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Guardian article on Copenhagenize blog and "copenhagenizing" cities

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  • Christopher Miller
    http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/wellbeing/story/0,,2287337,00.html Ethical living Two wheels Carlton Reid Thursday June 26, 2008 The Guardian Some might
    Message 1 of 3 , Jun 27, 2008
      http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/wellbeing/story/0,,2287337,00.html

      Ethical living


      Two wheels


      Carlton Reid
      Thursday June 26, 2008
      The Guardian

      Some might say that Mikael Colville-Andersen, owner of the Copenhagen
      Cycle Chic blog, has photographed a disproportionate number of
      beautiful women cycling in short skirts. To be fair, however, he
      features photos of Copenhagen's male cyclists, too. Just as long as
      they are stylish. Colville-Andersen is The Sartorialist on two wheels.
      His website shows that you don't have to wear Lycra to get to the
      office on time on a bike. Cycling in civvies is the done thing in
      Copenhagen, he says, so we shouldn't scare off potential newbies by
      fixating on "proper" cycle clothing or the necessity for showers -
      something that Bristol should take note of, having been announced last
      week as Britain's first designated Cycling City. And don't mention the
      H word. Copenhagen's cyclists aren't into helmets. To find out why,
      you have to visit Colville-Andersen's other Copenhagen-themed blog,
      albeit one that's not quite so popular - too few photos of women
      cycling in high heels, no doubt. Copenhagenize.com is "life in the
      world's cycling capital".

      Article continues





      Colville-Andersen ends lots of his posts with the dictum
      "Copenhagenize the planet". He wants cycling to be recognised as a
      normal way of getting around town. "So many people in other countries
      have been brainwashed into believing that cycling is just a sport or a
      hobby and haven't entertained the thought that it could be a daily
      transport activity," he tells me. "So many Copenhageners ride in
      style, on normal bikes and in normal clothes. Even those who are not
      chic ride with an ease and elegance that borders on poetry."
      There are YouTube videos that show this "poetry in motion".
      Copenhagenize.com links to one from the Netherlands that focuses just
      on the school-run. Hordes of young cyclists weave in and out of each
      other's trajectories as they ride to school. Similar scenes can be
      witnessed in Copenhagen each day .
      Copenhagen hasn't always been wall-to-wall bikes. Its first purpose-
      built, segregated cycle path was created only 25 years ago. Colville-
      Andersen says the city's bike culture was built almost from scratch.
      There was a political will to make it happen, funds were allocated.
      Funds are still allocated. "We're not bike-friendly because it's a
      flat city. We ride lots because of visionary political decisions."
      These political decisions were unpopular at the time. Now Danes can't
      remember a time before mass bicycle culture. Cycle use in Copenhagen
      is 36% (the UK average is 2%). City officials want to see this rise to
      50% by 2015, when it is hoped the city will become the world's
      environmental capital. To reach this target, Copenhagen is closing
      major thoroughfares to cars, creating bike motorways in their place.
      Thirty thousand bikes a day, and only 15,000 cars, use Nørrebro
      Street, making it a prime candidate for closure to cars. Copenhagen
      also operates a "green wave" system on some streets: if you ride at a
      steady speed, you'll hit green lights all the way. The city's vice-
      mayor has proposed that when the pollution levels rise too high, all
      the traffic lights at the edge of the city will turn red, stranding
      cars in official gridlock.
      It is this sort of radical thinking - and acknowledgement that such
      ideas will be unpopular at first - that will be needed by local
      politicians in Bristol, and in the 11 towns that were last week given
      "cycling demonstration town" status - Blackpool, Cambridge, Chester,
      Colchester, Leighton-Linslade, Shrewsbury, Southend, Southport with
      Ainsdale, Stoke, Woking and York.
      Bristol wants to create a Velib-style on-street bike rental network,
      modelled on the successful Paris scheme. It also plans to build a
      "state-of-the-art facility for cyclists in the city centre providing
      showers, bike parking and lockers so commuters can have a wash and
      brush up before starting work".
      Why are British cycle planners fixated on personal hygiene? Cycling
      short distances across town in normal clothes isn't a sweat-fest.
      Installing showers reinforces the view that cycling is difficult,
      smelly and, well, different. Copenhagen doesn't force its biking
      populace to bathe: it takes space from cars and gives it over to
      bicycle and pedestrian use. The true test for England's latest cycling
      demonstration towns won't be which one can install the plushest
      shower, but whether they can ignore the pleas of motorists and truly
      "Copenhagenize" their streets.


      Christopher Miller
      Montreal QC Canada



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    • Karen Sandness
      Copenhagen s cycling culture was invented in the last 25 years? How, then, to explain the scene in The Counterfeit Traitor, a movie of the early 1960s that
      Message 2 of 3 , Jun 28, 2008
        Copenhagen's cycling culture was "invented" in the last 25 years?

        How, then, to explain the scene in The Counterfeit Traitor, a movie of
        the early 1960s that takes place during World War II, in which
        Copenhagen cyclists on the spur of the moment help William Holden
        escape the Germans by filling the street with two-wheeled traffic and
        blocking the pursuers?

        Europe has always seemed more bicycle-friendly than the U.S. Look at
        old British films or period pieces such as The Long Day Closes: lots
        of bikes. Even as a child in the late 1950s, I heard a woman who had
        taken a bicycle trip through Europe give a presentation at my church's
        annual dinner and tell of the network of youth hostels that served non-
        automotive travelers.

        Perhaps it is more accurate to say that Europe temporarily lost its
        cycling culture in a brief infatuation with the car and is recovering
        from that bit of madness as their environmental and social
        consciousness develops.

        In transit,
        Karen Sandness
      • Christopher Miller
        I think this is probably a result of how many people (and sadly this is also true of many journalists, who should be paying more attention to historical
        Message 3 of 3 , Jun 28, 2008
          I think this is probably a result of how many people (and sadly this
          is also true of many journalists, who should be paying more attention
          to historical context) seem to judge everything in terms of what we
          are habituated to in our own times, i.e., in this case, a very car-
          centric transportation economy. You see this so often in reactions by
          the average "Joe" or "Jane" to media reports of even the most timid
          steps to (re-)introduce an emphasis on streetcars, trains and bicycles
          and try to edge away from the overwhelming hegemony of the automobile:
          for so many people, it is unimaginable that there could be any other
          way to move around. This leads to disparaging comments we often see by
          some politicians, in editorials, in letters to the editor, or in radio
          or online opinion forums, about tramways being quaint 19th century
          technology unfit for our times, or bicycles being impossible as a
          means of getting anywhere or doing anything serious (and even being
          "unprofessional", as I have seen in more than one comment). Even the
          Treehugger blog,which you might think has its priorities straight, is
          hopelessly enamored with the idea of the "green car", i.e. anything,
          but any alternative fuel or power source, please please please!!! to
          let us keep on driving everywhere.


          Christopher Miller
          Montreal QC Canada

          ================================================

          On 28-Jun-08, at 6:28 PM, Karen Sandness wrote:

          > Copenhagen's cycling culture was "invented" in the last 25 years?
          >
          > How, then, to explain the scene in The Counterfeit Traitor, a movie of
          > the early 1960s that takes place during World War II, in which
          > Copenhagen cyclists on the spur of the moment help William Holden
          > escape the Germans by filling the street with two-wheeled traffic and
          > blocking the pursuers?
          >
          > Europe has always seemed more bicycle-friendly than the U.S. Look at
          > old British films or period pieces such as The Long Day Closes: lots
          > of bikes. Even as a child in the late 1950s, I heard a woman who had
          > taken a bicycle trip through Europe give a presentation at my church's
          > annual dinner and tell of the network of youth hostels that served
          > non-
          > automotive travelers.
          >
          > Perhaps it is more accurate to say that Europe temporarily lost its
          > cycling culture in a brief infatuation with the car and is recovering
          > from that bit of madness as their environmental and social
          > consciousness develops.
          >
          > In transit,
          > Karen Sandness
          >
          >
          >





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