- Bicycle Culture by Design: Danish Police Back Death Penalty for Cyclists

Okay… it’s an attention-grabbing headline, sure. But it’s not even my own invention. The Danish Police are going after cyclists and scooters this week across the kingdom. They do so a couple of times a year.The police are probably very good at a lot of things but let’s face it… marketing isn’t one of them. It’s safe to say that they get all their marketing tips from the equally hopeless Danish Road Safety Council, and then they promptly make it even worse.

John Sckaletz is the head of the traffic police in Copenhagen and he has actually said this week that, "The traffic law is the only law where the death penalty still applies". He said that. That's the police's "cleverly worded campaign" at the moment. Well done! Well thought out! How very positive!

The police want to "put an end to" cyclists who roll casually through a red light or across a pedestrian crossing. They are clearly of the opinion that such infractions should be regarded on equal terms with the crimes committed by hardened criminals. So for four days this week they are firmly putting their shiny boots down and making the world a better place.No, of course they're not going after motorists for speeding, reckless driving or polluting. That borders on logical and would certainly not fit into a police campaign.

It's autumn and usually around this time there are police campaigns for remembering your bicycle lights. Not this year. John Sckaletz said that the popularity of magnetic lights like Reelights on Danish bicycles means that it isn't necessary to focus on lights this year. Thus the Culture of Fear campaign about the Death Penalty.

Nevermind that it has never - ever - been safer to ride a bicycle in Denmark. Or that Denmark is second only to the Netherlands regarding traffic safety for cyclists.

Nevermind the fact that the 'shocking' behaviour of Citizen Cyclists is largely unchanged since the invention of the bicycle, around 125 years ago - as highlighted in this satirical text from the 1930's we blogged earlier.

No, no. Let's continue the war on bicycles that is raging in Denmark. The negative branding of urban cycling is reaching new heights and bicycle traffic has stagnated and even fallen across the nation.Here's a fine example of scare tactics in a previous autumn bike lights campaign from Denmark:

Use Your Head

Compare it to how they broadcast the same message in the Netherlands:

Remember to Turn on Your Lights... but remember to turn them off. (I'm s-o-o-o looking forward to going to the Netherlands to work next month...)

The Danish police have done little to encourage cycling in Denmark and they are traditionally negative about most ideas that would increase bicycle traffic and encourage people to leave their car parked at home. The one exception is their recent flexbility about allowing for right turns on red for cyclists.

The job description of the police is quite clear. They uphold the laws that are passed. It seems, however, that the police are content to stare at the lawbooks and mechanically chant that 'laws must not be broken and fines will be given for those who do' instead of looking up and around them. At the society in which they live and work. At human nature. And help contribute positively to the growth of bicycle traffic, the taming of the bull in the china shop and the noble journey to creating more liveable cities.

Fines haven't changed human behaviour in 125 years. Nor has finger-wagging. It's time the police in Denmark hired a decent marketing consultant and started thinking more positively about all the good things that bicycle traffic contributes to our society.As it is now, they're going after amateur pickpockets in a crowd of agressive, heavily-armed thugs.

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