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Updated: 1 hour 17 min ago

7550 New Bike Parking Spots at Copenhagen Central Station

10 April, 2015 - 13:13
For all of Copenhagen's badass mainstream bicycle culture, there remains one thing that the City still completely sucks at. Bicycle parking at train stations. At Copenhagen Central Station there are only about 1000 bike parking spots. Danish State Railways can't even tell us how many spots they have. They're not sure.

Even in Basel they have 800+. In Antwerp they have this. Don't even get me started on the Dutch. 12,500 bike parking spots are on the way in some place called Utrecht. Amsterdam has a multi-story bike parking facility, floating bicycle barges round the back and are planning 7000 more spots underwater.

Even at the nation's busiest train station, Nørreport, the recent and fancy redesign failed miserably in providing parking that is adequate for the demand. Architects once again failing to respond to actual urban needs.

It is time to remedy that. Here is Copenhagenize Design Company's design for 7550 bike parking spots behind Copenhagen Central Station. Steve C. Montebello is the architect that I worked closely with.

By exploting the area over the train tracks and using Tietgens Bridge as the transport spine, we have created an iconic bicycle parking facility with ample parking spots at this important transport hub where trains, buses and - in 2019 - the Metro converge in an intermodal transport orgy.

In our work on the EU project BiTiBi.eu - Bike Train Bike - we have been focused on parking solutions at train stations. It was a natural evolution to use that experience in developing this project.
The structure is supported by columns and utilises the existing platforms below, which dictated the shape that we decided upon.
Here is the view of the area as it is today.
There are four on/off ramps from Tietgens Bridge for ease-of-access.
A secure bicycle parking facility will house 640 bikes.
We used 3D models of bike racks courtesy of our colleagues at the Dutch company Falco. They know a thing or two about bike racks.
There will be a space for a bike shop for repairs and maintenence located at the entrance, next to ticket machines and displays featuring departures and arrivals for trains and buses.
The parking with have signs with areas divided up alphabetically, so you can find your bike again.
There is access to the three platforms below by stairs that will, of course, have bike ramps. Duh.

This facility will right so many wrongs and will thrust Copenhagen into the 21st century regarding bicycle parking at train stations. If we are  to maintain the momentum of a blossoming bicycle-friendly city, we need to up our game regarding parking.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Choreography of a Copenhagen Corner - Desire Line Analysis

1 April, 2015 - 14:18


Desire Line Analysis: Choreography of a Copenhagen Corner
Cyclist Behaviour at a busy Copenhagen cycle intersection
By Marie Lindebo Leth - Anthropologist


For the next study in our Desire Line series we have picked a renowned Copenhagen bicycle hotspot: the Søtorvet / Dronning Louise’s Bro intersection. Over 40,000 bicycle trips are made through this intersection at a daily basis, making it one of the busiest in the world in terms of cyclist volume.

Such numbers create a special need for appropriate bicycle infrastructure in order to accommodate the bicycle users crossing this point. At Copenhagenize Design Company we have asked ourselves how we can determine the actual needs of bicycle users, and what solutions would be appropriate. This quest requires a greater understanding of the relationship between urban infrastructure and cyclist behavior, which is why we have conducted a Desire Line Analysis of this intersection.

The value of studying cyclist behavior This study was conducted in collaboration with eight students from 4Cities, an international Urban Studies Master’s programme. Eight great and passionate students who tackled this analysis with professionalism.Lorena Axinte (Romania), Jamie Furlong (United Kingdom), Elina Kränzle (Germany), William Otchere-Darko (Ghana), Lucie Rosset (Switzerland), Guillén Torres (Mexico), Mäelys Waiengnier (Belgium) and Devon Willis (Canada).

In order to identify how cyclists interact with infrastructure, and with other cyclists and road users, the students positioned a video camera and a few observers at the intersection between the hours 7:00 and 19:00 on a day in November 2014.



One particular spot in the intersection is the center of attention for this study. When cyclists approach the intersection, coming from North East along Søtorvet and want to turn right onto Dronning Louises Bro, they tend to either ‘cut’ the corner by riding onto the pedestrian zone, or run a red light when turning right. At Copenhagenize Design Co. we are interested in digging deeper into this behavioral pattern and understand the scale of, and reason behind the exhibited behavior.

Knowing how and why bicycle users consistently choose particular routes and strategies can help us understand priorities and motivations of bicycle users and inform our solutions - design-wise and political - in order to better accommodate their needs while paying mind to other road users as well.

What are Desire Lines?At Copenhagenize Design Company, we have developed a method for determining how bicycle users actually navigate within the built environment and what routes they choose to take in various situations. This method we call Desire Line Analysis. By observing a bicycle user’s trajectory through a course of a road, we can determine the most traveled through routes - their desire lines. Desire lines are the easiest and most convenient ways of getting from point a to point b for bicycle users, and conceptually they should be distinguished from actual infrastructure with its pre-established paths. Desire lines might correspond with pre-established paths, but sometimes they don’t, and this is where they reveal flaws in the infrastructure that at the same time create opportunities for improvements.

Six Desire LinesBased on our video footage we identified the cyclists’ desire lines, first by tracking their point of departure - Øster Søgade or Gothersgade - and then by observing their destination - straight ahead, or right onto Dronning Louises Bro.

However, in this Desire Line study our main focus is on those cyclists turning right. We discovered six general desire line categories that cyclists use when turning right onto Dronning Louises Bro.

The desire lines above illustrate that cyclist typically chose one of following six trajectories or strategies when making a right turn:1. Following the official bike path - this desire line accounts for cyclists who turn right when the traffic lights are either green or red.

All other desire lines below are drawn by cyclists that “cut”, i.e. they ride from the bicycle path up onto the sidewalk, cutting the intersection in order to arrive at Dronning Louises’ Bro.

2. Avoid the pedestrians - cyclists who zigzag or change their path in order to avoid pedestrians.3. Cut in the middle - cyclists who did not cut immediately, but followed the path for a few more meters than category 4 and 5, before deciding to cut4. Cut following the path - cyclists who ride onto the sidewalk and proceed by mimicking the bicycle path until they are close to the traffic light  5. Cut right away - cyclists that cut the sidewalk as early as they can, without trying to follow the path. 6. Cut last minute - cyclists who cut just as they arrived at the red light. (we suspect that when being confronted with a red light, people prefer riding on the sidewalk rather than waiting at for the light to change).

Shortcutting to keep the momentum The question of what motivates people to cut the corner in order to arrive at the bike lane on Dronning Louises Bro is central to this study. In order to get closer to an explanation, we will first distinguish between cyclists who cut when traffic lights are red, and those who cut during a green light - where they could just as well have followed the bike path without stopping.

The first group - cyclists who cut the corner during a red light - is the largest of the two. In particular, cyclists coming from Gothersgade, arriving on Øster Søgade, then turning right, were more prone to cutting the corner when the light was red. This is probably because they most often arrive at a red light in the intersection. Traffic lights in this area are timed to provide cyclists coming a different direction - Øster Søgade via Fredens Bro - with constant green lights that follow the speed of the average cyclist - the so called ‘green wave’. This, however, means that cyclists coming from Gothersgade will have their momentum disrupted when they arrive at the Dronning Louises Bro/Øster Søgade intersection. Thus, using the wide sidewalk as a quick way to avoid waiting for the lights to change can be tempting.

The second group - cyclists who cut the corner while traffic lights were green - most often did so when there was a considerable number of cyclists in front of them, causing a queue for either turning right or continuing straight ahead. Such a situation creates an incentive to improvise a shortcut by riding across the sidewalk to get to Dronning Louises Bro.

During the twelve hours we spent observing the intersection, only a few cyclist-pedestrian conflicts occurred. We are convinced that the considerable width of the sidewalk plays an important role here, since it leaves enough space for both pedestrians and cyclists to navigate around each other.

Most played it safeWe also found that of all the cyclists travelling through the intersection (i.e. those who went straight along Øster Søgade and those who turned right onto Dronning Louises Bro), the majority acted “correctly” (i.e. they did not cut or go through a red light, but rather followed the traffic laws correctly). During midday (11:30- 13:30), 72% of cyclists acted correctly (following the traffic laws) and only 28% acted incorrectly or inappropriately (going through a red light or cutting). Similarly, during rush hour (15:30-17:30), 76% acted correctly and only 24% acting incorrectly.

This means that on average 74% followed the traffic law, meaning that they respected red lights and stayed on the bike path instead of cutting the corner. The remaining 26% performed some form of law breaking act.
However, during the morning rush hour, an average of 50% cyclists either cut through the sidewalk or jumped the red light, when heading towards Nørrebrogade from Øster Søgade. 58% were male and 42% were female.

Right-turners bent the rules more oftenWhile on average most cyclists acted correctly (74%), when looking at right-turning cyclists exclusively, the difference between those who followed the rules and those who didn’t, was less significant. Among cyclists who turned right onto Dronning Louises Bro, 52% acted correctly, while 48% acted incorrectly. Of those acting incorrectly, 35% went through the red light and 65% cut through the sidewalk.

This ‘improper behavior’ might be connected to a phenomenon we have observed before; the so-called ‘domino effect’ where the actions and routes taken by one cyclist is copied by other cyclists behind him or her. In this sense a specific action legitimizes or inspires other cyclists to perform similar actions. For example, we noticed that once a cyclist is cutting, others start to follow suit. Conversely, when none in the front of the line cuts, the cyclists queueing behind also tend to stay in the group.

Fewer cyclists run red lights during rush hourIn the early afternoon (13:30-15:30), many more cyclists acted incorrectly, an average of 68% cut or went through a red light, as opposed to a daily average of 48%. We suspect that this is because there are much fewer cyclists, cars and pedestrians on the road during this time of the day, and thus it is easier for cyclists to cut the intersection or slipping through a red light in a safer way, without getting noticed as much.

Only 16% of all the cyclists we observed went through a red light (i.e. actually going through the red light on the bicycle path, not by cutting). Although the average is quite low, as mentioned above, larger numbers of cyclists were going through the red light at certain points of the day: in the late morning (9:30-11:30) an average of 27% of cyclists coming from Gothersgade went through the red light, and in the early afternoon (13:30-15:30) an average of 41% of cyclists coming from this street went through the red light. Again, it seems like cyclists are more likely to run a red light in between rush hours. In fact, only 3% of cyclists went through the red light from Gothersgade during rush hour. This observation supports our theory that a higher volume of road users creates a lesser incentive for cyclists to go through a red light.

Lessons learnedOur study confirms findings generated in previous desire line studies, showing how bicycle users create routes based on what is faster and most convenient, regardless of whether appropriate infrastructure is there or not. Although it sometimes means that bicycle users will follow the informal lead of other cyclists, and circumvent traffic rules in order to get to their destination, considerations regarding safety and/or public shaming do appear to inform their decision making.

Only 1:4 of the total number of bicycle users we observed actually broke the law. When they did cut the corner, they strategically picked different routes through the pedestrian zone in order not to collide with each other, and only very few conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians occurred.

To make a long story short, bicycle users are motivated to keep momentum going, and depending on the circumstances, some are ready to circumvent formal rules and collectively improvise their own in order to make their travel easier, if existing infrastructure does not accommodate their needs.

Copenhagenize FixesSo where should we go from here? Depending on the priorities of city authorities, different approaches could be used to mitigate the percieved ‘improper cyclist behavior’ in this intersection.

  1. Considering the volume of bicycle traffic, the most obvious retrofit would be creating a cycle track in an arc across the corner to allow cyclists to turn right unimpeded by traffic lights. A similar solution is already in place on the opposite corner, leading cyclists across a sidewalk to Vendersgade from Nørrebrogade. As we understand it, one department in the City of Copenhagen would be against this - worried about protecting the architectural integrity of the location. This is rather silly, considering the fact the City had plans to rip out of the grassy knolls formed by WW2 bunkers, cut down the trees and sanitize the whole area. That idea died, fortunately, but it is clearly a sign that change can happen at this location. The basic fact at this location is that the majority of cyclists are turning right and the minority are heading parallel to The Lakes. Desire Lines are democracy in motion. People voting, as it were, with their feet and bicycle wheels.
  2. As we found from the research, the main reason for cutting the corner or going through the red light is that cyclists coming from Gothersgade are trying to bypass the red light and simply maintaining their momentum. Especially in the busy rush hour it would be beneficial to time the traffic lights for cyclists coming from Gothersgade so that they continue in a smooth flow up Nørrebrogade. Maintaining, respecting and legitimizing the momentum that cyclists need would eliminate the need for cutting the corner.
  3. It is with good reason that allowing right turns on red is steadily becoming law all over Europe. Making this the default at this intersection would also impact the behaviour positively. It is not the be all, end all solution at this location however.
  4. The wide swath of sidewalk is currently a kind of “shared space” that works well at this location. Making the area shared use would require little physical change and would formalise the behaviour of the cyclists. A fun idea, but it is important to maintain a design standard and throwing a mixed use area into the well-functioning infrastructure design tradition may not be a good, permanent solution.


If you wish to read the entire report on this study please go to our company website. It's downloadable from there.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Make Life Shine - Yes, You Volvo

31 March, 2015 - 21:10


Volvo's new attack on pedestrians and cyclists is insulting to every traffic user. They have developed what they call "Life Paint" and expect pedestrians and cyclists to spray it on. The problem is that Volvo - and other automobile manufacturers - are the problem. They make products that kill 1.2 million people a year around the world. 35,000 alone in both the European Union and the USA alone. Not to mention the millions injured by cars or the many millions killed slowly by emissions. They continue to pass the buck, to set up smoke screens to make us focus elsewhere and forget the true problem. Look at every tactic the tobacco industry has used over the past 20 years and you see it mirrored in Big Auto. Volvo claims to lead the way in safety, but their Life Paint cannot hide their true colours.

Quite simply, we've started a petition. Enough of this Ignoring the Bull in the China Shop.

Make Life Shine. 
Sign it at Change.org

Instead of targeting the vulnerable traffic users and continuing the victim blaming, we insist that Volvo offers free Life Paint to every Volvo owner on the planet so that cars can be illuminated better in cities and rural settings. Get the spray can at the local dealer or get it shipped for free. Spray that car immediately.



We know a few things:

- Black, grey and silver cars - in that order - are more likely to be involved in crashes, according to a Monash University study. Based on 20 years and 850,000 car crashes. Reflective paint on cars is a no-brainer.
- Cars and motorists kill. You read the stats, above. There is a 9-11 every month in America alone and it's been there every single month for over 60 years. Volvo, of all car companies, should be tackling this head on instead of blaming the victims.
- Volvo should be lobbying intensely for mandatory reflective paint in every market that they operate in. Their Life Paint should be the jewel in their safety crown. Instead, it's tear gas in the eyes of the victims.
- Why stop there, Volvo? What about rational ideas like helmets for motorists or making motorists responsible by forcing them to have external airbags? These ideas exist for good reason. There is science to support them. What about health warning legislation on all automobiles? The ills caused by tobacco are virtually the same as those caused by Volvo's products.

Sign the petition to get Volvo to offer Life Paint on every car on the roads today.

See the ridiculous Life Paint here:
http://www.volvocarslifepaint.com/



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

Car Industry Strikes Back - Volvo Paints a Grim Picture

31 March, 2015 - 15:07

The latest piece in our ongoing Car Industry Strikes Back series writes itself. This time it's Volvo doing its best to draw your attention to the fact that motorists kill obscene amounts of people - including themselves - by placing the responsibility on cyclists and pedestrians. It's a smoke screen and this time it's sprayed on. It is Ignoring the Bull in Society's China Shop taken to the next level.

Volvo Life Paint. Seriously. Life paint.

But hey... it's not for the 35,000+ people killed by or in cars in the EU alone by Volvo and their Big Auto homies (around the same in the US and 1.2 million worldwide - not to mention the tenfold more killed by pollution from cars and trucks or the hundreds and hundreds of thousands more injured...).

And no, it's not rational ideas like helmets for motorists or making motorists responsible by forcing them to have external airbags.

It's spray on paint.

No, not for cars, even though black cars are most likely to be involved in collisions. No, it's not rational stuff like reflective paint on cars or health warning legislation on all automobiles.

It's for you on foot or on a bicycle because you are an irritation to motorists. You are a squishy bug ruining their paint job. You are a threat to their mobility dominance. You must be ridiculed with calls for reflective vests/clothing and a variety of ways to hate on pedestrians.

Now you have the gift of Big Auto paint to spray on your irritating person.

http://www.volvocarslifepaint.com/

I don't think we realise how slippery a slope it is we are on as a society when morons like this produce crap like this and actually get taken seriously.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

New Bicycle Bridge - Cirkelbroen - Is Coming

12 March, 2015 - 10:24

This is exactly what you like to see on a spring morning in brilliant sunshine in Copenhagen. Yet another bicycle/pedestrian bridge being put into place on Copenhagen Harbour. The Circle Bridge - Cirkelbroen in Danish - is designed by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson and will fix a minor glitch in the mobility network in Copenhagen.


This beautiful but modest bridge will connect Christiansbro and Applebys Square. A subtle, but important link in making the entire harbourfront walkable and bikeable. On the above map you can see the new and coming bicycle bridges in this section of the harbour. Yes, pedestrians use them, too, but in Copenhagen they are referred to as bicycle bridges first and foremost.


The bridge is a gift to the City of Copenhagen from the Nordea Foundation (they're a bank) and it is 32 metres long. For a budget of 34 million kroner ($4.8 million) you get an artistic bridge designed by a famous artist. Interestingly, the entire Bicycle Snake had about the same budget.

But hey, it's a gift so who cares. The form of the bridge is rounded, with no straight line from shore to shore. Normally, the design of a bridge for bicycles involves a straight line. The artistic licence on this bridge creates an aesthetic obstacle course. At this location, it is not a problem. This is not a major bicycle route, nor will it ever be. The main focus in on the recreational use of the harbourfront and creating access. So an exception is totally permissable.


Olafur talks about his creative thoughts in this YouTube video, in Danish. The masts reflect the masts of the many ships in Christianshavn Canal. The bridge is a swing bridge, to allow access from the harbour to the canal and vice versa. The many canal tour boats plying their tourist trade will just scoot underneath.

The bridge was originally meant to be finished in 2012 but the same malady struck it as struck the Innner Harbour Bridge farther east. The company who was building them went bankrupt and things rolled to a halt. The locals in this area of Christianshavn are among the whiniest and least willing to see Copenhagen change, so there was also a delay as some of them tried their case against the bridge in the courts. All water under the bridge now.


Today, work is underway. The components are constructed and are being set into place. Spring is upon us. A new bridge is blossoming. Copenhagen just got a little bit cooler.

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

My Stolen Bullitt

10 March, 2015 - 08:55

Here we go again.

Out into the backyard this morning with The Lulu, heading for school and then off to work. Something was missing. It was big and red and quite gone. My Bullitt cargo bike was not where it should be. Locked with the mother of all chains in our bike shed. It was stolen.

The first thought was "Damn... my logistics this week are screwed." Second thought... "I liked that bike". You know you live in a mainstream bicycle culture when the thoughts occur in THAT order.

I walked around the backyard in vain hope. Then I noticed that another Bullitt wasn't parked in its normal spot. It was gone, too. Double Bullitt thieving in the dark of the night. In a secure, locked backyard.

Fun having to explain to The Lulu, aged 7, about why people do such things. She's no stranger to bike theft, but still, she was as upset as me, so we had to tackle the subject on the spot.


It's just a bike, I know. But it's a bike that we use alot. For transporting stuff like just two days ago at the recycling centre. For building snowmen. For just getting around town. For all our daily needs.


Someone is going to have to break the news to Tigger this evening. THAT ain't gonna be pretty.

This has happened before. Hey, it's a bicycle culture. Back in 2011: My Bike Was Stolen! Back then the story had a fairytale ending against all the odds and thanks to social media: My Bullitt is Found!

I even got my vintage Swedish bike back once, too.

While I don't harbour hopes of repeating those fairytales, you never know. There are loads and loads of Bullitts in Copenhagen now, compared to back in 2011 but anything could happen.

My bike has some unique markings. Sure, the first thing the bike thief does is remove them, but sometimes they just stick it in another backyard in another part of town for a while. There's a pattern to this cargo bike theft.

So, here are the things that make it recognizable:


- A little sticker on the front.
- A Copenhagenize.eu sticker on the front panel.
- A map of Copenhagen on the cargo bay.


- The handlebars are unlike many Bullitts in Copenhagen. My mother taught me to sit up straight, so they are not low and straight, but high and suitable for a gentleman.
- There is a GoPro base on the front of the bike and, down by the front wheel on the left, there is another GoPro solution. (not pictured)
- On the back fender there are white, reflective chevron stickers, just like on The Lulu's bike.

Sigh.

Hvis du ser cyklen et eller andet sted i København, sms eller ring på 26 25 97 26.

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

The Copenhagenize Current - Stormwater Management and Cycle Tracks

4 March, 2015 - 13:40

Cloudburst in Copenhagen. July 4, 2011. Photo via DJ Ladze on Flickr. With permission.

Climate change challenges are clearly defined in Copenhagen and in Denmark. 1000 km of dikes protect many parts of the country from the sea, but the new threat is the water from within and from above. Our fate has become being inundated with torrential rain that floods entire neighbourhoods. The existing sewer system is completely inadequate to tackle the volume of water from cloudbursts.

It is something that is a reality for us living in Copenhagen and in many Danish cities and there is a great deal of political focus on it. Just have a look at this bad boy pdf featuring Copenhagen's Climate Adaptation Plan.



There are already many ideas and intiatives on the table in Copenhagen. Much is said and written about creating "Cloudburst Streets", like the one, above. Creating green space that becomes "blue" during cloudbursts and acts as a stormwater delay. Other streets may get a green strip down one side with the same effect.

Fantastic. An excellent excuse to greenify many areas of the city and a perfect way to avoid complaining about removing parking spots and whatnot from last-century minds.

Greenification of streets and creating reservoirs for overflow of rainwater are fantastic additions to the urban landscape. Exploiting the need for water runoff solutions to create more green space in cities is brilliant. Not every street in Copenhagen, however, has the space to accommodate wide, green reservoirs or green channels. What of the many other streets?

Urban space is affected greatly by the new climate reality in Danish cities. It is, however, urban space that can help solve the problem we face.

Which is why we are developing The Copenhagenize Current.


Like many ideas, it starts with personal experience. That's me, on the left, on Istedgade in the Vesterbro neighbourhood, during a cloudburst that flooded the whole 'hood. Farther down the street, there were people kayaking. Like many great ideas, it starts in the bathroom of a bar on a Saturday night. We had been discussing climate adaptation in the office at Copenhagenize Design Company. Standing there one night, I considered the existing, traditional system, attached to the wall and then noticed how space on the floor was being used for "excess water runoff" in case of spray or bad aim. A supplementary system that also assists during mopping and general cleaning.

Couldn't that simple idea be applied to streets? Including my own, where the businesses in the cellar were flooded beyond repair in 2011? What about using existing urban space to design a stormwater runoff system.


Like any good idea spawned in a nocturnal bathroom, you get your kids to help with a Lego model. We have existing space. Copenhagen's comprehensive network of cycle tracks on main streets are there and they're not going anywhere - thank goodness. Real estate that is in use and integral to city life. Bicycles, however, are lightweight vehicles that cause little wear and tear on the infrastructure. Therefore, I thought quite simply, why not create high-volume rainwater trenches underneath the cycle tracks?

That is what The Copenhagenize Current is all about. Using existing space for rainwater managment in extreme weather conditions and, while we’re at it, improving infrastruture for the city’s cyclists.


In a nutshell, The Copenhagenize Current involves digging trenches under existing cycle tracks, implementing precast, concrete containers and covering them with pre-fab, concrete slabs. It is a basic cut and cover operation. On streets without adequate space for wide medians that can be dug out and act as reservoirs for stormwater, the Copenhagenize Current can act as an incredibly efficient, high-volume system to expedite the drainage of streets and lead water away from vulnerable areas. Copenhagenize Design Co.s architect Steve Montebello has worked on the designs and calculations.

We have designed the Copenhagenize Current to lead high-volumes of water through vulnerable neighbourhoods. The Cities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg have been discussing dredging one of the Lakes - Saint Jørgen's Lake - and lead stormwater to it from surrounding areas so it can act as a temporary reservoir.

This is what it might look like, complete with redesigned lakefront. The Copenhagenize Current can be used to lead water to such a lake reservoir solution.


Using pre-fabricated concrete slabs that can bear the weight of thousands of bicycles - and still allow for crossing motor vehicles at intersectionss - allows for implementation of a number of other features. LED lights can be built into the slabs to further visibility of the cycle track. In addition, heating coils can be embedded in the surface, under the final layer of asphalt, to melt snow and ice during the winter.

Having pre-fab slabs will also provide a smoother ride for cyclists, minimise the risk of potholes and make maintenence of the cycle tracks easier. So much goodness.


The design allows for a maximum amount of drainage grates so that all water at every point can easily fill into the concrete trenches. Grates on the surface will serve to drain water coming from the sidewalk onto the Current. The Current can also work independently of the existing sewer system or together with it, depending on need.


The water flow routes in Copenhagen. Most lead towards the harbour or the sea.

Added Value
Apart from the obvious benefits of the Current, namely the fast removal of stormwater from streets and protecting surrounding neighbourhoods and buildings from flooding, there are points that provide an added value to our design.

Improved Accessibility to Cables
Most cables related to urban life are buried beneath sidewalks and, to a lesser extent, roads. We have considered the idea of creating cable trays on the wall of the concrete trenches to provide easy access to certain types of cables.

Inspiration for Improvement
The design serves an important purpose - stormwater protection for cities. The design can also encourage municipalities that are reluctant about widening existing bicycle infrastructure on certain streets to finally do so by implementing the Current. Gammel Kongevej, with the narrowest cycle tracks in the capital, springs to mind.

Cost-Benefit
Maintenance costs on cycle tracks will fall due to the reduced need for repairing potholes. Better infrastructure encourages cycling, as well. The pre-fab slabs are easily replaced on an individual basis if need be.

Stormwater Fountain
We would love to see the Current end in a pipe that leads under Skt Jørgens Lake or in the harbour. The mouth of the pipe positioned above the surface. During a stormwater surge, the force of the water rushing to the destination will create a fountain. A spray of water - that can be designed - that will celebrate the rain - and the human solutions for tackling it.

Silvacells

Accommodation can be made for pipes leading off of the Current onto side streets or into parks where silva cells under trees and/or vegetation are located.



When the climate - or rather humans - throws you a curve ball, you have to think out of the box. Especially when your box is quickly filling up with water.



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

The Depressing Rise of Squiggletecture - and how to design a bicycle/ped bridge

3 March, 2015 - 12:36
Architectural competitions are great. A flurry of designs emerge from Photoshopland that allow you to gauge the current mood, trends and ideas. If you're lucky, there are a few ooh and ahh moments. We were sitting here at the office looking at the many entries for the open competition for the Nine Elms to Pimlico Bridge in London. A pedestrian and bicycle bridge across the storied Thames. The NEP Bridge competition, on their website, declares they are looking for:

"...exceptional, inspiring designs for a new bridge at the centre of the world’s greatest city. The successful entry will have to win the hearts of Londoners who are tremendously proud of their river and its rich architectural heritage.

There are considerable challenges and engineering feats to overcome. The design must work alongside the cutting edge architecture emerging on the south bank as well as the elegant frontages on the north. The landing points on both sides must integrate sensitively with their surroundings and provide a smooth and safe experience for the pedestrian and cyclists who use it.

This bridge is also a badly needed and valuable piece of infrastructure for London. It has a very strong transport case, will support the city’s growth and has significant funding commitments already in place. Developing an inspiring, beautiful design will allow us to take the project to the next stage and ensure this project comes off the page into reality in a much shorter timeframe."
Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council and co-chair of the Nine Elms Vauxhall Partnership

Architecture and design is a question of taste. What I like might not be what you like. I'm not going to bother talking about which designs appeal to me. Here at the office we started looking at the bridge from the mobility perspective and, as is our lot, from the perspective of citizen cyclists who want to get around their city. Basing our focus on the many bicycle bridges in the Netherlands and Denmark. In particular, Copenhagen has seven new bicycle bridges either just openend or on the way. Leaving the personal taste up to the individual, we looked at pure mobility.

Like Ravi Govindia says, above, it's a badly needed and valuable piece of infrastructure with a strong transport case that will support the city's growth. It has to provide a smooth and safe experience for pedestrians and cyclists.

In the competition brief it says that:
- "...it must be inspiring, elegant and functional in its design and perfect in its execution."
- "Provide a safe and attractive link for pedestrians and cyclists crossign the river, encouraging movement between the two banks."

I'm not really a big fan of architects dabbling in urban planning. So few have the knack for it. So, with that in mind, what is the State of the Architectural Bridge Nation?

Welcome to the Weird World of Squiggletecture
What is up with these squiggles?! It's perfectly fine to think out of the box. Not much gets accomplished if you don't. But there is a clear, and perhaps, disturbing trend which I have hereby dubbed Squiggletecture. There is an alarming number of renderings that have discarded straight lines.

What is a bridge? Isn't it just a vital mobility link from one side of a body of water to another? Isn't that really the baseline for every decent bridge in history? Look at a map of Paris or any other city with bridges. They are straight. From one shore to the other. Providing no-nonsense A to B for the people using it. Only then do differences in design and aesthetics come into play.

Look at the selection of designs, above. A2Bism had a cement block chained to its feet and it was thrown into the river. It's sleeping with the fishes.

You wonder who thinks stuff like this up. Are they all former interns at Foster + Partners? Wherever they cut their teeth on Photoshop, it is clear that these are people who do not ride bicycles in a city - or who didn't even bother trying before they started doodling a bicycle and pedestrian bridge. Let alone people who walk very much on their urban landscape. These are all designs for meandering tourists licking ice cream on a Sunday afternoon. People with nowhere to go and nowhere to be. These aren't designs for a city in constant motion and citizens moving purposely about.

The ramps. Seriously. Look at all those squiggletecture ramps. Round and round we go, slowly descending to the river bank like a flower petal on a summer breeze. Not exactly what any human in a city wants, now is it? Then look at some of those sharp turns on the bicycle ramps. Best Practice for grade and curves on bicycle infrastructure has been around for almost a century. Would it have hurt to spend a little while on Google? Or on a bicycle? Unbelievable.

One of the designs has a fancy waterfall - bringing inspiration to London from.... 1980s Edmonton, Canada. But really, the water is a visual shield to disguise the Danteesque inferno in the middle that forces cyclists to descend to several levels of mobility hell.

Here's a thought. Is this pornographic obsession with ramps a subliminal product of decades of car-centric planning? Is there a little voice embedded in the minds of designers and architects that says, "hey... if you have get up or down from an elevation, use a winding ramp. That's what they do in car parking garages and on motorways..." Has car infrastructure dominated so thoroughly that it's hard to plan for other forms of transport?

Whatever. These designs would be great for a Bridge Over the River Why. London certainly doesn't need anymore of this.

It is apparently easy to draw a (curved) line between Illustrator's improvement of their Draw a Curve function and design renderings. There are only 30,000 hits on this how-to film, but I bet 10,000 are from people responsible for the all the photos about this point.

I can lament the fact that there is so little anthropology at play in architecture but assuming that anybody who walks or cycles in a city is a meanderthal shows a lack of understanding of human nature. Stop with these curves, already. It's Magpie Architecture, nothing more. Bling your badass bridge all you want, just don't force people to alter their urban trajectory because you learned a new trick in Illustrator.

There will always be exceptions to this. The new Circle Bridge in Copenhagen by Olafur Eliasson is one. It is not at a location, however, that is - or will be - a vital mobility link. It's just a modest connector bridge across a canal for cyclists and pedestrians. Any bridge that is expected to get a decent share of cyclists wouldn't be designed like this.

Ah, you might say. What about the Bicycle Snake/Cykelslangen in Copenhagen? Isn't that curvy and all that? It is, indeed.



Firstly, it has to navigate a 90 degree turn around the corner of a building. But you don't force cyclists to do 90 degree turns, so they swept it elegantly around the corner for comfort and safetly. The bridge slopes down to the harbour bridge and, with an expected 16,000 A to B cyclists a day, the graceful curvature nudges people ever so slightly to keep their speed in check on the descent.

The designs for the NEP Bridge, above, just curve for no particular reason. With no regard for getting people where they want to go. Instead, there seems to be a distinct focus on increasing travel times by creating a mobility obstacle course.

Speaking of obstacles, it was surprising to see that designs were actually sent in that just discarded the idea of ramps altogether and rolled their dice on... stairs. Big, fancy, modern bridge across the river of a major world city and you have to navigate stairs to get there. Although some designs feature elevators to further slow you down and one chucked in escalators for bikes.


One of the designs has a small box in the corner showing the Everest slope and upselling it by declaring the intention to implement "Place making across the bridge and its landing position". Just look at the place they imagine making. Ooh. Sticky.

If you want to create a bicycle and pedestrian bridge in 2015, can we agree that stairs and elevators should not be your point of departure?
A lot of the renderings only provide conceptual ideas and it's sometimes hard to see details. Nevertheless, it wasn't all squiggletecture, curve balls and epic climbing expeditions. There are designs that make sense. There seem to be some common denominators. One of them is that the designer/architect has probably actually tried to ride a bicycle in a city. Another is a clear separation between the two user groups.

The design at top left does so rather elegantly, with a cycle track down the middle. As does the design at bottom left. At bottom right is a design similar to what you see over the Brooklyn Bridge. Doesn't make it a good thing, but at least the designer was thinking about A2B and dividing space between cyclists and pedestrians.

I was going to start commenting on which design(s) I like, but then I remembered I said I wouldn't that at the beginning of the article. So nevermind.

What is going to work, regardless of design, is a bridge that provides an intelligent A2B without irritations or detours at either end. A bridge that understands pedestrians and their needs and expectations, absolutely, but also one that does the same for cyclists. Again, that's bascially almost every city bridge ever built prior to the dawn of automobile culture.

There is one sentence in the competition brief, mentioned above, that would benefit from being rearranged like this:

"...it must be functional in its design, perfect in its execution and also inspiring and elegant."

It's a modern lifeline across a river in a world city, not a coffee cup.

Functional design first or don't bother.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

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.
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