- Bicycle Culture by Design: January 2008

Stop the presses. On occasion there are design concepts that pop up on our radar that make us lean back and say... 'wicked cool'. Quickly followed by 'why the hell didn't we think of that?'

The Airago - type Ypenburg - combination bike rack and air pump is simple Northern European design at its best. If it isn't the Danes designing something cool, functional and just plain fantastic, then you can bet your bottom euro that it's the Dutch.

The Airago is the brainchild of Studio HiMom founded by designers Krijn Christiaansen & Jeroen Bruls. They aim to design products 'dedicated to public space phenomena'. You can lock your bike to the rack and/or pump your tyres with the shiny pump.

The goal with the Airago was to 'stimulate an interaction between neighbours while pumping up the tyres of their bicycles'. It was concieved as an art project in a newly-built neighbourhood in the Netherlands, Ypenburg.

It won a design prize in 2006 and we would love to see one placed next to the bike sheds outside our Copenhagen flats.

There is one image on the streets of Copenhagen that is decades old. A parent walks behind a wobbly kid on a bike, holding a broomstick shoved between the back forks under the seat. The kid is learning to ride a bike. It's a wonderful sight and that broomstick idea is cheap, easy and effective.

There is, however, a new generation of bikes for kids learning to ride. Called 'løbecykler' in Danish, or 'running bikes', I guess we could call them scooter bikes.

They are quite cool and they are brilliant at teaching kids the basics of balance and motor skills involved with cycling. No pedals, just their little legs pushing them along and braking, although some makes have hand brakes.

There are literally dozens of makes on the market here in Europe but the ones that seem to be making the biggest skidmarks are the products from Likeabike. Clean design and lovely materials, the German Likeabike looks smart on the sidewalks and playgrounds and is sturdy enough for the wildest kids.

We love the wooden models like the 'Wing' pictured at the top but there are also groovy models for the rowdy rugrats among is, like the 'Jumper' pictured below.

You can slap the kids onto a scooter bike from a very young age and besides having a blast, they'll learn how to ride a bike without even knowing it.

Which is a big thumbs up from us.
Prices start - on the UK site - at £110.

Likeabike's UK site.
Likeabike's US site.
Likeabike's German site. 

We're not quite sure how this bike has evaded our bespoke bike radar until a mate of our in Italy brought it to our attention. We're glad he did.

There isn't a great deal of info on the information superbikelane on Umberto Dei's bikes. Which is rather cool in a way. That is a trademark of truly bespoke products.

The brand has a history it seems, which adds to the allure. This is from a 1988 catalogue:

"It happened in the year 1896. The Lumiere brothers had just invented cinematography and Guglielmo Marconi had created the wireless telephone when a little artisan, fond of cycling and extremely meticulous, made his first series of bicycles. His name was Umberto Dei.

"That was the beginning of a marvellous adventure that led him to create a collection of bicycles which were considered among the best in the world. Their level of quality and perfection was so high that the brand Dei became world-known: everybody longed to have a Dei bycicle and win by riding it.

"Umberto himself had a leading role in the track World Championships which was held in Berlin in 1901. The Dei racing bicycles won everywhere and were on top of the scene for nearly half a century, receiving many honours in the most important cycle tracks of the world."

The company now focuses on stylish city bikes that easily rank high in the burgeoning luxury bike market. Above is the Imperiale Uomo - what a fantastic name.

The list price is €1300, which is not at all bad for such fine lines and quality.

We're itching to get our hands on one. 

Daddy's Bike, originally uploaded by [Zakkaliciousness].

My boy fancied having a go on Daddy's new bike and I must say he looks dashingly dapper in doing so.

It's a wonderful bike - a Velorbis Scrap Deluxe, with Fat Frank tyres from Schwalbe and Brooks saddle and all the trimmings.

Very few bikes turn heads in Copenhagen - we've seen it all before - but riding around on this beauty draws stares and comments from passersby, whether on foot or on wheel.

We've plugged this bike before, as we as doing a spot on Velorbis in our Bikes We Like category.

A snowstorm tends to thin out of the number of cyclists a bit. Just a bit.

There was an item on the news tonight about Copenhagen's new environmental laws requiring trucks to have particle filters installed if they want to drive into the city. It takes effect this fall. Definately great news for all our cyclists and pedestrians.

The city is aiming to be the world's leading environmental capital by 2015. A lot of green initiatives are starting up. Also because Copenhagen hosts the next major climate conference in 2009. Must make a good impression, no?

But on the news we were taken on a tour around Europe where other cities are getting ahead of the game regarding environmental issues in cities.

In Berlin, Cologne and Hannover there are now environmental zones in the cities with laws requiring diesel trucks to have particle filters and cars built before 1993 to meet modern requirements. Vehicles have to meet these standards in order to get an environmental stamp.

In Milano they have a congestion charge in place and in Rome there is a ban on cars in the city's historic centre.

In Sweden the cities of Stockholm, Lund, Gothenburg and Malmö have set up environmental zones with similar restrictions on trucks and emissions and Stockholm has a congestion charge as well.

In the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Austria there are lowered speed limits of 30 km/h in inner city areas.

The news item wrapped up in London . The city is creating the world's largest environmental zone - a low emission zone - which kicks off in February and contains a number of restrictions on older trucks and emissions.

From 2010, 4 wheel drives will next on the hit list.

It's sobering for us in Copenhagen to see all these fantastic projects in action. We have a step up with our bike culture and wind power industry, but I'd like to see more intensive action for Copenhagen.

Our right-wing national government is blocking our city hall's plans for a congestion charge in Copenhagen, despite the political will in the city to carry out the plan.

Let's get moving. Preferably on our bikes. 


It's a headline almost as unlikely as our Salmon Sperm and Bike Lights post.

In the little town of Tistrup students were tired of parking their bikes under open skies when it rained so they allied themselves with a local farmer, Arne Hansen, to solve the problem in a unique way.

They sell Mr Hansen's potatoes to the citizens of the town and take a cut of the profit. The student council arranges the initiative and students from fifth and sixth year go around town with pamphlets offering 15 kg of potatoes for 50 kroner [€6.50 / $10].

Buyers get the potatoes delivered to the door, by bike of course, and the project is such a success that the students are investing in a covered bike rack so that they can ride home from school without a wet bum. 

Giving cars first priority in the Copenhagen traffic is a thing of the past. From now on cycling will be taken more seriously, whatever the cost.

The words of Copenhagen's Lord Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard from the Social Democrats. Political rhetoric seems to be turning into concrete action.

Since her election to the post in 2005 the Lord Mayor has cast all manner of ideas into the fray. Allied with Klaus Bondam - mayor for traffic and environment - she is trying to focus on their goal of creating the world's leading environmentally-friendly city by 2015.

The focus is currently on increasing bike traffic and improving the infrastructure in a city where 36% of the citizens ride their bikes to work or school each day. That number should be higher. Cycling will be taken more seriously, even if it stings a bit for motorists or slams truck traffic.

"If we don't make priorities we'll end up with something that we can't handle. If we don't act it will only become much more difficult", explains the Lord Mayor.

"You either want cars in the city or you don't. That consequence surprises people. We are in the process of underlining our politics for the majority. It is making an effect", she says.

Bjerregaard has the backing of a majority of Copenhageners for many of her cycling initiatives, including the closing of a main street, Nørrebrogade , to cars.

As the head of the Copenhagen chapter of the Danish Cyclist's Union, Erik Hjulmand, says, "Opponents use words like 'populism', but since when has it been wrong to listen to the citizens? When you take privileges from people, they will always protest".

"Urban planning in the city has favoured the car for many years", he says. It looks like that is changing and changing quickly.

According to Bjerregaard there are other inititives on the way to increase safety for the city's many cyclists. Many trucks drive through the city instead of taking the ring route. This traffic must be limited.

The Lord Mayor is sticking to her demand for introducing congestion charges for cars in the city, even though the Danish Parliament is opposed.

"They'll soon have to give in", she says.

Positive experiences in Stockholm, Oslo and London show that congestion charges have an effect.

Both Bjerregaard and Hjulmand are not afraid that Copenhagen will be surpassed as the world's cycling capital by a long line of cities in Europe and North America who have opened their eyes to the benefits of cycle traffic. The city has a massive headstart. It's all about working towards improving our established bike culture.

Via: Politken newspaper. 

Politics is all too predictable, all too often.
Which is why a sudden and unexpected political decision is so welcome sometimes.
The Mayor in charge of traffic and environment, Klaus Bondam, has a city hall majority behind in his proposal to close off a major artery into Copenhagen to through traffic.

Nørrebrogade is the name of the street and it has traditionally been one of the main routes leading to the ancient centre of the Danish capital. It is not particularly wide, given its history, and the street has long been congested with traffic.

The proposal to close off the street to automobiles is radical and yet it is popular. With a political majority behind the plan it could be implemented already next year.

The primary reasons for taking these drastic measures are simple. Decreasing pollution, increasing bike traffic and improving the lifeblood of the neighbourhood.

As the head of the Danish Cyclist's Union says, "Cyclists are forced to squeeze together on the bike lanes. Especially older people don't feel comfortable riding, and the same goes for parents sending their kids out onto the bike lanes. In rush hour people ride at many different tempi and that can stress the slower cyclists" .

Each day 75,000 people use the street. Of them only 15,000 are motorists, whereas 35,000 are cyclists, making this route one of the busiest in the city for bikes. This being Copenhagen there are bike lanes in both directions, but bicycle congestion makes it tricky riding this route. There is little room for making the bike lanes as wide as on other streets, so removing the motorised traffic is the only way to create safer bike lanes.

There are shouts of protest to be heard, most involving claims that the shops on the street will suffer from lost business. The same shouts were heard back in the 1960's and 1970's when Copenhagen began creating its vast network of pedestrian streets, at the expense of the car. Businesses didn't die. They thrived from the increase of pedestrians and cyclists. As we pointed out in an earlier post, cyclists are better shoppers than motorists , too.

One important angle is that upwards of 75% of the people who live in the neighbourhood don't own a car, but they most certainly own a bike or two. Why should they live with cars on their streets when they don't choose to own one?

Innovation is not a foreign concept for Nørrebrogade. It was the inaugural street for the new Green Wave programme, where the traffic lights are coordinated for bike traffic for 2.5 km. If you ride 20 km/h you'll hit green lights the whole way. We posted about this earlier .

It's exciting, to be honest. Because it's radical, visionary and promising. The street has long been half-dead, with only the side streets thriving. Now one of the main streets in the city will have a chance to bloom. Increasing bike traffic and improving quality of life for those who live there.

With Copenhagen having set the goal of being the world's environmental capital by 2015, this is an excellent start.

Read more about how many cyclists use the infrastructure in Copenhagen on this post: Daily Bike Traffic Volume in Copenhagen

Another classic Copenhagen sight - although this very cool guest photo is taken in Amsterdam by alfonstr.

Sometimes you just have to get two bikes from one place to another. When my one bike is finished at the bike repair shop, I ride my other bike down to pick it up. The quickest way is pictured above.

All taxis in Copenhagen, however, carry bike racks in their boot [trunk] so you can always get a taxi home if you have a flat tyre or you're drunk or it's raining and you don't want to get your €1000 Hugo Boss suit wet. There is room for two bikes on the rack and it costs 10 kroner extra per bike.

But as mentioned, you could just ride both bikes home in a flash. 

Not surprising, really, that this blog likes any and all equipment designed for taking photos while on a bike.

This 'All Terrain Camera 2000' - or ATC2K for those in the know - is a simple concept. Mount it on your bike and off you go. Or, if you're the type to wear a helmet, mount it up there if you prefer.

Capture video of your ride or any other outdoor activity and either watch it on a TV with the AV-out function or download it to your computer for editing and uploading for all the world to see.

We've seen them online in the UK for £109.99, including a 2GB memory card. There is probably a US site out there somewhere.

If we had one we'd be pedalling around Copenhagen all day long, never getting any work done...

Nerdy specs:
AVI format in three sizes: 640x480, 320x240, 160x120.
Two frame rates - 15fps and 30fps.
AV-out for TV viewing.
Runs on 2 AA batteries.
Multiple mounting design.
USB interface.

Thanks to my lovely sister, who spotted this cool camera and thought of me. :-) 

One of our readers brought the ANTBIKE universe to our attention and thanks for that. The A.N.T. Bike [ANT meaning 'Alternative Needs Transportation'] is a labour of love by a passionate chap named Mike Flanigan and his partner Betsy Eckel Scola in a town called Holliston, Massachusetts, USA.

Hand crafted bikes with each their own personality. Organic metallic wonders that are designed for style and function. As Danes, with a long history of design, those two words are music to our ears and the bikes we've seen on the website are operas for our eyes.

They target the needs of the city cyclist and create bikes that suit the individual.

"We not only hope to meet the needs of people's commuter bikes, but to influence the consumers to think about bicycle commuting in a more positive way. We love all types of cycling but feel that there is a real need to bring to the table bikes that have the right combination of style and function that is so lacking in the market."

While we lament the fact that we have never ridden an ANTBIKE let alone stroked our fingers over the frame of one, we are quite convinced that they exude bespoke coolness. From what we gather there is quite a waiting list for one of these beauties, so get your deposit paid and settle back to enjoy the anticipation.

Not only that, ANTBIKE's do baskets and racks that are just plain fine. With the dollar as low as it is at the moment, Europeans would be well advised to act quicksmart in order to get their hands on some gear.
[With that said, Mike from Antbike just emailed us to clarify that the baskets and racks are only made for his own bikes... so... just buy the whole set:-)]

One little detail that tickles us pink is the hand-crafted logo. It's just leapt to the top of our unofficial list of coolest bike logos. Ever ever ever. It's an ant. It's an A and a N and a T. And it is just as rusty as most bikes in Copenhagen. We want a large one for our wall.

All in all we're thrilled to have made ANTBIKE's acquaintence. We love the fact that such bikes are being made 'Over There', and with such passion and dedication.

March on, ANTBIKE! 

As one might expect, Danish kids are exposed to a cycling life from an early age, especially in the cities.

Every day of the week you'll see parents cycling with their kids on the bike lanes.Kids as young as 4 or 5. The father above is doing what is recommended in Copenhagen. Riding on the outside of the bike lane, with the kid closest to the curb. He shouldn't, however, ride ahead of the child - it is best if he pulls in behind him if another bike wants to overtake.

With that said, this photo was taken early Sunday morning and there were few bikes. Just people heading down to a bakery for fresh bread.

The Danish Road Safety Council has various recommendations regarding all aspects of traffic.

It is generally recommended that a child only rides their bike on quiet roads if they have a tendency to weave back and forth. When they're able to ride in straight line, many parents will get them onto the bike lanes as soon as possible. The earlier the better, in order to get them familiar with being a part of the traffic.

The general rule of thumb is that kids shouldn't ride alone in traffic until they are about eight.

According to the Danish Road Safety Council:

First between the ages of five and seven years are kids capable of concentrating on traffic, for short periods of time. They can use crosswalks and are able to rate clearly dangerous situations.
Many kids this age can ride on roads/bike lanes with light traffic. It is important that they can ride in a straight line and that they can use their brakes. The better they are at cycling, the more they can concentrate on the traffic.

Between the ages of eight and ten, kids are capable of riding alone to school. They have enough experience to rate dangers in the traffic. It is best if the route is familiar to them and the traffic is light.

It's all individual, of course. I was on the bike lanes with my son up to his fourth birthday, complete with training wheels. When he learned to ride shortly after he turned four, we soon took the training wheels off and he hasn't looked back since.

Get them started early... they'll be on their bikes the rest of their lives. 

Track, originally uploaded by [Zakkaliciousness].

One man. One bike. One way down the Copenhagen harbour. Winter is upon us.

Snowstorm, originally uploaded by [Zakkaliciousness].

The first decent snowfall of the year. A mother and child ride home in the gentle snow.
Click on the photo to see the whole framing.

Now we like our coffee and, as you may have sussed, we like our bikes. Any combination of pedals and java is a match made in heaven.

One of our readers brought The Trade Cycle to our attention. This rolling café was conceived and developed by Paul Sabin and his wife Emma, in concerto with Simon Rickard. The whole set up was designed with three points in mind: efficiency, quality and style.

We recently posted about a Danish coffee bike - one that is much more mobile - but this British trade cycle is really impressive.

It has everything you need to sell coffee and edibles to the masses. On their website they recommend riding it for a few kilometres from base to selling point and hills are not encouraged, but a coffee bike like this could easily be seen on the streets or squares of a hundred cities around the world.

A splendid initiative. We wish them best of luck with the Trade Cycle.

The nerdy specs:
Overall height - 1830mm
Overall length - 2540mm
Overall width - 1000mm
Worktop height - 900mm
Worktop 1 x w - 1270 x 800 mm
Wheel dia. - 700mm  

We are not militants. We believe that the car has its place in society and does not necessarily need to disappear. More people on bikes is the way forward, sure, but we are more than willing to share the streets with cars. The streets are for everyone, after all.

Your Bike is Hot
We like this funky little website advocating 'hot bicycle proliferation', as they put it. Download small cards which read "Your bike is hot!", which you can print out and place anonomously on bikes that you fancy something rotten. 


Read More