- Bicycle Culture by Design: Monumental Motion Exhibition on the Road

My “Monumental Motion - a cycling life in the capital of Denmark” photo exhibition - produced together with the Danish Foreign Ministry’s Public Diplomacy Office -  continues to travel and will do so for another year or so. It’s been brilliant to attend some of the openings - when my schedule permits - and meet inspirational people in cities around the world. All the exhibitions have been great. Like any photographer it’s a thrill see your work on display. The world premiere in Ljubjlana, Slovenia last year has to be the best exhibition thus far. The City has a permanent exhibition space along the river and the photos of Copenhagen’s cycling life were blown up to an impressive size.

The vice-Mayor of the city spoke at the opening, as did the Danish Ambassador and myself. There was also a photo competition for local photographers to take photos of their cycling city and I got to award the prizes for the best photos (bottom left).

Ljubljana is a fine little bicycle city, with about 10% modal share. As always, it's the infrastructure that counts, as we wrote about here in this article about the city.

Monumental Motion also made an appearance in Budapest. Thanks to Aron from Hungarian Cycle Chic for these photos.

The opening of the exhibition in Zagreb, Croatia earlier this year was also a great day. We rode to the opening with the Danish Ambassador cycling his wife in a Christiania bike and with the Mayor of Zagreb alongside.

There was a bit of a media scrum at the opening. At bottom right, the Mayor's interpreter translated the English from me and the Ambassador but I can't guarantee that he liked what was being said.

The reason was a little diplomatic crisis leading up to the opening. The  Danish embassy had contacted the City of Zagreb during the preparations for the exhibition. They asked that IF there were any plans for a cycle track on the road outside the Technical Museum then PERHAPS the City could push it forward to coincide with the opening of Monumental Motion. The City went ahead and painted a bike lane based on this request. A nice gesture, but all they did was paint over the existing sidewalk and not on the street. The Danish Embassy quickly said, "Um... sorry... that's NOT what we meant... we meant a PROPER cycle track" but it was too late. The Embassy promptly announced that the new strip of paint was NOT what they meant and they didn't wish to be associated with it. The press, of course, was all over it. You expect that in emerging bicycle cultures, but anyone could see that it was a botch job.

First of all it is bi-directional. Second of all it's on the sidewalk and, in places, leaves pedestrians with 50 cm to walk past. Three clicks on Google and you can find Best Practice from Denmark or the Netherlands. It boggles the mind. When I heard about the gesture I was flattered. When I saw it, I rolled my eyes and happily send to the various media that it was rather embarassing the the traffic engineers had done it like this.

Here's Bo Weber, Ambassador at one of the sections of the bike lane. We had quite a chuckle. Besides that, the opening was fantastic and the audience at my talk in the evening was one of the best.

In Riga, Latvia, the Motor Museum was the venue. Love that irony. Although they had some cool vintage bicycles on display.
Brilliant tricycle design! Such fine lines.

Here's a fun fact from Riga. The Motor Museum features a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, owned by the former President of Russia, Leonid Breznev. He crashed the car - allegedly drunk - in Moscow in the 1980s. The Museum acquired it after the end of the Cold War and have a Brezhnev mannequin sitting behind the wheel of the crashed Rolls.

Rolls Royce, however, have a policy that their cars must never be shown dented or crashed. Bad for the brand. They got wind of this Latvian museum displaying the famous Silver Shadow and promptly threatened them with expensive lawyers.

The museum stuck to their guns. Rolls Royce, on a visit to the museum, thought that the facade above the entrance was a copyright infringment - a copy of their grill. It was a coincedence. Finally, Rolls Royce backed off. The museum wouldn't budge and the car was a historical item. The car company ended up sending a vintage statue of their hood ornament as a gift.

Then there was Berlin, where the Monumental Exhibition was on display in Felleshuset - the common cultural centre shared by the Scandinavian countries. I gave a talk, too, and there was a debate afterwards.

In Strasbourg, the venue was the European Parlimentary Association's building. Denmark held the presidency of the EU at that time (Jan-Jun 2012) so it became a platform for Danish politicians. Which was cool. Nicolaj Wammen - Danish Minister for Europe gave a fantastic speech. The former Mayor of Aarhus is amazingly fluent in English and I haven't heard such a moving speech from a Danish politican in either language - for years. He's Obammen!

Above is the EU Commissioner for the Environment, Connie Hedegaard. She did her thing as well. She's so relaxed and cool. I gave her and Wammen a Cyclelogistics cargo bike pencil holder for the desk.

Photography by Nima Baharlooie. The exhibition showed up in Ho Chi Minh City in connection with the 40th anniversary of Danish diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Would have loved to have been there but that's why it's great to have a Crown Prince who could do the honours. You can almost guess that the gentleman, above, is saying "we have those in Vietnam!"

And here, Crown Prince Frederik is most likely saying, "I have a cargo bike like that at home..." When his wife isn't borrowing it.

To wrap up the article, Antwerpen. Great exhibition, great audience for the talk. Former Mayor Klaus Bondam gave a presentation, too. He's still in demand even since his term ended back in 2010. But nobody wants to hear from the current politicians in Copenhagen. They want to hear from politicians who have actually done something. The exhibition was opened in a fancy way. The official provincial ribbon was to be cut by the official provincial golden scissors. Chris, from the Province of Antwerp, had his son with him and I promptly handed him the scissors and let him do the honours. Future generation and all that. It seemed appropriate and he loved it.

Contact your local Danish Embassy or Consulate if you'd like to see the Monumental Motion where you live.

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