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        Showing posts with label bicycle culture. Show all posts
        Showing posts with label bicycle culture. Show all posts

        08 January 2018

        Copenhagen Bike Hub

        by Stephanie Patterson

        Copenhagenize Design Company’s time at our very cool co-working space on Paper Island/Papir?en is sadly coming to an end – the island's old industrial buildings are being demolished to make way for a new residential development. We’ll miss the creative vibe in our office - and on the island - that we have experienced daily for over four years. Paper Island was a freestyle creative hub that captured the imagination of Copenhageners and visitors alike.

        Harbour bathing is a regular, year-round activity at our office

        Instead of resigning ourselves to tristesse, or to merely search for new offices, we decided to finally dust off an old Copenhagenize idea. Luckily, some ideas get better with age. Back in 2008, Copenhagenize Design Co. CEO Mikael Colville-Andersen envisioned that "Danish bicycle culture needs a physical home. A place where ideas can be fostered and discussed. A launch pad and showcase for Danish bicycle innovation". Colville-Andersen had teamed up with Marie K?strup - who is now the head of the bicycle programme for the City of Copenhagen - and developed a list of ideas that would place focus internationally and nationally on Copenhagen as a bicycle city. A list that included harvested ideas from abroad but also original ideas like establishing a bicycle center and even a bicycle museum. The mayor of traffic at the time, Klaus Bondam, embraced the idea and worked, for a time, on the concept of an Urban Showroom, without completing the idea. However, the original idea from 2008 led to the establishment of the Bicycle Innovation Lab, the first cultural center for cycling complete with a bicycle library and events. We wrote about the launch of BIL here back in 2011.

        With the impending need for new offices, the idea has surfaced once again and this time a strong tailwind is pushing it along. Enter: CPH Bike Hub. With the growing global interest in reestablishing the bicycle as a feasible transport form in cities, Danish bicycle planning, social cycling innovation and product design - among other aspects of the cycling community - can benefit from gathering under one roof.

        Statement of support from Gil Penalosa from 8-80 Cities, who regularly bring delegations to Copenhagen.

        We are thrilled that the idea has now gained purchase and is in a serious development stage, moving steadily towards becoming a reality. We're pleased to have a long list of colleagues join us on board. The core development team, apart from Copenhagenize Design Co. includes Cycling Without Age and the Danish Cyclists' Federation and Leader Lab. A veritable dream team.

        The idea for the CPH Bike Hub is not just sharing office space and innovation with colleagues. It also includes creating a destination for visitors. With all the delegations that come to Copenhagen to learn about bicycle planning, we have plans to develop a conference space to host them. Not just the delegations that Copenhagenize Design Co hosts, but also the City of Copenhagen and the Danish Cyclists Federation will benefit from having dedicated space to host visitors. Plans also include an exhibition space, a café/bar and meeting rooms.

        Indeed, the City of Copenhagen supports the general idea of creating a space for cycling:
        "The City of Copenhagen’s Bicycle Program welcomes all initiatives that will accelerate local innovation and product design in the field of cycling, bringing global attention to Copenhagen’s unique cycling culture. Establishing a physical meeting point for co-creation and showcasing will be valuable to the city as well as to the global community."
        Marie K?strup, City of Copenhagen

        Core Concepts for the proposed CPH Bike Hub.

        We have seen the emergence of similar bike hubs in places like Barcelona with BiciClot  and the Netherlands with the Dutch Bicycle Centre and we hope that the CPH Bike Hub will contribute to this growing trend and the global dissemination of knowledge and experience.

        At time of writing, we are working hard with colleagues to establish the foundations of the CPH Bike Hub, secure financing and gather as many likeminded companies, organisations and individuals as possible. The list of colleagues continues to grow and includes the following:

        · CYCLING WITHOUT AGE - Worldwide cycling non-profit for the elderly
        · COPENHAGEN CYCLES - Global distributor of innovative bike trishaws
        · LEADERLAB - Nordic sustainability business accelerators
        · VELORBIS - Leading Danish bicycle brand
        · MATE - Rapidly growing local E-Bike brand
        · CYKELKOKKEN - Innovative and well-known Copenhagen cycling chef
        · COH & CO - Sustainable materials bicycle producers
        · SCANDINAVIAN SIDE CAR - Cutting-edge Danish cargo bikes solutions
        · HOE360 CONSULTING - Danish green mobility consultancy

        Morten Kabell – the former environmental and technical mayor of Copenhagen joined Copenhagenize Design Company in early January 2018 as COO and he is now also spearheading the work to establish CPH Bike Hub together with our colleagues. The timeline is still under development, but we are looking forward to letting the world know about the launch when the time comes.

        Stay tuned. We're excited.

        For more information about joining the CPH Bike Hub, email Morten at morten @ copenhagenize .eu

        27 November 2016

        Hygge and the Firepit of Transport

        Advent Candles Week Three

        The concept of "hygge" is, by all accounts, all the rage this year. A slough of books about “how to hygge” are on the market in the UK alone this year. The Guardian even endevoured to produce a good longread about the whole shebang. All to the amusement of Danes for whom the word is more of a ingrained feeling than a concept requiring an instruction manual.

        Hyg. Hygge. Hyggelig.  This simple Danish word has captured many imaginations. Other languages have a similar word - gemütlichkeit in German or gezellig in Dutch but in Danish the meaning is taken to the next level. It often gets translated as “cosy”, but that is sadly inadequate. I’m going to get to how or if hygge relates to transport, but I need to lay down a baseline first.

        My standing example when I have to explain the concept to foreigners took place when I was in my 20s. A group of male friends and I met at a friend’s flat on a dark, November evening with pizza and beer to watch a Champion’s League match. Cue the usual boy banter and piss-taking. Until one of the guys looked around and said, “Lars… don’t you have any candles?” Lars had forgotten. He promptly hopped up to get them and light five or six of them, adding a “sorry” as he sat back down. A calm settled over the group and the football evening continued.

        In the winter months, candles are the prerequisite hygge prop. Indeed, Danes burn more candles than anyone else in the world. The focus on hygge in the international press -  and a slough of glossy womens’ magazines - however, seems to be focused on baking cookies and moping under a duvet on the sofa whilst wearing slippers/wooly socks and sweatpants like a rejected character in Sex and the City. If that is the image we’re going to get slapped with in Denmark, we need to do some serious brand damage control.

        I’ve been asking other Danes for a couple of decades how they define hygge and I went on an asking spree before writing this article. While the general concept of hygge is etched delicately into the nucleus of our every cell, there is a slight divide in the interpretation, which may be a recent development. The debate is about whether you can hyg by yourself or whether you need to be at least two people.

        If you ask the older generation, most are adamant that it takes at least two to hygge tango. Many members of the younger generation, on the other hand, are fine with the idea of being able to hyg alone. If you told me that you were home alone last night and enjoyed a good book on the sofa with a cup of tea, I won’t ask if it was hyggeligt, although you might offer the comment that you hyggede with yourself. Yes. It’s a bit confusing. Personally, I find it most hyggelig when I spend time with one or more friends. At the end of it all, you can declare to each other “good to see you! It was hyggelig!” Home alone on the sofa, there is no one to say that to.

        Four Candles, A Zebra Crossing and a Bike

        Right then. How does this apply to transport? Copenhageners, rumour has it, are predisposed to transport themselves in great numbers by bicycle each day. 56% of the citizens of the Danish capital, at last count. Urban cycling is certainly the most anthropologically-correct transport form for city dwellers. It provides independent mobility but still allows for interaction - conscious or sub-conscious - with the urban landscape and, not least, the other homo sapiens that inhabit it with you.

        To be honest, I’ve never heard anyone say that it was hyggelig to ride a bike to work. That might just be because we don’t often associate such things with transport. Avid cyclists will preach that cycling is “fun” as their primary messaging aimed at encouraging others to join their tribe. While I might, if forced, admit that cycling each and every day in Copenhagen is enjoyable, I would never use “fun”. Indeed, I’ve declared here on this blog that “cycling isn’t fun, it’s transport”.

        Let’s slip under the surface for a moment. I dare to assume that the sub-conscious interaction with one’s city is one of the key strengths to growing and/or maintaining cycling levels. I’ve been asked in all seriousness several times through the years if cyclists wave at each other in Copenhagen - like I suppose they do in other parts of world where they are a rarity on the streets. However cute that might be, what a monumental task - waving at thousands of people all day long. And none waving back. But the subliminal sense of togetherness - something few realise - is there. The simple urban anthropological contentment at sharing a city with other humans - in a human form on a bicycle as opposed to boxed in and invisible in a car - is everpresent.

        To be honest, in the hundreds and hundreds of interviews I’ve done about cycling in Copenhagen, no journalist has ever asked if there was an element of hygge to it. Until last week... thanks to the current hyggepocalypse that is raging. Many, many journalists, however, have asked about the correlation between being consistently ranked as the world’s “happiest” nation and our cycling habits.

        First of all, on THAT note, the actual question asked in the survey is “are you content with your life?” Not quite the same as “are you happy”, is it? It gets morphed into headline friendly “happy” after the fact. Look at the Top 10 happiest nations for 2016. Seven of them - including all the Nordics - are countries with a high standard of living, cradle to grave health care, six weeks of annual holiday and strong secular cultures. Cycling doesn’t have much to do with it.

        Hygge is not exclusive to the Danes, however. It is merely an extension of the firepit. Besides serving an important role for security, warmth and preparation of food, the firepit was the adhesive that brought a tribe together. After a long day of hunting and gathering or warfaring, it was around the firepit that the tribe would gather. To eat, talk, tell stories. I suppose the television has replaced the firepit in many ways. Nevertheless, Danes just keep on firepitting in their own way. Seeking out the simplicity of togetherness.

        Langebro Conversation
        "Conversation cycling"

        So cycling in itself may not be regarded as hyggeligt, but there are still ample opportunities to enjoy the company of a friend as you cycle, with Best Practice infrastructure and what we call “conversation lanes” in Copenhagen. Whatever the season.

        Cargo Bike Evening
        There can certainly be bicycle-related hygge, but the bicycle is merely a prop that makes it possible. Like chatting outside a bar in a cargo bike.

        Morten, the Bicycle Chef, working his magic in #Copenhagen #cphize16 @cykelkokken
        Cykelkokken at work.

        Copenhagen's renowed Bicycle Chef - Cykelkokken - Morten serves up gourmet food from his cargo bike and my god it's hyggelig. Holding hands with someone you love while cycling is also hyggelig, but again... the bike is a mere prop.

        Summertime in #copenhagen . Portable bbq
        Bring your own bbq.

        I would argue that on some level, cycling is the firepit of transport. People gather at red lights. Not eating, talking or telling stories with each other, but they are elbow to elbow with other members of the urban tribe.

        A long series of firepit moments in the morning rush hour.

        Warming themselves with the tightly-woven urban fabric on a deep but important sub-conscious level.

        19 May 2013

        Wayfinding in a Liveable City

        Social Mobility Moment
        "Hi... excuse me... can you help me find this address?"

        An oft-used phrase for visitors in a foreign city. A few months ago I met up with Andy Cutler from Providence, RI, who was in Denmark to explore opportunities for Providence and Copenhagen to hook up on a creative and business level.

        He did a cool little experiement. He was here for two weeks and only got around by asking people on the street for directions, instead of using tech-gadgets. He wrote about it here, on the Better World by Design blog.

        He told me about it at Bang & Jensen café in Copenhagen one evening and I thought it to be cool.

        One of his observations is that Copenhageners - besides being helpful - never really gave him complete and specific directions. They sent him in the right direction and then suggested he ask someone else for further details once he got closer. I found that interesting.

        I've spent a awful lot of time thinking about it since then. Making mental notes of my own experiences. Asking friends about their wayfinding habits. In addition, I've been using a valuable resource at my disposal - all the guests who stay with me in my flat, my Airbnb room.

        The baseline of my observations it that Copenhageners aren't very good with street addresses. They'll rarely be able to tell you what house number a certain establishment is at on a certain street. Street names, too, are not something that roll right off the tongue when describing how to get somewhere.

        We live in densely-populated neighbourhoods with pretty much everything we need in close proximity to us. There are fixed points on our personal maps, sure. Supermarkets, cafés, banks (although less so these days with online banking), busstops, train stations, parks. When something new appears on our map, people have to start telling each other how to get there. A new café or restaurant, for example.

        "I was at this cool, new restaurant last night. It was great."
        "I've read about it, heard good things about it. Where is it?"

        At this point a street name will, most likely, come into the conversation but rarely a house number. The description of the restaurant location will involve describing the new place's proximity to other established points on our urban map.

        "It's just up from XXX supermarket. You know... near XXX café."
        "Okay. Which side of the street? Heading towards the city or away from it?"

        You'll never get a specific location. You'll end up riding your bike to the new restaurant and, as you approach, you'll narrow down your wayfinding using the locations of the known establishments and finally spotting the sign for the new restaurant.

        I've played around with friends and colleagues, asking them if they know a certain place and how to get there. In fifty or so attempts, this is the overwhelmingly the pattern.

        I also discovered that I didn't know the exact street address of my regular haunts. Cafés, resturants, etc.. I often send visitors to the aforementioned Bang & Jensen café - a place I've been frequenting for over a decade. I seem to recall that the house number was over 100 and, when describing the location I'll mention some cross streets but I'll mostly mention shop names nearby by. Little pins on a mental map that will help the person find the place. If neccessary I will say "the house number is over 100", in order to help them more specifically.

        I just googled it and found out it's at Istedgade 130. I'm sure I'll forget that by the end of the day.

        I've also been asking my Airbnb guests if they asked anyone for directions while out in the city. If yes, I've asked what kind of response they got. Again, the same pattern emerged. Copenhageners were helpful but described things around the desired destination. Visual and textual clues to help them narrow the wayfinding journey. I also catch myself telling them how to get to places using visual references.

        "It's just after a green building. There's a supermarket with a big sign reading F?TEX. It's just after that. Heading towards the city, not away from it." And so on.

        So what's up with this? Here's what I think.

        Copenhageners are't shockingly bad at finding their way. Of course not. We're Vikings... we discovered America and sailed at will around the known world, as though we designed it ourselves. We invented the first compass - the Viking Sunstone. :-)

        Nah... here's the thing. Copenhagen is a city of densely-populated neighbourhoods. It's a city where 71% of the population do not own a car and they transport themselves around their urban landscape on bicycles. In their local neighbourhoods there's a lot of walking. We spend great amounts of time not sitting in boxes of steel and glass with restricted vision but on the cycle tracks and sidewalks - or even on busses staring out of the window.

        Our wayfinding is visual. Shop signs, building colours, proximity to fixed points on the map like train station or parks. With so much time spent looking at our city from the seats of our bicycles, the need for specifics like street names and house numbers dwindles. In communicating wayfinding to others, we describe the visual images imprinted on our inner map in our head.

        Mistakes may occur. "You said past the green building... that's not green, that's blue..." Or you discover that the café across the street from the desired destination closed down and is now a flower shop, throwing us off our wayfinding.

        Not to worry. Just stop somebody on the street and get some more visual clues. You'll get there eventually. And your journey will be a human one, worthy of a truly liveable city.

        I've noticed the same patterns in other cities like Amsterdam. Few street names are mentioned, just visual directions involving establishments, certain bridges, etc.

        Bicycle-friendly cities allow a closer contact with the city for those living in it - or visiting it. They are cities that are imprinted more indelibly on the retina of our inner cartographer.

        I like that. It's human.

        Stop and Chat

        Then there is the whole human aspect of how being closer to your city on bicycles drastically increases your chances of spotting friends - and stopping to say hello. You see it all the time. Someone on a bicycle chatting with a friend on the sidwalk. Or two bicycle users who ran into each other and are having a chat on the sidewalk.

        A bizarre coincedence just yesterday... I was heading to the beach with the kids and, at a roundabout, a man in a pedicab hailed me down. He - and the pedicab rider - wanted to know where the Bicycle Innovation Lab was. They decided to ask the first person they spotted. That was me.

        Bizarre, because I was involved in starting the Bicycle Innovation Lab - the first cultural centre for cycling - and the Bicycle Library. Even more bizarre because the man in the pedicab was my friend Karta from London. He runs, among other things, The Bicycle Library in London.

        It was a wild, unfathomable coincedence. He is in town for 24 hours, having flown in from Hong Kong. And boom... I'm the guy he spots on the cycle track to ask about the whereabouts of the Bicycle Innovation Lab.

        Even more bizarre, as we're standing there talking on the cycle track, my two German guests in my flat from Airbnb roll up behind us. Little Lulu, sitting on the Bullitt, said, "Look, Daddy... it's our guests." They were heading to the beach, too.

        There's no way I'm playing the lottery. I've used up my wild odds on a roundabout in Copenhagen.

        04 February 2013

        Brazil: Aracaju's Bicycle Culture

        Bicycle Happiness)
        Everyday, 24 million Brazilians use their bicycles. 53% use it as a way of transport. It's not only football and samba. It's much more.
        There are lots of great examples of bicycle friendliness in the country, too. We've written about Ubatuba before. And then you have Aracaju. It's located in the north-east the country. With around 570,000 inhabitants, the city has a lot to offer. It goes beyond the point of great beaches, weather, and so on. It also includes bicycles. Lots of them. Everywhere.

        Here are some interesting facts:
        The bicycle is a part of the city. Want to know how Aracaju celebrated its 157th anniversary? Here you go:

        Considering these bike facts, Brazil may now be football, samba and bicycle culture (and weather, and food, …) country. Two caipirinhas, please!
        Bicycle patch crowd

        21 February 2012

        Early Cargo Bike Learning II

        Cargo Bike Training
        We've written before about how cargo bike culture starts early in Copenhagen.

        Here are a couple more examples from last week. Above, heading home from kindergarten, a Copenhagen kid gets to try and ride the family's Christiania bike along the cycle tracks.
        Bike Share
        And this was spotted on my way home from picking up Lulu-Sophia from kindergarten. A mum sitting on the back rack and letting her kid get the feeling of the ride from the saddle of this Nihola.

        The Secret Life of Cargo Bikes
        Here's a glimpse into the secret life of cargo bike compartments. This one - one of many - was parked outside the kindergarten. All the essentials for a kid's life. Including a magic wand.

        Things I Bring Home On My Bike From Kindergarten
        I use the Velorbis to pick up Lulu-Sophia at the moment. Well, Lulu and friends, of course.

        Things I Bring Home On My Bike From Kindergarten 2
        The classic hook on the back racks of Danish bikes comes in handy when transporting a lunchbox. Although apples are doable as well - among many other things. Here's more on these hooks on our bikes.

        06 December 2011

        Don't Forget Japan

        For all the talk of Denmark and the Netherlands, many German cities and the rising stars of Bicycle Culture 2.0 like France, Japan is so often left out of the equation.

        It is quite amazing to me how many aren't aware that Japan is the third great cycling nation after DK and NL. Even urban mobility colleagues often say, "really?" when I highlight this fact.

        This film is a long series of clips that show what kind of bicycle nation Japan is. It's all there. Sorry. Yet another country (and it's an automobile powerhouse, a rich country, a country with cities that have narrow streets, etc etc) to either make other cities feel hopelessly insecure or... further empowered to catch up.

        Be sure to click over to the Vimeo page to read the text from the guy who made it. He's had enough of sub-cultural bicycle niches. He wants Bicycle Society.

        Here's an excerpt:

        "According to my crude interpretation/analogy a society that cycles is more equal to the one that doesn’t.
        Here in Japan grannies do it, kids do it, salary men do it, so do Yankees, the yakuza, teachers, nurses, office ladies, students, fashionistas, moms carrying an entire family, farmers, delivery men, chefs, the police, old men do it slowly with their knees sticking out, fixies, hipsters, local councilors, udon deliverers, students and anime characters do it too.

        And they do it on the footpath and without fancy lyrca, fancy bikes and helmets too. They just do it. People cycle because it makes sense.

        And it’s not that they don’t like their cars in Japan. It’s just that cycling makes sense.

        01 July 2010

        Vehicular Cyclists - Cycling's Secret Sect

        By coincedence I've found myself explaining Cycling's Secret Sect to a couple of colleagues on two separate occasions over the past couple of months. Bicycle planners the both of them. Neither had heard of the group before and in both situations the discussion was whether or not countries like America and the UK would ever get on the bicycle bandwagon in any great numbers, as well as why they haven't done already.

        Especially considering the fact that so many cities and towns in Europe have rapidly and impressively increased the numbers of everyday cyclists of the course of two short years.

        The secret sect I'm referring to is known in some circles as Vehicular Cyclists and is largely unknown in most international circles. I've had a draft of this article for a while but reading this post over at Crap Cycling in Waltham Forest yesterday made me dig it out.

        I explained this Vehicular Cycling theory to my colleagues in brief. Saying that this group fight tooth and nail against virtually any form of separated bicycle infrastructure because their theory is based up on the premise that bicycles are 'vehicles' and therefore should act as the vehicles in the traffic, using the car lanes just like cars.
        Copenhagen Bicycle Traffic in Rush Hour
        The first colleague, upon hearing this explanation, merely said, "Do these people hit their children, too?"

        I couldn't confirm that they did, but I suggested that they made 'vroom vroom' sounds when cycling in traffic.

        Both agreed that this theory was quite far-fetched and I tend to agree. Since then I've asked some other colleagues at the Traffic Dept here in Copenhagen about Cycling's Secret Sect and the responses started with sighs and rolling of the eyes.

        After talking with so many bicycle advocates at Velo-City from around the world, I can understand that these Vehicular Cyclists are regarded in many areas as a frustrating deterrent to mainstreaming cycling. "A cold-sore that just won't go away", in the words of a German colleague. "Kinda like those vuvuzela horns at the World Cup", said his colleague.

        Goodness. What a lot of strong opinions about a relatively unknown group.

        It is a small, yet vocal, group that is male-dominated, testosterone-driven and that lacks basic understanding of human nature. They expect that everyone should be just like them - classic sub-cultural point of view - and that everyone should embrace cycling in traffic and pretending they are cars. They are apparently uninterested in seeing grandmothers, mothers or fathers with children or anyone who doesn't resemble then contributing to re-creating the foundations of liveable cities by reestablishing the bicycle as transport.

        Calling them a Sect is cheeky, sure. But so many aspects of this group resemble a sect. They have a Guru or two, whom they seem to worship. There's John Forester in the US and John Franklin, to a lesser extent, in the UK. Their numbers are few but they are noisy. They are aggressive. And their influence is destructive.

        The theory about Vehicular Cycling has been around for more than three decades. The reason that vehicular cycling can not be considered any more than a theory is quite simple.

        There is nowhere in the world where this theory has become practice and caused great numbers of citizens to take to the roads on a daily basis. It remains a theoretical manifesto for a fringe group of cyclists. They often refer to themselves as 'bicycle drivers'. Vroom Vroom.

        I asked a leading American bicycle advocate about vehicular cycling and he said, "They have had around 35 years to prove that it works. They haven't be able to. It's time to shelve the idea."

        Vehicular cycling, in the countries where the theory is popular, has done little for mainstreaming urban cycling and reestablishing the bicycle as a feasible, accepted and respected transport form, as it used to be.

        This is largely because the theory appeals to very few cycling enthusiasts who like to go fast. Going 'fast' is apparently important. This theory is also referred to as Effective Cycling and you can read that "Effective Cycling is Safer, Faster, and More Fun!" on the website of the theory's founder, John Forrester.
        Copenhagen Crowd
        The group has a Wikipedia page that they guard fervently and where you can read about the theory. While we're linking to Wikipedia, here's a link to the Flat Earth Society.

        The vast majority of Homo sapiens in countries without bicycle infrastructure share roads with cars by necessity, not choice. If we once again refer to the analogy of Ignoring the Bull, the vehicular cyclist crowd are the Pamplonans of cycling. They enjoy running with the bulls. Great for them. Completely and utterly useless for the rest of society, not to mention the Common Good, public health, liveable cities.

        The group rejects bicycle infrastructure - it's not for them. Unfortunately, they often stand in the way of getting regular citizens onto bicycles. They come up with all manner of excuses when someone mentions Denmark or the Netherlands and the fact that infrastructure actually gets large numbers of people onto bicycles. "Won't work here", they say. They manipulate studies about the safety of infrastructure and actually spin it to the extreme, calling bicycle lanes 'dangerous'. They have a selective memory and never seem to mention all the bicycle infrastructure in the the early part of last century.

        They are unable to see that when you have a large percentage of the population riding bicycles, the benefits to society are overwhelmingly positive. They are also blind to the developments in Emerging Bicycle Cultures like French cities, Spanish cities and even cities like Dublin, Portland, New York, Philadelphia, etc etc. People are returning to the bicycle thanks to infrastructure and taming of the bull. All over the world.

        Their guru, John Forester, on a forum earlier this year, went so far as to cave in. Effectively giving up.

        It has been remarked on some of these lists that I, Forester, have given up with respect to governmental negotiation in bicycling affairs. That is not so. but I need to make my position clear. I have concluded that the political power of the bicycle advocates is so strong that we bicycle drivers are unable to prevent most of what these bicycle advocates advocate. Where they propose items that have many traffic-operational defects we may be able to prevent such items being approved and installed. Bike boxes seem to be the current candidates for this position. However, I am not optimistic about our ability to prevent even such monstrosities as bike boxes, given the political power pushing them.

        I have concluded that we bicycle drivers should concentrate our energy on revitalizing and preserving our right to operate as drivers of vehicles. I know that it sounds social to argue that those who desire incompetent and therefore dangerous bicycle transportation, on the basis that anti-motoring trumps cyclist safety and efficiency, ought to be allowed to have their way, since there is no practical way of stopping them. But that's the world as it is. We have tried for thirty five years now to change society to a bicycle driving policy, and society not only has defeated us at every turn but has developed more ways of preventing or discouraging bicycle driving. We must devote our efforts to both preserving what we still have, and reversing the legal (I don't bother about the social aspects) discriminations that work to prevent bicycle driving.

        Why don't I bother about the social aspects? First, hoping to change American social opinion against bicycle driving is hopeless. Second, we can live with the occasional nastiness from motorists; after all, that has been present since, probably, the 1930s. Yes, some of us think that American social opinion opposing bicycle driving is a deterrent to cycling in general, and should be opposed because it makes cycling unpopular. However, nothing that we do in that respect will make bicycle driving popular; it will only assist in making cyclist-inferiority cycling more popular, because that's what the public wants. And this consideration has the same reservation that all our political efforts have, that we haven't a hope in Hell of changing American public opinion away from opposing bicycle driving. Don't waste effort on what has to be futile; concentrate the effort where it is most necessary, preserving our right to operate as drivers of vehicles.

        Infrastructure. That's what the public wants. Reading his text one is struck by the tone. Another example of the sect-like approach of the group. 'We' are right and yet 'we' are misunderstood. 'They' oppose us. Etcetera.

        On the Wikipedia page about Sects, the English sociologist Roy Wallis argues that a sect is characterized by “epistemological authoritarianism”. According to Wallis, “sects lay a claim to possess unique and privileged access to the truth or salvation and “their committed adherents typically regard all those outside the confines of the collectivity as 'in error'”.

        The American sociologists Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge assert that "sects claim to be an authentic, purged, refurbished version of the faith from which they split". They further assert that sects have, in contrast to churches, a high degree of tension with the surrounding society.

        Here's an interesting blogpost from a Citizen Cyclist in the UK battling with the Pretend you're a car theory.

        Can we call these people bicycle advocates? I'm not sure. They're advocating a certain kind of cycling. Stamp collectors are 'communication advocates' but they don't rant against emails and text messages and other forms of mainstream communication that benefit the Common Good and human interaction.

        It's as though a group of race walkers are advocating pedestrianism. Telling everyone that it's all about Effective Walking and that it's Safer, Faster and More Fun! Insisting that the general population walks just like them.

        35 years is a long time. Especially without any results to back up this sub-cultural theory. How many Citizen Cyclists could have had their lives extended by being provided with safe infrastructure, or lived a life with fewer illnesses? How many overweight people could have had the chance to cycle happily to work on bike lanes and keep fit? The number of potential daily cyclists who have been restricted access to the bicycle must number in the tens of millions. All because of the ideology of a self-serving group.

        Let's not wait another 35 years and see yet another generation become obese and suffer a long line of lifestyle illnesses. Now, more than ever, it's time to get people onto bicycles. With theories that have been proven. With best practice that has been established.

        Let's get to work.

        31 May 2010

        Bicycle Culture Theme Park

        Get yer driving gloves ready, Ferrari World opens this October in Abu Dhabi. A massive theme park dedicated to the Italian carmaker. Featuring, among other things, the . Safety goggles are a must - 'it's that fast' they say.

        Funny... Batavus World doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it? :-)

        But hey, we could just cover Amsterdam and Copenhagen in massive, climate-controlled domes and open two theme parks called Bicycle Culture World! It'll be a fietsfest! Cykeltastic! We'll
        hire Holger to supervise the covering of the streets.

        I wouldn't mind. You'd have to park on the outskirts of the city and ride bicycles all around. Maybe we could put the parking lot on the Bicycle Island off the coast of the city.

        It would one big Tommorrowland.

        Maybe in Yesterdayland kids can try those old-fashioned car thingys and giggle about how 'totally weird' it must have been to have these things in city centres.

        Pushin It
        Ooh! Ooh! Be sure to try the Wind in Your Hair roller coaster, powered by a combination of wind turbines and human-powered stationary bikes. You sit in a cargo bike box and whee!
        Christmas Tree Batteries

        Then buy your kids balloon animals made out of bicycle tubes. The little ones can enjoy a spin on the Squeaky Chain ferris wheel.

        Fruitbike Copenhagen Crepes City Hall Square
        All the food and drinks would be served off of bicycles.

        All the hotels would have beds made out of big ol' cargo bikes:
        Bike Bed

        Come on, people... let's brainstorm. What other attractions could Bicycle Culture World offer?

        19 February 2010

        Dublin's Two-Wheeled Taliban

        Dublin Bicycles
        Dublin. 1961.

        The frightening "Two-wheeled Taliban" terrorize the streets of the Irish capital.
        Dublin Bicycles
        Like I always say, welcome to Bicycle Culture 2.0. We've been there before. We're there again in many cities. We're going there again in many, many others. Time to get used to it.

        Will Dublin be at the head of the pack or lagging behind? Hopefully I'll be visiting in June to check it all out.

        Photos spotted on the quite brilliant How To Be A Retronaut. Thanks to Alexander for the link.

        14 February 2010

        Cyclist Without a Route

        This is the current cover of a national newspaper, Weekendavisen, which is published weekly. It's a fine, high-brow publication with in-depth articles and features.

        The cover features a photo of the Prime Minister Lars L?kke Rasmussen and the title "Cyclist Without a Route". The PM is under criticism of late for his lack of leadership ability. The vultures are circling. Personally, I'm looking forward to a regime change, but that's not the point of this post.

        It's merely to point out how a bicycle-related metaphor is used as a headline in an article about a politician. That's how deeply rooted the bicycle is in Danish culture and everyday life. It's a metaphor we all understand.

        Sure, the PM likes riding bicycles and rides speedy varieties in charity events. The former PM, Anders Fogh Rasmussen went for mountain bike rides with George Bush a few times, too. At a recent press conference the PM tried to answer the whirlwind of criticism by comparing politics to cyclesport. Sometimes it's uphill, sometimes it's downhill.

        Regardless of his metaphor, the title of the article can stand on its own. Another example of how the bicycle has penetrated our language and culture. No other country has so many songs, poems, literature references and films about bicycles.

        "A cyclist without a route" is not an expression in the Danish language, but there are many linguistic examples where the bicycle features. I've blogged about some before, but here's a list.

        Cykler rundt i det / Cycles around in it - meaning he is confused and lacks direction. "Sorry, but I'm cycling around in it today..."

        K?den hoppede af / the chain fell off - A way to describe how your day - or anything else - is not going as planned. "His chain hopped off today..."

        Giv baghjul / Give someone the back wheel - What you do when you overtake someone or beat someone. At a football match a couple of weeks ago, where my son played, we beat another team and one of the parents said, "We gave them the back wheel!"

        And now I realise that after four hours of indoor football... my brain and body are fried so I can't remember the others... :-)

        Have a great second half to the weekend.

        14 January 2010

        Copenhagen - Now as a Board Game

        I suppose it was only a matter of time. Ladies and Gentlemen:

        Copenhagen - The Board Game.

        Launched in time for christmas 2009, the game is the definitive Copenhagen experience. The gameplay is a mix between Monopoly and a popular Danish board game, Bezzerwizzer. Players move around the board and battle to develop the city in the best way possible.

        Not surprisingly, the players all choose a metal bicycle figurine to move with. Not a motor car in sight. Classic Copenhagen bicycles like the longjohn, the Christiania cargo bike, the upright granny bike, a child on a bicycle, a Pedersen and even a bent-over racy chap. Appropriate here in the world's cycling capital.

        The battle to develop the city involves modernity like building communication masts for hi-tech development and erecting wind turbines for generating power. Then there are the human aspects like planning parks and planting trees.

        I just like the fact that bicycles feature prominently in the game. The design firm Hello Monday produced the game and they put their heart and soul into the quality of the pieces and the general design. It's gorgeous and built to last. I've seen the game but didn't have time to play it. If any Copenhagners out there have tried it, do let us know what it's like in the comments.

        Roll the dice and build an even lovelier city before the next player does.

        Here's a link to the website [in Danish] for Det store spil om K?benhavn

        Thanks to Marcel for the link.

        24 December 2009

        Disposable Recylable Bicycles

        I've been watching this bicycle for over three months. It's right across the street from my flat, on a stretch of bike lane outside a hospital. In other words, not a residental stretch.

        It appeared there, leaning against the steel post over three months ago. The back tire was flat and it was locked with the wheel lock. I'm assuming someone got a flat and parked it, maybe hopping on on a bus or the metro to continue their journey.

        It remained unmoved for several days. Then it started shuffling about. People were obviously having a look at it. Checking it out. Nothing happened to the bike, but it was being shuffled about. Suddenly leaning up against the wall one day, then back against the post.

        Anonymous hands moving it about.

        After about a month, the front wheel was removed, but it wasn't taken. It was left leaning up against the bike. A week or two later, the tire was taken off the wheel and spirited away.

        The bike was still constantly in movement within this little area. Almost every day or two it was in a different position. I never saw anyone moving it and only saw one regular looking man stop up to check it out.

        Actually, I did see a city employee sweeping leaves move it out of the way, but that's it.

        About three weeks ago, the front tire was gone. Then the seat. The bike is still there as I write this.

        The attitude towards bicycles really is that they are, in many ways, public domain. The bike was not cannibalised for quite a long period. Then perhaps as the same people started walking past and seeing it still there, bits and pieces started to disappear. A kind of biodegradable process, like bugs and birds picking slowly away at a corpse.

        The bicycle is just a tool. A thing. An amazing thing, but just a thing. If you have a nice thing, you take care of it. If you have a regular thing, you're more flexible about it.

        I've discovered that this disposable attitude to bicycles is hard for many people in Emerging Bicycle Cultures to understand but it's important to consider when bicycling becomes mainstream.

        Fallen Chain
        In contrast, the chain fell off this bicycle a few days ago, outside my flat. It was locked by the bush for a couple of days and then was gone. Picked up by the owner is my assumption. Elsewhere the assumption would be that it was nicked.

        But I've always said that one of the surest signs that you have a healthy and thriving and mainstream bicycle culture is that you have abandoned bikes around. Like in lakes or canals or harbours:
        Frozen Bicicle

        Or just left lying around like this:
        Rest Assured Back to Nature

        Bush Eats Bike

        The very excellent Canadian film Monkey Warfare, which takes place in Toronto, tackles this disposable bicyclism in much the same way. An abandoned bike is left alone until the characters are sure that it is, in fact, abandoned.

        Stills from Monkey Warfare.

        08 December 2009

        The Galapagos Islands of Bicycle Culture

        I've called Copenhagen and Amsterdam the Romulus and Remus of modern urban bicycle culture before. Another analogy applies to Denmark and Holland. These two countries are, in many ways, the Galapagos Islands of modern Bicycle Culture. We're different species of Darwin's Finch, yet we both love to fly on human-powered wheels.

        These two countries and the main city in each have evolved in each their own way over the past thirty or forty years. Many of the details are interesting anthropological observations that would probably be difficult to trace to the root. Here are some of them.

        Freedom Bike Baskety Goodness
        Very generally, pannier bags are used in Holland whereas front baskets are the norm in Denmark, usually wicker.

        Wind in His Hair The Daily Haul
        This is all very general, of course, but often when the Dutch do have a basket it's a sturdy plastic crate. And you do see pannier containers in Denmark, too. We all agree that carrying stuff on a bike is paramount, but it's fascinating to see how these two standard forms developed.

        Lady Like You and Your Girl
        Doubling on a bike in Holland involves sitting side saddle as a rule whereas in Denmark it's the straddle that is the norm. Personally I don't know which one I prefer, as a passenger. They both have their qualities. But again, two Galapagos Islands worked out different norms.

        Family Balance Family Bike *
        Both countries, however, are known to be creative in passenger transport when need be.

        Four on the Floor Street Music
        When it comes to cargo bikes, the Dutch have a tradition of two wheelers. In Denmark the average cargo bike has three-wheels. Fascinating to speculate as to why that is, from a modern historical and anthropological point of view. Especially considering the fact that 60 years ago, the type of cargo bikes on the streets were much the same.

        Dutch Locks Suits Him
        Bike theft is a big problem in both countries. In Amsterdam a heavy chain lock is a must when locking your bike. In Copenhagen, the basic wheel lock is the way to go.

        Cargo Bike Baby Transport
        Again, exceptions exist like this blue cargo bike in Amsterdam on the left and the two-wheeler in Copenhagen on the right.

        Now it's safe to say that the similarities between our parallel bicycle cultures far outnumber the differences. Like Darwin's Finch we are all birds that love to fly and we act and live like the same kind of bird. I love, however, these details of the evolution of bicycle culture and could spend far too much time speculating as why they are different a mere 650 km to the south.

        If you have any other anthropological observations, dear reader, please add them in the comments.


        It is a similar thing with the way that our infrastructure has developed. Decades of slow, steady development has resulted in similar solutions but also a number of different variations.

        Study trips are something of a more modern development in city planning. There was contact between Dutch and Danish planners over the past decades but not as much as today. Now we see Danes travelling to Holland and the Dutch travelling to Denmark. We all travel to Germany and Japan and beyond to learn from their innovations and solutions.

        Raising one nation's solutions above others is folly. Imagine if there were actually people who spent time trying to do that! What we all have today is the result of countless traffic planners work over several decades in a wide geographical area. There are many instances of common Best Practices, just as there are many instances of solutions that are unique to one country or even one city or region.

        Those from abroad who come shopping for bicycle infrastructure models and/or inspiration often visit both Holland and Denmark. There are excellent examples of small city solutions in both countries.

        For larger cities, both Amsterdam and Copenhagen are goldmines of inspiration and innovative solutions. Personally, I prefer cycling around Amsterdam. I love the organic flow of bicycles in the city. Amsterdam is so wonderfully unique.

        I have written before that the city is perhaps too unique. I don't believe that we will see a new Amsterdam emerge in my lifetime. The whole layout of the city is so specific to Amsterdam that is often hard to translate what you see there to other cities.

        What I hear from the traffic planners who visit us in Copenhagen is that they can stand in this city and envision their own city at the same time. There is an old historic city centre, sure, but the broad boulevards, the motorways and the urban sprawl [3rd largest in Europe] with the accompanying public transport network - all integrated with bicycle infrstructure - can all serve to resemble other cities on distant continents if you squint a bit.

        To be honest, I wish every city could be like the city centre in Amsterdam but it seems that most larger cities are working towards a Copenhagenize solution. Small provincial cities have it easier. There are many examples of smaller cities moving quickly towards reestablishing the bicycle as an accepted and respected form of transport on their streets, in France, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Italy and abroad.

        Large urban centres are trickier. You need more dumplings in the soup, as the old Danish saying goes. The challenges are greater.

        Fortunately, if you look at both Denmark and Holland, Copenhagen and Amsterdam [not to forget dozens of Japanese cities], the sources of inspiration are many.

        Sprint Cycle Ballet
        Whatever the case, one thing is certain. Wherever you go you'll see a ballet of human-powered movement. The melody may be slightly different, the lyrics altered somewhat, but you'll be able to hum along and tap your foot to the orchestra of bicycles.