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Updated: 42 min 39 sec ago

World's First Automated Underground Bike Parking

25 February, 2015 - 19:00

The very best thing about my work is the people I meet. While working on a project in Amstedam's dystopian Zuidas area earlier this month, I met Arjan. That's him on the right, with his Dad on the left. He showed me some of the bicycle-related products that their company, LoMinck, make. Then he surprised me.

"We made the world's first automated, underground bicycle parking system."

"What about the Japanese?", I said, having seen the many films on YouTube about robotic underground silos for bike parking.

He just smiled. "We were first. Ten years ago."

I had to see it and we met the next day at the spot where the free ferries from Amsterdam Central Station arrive at Amsterdam Noord. I knew the non-descript little building where Arjan and his dad were waiting. I had no idea that it was, in effect, an important spot in bicycle history.


Down into the bowels of the beast we went. Which was a short ladder trip, basically. This bike parking facility isn't a silo but rather a horizontal room underground. If you look at the photo on the left, it extends from the building to the pole on the right.

We were in a simple room with 50 bikes hanging on hooks. It all looked so simple. Like good design should look. Up top, his Dad put an OV Fiets bike into the system and we watched as the machine gripped the front wheel and it descended, placed on a hook like a drycleaned suit. Then up again it went.

This modest facility was opened by the Dutch Minister of Transport in 2005. Subscribers pay €9 per month and LoMinck takes care of the remote monitoring, maintenance, customer service, breakdown service and subscription management. The city of Amsterdam pays an annual fee for this service.

It doesn't have to be underground. It can also be implemented above ground or into buildings. The minimum required width is 3,5m, the minimum required height is 2,75m. The length is variable and determines the capacity of the system; every additional meter creates 4 additional bike positions.





I asked Arjan and his Dad what they thought about the Japanese systems. Arjan translated the question for his Dad who just smiled and replied, "Overcomplicated".


But hey. There's more. Check this out. This is everything I believe in, in design. Simplicity and functionality. Stairs can be tricky with bikes. Most stairs in Denmark and the Netherlands have gutters to let you roll the bike up and down. How to improve the ease of use? Start with a broom.

Tasked by the City of Amsterdam to solve the issue of a particularly steep set of stairs that cyclists were avoiding, the Minck family went through some designs and then found a broom in the kitchen. They cut it in half. Stuck the bristles together. Presto.



Going up the stairs? How about a mini conveyor belt? Be still my designer heart.

Don't even get me started on the VelowUp bike racks.

Simple, functional design solutions. More of that, please.

Check out their stuff on the LoMinck website.

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

Top Ten Ways to Hate on Pedestrians

25 February, 2015 - 12:54

So there you stand. The Gatekeeper. Tasked with defending the great bastion of Motordom and upholding a last-century codex about city planning and engineering. In your mind's eye you think you resemble THIS gatekeeper, but sorry... the fact is, you're more of the Keymaster type when you look in the mirror. But hey. Your job is important. Keeping the streets clear of irritating, squishy obstacles so that Motordom's armada can continue flowing freely. Don't worry about Ignoring the Bull. You ARE the bull and don't you forget it.

What tools are at your disposal? What are the most effective ways to reverse 7000 years of city life and keep pedestrians out of the way, under control, under your greasy thumb, Gatekeeper? We've compiled a list for you.

Adopt one or more of the following ideas in your city and declare proudly to the world that you are:
A: Completely unwilling to take traffic safety seriously
B: Ignorant of the existing Best Practice regarding traffic calming and lowering speed limits
C: A slave to an archaeic, last century mentality
D. Immune to the death and injury of millions
E: Incompetent

1. Pedestrian Buttons


It's important that pedestrians don't think they own the place. Nevermind the fact that for 7000 years, they actually did. With a simple installation, you can force these rogues of the urban landscape to apply for permission to cross a street. You can control them. Make them feel insignificant. Have fun with it, too. Install a speaker with a scolding, authoratative voice that speaks to them like they are children. Configure the system to rotate randomly through waiting times. On two-stage crossings, have a field day. Make them wait as long as you like in the middle, boxed in like animals.

2. Jaywalking
Anything else is un-American. Those Eurotrash types didn't get THIS memo and look at where THEY'RE at. Jaywalking is as American as apple pie, shooting beer cans in the desert and super-sized meals. It was a gift to America from the automobile industry, so you know it must be good.

Enforce it. A 7000 year old habit in cities CAN be eradicated if you really want it bad enough. Your cops will feel empowered and get valuable training for dealing with terrorists later. Back in the day, we used Boy Scouts to chastise jaywalkers. Now we get to do it with heavily-armed law enforcement officers. Don't be shy about a little collateral damage. It's for the common good.

The day we let pedestrians walk wherever they want is the day the terrorists have won.

3. Pedestrian Flags


"Because we pride ourselves in being a walkable and bikeable community, we need our citizens to feel safe on our roads and sidewalks, and pedestrian safety is of utmost importance.” Thus sayeth Mayor John Woods of Davidson, North Carolina. Print out a photo of him and others like him and make an altar in your engineering department. He understands. That's not him the photo. The lady on the left is Mayor of some other visionary town.

Install pedestrian flags at crosswalks - or Pedestrian Control Zones, as we like to call them - and force pedestrians to wave one high above their head in the hope that the fine, motoring citzens might notice. Send a clear message to them about their parasitical status in the transport hierarchy by making them feel so completely helpless and stupid all at once. Added value: It's hilarious to drive past a flag-waving pedestrian.

Do NOT refer to the Eurotrash-esque Berkeley types when they conclude "The use of the flags did not seem to have a significant effect on driver behavior.". Pedestrianism is socialism sneaking in the back door. Refer instead to other visionary communities who share your views.

4. Criminalize Walking
With simple legislation your community, too, can clamp down on humans moving unaided by fossil fuels through your paradisical motorised world. Follow the lead of this New Jersey town and ban texting while walking and reduce exponentially the irritating dents caused by human bones striking the smooth, elegant paint jobs of your citizens' cars. If only we had thought of this back when people walked around reading newspapers in cities. Damn.

At the same time, you can go all Spanish on your population's asses and ban Drunk Walking. Laugh in the face of those who suggest restricting cars or lowering speed limits in densely-populated nightlife districts and keep your police force fresh and battle-ready by enforcing this sensible law.

5. Tell 'Em What to Wear
These pedestrian types obviously need a lot of help so dictating their clothing is a no-brainer. Start condescending campaigns to ridicule them for not wearing brightly-coloured clothing and reflective vests, et al. Whatever you do, don't get any smart-ass ideas about doing the same for cars. You are The GATEKEEPER, for christ's sake.

Don't worry, you have "walking experts" on your side, pilgrim. "Be safe - be seen. It's only your life that depends on it. Night walking means taking extra care that cars can see you. For the best safety, your entire outline should be reflective and you should carry a light or wear a flasher."
Not to mention the Center for Disease Control. They have awesome parking facilities, by the way.

6. Lull Them With Distraction

Orwell, Shmorwell. Aldous Huxley understood our Brave New World. Want to control and distract people? Give them mindless entertainment distration. Distrantrainment. Enterstraction. Oh, whatever. Just control them. Big Auto will thank you. Your city engineers won't have to waste time worrying about safety and have more time to do important work.
Gameify it. Let these bums play Pong while they wait. Whatever keeps them out of the way of cars is a GOOD thing.

Make it even simpler. These people are morons, anyway. Just have a funny - like haha funny - dancing green man on the pedestrian signal. It's seriously that easy. The good people at Smart Car get it. They get it real good.

7. Instill Fear


Fear is your surest, sharpest weapon, Gatekeeper. Those pinko Berliners have their cutesy man in a hat, but protecting the bastion of Motordom requires vision and dedication. Get those pedestrians out of your way by scaring them.


Make them run. For their lives.

"Watch out"!, it reads in Danish. Yeah. You could trip on the sticker. That'll teach them. Sheesh, even the DANES get this.

8. Ridicule
It works so well. Good old fashioned ridicule. The City of Cologne knows this. The automobile industry knew this and that is how we got to where we are today, thank goodness. Put goofy mimes or clowns out there and guide pedestrians like the sheep they are.

9. Exploit Children

Kids are great. They are, after all, future motorists. We can plant all sorts of stuff in their head. We used them to ridicule jaywalkers back in the day, but we're not finished with them. Dress them up like clowns and throw them into the street to stop traffic.

10. Fake Your Concern


Okay. Fine. Once in awhile you actually have to pretend you care. Pay some people a bit of money to stand at crosswalks with flags equipped with a magical force field that will stop 2000 kg of steel and metal. Pretend you are "helping" and "doing something". It works in Sao Paulo.

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

Watching Copenhagen Bike Share Die

24 February, 2015 - 12:43

Photo by Dennis Steinsiek from Dutch-it.eu

The news today out of Copenhagen is about the imminent failure of the city's new bike share system. Copenhageners are ignorning the bikes, few trips are being taken on them and they have become a tourist gimmick, not the commuter dream they hoped for.

It's a rare event that a bike share system fails. Only a very few systems around the world have folded. Melbourne was the poster child for failure thanks to their helmet laws, helmet promotion, lack of infrastructure and anti-cyclist laws. Now it looks like Copenhagen will step into the failure spotlight.

I am in two minds.

I have never been a fan of the bikes or the system and have done little to conceal that fact. I said it was doomed to failure back in 2013. I have wondered why Danish State Railways didn't just copy the decade-old OV-Fiets system from Dutch Railways instead of being seduced by useless, overcomplicated technology. You can read all about why I think the system was a massive fail from the beginning in this article.

While it is always great to be proven right, it is also sad when a project that puts more bikes in a city is on the cusp of failure. Especially sad when my tax money was used on it.

The Copenhagen bike share system was launched a year ago. Here are some relevant numbers.

The Cost
The average cost for a bike share bike in cities like London, Paris, etc is about $800. An OV Fiets bike costs about $400.

The Copenhagen bikes cost $3000 each. $10,000 each in total for purchase and maintenance over eight years. You read that right.

The Copenhagen Go-bikes aren't even free, like in most of the 650 cities around the world with bike share programmes.

It costs 25 kroner ($5.00) per hour to ride one. You can get a subscription for 70 kroner if you want, and that knocks the price down when you use it.

You can rent a bike for the entire day at Baisikeli for 60 kroner.

The City of Copenhagen has invested 40 million kroner ($7.5 million) in the project.

The Users
The biggest mistake in Copenhagen is a complete misunderstanding of how people think and of civic pride. The successful bike share systems in Barcelona and Seville, for example, are for locals only. You can't use them if you don't live there. They are something for the locals, not the tourists. An important distinction. Locals rarely want to resemble tourists in any city. The Copenhagen GoBikes are just like the Bycykler that Copenhagen launched in 1995 - they are already labelled as a touristy thing.

The goal for the new bikes was that each bike would be used 3 times a day by local commuters.
Since the launch they have been used 0.8 times a day - by tourists.

The Usage
800 people signed up for a subscription in the summer of 2014.
That number has now fallen to 256.

In the first half of December 2014, only 530 trips were registered.

The Fleet
The plan is that 1860 new bikes should be on the streets in Copenhagen. There are only 426.
There should be 105 docking stations. There are only 27.

One problem is that the German supplier, MIFA (Mitteldeutsche Fahrradwerke), went into recievership last autumn. Which doesn't say much for this product.

The Lame Excuses
The damage control spin coming out of City Hall from, among others, Mayor for the Technical and Environmental Administration Morten Kabell as well as people like Nikolaj Bøgh, head of the By- og Pendlercykel Fund is much the same. It's all "oh, but you see... we haven't even marketed the system yet!
Seriously? A product that is well-designed, intuitive and that actually serves a practical need will market itself. Failed design won't.
Viral? Not.
The Copenhagen bike share system was meant - in the mind of the Danish State Railways - to be so groovy that it would spread to other Danish cities. Turns out that ain't gonna happen. The second largest city in Denmark, Aarhus, just launched new bikes recently.

Exit Strategy
We can't keep pumping money into a system that isn't working. Who will get us out of this mess?
If we got out now, we'd still have money to implement a Dutch style OV-Fiets system that would work from the first ride.

More on the subject:
- The Bike Share System Copenhagen ALMOST Had
- The E-Bike Sceptic
- Bye-bye Bycyklen
- The Future of City Bikes or a Waste of Money?

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

Early Data Victory and other Vintage Goodness from Copenhagen

23 February, 2015 - 19:54

We have covered the historical aspects of Danish bicycle infrastructure before here on our blog, including the first cycle track in the world in 1892 on Esplanaden in Copenhagen. There is always space for more lessons from history.

Above is a photo from Copenhagen in 1911. The streets along The Lakes in Copenhagen were the busiest for bicycles in the entire nation around the turn of the last century. The conditions for cyclists, however, left much to be desired.

The swarms of cyclists only had a narrow edge of a riding path to use. The Danish Cyclists' Federation, founded in 1905, demanded a cycle track on the route. The city's horse riders refused to relinquish space.

In an early example of the power of data related to traffic, a traffic count was done in 1909. It turned out that 9000 cyclists were counted each day, but only 18 horse riders. That changed the conversation. A three metre wide cycle track was put into place in 1911.


It was bi-directional, as you can see on the above two photos, but we hadn't yet figured out that bi-directional was a bad idea on streets. At the time, it was good. Now we know better.

I found the above photo in the City's archives a few years back. 1915 was scribbled on the back. I have been waiting for this calendar year to cycle out to the Østerbro neighbourhood to photograph the same spot. I did so last Sunday, on a quiet afternoon. Same spot as in 1915. This stretch features 20,000+ cyclists a day today.


This photo is from farther outside the city, in 1955. These cyclists in the morning rush hour are heading for the stretch in the previous photo, on the other side of the street. The need for a cycle track as obvious in 2015 as it was in 1955 and 1915.

While I was in the neighbourhood, I took a photo at the same spot as the photo, above. On Østerbrogade, next to The Lakes. Wider cycle track back in the 1930s, but not by much.


On the left is a map from 1916 of the bicycle infrastructure in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg. On the right is a map of the same from 1935. Compare this to Helsinki, which also had a great network of cycle tracks in 1937, like so many other cities.

We know that much bicycle infrastructure was removed in the urban planning brain fart that was the 1950s and 1960s. There isn't a lot of information about how much and where. We do know that the modal share for bicycles in Copenhagen plummeted from a high of 55% in 1949 to single digits in 1969.


This is a photo from Svanemøllen, north of Copenhagen, in 1899. What is interesting about this is that the sign at right reads "Cykelsti" - "Bike Lane". From the first dedicated facility for bicycles in 1892, it didn't take long to get official signage in place.

Another cycle track shot from the 1930s on Amagerbrogade.


It was near here that the city starting putting physically separated cycle tracks back in, in the early 1980s.


Finally, a photo of a bicycle school in Copenhagen in the late 1800s. Women learning the ropes of the freedom machine.

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

Learning From Historical Bicycle Posters

19 February, 2015 - 15:50

Hey. You know what? We're on to a good thing. We have an amazing product. We have the most effective tool in our urban toolbox for rebuilding our liveable cities. It's right there in front of us. The humble bicycle is back.

After transforming society more quickly and more effectively than any other invention in human history for decades in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the bicycle is ready to do it all over again.

Nevertheless, many cities are struggling to get people to consider the bicycle as transport. As we have known for over a century, infrastructure is the key. Most certainly, too many cities are hopelessly behind in modernising themselves by creating safe cycling infrastructure. This article is about the other issue at hand, namely how to communicate cycling. Not sporty, sweaty, gear-based cycling for sport or recreation but just good old-fashioned urban cycling for the 99%.

This product we work with is produced by hundreds of manufacturers - most of them hopelessly unable to see the bigger picture of promoting cycling, instead focusing on their individual products. Then we have public bodies - be it transport or health, for example - who want to see a massive rise in the number of bicycles used for transport in cities for all the obvious, beneficial reasons to society. Likewise, they have proven ineffective at broadcasting the message in any effective way.

I have called environmentalism the greatest marketing flop in the history of homo sapiens. Just look at the past 40 odd years of focus on awareness and yet there are few people on the planet who are living the environmentalist dream. I lament that fact. It's not hard, however, to see why it happened and continues to happen. There are few humans who react positively to sanctimonious finger wagging from sub-cultural groups that look down their nose at anyone who doesn't adhere to their holy quest. Canadian writer Chris Turner describes it brilliantly in his book The Geography of Hope.

Unfortunately, so much bicycle advocacy seems to be inspired by the same messaging techniques. That whole goofy focus on "green", saving the planet, reducing emissions, blah blah blah. If this line of guilt tripping hasn't worked for the past 40+ years, it's hardly going to kick in now, is it? Look at the marketing that people are subjected to 24/7 on all media platforms. Shiny, positive, professional. The bike geeks should stay the hell away from any form of advertising. Their sub-cultural approach is a failed one.

The bicycle was one of the most successful products on the planet for DECADES - in every culture. It sold itself by just being an amazing product but you can not underestimate the massive value of the advertising that was used to sell bicycles and related products to the 99%.

Many of you will have seen examples of beautiful bicycle posters from back in the day. I've spent over four years studying them, analysing them and just enjoying them. I give keynotes about the subject. For some reason, I've never written it down in an article. So here we go.

Let's look at a long line of bicycle - and accessory - posters from the annals of history to see what worked so brilliantly back then and what we can learn about broadcasting the same message today. Time is of the essence. Urbanisation is rising rapidly. We need solutions. Wonderfully... ironically... this 19th century invention can solve 21st urban problems. If we sell it correctly and effectively.

First, let's look at sewing machines and vacuum cleaners.

The late 1800s were a pivotal age for so many reasons. Certain technology advances were seeds for so many inventions, not least the bicycle and... the sewing machine. The development of finer machinery opened the doors to so many important aspects of product design.

The first sewing machines were large and cumbersome and, generally, operated by strong men in factories. As technology progressed and made it possible to start making machinery that was finer and more delicate, the sewing machine was one of the first designs to become smaller.

Companies like Singer realised the potential early on. Family homes had a housewife who could do darning and repairs. Look at the three examples of early sewing machine adverts above. As well as the design of the early machines. All focused on mainstreaming the product by targeting the most obvious user group in that age. It was a success. Maybe not a sewing machine in every home, but certainly a monumental boom.

In the post-war era the sale of vacuum cleaners exploded, due to the development of compact, inexpensive models that were within reach of a wide swath of the population. Above, at bottom right, is an early vacuum cleaner. Not exactly something that would fit in your hall closet. Companies selling the new fangled machines targeted the obvious market at the time - the housewife.

Looking at the posters, above, we see clear similarities in tone, style and approach. It is safe to say that the vacuum cleaner is one of the most successful products in history. There is virtually one in every home.

If you compare the posters for sewing machines and vacuum cleaners and boil down the messaging used to sell the products to keywords, it looks like this:

- Liberating - it will change your life. Liberate you from whatever constrains you.
- Modern  - it's new and exciting and all the kids are doing it. Keep up with the Joneses.
- Elegant - You don't require anything else but the product. It's elegant and so are you.
- Effortless - it's so easy. Seriously.
- Social - It is sociable. Using the product will improve your sociability. More time with friends and loved ones.
- Convenient - It will improve your life with its ease-of-use by freeing up time for other activities.

All incredibly effective keywords for marketing any product.


1. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1878 / 2. No info / 3. No info

1869
This was an interesting year in history in many ways. Two inventions appeared that would end up in one of the most productive advertising collaborations in history, featuring a veritable army of artists and clients.

The first was colour lithography. A massive bucket of rainbow-coloured paint was splashed all over the world of both art and advertising. Before lithography, printing was primarily done by the relief process. Laboriously etching lines onto plates and inking them after which you slapped paper onto them in the hope that the carved motif would be transferred to the paper. Lithography was a chemical process that did away with... well... just about everything difficult about printing.

Lithography had been around since 1798 in a similar, but more complicated form developed by Aloys Senefelder. Colour lithography saw the light of day when Thomas Schotter Boys produced some architectural printwork in 1839, but nothing much happened after that until Jules Chéret started a printing company in Paris, in 1866. He wowed everyone with his colourful productions, using new techniques that allowed for an amazing array of shades. Some point to his poster for Bal Valentino from 1869 as the birth of the modern poster.

Chéret focused on the illustration. The artwork. He relegated text to mere supplementary information. He launched upon the world a brave new medium.

Artists scrambled to be a part of it. Everyone wanted a piece of the creative action. In 1869, something came along that would set the world alight. Two Englishmen, Reynolds & Mays, patented the Phantom prototype that replaced wooden spokes with thin, metal ones. Three years later, Smith & Starley produced the Ariel bicycle. It was not yet the classic diamond frame that Starley developed in 1885, with the production of the Safety Bicycle, but this "Ordinary" or "Penny Farthing" model sent shockwaves reverberating around the world. Welcome to the birth of a revolution.

What an extraordinary machine the bicycle was to the general population of the planet. In a flash, one's mobility radius was greatly expanded. Speeds previously unattainable by humans under their own steam were achieved.

Selling Cycling
Bicycles started out in a similar way to sewing machines and vacuum cleaners. The early versions were large, cumbersome and only appealed to a narrow demographic. Early sewing machines and vaccums were complicated machinery operated by men.

Early bicycles like the Ariel and all those variations that followed became popular very quickly, absolutely. A kind of pre-boom boom. They were, however, the exclusive domain of rich boys. Bicycles were very expensive to manufacture in, for example, 1880.  They cost between $300-$500. In 2014 dollars, that translates to $7,700 - $11,600 (according to the inflation calculator... I love the internet)

The market was small and, as a result, few posters for bicycles were produced between 1872-1890. Also due in no small part to French bicycle production stalling during the collapse of the Second Empire and the defeat in the Franco-Prussian war between 1871-1880.

Most marketing was done through elaborately designed catalogues that appealed to the wealthly, well-read customers, as well as advertisments in selected publications read by said customers. It was pointless to advertise to the masses since they didn't have a chance in hell of acquiring the products.

The artwork at the top of this section show that lithography was eagerly used but it was restricted to a tiny portion of the population.


1. Artist: Henri Thiriet. Year: c. 1895 / 2. Artist: PAL (Pseudonym for Jean de Paléologue. 1855-?) Year: c. 1900 / 3. Artist: Jules Chéret (1836-1933) Year: 1891 / 4. Magazine cover. Artist: Unknown. Year: 1896 / 


I can't possibly hope to show every amazing, historical bicycle poster. There are thousands and thousands of them. Many have also been lost forever (who saves billboards when they're taken down nowadays?). I've done my best to present some of the best of them in various, relevant themes, in order to hammer out a game plan that will apply to today.
Artists flocked to colour lithography. With the invention of the Safety Bicycle - the frame we still know today - the bicycle exploded onto society at large around the world. It was the hottest mainstream product on any market. The hottest media was colour lithography. It would prove to be a fruitful affair if those two hooked up, which they luckily did. 
The bicycle captured the imagination of anyone exposed to it. It was the future, progress, modernity. It was everything. The artists who started cranking out posters for the growing army of bicycle brands merely reflected their amazement at the product. The freedom provided by the bicycle was a major factor in advertising for decades to come. This is where it started.
Let's remember the keywords at the beginning of the article and have a look at liberation. 
The posters at the top of this section do not mess around. Look at the imagery and the message they are sending. Powerful images of liberation featuring strong characters. The third poster from the left is also the work of Jules Chéret. Like many of the leading artists of the age, he got into the bicycle game and with flair. It's a poster for a French bicycle brand whose name translates as French Banner. Patriotism was also a heady theme at the time. 
Chéret was also called the "father of the women's liberation" during his lifetime because of his works - and not just bicycle posters. (When you live in Scandinavia - in a region with excellent levels of gender equality - you don't bat an eyelash at the idea of women's lib having a father). Much has been written about the bicycle's role in women's liberation (although never enough has been written) and there are many inspiring quotes about it. 
What Chéret did was portray women in a new, refreshing and - for some (men) - radical way. What contemporary society in Paris saw upon viewing the posters was women who were happy, care-free, stylish and lively. It heralded an age in Paris where women could openly participate in activities like wearing low-cut dresses and smoking. The female caricatures even became known as Cherettes. It all went hand in hand with the liberating effect that bicycles were having on all aspects of society.
1. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1900 / 2. Cover of New York magazine "Truth". Artist: Unknown. Year: 22 August 1896 / 3. No info / 4. No info

All the metaphors and symbolism of the age were put to full use in the arsenal of the artists. Training as an artist required learning the classics, including historical and cultural symbolism. This transferred subliminally and naturally over to the genre of bicycle posters. Not least because this was a visual language familiar to potential customers.

The bicycle was often lifted aloft in reverence to and respect for it's power and transformational effect on society. The second artwork from the left, above, is not actually a poster but the cover of a magazine out of New York called Truth from 22 August 1896. The bicycle triumphant, lighting the way to a bright, new future. No text about content in this issue. Just the woman on her bicycle.

There was no limit to the possibilities of the bicycle and everyone knew it. Citizens in cities could travel quicker than ever across the urban landscape. In the countryside, people could extend their transport reach into a previously unheard of radius. We know now that the bicycle improved the gene pool. Nothing less. In the public records in towns, for example, in the UK surnames that had been pegged to towns or districts for centuries were suddenly appearing much farther afield. People started moving around like never before for work and for love.

It wouldn't be a stretch to suggest that people were having more sex after the invention of the bicycle. Or at least sex with new people. The inherent thrill about this welcome development may certainly be drawn between the lines in these posters.


1. Artist: Frederick Winthorp Ramsdell. Year: 1899 / 2. Artist: Henri Thiriet. Year: 1898 / 3. Artist: J. Cardona. Year: 1901 / 4. Artist: E. Célos. Year: 1901 /
Another theme I've noticed is fantastic hair, symbolizing youth and a care-free attitude. There are countless posters featuring flowers or various, symbolic branches.

I have always loved the overwhelming metaphorical gameplay in the second poster for Griffiths. So simple and yet so completely in your face. Young woman in white cycling with free-flowing hair from left to right (to the future) and casually tossing flowers as she goes. Roadside sits an old woman in a bed of flowerless thorns, staring right to left (towards the past). She isn't even looking at the cycling girl, as though resigned to the future passing her by.

At far right is a Canadian brand looking to make inroads into the French market. National markets were huge and incredibly competitive. The rise of the bicycle poster, however, heralded a truly international age. A poster could easily be created by a Romanian artist trained in England (like Jean de Paleologu who has two posters in this article) for a French printer selling Canadian bicycles for a local agent. As ever, art knew no borders.


1. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1900 / 2. Artist: PAL (Pseudonym for Jean de Paléologue. 1855-?) Year: c. 1895 / 3. Artist: Jean Carlu. Year: 1922 / 4. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1892 / 5. No info.

The most iconic posters of the day that are remembered most clearly even over a century later feature female protagonists. Many of the posters were famous in their own time, as well. In a modern optic it may appear that women were being gratuitously used in the artwork in order to sell bicycles. Nothing is farther from the truth. What Chéret started snowballed into a movement. A sea change in society. The freedom afforded by the bicycle carried with it women's liberation and liberation of the working classes into a bold, new future.

It all started with that powerful symbolism. When women started actually buying and hopping onto bicycles, the market expanded exponentially. The overwhelming dominance of female figures was symbolic of the poetic beauty of the bicycle and it's positivity and helped convince newcomers about the ease-of-use of the product. It all soon transformed into marketing to the female and male demographic all at once.

There are posters featuring men, of course, like Hercules Bicycles at far right, above. The posters featuring female figures, when you think about selling bicycles to women, were filled with a constant messaging about simplicity, elegance, freedom - and all while retaining your womanhood. In the heading days of the bicycle this was an effective marketing tactic that worked - it must be said -incredibly well.


1. Artist: Unknown. Year: 1905 / 2. Artist: Henri Gray. Year: c. 1890s / 3. Artist: Georges Massias. Year: c. 1895

Nudity was not unusual in artwork in France back then but with the advent of the bicycle poster, liberation came in many forms. So many beautiful posters featured nude or scantily clad women as a further extension of the liberation metaphor.

France in the late 19th century was certainly not North America in the same era. Most of the nudity in bicycle poster history was French. Most women featured on posters in other countries were clothed.

It is worth mentioning that France in the late 19th century wasn't America in 2009, either. An American winemaker uses the Cycles Gladiator artwork, at right, on their bottles and said bottles were banned in Alabama.


1. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1900 / 2. Artist: George Moore. Year: c. 1907 / 3. Artist: Unknown - Possibly Frode Hass. Year: c. 1900 / 4. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1895 / 

The bicycle, for all it's wonder in the minds of the public, was still a daunting machine. Especially women had to be convinced of its ease-of-use and great effort was put into portraying this in the artwork.

One very noticeable theme in historical bicycle posters is the position of the woman. There are countless examples of the woman cycling symbolically ahead of the man. "See? It's easy. No effort required." Plus, it's incredibly sociable. It's an activity you can do together.



The poster, above, from 1894 advertises a bicycle lesson facility with three tracks where people could learn to ride. Often officers or policemen would act as teachers - that air of authority didn't hurt sales - and it is clear that this poster is broadcasting ease-of-use (and handsome teachers) for the female demographic. Cycling with one hand, looking at us with a casual, confident expression, wearing a splendid outfit. It all screams how damn easy it is.

The above poster reminds me of an interesting fact and something that persists to this day. It's incredibly difficult to draw bicycles. Try asking a group of adults to draw a bicycle and be amazed and amused at how wrong most of them get it.

In all the artistic enthusiasm of the day for designing bicycle posters, the bicycles are often drawn simplistically. Even when the great Toulouse-Lautrec put his hand to bicycle posters, certain details missed the final cut. Looking through many of these posters you can clearly see that wheels were the trickiest. Rims are often forgotten and spokes are just a smattering of wispy lines - if they are even there at all.


1. Artist: Brynolf Wennerberg (1866-1950). Year: c. 1898 / 2. Artist: Poul Fischer. Year: 1896 /  3. Artist: Deville. Year: 1895 / 4. Artist: Fritz Rehm (1871-1928) Year: c. 1910 / 5. Artist: Daan Hoeksema (1879-?) Year: 1907 / 6. No info

It's easy. It's easy. It's easy. This message was repeated constantly for decades. On occasion, focus was placed on technical features. The first two posters, above, are selling chainless bicycles that instead featured a shaft drive. In the middle and at bottom right you can see early weight weenie culture budding, although it was messaging the female customers and not todays MAMILS.

As time progressed there is a clear sign that the focus started to widen. People were all on bicycles by around 1905. A market had been established. In the early days the focus was general. It was just about the big picture. The modern bicycle and all the good things it could do. As people become more familiar with them, the advertising started to talk about performance, weight and speed, like in the fourth poster, above. Upright bicycle, lovely dress but still keep metaphorical pace with a running dog.

1. Artist/Year: No info / 2. Artist: No info. Year: 1932 / 3. Artist/Year: No info / 4. Artist/Year: No info / 5. Artist: No info. Year: c. 1930s

As the 20th century started to roll past, more focus was placed on speed - Raleigh was famous for this theme - but also on quality. "The All-Steel Bicycle" was a Raleigh slogan for decades. What may be strange to us today was normal rhetoric in, at least, the UK in the 1930s, with Royal Enfield Bicycles proudly declaring on all their materials that their bicycles are "made like a gun". The Swedish poster at far right also declares that its bicycles - and parts - are made with rust-free steel.

1. Artist: Carsten Ravn. Year: 1897 / 2. Artist: Edward Penfield (1866–1925). Year: 1896 / 3. Publisher: Chambrelent, Paris. Year: c. 1890s 
The "effortless" angle has many visual themes to keep hammering home ease-of-use and no risk of losing elegance. There are many, many posters featuring cyclists with their legs up. It's one of the first things you do as a kid when you learn to ride a bike and it's daunting - especially when most bicycles had coaster brakes. So let's just keep showing how easy it is.


1. Artist: Georges Gaudy (1872-?) Year: 1898 / 2. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1900 / 3. No info / 4. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1900

You don't have to actually ride the bicycle to look good and be relaxed. At left, you can also just hang out looking all badass and send evil stares to those morons coming down the road in one of those new-fangled automobile contraptions.

Poise, grace, elegance and effortlessness. It's so easy that even a monkey can do it while looking badass in his cool threads. The poster at far right is interesting for the simple detail that she is looking back over her shoulder. Looking for her friends/husband (she's so speedy that she's ahead) and maybe simultaneously signalling that it's easy to take your eyes off the road.

If you learned to ride a bicycle you know that along with riding with no hands and riding with your feet up one of the first tricky things to learn is looking backwards without veering sharply on your bicycle.

My theory is that so many tiny details that people were wary of are featured in the details in many of these posters.

1. Artist: N. Vivien. Year: c. 1900 / 2. Artist: Paolo Henri. Year: c. 1900 / 3. Artist: Georges-Alfred Bottini (1873-1906) Year: 1897 / 

Hey, who needs bikes to sell bikes when you have birds and well-dressed people hanging on a street corner? A lot of early posters didn't feature bicycles because they were hard to draw but also because it was such a massive trend that you didn't need to. Just slap your company name (presuming it has Cycles at the beginning of it) and you're off. Notice who in the crowd on the middle poster is looking right at you. A woman. She is telling you something with her eyes. She's on board the bicycle wave.

Crap at drawing bicycles? Not to worry. Just draw a vague shape and squeeze it inbetween some well-dressed women - conveniently hiding the hard-to-draw bits like ... well... everything except the wheel and handlebars - behind a bright yellow dress.

1. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1913 / 2. Artist: No info. Year: 1952  / 3. Artist: F. Hart-Nibbrig. Year: c. 1912 / 4. No info. Product: Carlsberg Breweries

This sociable factor was all important in the early days. Many cyclists joined clubs with whom they headed out into the countryside on the weekends. These clubs were massive. Just look at this list of clubs in Copenhagen alone in the 1890s. It was a sociable thing to do and broadcasting that message was important, especially in the late 1800s. At right is a Carlsberg beer ad. Hurrah... that inn sells it!

The Simplex ad from the Netherlands doesn't look like much fun - the Calvinist influence at work - but they are, by god, heading out of the city for a bike ride. The first poster shows that everyone is doing it - and everyone CAN do it. Into the 1950s, the theme continues in the second poster from the UK. It's sociable and enjoyable.

1. Artist: Eugéne Ogé. Year: c. 1897 / 2. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1923 / 3. Artists: Behrmann & Bosshard. Year: 1938 / 4. Artist: Will H. Bradley (1868-1962). Year: 1899. 

It's quite remarkable the constant and consistent focus on how cycling is just a normal activity/transport form that would not require any effort or extra equipment. It lasted for decades. There are also examples of marketing focused specifically on sport but the examples, above, are focused on the mainstream. Although it is not really that remarkable as a marketing strategy. It was just standard advertising. Techniques that differed little from advertising every other product on the market at the time.

It was clear that cycling was cool if you look at the first poster, above. Dapper gent in spiffy threads riding a bicycle and sending a mocking look at the loser, lame-o wannabe on the sidewalk - overweight and with the red nose of a drunk. Design changes over time and we can see in the Schwalbe Bicycles ad from 1938 that a simpler style was all that was needed. A swallow. A bicycle. A text reading "It's a chic bicycle". Boom, baby.

Comparing the 1938 Schwalbe poster with the one to the right from 1899 is an interesting exercise if only to see how design had changed.

1. No info / 2. Artist: Decam. Year: 1897 / 3. Artist: C. M. Coolidge. Year: c. 1895 / 4. Producer: Dingley Brothers. Year:1918

In the ocean of bicycle posters throughout decades there is inevitably some flotsam. From the Twilight Zoney feel of the Victor Cycles poster on the left to the Pyscho Cycles poster on the far right - a poster that looks like it could advertise a bike polo event in Brooklyn last year.

The second poster is one that amuses me to no end. We know little about the artist Decam and little is known about the brand La Vélo Catémol. What we do know is that making a rock and roll sign with your fingers whilst casually sitting naked, chained to a well with a bicycle chain, was apparently a perfectly acceptable image for selling a product in 1897.

The Columbia Bicycle poster is another bizarre addition to the library of bicycle posters. Many of the same themes were in play on both sides of the Atlantic but one C. M. Coolidge was inspired - I shudder to think by what - to draw a monkey and a parrot whizzing down a hill. I don't know what that monkey is doing behind the parrot, but I'm guessing it's the monkey saying, "We are having a heavenly time" because the parrot doesn't look amused. The monkey's parrotofilia aside, his feet aren't on the pedals and they narrowly missed a rock. All very confusing and probably illegal in Alabama.

The bicycle as a powerful symbol of just about everything continued for a very long time. In the cartoon at left it was used to show how it could be a vehicle to lead America out of the Great Depression. Get out shopping on your bicycle and help kickstart the economy.

In the middle is a photo of gold-plated Cycling Girl, who has been standing astride her bicycle and surveying Copenhagen's City Hall square since 1936. She is one of two figures - the other is a gold-plated woman with an umbrella who is walking a dog. "Vejrpigerne" - The Weather Girls - rotated out onto a perch depending on the weather on the Richshuset building so passersby could see this weather prognosis, supplemented with a neon thermometer.

Designed by Einar Utzon-Frank (1888-1955), it is no surprise that the fairweather symbol was a "cykelpige" - Danish for "cycling girl". She is a veritable cultural icon and has been since the late 1800s. 

Indeed, in a thesis entitled "The Modest Democracy of Daily Life - An analysis of the bicycle as a symbol of Danishness" by Marie Kåstrup (who now works for the City of Copenhagen's Bicycle Office), the cycling girl is described as "A unique front figure for the democratic bike culture. She is, all at once, a modest, charming and everyday representation of Danishness."

Creating gold-plated statues in 1936 atop a new building on the primest of real estate was in no uncertain terms a symbol of prosperity.

The Canadian CCM Bicycles poster at right is a lesser example of using bicycles as a symbol of prosperity and borders on mocking. The cycling boy is bragging to poor Bill. He got good grades and his (presumably solvent) parents bought him a bicycle.

1. Artist: Hans Bendix (1898-1984) Year: 1938 - used on this poster in 1947. 2. Artist: No info. Year: 1947 / 3. Artist: Hans Bendix. Year: 1947 / 4. Book cover. "Boy of Denmark". Artist: No info. Year: 1947

The bicycle as a symbol of Danishness and national identity was always there, under the surface. Not as demonstrative as many early French posters but more just an accepted truth that didn't need a lot of fanfare.

In the late 1940s, a series of tourism posters were produced with a specific target group in mind. The British. They were one of two great cycling touring nations - the other being Germany, but they were busy rebuilding their bombed cities. The Brits liberated Denmark and it was hoped that this connection would encourage Brits to consider Denmark as The Country for Their Holiday. It was, after all, a Country of Smiles and Peace. Like cities? Try The Gay Spot of Europe and have a blast on a bicycle in Copenhagen. Poster 1 and 3 are by a legend in Danish poster art, Hans Bendix.

For the local market, books like The Boy of Denmark featured bicycle imagery and content for young readers.


As an aside, it would appear that there is a new Hans Bendix in town. Mads Berg is a respected graphic designer who is commissioned to do high profile posters for many clients. Not all of them feature bicycles, but here are some that do. A Copenhagen poster, a poster for the island of Bornholm and a poster for the yoghurt of a major dairy producer.

There was a noticeable post-war boom in bicycle-related imagery in many countries, not least Denmark. Once again, the bicycle was a symbol of freedom - personal and national - after the trials of a long, destructive war. It was still a metaphor for a bright promising future.

1. Danish magazine Familiejournal. Year: 1947 / 2. Advert for US Magazine Woman's Day. Year: c. 1950s

The cover of a Danish magazine Familiejournal from 1947 is quite simple in both its design and its messaging. Freedom. Joy. Future. At right, an American magazine, Woman's Day, advertised themselves with this kind of image in the 1950s. She's got to go out to get a copy and she does so - obviously - on a bicycle with her kid.

The 1950s saw urban planning changing rapidly to accommodate the automobile, which would soon replace the bicycle as the ultimate symbol of prosperity and freedom. The bicycle, after over 60 years of dominance of those keywords, was being pushed out. Not only out of our cities but also out of our advertising.

Bicycle posters in America started to disappear before they did in Europe. Here they lived on well into the 1960s, before the bicycle boom in the 1970s. Nevertheless, the bicycle was still a cool, glamourous thing and all manner of film stars were seen on them. The New Yorker has featured bicycles on many of their covers. The bicycle never really went away through the 1950s.

Even into the 1970s, bicycles were still used to symbolise freedom. When the last part of Orange County, California was developed - Mission Viejo - developers sold their 'hood with bicycles. Move to Mission Viejo and "ride your bike to Saturday night". Park the car and use bicycles in your city. How's that working out for you these days, Mission Viejo?

1. Artist: Raoul Vion. Year: c. 1925 / 2. Modern Sparta Advert. / 3. Artist: Mich. Year: c. 1920 / 

People understood what the bicycle meant to daily life and how to use it accordingly. Sanpene Bicycles, in 1925, showed how useful their product was by portraying a man shaving while cycling. It was not a crazy idea, it was just a normal portrayal of bicycles.

Interestingly, I found the ad in the middle a few years back. Sparta Bicycles, from the Netherlands, use very similar metaphors to sell their bikes. For the Dutch, it's a no brainer. They, like the Danes, get it. Associations are made and understood.

The poster at right for Hutchinson tires is one of many that show the utilitarian role of the bicycle in everyday life. It is from 1920, so the focus had shifted towards practical uses.



In this Dutch ad from a few years ago, there is another association that is natural for the Dutch. Buy a bicycle and get a free suit. It requires no stretch of the imagination for a mainstream bicycle culture to see themselves on a bicycle in a suit. Duh.

Interestingly, many tailors and shops offered "two-trouser suits" all over the world. Suits were made to last so you didn't buy one every year. But for cyclists, you could buy two pairs of trousers so the suit would last even longer.

Cyclists have managed fine in their regular clothes for well over a century, no matter what the people at Levis tell you with their "urban cycling trousers".


All of the poster and advertising examples I've been covering so far are focused on mainstream marketing techniques aimed at the 99%. The genre of posters and ads focused on sports and recreation is not as comprehensive and have little to do with this article.

Indeed, sports and recreation cycling still have nothing to do with urban cycling. They are two different worlds and, over the years, I have found few effective examples of sporty cycling used to inspire cycling for transport. It doesn't work. We've known this since the 1880s and it still applies today.

The keywords I presented at the beginning are key factors in any marketing approach, let alone getting people onto bicycles. They are, unfortunately, rarely present in much bicycle advocacy or in municipal campaigns. The fact is that the "avid cyclists" are doing all the talking and their inspiration is from environmentalism, whether they are aware of it or not.

Above, at left, is one of the few examples I've seen of sporty cycling used to promote normal, everyday cycling. It is from the City of Copenhagen in 1996. It features Jesper Skibby, a pro cyclist, who was a popular sports idol. He had just won some stages in the Vuelta Espana (it's a bike race) and his smiling mug was used in the context shown.

It's hard to cycle all around Spain. It's healthy to cycle all year round. Works better in Danish, but you get it. It's an interesting connection this one. Cyclesport is more culture than sport in Denmark. If the weather is good, 500,000 - 1,000,000 people will line the streets during the Tour of Denmark in August to watch the race. The Tour de France is a popular conversation topic even among people who have never sat on a racing bike. So this poster worked and served its purpose.

The fact remains that it is one of very few effective examples of combining two vastly different genres of cycling.

Still there are people who think that sport is the key to mainstream. A couple of years ago I was invited to speak to the president and top people at Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), who organise the Tour de France, about advocacy. I told them that the more people that rode bicycles in French cities, the greater the chance France would get a new Tour winner. 

The president smiled and said that most of the riders were from the countryside. I told him that 80% of the Danish riders who have ever participated in the Tour were from cities. You should have seen his face.

Look at the photo on the right. Imagine if those people were advocates for walkable cities. That would be odd and yet we accept that the cycling version of these people are often the primary voice for promoting urban cycling. The keywords are often save the planet, green, no pollution, healthy, etc. All sanctimonious, fingerwagging crap.

We know why people cycle in Copenhagen and cities like Amsterdam. In Copenhagen, the city has asked its cycling citizens every two years since 1996 what their main reason for choosing the bicycle is. The results never vary. The vast majority ride because it's quick and convenient. It's simply the quickest way to get around, also when combining with public transport. A lesser amount say they ride for the health benefits. This isn't fitness. They just know that 30 minutes a day is said to be a good thing. There are single digit results for "it's inexpensive" and only 1% ride for environmental reasons.

Any advocacy that is focused on keywords borrowed from environmentalism is doomed to failure. In addition, advocacy is often based on the presumption that everyone is a cyclist... they just don't know it yet. How very sub-cultural. Avid cyclists drank the kool-aid and are trying to get everyone else to do it. The Danes, Dutch and Japanese - the Galapagos Islands of mainstream bicycle culture - have it figured it.

If you want to get people on to bikes, you just make the bicycle the fastest way from A to B, using Best Practice bicycle infrastructure which has been around for a century. It's really that simple. If we have to communicate, we should do it professionally and intelligently for a mainstream audience.

The automobile industry has excelled in marketing their products for a century, despite the overwhelming negative impact that cars have on cities. They learned the ropes from the early days of bicycle advertising and have spent decades perfecting the art. There are some connections with car racing, of course, but think about every car ad you have ever seen in your entire life and remember the keywords. They're all there.

People have expectations in marketing and advertising. They are bombarded with professional campaigns, just like people in 1895. Selling cycling based on these expectations is a sure-fire way to speed up the bicycle revolution.


Another parallel between the first bicycle boom over a century ago and today is the appearance of products aimed at capitalising on a trend. Back in the day there were countless examples of products aimed at these new cycling citizens. A shirt labelled suddenly as a "cyclist shirt". A basic corset branded as "bicycle wear".

Hey, it's a market economy. People can make and sell whatever they like. The products, above, disappeared quicker than they appeared. The bicycle planted itself firmly and quickly on society and people realised that all they needed was a damn bicycle. Looking at the current bicycle boom it is clear that the massive influx of "new" accessories and especially "cyclist clothes" is mirroring the failed profiteering phase of a century ago. A whole bunch of people are going to lose money.

Only a tiny handful of all the new products cluttering our internet and inboxes will survive. Those that do will serve a practical, functional purpose. Design that makes sense.

The defined challenge of messaging for a mainstream audience is still a massive one. For many years I've been highlighting an interesting difference of approach. Above is a screengrab from Raleigh's US website. Like the UK site, it is overwhelmingly testosterone-oriented. Cycling as an extreme sport. The Danish website for Raleigh bikes (it's a separate company) is rather different. The text reads, "Practical and convenient shopping experience in full comfort". Same internet. Same brand name. Different worlds.

With that said, I checked a week ago and, for the first time since I noticed this difference, both the UK and US website have now inserted a photo in their slider that is using imagery aimed at the 99%. A positive development. I just want more people to cycle. If that makes money for bike brands, great. Many big bike brands are corporate monsters and are slow to change. They're missing out on selling bikes to a huge, emerging market. Just look at the popularity of vintage bikes. It's amazing. Why is it happening? Because the bicycle industry in many countries has failed to adapt to a new market after only selling their stuff to a narrow demographic for several decades.

I have seriously heard a number of people tell me things like, "Oh, but Americans are different... they need a different approach to selling cycling and focusing on gear and sport is the best way to do it..." This would presuppose that Americans have evolved into some mutated sub-species of homo sapiens that are immune to the marketing techniques applied in the rest of the world.

I don't buy this brand of bullshit. Americans, of all people, are subject to the same positive tone in all the ads they see as the rest of us are. That should be exploited.

We know that using positive imagery is beneficial to any product. We even did a study to prove it. We know that successful marketing is based on presenting to the public an image of the product in a positive light. We've known it for a very long time. It's about time we started using it.

All of our primary keywords - liberation, effortlessness, modernity, elegance, sociable, convenience. They are all open-source. Freely available for use.

Not using them is stunting the growth of cycling as transport. Something that is detrimental to the work of all of those who are trying to make cities better and to the common good.

I'll leave you with the greatest commercial for cycling in America for forty years.


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

The Village Idiot of Urban Innovation

5 February, 2015 - 21:53

Where cities put their bicycles. Above ground. On street level. Woven into the urban fabric. Well...  not ALL cities.

I meet amazing, inspiring people when I travel the world with my work. I see a lot of things. Many of the things are good. Many are, however, strange and frustrating. Especially regarding infrastructure. It boggles my mind every time I - or worse, ride on - bike lanes on the wrong side of parked cars in between the door zone of primarily single-occupant vehicles and moving traffic in North American cities and I thumb my nose at every sharrow I see. That fakest of all fake bicycle infrastructure. That sheep in wolf's clothing.

Despite a century of Best Practice in bicycle infrastructure and tried and tested networks occupied by tens of thousands of daily cyclists in cities that "get it", there are still so many mistakes being made elsewhere. I see stuff slapped lazily into place by engineers and planners who don't ride bicycles in their city and who haven't even tried it. Mutant Frankeninfrastructure from the lab of a Marvel Comics nemesis' laboratory.

The streets of our cities were, for 7000 years since cities first were formed, the most democratic spaces in the history of homo sapiens. When the automobile appeared, the world's longest reigning urban dictatorship took over. Rest assured, there are signs of a Velvet Revolution (I tried to work velo into that... velovet... velo-vet... nevermind) forming. Passionate advocates for life-sized cities are meeting in earnest in the back rooms of coffee houses down the back streets. Recruiting more and more planners and even engineers - even though some of the latter group get strongarmed. Certain prominent figures are heard saying extraordinary things. Like the Mayor of Paris until last year, Bertrand Delanoë, who said, "The fact is that cars no longer have a place in the big cities of our time". He backed up his vision with action. Transforming Paris into something more beautiful in his 12 years at the helm. Not just bikes and infrastructure but traffic calming and lowering speed limits, among many other things.

Nevertheless, the motordom regime continues its rule. Erich Honecker has yet to be kissed. The transport wall remains for now.

Where there is hope, there is wackiness to make you roll your eyes, weep, utter expletives. Often all at once.  There is one in every crowd, they say. The kid in the class who isn't paying attention and disrupts everyone else with unruly behaviour and lame jokes that fall flat and do little to garner respect.

In the realm of modernising transport in our cities, it would seem that the kid is London.


What place is this that can offer up three massive conceptual projects that amaze with their stupidity and complete misunderstanding of both urban life in general and the bicycle's role in cities - now and for the past 125 years?

Above, the first act in this urban comedy (it might actually be a tragedy). Norm Foster's Skycycle. Putting cyclists on a shelf at the behest of Motordom. Keeping those rascals off the streets and offering them little access to things like... oh I don't know... shops, schools, cafés, restaurants, businesses, workplaces.

£220 million for a few miles? Like Marie Kåstrup from the City of Copenhagen said, even if Copenhagen had that kind of money they wouldn't build a Skycycle. It would take cyclists off the streets and remove them from the urban fabric and places they need to go.  I've written about The Ridiculous Skycycle by Norman Foster before. I let you read that. Onward.


The second act of our absurd vaudeville production is a floating cycleway on the River Thames. £600 million. That's 5,963,800,635.36 Danish kroner at today's rate, which makes it sound even more stupid. I don't even know where to start with this one. The rendering, above, doesn't even have any off ramps. Is it recreational? Who knows. Who cares. Another architect so far removed from the reality of life in cities. Take a number, pal.

I'll let CityLab tackle this one. They might be more diplomatic about it.


And then today. Act Three. The last thing I needed to see before heading out of the office. Once you see it, you can't unsee it. The London Underline. New York must be so insulted by that reference to their High Line.

Welcome to Watership Down for cyclists. THIS is what Fiver envisioned that scared him so much while at Sandlewood. If the Skycycle and the river thing seem inconvenient and out of touch with reality, words fail me for this one.

Sticking cyclists up in the sky, out on the water and now underground. Get these people away from AutoCAD. They are an embarassment to all the good people in London who UNDERSTAND. Who are working HARD to right so many urban wrongs.

Sorry to break this to you, but there is a companion film to this "concept".

Read more about it at The Guardian. They're a bit nicer about it.

Sure, there are tunnels for cyclists. Tunnels that serve a specific function on an A to B journey. Like in San Sebastian. Like the tunnel under the river in Rotterdam, built in the 1930s.  Much has been learned since then. The Dutch do an amazing job at underpasses and they keep them light and airy. The Danes pipe pleasant music into dark bike parking facilities to keep people comfortable - and generally avoid tunnels altogether, with only a few underpasses around. Keeping cyclists above ground is a design standard here.

Some people have likened the Bicycle Snake / Cykelslangen in Copenhagen to Norm's Skycycle. No. The Bicycle Snake is a BRIDGE. Solving a problem at one specific location. Not putting cyclists out of sight, out of mind. Apples and oranges. Arsenal and Tottenham.

If you look at innovation - real innovation - regarding bicycle infrastructure, you'll notice that it always prioritizes cyclists and serves a practical, logical function. The Bicycle Snake is a great example. The Floating Roundabout in Eindhoven? Same thing. The Green Wave for cyclists, rain sensors for cyclists, Or any of these things mentioned here.

You'll also notice that they are simple in nature. Simple, rational and functional. Based on an understanding of how bicycles in cities used to work, still work and can work.

We have everything we need. We know everything we need to know. What to shift people over to other modern, intelligent transport forms? This is all you need.

Innovation in cities is simple. Use 7000 years of experience. It's right there. It's free. It works. Truly smart cities don't overcomplicate.



Ah, but wait. After that three act debacle is there hope? A splendid new bridge in London, spanning the Thames, providing a new mobility link in a city that desperately needs them. Oh... wait. The celebrity who is drumming up support for this, her baby, won't allow bicycles on it.

The village idiot is at it again. Disrupting the class. Tokyo and Berlin are ignoring him. Copenhagen and Paris are plotting a wedgie at recess behind the bike shed. Buenos Aires, New York and Dublin are just pointing and laughing.

Samuel Johnson famously quipped that, "...when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." That was 1777.  Nowadays, regarding urban innovation, when a person is tired of London, they give it one star on TripAdvisor, a scathing review and they hop on the Eurostar to Paris or fly to Berlin or Barcelona or Copenhagen or Amsterdam or... etc.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

World's Coolest Bus Commercials

5 February, 2015 - 05:00


They've done it again. Danish M2 Film have produced a sequel to their earlier commercial for Midttrafik bus company, which did the rounds a couple of years ago. It's hilarious. Love the grumpy, old-fashioned motorist who is out of touch with reality.


Here's the first version from 2012. The Bus is Cool. It's epic cool. Sure, in other parts of the world it gets labelled as "Loser Cruiser" but in Denmark we see it differently.

Incidentally, back in 2012 Mary from here at Copenhagenize Design Company spoke in Bogota at an ITDP conference about Cycle Chic, marketing cycling and our work at the company. An interesting discussion arose about how it could be possible to use the cycle chic 'method' to promote public transport use. Films like these show the way.


Then there is this viral flash mob film featuring an unsuspecting bus driver, Mukhtar Adow Mohamed, from Arriva Denmark back in 2010. It was made in connection with their "Better Bus Trip / Bedre bustur" campaign.

Arriva also established red "Love Seats" on a number of their bus lines back in 2010. They wanted to "Shake up peoples' habits a bit and have more flirting and smiling in the bus. Maybe someone will find love. Others will maybe want to try ride the bus because they can flirt with a gorgeous guy", said Marianne Færch from Arriva when the seats were launched.


For more Scandinavian public transport ads, here's a Swedish one for bus passes for teenagers. Great humour. Thanks to the world's most epic Straphanger, Taras for this one.


And here's a fantastic Norwegian one we posted a while back. Netbuss - Whoever You Are. Today It's cool, too. Sure, it's not for busses in urban areas, but it shows what is possible for using advertising and positive messaging to promote bus use - or anything else. Like urban cycling, trains, you name it. And we love the ironic lyrics in the song used in the video.


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

Lulu - the Cycling Fearbuster

28 January, 2015 - 14:39

Last autumn I was contacted by a writer, Lisa Abend from AFAR Magazine, who wanted to interview me in an article about cycling in Copenhagen. That in itself is not unusual. My life is a steady flow of interviews, which is great. Her angle, however, was unique. An American woman in her 40s who was frightened of cycling in the safe, bicycle city that is Copenhagen.

Her perception of cycling is a personal one, with its roots in an episode in her youth. Fair enough. Fear can be powerful and lengthy. She asked me to help her tackle it and get her up to speed in her new, adopted city.

She has penned a great article about it and it is well worth the read. Copenhagen: The Capital of Nordic Bike Cool. It will also be in their print version.

I'll let her do the talking - not least because she is a great writer - but I wanted to add some photo material to the article. I decided upon a three stage rocket for the interview. The middle stage was teaming Lisa up with an expert who could help her calm her fears.

I introduced her to The Lulu.


Who better than The Lulu to show how simple and easy cycling in Copenhagen can be. Lulu had just turned seven and was more than willing to help out. We started cycling around our neighbourhood, with Lulu in the lead. She was a bit shy at first, reluctant to share her knowledge and experience. After a while I decided that I was a third wheel.

On the grounds of Frederiksberg Hospital I told Lulu to take Lisa on a ride by herself while I waited on a bench. Off they went, riding up and down the streets of the grounds. After a while, I wondered where they had gotten to. Knowing The Lulu, I guessed correctly. A parking lot where she, too, had practiced getting on and off her bike when she was at the beginning of her learning curve.


I walked over and sure enough, there she was, her bike parked in the middle and Lulu acting as ringmaster as Lisa circled around her. Practicing riding with one hand. Practicing mounting the bicycle. Lulu running the show like an old pro.


Read Lisa's article. It's great.


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

Climaphobia & Vaccum-Packed Cities

27 January, 2015 - 19:50
As I write this I'm in a vacuum-packed tube hurtling through the air high above the Canadian tundra, heading to Edmonton, Alberta to speak at the Winter Cities Shakeup conference. At this point I'm pleased to be vacuum-packed. That a few generations of designers and engineers have perfected the technology to allow me to avoid the -70 C temperature outside this Air Canada Airbus and to sip a coffee while writing this. I remain amazed that this is possible. Like Louis CK says, “You're sitting in a chair in the sky! You're like a Greek myth right now.

It's a unique and original angle for a conference, this Winter Cities Shakeup. Design and urbanism focused on life in winter cities. Loads of events during the three days of the conference. In a couple of weeks I'll be speaking at the Winter Cycling Conference in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. Another great, albeit more specific, angle for a conference.

I started thinking about the Winter Cities Shakeup last year, when they first invited me to speak. What I have been thinking is why conferences like these are even necessary. Where have we ended up in the development of our cities and societies that we find it necessary to discuss and inform about life in cities with extreme (ish) weather conditions. Battling a recent – in the history of cities - development regarding peoples' perception of weather conditions.

The chain of thoughts leading to Edmonton and Leeuwarden started in Bangkok last year, where my team and I were working on a project for a client. The project dictated that we were driven all over the city. Not only on work-related matters but also sightseeing thanks to the fantastic, endless hospitality of our hosts. We also spent a great deal of time outside and taking public transport. I soon noticed a pattern in our hosts' behaviour.

The minivan was airconditioned, as are the trains and every damn building we ventured into. Every time we entered an airconditioned space, our hosts would comment on how great it was to be out of the heat. Fanning themselves and exhaling through pursed lips in relief. Even a 20 metre dash from minivan to building entrance.

It was hot in Bangkok, sure. 30-35 C and muggy. This, however, is not unusual. It's basically been the same weather for the past few... millenia. At the very least. It is in these weather conditions that the ancestors of our friends in the country were born into and lived their lives in. Working, raising families. In the course of a few decades, as airconditioning units became widespread, the heat had become a reluctant antagonist, simply because it was there. People have been conditioned to fear the heat.

An inverted meteological condition affects cities northern cities like Edmonton and Calgary and many others. There, it is the cold – performing its standard seasonal routine – that has become the bogeyman. I grew up in Calgary, so I know well the icy rage of a Prairie winter. From fifth to ninth grade I commuted by myself to the other side of the city to go to a private school. 1.5 hours on a combination of buses and trains connected with walking. Many a winters day did I amuse myself by spitting on the glass of busstops when the temperature was -20 C or colder, watching my saliva freeze solid before it had a chance to ooze down the pane.

These are places where radio stations announce – almost with a sense of pride – how long it will take your exposed skin to freeze at certain temperatures. I never have to wear a ski hat anymore, so often did my ears get frostbitten. These are places where cars have an electrical cord dangling from the hood because people have to plug in their car at night so the motor block doesn't freeze.

At the risk of making myself feel old, I remember how it was growing up in the 70s and 80s in those winters. I remember playing hockey on outdoor rinks at -25 C. Simply because there was nothing else to do and I was an average young man with energy to burn. I walked to high school in highly unsuitable footwear – boat shoes were the thing at the time and socks in boat shoes were a no go. I hated hats and on mornings when I washed my hair and didn't have time to dry it, my hair froze to ice on the 20 minute walk to school. Which I always thought was kind of cool.

Was I a hard young man? No. I was just an average young man in a winter city. I do remember, at about the age of nine or so, discovering that the thermostat in the house went up to 30 C. It baffled me that my dad had it set at 22 C. Why 22 when 30 was possible?! I kept turning it up to 30 until he approached me and gruffly explained the concept of heating bills. I was promptly sent back to the “put a sweater on” culture into which my mother had introduced all of us kids. Maybe my doppelganger in some Thai city at that time was being told “fan yourself if you're too hot”. That 'suck it up, buttercup' school of parenting is something I am pleased I experienced and something that my kids have certainly been introduced to.

Something has changed. In Bangkok. In Calgary. In Edmonton. I laugh when fellow Copenhageners feel they have to buy a fan during heatwaves in the summer where temperatures skyrocket to … oh... about 30 C. But something has changed in Copenhagen, too. All over the world.

I decided to give it a name. Climaphobia. Fear of the weather. Not extreme weather like destructive hurricanes, but just the normal weather.

We have developed into climaphobes. We fear the weather as soon as it ventures out of our comfort zone at either end of the temperature scale. In Denmark, the comfort zone is narrow. After twenty years of living in Copenhagen I have noticed that the perfect temperature for the Danes is 25 C. At 24 they bitch about the lousy summer. At 26 they gasp theatrically for breath. When the temperature stays above 20 C at night, the Danish Meteological Institute declares it a “Tropical Night”. It is rarely accompanied by a happy tone, more of a dire warning.

My Dad is 88 this year. He grew up on a farm in Northern Jutland. He can tell you stories about the legendary winters that were the norm back then. 1940/41? THAT was a winter. He has lived in Calgary since 1953, so the winter temperatures are just a bit chillier than during his childhood. He smiles and almost chuckles when telling me of this or that coldsnap in Calgary. He is almost disappointed when winter days rise above zero – as I write this it is 15 C in Calgary on January 26th.

The shrug his generation reserved for adverse weather rubbed off on my generation but now Climaphobia has struck. Coupled with our sensationalist media culture, a cold winter becomes a Polar Vortex. El Nino and his bride La Nina have produced a cull of unruly children happily named in order to imprint them on an entertainment-hungry society. Nasty hurricanes deserve a name, but generally weather has been celebritized. Previously undramatic weather conditions are elevated to the status of reality show stars. These celebrities are always cast as the bad guy. (Just look at the hysterical reaction to Juno - the storm that "threatened" New York and the East Coast yesterday)

As a film, Climaphobia would be lame. If it was found on Sony's servers by hackers, they would have deleted it instead of distributing it as a torrent. The protagonist would be a regular person living a regular life, perhaps plagued by less than optimal blood circulation so their feet and fingers were often cold. The gallery of antagonists would hardly strike fear into our hearts. Who is the battle against? Henry Heatwave, Roger the Raindrop, Coldsnap Charlie. The hero would arm themselves with battery-operated fans, hair dryers, super umbrellas – depending on which sequel we're watching.

Climaphobia is a thing because we have spent obscene amounts of energy and money desperately trying to engineer the weather out of our lives. Attempting to create a world like this tube I'm sitting in at 10,000 metres above the Prairies.
Calgary is infamous for their Skywalk system. The Plus 15, as it was called when I was young and they started developing it. The skyscrapers in the downtown core are connected by vacuum-packed walkways above the street, allowing you to walk in shirt sleeves from A to B on a complicated and not very direct route. Below, cars roll unencumbered by bothersome pedestrians. Edmonton has a network like this, as well.

Let's face it. The Skywalk concept is a direct product of a car centric society. Keeping people out of the weather was an added bonus to keeping the streets clear for cars. It's a dystopian world. Sit in your warm house, with your car plugged in or standing in a heated garage. There are even remote control devices that start your car from your dining table. Letting it run and get warmed up before you make the 5 metre dash to it. Then you drive in a vaccum-packed bubble to the downtown core, entering a car park, dashing 5 metres to the elevator and into the building, where you spend the rest of your day until to retrace your (very few physical) steps. If Le Corbusier were alive, he wouldn't watch porn. He would google images of the Skywalk to get his kicks. To get YOUR kicks, you have see the satirical film about it, called WayDownTown. A great companion film to Radiant City - another must see mockumentary about sprawl. Both films are by Gary Burns.

The downtown cores in Edmonton and Calgary are, like so many other cities, doughnuts outside of working hours. Devoid of life after the workers head home. These cities effectively amputated their streetlife and replaced it with artificial limbs in the air. Calgary tried to funk it up by making a stretch of 8th Ave car-free back in 1970 and renaming it Stephen Ave. It has never really worked. Parts of it have been handed back to cars and the street is a poor cousin to so many other pedestrianized streets around the world.

The Skywalk system and other concepts like it are simply attempts to put streetlife – and people – on a shelf, out of the way. Like the ridiculous Skycycle idea by English architect Norman Foster. Let's agree from now on that anything with the word Sky in it is probably not conducive to city life.

A conference like Winter Cities Shake-up is the unsuspecting offspring of society's climaphobia. It's goal to get people to enjoy outdoor life – even in the winter. Something homo sapiens have been doing for 200 millenia. I'm looking forward to speaking there, no doubt about it. It's a great idea. I have just tried to identify the societal development leading to it.

Is it enough to merely try and communicate the fact that “Hey! Winter's okay!” and work to inspire citizens to “rediscover outdoor winter pleasures”? Especially when their perception has been warped by a generation of vacuum-packing?

No. It's not enough.

It's design and urbanism that must battle the bad guys. Lurking in the wings of our B-film is the kingpin. Eddie Engineering. Like most nemesises, it's not really his fault. He had a bad childhood, growing up in a neighbourhood built on last-century engineering traditions. The unloved bastard child of Le Corbusier and Robert Moses. In an age where it was thought that engineering alone would save the world. In a region that bought into it. (Just look at that landscape below me now. Prairie terrain carved up by roads as far as the eye can see.)

We are left with one of the greatest challenges facing the modernisation of our cities. Changing the perception of the citizens. Perception of life outside the bubble. Perception of how people can transport themselves around cities.

Telling is less effective than showing. In the information age where we are inundated with things to learn – more things than we can ever hope to understand – telling through communication is losing its effectiveness.

Showing creates a different conversation. Copenhagen's tradition for pilot projects allows for showing. Once something is on the ground and working, people will discuss it on a much more fruitful level. Look at bike share – and the bike share Whine-o-meter. Ask a population if a city should have bike share and the population will say no. Put it in and get it working and they will understand. If they are still opposed, at least their opposition is well thought out (generally).

67% of motorists in Copenhagen want more bicycle infrastructure. Why? Because we've shown them. If a motorist is sitting at a red light with five cars in front of them and 100 cyclists at the red light on the cycle track next to them, they can see it. “If those five schmucks were on bikes, I'd be the first car at the red light...” They get it.

Building bicycle infrastructure for year round use will show people. “Ah... I get it...” Narrowing car lanes to create space for cycle tracks or public transport... “Ah... I get it...” And so on.

Designing facilities that are proven to work and slapping them into place. It's really the only way forward. Be it pilot projects or permanent solutions.

If communication is to be used, it shouldn't be in the form of campaigns to “ride a bike!” or “save the planet!” Environmentalism is the greatest marketing flop in the history of homo sapiens and most bicycle advocacy – as well as a lot of advocacy for liveable cities - is based on the same haughty tone and communication techniques.

The same show starts every autumn on the social media. Strange conversations begin about “how to ride during the winter”. Overcomplicated articles appear, like this one, written by avid cyclists who mean well but who do little to inspire the 99%. Every autumn I link to photos of people cycling in the winter in Copenhagen. This year I just made a new blog, based on a hashtag I thought up last year. Copenhagen Viking Biking. Daily flashcard inspiration.

“People won't do THAT...”

Uh. Yes they will. They're doing it right now. Humans will always use the quickest way from A to B. Understanding this urban anthropology is important. Fundemental. Effective.

Design for a life-sized city first, communicate effectively second. Show and tell. Battle Climaphobia and vacuum-packed cities.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Is Copenhagen Finally up To Speed on 30km/h Zones?

16 January, 2015 - 10:20
If Copenhagen was Paris or Barcelona, they would be doing this. Based on population density, this is where 30 km/h should be standard.
Yeah, so I woke up to some promising news this morning here in Copenhagen. For all the modern liveable city goodness in the Danish capital, we are in the Bronze Age regarding speed limits in cities.

It's been lonely being one of the only people broadcasting the need for 30 km/h zones in Danish cities. Discovering that modernisation may be on the way is fantastic. The first 30 km/h zone was implemented in 1983 in Buxtehude, Germany. Over 150 cities in Europe have made 30 km/h the default speed in urban areas.

It is shocking that most of densely-populated Copenhagen isn't already a 30 km/h zone.

Buxtehude, Germany. 1983.

In Denmark, the Ministry of Justice published a document back in 1985 with the sexy name Justitsministeriets cirkulære nr. 72 af 5. juli 1985 making it possible for municipalities to adjust local speed limits. If "speed is a major cause of accident or risk on the stretch in question".

While that sounds like a good thing, they stated that it had to be proven that a reduction in speed would make dangerous stretches safer. Proving it has been a difficult task and the proof had to be in the form of complicated mathematical calculations. Weird to require calculations in order to save human lives, reduce injuries and make cities nicer. The next challenge was convincing the police to allow it. As we've written about before, the Danish police have bizarre powers and veto rights regarding traffic and they are not obliged to provide proof to support their veto.

The police in Copenhagen wouldn't even agree to 40 km/h zones, let alone the European Union standard of 30.

Today, however, the Ministry of Justice has announced that they are working on making it easier for municipalities to reduce speed limits. Let's hope they don't overcomplicate it and that they complete ignore the police on the subject. Until it's time to enforce the new speed limits. THEN they can move in and do their job.

We have written at length about 30 km/h zones here on the blog and we started a little Facebook group called 30 kbh (kbh is the short form for København - Copenhagen in Danish).

You can read 30 km/h Zones Work.

We also made an analysis of the effectiveness of 30 km/h zones that is freely downloadable and sharable.  But here's the gist of it all:

30 zones reduce injury and death
A study carried out in London concluded that there was a 42% reduction in injuries after the implementation of 30 km/h zones. Younger children were the group with the most significant reduction in KSI’s (Killed & Seriously Injured). A 27% reduction was measured in Barcelona, which led to the city rolling out massive 30 km/h zones across the urban landscape.


The numbers are pretty clear here. If you get hit by a car doing 30 km/h your chance of dying is only 5%. At 50 km/h it is 50%.


As your speed increases in a car, your peripheral vision decreases drastically.

There is no cheaper or more effective way to save lives and reduce injury in cities. Period.

30 zones improve congestion
With slower speeds, the amount of stop-starts is reduced – if not eliminated – which improves flow and helps easy congestion.


30 zones are inexpensive
Changing speed limit signs is inexpensive while building out sidewalks and narrowing lane widths is more expensive. Nevertheless, it is cost efficient. In Switzerland, the annual savings on health costs due to 30 zones is €120 - €130 million.

30 zones reduce noise pollution
By reducing the speed by 10 km/h, a noise reduction of 2-3 dB is achieved. That is far cheaper than noise reducing asphalt. Read more in the article Noisy Danish Speed Demons.
Also, the noise of five cars at 50 km/h is the same as ten cars at 30 km/h. The noise of one large truck equals as much noise as 15 cars.

30 zones improve air quality
In an overall analysis of pollutants, 30 km/h zones reduce CO2 emissions by 15%, NOX emissions by 40% and CO emissions by 45%. Only hydrocarbons will increase, by 4%.

30 zones improve fuel efficiency
Since they improve flow, motorists will save on fuel and reduce C02 emissions.

30 zones improve local business
The traffic calming effect that 30 km/h zones have on neighbourhoods is remarkable. Pedestrians and cyclists increase and, since pedestrians and cyclists spend more money in shops, local business benefits. A study in the UK showed that people who walked to town centres spent an average of £91 (around €115) per week, while motorists would spent £64 (around €80) per week. Cyclists, too, are proven to spend more money in shops than motorists.


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

The Urban Archipelago - Reclaiming Space and Revitalising the Harbour

7 January, 2015 - 14:27

Living in Copenhagen, you're never far from the harbour or the sea. We're blessed with access to water and to fabulous beaches. Nevertheless, we feel that the harbour is currently underused. The ancient harbour of the Danish capital was decommercialised around 17 years ago and most shipping activity was moved to harbours to the north of the city, leaving a fantastic swath of urban space for the citizens. Freeing up the harbourfront led to an ongoing urban renewal, with 42 km of harbourfront to be developed.

Nevertheless, I've watched the development and wondered why the actual water seems so underused through the years. It seems to be accelerating a bit over the past two years or so, but given the fact that this is a rowing and sailing nation, I would love to see more opportunities for the citizens to use the water.


There are harbour baths in place now and the number of pleasure craft is rising. The Kalvebod Wave made a serious impact on harbourfront usage despite the City missing the mark regarding transport connections.. All great. It's brilliant that the water is now clean enough to swim in and that people do it at every opportunity - even at four in the morning.

Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement. There is a lack of sanctioned areas for bathing in the harbour (Copenhageners generally don't worry about those rules) and there is opportunity for creating viable and lively urban space with direct access to the water.



Enter Steve C. Montebello - designer and architect here at Copenhagenize Design Company. Hailing from Malta, Steve understands the need for access to the sea for citizens of a city. He developed The Urban Archipelago for his design project for the final year of his B.Sc. in The Built Environment. With our offices located on Paper Island, on the harbour in the heart of Copenhagen, we instantly saw how this brilliant idea could be applied virtually right outside our door, let alone at numerous locations along the harbour and elsewhere in Denmark.

Two factors inspired Steve to create the modular Urban Archipelago. One was the brilliant Sugata Mitra, who has brilliant TED talks about children and education. His Self-Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) concept got Steve thinking. The other factor was the eternal battle for urban space for the citizens.

Steve's idea, like all good ideas, is simple. Creating an off-shore activity area that provides access to the water - including jumping in from various heights YAY! - and that shields the users from any boat traffic that may be chugging past. Hang out, eat lunch, make out, doze, swim, play. Whatever you need to do, The Urban Archipelago system will help you out. It's the perfect addition to any Life-Sized City.



Of course, we did a rendering of what it would look like right outside our offices on Paper Island/Papirøen. Bring on the summer.


The modular unit can be tesselated, allowing for a large variety of arrangement possibilities. The layout of the individual is organic and changeable and can be adapated to user needs, user volume and specific location requirements.



The main intentions of Steve's design were to create floating modular units consisting of a square base which could be tessellated. These modular units will increase public space at the location they are anchored. Steve has even factored in free wifi. Nice.


The modular elements are connected by ropes and pre-existing pontoon elements. A separate module can be anchored off to the side, covered with solar panels that could power the wifi and any other electricity needs.



The modular units are constructed in a workshop. They will then be assembled as prefabricated elements on site, in whatever size and form is desired or required.

It's a brilliant, simple and effective idea. It also makes us miss summer badly. We decided at Copenhagenize Design Company to build more stuff in 2015. Maybe we should get started on this.







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

Desire Line Analysis in Copenhagen's City Centre

7 January, 2015 - 11:11



Continuing in our series of Desire Line Analyses, we decided to cast our critical and curious eyes on yet another Copenhagen intersection, this time where Bremerholm meets Holmens Kanal.

We decided to be more specific and focus on one part of the intersection - a location that we know well and one with a specific congestion problem in rush hour. We filmed for one hour from 08:15-09:15.

Behaviour vs Design

With the massive numbers of bicycle users in the mornings in Copenhagen, bottlenecks occur at a number of locations, particularly where many bicycle users need to turn left. This is something that all of us at the company experience each morning so we decided to study it.

It was a November morning and it was party-cloudly, dry and 6 degrees C. The focus was to determine how bicycle users react to the sub-standard design of this location. How they react to having to battle with motorised traffic - something that is unusual in the city. Yep, even in Copenhagen, The Arrogance of Space is present at times.

With this study we look at how bicycle users react to the design of infrastructure at one specific location, their behaviour and adherance to traffic laws and how they interact with other traffic users, in particular cars. All in one tight, congested location.

As always, we apply Direct Observation and Revealed Preferences, as opposed to Declared Preferences in order to explore how to improve conditions for bicycle users in the interest of improving flow, capacity and safety.

For more Desire Line Analyses, see: copenhagenize.eu/projects.html#desire

Here is the map of the intersection in question.

You can check out the full report here. (LINK to full pdf)

This short analysis revealed quite a lot of interesting revelations in the behaviour of the bicycle users. We have established that Copenhagen has the world's best behaved bicycle users. We wondered if that track record would stand the test at an intersection that is far below the Copenhagen par in its design.

71% of all traffic in the observation period were bicycle users.

86% of all left-turning bicycle users observed performed the textbook Copenhagen Left. The majority of those who didn't were reacting to the congestion.

1:3 - For every vehicle there were three bicycle users. Imagine if they were all in cars. This might jog your memory.

1560 - This Desire Line analysis mapped the Desire Lines of 1560 cyclists on their way to work or education during morning rush hour at the Bremerholm - Holmens Kanal intersection.

Bremerholm - Holmens Kanal intersection: 1560 Cyclists (from 8:15am to 9:15)



During the morning rush hour, the intersection is characterised by congestion at the corner with bicycle users waiting for the green light. The traffic law dictates that the Copenhagen Left - or the box turn - is required. Bicycle users are not, however, required to wait for the light to turn green. They can cross if there is no traffic.

Two main behavioural patterns were observed. The first where bicycle users are turning left in great numbers and also how bicycle users coming down Bremerholm interact with motor vehicles upon reaching the light.  These two scenarios interacted with each other, and should not be considered to be mutually exclusive events.

Detailed Observations of cyclists waiting at Bremerholm


Here we see how bicycles and vehicles interact inside the same space. At this location, the bike lane ends before the intersection and bicycle users share the space with right-turning cars. This design was standard for a few years, but now pulling back the stop line for cars at intersections is the new design approach. The general rule of thumb is that whoever gets to the intersection first - be it a car or a bicycle user - can decide to hug the curb. Cars invariably hugged the curb, leaving - at this location - no space for bikes. Because of their expectations due to the uniformity of design elsewhere in the city, bicycle users invariably found a way of getting ahead of the cars at the red light.


Detailed Observations of cyclists waiting at Bremerholm doing the Copenhagen Left



It was interesting to observe how bicycle users waited at the light when turning left. It had little to do with the volume of bicycles but rather the behaviour of those who arrive first on the scene. The following bicycle users invariably followed their lead, either lining up across the intersection or bunching up behind them.

Further Data
Further data and observations were gathered from this Desire Line analysis.The data of each of the different forms of traffic was then broken down (shown below).


The observations of the cyclists.


Vehicular data was broken down.


Along with pedestrian data.


It was interesting to note the flow of traffic per traffic light turn and compare the flow of bicycles to cars. While the flow of vehicles remains rather constant at 9 cars per green light over the morning rush hour, the flow of bicycles varies greatly. This demonstrates that bicycles can get through an intersection quicker than vehicles do.


Copenhagenize Fixes
Finally we offer our recommendations for redesigning the intersection. When the vast majority of the users are on bicycles, democracy would indicate that there are easy redesigns available to prioritize them.


Read the full pdf from the Copenhagenize Design Company website.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

IJ Dock Amsterdam - New Urban Space

5 January, 2015 - 12:39

On my recent visit to Amsterdam I decided to try a new hotel. The Room Mate Aitana Hotel located on IJDock, a short walk from Central Station. I'd heard about this newly redesigned quay from a friend and was thrilled to discover that it's open for business. To be frank, it was four days of architecture/urban design porn.


It's a dead-end island - one road in and out, although with another pedestrian/cyclist bridge for easier access - so it's not like they're fighting traffic. Nevertheless, looking down from my hotel room, it's clear that cars are told how much space they can use. No arrogance of space here. The allocated spots are outside the hotel entrance, for taxis and pickup/drop off. There is also an underground car parking garage on the island.


There is underground bike parking to be had as well. Clearly marked with a big pictogram and a lovely pictogram set in stone. I wandered in and it was virtually empty. But bikes were always parked up on the street... near the pictogram. You can see what I mean in the photo at the top of the page.

I parked on the sidewalk outside the Aitana hotel, where there is a weird abscence of bike racks, even though there were always loads of hotel bikes and rental bikes, including my OV Fiets. When you're working on the BiTiBi.eu Bike-Train-Bike project, you ride an OV Fiets bike share bike in Amsterdam. It would be rude not to. Plus it's just a brilliant system.


Here are some photos from inside the Aitana hotel. Loads of design details and goodness. Although I could live without the psychadelic hallways, but hey.


Outside the hotel, whichever way I looked at the architecture and design on the island, it looked amazing. In every light and even at night.




So many details to behold. The view of the river only added to the potpourri of images. A constant flow of ships and barges.


IJ Dock is mixed use. I could see life in some of the 56 luxury apartments and some shops and cafés were open (grab breakfast at Bagels and Beans instead of the hotel, which is otherwise a fantastic place to stay). It looks like there are still vacant offices in the various buildings, so the place is just heating up with activity. The Palace of Justice is at one end and a police station at the entrance, so this is not the place you'd want to engage in criminal activities.



The brown space, above, will be transformed to green as a vertical lawn once spring comes. A nice detail.

Bizarrely, it's tricky to find helpful information about the little island, despite the efforts to build such interesting buildings. There is a website, but it's only in Dutch - http://www.ijdock.nl/. Here's the location on Google maps.


Nevertheless, IJ Dock is a wild, weird and beautiful place. I've definately found my new home away from home when I'm in Amsterdam. Check it out if you're in town.

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

Copenhagen's Traffic Playground for Kids - Renovated and Ready to Go

5 January, 2015 - 10:55

In 1974, a Traffic Playground opened in Fælledparken, Copenhagen, giving children the opportunity to hone their skills riding bicycles and interacting with other traffic users. On November 29, 2014, the Traffic Playground reopened after being renovated, in time for the 40th anniversary.

Such traffic playgrounds have been commonplace in Denmark and the Netherlands since the 1950s and go hand in hand with the fact that the bicycle has been on the curriculum in Danish schools since 1947. Children recieve their first taste of bicycle “school” in the 3rd grade and, in the sixth grade, they complete a bicycle exam.

All the facilities at the Traffic Playground in Copenhagen were renovated. New asphalt was laid down and everything else was shined up. Safe traffic learning is really prioritized in Denmark and, of course, our kids deserve the best conditions.

The traffic playground is a public playground with a “kid-sized” traffic town where children learn to move in a safe environment. The playground is staffed during business hours and children can borrow go-carts, pedal vehicles with trailers and small bikes. The children are also welcome to bring their own bikes, roller skates and scooters.

For younger children (2-5 years), there is a small, fenced traffic lane where the little ones can borrow carts, tricycles and bicycles with trailers. Furthermore, the playground has a garage with go-carts, which are intended for children between 5 and 14 years. In the classroom, children can receive classroom teaching.

The traffic playground consists of small roads that wind in and out between lawns, shrubs and trees. Everything on the small rehearsal roads is reduced in size to match the children's perspective. There are mini signals, driveways, road markings, sidewalks, crosswalks, bike paths, a gas station, a roundabout, bus stops, traffic lights and even trash cans tilted towards the cyclists - just like in real life (you can see one here in this earlier article).

Every aspect of traffic in a city and a suburban area is present. Kids switch between being cyclists, motorists and pedestrians in order to learn from the different angles.

Living in a city like Copenhagen, it’s really useful for kids to be taught in how to interact and signal in traffic from a young age. By the age of six, many children ride to school, and therefore you can’t start the practicing soon enough. During our every day cycling in Copenhagen we see that the young ones excel at riding bicycles and interacting with car and motorcycle traffic. All cities can certainly learn something from that. A facility like this fits perfectly in our idea of what a truly life-sized city should be.

The traffic playground caters to schools and kindergartens, as well as other organised groups and parents are welcome to stop by with their kids.


Photo from the reopening - courtesy Traffic Playground and their Facebook page.

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

Reversing The Arrogance of Space in Copenhagen

3 January, 2015 - 22:14

What you see in the above photo is a classic symptom of decades of car-centric planning. A wide, rounded corner that expedites the movment of cars, without jeopardising their speed. Wide sidewalks narrow at the corner, where bicycles are often parked. It is a prime example of The Arrogance of Space. It's the corner of Gammel Kongevej and Skt. Jørgens Allé.

It is possible that this corner was designed as such for the tramways of Copenhagen that operated in the city from 1884 to 1972, when one of the most destructive Lord Mayors in the history of Copenhagen (in an urban planning sense) - the ironically named Urban Hansen - killed them off. I've been unable to find out which tram route might have turned down this street at this intersection.

Nevertheless, this corner remained unchanged ever since. I know this spot well. It's always been an irritating bottleneck, especially when walking with a baby carriage, as I did often when Felix was a baby.

There is little need for this corner. As the green lines indicate, there is a considerable amount of space that is unused. There is a cycle track on the street running left to right - you can see a cyclist at bottom right. To be honest, it was a great corner for cyclists, too. Too much speed, however, coming around that corner wasn't good for pedestrians at the crosswalk.

For the twenty years I've lived in Copenhagen, this intersection remained unchanged. Until recently. Today, to my pleasant surprise, there has been an intervention at this location. The City of Copenhagen decided to right a wrong.

As you can see from this photo from today, the rounded corner has been sharpened off to a 90 degree angle. The usual, strict design guide regarding sidewalk design in the City was not adhered to in the built out section, but let's let than one slide. New curbstones were put in and the area was filled out with asphalt, widening the sidewalk nicely. Racks for 15 bicycles were put in, providing a further buffer against the traffic.

In addition, at bottom left there is a build out towards the traffic, narrowing the street further and creating another buffer. The cycle track was widened at the same time. Not as wide as in many spots in the city, but still enough for conversation cycling - two cyclists cycling and talking and room for another cyclist to overtake.

A simple solution. Reversing the Arrogance of Space in one location. It's not a complete painting, but it is a good stroke of colour. In my perfect world, however, pedestrians wouldn't be forced to do a dog's leg - instead moving the pedestrian crossing to the corner to allow them to continue along a straight desire line on this route to the city centre. The location is, however however, safer, slower and better.

Here are some other examples from Copenhagen of narrowing the road space for cars and adding bicycle racks.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

The Arrogance of Space - Cape Town

30 December, 2014 - 11:55

Another chapter in our ongoing series about The Arrogance of Space. This photo was taken by a friend flying to Cape Town. We are not familiar with the specifics of the location - probably near the airport - but that doesn't stop us from slapping our Arrogance of Space filter onto the photo. It's a badass intersection - the kind that makes old school traffic engineers feel all warm and fuzzy. It's a monster of extreme arrogance.

Let's face it... if you have space for vendors to stroll down the car lanes (top centre), your lanes are arrogantly wide.


Firstly, here is how the space is allocated. An ocean of car-centric red. Thin pedestrian crossings with fading paint. No bicycle infrastructure is present.

Take away the photo and it looks like this. Making the red all the more shocking.

There were a few pedestrians and vendors present when the photo was taken. A couple of mini-vans transporting people, but generally - like most places - just individuals in one car.

The sea of red is still expansive, despite marking off the actual space occupied by cars.

The great thing about this photo is that the cars do the work for us. On the photo at left, the whiteish areas rarely see any car tire action. In the photo at right, we just did a simple "colour replace", removing the darkened trajectories of the cars with a more noticeable colour. At right you can see clearly that it is a classic, textbook example of The Arrogance of Space.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

The Arrogance of Space - Sao Paulo, Brazil

17 December, 2014 - 15:48

We felt it was time for another look at the Arrogance of Space, this time applying our filter to an intersection in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Our friend and colleague Dora Moreira took this photo for us last week - Dec 2015 - of the intersection of Praça Julio Mesquita - Avenues São João & Rua Vitória. It was 16:40 on a Saturday. Looks nice and quiet with not a lot of traffic of any sort. We are, however, looking at the space allocated to various transport forms.



When you apply the colours to the photo, you start to see The Arrogance of Space emerge. This photo is a little deceptive because it is not completely aerial. The yellow of the buildings dominates, so let's focus on the streetspace. Despite being in the heart of Sao Paulo, pedestrians are not afforded very much space. The angry red of the roads emerges as the clear winner in the space sweepstakes.

A token strip of purple denotes some sort of bike lane - far from anything we recognise as Best Practice. Not to mention the fact that paint does little to keep cyclists safe. The Mayor of Sao Paulo is talking up bicycle infrastructure. If THIS is what he has in mind, we're not impressed.

Some leafy trees are visible - the one in the foreground is on a small square - and some line the streets. (Not everyone has time to sit on a bench - most have to go from A to B.)

Take away the photo and The Arrogance of Space is revealed. We doubt that the street on the left actually needs four lanes. Narrow them down, expand the sidewalks and implement cycle tracks on both sides.

It's what a modern city would do.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Street Photography from the World's Youngest Urbanist

13 December, 2014 - 09:21

Everybody sees their city differently. What does the city look like through the eyes of The World's Youngest Urbanist? Lulu-Sophia keeps delivering a solid flow of pure observations about city life. She also grows up in a home filled with cameras and has free access to all of them. What about putting those two things together, I thought.

Some Canon camera, be it 5 or 7D is usually lying in the window sill at our place. I often find photos on the memory card that Lulu-Sophia had taken of people out on the street in front of our flat. She just started picking up the camera and shooting. A couple of years ago I started handed her the camera when we're riding around on the Bullitt cargo bike.

I never say what she should take photos of. I just say "take photos if you want". Totally up to her and no big deal if she doesn't. Sometimes I don't notice what she does but when I load the photos onto the computer, I get to see what she sees. And it is quite wonderful.

I've made a little set of her street photography work on Flickr from when she was five but here are some of her shots from the urban landscape. Both from the flat and from the Bullitt.

By and large, she photographs people. Still Life must be like watching paint dry for a five year old. Humans, please. Except, perhaps, for a pretty red bicycle (farther down) that caught her eye.




People doing things. Transporting themselves, waiting for someone, observing - in their own way - their city. Humans watching humans.










There are many bicycles, mostly because it's like shooting fish in a barrel in Copenhagen. You can't take a shot without a bicycle in it. When shooting from the flat, she shoots cyclists and pedestrians.









And of course, the set wouldn't be complete without a shot of your big brother, Felix.
Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Bicycles in Language

12 December, 2014 - 12:18

I have always been fascinated by how the bicycle has muscled its way into various languages. There are numerous bicycle references in Danish that are used by reflex, without any direct reference to a bicycle anecdote. I started wondering if this is the case in other languages and have scribbled notes down based on conversations with colleagues and friends.

According to Danish historian Finn Wodschow, there are more references to the bicycle in Danish literature, music and film than in any other country. Not surprisingly, there are a few bicycle-related expressions that have embedded themselves even deeper in the linguistic culture.

If you know of any others, in other languages, feel free to add them in the comments.

DANISH
Kæden er hoppede af
"The chain fell off" is used when something goes wrong.

Example:
"Sorry I'm late, but the chain fell off for me today".
You can also claim that the chain fell off for someone else, if they are having a bad day, or screwed up.

Cykler rundt i det
"Cycling around in it" is used to describe someone who is confused or talking about something without really getting to the point.

Example:
"That politician is really cycling around in it."

Medvind & modvind
"Tailwind & headwind" are pretty self-explanatory. Although while in English the word tailwind originates in aviation, in Danish the translation is more generic. "With wind" and "Against wind". Denmark is a windy place. It's also a sailing nation. Wind factors in to many aspects of life. Because of a long, proud bicycle history, however, these two words are used often in the language.

Example:
If things are going very well for you in your life... "Sounds like you really have a 'with wind' at the moment! Great!"
Or if things aren't going so good, "Yeah, my company is in a bit of a headwind this year."

Sol eller vind
"Sun or wind". When your Nordic citizens, by and large, have spent great amounts of time transporting themselves on bicycles for over a century, things get boiled down to the basics. Sun is good. Wind is bad. Indeed, since 1934, two statues have looked out over City Hall Square. One is a woman on a bicycle who rotates out when it is fair weather and one is a woman with an umbrella, who rotates out when the forecast is for rain. THAT'S how important sun and wind are here.

Example:
How is your new relationship going? "Not sure. It's sun and wind."

Gi' baghjul or Vis baghjul
To "give backwheel" is a very good thing, unless you're the one who was given it. You can also "show" your backwheel to someone if you want to get ahead of them in whatever sense. This one orginates in cycle sport, but is used in all aspects of Danish life.

Example:
"Give cancer the backwheel!" is actually a campaign to raise money for children with cancer. A TV show can give another competing show backwheel if they beat them in the ratings. And so on.

Ligge i baghjul
"Lying on the backwheel" - essentially 'drafting' in English - is not something you want to do but it can also be a good thing.

Example:
A political party can lie on the backwheel of a competing party, meaning they are being beaten in the polls. You can, however, also say "Now I'm lying on his backwheel", meaning you have risen up the ranks and are breathing down a competitor's neck, ready to overtake and put yourself in the lead.

Højere gear
To move into a "higher gear" is generally considered to indicate that you are speeding up, gaining momentum, going to the next level.

Example:
We really have to go to a higher gear on this project...

FRENCH
As a country with a proud cycling history, the bicycle has made several linguistic contributions to French.

Sucer la roue
Essentially "sucking the wheel", this is French for sitting tight on the backwheel of the cyclist in front of you. Same as the Danish meaning and used in other areas of life.

La tete dans le guidon
Having "the head on the handlebars" is not considered a good thing. If your forehead is on the handlebars, you're not watching where you're going. You are distant and inattentive.

Dejanté
This means riding without tires. (Quick historical aside: During wartime, all over Europe, rubber was hard to get a hold of. It was often necessary to cycle on the rims. In Denmark, and probably elsewhere, if you couldn't get inner tubes, you stuffed your tires with grass or hay in a desperate attempt at a softer ride.)

In French it is used to describe someone with odd, inconsistent behaviour or behaviour outside the norm.

Changer de braquet
"Changing the gears" means, like in Danish, to get moving, go to the next level.

Bécyk a pédales
Mostly shortened to plain old "Bécyk", this is a slang for the bicycle unique to Quebec French. It is a mutation of the English word bicycle and has generally had a derogatory connotation. Just short of ridicule of a transport form for poor, working class people. I have heard it used, however, more and more often in Quebecois as a generic slang for bicycle.

Pas d'casque
Translated simply as "No helmet", this phrase went in the opposite direction, from ice hockey to general use, including urban cycling, and is another phrase unique to Quebec French. Helmets started to appear in North American ice hockey in the 1970s. They were made mandatory in 1979 but players who had signed a contract before 1 June, 1979 were not obliged to do so. Many top players from Quebec were known for their flowing hair and the expression became associated with a kind of freestyle attitude. Someone with flair and style. The current mayor of Le Plateau, Luc Ferrandez cycles without a helmet and pas d'casque has been used to describe him in more ways than one.

RUSSIAN?
The best thing since the bicycle
In my notes I have this written down, but I can't remember exactly where it is from. It might be Russian or another Slavic language. In English something can be called the best thing since sliced bread. In this language something really fantastic is called the best thing since the bicycle. Because let's face it, the bicycle was a pretty great invention.

Any help in tracking this expression is welcome.

ENGLISH
As easy as riding a bicycle & just like riding a bicycle
These two well-known expressions in English are worth mentioning. If something is effortless or easy, it's as easy as riding a bicycle. If something is easy to remember, it's just like riding a bicycle.

Add any others you may know in the comments or @ me on Twitter @copenhagenize

Bicycle references in Danish culture

Here are some other, general descriptions using the bicycle from the annals of Danish culture that I've discovered through the years.

"One sits on it either straight-backed, as though you're at a festive dinner party, or hunched foward, as though you just failed an exam. All according to the situation, your inclination or your inborn characteristics."

"And like a large home Copenhagen begins the day's work. Already down on the streets is one at home, with loose hair, long sitting rooms through which one travels socialbly on a bike. In offices, in workshops, in boutiques you are at home, in your own home, one large family that has divided the city among itself and runs it in an orderly fashion, like a large house. So that everyone has a role and everyone gets what they need. Copenhagen is like a large, simple house."

"In the stream of cycles over Knippels Bridge we see Gudrun again, pedaling steadily. As though her and the machine are one. She is Copenhagen and Copenhagen is her."

"If one (Ed. cyclist) is bumped by a car, the whole school is bumped. It's a nerve one has in the elbow, a flock function, which Copenhageners have learned so well that it is second nature".
The above three by Johannes V. Jensen, from the novel Gudrun / 1936


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

Cologne/Köln Ridicules Pedestrians in name of "safety"

27 November, 2014 - 12:42

Thanks to reader Felix Feldhofer for the photo and the heads up about this story.

By and large, history is repeating itself as we work towards making cities better. We are returning to many of the ideas that made cities human - before the automobile appeared. It's often a very good thing.

Which makes what is happening in Cologne, Germany, even more comical, bizarre and stupid. It is absolutely shocking. A stunning example of Ignoring the Bull.

We've written before about The Anti-Automobile Age in the early years of the 20th Century. In this article, you can read about the "jaywalking" concept, basically invented by the automobile industry to keep the streets clear for their cars and get the irritating, squishy obstacles out of the way. I highlight this in my Bicycle Urbanism by Design TED x talk.

We know it was crazy. We know that it was a desperate - and successful - ploy by the automobile industry to claim the streets for themselves, despite the fact that for 7000 years since cities first where formed, crossing the street was a rather normal thing to do. As Canadian writer Chris Turner points out, there is no jaywalking on sustainable streets.

If you thought the idea in some American cities of putting flags at pedestrian crossings for pedestrians to wave at cars when crossing was wacky and sooo last century, you'll love Cologne.

The City, the police and the tram company (Big Auto is chuckling in the wings) are financing a campaign to stop people from jaywalking. Goofy men in red and green costumes wander around the city ridiculing pedestrians doing what urban homo sapiens have done for seven millenia. Crossing the street to get somewhere they need to go.



Back in the day, the Automobile Industry enlisted boy scouts to hand out flyers and chastise, publicly, pedestrians who were "jaywalking". Amazingly - and I mean that in the most stunned, jaw-dropping way - the authorities are actually handing out whistles to children when they visit them in schools and training them to blow their whistles at jaywalkers. In the public space. Ridiculing them. It's the Cologne version of a mix between Stasi methods and public stocks - as choreographed by Monty Python.


Cologne is regurgitating propaganda from the 1920s invented by the car industry.

The police and the city, who are indoctrinating the children between 3rd and 7th grade - for taxpayer money - call it a "behaviour" campaign. They call it "Köln steht bei Rot" - or "Cologne stops for red". But the whole kid/whistle is an intiative called "Ich verpfeife dich". It's a German play on words. Directly translated it means "I will whistle you" but it also means "I am going to tell on you!"

Seriously. That is the level that the City of Cologne and the police are working at. In 2014.

It's one thing to get an idea for such a campaign. It's quite another to actually finance it and start it. It is one of the most bizarre examples of cities advertising how completely incompetent they are at controlling the destruction on their streets. Placing the responsibility on the vulnerable traffic users and not the Bull.

This entire campaign disgusts me. No offence, American friends, but it something that we're used to seeing coming out the States. That it is happening in a large northern European city that should know better is depressing.

It's certainly not a new idea. Bogota has also chased pedestrians in a similar fashion and tried to sugarcoat it in academia.

Another article in German about the campaign.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

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