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        15 October 2017

        Arrange a Svajerl?b Cargo Bike Race!


        Last week in Barcelona, the inagural svajerl?b cargo bike race was held on a sunny Sunday in the Poble Nou neighbourhood. It was event organised pro bono by Copenhagenize Design Co's office in Barcelona in collaboration with the Rueda International Bicycle Film Festival, where Mikael Colville-Andersen was president of the jury. Mikael and Jordi Gali from Copenhagenize whipped together a not-for-profit race and were thrilled at the turnout - both passionate particpants and curious spectactors. A 400 metre course was set up in the morning and there were particpants enough for 3 heats in the two-wheeled category, four cargo bikes in the three-wheeled and four teams in the team relay. The film, above, sums up the day nicely.

        For most of the 20th century in Copenhagen, a massive armada of cargo bikes were the backbone of transport in the city. A fantastic army of men and boys from the poor neighbourhoods made the city work. Men and boys who were also invisible in the social hierarchy. They were called svajere in Danish – or swayers if you translate it directly - because of the swaying motion of the huge, flatbed bikes when heavily laden. In 1942, a priest named Kristian Skjerring decided to change things for the better. He wanted to give these svajere a pedestal on which to stand. He organised what became known as a Svajerl?b in the city – a cargo bike race for these bicycle messengers. He raised money through the races to send the young men to summer camps. They were the hardest working people in Copenhagen and Skjerring thought they deserved some respect.

        Svajerl?b - Cargo Bike Race on Israels Plads
        The races become incredibly popular in Copenhagen. Thousands came out to watch. There was prize money, but really it was about honour, and winning the right to call yourself the King of Copenhagen – at least until the next race. These Svajerl?b races were held until 1960, when cars and vans started to dominate goods transport in the city. In 2009, the race was revived in Copenhagen and are now an annual event. The city has 40,000 cargo bikes in daily use, so a revival was a no-brainer. Unlike the 1940's, the cargo bike riders are now families and people with goods to transport. The Danish brand Larry vs Bullitt, who produce the Bullitt cargo bike, were behind resurrecting the races for the tradition, the fun and as an obvious platform to sell their product. While the event has developed a Red Bull feel to it - corporate marketing disguised as an event - there are race participants using many other cargo bike brands on race day.

        Cargo bike races are spreading fast, in tact with the rise of the cargo bike itself in cities around the world. There is now an International Cargo Bike Festival in Nijmegen, Netherlands each year. Apart from the recent race in Barcelona, we have registered on our radar races in Vancouver, Chicago, Paris, and Berlin, among others. In the Netherlands, family-friendly cargo bike events have taken place for many years. There is a new Facebook group called Svajerl?b Global - The Cargo Bike Race Community - where people can share experiences and let others know about their upcoming races and share photos after they're done.

        So why not arrange a cargo bike race in your 'hood? Help raise awareness about the usefulness of cargo bikes and have a fun day doing it. Here are the basics to get you started.

        Svajerl?b Cargo Bike Race - Barcelona 2017

        Designing the Course
        - Design a circuit in a loop (as opposed to an A to B course). There is no set length, but in our experience 400 meters seems to be a decent number. There should be some challenging turns, a slalom section and a straight, home stretch. If you have the chance to incorporate a hill, all the better. This ain't no Sunday bike ride, sunshine. Although think about the potential participants when you gauge the level of difficultly. In the Copenhagen version, there are many spandexy dudes among the participants and the course is usually designed for them and for speed. If you want your event to be more inclusive and aimed to drawing the curious as well as the experienced, create a course that is well-balanced. We've seen courses with an awkward patch of sand in the middle. Mix it up, if you want. Just keep it realistic and safe.

        - The stop and finish line should be the same and should be next to the loading zone, where the riders will load up their bikes - read more in The Rules, farther down. For the loading zone, you'll need some space for the riders in each heat to stop and where you can position the cargo they have to load.

        - If you can, design the circular course so that the spectators are primarily gathered around the stop/finish line and loading area but also so that they see the bikes on the course as much as possible. It helps maintain a level of energy if the spectactors can keep an eye on the race.

        - Depending on the width of the course you design, you can have between four and six riders in each heat or race.

        - You can use various barriersr to design the course. Plastic traffic cones or bollards, chairs connected with plastic tape, fences, you name it. Whatever you can get your hands on.

        The Rules
        We recommend using the original rules from the historical races in Copenhagen. The organisers of the annual race in Copenhagen these days stick to the same concept in order to maintain history and tradition, but also because the original rules are pretty cool. There are other cargo bike races at, for example, the bike messenger championships, but we'll stick with the historical rules here.

        - The race consists of four laps. The riders wait on their bikes at the start line. The first lap is ridden empty. They speed around the course and, upon arriving in the loading area, they load up their bikes with the cargo. This is the fun part, which is why spectators should be positioned close to the area. Then the riders head out on three laps fully laden, until they cross the finish line for the fourth time.

        - Depending on the number of participants, you can divide them up into heats. For example, the top two finishers can qualify for a semi-final or the final. Or top three. You'll figure it out. It's a hard race, so try to limit the maximum number of races an individual will race to three.

        - Cargo: In the traditional races in the 1940's, the cargo often consisted of car tires, newspaper bundles, empty, wooden beer crates and sandbags. Cargo bike championships held in Paris in the 1920's and 1930's measured the weight of the cargo at 50 kg, although this was raised to 65 kg. Try to aim for between 35-50 kg as a rule of thumb. The cargo should not only be designed for weight. Make sure that you have items that oddly-shaped and difficult to secure to the bike. At the Barcelona race in October 2017, we had to be creative. Each rider had to load two plastic-wrapped bundles of water in 1 litre bottles (12 bottles in each), 5 kg bags of potatoes, another 3 litre bottle of water, a 5 kg bag of potting soil and a pack of 12 toilet paper rolls. We distributed the cargo to people after the race so we didn't waste anything.

        - Riders can use bungees or inner tubes to secure the cargo if they want. They can also carry an item in their hand.

        - After the bike is loaded and they head out on the last three laps, the cargo has to stay on the bike. If something falls off, the rider has to stop and pick it up, getting it back onto the bike before continuing.

        - Categories: traditionally speaking, there was a two-wheeler race, a three-wheeler race and a team relay. In modern versions, we've seen the addition of a women's category and a vintage bike category. In some cities, vintage cargo bike are hard to come by, so you can make the call about whether to have this category. If there are cargo bikes with an electric assist, you can create a category for them, if you like. Then there is the team relay. In this event, four riders share one bike. Each of them do one lap, four in all, just like the other races. When the first rider arrives in the loading area, the team members help to load the bike and the next rider gets on. It is permitted to help push the new rider into motion.

        - Next to the start/finish line and loading area, set up a table for the organisers and have some sort of board on which you can write the names of the riders in each race. Make race numbers that the riders have to put on their bikes so you can keep track of them. Pro tip: make them put the numbers on the side of the bike that faces the table as they pass. :-)

        - Spread out the races to allow for time between races. You can do all the heats for the two-wheelers, then move on to the three-wheelers and women's race and then get back to the semi-finals or finals. Traditionally, the team relay is the last race.

        Family-friendly Race Ideas
        In order to make the race even more family friendly, there can be side events with a parent cycling with a child in the box. You can created a separate course designed for finesse cycling and balance. The kids can be equipped with a stick and you can hang large rings up on thread. The parent cycles the bike close and the kid has to spear the ring with the stick, collecting as many rings as possible to win. Another idea is a cargo bike version of the egg race. A parent, with a kid in the box, has to cycle an obstacle course balancing an egg on a spoon. Or maybe the kid holds the spoon. Maybe both. Be creative.

        Inclusiveness
        The race itself need not be an expensive affair. Sponsors are always handy, if you can get them. Try to make it an inclusive affair and invite as many cargo bike brands as possible - if not to race, then to exhibit their products in the interest of growing awareness of cargo bikes as solutions for urban living. Copenhagenize Design Co was involved in the cyclelogistics.eu project for three years and our partners arranged all manner of events with numerous cargo bikes to encourage citizens to try them out and get a feel for them, in cities around Europe. It really helps broadcast the message if people get to test them out.

        The more events around the world, the better!

        ---
        Here are some links to cargo bike history:

        - History of the svajere - cargo bike messengers - in Copenhagen

        - The original cargo bike messengers

        - Brazil is a cargo bike capital

        30 June 2017

        Bicycle Superhighways in Copenhagen Capital Region

        Copenhagen Capital Region Bicycle Superhighway Network
        The Bicycle Superhighway Network in Copenhagen Capital Region. Orange: Built. Black: Planned and financed. Dotted: Planned but awaiting financing.

        The Capital Region of Denmark is continuing its investment in Supercykelstier - or Bicycle Super Highways. With five new routes completed on May 2, 2017, 115 kilometers have been added to the three initial routes. The goal is to make inter-municipality bike trips easier for the citizens of the region. The super highways are being developed on largely pre-existing cycle tracks.

        In the Capital Region, 60% of all trips less than 5 km are made by bike. This falls to 20% for trips more than 5 km. While the region is great for intermodality, connecting bikes with trains, the plans for the Bicycle Super Highway network target increasing the latter number through constructing 28 routes that connect and pass through 23 municipalities. These will give bicycle users newer, wider cycle tracks, better street surfaces, pre-green lights, in addition to better lighting and traffic calming measures where needed. This will create 3 million more bicycle trips a year, which has the potential to reduce the number of car trips by 720,000 a year. This will save the region 34,000 sick days and give a 7.3 billion DKK (€1 billion) economic gain per year.

        New routes, building on success
        206km of the network will be finished by 2018, out of 467 km in total. The first two routes, Farumruten and Albertslundruten, have experienced a growth in the number of bicycle users of 61% and 34%, respectively, since they were built in 2012. Those two routes, in addition to the third one, Ish?jruten built in 2016, are hub to tip routes connecting Copenhagen Municipality with surrounding municipalities. The new five routes help shape the network; adding not only more hub to tip routes (Aller?druten and Frederikssundruten), but also ring routes (Indre Ringrute connecting Sundby to ?sterbro, and Ring 4 ruten from Albertslund to Lyngby-Taarb?k) and a route between outer municipalities (V?rl?seruten).

        The five new Cycle Super Highways have cost 154 million DKK (€20.7 million), while the same road length for motorist highways would cost 17.71 billion DKK (€2.38 billion). Municipalities expect an increase of 1.5 - 2 million bicycle users with the new routes running.


        Copenhagenize Design Company's Idea Catalogue for all the municipalities in the Region, as commissioned by the Capital Region in 2014.

        Dialogues and Efforts
        The project came with challenges on both regional and local scales. Funding the superhighways required a particular approach; normally municipalities are totally financially responsible for building their bicycle infrastructure, but some of the municipalities couldn’t afford building the superhighways or preferred to cut it from their budgets. This caused a threat that more municipalities would leave the project as its rationality depends on its continuity through all municipalities.

        The solution that overcome this, so far, has been a 50% state subsidy so that municipalities only have to cover 50% of the costs. However, challenges for this approach will rise again in the future as no municipal funding exists for the project after 2019. The experience of the two initial routes also highlighted responsibilities for the municipalities during the operation of the superhighways; the Gladesaxe and Fures? Municipalities - both on the Farumruten - improved lighting conditions, asking bicycle users what their favored type of lighting was. While the Aller?d Municipality focused also on traffic calming measures; building a “2 minus 1” way on Bregner?d Skovvej, a road with one track for motorists and traffic in both directions.

        The municipalities have reached an agreement where each of them is responsible for running and maintaining its own part of the route(s) in close dialogue with the others. The success and rationality of a superhighway is achieved by the success of each of its individual parts in different municipalities, which raises the question of what form this superhighway will adapt to in rural, forested or urban areas along the way. It also highlights the importance of bringing all municipalities on board and keeping both the inter-municipality and citizen-government dialogues ongoing.

        The Mayor Challenge
        In an attempt to convince some of the more sceptical mayors in the outlying municipalities, seven of them were invited to switch to the bike for their transport needs for one month. Their health was measured before and after and, based on existing cost-benefit models, the result was clear. On average they were 11 years younger, based on their improved health.

        Copenhagen Bicycle Superhighways projected on Barcelona Copenhagen Bicycle Superhighways projected on London
        The Copenhagen Capital Region Bicycle Superhighway Network projected on Barcelona and London. This does not included the vast network of existing cycle tracks in the various municipalities, of which there are over 1000 km.

        Copenhagen Bicycle Superhighways projected on Paris Copenhagen Bicycle Superhighways projected on Toronto
        The Copenhagen Capital Region Bicycle Superhighway Network projected on Paris and Toronto

        Copenhagen Bicycle Superhighways projected on Montreal
        The Copenhagen Capital Region Bicycle Superhighway Network projected on Montreal.


        For more information about the routes, check the website:
        http://supercykelstier.dk/

        29 June 2017

        Egyptian Cycling History - Then and Now - Subversive Photo Series

        In this latest installment of our "Subversive Cycling Photos" series, we travel to Egypt. The same utterings are heard here as most other places. About how "it's too hot to cycle" and "oh, but we never had urban cycling here..." With these historical photos, we once again bust some myths, like we've done for Singapore, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, New South Wales, Vancouver, Oslo, Dublin, Canberra, etc.

        Copenhagenize Design Company has had the pleasure of hosting architect and urban planner, Ahmed Tarek Al-Ahwal, on an exchange from Egypt made possible by the support of the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute. He curated these photographs highlighting a long and proud history of using the bicycle as transport in his country.

        By Ahmed Tarek Al-Ahwal




        Egypt's President Sisi has been on a bike ride or two, like this one in 2014. He has said that Egyptians should cycle more and that the country can save 16 Egyptian pounds for each 20 km cycled. He has, however, failed to provide any infrastructure.

        In the recent memory of some Egyptians, cycling used to serve a much wider group of users than today. Residents in Port Said, a port city on the Suez Canal, are proud that cycling used to be their main mode of transportation. Indeed, during rush hour, the ferries were loaded with the bicycles of employees going to work. It´s a narrative that is heard in many other cities, usually followed by remarks about how women and children used to feel much safer cycling in cities and how there used to be many more bike shops - especially those serving a double-purpose. Shops that were also garages that would clean, repair and store bikes overnight.

        Stories of huge bicycle racks next to office buildings, factories and schools are heard across the nation, from the north to the south. The textile factory in Shebin, a city in the northern Nile Delta used to host one of those, which was removed after cycling disappeared under the weight of car-centric planning.

        Egyptian Cycling History
        A bicycle rushing past an omnibus, Port Said, late 19th century.

        Egyptian Cycling History
        Cairo, early 20th century

        Egyptian Cycling History
        College Saint Marc students, Alexandria, early 20th century

        Egyptian Cycling History Egyptian Cycling History
        Left: A magazine article about the opening of a factory in Qena, south of Egypt. Factories were associated with bicycles in the 1960s.
        Right: Bike shops used to be a very common sight, catering to many clients. Port Said.

        Egyptian Cycling History 1950s
        Caption reads: “University girls in Asyut are more practical than their colleagues, overcoming traffic problems by using bicycles” a quote from a magazine. Asyut 1960s.

        Egyptian Cycling History 1935
        Street scene, 1935.

        Egyptian Cycling History 1980
        Bicycles were a normal sight on the streets, at least through the 1980s.

        See more historical photos from Egyptian cycling history here.

        Cycling Persists in Egypt

        Egyptian Cycling Culture
        “Change the way you commute” An advertisement in Tahrir square for vacation houses on the red sea coast. Summer 2016.

        For many Egyptians, like other places around the world, cycling has become something unusual. Something subcultural, something done by poor messengers to transport goods, something for kids to do or a tool for advertising luxury, gated communities (photo, above).

        Egyptian Cycling Culture
        Bike parking at a school in Assiout, Southern Egypt. Photo credits: Yusuf Halim.

        In many areas in the south of Egypt and the Nile delta, one can, however, still witness a wide variety of bicycle users. In Assiout, in the more conservative south, one can still see huge bike racks in schools (above) and public buildings.

        Egyptian Cycling Culture
        Bicycle user on a vintage bike. Photo credits: Osama Aiad

        While in other cities, men in their 50s or 60s riding vintage bicycles serves as a reminder that cycling is not alien to Egyptian minds and culture.

        Egyptian Cycling Culture
        Bread delivery man riding in a Cairo street while holding wooden trays and reading a newspaper. Source: facebook page; Everyday Egypt

        When former bicycle users from this generation are asked about the reasons for the decrease in cycling modal share, they talk about the change of time, about the era where cars were much less and streets safer and you could feel safe about your kids rushing on their own through the streets. They also talk about the availability of bike racks near homes and work, and services around the city. All practical reasons that could easily be addressed by cities that aim to have less congested, less polluted streets with a better quality of life that is not exclusive to luxurious gated communities. Not to mention a healthy density and an economic alternative to sprawl.

        Egyptian Cycling Culture

        Unlike the old era, attempts to build bike infrastructure in the few last years in Egypt haven’t achieved the required goals. Instead of being used as an example of how cycling doesn’t fit the Egyptian culture, these projects must be addressed critically.

        Egyptian Cycling Culture
        A symbolic stretch of bike lane.

        The bicycle lanes painted on the Shahid corridor, an 8-lane highway in the desert, 14 km from the center of Cairo and 3 km from the nearest residential low density suburban area doesn’t seem to be a logical location to start.

        The UNDP project of cycling lanes in Shebin are often ignored by bicycle users; the lanes deal poorly with intersections, also they don’t provide enough safety for bike users from traffic and are very vulnerable to be overtaken by car parking.

        Safety and the perception of safety is a main issue keeping down the numbers of bike users and, if not addressed properly with infrastructure, cycling will not rise again as transport in Egyptian cities.


        09 May 2017

        Arrogance of Space - Copenhagen - Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard

        Great new data from City of Copenhagen. 62% of Copenhageners ride a bike to work or education. Only 9% drive a car.
        The City of Copenhagen released its latest mode share data yesterday and the numbers look fantastic.
        62% of residents in the City ride a bicycle daily to work or education in the city. 21% take public transport, be it bus, metro or train. Only 9% drive a car - even though car ownership is around 25%. Basically, 91% of our citizens DON'T drive a car in the city - here in one of the richest countries in the world. All good, right?

        Arrogance of Space Copenhagen
        You would think so, but even Copenhagen suffers from a serious case of Arrogance of Space. We took a section of Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard - the 1950s urban planning travesty that carves the Danish capital in two - and did a quick arrogance of space analysis.

        It's the busiest street in the Kingdom with between 50,000 - 60,000 cars a day roaring past, most of them firmly in the "parasite" category. These are not people who live in the municipality and who therefore do not pay for the road space that we provide them. There has been talk for years of burying this street and reclaiming the space it occupies. While not a bad idea - albeit an expensive one - it wouldn't remove the cars from the city, since they would pop up out of the tunnel at some point.

        As you can see on the graph, a whopping 64% of the transport space in Copenhagen is allocated to cars - both car lanes and curb parking. This is most apparent at the location we are looking at here.

        Arrogance of Space Copenhagen - Bike Infrastructure
        When we map out the space allocated for cyclists, it looks like this. There are 26,400 cyclists along the boulevard on weekdays, according to the latest count in September 2016. Add to that around 10,000 who merely cross the boulevard from the side streets. Certainly not one of the busiest bicycle streets in Copenhagen but the numbers are respectable. On the map you can see how the infrastructure is part of a cohesive network.

        Basic Urban Math - Copenhagen Style
        Here is a snapshot of one light cycle in the morning rush hour from this location.

        Arrogance of Space Copenhagen - Bus Lanes Arrogance of Space Copenhagen - Pedestrian Space
        Here are the maps for the space occupied by bus lanes or trains, at left, and the space allocated to pedestrians, including squares. The trains are not relevant for this exercise, as they disappear underground, but buses are a key transport form on this corridor. 360 of them roll past between 7 AM and 7 PM. With an average capacity of 50 passengers, that would add 18,000 people moving back and forth along this stretch. And yet there is a severe lack of dedicated space for them.

        Arrogance of Space Copenhagen - Shared Space
        Out of interest, here is a map of the "shared space". Not the classic and cute "shared space" that works in small, rural towns and residential neighbourhoods but merely parts of the transport area without separation.

        Arrogance of Space Copenhagen - Motor Vehicles
        What IS relevant is this. The amount of urban space given over to motorised vehicles. Most of it handed free to motorists who do not pay taxes in this municipality. Motorists, it is worth mentioning, already have it easy in Denmark. It's cheaper to buy a car today than during the oil crises in the 1970s and the same applies to gas, rendering the tax on cars here rather irrelevant. In addition, a resident's parking permit only costs around 750 DKK (€100) per year - despite the fact that a parking costs the city - and the taxpayers - around 50,000 DKK (€6,600).

        Arrogance of Space Copenhagen
        Here is the complete map with all the transport forms together. The Arrogance of Space is clearly visible.

        There is a total disconnect between how Copenhageners get around and how the space is divided up. This is not urban democracy on this boulevard at all. It is the same car-centric dictatorship that so many other cities in the world suffer under. Yes, it is safe to cycle along this stretch, on separated cycle tracks. But this is not transport democracy. This is not the Copenhagen that inspires so many people around the world.

        Public-Private Disconnect
        If we valued public space in an economic sense as much as we value real estate value - instead of a massive majority subsidizing the transport habits of the few, we would be much better off. Here is just one idea of how to reallocate the space more intelligently.

        We would be more rational and this city would be not only healthier and more dynamic - it would be the leader that it should be.

        See more articles about Arrogance of Space with this tag.

        06 April 2017

        Copenhagen's Fantastic & Stupid Bicycle Bridge Inderhavnsbro

        Copenhagen's Inderhavnsbro - Inner Harbour Bridge - Photo: City of Copenhagen
        It's no secret that Copenhagen continues to invest massively in bicycle infrastructure like no other city on the planet. The network is already comprehensive and effective but the City continues to add important links, especially over the harbour and the canals.

        One of the more recent additions is the Inner Harbour Bridge - Inderhavnsbroen in Danish - that spans Copenhagen Harbour at a key, strategic and iconic point. It links the city center at the end of the postcard picture perfect Nyhavn with the Christianshavn neighbourhood and the southern neighbourhoods beyond.

        It is one of a series of 17 new bridges or underpasses for bicycle traffic that have been added to the City's transport network in the past few years.

        The Inner Harbour Bridge was riddled with problems and was extremely delayed, as you can read here. Now, however, it's been open since July 2016.

        Let me be clear... I'm thrilled that we have a new, modern link over the harbour to accommodate bicycle traffic and pedestrians. I am over the moon that the number of cyclists crossing daily exceeds all projected numbers. The City estimated that between 3000-7000 cyclists would use the bridge but the latest numbers are 16,000.

        It's a massive success. But sometimes you can see the forest for the trees. I'm sorry, but Inderhavnsbro is a stupid, stupid bridge.

        It fulfills it's primary function of allowing people to cross a body of water. But it is a cumbersome, beastly thing that is completely and utterly out of place in the delicate urban, historical and architectural context of its location. A fantastic overcomplication of the simple, timeless art of bridges that open and close. Designed by an architect named Cezary Bednarski from an architecture bureau will roots in two countries where cycling is no longer mainstream transport, it has failed miserably in respecting the basic concepts of bicycle urbanism and the established standards for infrastructure and facilities. By the looks of it, Studio Bednarski didn't even bother to understand them.

        Inderhavnsbro - Inner Harbour Bridge - Copenhagen

        The nickname for the monster is the "kissing bridge" and it is flawed in so many ways. After millenia with perfectly functional designs to cross water like drawbridges and swing bridges, this architect decided to overcomplicate the concept. The bridge meets in the middle, where the two sides "kiss". A nice, giggly idea on a distant architecture office desk but quite stupid in practice. It proved incredibly difficult to make the giggly idea work.

        Crossing the bridge by bicycle involves two sharp turns - two chicanes. Chicanes designed by someone who doesn't ride a bicycle. Cyclists are shunted sharply and rudely towards the middle of the bridge and back out to the side again. Perhaps the idea of getting the two sides to "kiss" was too difficult with the length of the bridge or the width required to make the kiising part work. The quirky kissing idea is the primary objective, at the expense of common sense. The primary visual gimmick is that the glass panels change colour as the bridge opens. Oooh. Wow.

        For a century, Best Practice standards for details like chicanes have been in place. We know what curvature works best for comfort and for safety. These chicanes pose serious problems and they are clearly visible for anyone to see. You can see from the bicycle tracks in rain that people just cut the corners of them.

        Inderhavnsbroen - Inner Harbour Bridge

        A more serious concern is the many skidmarks you see on the bridge as you head downwards in either direction. I stop and study them every time I cross. Have a look when you cross. There are always fresh ones. They stop before the glass barriers, but I figured out why, as you can see in the photo, above.

        Inderhavnsbroen - Inner Harbour Bridge

        People crown the bridge in the middle and then get speed up, but many people fail to realise that the architect wasn't capable of a straight line and they slam on the brakes and hit the glass. I don't know if anyone has gone over the edge into the water, but the physics provide a perfect storm.

        Inderhavnsbroen - Inner Harbour Bridge Inderhavnsbroen - Inner Harbour Bridge
        Look at the glass barrier in the above photo. The City has realised there is an issue and have slapped up a large, red and white warning sign to try and help people realise that it's a dead-end.

        If you need to put warning signs on a design, it is basically a crappy design. Period.

        The grade to get up the bridge also ignores Best Practice standards for bicycle infrastructure. In this article you can read how most standards were established in the 1920s and 1930s. The architect probably thought "bike" and a spandexy dude on a race bike popped into his head. I have seen a few people get off and walk up the incline, but most just muscle their way up. The bridge is too steep. It is not designed for a mainstream bicycle city and the architect didn't bothering researching the fact that we have 40,000 cargo bikes filled with kids and goods in Copenhagen.

        On all the other bicycle bridges in Copenhagen a simple boom will drop to the sound of a simple ringing bell to stop cyclists and pedestrians when the bridge is opening. Compare that simple design to the huge, groaning barriers that rise like creatures from the black lagoon on the Inderhavnsbro. Comical overcomplication.

        Another detail is that there are no ramps on the stairs on the pedestrian side - unusual in Copenhagen - but necessary. That is easily fixed, compared the rest of the nightmare.

        Is using municipal funding to experiment with giggly, freestyle designs really a good idea? The bridge was also funded by a philanthropic fund - but does that mean that we don't have to be rational when we get free stuff?

        I can easily and rightfully criticize the architect who failed miserably at his task, but lest we forget there was a jury of Copenhageners who actually looked at this and voted "YES!" So there are many fools at this party.

        Inderhavnsbroen - Inner Harbour Bridge
        There are so many moving parts that breakdowns will be inevitable. It's already happened a number of times. Ships have been stuck on the wrong side because it couldn't open. The little tent, above, appeared suddenly and was in place for more than a week. That's hardly good for mobility. A fancy schmancy bridge in Kiel, Germany, ended up having so many problems that another bridge was built next to it, to be used when the fancy bridge breaks down. Is that where we are heading in Copenhagen?

        The bridge is nothing more than "magpie architecture". A shiny object that attracted the favour of the people who selected it. Seduced by bling and fake innovation instead of being guided by timeless rationality and basic design principles. It follows in the sad tradition of Squiggletecture, where bridges and facilities are designed by architects who don't understand the users.

        What's more, in an attempt to appease the wealthy sailboat crowd, the City of Copenhagen agreed to let the bridge open 30 times a month - far more than the six times a month that the other main links over the harbour - Knippelsbro and Langebro -open. This bridge will be unreliable as a transport option for people who are just trying to get to work or education once the sailing season starts.

        The basic principles of Danish Design - practical, functional and elegant - were sadly forgotten in the choice of this bridge. The shine will wear off and, I fear, we'll be faced with more expensive problems.

        Facepalm.

        28 March 2017

        Berlin - A New Hope


        This article is written by Copenhagenize Design Company's former urban planner, Leon Legeland. Originally from the least bicycle friendly city in Germany, Wiesbaden, he has lived, studied and worked in Vienna, Malm?, Copenhagen and currently Berlin. He has a master in Sustainable Urban Management and is recently finished his second masters in Sustainable Cities here in Copenhagen. He now works in Berlin.

        Last year we covered the state of cycling in Berlin. It’s time for an update. Berlin has a quite ambitious bicycle strategy and the city administration, on some level, understands that urban cycling improves the quality of life and that it needs to be promoted and supported. As cosmopolitan cities the world over, cycling rates in the last decade have been on the rise. The substandard infrastructure built to date has been partly responsible, but in order to get the 99% on bikes, Berlin will have to turn to best practice infrastructure. Progress is painfully slow and there is little in the way of best practice design. Most importantly, the people of Berlin seem to appreciate the benefits of cycling, cycling rates are rising, and people are demanding more action from the political power through a referendum.

        Our blog post from April landed right in the middle of the heated debate around cycling in the German capital. We flattered the group around the cycling referendum and we annoyed the senate with provocations about their actions making Berlin a more bicycle friendly city. Revisiting Berlin nearly a year later, we take a look at the current state of bicycle planning in Berlin.

        Thanks to the political pressure and activism of the cycling referendum group Volksentscheid Fahrrad [link], urban cycling became a key issue during the 2016 election campaigns. Consequently, the political powers had to incorporate the claims of the cycling referendum in their political agendas. We have to praise Volksentscheid Fahrrad once again for their activism, dedication and political prowess in bringing urban cycling to the political debate. Their communication and organisation can serve as  an example for bicycle activism the world over.

        Volksentscheid Fahrrad’s work is only one sign of progress in Berlin. The newly elected coalition of Social Democrats (SPD), Green Party (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) and the Socialists (Die Linke) agreed in their coalition treaty on the implementation of a mobility mandate by Spring 2017. This mobility mandate is poised to be the most progressive mobility concept in entire Germany and it certainly has some promising goals and objectives. First, the cycling mandate, proposed in Volksentscheid Fahrrad’s referendum, forms the fundamental basis for the future of mobility planning in Berlin, calling for a sensible redistribution of road space in favour of bicycles through dedicated infrastructure.

        The Mobility Mandate

        As part of the coalition treaty a mobility mandate will be implemented.The coalition treaty and will be implemented in a mobility mandate. Even some of the most pessimistic cycling activists are rubbing their eyes in disbelief that this is actually happening. So what exactly does this new mandate say?

        • The City will invest in bicycle infrastructure along all main roads with a lane widths of two metres.
        • Additionally a network of cycling streets, where drivers have to yield and bicycle riders will be developed on side-streets
        • Dangerous intersections will be redesigned with improved safety for pedestrians and bicycle users alike.
        • 100 kilometres of bicycle highways will be constructed.
        • The City is already testing green waves for people travelling by bike and is willing to expand the system on more arterial roads.
        • Bicycle parking will be improved with more bike racks throughout the city and large bicycle parking garages close to all main train stations.
        • And a tiny detail, Intersections will be altered to allow bicycle riders to make right turns on red lights.

        As if that weren't enough, the city agreed on another prestige project to show their change in traffic planning paradigm. As of 2019, private cars will be banned from Berlin's 60 metre wide boulevard, Unter den Linden, as it’s transformed into a large space for flaneurs and cyclists. The only vehicles to be are allowed are buses, taxis and diplomatic cars. It's open for discussion whether Unter den Linden is the right choice for a pedestrian friendly transformation and it remains to be seen how the space will be designed and used or what effects it'll have on the surrounding streets, but the symbolic significance is without a doubt. And beyond an improved pedestrian realm in the centre, the extension of the Autobahn 100 will be stopped at Treptower Park, cancelling the previously proposed addition under the river Spree. The insanity of a ring road Autobahn is on ice. Let’s hope it dies there.

        Beginning in 2018, this ambitious mandate will be financed with an annual investment of €51 million, or, €15 per person, per year. It’s worth noting that the current annual budget per person on bicycle infrastructure is €3.5. At this level of financial support, Berlin will finally rival other European like Paris or Madrid and their investments in bicycle infrastructure. The difference is that with an existing widespread acceptance and appreciation of the bicycle and a high bicycle modals share of 18%, Berlin has an advantage. This acceptance coupled with the forthcoming funding will surely make results..

        All this sounds fantastic and we're wondering if it's just a lot of hot air to please the voters in the beginning of the electoral period. Can the City realise all their proposed plans and actions? If you look at the bicycle strategy from 2012 it is full of ambitious plans and states similar goals as the new mobility mandate. However, with these new goals being legally binding, the likelihood of achieving these new goals is greatly improved.

        Nevertheless, Volksentscheid Fahrrad are a little reserved with their enthusiasm about the new mobility mandate. They see it as a huge step forward, but they will continue fighting for even tighter commitment to cycling. We were lucky to meet the two group members Peter Feldkamp and Tim Birkholz for a brief interview. They explained that Volksentscheid Fahrrad’ is missing a measurable quantification of the new mobility mandate. In contrast to their developed Cycling mandate, the mobility mandate does not have a clear time plan and assigned obligations. Further the quality and design of the infrastructure is not defined. And as we’ve seen time and time again, reliable infrastructure makes all the difference.


        ----



        The path forward

        Berlin, and Germany in general, suffers from a strong lobby for vehicular cycling, meaning these people think that cyclist belong on the road in the flow of cars and in accordance with the principles of riding a car. The dominance of bike lanes separated by mere paint common throughout the country shows this. The best-practice alternative, with a clear, physical separation through a curb, parked cars or some sort of other physical protection still faces criticisms and is rarely realised. Turning to Danish best practice, Volksentscheid Fahrrad has presented a design standard for the construction of bicycle infrastructure in Berlin. In comparison to their developed Cycling law, the mobility mandate by the senate does not have a design standard for the quality of the bicycle infrastructure.Though unfortunately, the bicycle mandate presented by the Berlin senate lacks a design standard, let alone one that prioritizes physically separated, dedicated infrastructure.

        Under both the current standards and the proposed mandate, painted bicycle lanes qualify as sufficient infrastructure, no matter the speed limit or traffic flow of the neighbourhoods automobile lanes. And at just 1.5 to 2 metres wide, these painted lanes run between parked cars and moving traffic, far from a comfortable, accessible ride. And from a user experience perspective, cycling in the dooring zone of parked cars makes the lanes feel more much narrower. There’s a time and a place for painted lanes, but they should be reserved for slower, less busy streets.

        The influx of painted lanes in Berlin over the past decade gave bicycle riders their needed space, but now it's time to move to the next level, to best practice. The City is currently preparing for a pilot project studying physically separated cycle tracks and test different materials and objects for physical separation. Here’s to hoping this pilot study helps shape a new design standard.

        Another remaining issues is the lack of qualified personnel that can take over the task of transforming Berlin into a bicycle friendly city. The current institutions seem completely overstrained with missing and qualified planners to mediate between all relevant actors. An example for the catastrophic situation in the Berlin administration came up this fall. For 13 years now, a bicycle lane along Skalitzer Stra?e has been shovel-ready, but the involved actors can't get their shit together and roll out the infrastructure. What makes this a true debacle, is we’re talking a simple painted lane.

        We know that in some instances we have 18th Century institutions facing 21st Century problems. But we also know that a 18th century invention can solve 21th century problems.
        As a reaction to the chaotic planning status, Berlin wants to start a City owned planning institution that has the overview of current bicycle planning and construction activities. Further, a cycling alliance between the ADFC, Volksentscheid Fahrrad, the relevant districts, and the public transit organisation has been formed. However, they still need planners, engineers and designers to get the much needed work done.

        The newly approved budget for cycling infrastructure will be in place from 2018 and the newly formed administrations and municipal planning departments are reforming after the elections. It will take some time to get things done, but Berlin is moving towards the right direction! For now we look really optimistic in the future.

        We'll keep you updated…


        21 February 2017

        Malm?'s Bicycle House is Open - Cykelhuset OhBoy

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        Jennie Fasth is a cyclist, bicycle advocate and freelance writer based in Malm?, Sweden. She is currently a student at the University of Lund, studying geographic information systems. She is working towards her Masters degree in urban planning. This article of hers was first published on the Swedish website HappyRide.se and is republished here on Copenhagenize.com with permission.

        OhBoy - The Swedish Bicycle House is Open
        by Jennie Fasth

        On 23 October 2015, the first sod was turned for what would become the first "cykelhus" - or "bicycle house" in Sweden. The development is named OhBoy and is located in the Western Harbour (V?sterhamn)  of the City of Malm?. Tenants have now gradually started moving in. What does the Bicycle House look like? Who are the residents and what do they think about their new and unique building? I decided to find out.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        All 55 apartments are rented out and there is no doubt that bike-minded people were among the first to move in. Not all moving vans have arrived just yet, but there is no shortage of bikes. Along the access walkways, there are many regular bikes and cargo bikes. The bicycle garage is a beehive of activity, as well.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        There are bicycles on every floor and, unlike traditional apartment buildings, bikes are more than welcome on the access coridors. The railings are reinforced and extra space has been designed in, allowing for wider bikes to fit - without conflicting with fire regulations.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        Bicycle Pool and Cargo Bikes

        Although tenants start to arrive there remains a lot to do on the house. Three places to tinker with bikes, will be available shortly, two outdoor and one in the basement. These will be provided with tools for residents to borrow. Tenants will also have access to a bicycle pool and three of the custom-made bikes arrived just the other day - from Danish DIY cargo bikemakers XYZ Cargo.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        The architecture bureau Hauschild + Siegel has designed, built and will manage the Bicycle House. They spent a great deal of time finding solutions to make the building as bicycle-friendly as possible. The bicycle pool is no exception. In order to maximize the comfort for residents living car-free, they have ordered bikes from XYZ Cargo in Copenhagen. In addition to the traditional three-wheeler cargo bike, residents can borrow both a kindergarten cargo bike with room for six children and a bicycle taxi with room for two passengers. Even some folding bikes have been ordered.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        These cargo bikes will have a separate parking area under a roof and next to the car park and the bike washing facility. After consulting with a landscape architect, an environmentally-friendly system has been developed. The traditional oil separator will be replaced with plants that will act as a filter in the cleaning process. Environmental considerations are consistent in the vegetation, the environmentally-friendly building materials and solar panels.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        Bikes - Access All Areas

        The kindergarten bike and the bike taxi are extra wide, but the building is designed for them. All doors are 10 cm wider than normal, which makes it possible for the residents to take their bike anywhere in the building. Even right up to their apartment door if necessary. In addition, every door is equipped with a door opener for easier access.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        The architects have also thought about that all important turning radius in stairwells. Wider than in traditional apartment buildings. The bikes also fit easily into the elevators, which are wider and deeper than normal.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        It is easy to understand why the access walkways are teeming with cargo bikes. It is so easy to take them with you up to your apartment. The residents don't have to unload the bike and then carry everything up to the apartment. This ease-of-use could not be easier.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        You don't need to stop at the front door. The apartments are designed so that bikes can be wheeled right to your fridge, if you so desire. The apartment doors are also 10 cm wider than the norm. The kitchens are designed by Finnish company Puustelli and consist of cabinet doors in glazed birch (gray and white in most apartments) and the countertops are Finnish granite. All units are fitted with induction stoves, convection ovens, dishwashers and a washing machine.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        The open floor plan provides plenty of opportunities to decide for yourself how you want to design the accessibility in your apartment. Interestingly, the walls and ceilings are concrete and it is not allowed to paint them. Picture frams and curtain solutions are provided by the building administrators. You'll need permission to drill in the concrete walls.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        Regardless of which door the residents use to enter the building, bikes are thought into the design. All doors are wider and the elevator opens at front and back so you never need to turn your bike around.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        Post boxes are available at the entrance and accommodate both large and small post. The idea is that the residents can shop from home - as so many people do - but also to make it easy to recieve packages. In addition to the cargo bikes, there is also a car share program included in the apartment.

        A Car-Free Life

        It is totally possible to just wander around the entire building all day and study all the cycling options and details. There are small touches everywhere that are part of the big picture in a building designed for people who have chosen a car-free life. We were able to meet some of the residents to hear why they moved into Bicycle House.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        Ola Fagerstrom is an avid cyclist with many bike kilometres behind him. He has a cargo bike, a cyclecross and a mountain bike in his collection. He worked for a year at Danish cargo bike brand Larry vs Harry in Copenhagen, so it's no surprise that a Bullitt cargo bike was the one he chose. You'll see Ola whizzing around on it in Malm?. He sold his car two years ago and hasn't any reason to buy a new one.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        Moving to the Bicycle House has only been a positive experience. Ola's son, Malte, used to have t ride 10 km a day to get to school in Western Harbour, and now has a much shorter journey.  Ola enjoys the area's industrial feel and calm streets. He likes not having a building across the street and the view of Stapelb?dds Park is harmonic, he says. Although there is still construction noise in the building, it is still very quiet. It is impossible to hear the local skate park or the traffic nearby.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        Ola's bike expertise has been harnessed by the building's community and he has had the opportunity to take part in both the purchase of tools for the workshops and the bikes for the bicycle pool. Even though it has only been a few weeks since he moved in, Ola is thriving. He thinks it is fantastic to smoothly roll his fully-loaded Bullitt cargo bike into the elevator and park outside his front door.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        The next resident we meet is Johanna Ekne. She lives and works in the building and will be responsible for the coming Bicycle Hotel and while the decision to move here was work-related, it was the design of the place that sold it to Johanna. Her family innovative thinking and a building dedicated to cycling felt right.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        Moving boxes are not yet emptied and there is much to be done but Johanna loves it. The apartment is very different that the old house in M?llev?ngen where she moved from, which had four flights of stairs and no lift. The family also had problems finding space for their bikes. Today, the bikes are parked outside their flat, which Johanna thinks is brilliant.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        The family kept their car during the move but now have plans of selling it. Something Johanna looks forward to. "It will be great. Everything is easier by bike".

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        The family lives at the top of the building and the apartment has two levels. Each apartment on the 6th and 7th floor has a spacious terrace that will  eventually be fitted with green barriers and flower boxes to provide some privacy.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        For the residents who don't have a large terrace, the view can be enjoyed from the roof terrace. An orangery is being built and all vegetation will be in place by April 2017.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        The Bicycle Hotel

        Moving boxes are still arriving in a steady flow and most residents are expected to move in by the time the Bicycle Hotel opens. March 1. 2017 is the date that the 32 apartments on the ground floor will be ready for guests.

        Photo © Jennie Fasth

        Bedrooms and bathrooms are on the ground floor and a kitchen and living room with work area are located upstairs. Guests have their own entrance with a little garden outside and, during the stay, will have free access to bikes. The reception will be on the ground floor of the building but the idea is that hotel guests will check in on their own. A communal laundry will also be included at the reception.

        The hotel apartments are aimed both at those who want to stay longer and those who are just looking for a short term accommodation for the purpose of, for example, looking for work. All apartments are equipped with a desk and chair and free internet access.

        Graphic © Hauschild + Siegel

        Many amazing things are happening in Malm?'s Western Harbour related to urban cycling. Several property owners are trying to reduce the number of cars and promote cycling, as well as generally making life easier in the area without a car.

        None of them, however, have gone to the lengths as Hauschild + Siegel and the Bicycle House Ohboy. This will hopefully be the start of an urban trend where expensive (to build) car parking can be replaced with investment in sustainable living and environmentally-friendly mobility.

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