time to the indistinct whispers of abandoned bicycles in the streets."