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When a Public Space Doesn't Want You - Kvæsthusmolen

Copenhagenize - 23 September, 2016 - 09:57

A late-summer evening in Copenhagen. Copenhagenize Design Company arranged for The Bicycle Chef - Cykelkokken to serve up a delicious snack for our guests from the City of Bordeaux, including Mayors from surrounding municipalities, who were visiting our city to learn about bicycle urbanism and public space.

Ole Kassow from Cycling Without Age was invited to spread his good word about his amazing project. Being urban designers, we thought it highly appropriate to exploit the potential of Copenhagen's newest public space - Kvæsthusmolen - a redevelopment of a quay in the heart of the Danish capital.

Summer is lingering this year, but the space was rather empty at 18:30, with only a few people enjoying the evening. We arranged for the Bicycle Chef to meet us at the "Kissing Steps" and set up for serving our guests from his converted Bullitt cargo bike.

It was going to be a classic Copenhagen arrangement. Or so we thought.

In all the material about the new, public urban space, grand descriptions are employed. "A space for cosy and quiet moments", they tell us. "A good urban space also invites people to linger". Indeed. The spot we chose - the Kissing Steps - is "a perfect place to share a moment in the sun." Not a dry eye in the house.

There is nothing in those descriptions to indicate that using the space would result in an angry employee from the Scandic Front hotel nearby storming out to us in the middle of the urban space and informing us in no uncertain terms - read: rude - that we had to move. That the space upon which we stood was private property and that we had to leave it immediately.

When we questioned this bizarre statement with comments about public space, we were informed by this man that it WASN'T public space - it was owned by The Royal Danish Theatre - also located nearby - and that the Scandic Front hotel pays "a lot of money" to rent it. Therefore we, as Copenhageners with international guests, were not allowed to have a private picnic.

Damn. There we were. Ready to experience a place for everything, a place for excitement and a place for US.

We were ready for a vibrant urban space and nine steps for kissing! As RealDania, the philanthropic fund who financed it says on the project website, the goal with the space was:

• creating an urban space which communicates the transition between Frederiksstaden and Holmen through a wide architectural “embrace” that extends the classical understanding of space in Frederiksstaden, staged through a sensual mixture of materials and a “fairy-tale” composition of lighting, which in itself makes the square enticing; both day and night

• to soften the transition between land and sea, e.g. with a stairway, and to enable a broad spectrum of recreational activities on and by the water

RealDania's declared mission is "To improve quality of life for the common good through the built environment".

What an amazing array of glossy, marketing texts about this new destination.

We were the only people in the space at that moment. The outdoor seating for the hotel was packed up for the evening - and probably the rest of the year. While Angry Hotel Man didn't seem very certain about his claims, we had distinguished guests arriving so we chose to avoid educating him in public space and, instead, roll over to the other area on Kvæsthusmolen, along the harbour, to begin our evening.

The World's Youngest Urbanist, The Lulu, helped Morten out preparing for our guests. Ole Kassow did his magic and all went well.

Kvæsthusmolen was designed by Danish architects Lundberg & Tranberg.

The question remains. Can you boldy proclaim "public space" and then try to kick people off of it? And in a city that prides itself on public space like few others? The lines between private and public are blurred here on Kvæsthusmolen. The Royal Danish Theatre even tries to brand the space as Ofelia Plads / Ofelia Square, complete with a website. Even though the official name is Kvæsthusmolen.

As Mayor Morten Kabell has said, "There is nothing called Ofelia Plads - except in the imagination of The Royal Theatre".

So maybe it's a free-for-all in this new urban space. Organisations can make up names for it. Hotels can kick you out of it - and, what's worse, hotels that only have a dismal 3.5 rating on Trip Advisor.

This may be routine in other cities in the world. This is not, however, fitting in the Copenhagen in which I choose to live and work.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Beloningsprogramma voor inwoners van Utrecht en Amersfoort

Fietsberaad - 23 September, 2016 - 09:39

De provincie Utrecht is begonnen met een beloningsprogramma waarbij inwoners van Amersfoort en Utrecht en omstreken kunnen verdienen door vaker de fiets te pakken.

Categories: News

The Danish Bicycle Games in Rio de Janeiro

Cycling Embassy of Denmark - 23 September, 2016 - 08:22

Parallel to The Olympic Games in Rio, a bicycle initiative took place in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. Here the Brazilian bicycle organization, Bike Anjo, had arranged a bicycle workshop with an array of games, ideas, and inspiration. Balder Brøndsted, a representative of the Danish Cyclists´ Federation and VisitDenmark, participated in the workshop, to […]

The post The Danish Bicycle Games in Rio de Janeiro appeared first on Cycling Embassy of Denmark.

Categories: News

News roundup: Children cycling to school, Walking bike championships, Self driving bus, Progress in Assen

A View from the Cycle Path - 22 September, 2016 - 10:52
Sometimes small items of news aren't quite enough for a blog post on their own so I've combined these: A Study Tour participant from Uppsala in Sweden just uploaded this video shot two years ago during the school run in Assen. This is an area within a suburb of Assen near local shops built between primary schools (age 5-11). The same thing happens every day. Parents accompany many younger David Hembrowhttps://plus.google.com/114578085331408050106noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2016/09/video-roundup-children-cycling-to.html
Categories: Views

Closing routes to motor traffic is uncontroversial if it has already happened

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 22 September, 2016 - 09:11

I’m currently in the middle of writing a piece about how attitudes to residential streets being access-only for motor traffic are essentially conditioned by history. That is to say, whether people are in favour of a particular residential street being ‘access-only’ largely depends on the current nature of that street. If it’s currently a through-route, attempts to convert it into an access road will probably be controversial. But, conversely, if it’s already an access road, that status will be deeply uncontroversial.

We can take this further, and point out that attempts to reintroduce through traffic onto access roads that are currently peaceful, safe and quiet would be just as unpopular as ‘filtering’, if not more so. It’s most likely that, in the cold light of day, people are not really ‘for’ or ‘against’ filtering – they are just against change.

We’ll come to this subject in more detail next week, but in the meantime, and as a teaser to that blogpost, I thought I’d look at a specific example of  ‘historical’ filtering, one that happened some time ago, and that would be controversial if it were reversed – just as controversial as if attempts were made to implement it today.

Cull Lane is a small lane in southern Hampshire, on the outskirts of New Milton. I’m familiar with it because I use it to cycle to and from my grandmother’s house, from New Milton station.

Back in the 1950s, it was just a straightforward road, running across fields.

Cull Lane in the late 1950s, indicated by the red arrow

Over time, New Milton has expanded, filling out to the orange road running east-west near the top of the map, with housing development built on other side of Cull Lane. But the way this housing has been built – and the changes that have been made to Cull Lane – are very interesting.

The present-day layout. Cull Lane has been ‘severed’ in three places, indicated by the red circles

Cull Lane has essentially been converted into two separate sections of cul-de-sac, through a series of three closures. The first, and most obvious one, is in the middle. The other two are at the (former) junctions with the boundary roads.

The only ‘through route’ across this area is now a very twisty road, looping up and and down as it runs east-west – Holland’s Wood Drive. While it is technically possible to drive along the length of this road, its twisty nature doesn’t make that an obvious thing to do, and indeed Google Streetview tells us that is much quicker (and shorter) to use the pre-existing boundary roads.

What has happened to Cull Lane itself? Well, it is, still, a rather lovely quiet country lane, even though it is now technically part of the town of New Milton. It is rare to encounter drivers on it, and those that I do are simply going to and from their properties.

At the northern end, there is a turning area for residents. The previous connection to the main road running east-west has been ‘lost’, although pedestrian access has been retained (in the foreground).

Below, some of the new housing that was built along Cull Lane at the same time as these changes to the road network were made (note the ‘dead end’ sign on what was formerly a through route) –

The ‘severed’ middle section, where what was once Cull Lane has become a pedestrian path, with bollards to stop drivers –

The crossing of the new, bendy road in the middle of the development (again, note that the southern section of Cull Lane, visible across the road, has a ‘Dead End’ sign) –

… And the southern end of Cull Lane. This would at one time have been a straightforward junction, but now it is a turning area, with only cycling and walking access to the main road where the silver car is being driven.

These pictures were actually taken at rush hour, around 5:30pm, yet I was able to stand in the middle of the road and take them, quite happily. But without the filtering that took place here, this small little lane would actually be a busy road. It would form an obvious route from the main road to the north of New Milton (connecting with the trunk road A35) into the east of the town.

As it is, that route is not available, and this residential area is something of an oasis of calm, ‘converted’ into two cul-de-sacs.

The outline of the two Cull Lane cul-de-sacs in red, with the sole motor vehicle entry point indicated by the red arrows. Walking access is also available, indicated by the green arrows.

Because all this happened at the time the development was taking place, I suspect the changes to the road were a minor detail. New residents moving into the housing would not have concerned themselves with it, because it was already like that when they arrived. But had these changes been proposed after all the development took place, it is a reasonable guess those changes would have been opposed by locals who had got used to the existing driving routes. ‘Keep Cull Lane open’! ‘No to increasing pollution and congestion on surrounding roads! And so on, with the kinds of arguments that are undoubtedly familiar to present-day campaigners.

As it is, Cull Lane is an attractive place to live, with properties for sale making a virtue of the fact that it is ‘a quiet no through road’, which may have not been the case had enlightened planners not severed it at the time of the development. The slightly longer distance locals might have to travel to exit onto main roads by car is a very small price to pay for living in a desirable, quiet and attractive area.

A typical estate agent advert for Cull Lane properties

The only small complaint I have with these changes is that they seem to have happened at a time in British planning history when cycling was invisible. The connection in the middle, and the two cut throughs at either end, are quite explicitly signed as pedestrian routes, and I suspect I may be breaking the law by cycling along a footpath every time I visit my grandmother, travelling along the length of Cull Lane.

Nevertheless, I think this is a very interesting example of how ‘closures’ of roads can be invisible and uncontroversial if they happen under particular circumstances, and if they have been in place long enough for anyone to even remember the road being configured in any other way.

Categories: Views

The Lulu Solves Congestion, Road Safety Issues and Finding Space for Bikes

Copenhagenize - 21 September, 2016 - 12:52

I finally got around to subjecting The Lulu to a simple test. I've been meaning to do it for ages and last night we cast ourselves headlong into the urban fray. I figured The World's Youngest Urbanist would have a good shot at it.

The Lulu, since she was 3 1/2 years old, has delivered a constant stream of urbanist wisdom. Indeed, I feature her in most of the keynotes I do around the world. The point being that kids are better at planning Life-Sized Cities than a room full of adults.

While walking around our neighbourhood a few years ago, she dropped another wisdom bomb. We were waiting at a red light. She was a bit quiet and looking around. Suddenly, she looks up at me and says, "When will by city fit me, Daddy?"

It was a frustration for her to be so small on the urban landscape. I assured her that she would grow. She just shrugged and said, "yeah". She knew that. But at that moment she didn't feel like her city fit her.

That sentiment stuck with me. I started to think hard about whether my city fits ME. By and large, it does, this Copenhagen of mine. But there are still many places in this city where it doesn't. And most cities in the world don't feel like they fit me. They don't feel like they are life-sized cities. That phrase I came up with is a direct result of The Lulu's comment.

I used the phrase in the title of one of my TED x talks:

Furthermore, it is now also the title of my new TV series - premiereing in 2017 - The Life-Sized City.

The Lulu's observations can be profound, but they can also be simple. Like this one. Letting her loose with a camera on her urban landscape also offers up interesting street photography results.

After she started to deliver her wisdom, I started to think about what kids could contribute. I got Lulu's big brother and his whole 3rd grade class in on it with this project. And I remain amazed at the logic and rationality that children employ.

Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

CED Chairman speaks at European Mobility Week 2016

Cycling Embassy of Denmark - 21 September, 2016 - 10:53

At European Mobility Week in Izmir, Turkey, Marianne Weinreich, Chairman of the Cycling Embassy of Denmark, will be speaking about the Danish bicycle culture. Marianne will be focusing on mobility, and on Danish solutions on cycling issues. Through a historic bicycle culture Denmark as a nation and Danish companies have developed extensive know-how, and the […]

The post CED Chairman speaks at European Mobility Week 2016 appeared first on Cycling Embassy of Denmark.

Categories: News

Meer groen licht voor fietsers door warmtesensor

Fietsberaad - 21 September, 2016 - 01:00

In Rotterdams is een warmtesensor in gebruik genomen die aan de hand van lichaamswarmte meet hoeveel fietsers bij het rode licht op Churchillplein staan te wachten. Zijn dat er veel, dan gaat het verkeerslicht langer en vaker op groen.

Categories: News

CED member receives bicycle award

Cycling Embassy of Denmark - 20 September, 2016 - 14:19

Jan Gehl, architect and owner at Gehl Architects (member of the Cycling Embassy of Denmark), became the recipient of the Peter Elming Initiative award 2016 on September 15th. The award was given to Jan Gehl, due to his lifelong pioneering work developing livable cities – and because Jan Gehl continuously has made cycling central to […]

The post CED member receives bicycle award appeared first on Cycling Embassy of Denmark.

Categories: News

The F59 fast cycle route officially opened

BicycleDutch - 19 September, 2016 - 23:01
Even on the opening day of the F59 Fast Cycle Route there was protest. The village council of Geffen stopped the party, literally, at a zebra crossing with a school … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Strava fietsdata ook aardig nauwkeurig

Fietsberaad - 19 September, 2016 - 10:31

Nederland en Vlaanderen kennen de Fietstelweek. Een week lang worden enkele tienduizenden fietsers gevolgd met behulp van een speciale app. Maar het is niet de enige manier om fietsdata in te zamelen. 

Categories: News

What is a “blind spot”?

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 16 September, 2016 - 19:21

The problem of cyclist warning stickers started in London (for the last account of what this issue is all about, with reference to the time line see this post ). While there are more important issues to be dealt with in the area of lorry safety as described here  , sometimes relatively minor issues may well still need to be addressed.

This photograph of a vehicle on Salisbury Plain (HT Martin Baldwin) got me thinking: what exactly is a “blind spot”? The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary says:

“an area where vision or understanding is lacking”

As followers of this saga will know, for the vehicle above, there is no lacking of “vision” if the driver is using their near side wing mirror as instructed by the Highway Code. What is lacking is the “understanding” that they have this obligation.

Our objective, along with other road danger reduction and cyclist stakeholders is that Transport for London, other highway authorities, bodies like CLOCS and operators , the Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS), drivers and police understand what needs to be done in order to reduce lorry danger. Achieving this objective may well involve chasing up bodies like FORS (that have clear criteria of which vehicles can have stickers on them) even if it is low on the list of priorities.

Perhaps it is the case that addressing the relatively minor issues can lead to more commitment towards resolving the main ones.

Categories: Views

Fietsbeleid provincie speelt in op wijzigingen in mobiliteitsgedrag

Fietsberaad - 16 September, 2016 - 01:00

De provincie Utrecht trekt tot 2020 zo’n 30 miljoen euro om het fietsen te bevorderen. Daarmee moet het pad geëffend worden voor een verdubbeling van fietsgebruik in het woon-werkverkeer in 2030.

Categories: News

More honest cyclist warning stickers for motor vehicles

Chester Cycling - 15 September, 2016 - 20:41

A tweet from @aseasyasriding reminded me about the problem of those stickers which seem to have proliferated on the back of HGVs (and now other commercial vehicles in the past few years) which are all some variation of a warning to cyclists not to pass the vehicle on the inside. Obviously I hate these things, but I will admit to having something of a dark admiration for the idea behind them. These stickers likely originate from discussions inside the road haulage industry and I suspect that the decision to issue them as taken as follows:

  1. Use of HGVs whose design is heavily optimised for motorway use in towns and cities without significant modification means that even a momentary failure of competence or compassion from a driver can lead to fatal consequences for other road users (particularly cyclists).
  2. Modifying HGVs would be very costly to the road haulage industry and is therefore resisted.
  3. Even if the industry were receptive to the idea of modifying HGVs, the period of time between the public learning of their intention to modify HGV designs and the last unmodified HGV coming out of service would be a liability nightmare for the industry.
  4. Certain parts of the road haulage industry use pay structures (such as pay-per-load) which put drivers’ pay at odds with the safety of other road users.
  5. The death toll associated with the road haulage industry gives it a bad image.

And so the now-ubiquitous warning stickers were created for HGVs (which have since spread to other commercial vehicles such as buses, vans and even taxis). These stickers ingeniously and insidiously turn a road haulage industry problem into a problem of cyclist behaviour in the minds of many of those who see them. Slowly but surely in the public imagination, the problem of a HGV driver overtaking a cyclist to turn left becomes the problem of cyclists passing HGVs on the inside. The problem of the immense blind spots of HGVs becomes the problem of cyclists passing HGVs on the inside. The problem of HGV drivers not signalling their intention to turn becomes the problem of cyclists passing HGVs on the inside. The problem of risk-taking by drivers who are paid by the load becomes a problem of cyclist behaviour.

In response to the (admittedly highly-sucessful) attempt at reality distortion represented by the original stickers, I thought I would present some alternatives which are perhaps a bit more honest:

One for skip lorries and others who are paid by the load:

And a few more ready for when these things inevitably start making the jump from commercial vehicles to private cars:

And finally, the subtext of the original signs:

Categories: Views

Speed pedelec opgenomen in Belgische wegcode

Fietsberaad - 15 September, 2016 - 01:00

De speed pedelec is opgenomen in de Belgische wegcode. Een helm is verplicht evenals een – kleine – kentekenplaat.

Categories: News

The problem with Puffin crossings

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 14 September, 2016 - 13:15

The death of a woman in Reading earlier this year – and the inquest into her death – has prompted me to write something about Puffin crossings, which to me at least seem to have been a factor in that collision.

Lauren Heath was killed on a Puffin crossing as an HGV driver advanced through the crossing. It still isn’t clear whether he moved while the signals were still red, or whether the green signal had appeared while Lauren Heath was still on the crossing. She was in the driver’s ‘blind spot’ – allegedly, because the driver had failed to properly adjust his mirror.

But one of the factors in her death appears to have been the lack of far side signal at the Puffin crossing. As she walked up the road to cross, she saw motor traffic waiting at a red signal, and started to cross in front of it, without the far side indication of whether or not it is safe to do so, as is the case with more traditional, and familiar, Pelican crossings.

Here is a similar example of a Puffin crossing in Horsham. Walking in this direction, towards the lights, as Lauren Heath would have done, I can see that they are red. But there is no far side signal – the only indication of whether or not it is safe to cross is the small yellow box on the signal post itself.

To look at this box involves rotating through 180°, looking back the way I’ve come. The signal for whether or not it is safe to cross is not in line with my direction of travel.

Standing at the crossing, looking back the way i have come from

This is what Lauren Heath would have had to have done, but failed to do – she just assumed that the lights would stay red, and without the far side signal, she had no indication that motor traffic might be about to set off as she walked across the crossing.

We know that humans will make mistakes like this, and I don’t think Puffin crossings are designed to mitigate human fallibility. The lack of the far side signal is a big problem; it means people have to look at a small box in an unnatural position, rather than relying on line of sight in the direction they are travelling.

To be clear, Puffin crossings do have some advantages over Pelicans. For one thing, I like the way that, thanks to detectors, the signals will stay red for motor traffic while people are still on the crossing – it means people who are slower do not have to hurry, warned by a flashing red man. Puffins, again thanks to detectors, also ‘reset’ if people push the button, and then cross before they get a green man – it means motor traffic isn’t held unnecessarily at a crossing when nobody is waiting to cross.

But there are other problems with them, not just the lack of far side signal. They can be deeply ambiguous. Walking up to this crossing, it is easy to assume that the green man applies to the crossing ahead, in the background. Right?

Well, no. That would be wrong. This green man applies to the crossing 90° to the left of my field of view. This crossing, with the same box in the foreground –

Walking across the crossing in the first photo on the assumption you have a green man would actually bring you into conflict with motor traffic.

Here’s a similar (and much worse) example from Sheffield.

Hey @SheffCouncil and @Ameyplc you seriously need to make changes to this layout now https://t.co/LtwwL00QUM HT @Mattturner86

— The Ranty Highwayman (@RantyHighwayman) March 15, 2015

The counter argument is, of course, that far side signals can themselves be ambiguous if there are multiple crossings in the line of sight, signalled differently. For instance, people might interpret a green for the section of carriageway on the far side of the road as an indication that it is safe cross the near side section of carriageway, which may have a red. I nearly got caught out in precisely the same way at this dreadful crossing outside the Gare du Lyon in Paris, which had a green on the station side, but a red to prevent people crossing the other half of the carriageway.

Amazingly, this crossing has two different sets of lights for each part of the crossing. I nearly got hit stepping into the road with a green at the far side, without realising there was a red for the nearside section of road.

But the answer to this is really don’t build ambiguous, staggered crossings! Mitigating them with Puffins – which might still be open to ambiguous interpretation – isn’t really the long-term answer. Pedestrian and cycle crossings should be straightforward, without stopping and starting halfway – design them so people can cross the road, in one go. Puffins are really just polishing a turd.

A very wide crossing of multiple lanes in Rotterdam, crossed by both people walking and cycling in one go. No need for Puffin boxes to remove ambiguity.

Another problem with Puffins is that the signal box is easily obscured, because (with good reason) people stand right next to it.

This is often mitigated by adding another signal box on to the same pole – but again this problem wouldn’t arise at all with high, far side signals.

And one final annoyance with Puffins is that if you are approaching them on a bike (at a Toucan crossing with Puffin signalling) the lack of far side signal means you have to stop, and look at the box, in a way you wouldn’t have to with conventional signals. They interrupt progress.

So I’m really not a fan of Puffins, at all. One silver lining is that Transport for London don’t like them either, because they prevent the use of pedestrian countdown. While Puffins do have some good features, I would really like to see them integrated into the more traditional, conventional and intuitive far-side signal design.

The Ranty Highwayman has covered similar ground to this post here – do have a read!

Categories: Views

In Denmark kids are bicycling to school from the first day

Cycling Embassy of Denmark - 14 September, 2016 - 08:59

Every year when a new class of Danish children starts school, they are also preparing themselves to getting to school for the first time. Traditionally, the year group of children is primarily being taught traffic safety. However at the municipality of Odense in Denmark, they are promoting bicycling in schools by adding it to the […]

The post In Denmark kids are bicycling to school from the first day appeared first on Cycling Embassy of Denmark.

Categories: News

Gladsaxe focused on cycling - and saved millions

Copenhagenize - 14 September, 2016 - 08:06
The following post is an English translation of Søren Astrup's recent article for the Danish newspaper, Politiken, Gladsaxe satsede på cykeltrafik - og sparede over en kvart milliard kroner:

The municipality's willingness to provide safe cycling infrastructure has been a good idea, according to new calculations.

Like life-sized cities the world over, the Danish municipality of Gladsaxe, just northwest of Copenhagen, has sought to understand how to make roads safer for their citizens. The solution, they’ve found, is to simply make roads more bicycle friendly. To do so, they’ve transformed 94 percent of the city’s road network to feature either sensible speed limits (30 or 40 km/hr) or dedicated, separated cycle tracks. First set in 1984, the humble goal of making safer streets by way of traffic calming and bicycle infrastructure has been a worthwhile investment. A study carried out by the Aalborg University Traffic Research Group has found the efforts have paid off significantly. To date the city has invested €24 million in traffic calming and cycle  infrastructure, while realising €66 million in direct health care savings. The study looked at cycling injuries in the region as well as hospital and emergency room treatments of cyclists involved in an auto collision.

Turns out traffic collisions are expensive

Estimates suggest the improvements in Gladsaxe to have resulted in 4,500 fewer traffic collisions resulting in injuries, all while bicycle traffic has increased by 15 percent. Calculations developed by Cowi Engineering Consultants for the municipality suggest the average public expenditure per person injured in an automobile collision to just over €17,000.  A significant part of this cost (hospital treatment, care, and rehabilitation) is covered
And the bicycle keeps paying off Furthermore, the study finds health savings in the municipality to amount to €0.09 per kilometre cycled. And with a 15 percent increase in bicycle traffic in Gladsaxe since 2000, the municipality can boast nearly €5 million in savings.  Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Cycling on the bridge near Zaltbommel

BicycleDutch - 12 September, 2016 - 23:01
Rivers can be a barrier to cycling, but fortunately most bridges in the Netherlands can also be used for cycling. With many rivers flowing from the European mainland to the … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

More on bottles and how I reconnected with cycling

Chester Cycling - 12 September, 2016 - 21:58

Upon returning to the UK after spending three weeks in the densely populated Chinese city of Kunming, I felt a yearning to get out into the countryside. For me, the easiest way to get out into the countryside to take to the stretch which exists between home and work. However, since moving house to the other side of Chester in early February 2016, I had not tried cycling between work and the new house, or really done any cycling which wasn’t strictly functional. Because of this, when I reviewed my Klean Kanteen Insulated bottle, I never really considered that the Kilner/Grolsch style swing-lock lid on it would be quite difficult to drink from whilst actually on the bike (When carrying it on the bike, I had usually not bothered drinking any of the contents until I got to the train). Because of this, on my ride through the country lanes I had to stop every time I wanted to take a sip.

The swing-lock cap can be removed fairly easily (although I am not sure how well it would hold up to being removed/replaced frequently) and replaced with either the standard loop carabiner top or the sport cap, so I decided to replace the swing-lock cap with the sport cap for drinking iced water whilst riding. I tend to get quite hot when cycling and the physiological and psychological benefits of having a really cold drink available when doing some fairly physical riding was something of a revelation for me. I haven’t really seen any of the other people on bikes, particularly the sport cyclists, using insulated bottles and this seems very odd to me now. I hope this is due to simple lack of awareness rather than misguided concerns over weight. There is no escaping the fact that water is heavy, so in the face of such a significant benefit why would you worry about a few extra grams from the bottle itself?

This left me with a bit of a problem. Before work I usually fill my insulated Klean Kanteen with Pepsi Max and drink it on the train or bus (I have recently been experimenting with travelling to and from work via bike-bus-bike rather than bike-train-bike due to the piss-poor punctuality, reliability and frequency of the Arriva Trains Wales service). In addition to requiring the the use of the swing-lock lid (which would have to be swapped for the sport cap each day) there is no way for me to refill my bottle with properly cold water after I leave the house. The solution was to buy another bottle so I could also take some iced water to work with me for later in the day (or if I choose to cycle home) so I purchased a 709 ml (24 US fl. oz.) Hydro Flask.

I chose Hydro Flask for the additional bottle because the insulating properties are generally regarded as pretty much identical to the Klean Kanteen but they differ in the available sizes and a few design details. The standard mouth Hydro Flasks are available in 18, 21 and 24 US fl. oz. sizes (532, 621 and 710 ml to the rest of the world) whereas the standard mouth insulated Klean Kanteens are available in 12, 20, 32 and 64 US fl. oz (355, 591, 946 and 1900 ml). Both manufacturers have some additional sizes only available with the wide mouth.

The designs of the bottles and caps also differ in a few ways. The thread on the loop carabiner and sport caps offered by both Klean Kanteen and Hydro Flask are compatible with standard mouth bottles from either company. The loop caps are similar, but the Hydro Flask one is solid and insulated, wheras the Klean kanteen one is hollow.

Solid, insulated HF on the left. Hollow KK on the right.

The loop caps differ in their sealing gaskets too; the Klean Kanteen lid uses a silicone O-ring with a circular cross section whereas the Hydro Flask uses a silicone gasket which appears to have a rectangular cross section and which is more recessed into the lid.

Artist’s impression of lid sealing. KK on the left, HF on the right. Both lids will seal on either bottle.

I have discovered that the gasket of the Hydro Flask loop cap, in addition the the vents cut in the threads seem to make this lid work better with carbonated beverages than the Klean Kanteen loop cap. This is true whether the cap is fitted to a Hydro Flask bottle or a Klean Kanteen bottle.

HF cap with thread cut-outs on left. KK cap without cut-out on right.

The sport caps are both similar, with both having a silicone spout which can be pulled open using fingers or teeth and both using a little silicone vent valve to let air into the bottle to replace the volume of liquid sucked out. A lot of users have reported that the vent valve on the Hydro Flask sport lid is prone to falling out with use, leading to leaks, which does not seem to a problem with the Klean Kanteen sport lid. Like the loop lid, the Hydro Flask sport lid is insulated, but is sealed with an O-ring similar to the Klean Kanteen rather than the gasket in the loop cap. I am not sure how much benefit the insulaton in the lids really provides, but the extra volume of the insulated lids should prevent the liquid inside from being able to slosh around as much.

I find that the green Klean Kanteen sport lids produce a mild plastic taste in water when it is not very cold which the black version does not seem to suffer from. However, YMMV.

The necks of the bottles also differ, with the Hydro Flast has a plain top instead of the folded-over lip which forms the top on the Klean Kanteen. The plain top of the Hydro Flask is easier to keep clean, but means that the threadless swing-lock type lids available for the Klean Kanteens, which in my experience are the best option for carbonated beverages, are not an option on the Hydro Flask.

591 ml KK on the left. 709 ml HF on the right.

As I had a spare Klean Kanteen sport cap, my solution has been to use the Hydro Flask loop cap when I put the bottle in my bag and then switching to the Klean Kanteen sport cap when I want to drink my water. This arrangement lets me drink iced water whilst riding and since overheating is usually the main limiting factor I encounter when cycling, having an insulated bottle filled with ice and water means I enjoy riding a whole lot more and can cover longer distances faster than I could before.

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