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The Greatest Urban Experiment Right Now

2 July, 2014 - 11:29

Right this minute, right here in Copenhagen, what might be the greatest urban transport experiment in the world is well underway. It wasn't planned but it's working handsomely.

Above is our simple traffic planning guide for liveable cities. Make cycling, walking and public transport the fastest way from A to B and make driving a pain in the ass and you have basically the most effective way to change the mobility paradigm for the better. It's that simple. All the campaigns for "ride a bike - it's good for you/it's green/it's healthy" are a complete waste of money if you don't follow the guide. This presupposes protected infrastructure for cycling, of course.

Right now in the City of Copenhagen, a new Metro Ring is under construction. We're not fans of the Metro Ring. A city this size doesn't need a metro - it needs tramways like so many other cities in Europe. We don't advocate shoving citizens underground. We want them on street level on foot, on bicycle and in trams. The Metro expansion is a fantastic waste of money. It is projected that cycling levels will fall by around 3% when it's done. Our colleagues around Europe - especially the Dutch - basically point and laugh when I tell them that we have bus routes with 50,000 passengers a day and the City is building a Metro instead of tramways.

The Metro is already falsely advertising the travel times. Advertising station to station, but not the first and last mile to and from the station. We did our own travel time survey using real world scenarios and the bike usually beats the Metro in Copenhagen.

Fine. We don't like the Metro but damn, right now, we love the Metro construction. The City is following the traffic planning guide for liveable cities to the letter. Copenhagen has 17 Metro stations under construction and this is having a massive effect on mobility patterns in the city. Driving is a pain in the ass.

What has happened?

Cycling levels have stagnated for years in Copenhagen. Hovering between 35% and 38%. Falling from 37% to 35% after intense helmet promotion.

Now there are new numbers from the Danish Technical University's Travel Survey.

Between 2012 and 2013, the modal share for bicycles (people arriving at work or education in the City of Copenhagen) exploded from 36% to 41%.

Forty-one percent. A leap of 5%.

The car's modal share fell from 27% to 24%.

But wait, there's more. The average trip length in Copenhagen rose 35% from 3.2 km to 4.2 km between 2012 and 2013. That means that the oft-quoted statistic about how Copenhageners cycle 1.2 million km a day need to be upgraded to 2,006,313 km per day.

Since 1990, by the way, the number of cyclists has risen 70% in Copenhagen. The number of car trips into the city centre has fallen from 350,000 to 260,000.

Okay, okay. But what does it all MEAN? When the results of the travel survey came out, journalists were scrambling for answers. Two researchers at DTU were "surprised". They were quoted in the Danish press as saying things like, "uh... the City's new bridges and traffic calming on certain streets seem to have worked. Giving cyclists carrots encourage cycling."

The detail they forgot was that the new cycling bridges aren't finished yet, nor is the traffic calming on Amagerbrogade. The Nørrebrogade stretch is from 2008. Cycling rose on that street by 15% but that was BEFORE 2012. Duh. Bascially, there hasn't been much carrot dangling in this city for a few years. So forget about THAT hastily thunk up theory. Things are happening NOW, in 2013 and 2014, sure, but that has nothing to do with the data from 2012 to 2013. Double Duh.

What HAS happened is that 17 huge construction sites fell out of the sky all at once. Not something that happens every day. In addition, most of central Copenhagen - between 2012 and 2013 - was under further construction because of the upgrading of district heating pipes under many streets that had to be ripped up.

Look at the guide at the top again. THAT is what has happened. Driving was rendered incredibly difficult. Copenhageners, being rational homo sapiens, chose other transport forms. Public transport has increased, too, but the bicycle is clearly the chariot of choice. It's no surprise at all why cycling is booming.

What is happening right now is a fantastic urban experiement. So much data and experience is and will become available.

Mark my words, however. When the Metro construction is finished in 2018... probably 2019... we will see a sharp drop in cycling levels, back to the standard levels we plateaued with for the past few years. You read it here first.

Unless, of course, the City of Copenhagen has the cajones to embrace this experiment and use it to finally make The Leap - as described by author Chris Turner - into the future of our city. Expanding and widening the cycle tracks. Reallocating space from falling car traffic to bicycles and public transport. The new BRT route in Copenhagen is a good step. Let's see how much farther we can go. Designing cities instead of engineering them. The citizens have shown us that they will be on our side if we do the right thing.

Otherwise, this rich petri dish experiment will just rot and be forgotten.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

First users of the elevated bicycle track of Copenhagen

18 June, 2014 - 05:00


The long-due first elevated cycle track of Copenhagen is not finished yet but already used and appreciated by bicycle users... and pedestrians.

The new bicycle infrastructure named "the snake" is still under construction but every day, when workers are gone, users find a way to test it and most of all to benefit from the shortcut to reach their destination. They avoid doing a detour all around the boring shopping mall. Actually, due to the works, the former space used by the cyclists under the new bridge is closed. This is clearly confirming the need for this almost-fixed missing link between Bryggebroen and Dybbølsbro. Users are impatient to get back their shortcut, blocked during the works.
Generally speaking, developing a good network for the cyclists is a lot about creating the relevant shortcuts thought the city. In general, Danes respect the road signs, but when it comes to forcing them to make a more than 800 m. detour on their daily commute for over 2 months, the bicycle users disagree.



After a first ride on the newly orange surface, I can say that cycling on this infrastructure is a new kind of urban experience. Coming from Dybbølsbro after turning right and then waving through the buildings, the view opens up on the Copenhagen harbor: an urban landscape made up of glass, water and sun reflections.

We're looking forward to getting this bridge definitely open and to see how the Municipality will rearranged the connections around this infrastructure. While waiting for it, you can have a look at the Copenhagenize's suggestions.



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

Bike-Train-Bike - Connecting Bicycles and Trains in Europe

17 June, 2014 - 08:10

Copenhagenize Design Co.'s team, all the partnersinvolved in BiTiBi - Bike-Train-Bike – and the European Commission are glad to launch today our new EU project.
BiTiBi is an EU-funded, three year project to promote the intermodal use of bicycles and public transit in urban commuting throughout Europe. Indeed, the future of urban mobility is a return to a tried and tested combination of bicycles and trains. Combining the two most energy efficient modes of transportation, the bicycle and the train, provides a seamless door-to-door transport connection. The project aims at improving the livability of European cities and improving the energy efficiency of our transport.
It is not realistic to expect everyone to bicycle 15km to and from the office, but to cycle a few kilometers each way and hop on the train for the bulk of the trip could dramatically provide countless economic, social and environmental benefits for urban regions. From 2014 to 2017, BiTiBi will work with partner municipalities, train operators, bike share schemes and other actors involved in achieving a more energy efficient commute throughout several European cities.
Innovative pilot projects will be implemented in the regions of Barcelona, Milan, Liverpool and in Belgium with the help of ten partners, in order to inspire all European cities to consider a modern, multimodal approach to transport.
In the Netherlands, the OV-fiets public bike system is available at the train stations. It will be used as the model inspiring the development of the pilots in the other cities. Indeed, BiTiBi services will use the Dutch model in general as inspiration in promoting the bike-train-bike modal merger over cars and the combination of cars and trains. The project aims to solve the typical issues such as lack of parking for bikes at stations; no last mile solution when taking the train; ineffective fare integration or worse, none at all; bike services not corresponding to user needs; no bicycle friendly access to train stations; lack of knowledge about the available services and cultural barriers to use a train-bike-train combination.
In cities of Spain, England, Italy and Belgium commuters will find in the coming years an efficient way to reach every morning the train station and then their final destination.

In three years, in the scope of the pilots, safe and convenient bike parking facilities at train stations will be implemented, public bikes and integrate payment system of bike and rail services will be provided. During all these years, partners will communication the advantages for combining bicycles and trains and share the results of these intermodal experiences.
You will be able to follow all the news concerning BiTiBi on the dedicated website. Moreover, the Facebook page /biketrainbike– and the Twitter @biketrainbikewill allow to keep in touch with the newly launched project.
Discover the BiTiBi Vimeo channel and the Instagram #BiTiBi.
Please find on the website, the presentation of BiTiBi in Catalan, Dutch, English, French, Italian, and Spanish.We're looking forward to sharing with you all along the three years interesting news about how Europe in moving forward regarding combining bike and train.

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

Explaining the Bi-directional Cycle Track Folly

3 June, 2014 - 14:41


If this was 2007, I'd expect some confusion and misinterpretation regarding Best Practice for bicycle infrastructure. It was a brave, new world back then. This blog was a lone voice in the wilderness regarding bicycles as transport in cities, with only testosterone-driven, frothing at the mouth sports and recreational cycling blogs for company in the woods. Now, there is a chorus and the voices are getting louder and more harmonious day by day.

Many, many people know better now. Knowledge has spread and the message is more unified.

One thing that baffles me, however, is why on-street, bi-directional cycle tracks are actually being promoted and implemented.

For clarity, when I saw "on-street, bi-directional" I mean the creation of one lane for bicycles separated by a line, allowing for two-way traffic - on city streets. I am not referring to a two-way path through a park or other areas free of motorised vehicles.

In Denmark, the on-street, bi-directional facility was removed from Best Practice for bicycle infrastructure over two decades ago. That in itself might be an alarm bell to anyone paying attention. These two way cycle tracks were found to be more dangerous than one-way cycle tracks on each side of the roadway. There is a certain paradigm in cities... I'm not saying it's GOOD, but it's there. Traffic users all know which way to look when moving about the city. Having bicycles coming from two directions at once was an inferior design.

This was in an established bicycle culture, too. The thought of putting such cycle tracks into cities that are only now putting the bicycles back - cities populated by citizens who aren't use to bicycle traffic makes my toes curl.

There are bi-directional cycle tracks in Copenhagen. They are through parks and down greenways, separated from motorised traffic, and on occasion they are on streets with no cross streets on one side. At all times they are placed where they actually make sense, to eliminate the risk of collision with cars and trucks. Cycle tracks are like sidewalks... you put them on either side of the street, except you keep them one way.

Sure, Denmark has developed an incredibly uniform design for bicycle infrastructure, with only four types of infrastructure for bicycles that creates uniformity, easy wayfinding and, most importantly, optimal safety.

You hear the same excuses in emerging bicycle nations and cities... "But I saw them in the Netherlands?!"

Yes, you might have. But I asked Theo Zeegers at the Dutch national cycling organisation, Fietsersbond, about this issue and he said,

"Bi-directional cycle tracks have a much higher risk to the cyclists than two, one-directional ones. The difference on crossings is about a factor 2. So, especially in areas with lots of crossings (ie. builtup areas), one-directional lanes are preferred. Not all municipalities get this message, however."

Fortunately, the Dutch are used to a constant flow of cycling. They're not new at this. They also have space issues in many of their small city centres that few other cities on the planet have. The bi-directional tracks you may see there are sub-optimal solutions.

In the recently published OECD report about Cycling Health and Safety you can read much of the same. Bi-directional are not recommended for on-street placement. One way cycle tracks on either side are the Best Practice that should be chosen.

It's really not a newsflash all this.

Imagine removing a sidewalk on one side of the street and forcing pedestrians to share a narrow sidewalk on only one side of the street. You wouldn't do that to pedestrians (sure, stupid examples exist but hey) so why on earth would you do it to cyclists?

The bi-directional cycle tracks we see in emerging bicycle cities can't possibly be put there by people who know what they're doing or who understand the needs of bicycle users or who really want cycling to boom. You can also see that in the width that many of them have. Incredibly narrow, making passing oncoming cyclists a lip-biting experience and making passing cyclists heading in the same direction a bit too hair-raising.

Another excuse oft heard is, "Well... it's better than nothing" - often spoken in a defensive tone. It is a flawed argument, lacking vision, commitment and experience.

This isn't about building stuff out of asphalt. We are planting seeds in the hopes that lush gardens will grow. We have the seeds we need. They are fertile, natural and ready to grow with minimal maintenence. Instead, people are choosing bags of GMO seeds from traffic planning's Wal-Mart. Limited fertility, modified for the simple needs of visionless gardeners. Potted plants instead of gardens.

If someone advocates infrastructure like this and actually believes it is good, they probably shouldn't be advocating bicycle infrastructure.
Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Travelling Denmark on the Copenhagenize Bullitt

23 May, 2014 - 09:08

Copenhagenize über-intern, Dennis, rocking the Bullitt

At Copenhagenize Design Company we usually stick to urban bicycling, but some people, like our German intern, Dennis, like to take the bike off-road and get outside the city. Dennis decided to use the Easter holiday to discover Denmark together with his friend Enikö from Hungary. Now, you might be thinking, “Denmark?! That’s just Copenhagen and the rest is boring countryside.” But actually, the rest of the country has quite a lot to offer. And it is perfectly easy to cycle wherever you need to go. You just follow the signs from the national cycling routes (Denmark was the first country in the world to develop a national route system for bicycles, thanks to this man. 10,000+ km in all) and they will take you to the loveliest places.

Usually the routes follow calm country roads and the state is investing a lot of money to build first class bicycling infrastructure on the stretches which are a bit busier. Sometimes you still have to share the road with cars, but they are getting there.

When you travel long distances by bike you always have the problem of carrying capacity. A typical bike can only carry so much. But this becomes less of a problem if you use the Copenhagenize Bullitt. It is easy to carry a tent, sleeping bags and other stuff on the cargo bed. The rest went into the bicycle bags of Dennis’ mountain bike. Speaking of mountain bikes, you thought Denmark was flat, didn’t you? Well, it’s not. It has plenty of nasty hills. It is definitely not the Alps, but not flat like the Netherlands either. In the Danish national anthem, they sing about their hills and valleys. Anyway, if you don’t plan to do a 150km a day, it shouldn’t be an issue for anyone.



The yellow line on the map marks the route these two took – in total about 300km over the course of four days. The red dots mark the points where they set up overnight camps. Wild camping is not allowed in Denmark like in Sweden or Norway, but there are more than 900 natural camping sites throughout the country.  And that’s another amazing thing about Denmark: On those campsites you can typically find wooden shelters to pitch your tent in.

They protect you from the (usually strong) wind and the low temperatures at night.  And the best thing is that they are normally free of charge. Sometimes you have to pay a couple of Danish Kroner if you want to use the shower, but that’s it. Dennis and Enikö paid in total 50 Kroner for all three nights. That’s what we call a cheap holiday. But just because the lodging is cheap doesn’t mean it isn’t absolutely lovely. The first shelter was in the backyards of Kirsten and Torben Andersen’s farm (called Damgården) in Rødvig. Very nice people. And they raise all kinds of animals on their farm: Deer, rabbits, cats, goats… Really cool to wake up in the morning and enjoy the view over the beautiful farm and the animals.



On the way they stopped at some beautiful old villages. One of them is called Strøby. The fully loaded Bullitt looks pretty nice in front of this old church, don't you think?



Another amazing spot on the first day was Stevns Klint (Stevns Cliff). A beautiful place with a medieval church just on the top of the steep cliffs. Have you ever seen a church with a balcony just over the sea? Well here is is.



On the second day they cycled from Rødvig to Møns Klint. It was a long way with plenty of hills, especially on the island of Møn. The Bullitt has a great built in leg rest for the downhill stretches.



It was a great day through a beautiful landscape, running mostly along the coast. Quite spectacular is the way over the old bridge, which connects the island of Sjaelland, where Copenhagen is also located, with the island of Møn. The bridge is called Dronning Alexandrines Bro and can be accessed by bike.



It is truly amazing to wake up in the morning, hearing the rough sound of the sea and seeing the beautiful spring forest just outside the tent.

In the evening they finally arrived at Møns Klint, which is home to Denmark's highest cliffs. The bright chalk cliffs are just beautiful and there are shelters just on top of them. There is also a fireplace and a tap. Everything you need for a nice camp site.

On the third day Dennis and his friend headed back towards Copenhagen again. But not without having a closer look at the dramatic landscape of the island Møn. It is easy to navigate because you just need to follow the signs of the national bicycle route 9.


Along the route you’ll find a lot of surprises. Many times farmers sell their homemade bread, juice or marmalade. It is offered in front of the house and based on trust. So you just take as much as you want and leave you money in a little cash box.



And then there are the amazing farm house castles. Huge mansions with a long history. They just pop up suddenly when you don’t expect it.

You always think ”wow, ANOTHER castle!!”.



On the way back the two stopped at one last campsite in a nature reserve called Præstø Fjord. The new shelters are free and located just at the Fjord.


Thanks Denmark, you truly surprised us!Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Copenhagenize's New Bike Racks from Veksø

8 May, 2014 - 11:08

We recently moved in our new offices on Paper Island (Papirøen) on the harbour in Copenhagen. A fantastic place to work, populated by wonderful, creative people.

There was one little detail missing. You can't very well be a fancy, blah blah blah urban design company like Copenhagenize Design Co. and NOT have bicycle parking outside your offices. It was wrong, so very wrong. What to do?


Ole, from Purpose Makers and Cycling Without Age / Cykling uden alder, lending a hand.

Simple really. You call Veksø. A legendary Danish company that started in the 1950s, producing bike racks for the Danish schools. A company that has made literally hundreds of thousands of bike racks over more than 60 years. Then they branched out into other urban furniture like covered racks and busstops, digital bike counters, footrests like the ones in Copenhagen, air pumps and tilted garbage cans for cyclists.

All of it in the kind of aesthetic design you'd expect from a Danish company with the slogan "Enriching Urban Life".

If you stood on a random, busy street in Copenhagen and removed the Veksø products, you'd be hard-pressed to find your busstop, throw away your rubbish or park your bicycle.

Check out Veksø's online catalogue right here: Enriching Urban Life


Testing the racks out and finding the right placement width.

Veksø came all the way from Jutland - Fredericia - to deliver our racks. Thanks!

We put the racks where people were parking their bikes anyway. Right by the entrance. Useless to place them anywhere else.

Paper Island's "Mr Clean" came past when we were placing the racks. He grabbed a broom and said, spontaneously, "shouldn't I sweep now that it looks so nice?" Yes, please and thank you!

And thanks to Veksø for helping us bling up our parking.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Norwegian Share the Road Campaign Films

8 May, 2014 - 08:47

"70% of cyclists have experienced aggressive behaviour from motorists. We tested the same behaviour in a supermarket."
Text at end: "Cyclists and motorists have equal rights on the road"

First, a huge disclaimer. These ads were commissioned by the Norwegian Road Directorate - Statens Vegvesen. An organisation so jurassic in their transport mentality that they have to serve lunch outside every day because it will fossilise the moment it enters the building. An organisation that, despite their proximity to Denmark and Sweden, refuse to accept curb-separated cycle tracks in their "design" guide for bicycle infrastructure. An organisation that is so rooted in a last century ideology about traffic that the Transport Ministry in previous Norwegian government got so tired of hearing the same car-centric rhetoric that they commissioned a report about increasing cycling from other companies. When the government is tired of listening you, you know you have issues. An organisation with an employee who responds to a question at a conference earlier this year about why cycle tracks like in Denmark and the Netherlands aren't standard design by saying, "We can't just import all sorts of foreign ideas..." An organisation in one of the only countries in Europe with a falling cycling level, that has failed to - or refuses to - see that "sharing the road" is not something that actually gets people onto bicycles.

Also, Most campaigns from them are about sport/recreation cyclists, not people riding to work or school in a city. Grain of salt, please.

So. Baseline. Welcome to it.

With all THAT said, they hire a proper communications firm to communicate for them, which is good. They have obscene amounts of oil money, so nice that they use some of it on professional communication.

Let's forget for a moment that they are dinosaurs, because you'll probably get a kick out of these four films. In the

Text at beginning: "Many motorists think that have exclusive rights to the road. We tested the same behaviour in an elevator"
Text at end: "Cyclists and motorists have equal rights on the road"


"27% of motorists have experienced that cyclists have actively blocked their way"
(This is obviously sporty cyclists out doing exercise, not you and me riding to work)


"20% of cyclists have been forced off the road by motorists"


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

Do Copenhagen Police Make it Up As They Go Along?

25 April, 2014 - 20:36
You know you live in a a car-centric city when it's not allowed for bicycle users to turn right on red. Despite the fact that it's legal in many European cities in France, Belgium and be tested in many others, like Basel. Despite the fact that it is one of the most obvious things to implement to encourage cycling and keep bicycle users safe.

A French friend new to Copenhagen had seen that a few Copenhageners turned right on red - only a small number, of course, as we've figured out - but one day in April he was stopped by Torben. Torben is a civil servant - a policeman - and that day he was out trying to meet the quotas necessary to please his boss.

Bicycle users are the low-hanging fruit for such situations. Going after motorists is time-consuming and tiring. Just stand at the usual spots and hand out fines for minor infractions - many of which that don't have a place in the law books in a modern city.

So Torben was just doing his job, as dictated by his superiors. It isn't known whether Torben was one of the many police officers who have publicly criticized the fact that they are forced to hand out traffic tickets to meet quotas.

Torben, however, seems to have some issues with understanding the basic rules about cycling. Fine, turning right on red isn't allowed at the intersection in question - Store Kongensgade/Gothersgade - so stopping my friend Romain is fair enough. A newcomer to Copenhagen - from a city where right turns on red for bicycle users is allowed at a number of intersections - could be forgiven for not knowing that Copenhagen hasn't yet removed this archaeic law. You'd think some respect and flexibility for foreigners navigating the city would be in its place, especially since Romain rolled calmly around the corner without bothering any pedestrians or other traffic users.

Torben informed Romain that his bicycle is required to have two brakes. The coaster brake on its own wasn't enough. Again, how are visitors supposed to know that Denmark has many obscure laws like this? Flexibility for visitors, please. You'll still make your quotas if you put your mind to it, Torben.

Then it all got a bit strange. Torben informed our visitor that his bicycle was also required to have magnetic lights and fenders. That it was illegal to ride it in Copenhagen. Magnetic lights are well-known in Denmark, but how on earth should a Frenchman have heard of them? And fenders? It's a no-brainer that fenders make sense for city cycling, sure, but you know what? It is not required by any law that a bicycle be equipped with magnetic lights (it was also broad daylight) or fenders.

The fine ($200) only covered the right turn on red but it left Romain very confused.

Romain emailed me to ask about these bizarre claims by Torben and I explained it to him. I also explained that he join the Cykelrazzia Facebook group in order to coordinate with almost 2000 other bicycle users in Copenhagen about the placement of the police's quota traps each day.

Can somebody tell our dear civil servant Torben the facts? And make sure his colleagues are in the same loop?

It's no secret that the Copenhagen Police are among the most bicycle unfriendly in Europe, but when it gets this silly, it doesn't help anyone.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

The New Question for 21st Century Cities

22 April, 2014 - 13:18

It's all so simple if we want it to be. For almost a century we have been asking the same question in our cities.

"How many cars can we move down a street?"

It's time to change the question.

If you ask "How many PEOPLE can we move down a street?", the answer becomes much more modern and visionary. And simple. Oh, and cheaper.

When I travel with my Bicycle Urbanism by Design keynote, I often step on the toes of traffic engineers all around the world. Not all of them, however. I am always approached by engineers who are grateful that someone is questioning the unchanged nature of traffic engineering and the unmerited emphasis placed on it. I find it brilliant that individual traffic engineers in six different nations have all said the same thing to me: "We're problem solvers. But we're only ever asked to solve the same problem."

This graphic is inspired by the wonderful conversations I've had around the world about my keynote. How many people we can move down the street is the New Question for liveability and transport in The Life-Sized City.

With urbanisation on the rapid rise, we need to think big. Think modern. We need to travel Back to the Future for the solutions that will serve our growing populations best. Cycle tracks. Trams. Wider sidewalks. It's all right there for the taking if we dare to take it.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Bicycle-Friendly Cobblestones

19 April, 2014 - 21:51

Ole Kassow from Purpose Makers - and brainchild behind the Cycling Without Age movement - gave us this great shot from a street in the Østerbro neighbourhood of Copenhagen. The City has a new thing they're doing. Replacing the old, bumpy cobblestones on certain streets with smooth ones. Just a strip, like down the middle on this one-way street - to make it a smoother ride for bicycle users. The city keeps a number of streets cobblestoned because of aesthetics and historical reasons. History can be a bumpy ride, though.

We like how the new cobblestones are elegantly woven into the existing ones.

On a street in the centre of Copenhagen, there are now smoother strips along the curbs for bicycle users to use. Above is a delegation from the City of Groningen, who we took on a Bicycle Urbanism tour of the city a few weeks ago. Apart from their fascination with the curb-separated cycle tracks (they filmed them in order to convince their engineers that they work... yes, they're from Groningen), these smooth cobblestone strips were an object of fascination and I had to drag them away in order to get to lunch in time.

I love how even established bicycle cities can continued to be inspired by each other. There is no complete bicycle city - yet.

Have a look at the street in the top photo again. It is a one way street but it's clear that the Arrogance of Space exists even in Copenhagen. Stupidly wide street and that means the sidewalks look like this. Cars are prioritised still - at the expense of the pedestrians and bicycle users and basically everyone in the city. And this in a neighbourhood with only just over 20% car ownership.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Films from Copenhagen in 1923, 1932, 1937, 1950s

18 April, 2014 - 21:39

Copenhagen. 1932. Thanks to @laxbikeguy (James) on Twitter for the link.
"Cyclists in hundreds - thousands (millions it seemed to our cameraman!) throng the City of Copenhagen."


Here is Copenhagen in 1937.


Copenhagen in the 1950s.


Copenhagen in 1923.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

The World's Best Behaved Cyclists are in Copenhagen

16 April, 2014 - 12:25

As I highlight in this TED x Zurich talk of mine about Bicycle Culture by Design, Copenhagen has the world's best behaved cyclists. Bar none. I've cycled in close to 100 cities around the world and I've never seen anything that comes close.

Citizens in any city do not - contrary to popular perception - wander around all day looking for laws to break.

Wherever you happen to be reading this from, you're probably aware of the general perception of "those damned cyclists". Even here in Copenhagen, the perception persists, not least from the Copenhagen Police and their one-man wrecking crew. They - and he - continue to spread personal perceptions about cycling citizens. 52% of the citizens in Copenhagen ride each day and most of the others have bikes that they use regularly. We are dealing with basically the entire population of a European city. The police are out of their league when it comes to behaviour perception.

This perception is as old as the bicycle itself. One of Denmark's most loved satirists and cartoonists Storm P. (Robert Storm Petersen), a daily bicycle user, highlighted with great Danish irony the silliness of such perceptions in his piece A New Traffic Etiquette for Cyclists - in 1934. Things haven't changed. The whining minority still whines about the cycling majority. A sign that we need to change the paradigm of planning to prioritise intelligent forms of transport, instead of merely accepting the car-centric status quo that we inherited from a previous century.

Behaviour hasn't changed for over 100 years - and won't be changing anytime soon. Here's my baseline: We can't very well expect bicycle users to adhere to a traffic culture and traffic rules engineered to serve the automobile, now can we? It is like expecting badminton players to use the rules of squash.

Every single moment of every single day, the citizens of our cities are communicating with us. They are sending messages about the urban space they inhabit and it is of utmost importance that we listen to every communication. Unfortunately, planning and engineering are often too self-absorbed and arrogant to answer the calls of the citizens.

Desire Lines are democracy in action and democracy in motion. They are, however, more than merely the mobility patterns of our citizens. They are the physical manifestation of much of the communication from our tireless army of urban cartographers. I find them to be quite beautiful. Not to mention incredibly useful, especially in bicycle planning and even in a city like Copenhagen.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you'll know all too well our fondness for Desire Lines related to bicycle planning and research. What started with The Choreography of an Urban Intersection has morphed into numerous Desire Lines Analyses of other streets and intersections in Copenhagen and, most recently, Amsterdam. Together with the University of Amsterdam we are analysing behaviour and Desire Lines at ten intersections.

With The Choreography of an Urban Intersection back in 2012, Copenhagenize Design Co. decided to take things to the next level regarding bicycle user behaviour. A study of that size and scope had never been undertaken before. So much commentary about bicycle user behaviour has been based on perception for far too long. "Those damned cyclists" repeated ad nauseum in dozens of languages has made us forget that we don't actually know very much about their behaviour.

In most cities, the reason for what is percieved as "bad behaviour" is simply the fact that bicycle users haven't been given adequate infrastructure or, even worse, none at all.

The explempary behaviour of Copenhagen bicycle users is due to the fact that the bicycle infrastructure network is, largely, so well-designed. Best Practice has been achieved and, for the most part, it is implemented.

Nevertheless, if you ask certain uniformed civil servants who work for the Copenhagen Police, it is their personal perception that hits the headlines.

With The Choreography of an Urban Intersection we decided to get some numbers to show that the perceptions are coloured with emotion and lack data and fact.

As the graph at the top indicates, out of 16,631 bicycle users in the intersection Godthåbsvej/Nordre Fasanvej only 1% broke a serious traffic law. Running a red light or riding on the sidewalk. We called them Recklists. The Momentumists were a group that technically broke a Danish traffic law. We put these infractions in a different category. Basically, if it is legal in another city or country with respectable cycling levels, we are okay with it. The rest, the Conformists, did everything by the book.

The results are mirrored by the results in our other studies of other intersections. The vast majority are just playing by the rules.



You can see which rules are being bent in the above graph. What is incredibly important to consider is HOW the rules are being bent. What is the actual behaviour of the individual Momentumists when you study each one with detailed obversation?

In short, it is exemplary. It is quite beautiful. One of the primary findings was that when an individual entered a zone where a law was being bent, they were aware of it. The pattern was the same: they would change their physical form.

Generally, the individual would make themselves appear larger. Rising up from their normal cycling position in order to make themselves more visible to others in the urban theatre. Sometimes this was enough for them but many would also look around with a sweet, apologetic look - vaguely, not at anyone in particular - as though to say "sorry... I know, I know... bear with me". And when they hit the cycle track again, they would assume their usual cycling position.

Some would do the classic bicycle chameleon move, swinging their leg off and using the bicycle as a scooter. Again, always aware of their surroundings and the other users of the urban theatre. This subtle awareness of their surroundings was impressive. At no point in the 12 hours were there "cyclist-pedestrian conflicts" as they're called in Emerging Bicycle Cities. In that regard, it was like watching paint dry. The flow was constant, smooth and elegant. It was choreography.

Even the Recklists were heartwarmingly civilised in their behaviour, showing consideration for others. Only three bicycle users out of the 16,631 we tracked roared through a red light. They were all bike messengers. Do what you want with that.

Momentum is paramount when considering how to plan for bicycles. A smooth flow that eliminates the need to stop and get out of the saddle is the key. Simple measures like the railings and footrests in Copenhagen are a fine example. The Green Wave for cyclists on the main arteries leading to the city are another.

Understanding the basic anthropological transport needs of bicycle users - not to mention pedestrians - is the way to designing liveable streets. Bicycles are not cars and this has been the greatest mistake over the past 50 years in city planning... placing bicycles in the same category as motorised vehicles, both regarding traffic laws and the perception of bicycles as vehicles. We are still struggling to rid ourselves of this flawed categorisation all over the world.

Stopping and starting in a car involves pushing down on a couple of pedals. Effortless. Stopping and starting on a bicycle requires a bit more effort. Once momentum has been achieved, a bicycle user will try to maintain it. The countdown signals in the middle of this article are an example of someone out there understanding the needs of bicycle users.

Children understand the simple necessities of traffic planning. Unfortunately, the geekfest that is traffic engineering has all too often forgotten rationality. Campaigns that try to "improve" behaviour are a waste of money. Simply because the people who think them up haven't bothered to understand the differences between cyclists and motorists or pedestrians.

Change the paradigm.

Read more about the Choregraphy of an Urban Intersections, including all the findings, here. Or you can download the document as a pdf.



Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
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