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        Showing posts with label safety. Show all posts
        Showing posts with label safety. Show all posts

        06 November 2017

        Traffic Safety Orgs Speak for Themselves - Not the Rest of Us

        Classic traffic safety organisation narrative. "Stop cycling".

        By Stephanie Patterson
        With Mikael Colville-Andersen

        In the diverse world of traffic planning, advocacy and various movements for liveable cities, there is an odd group of outliers who broadcast conflicting messages. While “traffic safety” organisations seem like a natural part of the gallery and of the narrative, upon closer inspection they exist in a communication vacuum populated exclusively by like-minded organisations. There is little correlation with those organisations who advocate cycling, pedestrianism or safer streets. The traffic safety crowd are in a world unto themselves, with little or no accountability for the campaigns they develop or the messaging they broadcast. They are often allied with insurance companies who clearly take comfort in working with others who embrace scaring the population at large through constructed fear.

        In many ways, they are a classic subculture, with strong hints of sect-like behaviour. 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.

        We thought it appropriate to do a little communication meta-analysis of their techniques of the traffic safety subculture.

        -

        “If it is going to make any meaningful contribution to the reduction of danger on the roads, our criminal justice system needs to recalibrate away from the prejudice that motoring is innocuous and cycling dangerous and towards controlling the behaviour of those imposing greatest risk.”

        Martin Porter - QC, personal injury lawyer and Author of the blog ‘The Cycling Lawyer’ made this statement in relation to a recent manslaughter charge that was issued to a cyclist in London who collided with a pedestrian, resulting in her death.

        The final conviction of “wanton and furious” cycling brings up the question of how different road users are treated and perceived. Would someone driving a car receive the same level of punishment? Not likely.

        Along with the legal system, traffic safety organisations are integral players in shaping how we view road users all around the world. The first thing we noticed was how all these organisations seem to ignore one of the key messages required to truly make roads safer.

        Lower the number of motor vehicles on the road, and slow them down. We call it Ignoring the Bull here at Copenhagenize Design Company.

        Anyone who works in traffic planning or advocacy will find the lack of focus on the obvious to be rather bizarre. As it is now, the campaign language and programs promoted by the traffic safety organisations unabashedly victimise the individual (primarily pedestrians and cyclists) rather than speak out about the dangers of motorised vehicles. They also tend to ignore the one most obvious solution to lower road fatalities – a drastic reduction in the number of motorised vehicles on the road.

        Even a nine year old can figure it out that this is the only way to go:


        However, the traffic safety organisations have settled upon strategies that are as uniform as they are blatant in their support of the status quo. As the following images show, these trends are not limited to countries who have high numbers of road fatalities, but in fact the same rhetoric and messages can be seen globally.

        (Left) Road safety Australia, again victimising the individual and making being a pedestrian a dangerous activity. (Centre) Road Safety Campaign in Spain - 1998, a good way to turn people off walking (Right) More Australian victim-blaming without addressing the problem.

        The influence of road safety organisations clearly extends to municipalities, inviting them into their echo chamber, from where they point their fingers at the non-motorist population.

        Signage in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen sends people on a wild detour and instructs them to cross at the designated crossing, putting motorist convenience above that of pedestrians and cyclists. A local response (right) clarified the municipality’s intentions with the added text: “Frederiksberg loves cars more than you”

        Just take a look the recent ETSC Road Safety Performance Index (PIN) Conference held in Brussels in June 2017. The speaker list only represented the views of the car industry and road safety organisations which support it. Talk about an echo chamber.

        Speakers from other disciplines and with different points of view on methods of change, such as experts in user behaviour, strategies about behaviour change, and advocates of increasing alternative transport modes were absent as they always are. A diverse selection of opinions would include people who are not interested in maintaining the car-centric status quo in our cities, so why invite them?

        Whilst the organisations’ messages and actions vary based on their country or region of reference, there are common threads which we can see in a number of the road safety organisations campaigns, including:

        - Consistent use of the car industry’s favourite phrase, traffic accident, rather than fatality or crash. The rise of the hashtag #crashnotaccident hasn't penetrated the walls of their echo chamber.
        - The use of the phrase vulnerable road users without any corresponding reference to dangerous vehicles
        - Programs indirectly or directly implying that walking and cycling are dangerous and freely using classic Culture of Fear techniques to scare cyclists and pedestrians
        - Anti-distraction programs
        - Anti-drink driving
        - Anti-speed programs

        Their baseline is clear. Cars are here to stay - everyone else either get out of the way or bubble wrap yourself. What this communication subculture doesn’t talk about is rather telling. Basically anything that would brand cars as the problem - or reducing the number of cars.


        We don't know how many of you are aware that the United Nations declared the grand Decade of Action on Road Safety in order to tackle traffic deaths. Actually they declared it back in 2011. Have we saved millions of lives together, as they claimed we would? Nah. What has happened since? Lots of expensive campaigns from highly funded NGOs but absolutely no reduction in the number of traffic deaths worldwide.

        We analysed the communication narrative used by a number of traffic safety organisations and present some of them here.


        FIA Foundation
        (Left) Series of graphics by FIA. None of them call for a reduction in the number of cars that kill. (Bottom center) FIA's helmet campaign. (Bottom right) Children with their shiny new FIA helmets. 
        (Top center and right) Images from the #staybright campaign insisting that pedestrians and cyclists dress up like clowns

        Meet The FIA Foundation (slogan: For the Automobile and Society). They are the advocacy arm of the Federation Internationale de L’Automobile, who run the Formula 1 races. Their foundation is an international body funded by industry but also supported by heavyweight NGOs, UNICEF, UN Environment, the World Resources Institute and Save the Children. An organisation with this level of funding and recognition behind it should be leading the way in traffic safety, including sending the most effective messages and implementing the best programs to reduce fatalities. But they don't. Their primary focus is on glossy graphics telling everyone to bubble wrap themselves.
        Unfortunately there are a number of unsaid things which we believe are key in combating the issue of road fatalities, including:

        - Proposing any attitude change to the existing transport norms.
        - In car centric cities – saying that we need to change our urban design to de-prioritise motor vehicles and make active transport a viable transport option, not just a recreational activity.
        - Warning people about the inherent danger of driving a motor vehicle. Focusing on the fact that cars and cities don't work well together and that your risk of dying and/or killing others is remarkably high. Instead of scaring people away from bikes and walking, focus on inciting fear of driving
        - In all seriousness, promoting and mandating motorist helmets, as the Australian government has recommended.
        - Programs which restrict car usage or make driving more difficult.
        - Campaigns for alternative transport options as the norm
        - Campaigning for investment in alternative transport infrastructure

        It's a tough sell. These organisations like FIA are clearly not interested in behavioiur change, but rather a continued acceptance of the car-centric status quo.

        --

        Global Health Observatory statistics from 2013 showed over 200,000 traffic fatalities occurred in both India and China. Between 30,000-50,000 fatalities occurred in Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria and USA. Some of the countries with the highest rates of fatalities based on population size were Thailand, Iran, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and United Republic of Tanzania – all with fatalities between 15,000 and 25,000. We have taken a more in depth look at a few organisations across; INDIA - one of the countries with highest number of road fatalities, USA - the worst performing developed nation in terms of number of fatalities, and finally DENMARK - a country with low number of fatalities and generally good alternative transport options.

        INDIA
        India. The country with the highest number of traffic fatalities of any nation annually.

        With a fast growing economy, India has the opportunity to make wise infrastructure investments that improve its cities for its people. Lack of rules, crazy fast driving and cars being seen as indicators of social improvement, are all reasons why the road safety organisations are suggesting modifications to the existing infrastructure rather than addressing a change in attitudes to motor vehicles in India overall.

        Due to the lack of diversity within the road safety authorities we see the same rhetoric over and over again. This recent #ipledge campaign wastefully uses highly influential cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar to spin the same old narrative. Pledging doesn't save lives.

        #ipledge campaign by Aster saferoads based in India

        Arrive Safe
        This is an NGO who claim to be‘working with road safety to promote sustainable transportation India’ but it does not mention bikes at all in any of its activities and proposals to increase road safety. In its Road Safety Manual it provides instruction to road users including basic rules, how to drive safely and so on across 190 pages of the 200 page manual. The final 10 pages briefly mention the benefits of choosing another transport mode and how to look out for pedestrians, bike and rickshaw riders. Same old, same old.

        UNITED STATES


        A particularly gruesome example of the City of Phoenix spreading fear and victimising bike riders in one of their road safety campaigns.

        Of all the developed countries in the world, the US is by far the worst performing in terms of road fatalities and injuries. Estimates from the National Safety Council recorded road deaths for 2016 at over 40,000, making it the deadliest year in nearly a decade. A study by Juha Luoma and Michael Sivak found several contributing factors to the US’ high road numbers of road fatalities. These included generally high speeds driven, low seat belt usage rates, high drunk driving rates, however the biggest reason:

        Americans drive a lot and far and don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.

        We also know that vulnerable road users are increasingly making up the numbers of the death tolls. Car users’ share of road deaths in America fell from 42% in 2006 to 36% in 2015, while fatalities outside of cars (people on bikes, pedestrians and motorcyclists) rose from a quarter of the total to a third. So what are the road safety organisations doing to address this issue? All this shows is that cars are getting safer for those inside of them - but not at all for those outside. Mandatory external air bags on cars would be wise.

        Department of Transport DOT
        To be fair, the nationally run road safety authority has as of 2015 implemented the Safer People, Safer Streets: Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Initiative and the Mayor's Challenge which encourage cities to improve streets for all people across seven different criteria. However, the same organisation stumbles by victimising policies such as helmet-first bike riding initiatives, ignoring reducing car usage and the danger of being behind a wheel - even if you are a safe driver.

        AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
        Motoring organisations love traffic safety organisations for maintaining the status quo and placing focus on the dangers of transporting yourself in anything other than a motor vehicle. The AAA, like others around the world, focuses solely on either increased investment in road infrastructure or improved driver conditions. Research papers such as Safety Benefits of Highway Infrastructure Investments might have been a bit more valuable if it also took into account modes of transport other than cars and didn't spout off old-fashioned engineering "solutions".

        ADTSEA
        The American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association aims to be a leader in traffic safety education strategies. Alas - none of their strategies include choosing another transport mode when possible. Please start by educating people with some basic facts - fewer cars on the road, fewer deaths and injuries.

        We’re not saying stop educational programs about safe driving - just give people a rounded education which presents all the facts.

        Please.

        FINLAND - The Finnish Road Safety Council

        In Finland, this fear campaign from the Finnish Road "Safety" Council hit the streets in 2019. The poster reads: "Having ice cream without a cone is like riding a bike without a helmet". They have other goofy slogans like "Snapchatting without a filter is like..." You get it. They probably clapped their hands and giggled at how clever they thought they were when deciding upon this campaign. 

        But like all the rest, they do nothing to work towards drastically reducing the number of cars in Helsinki or other Finnish cities. They stick to victim blaming without any science harmed.



        DENMARK - The Danish Road Safety Council

        So while we have looked at two countries with particularly abominable road fatality levels, we can also be critical of road safety programs in countries with better track records. Denmark's road safety organisation R?det for Sikker Trafik (Road "Safety" Council) recently released this video as part of there “use two seconds more” campaign- a fairly violent way to scare cyclists off their bikes. At the same time they continue to promote the wearing of a helmets in Denmark - compounding the message that bike riding is dangerous. Just another example of road safety organisations using the Culture of Fear in favour of the car. Classic.

        This organisation uses the same tactics as others in their private club. They have little scientific understanding of bike helmets and, instead, copy/paste info they recieve from like-minded colleagues in Sweden and pass it off as their own. They claim to be against mandatory helmet laws but this recent document would suggest that they are gearing up for helmet laws. Aligning themselves with the likes of an American, Jake Olivier, in order to continue their branding of cycling as dangerous. Broadcasting with all the arrogance they can muster that a "meta-analysis" is conclusive proof only reveals they know little about the science.

        This is also an organisation who advocates cutting down roadside trees for "safety" instead of vehemently advocating for lower speed limits. Indeed, they have no mention of the European trend of establishing 30 km/h as a baseline speed in cities on their site. They are, like all the others, totally disconnected from the current trends.


        (Left) ("Keep an eye on the side roads" painted on cycle tracks, without any corresponding messaging for motorists on those side roads who are obliged by law to stop. (Center) 2017 campaign urging people to "use two extra seconds" at the intersection so they don’t get killed - instead of campaigning for existing infrastructure designs to keep cyclists safe. (Right) A 2017 helmet promotion campaign aimed at college students, together with an insurance company. Classic tactics.



        Three other campaigns in Denmark aimed at dressing pedestrians and cyclists up as clowns with reflective clothing instead of limiting the destruction caused by motorists. 

        Campaigns for reflective clothing are also increasing in The Culture of Fear, despite a limited amount of science on the subject. No corresponding campaigns are in place for cars, even though black cars are more likely to be involved in accidents.

        All the negative campaigns blaming cyclists and pedestrians for not equipping themselves with body armour and christmas tree lights would be more credible if the same effort was placed on motorists and cars. Traffic safety organisations can improve the message they are sending out to their citizens if they even the playing field and state in no uncertain terms how dangerous cars are in cities and how dangerous they are, generally. The culture of fear needs to be flipped on its head.


        The Hiearchy of Hazard Control as applied to urban cycling. Bubble wrap solutions are the last resort.


        While of course speed, drug and alcohol consumption, distracted driving, and badly designed roads can worsen the impacts, let’s not dance around the basic facts if cities and nations truly want to achieve Vision Zero. Providing an even distribution of alternative infrastructure options for people is clearly a key factor in making this change, but it also needs to go hand in hand with honest road safety initiatives that don’t misinform, misrepresent, or scare.

        In short, as it is now, if these traffic safety organisations are only speaking to themselves, backslapping each other at closed conferences, and arrogantly exaggerating the effect of their tired, last century campaign strategies - as well as being so completely disconnected from the rest of us working to improve city life around the world - do we have to listen to them or give them any credibility?

        Probably not. We can wonder, however, why they continue to recieve funding to broadcast flawed messages without any positive results and zero accountability.

        Fluorescent in Traffic
        Remember your reflective clothing in traffic.

        14 October 2015

        Bike Helmet Wearing Rates in Copenhagen in 2015

        Copenhagen Bike Helmet Usage 2015
        We like data at Copenhagenize Design Company. It's a major part of our work, not least in our Desire Line Analyses of cyclist behaviour that we have done in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, and planning to do on a global scale. We film an intersection for 10-12 hours and spending a couple hundred hours analysing the behaviour, doing counts of everything we can and producing solutions for modernising intersections to priortise cycling and pedestrians.

        In association with the current Desire Line Analysis we are working on, on S?torvet intersection in Copenhagen, we have added some data sets. Including performing a bike helmet count.

        The reason is simple. There is no reliable data. The numbers we have seen are from the Danish Road Safety Council - R?det for Sikker Trafik - and we are sceptical about them.

        They claim that the helmet wearing rate is 26%.

        Their random counts during rush hour and some telephone surveys do not, however, provide reliable data. Especially considering that this car-centric NGO is desperate to brand cycling as dangerous and they do everything they can to prove that their helmet campaigns have been successful. When you work with an idealogy, you often skim over reliable data in order to get the result you want.

        What we did was simple. We looked at our 10 hours of footage from the intersection - the busiest in Denmark for cyclists. We studied all the cyclists on one specific Desire Line, heading into the city centre, between 8 AM and 6 PM on May 6, 2015. The best way to determine a number is to see what the regular citizens are doing. They, and they alone, are the main indicator of safety and perception of safety.

        10,734 cyclists in all, throughout the day. That is good, solid number to base some data on. Not just the morning commuters, but all the different types of people using the bicycle infrastructure throughout a typical day in Copenhagen.

        As you can see, the data provides us with a very different number than the Danish Road Safety Council's exaggerated number.

        11% of cyclists were wearing helmets. Safe to say that the vast majority feel safe and they have rejected the emotional propaganda from the Danish Road Safety Council. Using instead, their own rationality.

        Copenhagen Bike Helmet Usage 2015

        Because we found it interesting, we divided the helmet wearing rate up into hours between 8AM and 6PM. Just to see if there were variations.

        Ideally, a city has suceeded in keeping cyclists safe when helmet rates are low. Infrastructure is the key. A rejection of ideological campaigns is also important.

        Last week I addressed the 28 Transport Ministers of the European Union, telling them why they should take cycling seriously as transport. 40 minutes of positive messaging of cycling in Luxembourg. I also, however, mentioned that many safety organisations - and I used the Danish Road Safety Council as a prime example - often choose statistics that support their goal - and leave out an ocean of stats and studies that don't.

        Data. Always data. Data forever.

        05 August 2013

        Episode 04 - Safety Details - Top 10 Design Elements in Copenhagen's Bicycle Culture


        Here you go. Episode 04 in our series about the Top 10 design elements that make Copenhagen a bicycle friendly city.


        FILM SERIES: TOP TEN DESIGN ELEMENTS IN BICYCLE-FRIENDLY COPENHAGEN
        - EPISODE 01 - THE BIG PICTURE
        - EPISODE 02 - THE GREEN WAVE
        - EPISODE 03 - INTERMODALITY
        - EPISODE 04 - SAFETY DETAILS
        - EPISODE 05 - N?RREBROGADE
        - EPISODE 06 - MACRO DESIGN
        - EPISODE 07 - MICRO DESIGN
        - EPISODE 08 - CARGO BIKES
        - EPISODE 09 - DESIRE LINES
        - EPISODE 10 - POLITICAL WILL

        08 July 2013

        Update: What if Car Commercials Reflected Reality?

        Should car manufacturers be forced to include health warnings on their products? Read about that idea here.

        Addendum: 19.07.2013.

        Yesterday, two gentleman from Citro?n Denmark knocked on the door. In Danish, a sudden, unannounced visit is called "fransk visit" or French visit, so that was appropriate. They were from the marketing department and they wanted to discuss, of course, the parody commercial that we had whipped together to highlight the fact that car commercials never reflect reality or fact.

        We weren't suprised to hear from Citro?n, but their personal visit was an interesting twist. A good, strategic move in a social media age where sober Cease & Desist letters get blogged in 4 seconds.

        I invited them in, of course, and we had a pleasant chat on the sofa. They wanted, of course, the parody commercial removed. No surprise. They were sent from headquarters in Paris, who saw the parody on a Turkish blog.

        They had also sent an email that morning, before coming. Here it is:

        It has come to our attention that your blog copenhagenize.com operated by Copenhagenize Design Co. is displaying and promoting content of an derogatory and offending nature to the brand Citro?n. Further the content is produced on the basis of assets belonging to Citro?n and which legal rights of usage resides at Citro?n. On this basis you are asked to remove the content from Copenhagenize.com or any other site operated by your organization without undue delay, and in the future refrain from displaying the brand Citro?n in an offending or insulting manner.

        I look forward to your immediate reply.


        That line, "displaying and promoting content of a derogatory and offending nature to the brand Citro?n", is rather irrelevant. It's a brand, not an individual. We ain't crying rivers because your brand got an ouch on their finger.

        Turning that around, I'm sure that many of us would consider the fact that Citro?n produces over 3 million cars a year, unleashing them on our city streets, could also be regarded as "derogatory and offending nature to Homo Sapiens and liveable cities".

        There was no particular reason that we used Citro?n in the parody. They are just Big Auto to us, like all the rest. A cog in the nameless, faceless machine that plays no small part in killing 1.2 million people a year around the world, injuring 50 million, and contributing negatively to the public health.

        Citro?n has featured in our ongoing series The Car Industry Strikes Back before. In that link you can read about a commercial they filmed in Copenhagen a couple of years ago. One of the most spectacular examples of greenwashing in recent times. Interestingly, I can't for the life of me find a copy of it on the internet. It's as though they have tried to erase all knowledge of it.

        At the end of the day, we decided to remove the parody from the blog. It's summer holidays after all. There is wine to be drunk, oceans to swim in. It was good fun, but hey... we can always think up other ways to have good fun. Whether or not the parody shows up on other servers elsewhere in the world is beyond our control. Nor can we control Google and their search engines because anyone could just google If Car Commercials Were Based on Fact not Fiction and find it themselves. We've removed it from "Copenhagenize.com or any other site operated by your organization".

        Regarding the  line in the email about "in the future refrain from displaying the brand Citro?n in an offending or insulting manner"... yeah, well, no guarantees there.


        There is a good tradition of parody gaining the backing of the courts in Denmark, but there are more important battles to be fought and won.

        The orginal text of this article:

        It's no secret that car commercials are, by and large, fiction. Shiny cars roaring along empty streets devoid of traffic jams or scarring their way through impressive landscapes. Selling the dream. With the emphasis on dream.

        So. What if car commercials reflected the reality of life on the roads? What if they had to - or were even forced to by laws regarding advertising standards - highlight the carnage that motorists cause on the roads of the world.

        Back in 2009, we blogged about our idea that cars should be subject to the same rules regarding tobacco products and be forced to feature health warnings.

        Here at Copenhagenize Design Co. we played around and took it the next level, producing a car commercial based in reality instead of fantasy. Ivan Conte is working with us for six months as an intern and he produced this little taste of real-life advertising.

        05 June 2013

        Advertising Municipal Ineptitude

        Ignoring the Bull
        Cities use various methods in order to draw attention to themselves. Tourism campaigns, posters on busstops to advertise events or municipal services. City Branding is also a thing. Countries and organisations do the same. Usually the money is spent on highlighting positive angles.

        What often goes unnoticed is that cities have a tendency to spend taxpayer money on broadcasting the sad and undeniable fact that they are completely inept at keeping the streets safe. They try, unsuccessfully, to thinly disguise their incompetence as "safety" campaigns.

        Consider the simple idea of school crossing guards. It's a concept well-known around the world. Hey, I used to be one back in the day (and I remembering hating having to do it). I was waiting at the crosswalk by Lulu and Felix's school in Frederiksberg yesterday morning. Waiting for the lovely kids to step out and block the cars and bicycles to allow us to cross.

        Then I realised... the concept of school crossing guards are merely an advertisement for municipal ineptitude. The city is telling us in no uncertain terms that they have completely given up on making streets safer - and quite possibly they are unwilling to do so. They even enlist children to help get their message across.

        Let's face it, if a city had safe, human streets with intelligently low speed limits and a sincere will to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists then they wouldn't need school crossing guards.


        Here is a recent sign (April 2016) from Berlin. Big, expensive, taxpayer-funded sign boldly declaring that Berlin is unwilling to provide safe infrastructure for cyclists.

        The sign reads, "2015: 10 cyclists killed by passing cars. Minimum 1.5 meter distance".

        Right there in lights. Berlin announcing that they don't really give a damn about cyclist safety.

        Unfortunately, many cities, as well as most traffic eningeers and even some planners still dictate the status quo of our car-centric streets. Even in Denmark. The police don't help much either.

        Ignoring the Bull
        To further my point, the City of Frederiksberg slapped these stickers all over the city recently. They read, "Cross at the Intersection". The helpful arrows direct you anywhere between 100-400 metres to the nearest intersection. They are placed in locations where people try to cross the street.

        This city is the most densely populated city in Denmark. 90,000 people in the heart of Copenhagen. 65% of the households don't own cars. Most of the local mobility is done on bicycles, on foot or by public transport. Most of my daily errands involve going to local shops, schools, football facilities, etc. But never mind all that... the City still caters to the automotive minority as though it's 1963. This is another recent example from Frederiksberg.

        With it's placement as a municipal island surrounded by Copenhagen, Frederiksberg is riddled with "parasites" - motorists who merely feed off the roads leading through the city without contributing anything to the life of the city or its neighbourhoods. The way the City allows the parasites to flow freely through its veins - despite an entire catalogue of ideas about how to stop or restrict them - is shockingly so last century.

        Ignoring the Bull
        Fortunately, the citizens are on to them. Someone added a text to one of the stickers, reading: "Frederiksberg loves cars more than you".

        Ignoring the Bull - Frederiksberg
        It's not, however, like it's the first time. Here's a "keep the cars safe from squishy humans" campaign from a couple of years back. Stickers (badly stuck so pedestrians can trip on them for added drama) reading, "Watch out for yourself" or ""take care of yourself" were stuck onto pedestrian crossings.

        Given the population density and car volume in Frederiksberg, the entire city would be a 30 km/h zone - if it were placed in almost any other EU country. Just in: By September 2013, 37% of Paris streets will be 20 or 30 km/h zones.

        Car Friendly Traffic Campaign
        The City has also previously allowed the greatest car sales organisation in Denmark - The Danish Road Safety Council - to place these stencils on cycle tracks in the city. They read "Watch the side streets" and we've written about this car-friendly campaign before. The cars coming off the side streets have to watch for traffic but the City boldly declared to all that they were unwilling to do anything about anything.

        This is not the first city to spend money advertising their incompetence, nor do their ridiculous car-centric campaigns match the fantastically stupid Pedestrian Flag programs in the US, where certain cities declare their ineptitude to the world.

        Of course, in New York it's bigger and better. The city there employs high-end marketing techniques to broadcast the message that they are helpless.

        It's not all bicycle/pedestrian related either. An expensive campaign in the US focuses on the high death rate of young people in automobiles. No mention of removing traffic engineers from their posts and starting a class action lawsuit against them - no, no... just start a funky campaign - Alive at 25.

        Sadly, Ignoring the Bull is still rampant.

        06 March 2013

        Cyclist Detection System on Volvo Cars


        Volvo have announced a cyclist and pedestrian detection system in their cars. When a cyclist heading in the same direction swerves in front of the car, the system brings the car to a full stop.

        A step in the right direction placing the responsibility on the motorist instead of the pedestrians and the cyclists. Combined with the Dutch external airbags on cars, we might be getting somewhere.

        How about a simple addition? A speed sensor. When the car enters a 30 km/h zone, the car is rendered incapable of exceeding 30 km/h. Or 50 km/h. Or whatever the speed limit may be.

        01 March 2013

        Crisis Averted. I'm a Bicycle girl.

        Most of us international Copenhagenizers end up spending a chunk of our evenings learning to pronounce Danish words and names like "Oehlenschlagersgade" and "r?dsp?ttefiletter." Not so much for getting around, but more as a way of showing gratitude for the very-accommodating-English-speaking-Copenhageners, and an appreciation of Danish culture. Enter a monotonous list of books for adults learning Danish as a second language.

        One quickly learned point with these books, is that not many have a good ending. Or a good beginning, for that matter. So much for encouraging us newcomers' love affair with Denmark.

        But that's beside the point.

        The point is that many of these books feature bicycles. A normal part of culture in Copenhagen, why wouldn't the simple bicycle be mentioned in 90% of the books I've picked up over two years of Danish lessons? The most recent however, had a fantastic addition to the bicycle's many uses. One we hadn't yet considered.

        The protagonist of the book, Camilla, is caught in a bit of a situation with a suitor one evening after he's taken her out for dinner. He's sweet, definitely handsome, a police officer, and yet she doesn't like him enough for him to take her home. Jump to (roughly translated) stream of conscious writing as Camilla talks herself through the minutes following their exit from the restaurant...

        This is why I'm a bicycle girl. All I do is hop on my bike and go. No awkward goodbye, no uncomfortable 'who's going home with who'. Crisis averted. Deep breath. I'll just hop on my bike, wave, and say thank you for dinner. Suddenly, I'm gone. Cruising home alone. Thank goodness I'm a bicycle girl.

        Thank goodness for bicycle culture - preventing awkward encounters one bicycle at a time.

        04 January 2013

        Reflective Material on Cars. Seriously

        Vienna Cycle Chic-007
        Out of the many articles on the subject of rationality and logic here on the blog, you may remember our proposal for health warnings on automobiles from a while back.

        Another logical idea that we have pitched around is forcing motorists to add reflective material to their cars in order for cyclists and pedestrians to see them better. It usually garners a chuckle and a "yeah, why don't we?!"

        But why don't we?

        It's not such a crazy idea. According to a study from Monash University Accident Research Centre in Australia (the same people who developed protective headwear for... motorists - do you have yours yet?) black cars are more likely to be involved in crashes, whilst white, gold and yellow cars are least likely to suffer the same fate.

        It was a 20 year study using data from more than a whopping 850,000 accidents. That's what we like. Data to back up an idea.

        Black cars are 47% more likely to be involved in crashes. Black cars were the bad guys, but the study shows that grey, silver, red and blue cars also faded into the background. That must easily cover 80% of the vehicles on the market.

        Even during daylight, black cars were up to 12% more likely to get into a crash than white cars. At dawn and dusk, that figure rises to 47%.

        Here's a pdf of the Monash University study.

        Enter the Danish Police.

        As you've probably figured out from reading this blog, the Danish Police are hardly modern visionaries when it comes to working towards liveable cities. They are one of the primary hindrances to our work.

        They have, however, inadvertantly hit the nail on the head.

        According to a press release on their website, all new Danish police cars from 01 January 2013 and police motorbikes under 2 years old will feature improved reflective markings. This is seen in other countries already but now it's coming to Denmark.

        In addition to making the police more visible in the streets, it will increase safety and sense of safety both the citizens and the police. The cars will be easier to see...." - according to the press release.

        Surprise, surprise. Although not surprising that the Danish police have proposed the same idea for all cars in the nation.

        Wouldn't that be logical? Rational? Legislation - simultaneous with reduced speed limits and especially 30 km/h zones in cities - forcing cars to dress up like christmas trees and drive slower.

        Are we serious about saving lives?

        Anyone who works with urban design, planning or bicycle advocacy worth who is worth their salt is well aware of the folly of demanding that cyclists and pedestrians dress up like christmas trees or construction workers. The bicycle boom continues unabated and there are countless people out there trying desperately to make a buck off the trend - this is, of course, nothing new. Products that continue to sell danger and fear and instilling in the general public the profiteers desired perception of danger and fear. It's classic culture of fear tactics. Textbook stuff.

        Most of the products have little conclusive evidence to back them up, not least all the ridiculous reflective gear that is swamping the market. We're not talking about reflectors on wheels or on front/bike of bikes here, by the way. We're talking about the shit that's flooded the market recently.

        It's all follow the money. Which is old news, we know that.

        Unfortunately, there is little money to be made in rationality and logic. As we have banged on about for years here on the blog, placing the responsibility on the most dangerous traffic users - the motorists - is the priority. Imagine if all this wasted energy on useless gear was channeled into serious advocacy to transform our cities into more liveable urban spaces.

        Seriously. Imagine.

        Rationality is the new black.

        30 November 2012

        TED x - Bicycle Culture by Design - in Zurich


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        Design.

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

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

        Design is also a powerful tool if applied correctly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        I'll leave you with this quote.

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

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

        28 November 2012

        Close the Danish Road Safety Council

        The Danish philosopher, Arno Victor Nielsen, wrote an op-ed in the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende recently - "Et godt r?d - Luk R?det for Sikker Trafik" or "A Piece of Good Advice - Close the Danish Road Safety Council".

        It's a provocative piece but it is refreshing that someone apart from us voices concern with the non-work of the Danish Road Safety Council and calls out the Traffic Safety Industry. We don't necessarily agree with every point he makes, but we applaud him for tackling the mastadon that is the Traffic Safety Industry. Here's a quick translation of his piece.



        A Piece of Good Advice - Close the Danish Road Safety Council
        by Arne Victor Nielsen


        "Over the past years the risk of being in traffic is much lower. Why? The roads are filled up. There isn't room for any more accidents. Noone can show that there is any connection whatsoever between traffic safety work, traffic research and campaigns and the sudden fall in the traffic accident curve.

        The Danish Road Safety Council (R?det for Sikker trafik) used to be called The Council for Greater Traffic Safety (R?det for St?rre F?rdselssikkerhed). In 2009, they changed names and that is basically the only concrete thing the Council has done in many, many years. The name change was meant to shift focus from the area of work to the goal - which is, of course, safety. And safety is something that we all desire. We wish for maximum safety and minimal traffic. But now the reality is that traffic safety has almost exploded because we now have maximum traffic.

        The Danish Road Safety Council hasn't played any role whatsoever in our traffic safety. Nevertheless, the number of employees has risen sharply - by 30% in the past five years - and now it has been revealed that the Council's director recieved a princely paycheque and drives around in a free car - an Alfa Romeo 159.

        The director, Anders Rosbo, is a journalist and loves to be photographed sitting on the hood of his company car. He used to be the head of communications for the Conservative Party and it was another Conservative politician that gave him the massive pay rise. It is possible that Rosbo is worth the pay. He just shouldn't work with traffic safety because there's not much left to do.


        Traffic safety is, today, virtually complete. There are about 350 deaths a year. This is the same level as in 1946, when there were 300,000 cars in the country. Today there are 2.6 million cars on the roads. In 1968 there were 20,000 accidents with injuries. In 2005, that number had shrunk to 5,400. If you regard the stats in light of how much transport there is, how many kilometres are driven/ridden, the risk of getting into traffic is much lower.

        Why is traffic un-safety so much reduced? Because the roads are filled up. There isn't any room for more accidents. Noone can show that there is any connection whatsoever between traffic safety work, traffic research and campaigns and the sudden fall in the traffic accident curve.

        Traffic research and traffic safety committees, The Road Safety Council, a whole bunch of ad agencies, the insurance industry and a handful of politicians earn their living off of traffic safety. We can certainly call it a Traffic Safety Industrial Complex - in the same style as the military-industrial complex and the medicinal-industrial complex.

        The point of deparature of the traffic safety industry is the concept of a natural traffic situation, where everyone fights against everyone else. Without a complicated net or rules and provisions, the traffic would develop into a permanent state of war and the traffic users would all behave like wild animals in the traffic jungle. Therefore, they must be chained down with a mountain of laws, rules and provisions. As a traffic user I don't ask myself, "What should I do here? What is reasonable and suitable?" I ask myself, "What regulations, injunctions, bans are in place here?"

        The Traffic Safety Industry's biggest problem is that traffic safety is improving. But don't tell the public and especially don't tell the politicians that there isn't really any problem with traffic safety.

        I've noticed that they always put the number of killed and injured together so that we can get a bigger, scarier number. If big numbers that prove the necessity for the Traffic Safety Industry are hard to come by, there are always "dark numbers". Nobody knows what they are, otherwise they wouldn't be dark, so feel free to use your imagination.

        A traffic researcher from the Transport Economic Institute (T?I) in Oslo said a few years ago that the numbers in statistics are now so small, so thin, so insignifigant that it's quite impossible to conclude anything based on them, so traffic safety work now basically takes place in the dark.

        You cannot expect that the traffic safety insurance will understate the improved traffic safety. It must be unacceptably high in order to justify the Traffic Safety Industry.

        If politicians decide that we can live with roughly 300 deaths a year, that we can be proud of that number, it is possible that the traffic users would take over a bit more responsibility for safety. They don't get a chance, however, to prove their worth as responsible, caring traffic users, because they are constantly treated as potential criminals."

        08 October 2012

        If it only saves one life...


        Great video. Rationality is the new black.

        07 September 2012

        Dutch Rationality Saves Childrens' Lives

        Next Generation
        It started with a tweet from my colleague Angela from Mobycon in the Netherlands the other day:

        Happy to read less and less children are injured or dead on our roads. A big 'thank you' to all who contributed to that! #safety #NL

        That sounded great. She sent me the link to the research and I saw that it was another colleague, Theo Zeegers, from the Fietsersbond - the Dutch National Cycling Organisation who was the author. He was kind enough to translate his article into English.

        Theo - like the Fietsersbond in general - is a wonderfully rational person and one of the leading minds on the science of cycling and of bicycle helmets. He's always an inspiration to talk to.

        Basically, as you'll read below, casualities among child cyclists in The Netherlands is at an all-time low. It's often difficult to penetrate the dark cloud of The Culture of Fear with rationality but Theo does so here.

        Bear in mind that helmets are virtually non-existent in The Netherlands. The Dutch know more than any other nation on earth that safe infrastructure and traffic calming are the only way to improve cycling conditions, save lives and to encourage people to ride bicycles.

        Casualties Among Child Cyclists The Netherlands - The facts
        by Theo Zeegers, Traffic Consultant, Dutch Cyclists’ Union (Fietsersbond)

        Introduction
        The debate about the safety of children on bicycles erupts frequently in the media.
        Usually it is implicitly assumed that children on bicycles are highly vulnerable. The figures indicate that this is not the case.

        Hence for future use I list the relevant facts on casualty numbers for young cyclists in the Netherlands. The source is the database of COGNOS SWOV. In all cases, the actual (elevated) numbers are mentioned. As a result, there would be no (strong) effect due to the problem of under-registration. I will consider both age 0-11 (children) and age 12 t / m 17 (youth). I use the most current data where available. As a consequence, data on fatalities date from 2010, where those on severely injured dated 2009.

        Fatality
        Contrary to popular belief, the number of fatalities among young cyclists is low. In 2010, two cyclists in the age group 0-11 years and 13 from the age group 12-17 were killed in traffic. That is 1% and 8% of all bicycle fatalities in 2010. That is historically low.

        Graph 1 shows the trend in the number of fatalities among cyclists children over the last 15 years in absolute terms, graph 2 in relative terms. It is clear that there is a particularly strong downward trend over this period. Especially for children under 12 years, the results are so good that further improvement are unrealistic.



        Graph 1: Trend in fatal bicycle victims (absolute) over the years for the age classes 0-11 years and 12-17 years.



        Graph 2: Trend in fatal bicycle victims (relative to all cyclist fatalities) over the years for the age classes 0-11 years and 12-17 years.

        One might assume that the decrease among the victims of cycling children is caused by the fact that children cycle less and less. The statistics on mobility in The Netherlands do not support this hypothesis. According to these statistics bicycle use increased between 2005 and 2010 among children and adolescents even slightly (MON, Ovin, CBS (2)).

        Casualties in hospital
        Graph 3 shows the distribution in the number of hospital casualties among cyclists for different ages. What stands out immediately is that the number of victims rises from 40 years on and that there is an isolated peak for young people between 12 and 18 years. The latter peak is attributed to the high bicycle use in that age group. Youngsters cycling about three times as more as children (CBS, 2010). Closer examination shows that the number of casualties among children under 11 years are the lowest of all ages. Again, children appear again particularly low scoring in the statistics!


        Graph 3: Number of hospital casualties over the different age cohorts. X-axis: age in years. Y-axis: number of hospitalized casualties per cohort year.

        The trend over the last 15 years is shown in Graph 4. There is hardly a trend, until 2001 there was a slight decline followed by a similarly weak increase.




        Chart 4: Trend of the number of hospital casualties among younger cyclists over the last 15 years. X-axis: years. Y-axis: number of hospitalized victims per cohort year.

        Conclusions
        The number of fatalities among younger cyclists is strikingly low and this number drops significantly.

        The number of hospitalized casualties among children (until 11 years) is low. The number of hospitalized casualties among youngsters (12 to 17 years) is high, which can be explained by the high bicycle use in these age classes. Over the years, there is hardly a trend: in recent years may be a slight increase.

        ---
        Thanks to Theo for the translation.

        Cities and nations have a choice. Either they put their faith in car-centric ideology or they boldly step into the New Millenium and starting designing their cities for people instead of machines.

        If you haven't read about the Fietsersbond's idea for airbags on the outside of cars - placing responsibility in the correct place - read it here.

        Here is some contrast to show how twisted things can get when you don't take science seriously and are hopelessly glued to an old-fashioned, last century mentality.

        There was a study released in a medical journal recently - from near the bottom of the third division of the medical journal leagues - about how helmet promotion for kids has had a whopping result in reduction of head injuries in Sweden. Here's an abstract.

        What the paper doesn't tell you - or any of the Swedish press covereage - is that the number of children cycling in Sweden is falling. From over 80% in 1988 to 40% in 2009.

        And here in Denmark, we're seeing the same negative trend. The number of children cycling to school has fallen 30% over the past 15 years. In addition, the number of children being dropped off at school in cars has risen 200% over the past 30 years.

        The City of Copenhagen's Traffic Dept did an internal study a while back, looking at the body of science about helmets and came to the same conclusion of most European cycling NGOs - that the science is divided and the negative effects outweith the positive. They used Thomas Krag Mobility Advice to assist them with the study.

        The Danish Cyclists' Federation
        , who also run the so-called Cycling Embassy of Denmark, have alienated themselves from most other national cycling NGOs in Europe by willingly promoting bicycle helmets, together with the car-centric Road Safety Council.

        This featured in their membership magazine recently:


        The difference between the Danish Cyclists' Federation / Road Safety Council and other European NGOs is that they don't have any qualified researchers employed. If you're looking for the face of the Virgin Mary in your tea leaves, you'll probably end up seeing it at some point.

        They happily quote a study from The Danish Accident Investigation Board, without knowing which individuals provided the "science" on bike helmets in the study is a sign that they they found the Virgin Mary's face smiling back at them. They also trash Dr. Ian Walker's study in the process, and others. Unbelievable.

        For inspiration in promoting cycling positively and rationally, look to the people who are improving traffic safety and rethinking how are cities should be designed instead of organisations who are scaring people off of bicycles and happily stoking the fire of the Culture of Fear and worshipping at the alter of the automotive status quo.

         Look to the Dutch and other cycling NGOs in Europe. Ignore the pretenders.

        Addendum:
        Later in the day after writing this I read the .pdf OECD report: "Cycling Safety: Key Messages - International Transport Forum - Working Group on Cycling Safety". The International Transport Forum at the OECD is an intergovernmental organisation with 54 member countries. It's a dry, sober report as one would expect from the OECD but it presents a very interesting view about helmet promotion and legislation.

        Helmet usage reduces the severity of head injuries cycle crashes but may lead to
        compensating behaviour that otherwise erodes safety gains.
        One area that has received vigorous research focus is on the safety impact of bicycle helmet usage and helmet-wearing mandates. As discussed below, these two must be treated separately.

        Studies addressing the safety impact of helmets can generally be split into two groups: those that focus on the way in which bicycle helmets change the injury risk for individual cyclists in case of a crash and those that focuses on the generalised safety effect of introducing measures (typically campaigns and/or legislation) to increase helmet usage among cyclist. The first group generally finds that wearing a bicycle helmet reduces the risk of sustaining a head injury in a crash (head injuries are among the most severe outcomes of cycle crashes) though recent reanalysis of previous studies suggests that this effect is less than previously thought (Elvik, 2011). (Ed.: Cyclists with helmets have 14% greater chance of getting into an accident, says Elvik. )

        To be clear -- these studies indicate the possible reduced risk of head injury for a single cyclist in case of an accident. The effects must not be mistaken for the safety effects of mandatory helmet legislation or other measures to enhance helmet usage.

        The safety effect of mandatory helmet legislation as such has been evaluated in far lesser studies than the individual risk in case of an accident. The safety effect of mandatory helmet legislation is a result of a series of factors:
        - reduced injury risk (due to increased helmet usage)
        - increased crash risk (due to an often claimed change in behaviour amongst cyclists
        who take up wearing helmet)
        - less cycling (leading to a reduced number of accidents and injuries, but also to a
        - higher accident risk for those who still bike)

        Whether bicyclists change behaviour, when they start to use a bicycle helmet seems very uncertain (and difficult to prove), but it is evident that mandatory helmet use might reduce the total number of bicyclists. It is also possible that cyclists who continue to bike might represent a behaviour which is different from the behaviour of those who stop biking. In the end this could very well lead to an overall change in behaviour.


        05 July 2012

        Toyota's New Prius Solution


        New Prius Helps Environment By Killing Its Owner
        Toyota remains at the forefront of green technology with the launch of it's new Prius Solution.

        The most environmentally-friendly car in history. Call now. Operators are standing by. Se habla espanol.

        18 June 2012

        Culture of Fear Sale!


        It's amazing the stuff you find at the supermarket. Lookie here. Found this an hour ago at my local Netto.

        The profiteering inherent in a Culture of Fear in one cheap and cheesy reflective triangle. 25 kroner. 5 bucks.

        The text in the middle of the warning triangle reads "children in the street"

        As an added bonus I also got a "child's birthday in the area" warning sign, as well. You could just leave that one out permanently - there must be a birthday going on every day of the week.

        I'm sure we'll all agree that children should be able to play in the street in residential areas. As they have done for the entire 7000 year history of cities - oh, except for the past 80 years since traffic engineers starting bowing at the alter of the automobile.

        And I'm sure that many of you would love to slap a whole forest of these signs up on your local street. Great if you did.

        My point about the Culture of Fear is that we are seeing all manner of products appearing out of the blue. Capitalising on all this constructed fear that society is experiencing.

        Products like this sign are perhaps also a reaction to the inability - and unwillingness - of traffic engineers and planners in our cities to curb the pestilence of the automobile. Citizens have to do it for themselves. Which we are seeing all over the world over the past few years. Citizens painting bicycle lanes, closing off blocks for liveable streets days, etc.

        On the other hand, organisations like the Danish Road Safety Council - Rodet for Sikker Panik must hate signs like these. They go against their immoveable doctrine that cars must rule our streets. They are busy recommending - among other nonsensical ideas - that traffic calming trees along country roads be cut down. Cars must go faster and trees will only get people to slow down.

        So... goofy sign bought cheap at Copenhagen supermarket... loads of interpretations.

        13 April 2012

        Sorry, I was Speeding Slightly


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

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

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

        02 March 2012

        Danish Truckers Union - It's the Cyclists' Fault


        Related photo from Norway in this article Fortunately, no one was killed here

        Denmark and the Netherlands are the safest places on the planet to ride bicycles. Full stop. Unfortunately, cyclist - and pedestrian - lives are lost in collisions with motorists despite best and largely successful efforts to reduce loss of life. A few days ago another life was lost when a truck driver wasn't paying attention when turning right.

        This time it was a six year old boy on his way to school with his 12 year old sister. The truck driver was turning right and the children were heading straight on, on a cycle track. The truck driver hit and killed the boy, crushing him under the front wheels.

        The truck driver didn't check his mirrors and didn't see them. He said that he was watching a moped coming up in the distance from behind and didn't look to see if there were any cyclists next to him.

        I don't need to elaborate on how tragic this is. We can call figure that out and reflect on it personally.

        The Danish Cyclists Federation (DCF) were quick to react and call for laws requiring truck drivers to bring their vehicles to a full stop before turning right. (Link in Danish) Back in 2007, the Traffic Safety Commission called for mandatory stopping for truck drivers turning right but there has been no law passed. One of the coalition government parties, Social Democrats, supported the DCF's call for more action to prevent right-turn deaths. (Link in Danish)
        Hard and Soft
        Three cyclists have been killed in right-turn incidents this year. Two of them six year old boys.

        What is absolutely disgusting is the reaction from the Union of Free Danish Truck Drivers (Forbundet for Frie Danske Lastbilvognm?nd (FDL)). Just when you thought you've seen and heard it all, you read that they are "furious" about the DCF's and Social Democrats' comments.

        Here is a translation from an aricle on Danish Broadcasting's website:

        The Union for Free Danish Truck Drivers (FDL) are furious about statements made by the Danish Cyclists' Federation after the tragic accident in Nakskov Tuesday morning, where a six year old boy was killed by a truck turning right. (Ed: It wasn't an accident and the boy was killed by a truck DRIVER, not a truck)

        The DCF demands that trucks come to a full stop before turning right.

        "The FDL would once again like to remind the DCF that trucks don't drive around cities for fun and that very few truck drivers like driving in city traffic, not least because of the many dangerous situations that occur in connection with the heatedly-discussed right turns", says the editor of the trucker union's newsletter, Peter Skj?th, in a press release.

        According to the FDL, the cyclist federation should look inwards because it is - according to the truckers - cyclists who ride dangerously and are the greatest sinners.

        "We shouldn't consider the latest accident, but merely note that in only a few right-turn accidents can the driver be blamed. There are many examples of cyclists suddenly appearing out of the blind spots and taking the chance to continue straight on, even though they can see that the truck driver has begun a right turn", says Peter Skj?dth.

        He underlines that FDL is not seeking to remove itself from the responsibility that every driver of a motor vehicle has. But traffic safety can only be improved when all traffic users make an effort.

        The Social Democrats are also under fire.
        On Tuesday, the traffic spokesman, Rasmus Prehn, sendt a declaration of support to the Cyclists Federation.

        "Perhaps Rasmus Prehn and a large group of his colleagues in the transport and justice committees should spend some days in trucks and on sidewalks to follow the thousands of irresponsible cyklists who day after day create dangerous situations."

        "It is trafic when a person dies in the traffic and it is extra powerful when it is a six year old boy like last Tuesday, but it is completely insane that the boy's trafic death is used as ammunition against those who bring goods out to the shelves", says the Union of Free Danish Truck Drivers.


        I finished translating that and I've been sitting here staring at the computer. Not quite sure how to continue. The statements are so shocking, so completely devoid of facts that it seems unreal. In a way, Peter Skj?dth has done an excellent job in exposing his - and the union's - callous indifference about the death of a boy under the wheels of one of their truck.

        This is one of the many situations where the use of the word 'accident' seems so wrong. The truck driver killed a boy because he didn't pay attention. It's situations like these when you wonder why this isn't considered murder. The police have said that the driver may be charged with involuntary manslaughter - which can result in up to four months of prison - up to 8 years in extreme circumstances. Is that enough? Should the truck driver be allowed to continue working?

        The Union of Free Danish Truck Drivers (slogan on their website: Real Danish truckers choose FDL) don't seem very concerned about killing children. On the front page of their website they list their key issues:

        - Fighting cabotage scams
        - Fighting bankruptcy scams (okay, "konkurs-rytteri" in Danish, whatever that is, but I'm quite sure it doesn't involve saving lives)
        - Failure to apply customer help-responsibility- Failure to investigate illegal activities
        - Unreasonably large fines for minor offenses
        - Tachograf problems

        The truckers' union doesn't seem to be very concerned about saving lives and working towards more and better mirrors for their trucks, tech solutions to avoid their drivers killing and injuring people on the streets or anything that means much to society at large.

        There is nothing on their website about a desire to reduce truck traffic in cities by working with modern solutions like depots outside built-up areas and smaller vechicles delivering the last few kilometres. I'm going out on a limb and assuming that the Truckers' Union are ignorant about what is happening in cities around the world. Even the City of Copenhagen is working on a City Logistics project that will keep the trucks out of our city.

        Isn't this an appropriate time to mention the groundswell of public protest in the Netherlands in the 1970s against Child Murder on the streets? Stop Kindermoord - Stop Child Murder - was a massive campaign to raise awareness about the slaughter of citizens - cyclists and pedestrians alike - by motor vehicle drivers, including truck drivers.

        Two six year old boys have been killed by trucks this year and here in my neighbourhood late last year, a ten year old girl was killed by a motorist. We're certainly not at the levels of deaths we were at in the late 1960s and early 1970s in Denmark or the Netherlands but we still haven't been able to control the rampage of automobile traffic and, not least, trucks turning right.

        The Truckers' Union - and everyone else who can read Danish - should be forced to read this letter from a mother who lost her daughter to a car driver's inattention. To You, Who Killed My Child. The truck driver who killed the boy should be given a copy to read each day in his jail cell.

        The arrogant indifference exhibited by the Truckers' Union should be a warning to us all that our car-centricity is out of control. Their statement should be be the catalyst for a societal paradigm shift in Denmark for a return to not only safe streets and cities but the BURNING DESIRE in the population for safe streets and cities - not to mention clear and determined action from our politicians.

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