Why your bicycle is like your vacuum cleaner. Just add kids!

This week I am the host at the BMW Guggenheim Lab and this afternoon I launched my Dynamic Connections programs. Last week Jose empowered us to ‘make’ our city with technology (Empowerment Technologies). This week I’m encouraging everyone to ‘make’ our city with people (Dynamic Connections) and I’m inviting, encouraging and enthusing people to “dynamically connect” people and places through dynamic transportation and community connections.

This afternoon Sidsel Birk Hjuler from Copenhagenize talked to use about Cycling Cities.

According to Sidsel the ‘children’s disease of modern city life’ is our car culture. The bicycle, by contrast, Sidsel explained is like a vacuum cleaner… “You don’t need to dress up to use it, you know the sooner your kids know how to use it the better and that you can’t live with out it!”

Copenhagenize Cycle Chic is about the beauty of normality. It’s about normal people riding bikes wearing normal clothes. Cycling, Sidsel explained, is not about crazy environmentalists and health freaks. The Copenhagenize Bicycle Friendly Index of Cities was produced in 2011 to see what cities around the world were doing to support, promote and encourage cycling. 80 cities, with populations over 700,00 were selected, as well as Portland and Copenhagen, with the 5 most bicycle friendly cities being names as Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Tokyo and Berlin.  The index has values, rules, challenges feedback and goals with the following criteria:

  1. Advocacy. Mainstream advocacy, like AFC in Berlin, rather than extremist advocates.
  2. Bicycle culture. Sidsel says that only Amsterdam and Copenhagen really ‘do’ normality with cycling being something that ‘everyone does’.
  3. Bicycle facilities. From innovative projects such as a cycle parking robot at a train station in Tokyo which gives you your bike in less than 10 seconds to cities in the Netherlands with cycle parking on almost every corner.
  4. Bicycle infrastructure. The message was reinforced…. separated and protected cycle lanes are the ‘route’ to success.
  5. Bike share programs. Public bike hire is the new ‘black’ of the cycle world. In Paris 70,00 people use the Velib bikes each day. Within 10 months of the Dublin bike hire opening 37,000 users were registered.
  6. Gender split. Women are the indicator species of a cycling city. The percentage of women in any city is a reflection on convenience, comfort and safety.
  7. Mode share. Amsterdam wins the gold medal for bicycle mode share, but Barcelona won the prize for the greatest mode share shift since 2006 with an increase from less than 1% of all trip to 5%.
  8. Perception of safety… and what we wear, or don’t wear on our heads. According to Sidsel the percentage of bicycle riders wearing cycle helmets equals a perception of how unsafe a city is for cycling. The Netherlands is the safest place to cycle, because there parents simply seat their helmetless children on the parcel rack.
  9. Politics. Janette Sadik-Khan has changed thinking about sustainable transport in New York City. NYC has a long way to go but Janette is pushing hard and realising change. According to Sidsel Governments need to well informed about best practice.
  10. Social acceptance. This is an individual experience but Sidsel believes that cyclists are well respected by car drivers in Berlin… some of the audience disagreed!
  11. Traffic calming. Safety is critical. In Barcelona 80% of urban streets are 30kmph zones.

Sidsel concluded her talk with a number of recommendations to promote and increase cycling in Berlin (and all cities):

  • A2B’ism – It’s human nature to want to go from point A to point B as quickly and easily as possible. Berlin needs an impressive varierty of cycle infrastructure that is logical and easy to use. Sidsel explained that in Denmark, as a cyclist, you always know where you should be: between the pedestrian and the parked cars with a kerb to separate you from both… and you never ever cycle on the pedestrian path!
  • Making an amazing public transportation system even better – According to Sidsel seamless connections are needed between public and active transport with small changes such as providing cycle ramps on all transit station steps through to making the carriage of bicycle free of charge on longer distance train and bus services. Sidsel explained that in Denmark bikes can travel on trains for free. In 2010 2.1 million passengers travelled on trains with bikes but this increased to 7.3 million passengers in 2012 as a result of free carriage for bicycles.
  • Apply basic marketing rules – Tell great stories, share success, make cycling mainstream and ensure that people know that cycling is fun and easy! Urban cycling has many benefits for users and is a part of the solution for many urban challenges such as obesity, congestion and pollution.
  • Stop ignoring the bull in society’s china shop – Berlin, like many cities around the world, needs to build cycle infrastructure in places where cars normally area. Cities should stop ‘stealing’ space from pedestrian and ‘steal’ from cars. Sidsel says we need to “Fox what’s broken not what already works”

Sidsel says we need a ‘re-democratisation of the bicycle’. Cycling is not dangerous, it’s not sweaty, it’s not uncomfortable and it’s not inconvenient… “We just gotta do it”

So another fantastic day at the Lab! I’ll be back tomorrow morning (Berlin time) with a summary of tonight’s ‘Bicycle Fast Facts powered by Pecha Kucha’

… and if you can’t wait that long (!!) you can log onto  www.dynamicconnections.de