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Bicycle Urbanism for Modern Cities. Since 2007. Powered by Copenhagenize Design Co.
Updated: 52 min 56 sec ago

My City Sucks and it's Great

20 August, 2015 - 11:19
When I am doing keynotes or interviews I describe the mainstream aspect of our bicycle culture as being nothing more than Vaccuum Cleaner culture. Like bikes, we all have one, we all use it but they are just tools to make our daily life easier. No fetishizing, no naming of inanimate objects, no vaccum cleaning clothes.

Our city sucks in other ways in other ways. Almost every day I'm reminded of just how much it sucks. And I love it.

I enlisted The Lulu to show how we get rid of our household garbage. Because it's pretty cool. Firstly, as The Lulu's photo clearly demonstrates, we use small bags for daily waste. Nothing bigger than this will do.

When we chuck our garbage, we do it in the morning, as we head for school and work. We pass one of the four bike sheds in our backyard.

We end up at this little building - there are two of them in the backyard - with this round chute. That's why we have to use small bags - the chute just ain't big enough for bigger bags.

Open chute and insert bag. Boom, baby. The bag slides down into an underground container and that is the last we see of it. But that's where it gets cool.

Out on the sidewalk, outside the backyard, about 60 metres away, this cylinder stands all quiet and sentinal. An unassuming addition to the street.

We never see the elusive "sugebil" or "suck truck" if you like, but it will roll up to the cylinder, unlock it and attach a badass vaccum to the top. Hit the switch and all the garbage in the two underground containers are sucked into the truck at a speed of up to 70 km/h.

It's over in under two minutes, with a minimum of noise and fuss. Call me urbanist geeky, but I get a kick out of this. But I've been looking into this lately and I've found out that there are 240 of these systems in Denmark, sucking garbage from 27,000 flats. Not surprisingly, most of them are in the densely-populated cities.

Many of the systems suck garbage from multiple backyards at once, from much farther distances than ours. Be still my urbanist heart. The advantages are many. I assume it's more cost-efficient to do this rather than have garbage men traipse in and out of countless backyards dragging wheeled containers behind them. I certainly don't miss the early morning noise waking me prematurely up. Eliminating smells is certainly a bonus. We have a big problem with rats in Copenhagen, so this kind of system separates them from the garbage, too.

Most of these systems are retrofitted in the backyards with a simple cut and cover operation to install the pipes and lead them out of the backyard through the gateways. These are sucked up by the trucks. There are also apartments built in the 1970s and 1980s where the garbage chutes are installed in the stairways and the garbage is collected in a container in the basement. Sometimes a truck will suck from there, other times the garbage is first sucked to a larger container, after which it is picked up by trucks.

I quickly got sucked into learning more about this system that I have taken for granted for years.

It turns out that all the garbage in the picture postcard area of Copenhagen called Nyhavn is now rigged with this kind of system. Which is awesome.

It also turns out that this system was developed in the early 1960s in Sweden and was first implemented in a hospital - Sollefteå Sjukhus - in 1961. It is still in use today with many of the original parts. In 1965, the first housing development installed a system - Ör-Hallonbergen in Sundbyberg, Sweden. Again, it's still working fine today and has become the largest housing area with garbage sucking in Sweden. While writing this I was trying to figure out what to call garbage sucking. You know, for the Americans. Sucking would probably be deemed socially unacceptable, rude and politically incorrect. It's "affaldssug" in Danish. Garbage suck. What about "Vacuumed Waste Removal System"? Oh, nevermind.

By all accounts, a Swedish company named Envac sits comfortably on the Garbage Sucking Throne. They invented it and they have mastered it. They now have 700 installations in over 30 countries. Most are in Sweden and Denmark and the other Nordic countries, so it's not as though this system is widespread.

Envac Group - Official company presentation from Envac Group on Vimeo.
Here is a film about their products. Once you get past the overly-dramatic music and lame speaker voice, it gets interesting.

Using underground facilities is nothing new. These photos are from the 1940s in Copenhagen. Leaves were swept into underground containers. I'm still trying to figure out how they were moved from there, afterwards. But hey.

Is garbage sucking the perfect waste management solution for cities? It just might be.

Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
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Cargo Bike Logistics on Harbours and Rivers by Copenhagenize

1 July, 2015 - 18:05

Urban logistics is just one of the many challenges facing our cities. After Copenhagenize worked for three years on the European Union project Cyclelogistics, we have cargo bikes on the brain and provide cargo bike logistics as one of our services. We also live in a city with 40,000 cargo bikes in daily use. As ever, we look for solutions not only for other cities, but our own. During the Cyclelogistics project we determined that there is a massive potential for shifting goods delivery to bikes and cargo bikes. 51% of all motorised private and commercial goods transport in EU cities could be done on bicycles or cargo bikes.

Great. Let's do that. But how to do it best? Lots of small companies are already operating in cities with last-mile service for packages, which is great. DHL is rocking Dutch cities with cargo bike deliveries and UPS and FedEx are getting their game face on, too. But we need to think bigger and better.

The City of Copenhagen created the framework for the idea of setting up a consolodation centre south of the city where logistics companies could drop off their goods in their larger trucks. Last mile service could be provided by smaller vehicles so that the trucks stay the hell out of our city. The industry has been slow to pick up the baton, however.

Copenhagen's City Logistik website hasn't been updated for a while because industry is lagging behind. This film explains their basic concept:

Sådan virker Citylogistik from Citylogistik on Vimeo.

There are a lot of packages to be delivered to the citizens in cities. In the Netherlands, for example, over half of all shoes are bought online. That is a lot of shoeboxes needing to get out to the people. In Europe we speak of the Zalando effect - similar to Amazon in North America.

Last mile service by smaller vehicles is great for cities but what about the solutions that are right there under our nose? What about the most ancient of transport corridors in our cities - the rivers and harbours.

We at Copenhagenize Design Company propose having barges - electric if you like - plying the waters of Copenhagen harbour. Dropping off small goods at specially designed piers at strategic locations on the harbourfront. Secure facilities that keep the goods stored in lockers. Depots designed especially for cargo bikes to arrive and pick up goods - or drop them off - in order to deliver them to the people and businesses in the various areas and neigbourhoods.

Our urban designer Adina Visan took our idea to the visual stage. Envisioning iconic off-shore depots for urban logistics along Copenhagen Harbour - or any city with a harbour or river.

This should be the new normal for goods delivery in Copenhagen.

Depots arranged to serve the densely populated neighbourhoods on either side of the harbour.

Designed for a fleet of cargo bikes that can roll in, pick up goods in lockers, and roll out again onto the cycle tracks of the city.

What are we waiting for?Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
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