We're all for globalisation on many levels. The one frustrating thing about it, though, is that so many products and ideas remain hidden despite the vast transfer of knowledge on the internet. In a post over at Copenhagen Cycle Chic about Danish bike brands, you quickly realise that there are dozens of bike makes that are only available in Denmark or Northern Europe and that will never make it to other parts of the world.
A Swedish reader put us onto this Japanese bike brand Frackers from Maruishi Cycles and we're shaking our heads and wondering why the hell these aren't available on every street corner in Copenhagen. The website is in Japanese.
Japan is one of industrialised world's great bike cultures. We've blogged about how Japanese mothers are a political powerhouse and we're now traced our way to one of the brands that carry them effortlessly about, with their children. It's illegal to drop your kids off at daycare or school in cars in Japan, so having the right kind of bike and kids' seats is paramount.
It's about the bikes, sure, which are cool and stylish and practical. But the Japanese are good at accessories, too. A lot of effort goes into getting the kids to sit comfortably. Splendid bike seats, fully adjustable in ways we may never understand, are standard issue. The bike above is the Frackers Pa-pa - for discerning dads.
Here's the Frackers Ma-ma, ready to roll with a great seat for the kid up front. Note that chainguards, fenders and kickstands are standard gear, like in Europe. The kickstand, though, is a heavy duty, stabile stand on the back wheel for steadiness when putting the kids, groceries or both on board.
It's not just kids who need to get around. Frackers does a whole line of pet transport options for carrying the mutt or the feline around.
Then there is their Shopping trke. Three wheeled ease-of-use which leans into the curves.
On every trip I make to Japan I end up at the departure gate at Narita planning the next trip. Now I know that I have to figure out how to get one of these bikes home with me.
When travelling from Europe Japan is cheap because of the strength of the Euro and it's amazing to discover that these bikes cost the same as an average bike in a Copenhagen bike shop. Not a flash bike, just a basic granny bike. About 3300 kroner. Divide by five for those dollar thingys.
At the very least, despite my frustration, I now know the origins of this strange contraption I photographed in Tokyo.
And here's a great article about the Frackers and about cycling in Japan.
I was interviewed for an article about our Danish helmet website Cykelhjelm.org the other day and was talking with the journalist about how in The Netherlands there is a completely different focus. How the Dutch prefer to tackle dangerous traffic situations instead of fear-mongering about helmets.
I had researched about it but I was sitting around today wondering about the official position in the Netherlands. So I said 'fukkit' and called the Fietsersbond - The Dutch Cycling Union.
I got put through to a wonderful chap named Theo Zeegers who is a Traffic Consultent for the Fietsersbond. Here's a transcript of the interview:
What is the Fietsersbond's official position on promotion of bike helmets?
First of all, bike helmets are developed to protect cyclists from solo accidents that don't involve other vehicles. These kinds of accidents are most likely to occur at high speeds. If you're a racing cyclist and ride at high speeds in a group with other cyclists it might be an idea to wear a helmet.
At lower speeds it is impossible to crash and hit your head. It is usually your arms or legs that get hurt. The risk of hitting your head is so low at lower speeds. You have a greater chance of hurting other parts of your body.
If you are hit by a car on your bike there is no helmet that will protect you. There is actually no bike helmet ever developed that will protect you against the kind of dangerous impacts you experience at high speeds. It is impossible to make such a helmet and I don't think one will ever be developed.
A motorcycle helmet will protect a cyclist but you can't ride in one as your head will get too hot.
Children under 14 are not at all at risk of head injury on bikes, so there is no need for them to wear one. Older children, over 15, are more at risk, but that risk is still low.
Instead of promoting bike helmets, we tackle the cars and the other traffic. Traffic calming, speed limit reductions. We are also promoting air bags on the outside of cars. They already exist. Ford has developed them for pedestrians in the US and a Swedish company is working on them, too.
Is there anywhere on your website where Dutch cyclists can get information about bike helmets?
No. There is a good page on Wikipedia about bike helmets that links to good resources. That's sufficient.
The European Cycling Federation is against legislation of bike helmets and warns against promotion and we agree with that. The studies from Dorothy Robinson about Australia show that it doesn't work. That's just one of the many studies.
Is anyone promoting bike helmets in the Netherlands?
Yes, I think some government traffic agencies are trying to but I don't know why they are.
So in your experience, as a Traffic Consultant and scientist, our current helmet promotion in Denmark will cause more people to stop cycling?
Hey, life is risky. If you promote bike helmets, you will have less cyclists. It's that simple. There is so much research that shows this. It's about what kind of society you want to live in. If you promote bike helmets and use scare campaigns to do so, people will stop cycling and then you have problems with heart disease and all the other illnesses from lack of exercise.
You have think rationally about the risk. Emotions don't do any good. I'm a scientist, so I don't need those emotions. Just rational thinking.
It is so reassuring and so refreshing to hear someone straight-talking about the subject. Sure, I agree with him and have reached the same conclusions based on the science, but this is just a man whose job it is to get more people to ride bikes and to increase safety for Dutch cyclists.
A promotional video for membership to the Fietsersbond. Interestingly, they present the reality of cycling, including some rather tricky traffic situations. No fearmongering, just rational reality.
Lack of Danish Rationality
It's quite shocking that we here in Denmark are stuck with the Danish equivilent of the Fietsersbond - Dansk Cyklist Forbund - DCF - once a proud and important organisation but now reduced to being a rather irrelevant sub-cultural interest group. How on earth can the cyclists' unions in the world's two leading bike nations be so far removed from each other?
When I think of the Fietsersbond I form images of pleasant, regular Dutch people - men and women - working hard for a good cause that they personally believe in. When I think of the current generation at the Danish Cyclists' Union I see fuddy-duddy old men in trimmed beards and woolen socks in sandals. Hardly representative of your average, free-thinking Copenhagen cyclist. It's worth mentioning that I have no idea what ANY of them look like.
Imagine the good, positive work we could do here in Denmark if we had visionary role models who respected science and common sense. Instead we're stuck with ill-informed, arrogant and self-righteous helmet advocates. As we've posted before:
- Helmet advocates sell helmets and use fear to do so.
- Bicyle advocates sell cycling and use science and positive messages to do so.
On the website for the Danish Cyclists' Union you are met with the usual propaganda-like rhetoric - and not much else.
"Bike helmets are common sense. Bike helmets are not just for safety fanatics. It is actually quite stupid to ride without them."
With one fell swoop they are calling the vast majority of Danish cyclists stupid. How's THAT for an arrogant tone? Name calling is the first sign of weakness and insecurity. They waffle on and even repeat the mantra:
"Bike helmets are common sense. There isn't anyone, for example, who laughs at a motorist who puts on a seat belt..."
No. Because the effectiveness of seat belts has science to back them up.
On their page about "Hvorfor køre med cykelhjelm? - Why use a helmet?" they are shockingly vague. When they mention statistics it is without any reference to specific scientific studies and they merely wrap it all up in more arrogant rhetoric and tiring spin.
There is nothing on their website about helmets that makes sense - scientifically or morally and the Danish people deserve much more than that.
So if you're looking for role models, look to the Fietsersbond or even the British CTC. Or the Belgian Fietsersbond. They know how to promote cycling positively and, what's more, you get the feeling that they love doing it.
This is a current campaign poster for promoting cycling and selling memberships to the Belgian Cyclists' Union - Fietsersbond VZW.
You're not in doubt here. Cycling is fun, safe and sociable!
I'm guessing again, but I'm thinking it says something like, "Wanted! Cyclists [male/female]".
One of our readers, Kristin, sent us a link to a bike ride in Germany called Sternfahrt back in June.
"I just wanted to show you this as a nice summary of all kinds of Berlin cyclists (beginning with racers, tour cyclists, ending with normal commuters and some freaks).
"On this Polish website are some photos from the so-called "Sternfahrt" in Berlin (www.adfc-berlin.de) , where people bike from towns outside Berlin on different routes to the city-center.
This Polish group started in Eberswalde. The ride was full of normal Berlin cyclists.
This took place on a Sunday at temperatures around 30 degrees."
It's always great to see glimpses of cyclists from other European countries and the Sternfahrt looks like great fun. Thanks, Kristin, for sending us the link to the photos.
Berlin is a fine cycling city. I've ridden around it many a time and it's the quickest way to get from A to B. Berlin has made an effort to increase the number of intra-neighbourhood trips made by bicycle. There are efforts for increasing the number of cyclists commuting from the suburbs, but this intra-neighbourhood angle seems to be a good way to reduce short trips made by car.
It's an angle that other cities are adopting. The entire Vélib' scheme in Paris is geared at helping people choose the bike for short trips. It's a tall order for cities without any major urban cycling tradition to all of a sudden build bike lanes and infrastructure from distant suburbs into the city centre. Intra-neighbourhood trips are a good place to start. Isn't this what we we're seeing in New York City?
I have a number of photos of Berlin Bike Culture over at Flickr if anyone is interested.
This chap is quite a character in Copenhagen. He's a passionate cyclist and Copenhagener and through his Cykel logisk Institut [Cycle-logical Institute] he has been campaigning for years for better cycling conditions for cyclists. Holger Rene Jørgensen is the name.
His primary focus is on the development of traffic roofs - covering the main thoroughfares with glass roofs to create 'year-round' cycle and pedestrian streets. A simple idea, really. And so often the simple, obvious ideas never get off the ground. Such a shame.
This is a typical street in Copenhagen. It's not hard to imagine a glass roof covering this stretch - just as an example of what Holger is aiming for. He has proposed covering the main stretches of city streets that have a heavy bike traffic and creating a covered network between prime locations such as the city centre and the university, as well as the neighbourhoods surrounding the centre. Not only would the roofs create fine cycling conditions in the winter, they would serve to create more liveable spaces for pedestrians and the locals.
I asked him for a photo and we ended up chatting in the middle of the rainy street. He mentioned his traffic roofs, of course, and he mentioned something we've blogged about previously - namely a proposed cycle tunnel in Bodø, Northern Norway.
He also told me about the Emir of Qatar's plans for a 30 km long cycle tunnel aimed at encouraging Qatarians to ride and reduce obesity. We found this article about it. Tinted glass against the sun and cooled by water running through pipes below.
Cycle tunnels are nothing new. This photo from Holger's website shows an old Dutch plan for covered bike lanes.
Methinks there is a whole unexplored world of cycling goodness in this simple, wonderful idea.
A reader from Chicago, Brian, was kind enough to send us this photo of a flyer and a tube repair kit he recieved while on his bike.
But don't listen to me, listen to Brian:
"I saw your article about the blond bike taxi ambassadors and thought I would share this.
I live in Chicago, which is considered one of the more bike friendly of American cities. Most major streets have bike lanes, and the city's mayor is an avid cyclist. We've also seen a HUGE increase in cycle commuters as the price of petrol has risen. On my commute to work this morning, there were Chicago Bike Ambassadors in red shirts at major intersections handing out free tire patch kits and small headlamps to commuters, with attached copies of Chicago's cycling laws.
I thought this was a great way to make the laws of the road known to bicyclists without heavy handed legislation or police handing out tickets.
Fistly, thanks for sending it in, Brian. It's this kind of global networking that is so valuable.
It is a great initiative and definately a great example of how to promote cycling and getting people to adjust their behaviour without finger-wagging. It reminded me of our vice-mayor Klaus Bondam handing out morning rolls [of bread] here in Copenhagen.
Then we have this from Lynn in Philadelphia. A great example of how the media likes to create mountains out of molehills. Take it away, Lynn:
"This article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper the same day as your post on "How to promote cycling without fearmongering".
After reading the article, you can judge for yourself by viewing the video I filmed there on Sunday afternoon.
Unfortunately, my memory card became full just before we reached the famous Boathouse Row section. However, we (my husband, myself and our 9-year-old daughter) had no problems navigating through the many tourists there and further down at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Patience, courtesy and gentle use of our bells and brakes were all that we needed.
Hey, I could walk out and find two or three whiners who hate cyclists, even here in Copenhagen and splash them all over the front pages and create a wave of hysteria. Even though reality says something quite different. Thanks, Lynn, for the comparison.
Doesn't hurt us any when the husband of the NYC Commissioner for Transport wears a I BIKE CPH t-shirt... :-)
Life's Great Ironies
This is your first glimpse of Denmark when arriving by road from Germany. So silly it's funny. Thanks for the photo!
The Chinese can sure put on a show. The closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics were specatacular. I actually thought the opening ceremony was more impressive, but that's not the point here.
The London 2012 'event' during the ceremony, compared to the efforts of the Chinese hosts, resembled an amateur theatre workshop in their first class. Shockingly lame and embarassing, as was the video they showed, produced by the Animated Media for Beginners workshop in the classroom next door to the theatre workshop.
Anyway, anyway, in that sea of lameness it was refreshing to see three cyclists riding alongside the double decker bus in the stadium. Gold medallist Chris Hoy was dressed in a suit an riding a mini folding bike, fellow Team GB cyclist Jamie Staff dressed casual and rode a European style 'granny' bike complete with basket and Victoria Pendleton played the sub-cultural 'messenger style' cyclist.
Two out of three ain't bad.
I thought it quite cool that cyclists were included - especially the two 'normal people on normal bikes'. It's all I choose to remember. I'm trying to erase the Abbey Road zebra crossing, the bus and the umbrellas from my visual harddisk.
That 50% of my DNA which is English prefers to remember the brilliant efforts of the athletes at Beijing and the brilliant opening/closing ceremonies and not least the positive branding of cycling.
There is a boom in the number of rickshaws and/or cycle taxis here in Copenhagen. They are becoming a common sight and they are everywhere. Tourists and locals alike use them - albeit mostly the former here in the busy summer season.
They're big. They're wide. They take up space on the bike lanes. More often than not they are ridden by young foreigners who have settled in Copenhagen.
There has been some problems with the cycle taxis in that many interpret the rules of the roads rather freely. The City of Copenhagen's Bike Office - Cykelsekretariatet - were aware that something needed to be done about the issue before it snowballed.
The solution? The City sent two girls out into the bike culture on shiny, white Nihola cargo bikes and wearing I BIKE CPH t-shirts. Over two days they rode around and visited the cycle taxi riders. In the cargo bike were cold, organic soft drinks and juice from Søbogaard as well as bicycle maps of the city.
They handed out the drinks and the maps to the cycle taxi riders, to make them aware that there were issues to be resolved. What a way to do it. Instead of clamping down with legal solutions, just send two lovely Copenhageners out to encourage them to adjust their cycling behaviour. Give them a cold drink as a sign of respect for their hard work and their important place in our bike culture. Give them a map to help them figure out which routes are best.
This is how you make a campaign aimed at changing behaviour. Positive, encouraging and cosy. No fear-mongering, no finger-pointing, no legal threats or police prescence. Lasse Lindholm, Head of Projects at the City's Bike Department said, "The cycle taxi riders felt like they were being treated like kings and with respect."
Nice one. There are so many good ideas coming out of the Bike Department these days. The current fearmongerers at Dansk Cyclistforbund [Danish cyclists' union] - historically a dynamic, positive organisation for cyclists - can certainly be inspired by such initiatives, instead of playing their fear game and reducing the number of cyclists through negative campaigns.
They should also look south to the Netherlands and Germany for inspiration about how to encourage cycling and public health, as highlighted in the previous post about Promoting Cycling.
We were excited when we first heard rumours on the streets of Copenhagen about a new bike brand in Frederiksborg Street. The name alone was cool and fresh - Larry vs Harry. What kind of bikes would a company with such a funkalicious name make?
We finally got around to paying them a visit and we're glad we did. Hans is the one half of the Larry vs Harry duo and he runs the shop and the sales end of the show. We chatted in their cool little shop and two things were evident right from the start. Firstly, the cargo bikes are a headturner. There was one outside the shop window and it was amazing to see how many people stopped to stare. Secondly, from the inside the view is amazing. It's the busiest stretch of bike lane in the nation with upwards of 30,000 cyclists a day passing by. Must be hard to concentrate, as it is one long parade of Copenhagen Cycle Chic.
Then there are the bikes, which is what it is all about. It is so refreshing to see new design thinking, especially regarding cargo bikes. Like so much of the Danish design tradition, it is the simplicity of the concept that is brilliant. Larry vs Harry have revised the age-old Long John concept - two wheeling cargo joy. 80-odd years of the dependable, functional Long John and then these guys come along and give it a funked up modern twist.
'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' is so true but nobody ever said you couldn't spice it up, tweak it, love it a little bit more, give it more personality. And while you think of the Danish Long John when you see them, and other Long John style bikes out of Holland, you quickly realise that you're looking at something completely new and fresh and different.
The bikes of Larry vs Harry are for a whole new generation. They are for carrying Copenhagen cargo but they are geared at a crowd who fancy a bit more speed and a lot more style. No comfy saddles here, just thin racing ones and from the positioning of the handlebars on the models in the shop you can see that they suggest you lean into that headwind.
The new design is a major aspect of the brand, but what we find cool is the attention to branding and to the details. The names of the bikes are just fabulous. Milk Plus, Bullit, John Player Spezial, TNT, Clockwork, Bluebird '71. It's a whole new world of marketing. And they love tiny graphic details on their frames, like the one's below:
Likenesses of Burt Reynolds, Ringo Starr and Elvis were spotted on frames elsewhere in the shop.
Perusing their website you'll find groovy slogans that leave no doubt about their marketing angle:
"A pimp is only as good as his product."
"You will not be able to stay home, brother!"
We've never seen anything quite like it in the bike industry. Retrovelo, out of Germany, have a clear idea of what they do and how they do it, and Velorbis are very specific about their branding and marketing albeit for a different customer target group, but Larry vs Harry take it to a whole new level with their modern twist.
Check out this film from Larry vs Harry to see the beast in action.
Larry vs Harry are rolling up their sleeves and getting ready for Eurobike, the world's largest bike industry fair next month and are aiming to start a fantastic export adventure. With a little bit of a tailwind, they'll be coming soon to an America near you.
In the meantime, Copenhagen bike culture just got a little bit cooler.
Thanks to Ted in Seattle for this fantastic link. Nine adverts promoting cycling from Holland.
The films were made by students at the National Film School in Holland and while three of them are a bit lame, if you ask me [the singing girl and the terrorist spring to mind], most are quite brilliant.
As many of you know, there is no helmet usage in Holland. The official statistics are 0,1% of adults using helmets and 5% of children. The Dutch government and the cyclists' union have both declared that they will not promote helmets since it will cause a fall in cyclists. They've done their research. Nice to see.
Dutch is a relative to Danish, so I've tried to translate as best as I can.
01: A cool music video.
Tagline at the end: "If siting on a bicycle is like this... we do we sit in traffic jams?" "Ride your bike to work. It's a good cause."
02: Three Men in an Elevator
I'm guessing the voice is saying something like "The owner of such and such car... your car is being towed" and then the same for the next car with the Lotus.
Tagline: "Don't like inconvienences? Take your bike!"
03: Singing Girl
Whatever. It's probably poignant and fantastic if you understand Dutch.
Tagline: "Everybody on bikes - you'll sit well."
04: The Terrorist
Whatever. It is a little too film schooly for my taste.
05: Men in Suits Racing
This is brilliant. This is Europe. Men in suits racing to work. Funny and cool.
Tagline: Ride to work. Make a sport of it.
Funny and relevant. Irritated guy waiting for his friend to give him a lift. He's late. On the phone he says "Now!".
His friend comes out with a CD and says he has a great driving album.
Tagline/speak: No idea. :-)
07: "Car addiction is an underestimated problem"
This is just brilliant. The therapist shows him the ink spots and asks, "What do you see?" The man answers, "Auto".
The therapist talks about the first phase of rehabilition and then the second phase. Then the man is ready to go it alone. "Car addiction is an underestimated problem."
I can't get the last sentence but it's cool that the man has a car and it's not totally preachy.
08: BMX in Traffic
Speaks for itself.
Another classic one. The mafia guy asks, I believe, "How did you get here today?" The guy in white replies, "By bike". Mafia guy translates into Italian for his friend and they laugh.
Tagline: Cyclists live longer.
Copenhagen Cycle Chic and Copenhagenize.com will be present at the world's largest bike fair - Eurobike - from 4-7 september. Our good friends at Velorbis have offered to let us have a 4 x 2.5 m banner hanging at their stand. And I've whipped up a little flyer, above, for people to take with them when they visit the stand.
I figured that it's an industry event so there will be an ocean of lycra, 'gear' and non-stop sports oriented angles so the text on the flyer merely reads:
"Our cycling legends dress differently than your cycling legends".
It's a cultural reference to the vast number of women who ride bicycles in Copenhagen - roughly 50% of all cyclists - and a historical reference to the iconic figure of the Cycling Girl [cykelpigen] which is such an integral part of Danish culture and which has been since the bicycle first became popular at the end of the 1800's.
We have a tag over at Copenhagen Cycle Chic about The Cycling Girl as Part of Danish Culture.
Cykelhjelm, cykelhjelme, danmark, holland
Since we're on a roll regarding promoting cycling - or not - what does the esteemed panel think about this BMW advert? At least the cyclists portrayed are normal people in normal clothes and representative of an average European urban cyclist.
BBC Loses Their Chain
A number of readers sent this link in from the BBC. All of them were not pleased about the parallels the BBC journalist Tom Geoghegan draws between Olympic cycling medallists and the man on the street. The journalist may have a bike in his garage, but it doesn't sound like he is well acquainted with 'normal people in normal clothes on normal bikes'.
It does seem like a step backwards on the road to demystifying and normalising cycling. What does the panel make of it?
Here's Amanda's take on it, from an email she wrote to us. She's a writer in the UK:
"Earlier this year I started riding a bicycle for the first time since I
was about 12. I got myself a normal bike and it's now my main means of
getting around London. I've become very fond of the idea of bike
culture and love Copenhagen Cycle Chic and the lovely message it spreads
(and the lovely photos!).
Though there are definitely more people on bicycles in London than ever
before, the demographic is mixed. You do see some normal bikes, but
mostly mountain bikes. Helmets can't really be avoided because we have
to ride with the cars, but there is a mixture of attempts at fashionable
helmets and things that look like they've fallen off of rockets. And as
for attire, well, that's mixed too. Lots of people wear normal
clothing. Some people insist on wearing neon jackets over their normal
clothing. And then you have those types that wear outfits that look
like they've been painted on. I'd say of new riders we probably have
more normally attired people than sporty people, so it give me hope that
cycling will become a normal thing for Londoners.
But then you get articles like the BBC article. [as above]
It's not normal, it's not encouraging, and sometimes it's not safe.
Please keep up what you're doing. I'm hoping more examples from Europe
will overpower such horrible suggestions.
San Francisco Sillyness
On the other side of the pond, in San Francisco, there is a man fighting against bike lanes and infrastructure. He sounds like a 'character' - read into that whatever you like - but it is amazing that he has gotten this far. There are so many studies from Europe that basically disprove every claim he has. A shame nobody tells the city hall about them.
In the previous post we showed a fine Hungarian advert that promotes cycling. The Austin Bike Blog posted an advert that is running in the US during the Olympics and which ran during the Tour de France. It's for an American auto parts company called Autozone. As Elliot at Austin Bike Blog says:
In the AutoZone ad, a poor kid on a bike repairs an old clunker by the side of the road using parts for AutoZone. (I imagine he is paying for it with his minimum wage job with no health insurance at Walmart.) At the end he says,
“It basically took me the whole summer. And I don’t know how many times I need to go to AutoZone, but at least now when I go, it’s not on my bike.”
Yes, this poor schmuck has traded a low cost, self sufficient, health and wealth building form of transportation for a future of endless debt and a growing waist line (assuming that car will make it more than 500 miles.) Way to go, Autozone!""
What a difference between the two adverts.
Now THIS is how to promote cycling. No fear mongering from helmet advocates, just pure joy. Showing the facts about the health benefits of cycling without mentioning them. Absolutely brilliant advert from Hungary.
Her bag reads, "Bike to Work." The dialogue goes like this:
Lady: Would you like some tea?
Man: Yes, that would be lovely, thanks.
Telltale noises from the other side of the wall.
Lady [muttering under her breath]: You should rather be biking, too, Rezso.
The tagline at the end is "You should rather be biking, too..."
With the Olympics in full swing I thought I'd post this little screen grab:
We fancy our rowing in Denmark - mostly because we usually win medals - and watching the rowing I was fascinated by the long line of bicycles on shore, following the boats. So aesthetic - human powered boats dancing with human-powered bicycles.
Here's a little addendum to a previous post about our Electric Boogie elderly/disabled citizens, happily humming about the city. Where's his helmet???!!! Shocking, I know.
I first met Ole last December, where he was selling coffee at the christmas party for Danish Broadcasting. I promptly blogged about his Coffee Bike. It was great to bump into him again on one of our main pedestrian streets in the heart of Copenhagen.
Espressomanden - The Espresso Man as Ole is called - is gaining quite the reputation. He is busy being booked for receptions, weddings, company parties - basically anywhere groups of people congregate and need coffee. But he is also a recognisable figure on the streets of the city.
It was a drizzly day so his umbrellas were up. Business is good, however, and since I first met him he has modified his coffee bike.
He still uses a Sorte Jernhest cargo bike, mainly because it can carry 150 kg compared to 100 kg on other Danish cargo bike brands. He has a new coffee machine and a new set-up so he is completely mobile and doesn't need to think about finding an electricity outlet. He is totally mobilee is much more mobile now. If business is slow on one street corner, he justs hops into the saddle and pedals casually away to find greener pastures. But the beauty of it is that you can raise a finger and hail a coffee in between A and B. Ole will hop off and whip up a well-made coffee for you.
The City of Copenhagen has recently eased up on restrictions on street vending and, generally, outdoor business. In order to create more life on the streets it is now easier and cheaper to apply for permission to have tables on the sidewalk outside your café or to sell goods on the streets. This is why we're seeing new cargo bikes on the streets like the Fruit Bike, newspaper bikes and a boom in rickshaws, among many other bikes.
It's one thing having great numbers of citizens filling the streets and bike lanes but it's taking it one step further having bikes selling goods on the streets. It's aesthetic, practical and rather cool and underlines the status of the bicycle here in Copenhagen.
Ole admites he has the World's Best Job. Working outside in the ancient and lovely centre of Copenhagen with chic Copenhageners walking or bicycling past. He also admits that the latter is a distracting factor but it's not one he would be without.
By the way, the coffee is delicious.
Copenhagen beach with offshore wind turbines in the background.
The Danish Prime Minister said something the other day that you won't hear many other statesmen in OECD countries say:
Namely that petrol prices need to be raised drastically in order to clear the way for environmentally-friendly technology and to free us from our dependence on oil. He was quoted in the New York Times by Thomas L. Friedman who met with the prime minister on a recent visit to Denmark.
"I've observed that people in all other countries, including the USA, are complaining about rising gas prices. The cure isn't lowering prices, but instead we should raise them further in order to break our dependence from oil."
"We will propose a new tax reform with an even higher tax on energy and the money raised from this will be used to lower the income tax - so we will strengthen the incentive to work and the incentive to save energy and develop sustainable energy sources", said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Danish Prime Minister, to Thomas L. Friedman. Read his opinion piece Flush With Energy here.
It remains to be seen if it will happen. The current government are not environmental angels and the proposal has been met with skepticism from the other parties in the government. But a quote is a good start.
Source [among others]: Politiken & DR
[Japanese porn film featuring a bicycle]
There is one surefire sign that bicycles are hot at the moment. It's not the coverage urban cycling is getting on tv networks or in mainstream newspapers and fashion magazines.
It's pornography. Increasing numbers of bicycle related porn films are being spotted on adult websites. You read it here first [but you probably noticed yourself, didn't you?] Once again, the adult film industry is a deciding factor in cultural and technological issues.
[Screen grab from another, more recent film featuring bicycles and a 'cyclist'.]
The adult film industry almost single-handedly killed of Beta in favour of VHS when they decided to back the latter format for the distribution of their films. Every time you view internet streaming and watch clips in the most popular formats, you can thank the porn industry for choosing them and therefore standardising how we view online content. The industry was a major factor in the rapid development of streaming technology and their choices of format killed off all the other competitors to mpeg and avi.
Most recently, the world awaited the porn industry's choice between HD-DVD or Blu-Ray.
So now there are bicycle porn films popping up. From the States but also from Japanese websites and producers. Like it or not, it's good for cycling. Well, probably. At the very least it is a little step towards removing the bike/sports geek factor from cycling and returning the bicycle to its rightful place as an inseparable part of our culture. If you can fuck on a bicycle, you can certainly pop down to the supermarket on it, or ride to work.
[Nobody said it was QUALITY porn...]
For too long the car industry has enjoyed its place in porn films, especially the cheesy online ones. Bimbo in silly heels bent over the hood of a Corvette or suchlike visual pandemonium. It's time the bicycle took its cultural market share.
We have a relaxed attitude towards porn here in Denmark. We were the first country to legalise it back in 1969 and, when U.S. video rental giant Blockbuster moved into the Danish market ten or so years ago by buying up a local chain, there were protests when they announced they would stop renting porn. The protests came from family groups, among others, who didn't fancy the company bringing the cultural morals of another country into ours.
Blockbuster caved in and Denmark is the only country where they rent adult erotica films in their shops. Whether or not Danish adult film producers are capitalising on the popularity of bicycle porn films in order to broaden their international market is unclear but it's some research I'm going to enjoy thoroughly.
Copenhagenize the Planet indeed.
This has got to be Copenhagen's smallest backyard. I'd need a fisheye lens to get it all in.
Nevertheless, there is room for a toilet, paper recycling bins and... hanging bicycles.
While we have many elderly cyclists in Copenhagen, there are those who find themselves less mobile than they'd like - including some who are not yet elderly - but they are still happily mobile in the streets of Copenhagen.
These electric wonders come in a vast variety of designs and they are allowed to use the existing bike lane infrastructure. Or on stretches without, they zip their way through the traffic like other vehicles, like the photo at the top.
I love these electric mobility vehicles. Having our elderly and less-mobile citizens out in the city together with the rest of us is a plus for society and for them.
I've posted this photo before, but man... it is so cool, that electric car.
In completely unrelated news, allow me to post this tidbit from our local neighbourhood newspaper.
"Two alert cyclists were the direct reason that Olsen Furs on Gammel Kongevej got the furs back that were stolen on Wednesday afternoon.
Shortly before 16:00 a man and a woman came into the shop and the woman succeeded in distracting the shopkeeper so much that the man could sneak out of the shop with two furs worth 10,000 kroner each.
Just then two cyclists came past and saw the man leaving the shop with the furs and they chased him. He ended up ditching the furs and running off."
Rush hour in Copenhagen.
For those who follow this blog it can hardly be a secret that we firmly believe that bicycle helmets should be a private matter and a personal choice - and that helmet promotion and legislation are the greatest threats to bicycle culture since the dawn of the automobile age.
I had a discussion the other day with a friend from England regarding our campaign against helmet promotion here in Denmark on Cykelhjelm.org. We agreed that it's a weighty task and the message is a challenge to get across. There's all the science about what protection a helmet actually provides and then there's the whole societal issue about the effects of helmet promotion.
We ended up agreeing on what the issue is all about. Our society here - and elsewhere - has a simple and important choice:
What do we want for society as a whole?
A. More people in bike helmets?
B. More people on bikes?
You can't have both as common sense and the existing data will suggest.
For me B. is the obvious choice. The health and societal benefits are far greater when more people get onto bikes. A fall in illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and certain forms of cancer, a fall in obesity and a rise in productivity and life expectancy. Good for society.
What do you choose? One answer only, please.
One of the perks of having this blog is that I've made the acquaintence of many bicycle advocates from around the world. Either visiting Copenhagen to research our bike culture or through ongoing email conversations. Advocates, urban planners, policy makers in transport departments, municipal officals, bike organisations, what have you, from all over the world. It's amazing to exchange views and experiences.
Many of you know how touchy the helmet debate can be. This was underlined for me the other day. I've had a pleasant, extended email conversation with a municipal offical in a medium-sized American city that is making an effort to plant the seeds of bike culture. It was, for ages, a fine and good exchange punctuated with enthusiasm and good karma.
It all changed rather rapidly when I started blogging more about helmet promotion and helmets. I recieved a 'Dear John' email stating that our 'relationship' was over. Ridiculous and childish, yes. It was cause to roll my eyes and sigh, but nothing more than that. Helmets had come between us and my opinions about them were too much for this policy maker.
It made me wonder about the differences between helmet advocates and bicycle advocates. You'd think they were one in the same but I don't reckon they are. Here's why:
- Helmet advocates sell helmets and fear is their greatest marketing tool.
And legislators who vote for helmet laws sell helmets through a sad cocktail of ignorance and 'passing the buck' - exposing their own inability and unwillingness to develop safe infrastructure for bicycles.
- Bicycle advocates, on the other hand, sell urban cycling and they do so for the greater good. And they use science to sell their wares. Period.
So if you meet a 'bicycle advocate' who starts waffling on about helmets - run. Or rather ride away.
I know, I know. Things are different here in Europe. We have 100 million daily cyclists and very, very few wear helmets. We do have vocal political bodies and organisations like the EU, the WHO and the European Cyclists' Federation who all warn against helmet promotion and legislation because it effectively kills off bicycle culture and because the health and societal benefits of people cycling are much more important.
Once again. Choose A. or choose B. As above.
Now that Australia has become the fattest nation in the western world [26% of the population are obese - 25% in the USA], the country's destructive helmet laws are in the spotlight once again. Read more about this here.
In addition to gaining a fruitful network of bicycle advocates, starting this helmet research and analysis has put me into contact with a growing number of people who share the same concerns. Information and experience is exchanged, research studies that can be difficult to obtain are made available. Words of encouragement fly electronically across borders and seas.
There are a couple of good interviews over at Cykelhjelm.org in English. One is with Morten Lange, head of the Icelandic Cyclists' Federation, member of the European Cyclists' Federation's Helmet Group. The other interview is with Carlton Reid Esq. of Bikebiz.com and quickrelease.tv fame.
One kindred spirit emailed this interesting point: For every one life 'allegedly' saved by a bike helmet on a bike we could save 20 lives of motorists and passengers if they, too wore the helmets. And don't forget the pedestrians.
Come on people!!! Don't we want to save lives!!?? And where are the helmet manufacturers on this issue? Think how many helmets they could sell!
Alas, if only helmet advocates were equipped with logic and science. I read the other day 37,000 people drown each year in Europe. A helmet is not an effective piece of equipment for saving lives but a lifevest most certainly is.
I want to see all these people branch out into lifevest promotion and legislation. No child left unprotected in the swimming pools and on the beaches. Come on. Get started.
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