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Bikes Beat Metro in Copenhagen

Copenhagenize - 4 April, 2014 - 10:24

Like anyone interested in city life, we at Copenhagenize Design Co. like to keep our eyes on the street life of our city. Currently however, the City of Copenhagen is planning to take some away from the street, by forcing  people underground, with the 'Cityringen' expansion of the Metro. Instead of investing in the reestablishment of our tram network - so rudely removed by the ironically-named mayor Urban Hansen in the 1970s - like cities all over Europe, Copenhagen seems keen to get people off the street.
This doesn’t come cheap: 3 billion Euros gets you an additional 17 stations added to the existing Metro network. In a nice circle shape. Perhaps some of the cost can be explained by the fact that It is not easy to build a Metro in Copenhagen, a city that is on the whole scarcely above sea level, and with a dense urban fabric too.  It's due for completion in 2018, but that's later than the initial estimate and with the date still some way off who knows whether it will actually be ready by then - just ask the planners in Amsterdam, where a new metro line has been under construction since 2002 and is still not finished, although it was supposed to have been operating for several years by now. As well as that, Amsterdam's costs more than doubled from initial estimates.
But this article is not only about the Metro extension in Copenhagen; it deals with the question of which kinds of transportation are needed to support cities in becoming more liveable. We realise that we won't be stopping the Metro, but we are keen to highlight - even years before it's finished - that it ain't "all that".

The projections for the Metro also have an alarming statistic buried in the paperwork. Cycling levels in Copenhagen are expected to drop by an estimated 2.8%. That is a lot of cyclists we'll be losing. 
We know what people want. We want to move fast, safe and cheap from A to B. Also, the transportation system has to be sustainable, namely environmentally friendly, at a reasonable cost to society and it should not exclude anyone.
Since we are hands-on people here at Copenhagenize, we decided to just test it ourselves. We were curious how the different transport modes score compared to each other and especially how the bike performs against trains, buses and the new Metro.
What we did was simple. For some days we tracked all our journeys from our homes to the Copenhagenize office (and vice versa) or other routes with the GPS-based App Endomondo. A great app - also because it includes Cycling - Transport as an option. Not surprisingly, it's a Danish app. Sometimes we came by public transport, sometimes, as normal, by bike.
As the new metro is not operating yet, we had to be a bit creative when comparing it to the bike. We built scenarios to challenge the totally unrealistic times which are published on the project website of the Metro extension. If false advertising is a thing, the Metro are guility of it. "7 minutes from Nørrebro Runddel to Enghave Plads!", they declare, without anyone bothering to check if it's true. Until now.
To be clear about that point: It is probably very realistic that the time you will need to spend on the metro carriage itself between the future stations Nørrebro Runddel and Enghave Plads is seven minutes. The unrealistic part about that is that nobody lives or works in those stations.

To have a realistic Home to Work scenario with which we could compare travel times with the bicycle, we took addresses in potential residential areas in a range of less than one kilometre to a future Metro station and tracked the time it takes to walk from the address to the future station. We then added the two minutes that it takes to get down to the train and wait for it. (We actually timed this at a number of stations and worked out an average. We like details.)

And then comes the time you actually spend in the train, followed by the fact that it will take another minute (again, on average based on our timings) to get off the Metro and reach the street level again. Lastly we added the walking time from the station to an address in a potential working area, again in a range of less than one kilometre to the Metro station. As you can imagine, a trip incorporating the journey from Nørrebro Runddel and Enghave Plads doesn't take seven minutes any more.

Here you can see the results of our Bike vs. Metro study.  For the bike trips we assumed that we were travelling at an average speed of 16kph, which is the average pace people cycle in Copenhagen. Very relaxed, without having to sweat, and doable for all cyclists. We also added two minutes to unlock, park and lock the bike. The results are impressive: in three out of five scenarios the bike is faster door to door than the Cityringen line will ever be.

In one scenario there is a tie between Metro and bike and in only one instance is the Metro slightly faster. The longer you have to walk to and from the station (last mile) the higher are the chances that the bike will be faster. From our data we see that 700m can be seen as a threshold: if you take the metro to work and have to walk more than 700m (about 10 minutes) on the way from door to door, you almost certainly would have been faster by bike.
We're asking why the City of Copenhagen and the Danish government put so much money into something which does not bring a significant advantage to the people in the city? We're not saying that a Metro never makes sense. There are cities where the Metro is an indispensable element in the transportation system, carrying millions of people a day, like in London, Paris or New York. But does it make sense in cities like Copenhagen or Amsterdam, where you can reach almost everything in the centre within 20 minutes on a bike?
Of course, we understand that not everybody is able to ride a bike. And we definitely want a transport system which does not exclude anybody.
So, where is your tram, Copenhagen?
Imagine what a fantastic tram network we could have for €3 billion. Look at France, where new tram systems are popping up like mushrooms. Also, there would be plenty of money left to further improve the cycling infrastructure within the city. What we get now is a new line with 17 stations which runs in a circle and only connects to other lines at two points. It doesn't seem like the main effect of this project will be to make Copenhagen more liveable. The City of Copenhagen is clearly afraid of reducing car traffic. Despite the goodness in the city, they still are intent on maintaining the car-centric status quo.
Back to the competition: What about our commuting trips we tracked? Also in those cases the bicycle is highly competitive as you can see in the graphics below.  
On trips less than ten kilometres the bike is usually the fastest option. The longer the trips are, for example from Frederiksberg to the Airport at Kastrup or from Glostrup to the new Copenhagenize office on Papirøen (Paper Island on the Harbour), the better public transport scores. That makes sense and it is also in line with the fact that cycling drops significantly for trips longer than eight kilometres.
But we also have to mention that we set the average speed for cyclists even on the longer commuter trips to 16kph. It can be assumed however, that commuters who cycle everyday between 10 and 15 kilometres to work are faster than that. The bicycle superhighway network for greater Copenhagen for instance is designed for an average speed of 20kph. And then, the bicycle is even very competitive up to distances around 15 kilometres.
So, what’s the message of our short study about getting from A to B in Copenhagen? First: there's no obvious need to invest billions in mega projects if the effect is as small as in Copenhagen’s current Metro extension project. Secondly: Invest the money instead in cycling infrastructure.

Our little experiment has shown again that the bicycle is the best mean of transport to get from A to B in a city. And thirdly: Invest in public transport solutions which cover a larger geographical area at a lower cost. Like trams or light rail.

And lastly, you might wonder why we did not include the car in our comparison. Well, because a car wouldn't make sense at all for daily trips in a city and because only 14% of Copenhageners transport themselves by car each day. 


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

A bakfiets compilation

BicycleDutch - 2 April, 2014 - 23:01
The English term cargo bike has a strong and obvious connection to freight, with that word cargo. The Dutch word bakfiets is more neutral and literally means ‘box bike’. That … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

A bakfiets compilation

BicycleDutch - 2 April, 2014 - 23:01
The English term cargo bike has a strong and obvious connection to freight, with that word cargo. The Dutch word bakfiets is more neutral and literally means ‘box bike’. That … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

ISO 31000: an update

John Adams - 30 March, 2014 - 22:40

For those new to ISO 31000  – Risk management – Principles and Guidelines – published by the International Standards Organization – my profoundly negative view of it can be found in earlier postings .

ISO 31000 has spawned, at the moment of writing, 2.9 million Google hits. I cannot say that none of them addresses the concerns raised in my earlier postings – only that I have not seen them addressed. ISO seems to be simply a flag that people run up the pole before getting off their chest whatever is currently bothering them about risk management – without making meaningful connection with ISO 31000 itself. Since it costs CHF 116 it is possible that many have never read it.

This post however addresses a different problem. In an attempt to monitor what was going on in the ISO 31000 world I joined a linked in website called G31000 . It is run by Alex Dali, possibly ISO 31000’s most enthusiastic promoter. He is the owner of an entity called G31000 that describes itself as “The Global Platform for ISO 31000”.  He has a website- and  claims  that his company –  The Global Institute for Risk Management Standards – has 10,001+ employees. So, I thought, a useful portal into the world of ISO 31000. Google maps helpfully provides a view of its headquarters at 6 Residence la Sabotte, Marly-le-Roi, Paris, France.


 It is not clear whether these are the homes of some of the 10,001+ employees, nor exactly where in this complex the office of the owner is to be found.

Monsieur Dali’s Linkedin site  purports to be a forum for exchanging ideas about ISO 31000.

I say “purports”. I have been a contributor to this forum in the past, but not recently – but I have kept a watching brief. A recent post by a regular contributor, Ian Dalling captured my interest: “Allen [Allen Gluck  vice-president of G31000], this news is very welcome. The incident [the temporary shutting down of the G31000 Linkedin website] has shaken people’s confidence – it would be good if you or Alex could elaborate further on what caused the incident and positively state that there was no truth in any of the accusations?”

And a follow-on post from Dalling: “given the web gossip may I ask the current status of Madeline Le Blanc within this LinkedIn Group?”

Why Madeleine LeBlanc might feature in web gossip damaging to G31000 is explained here . Her profile claims that she currently works for JLP Events. I phoned the only JLP Events that I could find on Google and they denied knowing anyone of this name. We know that she has been trading under a false photograph. Does she exist? This is not a trivial question. Madeleine.LeBlanc@G31000.org was the email address used in various exercises in the past soliciting significant amounts of money, e.g. http://www.slideshare.net/dali1010/toronto-conference-booking-form-4-16.

At this point I joined the discussion with a post of my own: And at the same time might we have some information about Formascope. I can find lots about this Formascope - http://www.societe.com/societe/formascope-443194733.html - but almost none about this Formascope - http://www.verif.com/comptes-annuels/DALI-ALEXIS-490167905/ - except that it hasn’t filed any accounts of which this website is aware [A notre connaissance, cette société n'a pas déposé ses comptes annuels].”

This appears to have been a sensitive inquiry. Formascope is a company listed on M. Dali’s profile so, I thought, a legitimate subject of inquiry in  the light of the “web gossip” about which Dalling was seeking reassurance. My post appeared briefly before being removed without explanation. And shortly thereafter the Comment Box was removed, ending the discussion – without either of Ian Dalling’s questions receiving an answer.

The message then became clearer:

There is nothing that pricks my curiosity more than being dropped into the Orwellian Memory Hole. So I took a closer look at the G31000 website – starting with Formascope.    It features in his profile under the heading “Managing Partner” where it is described as a “Training company specialized in global risk management”. If you click on “Managing Partner” you get taken to a list of 100 people who all have “managing partner” in their job titles. Their connection with G31000, if any, is not made clear.

If you click on Formascope here you get an even more intriguing response. You are taken to a page that introduces you to five people without names – two of whom do not even have faces. Certainly they have impressive job titles. Three are “Chefs d’entreprise”, one is “Directeur” and the other “Président”, a position I thought reserved for M. Dali himself . This impressive list of leaders sits uncomfortably alongside the only information I could glean from a Google search: http://www.verif.com/societe/DALI-ALEXIS-490167905/ – namely that Formascope, a company with 10,001+ employees, has not filed any accounts.

If you click your way through the rest of Alex’s Profile you are rewarded with other interesting information. Click on “President” and you get another list of 100 people, all called President. If you click on Global Institute for Risk Management Standards - “The Global Platform for ISO 31000” – you get further confirmation of the fact that he is president of a company with 10,001+ employees!

Clicking on “Managing Director” Atlascope brings up another 100 people all called “Managing Director” but no information about Atlascope.

Click on …. Well perhaps you get the idea.

Perhaps there are simple answers to Ian Dalling’s questions that M. Dali has not yet had time to provide, and explanations for the questions raised by my amateur Internet sleuthing. If so I will be happy to publish them.

Although I have been highly critical of ISO 31000, it makes one point in its introduction with which I am in full agreement: the effective management of risk, it says, will “improve stakeholder confidence and trust.” My brief perusal of the G31000 website and experience of  (and blocking from) one of its associated discussion forums has inspired neither.

Another, more energetic and wide-ranging, inquiry into the activities of G31000 is being conducted by Christopher Paris of Oxebridge. See:

http://www.oxebridge.com/emma/?p=2870 , http://www.oxebridge.com/emma/?p=2668 , http://www.oxebridge.com/emma/?p=2628, and

http://www.oxebridge.com/emma/?p=3086

Categories: Views

Friday throwback: the 100 year old bike race line up

ibikelondon - 28 March, 2014 - 09:04



With spare inner tubes slung across their chests and bobble hats at the ready (note the lack of non-compulsory helmets back then) these Australian cyclists are lining up for a great day's racing in Goulborn, New South Wales.  It's the start of the Goulborn to Sydney Dunlop Road Race, and this photograph was taken in the 1930s.  I love the small crowd assembled in the background to see the race off, including the official starter clutching his flag wearing what appears to be a pith helmet and plus fours...

Remarkably the 100th edition of the Goulborn to Sydney should have been run last year, but concerns about road safety by professional teams meant the event was canned.  Whether the race will return in 2014 remains to be seen.  This article on Cycling Tips has some great links and photographs, and a full history of this fascinating event and its recent demise.

This week's Friday Throwback features a photograph from the State Library of New South Wales archives and is one in a continuing series here on ibikelondon exploring old and interesting cycling photos on the Flickr Commons.

Have a great weekend, enjoy your ride, and why not connect with ibikelondon online?  Catch up with all our latest posts on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @markbikeslondon

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Categories: Views

SPIN London rolls in to town this weekend

ibikelondon - 27 March, 2014 - 10:01

I'm just checking in with a brief blog post to let you all know that SPIN London - London's alternative bicycle show - rolls back in to town at the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane this weekend.


Because everyone should consider buying a neon hot pink bike with no brakes at least once in their life... (Photo via BikeBiz)
If the super slick offering of the larger, shinier London Bike Show (held at Excel in February) is not quite your cup of tea,  SPIN promises to have something that will rouse your interest.

Shifting from last year's focus on frame builders, 2014's event has been re-positioned to encompass all things "cycling culture".  There's still an extensive frame builders exhibition space, but in addition there's a host of bicycle accoutrement specialists like Brooks Saddles, IBIKELDN and Milltag.  You can also check out some interesting innovations where safety and security meet style; exhibitors HipLock have created a wearable bike lock whilst Hovding, the Scandinavian inflatable bicycle helmet creators will also be there.

The Handlebards in action.  My kingdom for a horse bike! (Photo via the Handlebards website)
In addition to all this there are bars, food stalls, talks, coffee, cyclist's yoga classes, DJs and even a Shakespeare play acted out on bikes by a rolling troop of actors wittily named The Handlebards (yes you did just read that right!) so there's something for everyone, whatever your cycling interest.

If you really want to make a day of it, our friends at IBIKELDN apparel are running one of their fun and friendly bike rides around town, ending at the event in the afternoon.  Meet Victoria Park Pavilion Cafe on Saturday 29th March at 11AM.  Dress super.

Spin LDN: The Urban Cycle Show is on March 28-30, Old Truman Brewery, 15 Hanbury Place, E1 6QR. Tickets are £10 on the door or cheaper in advance if booked online here. Follow @spinLDN

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Categories: Views

As if we didn’t already know, a cycling revolution won’t happen by itself

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 27 March, 2014 - 00:55

There is a curious opinion that often manifests itself in government and in councils – that a serious commitment to cycling as a mode of transport in its own right can’t be made, precisely because very few journeys are currently made by bike in Britain.*

One of the latest examples of this kind of thinking comes from Reading, where councillor Tony Page has recently argued

We have to balance the interests of all road users and I particularly draw colleagues’ attention to figures which indicate the huge reliance on buses for journeys into the town centre. At the moment, cyclists only constitute three per cent and even if you double that it’s still only six per cent. The dominant and most popular mode of transport is our public transport.

That is – we can’t justify doing anything to improve cycling, because it is a deeply unpopular minority mode of transport, and anyway doing so would probably impinge on much more popular modes of transport.

The problem is that these kinds of opinions are predicated on an assumption that the people of Reading – or wherever – have a free choice about what mode of transport they wish to use. That cycling in Reading is just as ‘available’ to its citizens as bus travel, and the relatively high demand for buses compared to cycling just reflects the fact that people prefer ‘busing’ to ‘cycling’.

But there is of course another way of looking at this situation. It is entirely possible – in fact it is quite likely – that the ‘huge reliance’ on buses for journeys in Reading simply reflects the uncomfortable reality that the form of cycling on offer in the town is very unattractive – unpalatable – to the vast majority of people.

Indeed, it’s a bit like serving mouldy food, and when people decline it, assuming they prefer to go hungry, rather than eat.

We found that nobody wanted to eat this. So obviously people prefer going hungry, to eating bread.

The town of Reading is offering crap cycling, and when people choose a less worse alternative, its councillors appear to be assuming that means people don’t like to cycle, full stop.

Yet we know that people do like to cycle, and that there is enormous suppressed demand for it – demand suppressed largely by traffic danger and road conditions.

British people enjoy cycling in huge numbers when the conditions are right.

Waiting for cycling to materialise out of nowhere before you actually decide to start catering for it is, frankly, idiotic.

There is no clearer demonstration of this than the latest Office for National Statistics analysis of cycling to work patterns in the 2011 census, released yesterday [pdf]. It shows that cycling in Britain is largely stagnant or declining, except for increases in a small number of places (mostly cities) where small steps have been taken to improve conditions.

Before taking a look at that ONS analysis, it’s worth remembering that these are figures only for cycling to work, which will almost certainly paint a better picture than figures for cycling as a whole, for a number of reasons. Children are not included in cycling to work figures; we know that cycling rates amongst British children are lower than average. Likewise, the elderly are largely not included in cycling to work figures, and again cycling rates for this age group are below average. Both these age groups are much less likely to cycle than people of commuting age.

Equally, as Rachel Aldred has recently explained, even unpleasant cycling routes to work can be tolerated, or accepted, more than equivalent conditions for other kinds of trips – because these routes become familiar, and dangers can be anticipated and mitigated.

It seems like people are fussier about cycling environments when they’re not commuting. This makes intuitive sense if you think about it. When I’m riding to work, I know my route extremely well as I ride it most working days. I’m travelling on my own, so I only have to worry about my own safety, not that of any companions. I know where the dodgy bits are, where I need to concentrate super hard. I know the timing of the traffic lights – whether I have lots of time to get through or not. I know the hidden cut-throughs I can take to make the journey nicer. As I’m travelling with the peak commuting flows there’s often plenty of other cyclists around, creating a greater sense of subjective safety.

This certainly rings true for my commute across Westminster that I used to make for several years – I knew what kind of traffic to expect on which sections of the route, what kind of driving I was likely to encounter, where I needed to position myself on the road to avoid hazardous situations, and so on. My route got refined over time, and I became conditioned to dealing with what were initially very intimidating roads and junctions.So the picture for cycling as a whole is likely to be far, far worse than these census figures for commuting. (Indeed, we already know that cycling to work rates far outstrip modal share figures in London boroughs, usually being about three times higher).

The ONS tells us that

In 2011, 741,000 working residents aged 16 to 74 cycled to work in England and Wales. This was an increase of 90,000 compared with 2001. As a proportion of working residents, the share cycling to work was unchanged at 2.8%.

The small increase in the number of people cycling to work in England and Wales was matched by the increase in the number of people working, meaning that there was no proportional change in cycling to work since between 2001 and 2011.

The number of all trips being made to work increased by around 14% between 2001 and 2011, yet for England and Wales (excluding London) the number of trips to work being cycled increased by only 2.2%. That means that cycling to work levels outside of London have fallen from 2.8% to 2.6% over this period. The increase in London masks decline in cycling across the rest of England and Wales.

 The picture is just as gloomy when we look at a local authority level -

Of the 348 local authorities in England and Wales, 146 had an absolute increase in the number of people cycling to work between 2001 and 2011. As a proportion of resident workers in the local authority, however, only 87 of the 348 local authorities witnessed an increase.

That means 261 out of 348 local authorities – 75% – saw a proportional decline in cycling to work levels over this period. Cycling to work (reminder – much more resilient than other types of cycling) actually went backwards in most areas in Britain. And these are almost all areas that had next to no cycling in the first place. Bleak in the extreme.

Even places where there was a non-negligible amount of cycling to work went backwards too – among the most striking is (flat) north Norfolk, which had 4.8% of workers cycling to work in 2001. This fell dramatically to 2.8% in 2011. Indeed, it is quite extraordinary how the areas seeing the largest percentage points decline are grouped together in the flattish areas of eastern England.

The flatness problem – cycling going backwards in East Anglia and Lincolnshire

And the same areas show up among those where short cycling to work trips (less than 2km) have declined the most.

No, not that Holland. The Holland in Lincolnshire.

Plainly, no ‘cycling revolution’ is happening in England and Wales. Sporting glory is not persuading people to cycle for everyday trips; nor is marketing – advice, bike breakfasts, or exhortation about how fantastically green and good for your health cycling can be.

Cycling will not grow all by itself, and most likely it will continue to disappear in those areas where it is not being catered for. The idea that these trends can be bucked by expecting people to choose to cycle under current conditions, before we then start to take cycling seriously as a mode of transport, is nonsensical. The investment – serious investment – has to come first, along with proper design guidance to ensure that money is not poured down the drain on inadequate schemes of negligible benefit.

Without this kind of long-term strategic thinking, talk of cycling ‘booming’ in the UK will continue to ring hollow.

 

*A variant is that the Netherlands and Denmark only spend so much money on cycling because they have to cater for so many people cycling.


Categories: Views

As if we didn’t already know, a cycling revolution won’t happen by itself

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 27 March, 2014 - 00:55

There is a curious opinion that often manifests itself in government and in councils – that a serious commitment to cycling as a mode of transport in its own right can’t be made, precisely because very few journeys are currently made by bike in Britain.*

One of the latest examples of this kind of thinking comes from Reading, where councillor Tony Page has recently argued

We have to balance the interests of all road users and I particularly draw colleagues’ attention to figures which indicate the huge reliance on buses for journeys into the town centre. At the moment, cyclists only constitute three per cent and even if you double that it’s still only six per cent. The dominant and most popular mode of transport is our public transport.

That is – we can’t justify doing anything to improve cycling, because it is a deeply unpopular minority mode of transport, and anyway doing so would probably impinge on much more popular modes of transport.

The problem is that these kinds of opinions are predicated on an assumption that the people of Reading – or wherever – have a free choice about what mode of transport they wish to use. That cycling in Reading is just as ‘available’ to its citizens as bus travel, and the relatively high demand for buses compared to cycling just reflects the fact that people prefer ‘busing’ to ‘cycling’.

But there is of course another way of looking at this situation. It is entirely possible – in fact it is quite likely – that the ’huge reliance’ on buses for journeys in Reading simply reflects the uncomfortable reality that the form of cycling on offer in the town is very unattractive – unpalatable – to the vast majority of people.

Indeed, it’s a bit like serving mouldy food, and when people decline it, assuming they prefer to go hungry, rather than eat.

We found that nobody wanted to eat this. So obviously people prefer going hungry, to eating bread.

The town of Reading is offering crap cycling, and when people choose a less worse alternative, its councillors appear to be assuming that means people don’t like to cycle, full stop.

Yet we know that people do like to cycle, and that there is enormous suppressed demand for it – demand suppressed largely by traffic danger and road conditions.

British people enjoy cycling in huge numbers when the conditions are right.

Waiting for cycling to materialise out of nowhere before you actually decide to start catering for it is, frankly, idiotic.

There is no clearer demonstration of this than the latest Office for National Statistics analysis of cycling to work patterns in the 2011 census, released yesterday [pdf]. It shows that cycling in Britain is largely stagnant or declining, except for increases in a small number of places (mostly cities) where small steps have been taken to improve conditions.

Before taking a look at that ONS analysis, it’s worth remembering that these are figures only for cycling to work, which will almost certainly paint a better picture than figures for cycling as a whole, for a number of reasons. Children are not included in cycling to work figures; we know that cycling rates amongst British children are lower than average. Likewise, the elderly are largely not included in cycling to work figures, and again cycling rates for this age group are below average. Both these age groups are much less likely to cycle than people of commuting age.

Equally, as Rachel Aldred has recently explained, even unpleasant cycling routes to work can be tolerated, or accepted, more than equivalent conditions for other kinds of trips – because these routes become familiar, and dangers can be anticipated and mitigated.

It seems like people are fussier about cycling environments when they’re not commuting. This makes intuitive sense if you think about it. When I’m riding to work, I know my route extremely well as I ride it most working days. I’m travelling on my own, so I only have to worry about my own safety, not that of any companions. I know where the dodgy bits are, where I need to concentrate super hard. I know the timing of the traffic lights – whether I have lots of time to get through or not. I know the hidden cut-throughs I can take to make the journey nicer. As I’m travelling with the peak commuting flows there’s often plenty of other cyclists around, creating a greater sense of subjective safety.

This certainly rings true for my commute across Westminster that I used to make for several years – I knew what kind of traffic to expect on which sections of the route, what kind of driving I was likely to encounter, where I needed to position myself on the road to avoid hazardous situations, and so on. My route got refined over time, and I became conditioned to dealing with what were initially very intimidating roads and junctions.So the picture for cycling as a whole is likely to be far, far worse than these census figures for commuting. (Indeed, we already know that cycling to work rates far outstrip modal share figures in London boroughs, usually being about three times higher).

The ONS tells us that

In 2011, 741,000 working residents aged 16 to 74 cycled to work in England and Wales. This was an increase of 90,000 compared with 2001. As a proportion of working residents, the share cycling to work was unchanged at 2.8%.

The small increase in the number of people cycling to work in England and Wales was matched by the increase in the number of people working, meaning that there was no proportional change in cycling to work since between 2001 and 2011.

The number of all trips being made to work increased by around 14% between 2001 and 2011, yet for England and Wales (excluding London) the number of trips to work being cycled increased by only 2.2%. That means that cycling to work levels outside of London have fallen from 2.8% to 2.6% over this period. The increase in London masks decline in cycling across the rest of England and Wales.

 The picture is just as gloomy when we look at a local authority level -

Of the 348 local authorities in England and Wales, 146 had an absolute increase in the number of people cycling to work between 2001 and 2011. As a proportion of resident workers in the local authority, however, only 87 of the 348 local authorities witnessed an increase.

That means 261 out of 348 local authorities – 75% – saw a proportional decline in cycling to work levels over this period. Cycling to work (reminder – much more resilient than other types of cycling) actually went backwards in most areas in Britain. And these are almost all areas that had next to no cycling in the first place. Bleak in the extreme.

Even places where there was a non-negligible amount of cycling to work went backwards too – among the most striking is (flat) north Norfolk, which had 4.8% of workers cycling to work in 2001. This fell dramatically to 2.8% in 2001. Indeed, it is quite extraordinary how the areas seeing the largest percentage points decline are grouped together in the flattish areas of eastern England.

The flatness problem – cycling going backwards in East Anglia and Lincolnshire

And the same areas show up among those where short cycling to work trips (less than 2km) have declined the most.

No, not that Holland. The Holland in Lincolnshire.

Plainly, no ‘cycling revolution’ is happening in England and Wales. Sporting glory is not persuading people to cycle for everyday trips; nor is marketing – advice, bike breakfasts, or exhortation about how fantastically green and good for your health cycling can be.

Cycling will not grow all by itself, and most likely it will continue to disappear in those areas where it is not being catered for. The idea that these trends can be bucked by expecting people to choose to cycle under current conditions, before we then start to take cycling seriously as a mode of transport, is nonsensical. The investment – serious investment – has to come first, along with proper design guidance to ensure that money is not poured down the drain on inadequate schemes of negligible benefit.

Without this kind of long-term strategic thinking, talk of cycling ‘booming’ in the UK will continue to ring hollow.

 

*A variant is that the Netherlands and Denmark only spend so much money on cycling because they have to cater for so many people cycling.


Categories: Views

First day of Spring cycling

BicycleDutch - 26 March, 2014 - 23:01
It’s spring! And the first day of spring (on 20th of March this year) was a record-breaking beautiful day, with temperatures of over 21 degrees Celsius. That was great, despite … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

First day of Spring cycling

BicycleDutch - 26 March, 2014 - 23:01
It’s spring! And the first day of spring (on 20th of March this year) was a record-breaking beautiful day, with temperatures of over 21 degrees Celsius. That was great, despite … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Why Kings Cross plans shows Transport for London MUST try harder

ibikelondon - 24 March, 2014 - 08:30

There isn't a cyclist in London who would describe riding around Kings Cross as a pleasurable experience.  The scene of numerous collisions, it's a mini-gyratory where the heaving traffic of the A501 north circular is squeezed round the smaller roads surrounding Kings Cross station.  Harried passengers dash for space, taxi drivers chase fares blasting their horns, buses splutter and fume as construction traffic roars through, heading for the massive redevelopment area behind the station.  It's long overdue for an overhaul and safety improvements, but plans from Transport for London fall far short of providing safe space for cycling.

A ghost bike at the sport where Min Joo Lee was killed.
It was here in 2011 that 24 year old student Min Joo Lee was struck and killed by a construction lorry whilst riding to college, in front of horrified rush hour onlookers.  Three female cyclists - Madeleine Rosie Wright, 27, Wendy Gray, 42, and Min Joo Lee, 24, were all killed by lorries within a few hundred metres of one another over the space of 5 years on this stretch of the A501.  A 4th cyclists, Emma Foa, was killed by a left turning cement mixer just up the road in 2006.  All of these deaths share similar tragically predictable elements; a lack of safe space for cyclists interacting with very large vehicles, whose drivers are unable to see vulnerable road users all around them.

Last year, at an inquest in to Min Joo Lee's death, the Coroner heard how a report commissioned by TfL in 2007 described future casualties on this site as "inevitable".  In another report, transport engineers Colin Buchanan noted that cyclists made up 20% of casualties on the site but specifically excluded pedal cyclists from their modelling of the junction at the request from Transport for London, in order to assure the smooth flow of traffic.

Speaking in 2011 and referring specifically to the death of Min Joo Lee, TfL's Leon Daniels said "Any fatal road collision is one too many. The Mayor and TfL will work night and day to reduce that number."

 TfL's plans - hardly exemplary
But the latest plans for the Kings Cross area fall far short of being either safe or inviting for cyclists.

Dribbling a chain of minor improvements in to the existing roads, TfL's plans do include some wider and mandatory cycle lanes, and a little protected space.  However, there is much more which is wrong with their ideas.  This is where their proposed "north - south" cycle superhighway will intersect with the North Circular, bringing thousands of additional riders to the area, yet there are no protected cycle lanes or safe passage through the junction in every direction.  There's also considerable risk of left or right "hooks" from turning vehicles - especially lorries - risking repeat deaths like those of the cyclists who have already been killed there.  Their plans also include putting cyclists on pavements (rather than ceding any road space to them) in some of the busiest pedestrian space in central London, yet the entire surface of all the carriageways in the redevelopment area will be resurfaced - all on the back of the cycling budget.  That is to say, you might find yourself on a terrible pavement cycle lane soon, whilst motorists glide smoothly past on beautiful new tarmac paid for with money set aside to supposedly make you safer.  

You couldn't make it up.  As London Cycling Campaign point out "it will not possible to go through the junction in any direction without being exposed to unacceptable levels of danger. Some sections do not even meet the old cycle design standards set out a decade ago."  Indeed, Twitter has been awash with reports of how a 17 year old Sixth Form student from Kent has done a better job than TfL's engineers with his own proposals for Kings Cross (follow @maidstoneonbike, check out his plans, and maybe chuck him a few quid for his RideLondon plans to say "Chapeau!")

The consultation on these "improvements" closes today (Monday 24th March) and the LCC are encouraging everyone to write to TfL to tell them to go back to the drawing board.  I'd urge you to do the same, even if you miss the consultation deadline by a few hours.  Maybe then the people whose job it is to design streets that are supposed to keep us safe will be made aware of just how badly they are failing.

I think the designs at Kings Cross open wider and more worrying questions about the pace of the Mayor's so-called cycling revolution programme.  We've all been enticed by the images of protected cycle lanes and the mock ups of cycle tracks yet to be built, but when it comes to proposing actual work this is what we are met with.  The plans for Kings Cross are so bad at first I assumed the 1st of April had come early, but the safety of riders in this area is no laughing matter.  It's time for Transport for London to start listening to the Cycling Commissioner, and to cyclists themselves, and to start proposing plans that really make a difference.  

Click here to go to the Transport for London King's Cross consultation page.

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Categories: Views

A small example of rural car dependence

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 24 March, 2014 - 00:58

This video was doing the rounds on Twitter last week.

It’s really quite well done, and a bit depressing that it dates from 2011. It convincingly shows how a B-road has effectively become a no-go area for anyone not in a motor vehicle, or confident enough to walk or cycle in the carriageway on a fast and busy road. That means short trips have to be made by car; all because a path suitable for walking and cycling has not been provided.

I was reminded of the video while I was out cycling at the weekend, on one of my usual leisure routes. The worst section of it is a B-road that runs into the village of Coolham. It’s a fast, straight section of road with a 60mph speed limit, where for some reason I always seem to encounter lunatic overtakes. Maybe it’s just coincidence, but this stretch of road always fills me with dread, and I exhale with relief a little as I progress through the village, and onto the quieter roads to the north.

What is most alarming is that, just like the B4044, there isn’t even a footpath on this stretch of road.

Watch out drivers – no footway. Oh, and please drive carefully.

Here we have the curiously British approach to road safety – put up a sign warning drivers that there isn’t a footway, instead of just actually supplying one. And, equally, asking them to drive carefully, rather than forcing them to.

As the houses of the village come into sight, we have a ‘SLOW’ warning. But no reduction in speed limit – still 60mph. With no footway.

‘SLOW’

The houses appear. Still 60mph, and no footway.

Reflective bollards. That’s nice

It is only as the centre of the village appears that the speed limit drops to 30mph, and still there is no footway.

The centre of Coolham

Coolham isn’t a big village, but it does have a primary school, with just over a hundred pupils – William Penn School (named, incidentally, after the founder of Pennsylvania, who lived and worshipped only a mile or so from the village).

Out of interest, I took a quick look at the mode share data from the 2011 School Census, which reveals that 85% of the pupils of William Penn were driven to school. None cycled.

Now of course some of these pupils may have come a distance to the school, from outside Coolham – this is a low-density rural area. But none more than a few miles; the surrounding villages all have their own primary schools. And surely the majority of the pupils will have come from within the village itself, perhaps even from those houses in the pictures above.

If they did, then their parents will, undoubtedly, have driven them to the school, which is less than half a mile away – about 700 metres, door to door, from the house at the very edge of the village. I certainly don’t blame them. They have no choice, forced into car dependency because of a total lack of safe and attractive alternatives.

What was once a quiet country lane has become a fast and busy road, and seemingly at no point during that evolution did anyone stop to think about the consequences for the people who don’t, or can’t, drive.


Categories: Views

A small example of rural car dependence

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 24 March, 2014 - 00:58

This video was doing the rounds on Twitter last week.

It’s really quite well done, and a bit depressing that it dates from 2011. It convincingly shows how a B-road has effectively become a no-go area for anyone not in a motor vehicle, or confident enough to walk or cycle in the carriageway on a fast and busy road. That means short trips have to be made by car; all because a path suitable for walking and cycling has not been provided.

I was reminded of the video while I was out cycling at the weekend, on one of my usual leisure routes. The worst section of it is a B-road that runs into the village of Coolham. It’s a fast, straight section of road with a 60mph speed limit, where for some reason I always seem to encounter lunatic overtakes. Maybe it’s just coincidence, but this stretch of road always fills me with dread, and I exhale with relief a little as I progress through the village, and onto the quieter roads to the north.

What is most alarming is that, just like the B4044, there isn’t even a footpath on this stretch of road.

Watch out drivers – no footway. Oh, and please drive carefully.

Here we have the curiously British approach to road safety – put up a sign warning drivers that there isn’t a footway, instead of just actually supplying one. And, equally, asking them to drive carefully, rather than forcing them to.

As the houses of the village come into sight, we have a ‘SLOW’ warning. But no reduction in speed limit – still 60mph. With no footway.

‘SLOW’

The houses appear. Still 60mph, and no footway.

Reflective bollards. That’s nice

It is only as the centre of the village appears that the speed limit drops to 30mph, and still there is no footway.

The centre of Coolham

Coolham isn’t a big village, but it does have a primary school, with just over a hundred pupils – William Penn School (named, incidentally, after the founder of Pennsylvania, who lived and worshipped only a mile or so from the village).

Out of interest, I took a quick look at the mode share data from the 2011 School Census, which reveals that 85% of the pupils of William Penn were driven to school. None cycled.

Now of course some of these pupils may have come a distance to the school, from outside Coolham – this is a low-density rural area. But none more than a few miles; the surrounding villages all have their own primary schools. And surely the majority of the pupils will have come from within the village itself, perhaps even from those houses in the pictures above.

If they did, then their parents will, undoubtedly, have driven them to the school, which is less than half a mile away – about 700 metres, door to door, from the house at the very edge of the village. I certainly don’t blame them. They have no choice, forced into car dependency because of a total lack of safe and attractive alternatives.

What was once a quiet country lane has become a fast and busy road, and seemingly at no point during that evolution did anyone stop to think about the consequences for the people who don’t, or can’t, drive.


Categories: Views

“Politicians can’t break free from our car culture”

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 22 March, 2014 - 14:52

 

The following letter on the conflict over increasing road building – between academics and transport professionals on the one hand, and the Government on the other – was published in Local Transport Today:

Politicians can’t break free from our car culture

Your editorial “Road critics go unheard” (LTT 07 March) asks why, when so many professional bodies and academics question renewed interest in increasing inter-urban road capacity, “…if their arguments are so sound, why do ministers not seem to be listening?”.

During my career as a transport professional (and I guess of just about everybody reading LTT) there have been many well-argued reasons put forward for reducing dependence on car use and associated modes such as road freight.

The shorter list of motor traffic exacerbated problems includes congestion, emissions (whether noxious, noise, or greenhouse gas varieties), destruction of rural and urban environments through road building, dependence on the vagaries of oil production, danger to other road users, loss of local community, reduction of children’s independent mobility, health disbenefits for those not engaged in ‘active travel’, the massive costs of road building and subsidy to the motor manufacturing industry etc, etc. There is a long list of criticisms of contemporary car culture and the institutions that back it up.

Yet successive governments have resolutely persisted with ‘predict-and-provide’ and business as usual whatever the warnings of all manner of concerned professionals and academics.

To give just one example of the fanatic commitment towards increased motorisation: the last decade or so has seen median earners priced out of property ownership in the South East, and massive increase in costs for those renting. There are also all sorts of other well publicised costs of living have risen. Yet, despite there being little chance of these costs significantly declining, and the cost of motoring lower than it was a when New Labour last came to power, the last Opposition transport spokesperson voiced a commitment towards even cheaper motoring!

We are in the grip of a car culture which not only assumes increased car dependency as given, but excludes any significant attempts to have a real alternative. This not just due to the power of the motor manufacturers, or even the oil companies (are they likely to support a world with less fuel burned?) but a deeper cultural issue. Essentially, unless the sense of entitlement assumed by motorists is properly questioned, no real progress on road building or anything else can be expected.

Transport professionals are kidding themselves if they base their arguments on belief systems like cost-benefit analysis which underpin the system we now have. And they are kidding themselves if indeed they think that any form of argument will work which sidesteps fundamental features of car culture. Until they become car culture sceptics, it will be business as usual.

Robert Davis

Chair

Road Danger Reduction Forum

LONDON NW10

 


Categories: Views

The silence over Osborne’s hand-out to motoring

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 22 March, 2014 - 14:31

Something didn’t happen in the wake of the Budget. There was practically no media response to the Chancellor’s continued refusal, yet again, to increase fuel tax duty. Below we put this in the context of continued discrimination against sustainable transport modes and support for a more car-based transport system, as well as showing how the costs of motoring stand in stark contrast to other expenditure.

How much has he given to drivers…?

Cancelling the fuel tax accelerator means not taking some 3p per litre. A very rough calculation means that this represents a loss to the Exchequer of some half a billion pounds annually from car drivers, on top of the amount given in the previous budgets by the Coalition.  Adding on the amount from freight this comes to more like a billion pounds per annum.

My calculation – again very rough – is that this is the equivalent expenditure for the average car driver of some 40 miles of driving. It is the amount that could be easily saved by slightly more fuel efficient driving or cutting out about half a percent of the mileage driven. In other words, were the accelerator to have been kept in place there would be minimal effect on the average motorist, but we still have an additional handout of some £1.5 billion to car drivers since this Government came in.

…as compared to other modes…?

By contrast there is plenty to complain about with regard to public transport. And then we have the spectre of increased spending on road building. And of course, we have the refusal of the Conservatives to specify a budget for cycling, with the Labour party unwilling to give a figure.of how much it might spend to support the recommendations of the Get Britain Cycling enquiry. I think it interesting that the cycling lobby fails to make a connection between the amount recommended (initially about £10 per head of the population rising to £20, to come close to Dutch levels of expenditure) which is some £600 million p.a. – or about the amount the Chancellor has just given to car drivers again.

 

…and how much should drivers pay?

While the Campaign for Better Transport correctly lambast the petrolheads and lorry operators who want even cheaper petrol, they don’t make a case for more expensive petrol. I believe these arguments should be made. Here are some:

 

1.    A. Motoring has got cheaper while other costs have increased.

While fuel prices may have gone up, as the costs of cars has gone down, the cost of motoring as a whole over the last couple of decades has either declined or stayed the same (depending on when the precise benchmark is made). By contrast, real earnings have declined and disposable income has declined:

Average real earnings growth 1979-2013

In contrast, more important areas of expenditure such as housing have significantly increased. So, even if it is judged that the economic priority is to give members of the public a financial boost to increase their spending ability, there are far more worthy areas for state allocation of funds.

 

B.  Conventional economics states that motoring costs far more than the revenue gained from motoring taxation.  Note that this view – that the “external costs” of motoring are far higher than taxation gained from motoring – is based on a conventional view about monetizing the adverse effects of motorisation. There are arguments to suggest that taxation – or rather motorists paying an amount to reflect the damage they cause – could be a lot higher. C. The price of petrol should rise with the use of more fuel-efficient cars. It is common to see modern cars advertised with increasingly high mileage per gallon. Naturally, although reducing car use and replacing it with the more sustainable and healthy modes is desirable and necessary for sustainable transport policy, but since cars will still be used a priority will be for them to be far more fuel-efficient. Raising the costs of petrol will be necessary to encourage this. In addition, if there is to be a take up of more fuel efficient motoring, unless the costs of petrol rise, there will be a decline in revenue raised for the Exchequer.  D. An equitable transport policy requires a rise in petrol prices. Cyclists are used to hearing the myth that motorists have “paid for the road” by paying a “road tax”. Perhaps a necessary way of confronting this myth is to point out that – compared to cyclists – motorists have not paid their way. Compared to cycling and walking, and some forms of public transport, motoring is unfairly cheap.  Yet none of these arguments have made it into discussion in the media. My suggestion is that this means that the prospects of a less car-dependent future are diminished.
Categories: Views

Discover what works to encourage mass cycling - building on genuine success is the path to progress

A View from the Cycle Path - 22 March, 2014 - 10:12
howfarahead_g("right"); Study Tour reminder The April open study tour begins in exactly one month. There are still free places and it's not too late to book, but you will have to be quick. If April doesn't suit you private tours can be organised on almost any date for individuals or groups. We've run cycling infrastructure study tours in the Netherlands since 2006. The tours do not remain the David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/03/discover-what-works-to-encourage-mass.html
Categories: Views

Copenhagen Free Bike Rental

Copenhagenize - 22 March, 2014 - 05:00

I'm Kieran, one of the 4 co-founders of Copenhagen Free Bike Rental. I've also been interning here at Copenhagenize for the past few months. At Copenhagen Free Bike Rental, our goal is to ‘salvage abandoned and broken bicycles and offer them to visitors so they can explore Copenhagen the way it should be done: on two wheels.’ It is partly an attempt to fill the gap left by the closure of the Copenhagen City Bike system, and its unsatisfactory 'GoBike' replacement  and partly a response to the fact that in Copenhagen there are more bikes than people – and thus many unused bikes.
There were 4 of us involved involved in founding the project, and we are all students on the very exciting 4 Cities course. This means we've been travelling around Europe experiencing how cities work (or don't). And we've got a very good flavour of cycling conditions: not because we're particularly mad about cycling itself, but because we like to explore these new cities we keep landing in and a bike is the best way to do it. 
Brussels, the first stop on our course, is really not so good, but Vienna is (slowly, and not without mistakes) getting there. So we were very excited about coming to Copenhagen. We felt like it was the next step of what seemed to be a progression towards some sort of cycling utopia. Which was justified in many ways, because Copenhagen is of course a fantastic city to cycle round. The one problem was that in Vienna, when we had visitors, they could register for a citybike for €1 and pay nothing else, and have a whole network of bikes across the city. But in Copenhagen, there's nothing like that any more.So we found that at the beginning of our academic year, every time someone had a visitor the same question would be asked - 'does anyone have a spare bike?' and the same people, usually Copenhageners, would have a spare one. But often it would come with a caveat that it was broken. Amongst our little group we would have sessions to fix the bikes so they could be borrowed. We saw Copenhagen Free Bike Rental as a way to formalise this network a little, and open it up to more people.The way it works is very simple: you fill in the form on our website, and we'll get back to you if we've got a bike available (sadly we always end up with more requests than we have bikes.) You come to where our bikes are parked, near the City Hall, every day at 6pm, and we give you a bike. You can have it for between 1 and 3 days, and then you bring it back at the same time, same place. Simple. There is absolutely no obligation to donate, but often people do, and this money helps us pay for new parts (the ones we can't find in the street) and locks.
We were delighted that our little scheme has been extremely successful. People love us. They are a bit surprised often as to why we're doing it, and sometimes a little sceptical about whether it is actually free, but once they find out a little more they are very happy. We're providing a little public service. Access to the city is a right, we believe, not a bonus. Copenhagen isn't the cheapest city, but it's got a lot to offer, both in terms of amusement, and also as a shining example of how all cities could be if they focussed more on people than on cars. And obviously, by bike, you can see more of it. We think that's important.We ourselves are all students, and we started off telling  students about this, via a few posts on some student Facebook groups. That's literally all the promotion we've done. So at first, we mainly got students who wanted bikes for visitors, like us. But now, through the myriad miracles of modern communication, word has spread and we get a bit more of a range of people, often tourists visiting and wanting to get around for a few days.
One of the best aspects of Copenhagen Free Bike Rental is how it works on trust. Trusting strangers is very important in society, especially in a cities, where we pass hundreds if not thousands each day. People who are more trusting are happier. We've rented out bikes over 200 times since October, and every single time they have been returned to us. Aside from everything else, we feel this in itself is some sort of small but not insignificant human triumph
One of the questions we always get asked is where we get the bikes: the answer is a combination of donations and of assembling scraps. To start with the latter: one of the first things you notice about Copenhagen is the discarded half-carcasses of long-forgotten bikes. Usually it's just a frame here or a lonesome wheel there, which on their own aren't going to do much except get eventually rusty then swept away. This is the case in cities all over the world but in Copenhagen, where there are more bikes than people, the number of abandoned bikes is extremely high, and the city collects and destroys as many as 15,000 per year. So we collect these scraps, take them to our workshop and put them together into actually functioning bikes (We never take bikes unless they are clearly long-abandoned, unlocked and thoroughly incomplete). We fix them up ourselves, and we also run a number of workshops where people can come and learn a bit about basic bike maintenance, so they don't end up throwing their bike away if it gets a minor fault!

Not all of Copenhagen's unused bikes are on the streets of course, and we actually get a very large number of our bikes from very kind people who have donated them: a lot of students leave Copenhagen without selling their bike and so instead have very kindly have given them to us. We're very DIY and small-scale (we often don't have enough bikes for the demand, sadly), and of course in no way a replacement for a city-wide bikeshare system, but in both providing bikes for free, and getting people to think more about their relationship with bicycles, the city and waste, we think we're doing a little bit of good for Copenhagen. 
We've had interest in our scheme and questions from people from all around the world, and we'd encourage people in other cities to try something similar. Even in cities with fewer abandoned bikes, there will always be people with spares - so give it a go. Feel free to give us an email if you have any questions, and likewise if there is anyone in Copenhagen with an old bike that they don’t need any more, whatever the condition, you are also very welcome to donate it to us. 

Copenhagenize is grateful to Kieran for all his strong contribution during his internship and we are really proud of the amazing project of free bike rental which he set up during his stay in Copenhagen. Quite often, students don't stay really long in the city but they contribute to develop fresh ideas.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Bicycle Design Archeology - Top Ten Details We Want Back

Copenhagenize - 21 March, 2014 - 17:29
Copenhagenize's Top Ten Bicycle Design Details That We Want Back

There is an ocean of fantastic and practical design details from over a century of mainstream bicycle culture. However, many things that used to be completely normal and often standard on bicycles have disappeared off the radar. The reason for it is well-known. As the bicycle as transport was gradually and effectively pushed out of cities as planners continued to make space for cars, the people left riding bicycles were focused on sport and recreation. The "weight wienies" discarded frivilous details faster than a rapidly descending hot-air balloonist. Faster, dude! Lighter, man!

Alas. I decided to go on an archeological dig and dust off the ten design details that I love - and that I wish were standard once again now that the 99% are returning to bicycles in our cities.

There are basic accessories that remain standard in mainstream bicycle cultures like fenders, chainguards, skirtguards and kickstands. They're not included here in the general sense because they never really went away - except in regions where cycling was relegated to only being sport or recreation, of course.

Here's the Top 10. Any additions I haven't thought of?

Up top is the Back Rack Hook is one of the simplest design details imaginable. For decades, back racks in many countries had a simple bit of metal welded on which allowed bicycle users to carry briefcases. I haven't seen many of these in other countries, except in vintage photos and catalogues. They live on in Denmark, however, where many brands still include them as standard on the back racks. With the Rise of the Laptop, you'd think this would be the first detail to be brought back.


Sure, almost every bicycle in Denmark and the Netherlands and all mainstream bicycle cities have chainguards. Duh. It's the most obvious addition to a bicycle along with fenders. Riding without one is like skating without blades. The style of chainguards, however, has taken a nose-dive. Back in the day, every bicycle brand with respect for itself put some serious love into designing their chainguards.

At top right is my 1950s Swedish Crescent, with the brand carved into the chainguard and at bottom right, another Swedish brand, Hermes, did the same. Used to be a normal thing. Raleigh in Denmark have revived the art form at top left on their newer bikes. And for total chainguard bling, check out these French beauties over at the Velo Orange blog.

My Crescent bicycle has a handle on the tube which is wonderfully balanced and makes lifting up the bike easy as pie. Especially vintage Swedish bikes of various brands have this handle, but this was a design detail that was mainstream for a long time. If you didn't have one welded to the frame (you poor thing), you could buy an attachable one like at top right, spotted on a 1920s bicycle in Ferrara, Italy.

I don't use mine that often, but I do on occasion and love it every time I do. Brilliant thinking.

Ah, the dynamo. Clunky, awkward but nonetheless charming. Most of the ones you see are vintage these days but they are still being made - like on the new bike at top right. I lament the fading dynamo from a purely aesthetic point of view. A tiny motor that leaned against your wheel and made a reassuring whizzing sound while you pedalled. Not to mention the fact that you could see your effort paying off in the form of a flickering beam of light.

The dynamo, I'm afraid, will be consigned to the bicycle museum. Especially now that most bikes, in Denmark at least, come with the magnetic Reelights as standard. So many people have these that autumn "remember your lights" campaigns have been dropped in Denmark.

Skirtguards live on and show no sign of going anywhere. Another simple but practical accessory that is a must for city living. The word "skirtguard" is an English-language invention. In Danish they're called "Coat Protectors" because everyone wears coats and most were long, fine coats back in the day.

Like with chainguards, many skirtguard designs leave nothing to be desired. Crocheted skirtguards were all the rage in many countries a century ago. I've seen them in bicycle museums in many countries. Rubber or elastic skirtguards like at bottom left are still cheap and accessible in Italy and Brazil, among other countries. Newer versions like at top left are widely available on the market. But there used to be so much more style out there. Bring it back.

These simple rubber attachments to your handlebar served a simple purpose. They protected your handlebar and the wall when you leaned your bicycle up against it when parking. I've only ever seen them in Italy, but I'd be interested to hear if people in other countries see them/have seen them.

Maybe this design detail is less relevant now that most bicycles have kickstands but hey... at some point in history someone designed this little thing and had it produced. Practical, simple, elegant.

The safety nannies who whine about cyclists listening to music or checking their smartphones (but who seem less concerned about motorists doing it) will absolutely HATE these. Newspaper holders were popular for many decades in many countries. At bottom left the design is perfect for carrying your daily paper on your bicycle. The design at top left, however, takes it to the next level. I bought this one in Italy. You can carry your paper but you can also fold it to the article you want and read it whilst cycling. That's what it's designed for. I actually saw a gentleman doing this in Ferrara but unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me.

A perfectly normal activity back in the day. At top right is a six day race rider going through the motions at night, reading the paper as he goes. I found that photo in the archives here in Copenhagen. If you're going to check the sports results or read the news while cycling along, keep an eye out for the sign I spotted in the Netherlands, at bottom right.

Once standard all over the place, I've only seen the humble hub brush live on here in Copenhagen - where you can still buy them easily - and sometimes in the Netherlands. It just sits there silently, spinning around your hubs as you ride. Keeping them free of grease and grime.

Ah, the simplicity. The practicality. Perfect.

The only real competition for the beauty of early bicycle posters is the art form known as head badges. My goodness, there are thousands of them out there from the past 125 years and most of them are absolutely lovely. Every bike brand worth their salt would put effort into their logo and transfer that to the head badge.

From the simple "H" at top right on a 1930s Hamlet bike in my back courtyard to the engraved details of head badges like the ones from Husqvarna and Wirma at top left. Be still my design heart.

The collection at bottom left are all from Latvia alone.

We're seeing some design love being put back into head badges these days, fortunately. At bottom right, Danish von Backhaus have upped the ante by sticking one between the frame tubing. At bottom right is an attachable, funky headbadge from a Danish designer. I recall writing about ANT Bikes in the States a few years ago and their head badge still sticks out in my mind.

Bells are still around and not going anywhere. Again, again, again, I lament the vintage design details of old bells. Craftsmanship and pride and design process were put into them. Now they rock out of China in containers, by and large. With THAT said, there are at least many designs on the market nowadays. Something to fit every taste and inclination. But not that many made from solid metal with a commanding dring dring, ding dong or ding anymore.

Give me a Peerless, at bottom, for christmas any year.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Friday throwback: cycling through snow, retro Norwegian style

ibikelondon - 21 March, 2014 - 08:30



It's time for another Friday Throwback - our ongoing series of posts looking at images of cyclists from The Commons on Flickr.  This week we're looking at the work of adventurous photographer Anders Beer Wilse, from Norway.  As seen in the photograph above, Wilse used his bicycle to traverse the Norwegian landscape, loaded up with 10kg plate cameras and other equipment, dressed in boots and a tweed suit.  It was in this way that Wilse traveled to his photographic assignments, even taking his bicycle as far north as Svalbard, inside the arctic circle.

Wilse was a handsome, daring, somewhat buccaneer turn of the century type; he decided to become a sailor, emigrated to the United States, and picked himself up a wife there before returning with her to Norway.  He photographed every aspect of Norse life and society (including Ibsen and Greig on their deathbeds) and his archives now reside with the National Library of Norway.

In the hand-coloured images below, the women of the mountainous region of Setesdal are seen cycling to church in their Sunday best, whilst in the photo below a cyclist gets stuck behind a car on an alpine pass that has been cleared of snow.





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Categories: Views

New cycling stories

Thinking about Cycling - 20 March, 2014 - 13:11

The world is missing our wisdom.

In your work for cycling, do you sometimes attend meetings? If so, have you ever sat through a meeting with the growing, gnawing feeling you’re talking at cross purposes with the other people present? Have you ever left a meeting utterly dejected, feeling you might as well give up because ‘people just don’t get it’?

Meetings about cycling inevitably involve different agendas and compromise. But is our struggle to make cycling mainstream so difficult because we – it’s strongest advocates – still haven’t learned how to speak about it? Are we yet to find our voice? If so, other people, understandably, would struggle to hear it. So perhaps ‘people don’t get it’ because we’ve yet to tell them?

Partly, we’ve inherited a problem. Cycling advocacy for the past half-century has been on the back foot, so busy complaining, criticising and protesting it never paused to build – let alone proselytize – progressive visions of an alternative society with the bicycle at its heart. Yet isn’t that what we must do if we’re to convince others that cycling matters?

Why don’t we have compelling visions with which to convince ourselves and others of cycling’s value? Partly, as I’ve said, because our tendency has been reactive, not pro-active. But partly also, cycling advocacy has become pragmatic, maybe too pragmatic. We have learned how to fit cycling into other agendas rather than develop agendas of our own. We try particularly to sell cycling in ways most likely to resonate with institutional agendas – ‘cycling cuts congestion, pollution and carbon emissions’; ‘cycling increases health and fitness, and reduces obesity’. We try to make cycling make sense to others, but at what cost?

We advocate for cycling despite never having stopped to build compelling cycling visions. Then when we argue for cycling we get this unsettling feeling that ‘other people don’t get it’. That’s because their ambitions for cycling don’t match the visions we have, but which we have repressed and can’t express.

We have jumbles of ideas, impulses and convictions around cycling’s worth. But we lack the confidence to develop these jumbles into coherent visions, because they’re about bicycles, and bicycles don’t count. Personal and collective development of mass cycling visions is immature because we have internalised the cycling shame of the last half-century. This shame got forked on bicycles as the car became everyman’s vehicle (and gradually every woman’s too). So now we are embarrassed to say we believe in bikes, believe in society re-organised away from cars and towards bikes. As many people today are embarrassed to think of themselves as people who might cycle, we are embarrassed to advocate boldly for their cycling.

We work towards visions we can’t articulate, and we are shy in sharing our ambitions for cycling. Our private thoughts don’t find public expression; they don’t cohere into comprehensible speech. We are silenced. And so the world misses our wisdom. How powerful is the dominant ideology that it stops us articulating even to ourselves, let alone asking for, what it is we really want! This our silence contributes to cycling’s continued repression.

So? So we need to develop our visions and move beyond the shame of speaking them. Find our voice. Of course we must compromise – to make cycling big requires working with others, and that inevitably entails compromise. But unless they know what we really stand for, those others can’t know by how much we’re compromising.

We believe bikes should replace cars. We think half of all journeys could easily be made by bike. We see a bicycle-based society as better than a car-based one. We look forward to the time when bicycles proliferate as cars disappear and die. People won’t know these things unless we tell them, so we should tell them. We need to make our stories, to help make sense of the changes we’re calling for.

Just one example – the conversion of two lanes of a dual-carriageway’s four into top-notch space for cycling. Howls of protest, obviously. But the prospects of such change have to be higher the more people see them as forming part of an ongoing societal project to re-design our cities away from cars towards bicycles. The more people can see and understand the bigger picture, the more supportive they will be. That’s why we need vision, narrative and discourse elucidating change, helping people make sense of, rather than react against, it.

Airing these things will facilitate not sabotage progress. It’ll transform cycling from ‘a special interest’ into a public good. It’ll break us free from being seen as ‘a self-interested culture of cranks and hobbyists’. And others will finally see what it is we’re going on about – ‘they’ll get it’. And at the very least, if still too little changes, politicians and policy-makers will be able to see that – from our perspectives –not nearly enough is being done, and that’s why we’re angry and keep demanding and expecting more.

Others lack visions for cycling because we’ve not even tried to sell them ours. Until we do, cycling will keep getting incorporated – where it gets incorporated at all – in trivial, tokenistic ways – in ways that make sense to those without visions of mass cycling. They’ll keep giving cycling at most a little because they have learnt and assume that a little is enough. And we as advocates will continue to feel that cycling’s being sold seriously short.

If you want a society based on cycling, start talking about a society based on cycling. Like everything else, the way to develop, refine and sell our cycling visions is to practise – and as we get better at telling the new cycling stories, others are more likely to hear, believe and start telling them too.


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