The Depressing Rise of Squiggletecture - and how to design a bicycle/ped bridge

Copenhagenize - 9 hours 58 min ago
Architectural competitions are great. A flurry of designs emerge from Photoshopland that allow you to gauge the current mood, trends and ideas. If you're lucky, there are a few ooh and ahh moments. We were sitting here at the office looking at the many entries for the open competition for the Nine Elms to Pimlico Bridge in London. A pedestrian and bicycle bridge across the storied Thames. The NEP Bridge competition, on their website, declares they are looking for:"...exceptional, inspiring designs for a new bridge at the centre of the world’s greatest city. The successful entry will have to win the hearts of Londoners who are tremendously proud of their river and its rich architectural heritage. There are considerable challenges and engineering feats to overcome. The design must work alongside the cutting edge architecture emerging on the south bank as well as the elegant frontages on the north. The landing points on both sides must integrate sensitively with their surroundings and provide a smooth and safe experience for the pedestrian and cyclists who use it. This bridge is also a badly needed and valuable piece of infrastructure for London. It has a very strong transport case, will support the city’s growth and has significant funding commitments already in place. Developing an inspiring, beautiful design will allow us to take the project to the next stage and ensure this project comes off the page into reality in a much shorter timeframe."Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council and co-chair of the Nine Elms Vauxhall PartnershipArchitecture and design is a question of taste. What I like might not be what you like. I'm not going to bother talking about which designs appeal to me. Here at the office we started looking at the bridge from the mobility perspective and, as is our lot, from the perspective of citizen cyclists who want to get around their city. Basing our focus on the many bicycle bridges in the Netherlands and Denmark. In particular, Copenhagen has seven new bicycle bridges either just openend or on the way. Leaving the personal taste up to the individual, we looked at pure mobility.Like Ravi Govindia says, above, it's a badly needed and valuable piece of infrastructure with a strong transport case that will support the city's growth. It has to provide a smooth and safe experience for pedestrians and cyclists.In the competition brief it says that:- " must be inspiring, elegant and functional in its design and perfect in its execution."- "Provide a safe and attractive link for pedestrians and cyclists crossign the river, encouraging movement between the two banks."I'm not really a big fan of architects dabbling in urban planning. So few have the knack for it. So, with that in mind, what is the State of the Architectural Bridge Nation?Welcome to the Weird World of SquiggletectureWhat is up with these squiggles?! It's perfectly fine to think out of the box. Not much gets accomplished if you don't. But there is a clear, and perhaps, disturbing trend which I have hereby dubbed Squiggletecture. There is an alarming number of renderings that have discarded straight lines.What is a bridge? Isn't it just a vital mobility link from one side of a body of water to another? Isn't that really the baseline for every decent bridge in history? Look at a map of Paris or any other city with bridges. They are straight. From one shore to the other. Providing no-nonsense A to B for the people using it. Only then do differences in design and aesthetics come into play.Look at the selection of designs, above. A2Bism had a cement block chained to its feet and it was thrown into the river. It's sleeping with the fishes.You wonder who thinks stuff like this up. Are they all former interns at Foster + Partners? Wherever they cut their teeth on Photoshop, it is clear that these are people who do not ride bicycles in a city - or who didn't even bother trying before they started doodling a bicycle and pedestrian bridge. Let alone people who walk very much on their urban landscape. These are all designs for meandering tourists licking ice cream on a Sunday afternoon. People with nowhere to go and nowhere to be. These aren't designs for a city in constant motion and citizens moving purposely about.The ramps. Seriously. Look at all those squiggletecture ramps. Round and round we go, slowly descending to the river bank like a flower petal on a summer breeze. Not exactly what any human in a city wants, now is it? Then look at some of those sharp turns on the bicycle ramps. Best Practice for grade and curves on bicycle infrastructure has been around for almost a century. Would it have hurt to spend a little while on Google? Or on a bicycle? Unbelievable.One of the designs has a fancy waterfall - bringing inspiration to London from.... 1980s Edmonton, Canada. But really, the water is a visual shield to disguise the Danteesque inferno in the middle that forces cyclists to descend to several levels of mobility hell.Here's a thought. Is this pornographic obsession with ramps a subliminal product of decades of car-centric planning? Is there a little voice embedded in the minds of designers and architects that says, "hey... if you have get up or down from an elevation, use a winding ramp. That's what they do in car parking garages and on motorways..." Has car infrastructure dominated so thoroughly that it's hard to plan for other forms of transport?Whatever. These designs would be great for a Bridge Over the River Why. London certainly doesn't need anymore of this.It is apparently easy to draw a (curved) line between Illustrator's improvement of their Draw a Curve function and design renderings. There are only 30,000 hits on this how-to film, but I bet 10,000 are from people responsible for the all the photos about this point.I can lament the fact that there is so little anthropology at play in architecture but assuming that anybody who walks or cycles in a city is a meanderthal shows a lack of understanding of human nature. Stop with these curves, already. It's Magpie Architecture, nothing more. Bling your badass bridge all you want, just don't force people to alter their urban trajectory because you learned a new trick in Illustrator.There will always be exceptions to this. The new Circle Bridge in Copenhagen by Olafur Eliasson is one. It is not at a location, however, that is - or will be - a vital mobility link. It's just a modest connector bridge across a canal for cyclists and pedestrians. Any bridge that is expected to get a decent share of cyclists wouldn't be designed like this.Ah, you might say. What about the Bicycle Snake/Cykelslangen in Copenhagen? Isn't that curvy and all that? It is, indeed.Firstly, it has to navigate a 90 degree turn around the corner of a building. But you don't force cyclists to do 90 degree turns, so they swept it elegantly around the corner for comfort and safetly. The bridge slopes down to the harbour bridge and, with an expected 16,000 A to B cyclists a day, the graceful curvature nudges people ever so slightly to keep their speed in check on the descent.The designs for the NEP Bridge, above, just curve for no particular reason. With no regard for getting people where they want to go. Instead, there seems to be a distinct focus on increasing travel times by creating a mobility obstacle course.Speaking of obstacles, it was surprising to see that designs were actually sent in that just discarded the idea of ramps altogether and rolled their dice on... stairs. Big, fancy, modern bridge across the river of a major world city and you have to navigate stairs to get there. Although some designs feature elevators to further slow you down and one chucked in escalators for bikes.One of the designs has a small box in the corner showing the Everest slope and upselling it by declaring the intention to implement "Place making across the bridge and its landing position". Just look at the place they imagine making. Ooh. Sticky.If you want to create a bicycle and pedestrian bridge in 2015, can we agree that stairs and elevators should not be your point of departure?A lot of the renderings only provide conceptual ideas and it's sometimes hard to see details. Nevertheless, it wasn't all squiggletecture, curve balls and epic climbing expeditions. There are designs that make sense. There seem to be some common denominators. One of them is that the designer/architect has probably actually tried to ride a bicycle in a city. Another is a clear separation between the two user groups.The design at top left does so rather elegantly, with a cycle track down the middle. As does the design at bottom left. At bottom right is a design similar to what you see over the Brooklyn Bridge. Doesn't make it a good thing, but at least the designer was thinking about A2B and dividing space between cyclists and pedestrians.I was going to start commenting on which design(s) I like, but then I remembered I said I wouldn't that at the beginning of the article. So nevermind.What is going to work, regardless of design, is a bridge that provides an intelligent A2B without irritations or detours at either end. A bridge that understands pedestrians and their needs and expectations, absolutely, but also one that does the same for cyclists. Again, that's bascially almost every city bridge ever built prior to the dawn of automobile culture.There is one sentence in the competition brief, mentioned above, that would benefit from being rearranged like this:" must be functional in its design, perfect in its execution and also inspiring and elegant."It's a modern lifeline across a river in a world city, not a coffee cup.Functional design first or don't bother.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

Six ideas for building cycling culture from the World Bicycle Forum

Embarq The City Fix - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 4:24pm

Last week’s World Bicycle Forum gave city and transport leaders the opportunity to learn from one another and discuss effective ways to strengthen cycling culture worldwide. Photo by Claudio Olivares Medina/Flickr.

Last week, over 4,000 people gathered for the fourth World Bicycle Forum. This citizen-driven event was created by bike activists in Porto Alegre, Brazil after a car plowed through a group of bikers at a critical mass event in March 2011. Fortunately, no one died, but the resulting media attention sparked solidarity and the urge to take action among bike activists worldwide. After two years in Porto Alegre, the Forum moved to Curitiba, Brazil in 2014, and this year to Medellín, Colombia.

Urban cycling culture is a powerful instrument for building sustainable, healthy, and equitable cities. Bikes’ utility for cities and citizens goes well beyond transport, recreation, and sport. As Pedro Bravo—author of Biciosos—says, “Bikes are a weapon of mass construction.” The fourth World Bicycle Forum showed us multiple examples of how cycling can catalyze widespread change in cities. These include the impressive transformations of cities like Bogotá and New York City— led by former mayors Enrique Peñalosa and Michael Bloomberg—to advances in Almaty, Kazakhstan; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Mexico City, Mexico; Santiago, Chile; and Curitiba and São Paulo, Brazil.

But the challenge is still huge. Despite a century of auto-centric urban development, we have not been able to build happy cities around cars. Instead, most car-dependent cities are segregated, gridlocked, dangerous, and polluted. Cars and car users themselves are not the enemy, but the social, environmental, and economic drawbacks of over-reliance on private cars have become overwhelmingly clear. To paraphrase São Paulo’s Ciro Biderman, “We are not against cars, we are against injustice.”

This is why the bicycle, a vehicle invented more than 100 years ago, is the true vehicle of the future. Its benefits include flexible mobility, increased physical activity, and integration with public transport and bike sharing systems. With a little innovation or an electric booster, bikes can even provide mobility in hilly terrain and for people of different ages and physical conditions.

With these benefits in mind, these six approaches from the fourth World Bicycle Forum can help build cycling culture and increase the prevalence of cycling in cities worldwide.

Invite others to try

You can’t say you don’t like it if you don’t try it! The first step in building cycling culture is to change the way non-cyclists perceive cycling. Sometimes this means thinking out of the box, like these cyclists dancing the “Cumbia Cachaca” during Bogotá’s annual car-free day:


Post by El Parche de la Bici. Implement and extend ciclovías and car-free days

While mostly intended for recreation and health, regular car-free days—known in many cities as ciclovías or Sunday Streets—are an exceptional vehicle for building urban cycling culture. Pioneered in Latin America, these events have spread around the world and are now held in over 400 cities. Local governments can support car-free days by implementing new programs or extending those already in existence, either by increasing their frequency or increasing the amount of urban space free of cars.

Increase budget for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure

Budget is the most powerful public policy instrument, and where political rhetoric and campaign promises become real. Increasing the budget for active transport infrastructure means city leaders are ‘walking and biking the talk.’ For instance, bike activists in Mexico are asking politicians to set aside 5 percent of national and local mobility budgets for active transport.

Develop national bicycle policies

Explicit policies for enhancing capacity, regulation, infrastructure, and finance for cycling help advance the agenda at all levels. A great example is the German National Cycling Plan, which has four pillars: a joint working group of federal government and provinces/states; an online portal for sharing cycling expertise; a cycling academy that helps spread best practices; and a federal aid program for promoting cycling.

Explicitly include bicycles in the UN Sustainable Development Goals

The current draft of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—expected to be finalized in September 2015—includes a goal on sustainable cities and urban transport, but does not explicitly mention pedestrians or cyclists. Including active transport in the SDGs can make cycling safer and cities more sustainable, something activists should stress to their governments in order to influence UN negotiations.

Continue building facilities for biking

Many cities are advancing plans to expand cycling infrastructure, and there are quality guidelines they can use to design safe, accessible bike networks. Nevertheless, the pace of change is too slow. Santiago, for instance, is planning for 900km of added bike lanes over 15 years, but a full expressway can be completed in just two.

It’s time to take the bicycle seriously

Judging by the enthusiasm displayed at the World Bicycle Forum, cycling advocates are not going to let ideas to scale up urban cycling fade to the background. Born out of a public massacre, this event demonstrated its power to create change when 2,000 people joined in a safe, peaceful critical mass ride last Friday night.

Building on the ideas and momentum from this event, citizens and city leaders can unlock the potential of urban cycling to build healthy, sustainable cities for people.


This year’s World Bicycle Forum would not have been possible, productive, or fun without the event’s 300 volunteers, led by Carlos Cadena Gaitán and Juan Manuel Restrepo. Learn more at

Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: How to create tomorrow’s green cities with today’s garbage

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 10:20am

Creative waste management strategies can play a critical role in helping cities improve their energy efficiency and become more sustainable in the long-term. Photo by Emanuele Toscano/Flickr.

Cities around the world face many challenges to their cleanliness and environmental sustainability, including rising greenhouse gas emissions, unsanitary public spaces, foul odors, growing energy demand, low recycling rates, and limited space.

Most people wouldn’t think of trash as a major root of these problems. Despite this, utilizing innovative waste management strategies can be a surprisingly effective way to address these complex issues all at once. Most solutions aren’t as straightforward as San Francisco’s efforts to boost recycling, for example, but they represent exciting opportunities to deal with an often-overlooked aspect of everyday city life.

Here are four cities that are reducing, reusing, and recycling their way to a more sustainable urban future.

Singapore, Singapore

Singapore’s robust recycle and reuse programs allow the city to generate energy from waste, fueling almost 1,000 homes a day. Photo by

Singapore has a population of almost 5.5 million people and sits on roughly 700 square kilometers of land surrounded by water. Due to land constraints, Singapore’s National Environment Agency understands the importance of waste reuse and disposal. To extend landfill life, Singapore actually incinerates about 8,200 tons of garbage per day, which reduces waste volume by 90 percent. That’s like turning a twin mattress into a small microwave! In addition, these incineration plants produce over 2,500 MWh of energy each day, enough power to support roughly 900 homes daily. Singapore has also recently amplified its recycling programs. Burning trash allows Singapore to recover reusable metals, which can then be sold for a modest profit. In addition, the city recently began a pilot program that gives households utility rebates for reducing waste production.

Songdo, South Korea

Songdo, one of South Korea’s new “smart cities,” uses incineration as a tool for dealing with the city’s waste. Photo by Baron Reznik/Flickr.

Songdo is a privately built “smart city” about 40 miles from South Korea’s capital and largest city, Seoul. The city hopes to conjure images of a science fiction movie in order to attract people and businesses. For example, Songdo’s population of roughly 70,000 will never see garbage trucks on its streets. How is that possible? The city’s trash gets sucked into the Third Zone Automated Waste Collection Plant using underground pipes. Once trash reaches the facility, the garbage is automatically recycled, burned for energy, or buried deep underground. Even though the facility is still not fully operational and Songdo is still struggling to attract residents, the city’s futuristic systems present a different model to achieving unprecedented levels of waste reuse.

Mangalore, India

While Mangalore, India has historically struggled to achieve good public sanitation, the city is now working with private contractors to clean up trash in the streets and storm drains. Photo by Wen-Yan King/Flickr.

With a population of about half a million people, Mangalore has historically struggled to provide residents with good waste management. In 2012, the city also faced a serious problem due to uncollected, smelly garbage.

To fix this, the Mangalore City Corporation (MCC) contracted its trash collection duties to a private company that will increase sanitation by cleaning walkways and removing sand that clogs storm drains. MCC then contracted its composting facility to a second company. The facility already uses Mangalore’s trash to produce and sell up to 20 tons of compost daily. The company is also installing a machine this month that will sort waste before it decomposes. The machine allows waste in sealed plastic bags to decompose, reducing odor and increasing compost quality. Several challenges remain as stakeholders continue to learn about changing trash pickup policies, but the ambition demonstrated by these new efforts at waste management is a sign of progress.

Fortaleza, Brazil

Waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Fortaleza, and the city is looking to reduce its carbon footprint by investing in new recycling programs. Photo by Gerben van Heijningen/Flickr.

In 2012, Fortaleza began tracking its greenhouse gas emissions and found that 25 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions come from waste. In fact, the city produces more than 10,000 pounds of waste every day. To reduce emissions from waste, Fortaleza has developed a Municipal Integrated Waste Management Plan and is investing over $300,000 in recycling. The city also developed a plan to capture and refine methane from its landfill to use as energy, which curbs its reliance on natural gas. Still early in the implementation stage, these ideas lay the foundation for a more sustainable, low-carbon city.

Does your city have an innovative and ambitious waste management program? Could it use one? Let us know in the comments!

Categories: Europe

Lahore’s roads to nowhere

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 1:32pm

Lahore, like many Pakistani cities, is struggling with a trend towards car-centric development that has resulted in intense traffic congestion and air pollution. Photo by Luke X. Martin/Flickr.

Lahore, Pakistan is on a dangerous path toward a future of urban highways, underpasses, and flyovers that will eventually suffocate the city. By prioritizing car-centric infrastructure through new development contracts, the city is making traffic congestion, air pollution, and road safety—already major challenges—worse.

Infrastructure projects are important triggers for economic development. However, it’s important to question whether Lahore really needs more valuable urban land dedicated to cars. In a city where 40 percent of total trips are taken by foot and only 8 percent by private car, should infrastructure spending really prioritize car owners? Increasing road capacity is not a sustainable solution to tackling traffic congestion. In fact, it adds more demand for vehicular travel, eventually resulting in more congestion and emissions. The logic is simple: more lanes on Lahore’s roads will increase the demand for travel, leading to additional car purchases and resulting in heightened traffic congestion.

Learning from the past in Lahore and beyond

Although many cities worldwide have attempted to alleviate traffic congestion by increasing the road space available to cars, most of them are now exploring ways to mitigate the economic and environmental damage caused by car dependence. In many cities—like New York City in the 1960s and San Francisco in the late 1950s—community led movements were able to mobilize the public to prevent neighborhood destruction and urban highway development. In other cities—like Seoul and Bogotá—urban highways had to be torn down at a huge cost many decades later. The lesson is clear: we need to avoid the mistakes of the past and invest in the right types of infrastructure today.

The sparse pedestrian infrastructure that exists in Lahore today has been ineffective. Planners have considered pedestrian bridges a reasonable response to the needs of those traveling by foot. However, these pedestrian bridges have frequently proved inaccessible and inconvenient to most pedestrians and commuters. These bridges have encouraged jaywalking, generated additional safety concerns for pedestrians, and created hazards for cars passing underneath, which often have to swerve to avoid hitting jaywalkers. The lack of understanding reflects poorly on the city’s urban planners and reveals a strong class bias in infrastructure planning. Whether intentional or not, it seems like Lahore is currently being planned for the automobile, and not for people.

Equity needs to be a priority

Transport infrastructure projects should always serve city residents equitably, especially when projects are funded by public money. Projects that benefit a wealthy few are an extreme form of regressive spending, and—when coupled with regressive tax laws—effectively redistribute resources from the poor to the wealthy.

Even a cursory look at the transport infrastructure in Pakistani cities shows that local governments have continually focused primarily on building roads, addressing the mobility needs of a few car owners while ignoring the needs of many low-income residents. Metro bus projects in Lahore and Islamabad are a step in the right direction, but they only scratch the surface. Lahore, with a population of over 10 million, has a single bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor stretching 27 kilometers, whereas Ahmedabad, a city with less than half of Lahore’s population, has twelve corridors spanning over 85 kilometers and plans to develop five new corridors.

Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, has been a prominent advocate of using road space in a more equitable and efficient way. He’s even hailed BRT buses zooming past cars stuck in traffic as “democracy at work.” But if Lahore’s road space does not equitably meet the needs of public transport users, it does even less for bicyclists, who account for 5 percent of trips according to the city’s urban transport master plan. Bicyclists and pedestrians put together make up almost 45 percent of all trips in Lahore, but they get next to nothing when it comes to transport infrastructure and investment.

The opportunity for change is now

The time is now to curtail the growth of unchecked suburbanization and urban sprawl. By undertaking a comprehensive review of current zoning and land use patterns, city leaders can properly plan for dense, mixed-use development—an effective strategy to reducing commuting distances and overall travel demand.

Creating a comprehensive public transport network takes time. But in the short-term, it’s not hard to improve connectivity around BRT stations by providing feeder buses, more park and ride facilities, and integrating the right kinds of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Additionally, city leaders should consider congestion pricing and parking fees to manage traffic congestion in the city, and to pay for the true economic and social cost of car dependency. Small interventions like this can go a long way in protecting vulnerable populations, encouraging non-motorized transport, reducing traffic congestion, and making the city a more vibrant place.

Categories: Europe

World's First Automated Underground Bike Parking

Copenhagenize - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 1:00pm
The very best thing about my work is the people I meet. While working on a project in Amstedam's dystopian Zuidas area earlier this month, I met Arjan. That's him on the right, with his Dad on the left. He showed me some of the bicycle-related products that their company, LoMinck, make. Then he surprised me."We made the world's first automated, underground bicycle parking system.""What about the Japanese?", I said, having seen the many films on YouTube about robotic underground silos for bike parking.He just smiled. "We were first. Ten years ago."I had to see it and we met the next day at the spot where the free ferries from Amsterdam Central Station arrive at Amsterdam Noord. I knew the non-descript little building where Arjan and his dad were waiting. I had no idea that it was, in effect, an important spot in bicycle history. Down into the bowels of the beast we went. Which was a short ladder trip, basically. This bike parking facility isn't a silo but rather a horizontal room underground. If you look at the photo on the left, it extends from the building to the pole on the right.We were in a simple room with 50 bikes hanging on hooks. It all looked so simple. Like good design should look. Up top, his Dad put an OV Fiets bike into the system and we watched as the machine gripped the front wheel and it descended, placed on a hook like a drycleaned suit. Then up again it went.This modest facility was opened by the Dutch Minister of Transport in 2005. Subscribers pay €9 per month and LoMinck takes care of the remote monitoring, maintenance, customer service, breakdown service and subscription management. The city of Amsterdam pays an annual fee for this service.It doesn't have to be underground. It can also be implemented above ground or into buildings. The minimum required width is 3,5m, the minimum required height is 2,75m. The length is variable and determines the capacity of the system; every additional meter creates 4 additional bike positions.I asked Arjan and his Dad what they thought about the Japanese systems. Arjan translated the question for his Dad who just smiled and replied, "Overcomplicated".But hey. There's more. Check this out. This is everything I believe in, in design. Simplicity and functionality. Stairs can be tricky with bikes. Most stairs in Denmark and the Netherlands have gutters to let you roll the bike up and down. How to improve the ease of use? Start with a broom.Tasked by the City of Amsterdam to solve the issue of a particularly steep set of stairs that cyclists were avoiding, the Minck family went through some designs and then found a broom in the kitchen. They cut it in half. Stuck the bristles together. Presto.Going up the stairs? How about a mini conveyor belt? Be still my designer heart.Don't even get me started on the VelowUp bike racks. Simple, functional design solutions. More of that, please.Check out their stuff on the LoMinck website.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

Mapping the way to safer urban mobility

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 10:48am

Powerful mapping technologies like geographic information systems (GIS) provide critical insights into crime patterns, enabling transport authorities and city leaders to make public transit safer for city residents. Photo by kris krüg/Flickr.

According to a recent Thomson Reuters Foundation study of the world’s 16 largest metropolitan areas, harassment on public transport is a growing problem for cities worldwide. Nearly 60 percent of the 6,555 women surveyed admitted to having been physically harassed. Furthermore, a significant number felt that they could not travel safely after dark and that onlookers would not intervene in situations of harassment. This has serious implications for urban welfare, as women who fear traveling alone are less likely to take advantage of jobs or educational opportunities, thus limiting the economic potential of the entire city.

Cities are large, bustling centers of diversity, and protecting the safety and mobility needs of different communities is a key challenge for public transport operators and city planners. Crimes often appear to be random, making it hard for urban police departments to detect patterns as they develop. With many cities growing at unprecedented rates, it is essential for city leaders to address issues like women’s transport safety quickly and efficiently.

Technology can be an aid in this fight. Mapping platforms are already valuable tools that transport planners rely on every day, and they have huge potential to help track and analyze crimes to ensure women’s safety on public transport.

The power of maps for urban safety

Constantly evolving technologies like geographic information systems (GIS) are enabling both city planners and law enforcement agencies to better protect citizens. GIS is a powerful data collection and mapping program that allows users to visually represent and analyze detailed information. It has a wide range of applications, and has often been used to map crime in efforts to help law enforcement effectively utilize limited resources.

By combining different datasets into layers of map data, it is possible to overlay various kinds of information and reach surprising conclusions. For instance, by adding incident data from police records, it is possible to determine where and when certain types of crimes are occurring most frequently, and to respond accordingly. Doing so helps to make public transport both more efficient and safe.

New York City uses GIS for safer urban mobility

The previously mentioned Thomson Reuters study concluded that New York City has the safest subway system of all the cities surveyed. Although there are many possible reasons for this, one significant factor is New York City’s use of mapping software to analyze high-risk areas and determine what forms of response are necessary. For instance, the city has used GIS to map the most frequent sites and times of theft in its subway system—usually around the time school gets out—and placed more officers in those locations at the necessary times.

The NYC Crime Map allows users to visualize crime data and see where different types of crimes are concentrated in the city. Map by New York City Police Department.

Public transport safety has greatly improved on most platforms due in part to these preventative measures. In total, subway crimes dropped 6.2 percent over the year 2013 alone. This was a much greater decline than the reported overall 0.6 percent decrease in crime for the same time period. This is a significant decrease in crime for a city with nearly six million daily public transport users.

A global opportunity for smarter mobility

Mapping software provides a great opportunity for cities worldwide. Not only does GIS guide planners as they expand mobility systems, but it can also help city officials keep these systems safe once they are operating. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for example, police officers are using geospatial analysis to determine where crimes are taking place, despite limited access to precise geographic coordinates. Using this method, new reporting techniques have been developed that will help police improve their operational procedures and preventative strategies.

64 percent of women in Mexico City said they had experienced some form of physical harassment on the city’s metro system. Imagine how the presence of additional officers in problem zones could effectively make the city’s metro system safer and more inclusive for women. By utilizing mapping software, police units in growing cities can gather real time data on where, when, and what types of crimes are happening. Since cities experiencing rapid growth often have limited resources, it is essential that they use their time and money efficiently. Mapping software allows city leaders to easily and precisely identify citizens’ needs, and to make informed decisions about how to respond most productively.

Implementing crime mapping has been proven to reduce crime and save resources in established cities like New York. However, it provides even greater opportunities for cities that are rapidly developing, as it enables them to approach future growth in an efficient manner. By addressing harassment and crime in general, cities can utilize the power of public transport to connect all residents with education and job opportunities, strengthening the economy and the greater community.

Categories: Europe

Top Ten Ways to Hate on Pedestrians

Copenhagenize - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 6:54am
So there you stand. The Gatekeeper. Tasked with defending the great bastion of Motordom and upholding a last-century codex about city planning and engineering. In your mind's eye you think you resemble THIS gatekeeper, but sorry... the fact is, you're more of the Keymaster type when you look in the mirror. But hey. Your job is important. Keeping the streets clear of irritating, squishy obstacles so that Motordom's armada can continue flowing freely. Don't worry about Ignoring the Bull. You ARE the bull and don't you forget it.What tools are at your disposal? What are the most effective ways to reverse 7000 years of city life and keep pedestrians out of the way, under control, under your greasy thumb, Gatekeeper? We've compiled a list for you.Adopt one or more of the following ideas in your city and declare proudly to the world that you are:A: Completely unwilling to take traffic safety seriouslyB: Ignorant of the existing Best Practice regarding traffic calming and lowering speed limitsC: A slave to an archaeic, last century mentalityD. Immune to the death and injury of millionsE: Incompetent1. Pedestrian ButtonsIt's important that pedestrians don't think they own the place. Nevermind the fact that for 7000 years, they actually did. With a simple installation, you can force these rogues of the urban landscape to apply for permission to cross a street. You can control them. Make them feel insignificant. Have fun with it, too. Install a speaker with a scolding, authoratative voice that speaks to them like they are children. Configure the system to rotate randomly through waiting times. On two-stage crossings, have a field day. Make them wait as long as you like in the middle, boxed in like animals. 2. JaywalkingAnything else is un-American. Those Eurotrash types didn't get THIS memo and look at where THEY'RE at. Jaywalking is as American as apple pie, shooting beer cans in the desert and super-sized meals. It was a gift to America from the automobile industry, so you know it must be good. Enforce it. A 7000 year old habit in cities CAN be eradicated if you really want it bad enough. Your cops will feel empowered and get valuable training for dealing with terrorists later. Back in the day, we used Boy Scouts to chastise jaywalkers. Now we get to do it with heavily-armed law enforcement officers. Don't be shy about a little collateral damage. It's for the common good.The day we let pedestrians walk wherever they want is the day the terrorists have won.3. Pedestrian Flags"Because we pride ourselves in being a walkable and bikeable community, we need our citizens to feel safe on our roads and sidewalks, and pedestrian safety is of utmost importance.” Thus sayeth Mayor John Woods of Davidson, North Carolina. Print out a photo of him and others like him and make an altar in your engineering department. He understands. That's not him the photo. The lady on the left is Mayor of some other visionary town.Install pedestrian flags at crosswalks - or Pedestrian Control Zones, as we like to call them - and force pedestrians to wave one high above their head in the hope that the fine, motoring citzens might notice. Send a clear message to them about their parasitical status in the transport hierarchy by making them feel so completely helpless and stupid all at once. Added value: It's hilarious to drive past a flag-waving pedestrian.Do NOT refer to the Eurotrash-esque Berkeley types when they conclude "The use of the flags did not seem to have a significant effect on driver behavior.". Pedestrianism is socialism sneaking in the back door. Refer instead to other visionary communities who share your views.4. Criminalize WalkingWith simple legislation your community, too, can clamp down on humans moving unaided by fossil fuels through your paradisical motorised world. Follow the lead of this New Jersey town and ban texting while walking and reduce exponentially the irritating dents caused by human bones striking the smooth, elegant paint jobs of your citizens' cars. If only we had thought of this back when people walked around reading newspapers in cities. Damn.At the same time, you can go all Spanish on your population's asses and ban Drunk Walking. Laugh in the face of those who suggest restricting cars or lowering speed limits in densely-populated nightlife districts and keep your police force fresh and battle-ready by enforcing this sensible law.5. Tell 'Em What to WearThese pedestrian types obviously need a lot of help so dictating their clothing is a no-brainer. Start condescending campaigns to ridicule them for not wearing brightly-coloured clothing and reflective vests, et al. Whatever you do, don't get any smart-ass ideas about doing the same for cars. You are The GATEKEEPER, for christ's sake.Don't worry, you have "walking experts" on your side, pilgrim. "Be safe - be seen. It's only your life that depends on it. Night walking means taking extra care that cars can see you. For the best safety, your entire outline should be reflective and you should carry a light or wear a flasher."Not to mention the Center for Disease Control. They have awesome parking facilities, by the way.6. Lull Them With DistractionOrwell, Shmorwell. Aldous Huxley understood our Brave New World. Want to control and distract people? Give them mindless entertainment distration. Distrantrainment. Enterstraction. Oh, whatever. Just control them. Big Auto will thank you. Your city engineers won't have to waste time worrying about safety and have more time to do important work.Gameify it. Let these bums play Pong while they wait. Whatever keeps them out of the way of cars is a GOOD thing.Make it even simpler. These people are morons, anyway. Just have a funny - like haha funny - dancing green man on the pedestrian signal. It's seriously that easy. The good people at Smart Car get it. They get it real good.7. Instill FearFear is your surest, sharpest weapon, Gatekeeper. Those pinko Berliners have their cutesy man in a hat, but protecting the bastion of Motordom requires vision and dedication. Get those pedestrians out of your way by scaring them.Make them run. For their lives."Watch out"!, it reads in Danish. Yeah. You could trip on the sticker. That'll teach them. Sheesh, even the DANES get this.8. RidiculeIt works so well. Good old fashioned ridicule. The City of Cologne knows this. The automobile industry knew this and that is how we got to where we are today, thank goodness. Put goofy mimes or clowns out there and guide pedestrians like the sheep they are.9. Exploit ChildrenKids are great. They are, after all, future motorists. We can plant all sorts of stuff in their head. We used them to ridicule jaywalkers back in the day, but we're not finished with them. Dress them up like clowns and throw them into the street to stop traffic.10. Fake Your ConcernOkay. Fine. Once in awhile you actually have to pretend you care. Pay some people a bit of money to stand at crosswalks with flags equipped with a magical force field that will stop 2000 kg of steel and metal. Pretend you are "helping" and "doing something". It works in Sao Paulo.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

Your guide to urban cycling: A Q&A with author Yvonne Bambrick

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 11:01am

Free community events, like this Ciclovía in Santiago, Chile, can be an effective option for encouraging more people to get on a bike. Photo by Municipalidad de Santiago/Flickr.

As cities worldwide grow and evolve, so too is the urban landscape changing for cyclists. While congested and chaotic streets still remain a persistent challenge for some cities, many others have recognized the need for robust cycling infrastructure and are actively supporting cycling culture. At the same time, the perception of urban cycling is changing: what was once viewed as sport or recreation is now an efficient, accessible mode of transport that city dwellers rely on.

What does all this mean for the individual cyclist? TheCityFix sat down with author and cycling guru Yvonne Bambrick to discuss her upcoming book, The Urban Cycling Survival Guide, and explore how all cyclists—from aspiring to experienced—can make the most of their urban environment.

1. What would you say is unique about your approach to urban cycling?

I’ve tried to cover pretty much everything you would need to know for biking in a city context. I’m pretty practical and straightforward. I incorporate my own experience as someone who’s grown up on a bike, was a driver for a time, and then came back to the bicycle. I’ve also brought in about 30 other voices—not only experts who ride regularly, but also just everyday folks—to share their experiences as well. I’ve got sections about riding with kids, riding for seniors, and even riding with dogs. I’ve also included points for drivers about what they should remember about sharing the road with people on bicycles.

2. For you, what makes cycling is a form of mobility that’s accessible to everyone?

Based on experience, it’s clear to me that just about anybody can bike. Every type of person is riding now—just watch people passing you on city streets and you see people in suits, dresses, ski goggles in winter, sports clothes, you name it. It’s not just guys in high-end gear. This book provides all the key insight needed to give cycling a try. It opens up a window into this form of transportation for a lot of people who may have just watched from behind the wheel or from the sidewalk.

3. How do you think cities can build strong communities to support cycling culture?

Community is interesting—it can be hard to create. It usually happens organically, but if a city is interested in encouraging more people to ride, certainly creating and promoting free events for people to come out and ride is a great option. Ciclovía events—in which the city closes some streets to motorized vehicles and invites people to bike, walk, skateboard, and run together—have been very successful. Big community events create safe spaces to congregate and try something new which certainly helps allow community to develop. However, the number one way to encourage more riders is to create networked on-street bike infrastructure like bike lanes and cycle tracks, and to provide bike parking. These are the fundamental things that make it obvious bikes are welcome.

4. Biking can be a different experience depending on the city you’re in. What are some lessons someone in, say, Mexico City can learn from your guide?

I’ve included a ton of information just about how city roadways work, how to navigate the various obstacles you could encounter, and the things you need—like lights, a bell, fenders, and carrying racks, for example. The book explains how to be part of traffic on a bike and addresses how to reduce risks and anticipate traffic scenarios. Also, I address what to wear and how to deal with different weather. I’ve aimed at North America in terms of the laws and rules, but the book is much more comprehensive than that and can apply in just about any urban context. In different cities, there are of course varying cultural norms and expectations about public spaces and gender relations. So you’d want to look at it through your cultural and urban lens, wherever you are.

5. What are some ways that employers can encourage and better support bike culture?

Encouraging employees to arrive by bicycle, if they’re within a certain proximity, can really make for happier employees. Having a Bike to Work day at the office in the spring (if you’re in a winter city) can be great for getting people back in the habit. And then having a mechanic on site for that is helpful so that everyone can get their bikes tuned up and do a refresher course on bike maintenance and bike education. There’s a sense of accomplishment when you’re riding to work and there are colleagues to do it with. Additionally, make sure that there is bike parking at your place of business: is it secure, easily accessible, and well lit?

6. Personally, what do you like most about biking?

I love the autonomy and the sense of freedom that comes with a bicycle. You make your own schedule, you take the route you want, you’re under your own steam, and it’s really fun. Sometimes it can get stressful depending on the traffic scenario, but I just love being independent and active.


The Urban Cycling Survival Guide will be published in March 2015 and can be purchased here. To learn more about Yvonne and her work as a bike consultant, visit her website



Categories: Europe

Watching Copenhagen Bike Share Die

Copenhagenize - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 6:43am
Photo by Dennis Steinsiek from Dutch-it.euThe news today out of Copenhagen is about the imminent failure of the city's new bike share system. Copenhageners are ignorning the bikes, few trips are being taken on them and they have become a tourist gimmick, not the commuter dream they hoped for.It's a rare event that a bike share system fails. Only a very few systems around the world have folded. Melbourne was the poster child for failure thanks to their helmet laws, helmet promotion, lack of infrastructure and anti-cyclist laws. Now it looks like Copenhagen will step into the failure spotlight. I am in two minds. I have never been a fan of the bikes or the system and have done little to conceal that fact. I said it was doomed to failure back in 2013. I have wondered why Danish State Railways didn't just copy the decade-old OV-Fiets system from Dutch Railways instead of being seduced by useless, overcomplicated technology. You can read all about why I think the system was a massive fail from the beginning in this article.While it is always great to be proven right, it is also sad when a project that puts more bikes in a city is on the cusp of failure. Especially sad when my tax money was used on it. The Copenhagen bike share system was launched a year ago. Here are some relevant numbers.The CostThe average cost for a bike share bike in cities like London, Paris, etc is about $800. An OV Fiets bike costs about $400.The Copenhagen bikes cost $3000 each. $10,000 each in total for purchase and maintenance over eight years. You read that right.The Copenhagen Go-bikes aren't even free, like in most of the 650 cities around the world with bike share programmes.It costs 25 kroner ($5.00) per hour to ride one. You can get a subscription for 70 kroner if you want, and that knocks the price down when you use it.You can rent a bike for the entire day at Baisikeli for 60 kroner.The City of Copenhagen has invested 40 million kroner ($7.5 million) in the project.The UsersThe biggest mistake in Copenhagen is a complete misunderstanding of how people think and of civic pride. The successful bike share systems in Barcelona and Seville, for example, are for locals only. You can't use them if you don't live there. They are something for the locals, not the tourists. An important distinction. Locals rarely want to resemble tourists in any city. The Copenhagen GoBikes are just like the Bycykler that Copenhagen launched in 1995 - they are already labelled as a touristy thing.The goal for the new bikes was that each bike would be used 3 times a day by local commuters.Since the launch they have been used 0.8 times a day - by tourists.The Usage800 people signed up for a subscription in the summer of 2014.That number has now fallen to 256.In the first half of December 2014, only 530 trips were registered.The FleetThe plan is that 1860 new bikes should be on the streets in Copenhagen. There are only 426.There should be 105 docking stations. There are only 27.One problem is that the German supplier, MIFA (Mitteldeutsche Fahrradwerke), went into recievership last autumn. Which doesn't say much for this product.The Lame ExcusesThe damage control spin coming out of City Hall from, among others, Mayor for the Technical and Environmental Administration Morten Kabell as well as people like Nikolaj Bøgh, head of the By- og Pendlercykel Fund is much the same. It's all "oh, but you see... we haven't even marketed the system yet!" Seriously? A product that is well-designed, intuitive and that actually serves a practical need will market itself. Failed design won't.Viral? Not.The Copenhagen bike share system was meant - in the mind of the Danish State Railways - to be so groovy that it would spread to other Danish cities. Turns out that ain't gonna happen. The second largest city in Denmark, Aarhus, just launched new bikes recently.Exit StrategyWe can't keep pumping money into a system that isn't working. Who will get us out of this mess?If we got out now, we'd still have money to implement a Dutch style OV-Fiets system that would work from the first ride.More on the subject:- The Bike Share System Copenhagen ALMOST Had- The E-Bike Sceptic- Bye-bye Bycyklen- The Future of City Bikes or a Waste of Money?Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

Early Data Victory and other Vintage Goodness from Copenhagen

Copenhagenize - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 1:54pm
We have covered the historical aspects of Danish bicycle infrastructure before here on our blog, including the first cycle track in the world in 1892 on Esplanaden in Copenhagen. There is always space for more lessons from history.Above is a photo from Copenhagen in 1911. The streets along The Lakes in Copenhagen were the busiest for bicycles in the entire nation around the turn of the last century. The conditions for cyclists, however, left much to be desired.The swarms of cyclists only had a narrow edge of a riding path to use. The Danish Cyclists' Federation, founded in 1905, demanded a cycle track on the route. The city's horse riders refused to relinquish space.In an early example of the power of data related to traffic, a traffic count was done in 1909. It turned out that 9000 cyclists were counted each day, but only 18 horse riders. That changed the conversation. A three metre wide cycle track was put into place in 1911.It was bi-directional, as you can see on the above two photos, but we hadn't yet figured out that bi-directional was a bad idea on streets. At the time, it was good. Now we know better.I found the above photo in the City's archives a few years back. 1915 was scribbled on the back. I have been waiting for this calendar year to cycle out to the Østerbro neighbourhood to photograph the same spot. I did so last Sunday, on a quiet afternoon. Same spot as in 1915. This stretch features 20,000+ cyclists a day today.This photo is from farther outside the city, in 1955. These cyclists in the morning rush hour are heading for the stretch in the previous photo, on the other side of the street. The need for a cycle track as obvious in 2015 as it was in 1955 and 1915.While I was in the neighbourhood, I took a photo at the same spot as the photo, above. On Østerbrogade, next to The Lakes. Wider cycle track back in the 1930s, but not by much. On the left is a map from 1916 of the bicycle infrastructure in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg. On the right is a map of the same from 1935. Compare this to Helsinki, which also had a great network of cycle tracks in 1937, like so many other cities.We know that much bicycle infrastructure was removed in the urban planning brain fart that was the 1950s and 1960s. There isn't a lot of information about how much and where. We do know that the modal share for bicycles in Copenhagen plummeted from a high of 55% in 1949 to single digits in 1969.This is a photo from Svanemøllen, north of Copenhagen, in 1899. What is interesting about this is that the sign at right reads "Cykelsti" - "Bike Lane". From the first dedicated facility for bicycles in 1892, it didn't take long to get official signage in place.Another cycle track shot from the 1930s on Amagerbrogade.It was near here that the city starting putting physically separated cycle tracks back in, in the early 1980s. Finally, a photo of a bicycle school in Copenhagen in the late 1800s. Women learning the ropes of the freedom machine.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

The road to safety

Embarq The City Fix - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 9:56am

With the highest rate of traffic crashes in the world, Indian cities need to focus on making their streets safe for all road users. Photo by Ryan/Flickr.

This article was originally published in The Indian Express.

As Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, announces a package of assistance on road safety through Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Global Safety Initiative, here is an ugly truth: India has one of the worst road safety records in the world, with around 1,37,423 road traffic fatalities in 2013. This makes up about 10 percent of road crash fatalities worldwide. In absolute numbers, more people die in road crashes in India than anywhere else in the world.

It is estimated that 17-18 percent of these fatalities occur in urban areas. This poses a serious threat as the country is rapidly urbanizing. A recent evaluation of road traffic fatalities in Delhi shows that pedestrians and bicyclists accounted for 63 percent of total fatalities, against 11.4 percent for the country as a whole.

Million-plus cities as well as small and medium towns have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of fatalities per million population. They also record more road traffic accidents in the evening, which could be attributed to higher speeds, drunk driving and poor visibility. Allahabad recorded the greatest increase in fatalities per million people — 405 percent from 2001 to 2009 — followed by Agra (319 percent).

Things will probably get worse before they get better. Traffic fatalities increased by about 5 percent per year from 1980 to 2000, and since then have increased by about 8 percent per year.

Domestic vehicle sales increased from 97 lakh in 2008 to almost 2 crore in 2014. There is a strong correlation between the increase in vehicles and increase in road fatalities. Some estimates suggest traffic fatalities will grow five-fold in India by 2050 if we do not take adequate action.

Global experience shows that building safer motor vehicles and re-engineered road geometry does not translate into a better road safety record. There are success stories, like Sweden, where a “vision zero” approach to road safety was able to bring down fatalities to five or six annually. The US, on the other hand, managed to bring down the risk of road fatalities per kilometers traveled. However, the total kilometers traveled has grown exponentially in the past decades,  hence total road traffic fatalities continue to be high.

Rather than focusing on improving the safety of fast-moving vehicles, the international road safety discourse now focuses on two objectives: reducing the average speed of vehicles and, importantly, reducing the total volume of vehicle kilometers traveled. Together, this is known as a “sustainable transport approach” to road safety. It includes the redesign of urban streets and transport systems so that greater emphasis is put on public transport, non-motorized transport and transit-oriented development. The sustainable transport approach can also be categorized by the Avoid-Shift-Improve (ASI) framework, where the objectives are: avoid growth in vehicle kilometers traveled; shift trips to safer and more sustainable modes, like public transport and non-motorized transport, and improve the general condition of transport in terms of safety, time, cost, comfort.

This means India needs a two-pronged approach to road safety, with an equal emphasis on reducing the risk of fatality per kilometer traveled and reducing the number of vehicle kilometers traveled.

There is a critical list of best practices under each approach. Reducing the risk of fatality means strict enforcement of traffic rules —  drunk driving, helmet use, seat belts and child restraint, as well as air bags. It means improving the behavior of all road users: lane driving, keeping to speed limits, using and respecting pedestrian crossings etc. It also means improving road geometry — identifying accident-prone spots and re-engineering them. And finally, it means ensuring that the vehicles manufactured are safer. Governments and planners should require many of these standards by law and build a strong system for their enforcement.

Reducing the number of vehicle kilometers traveled means increasing safe access to presently vulnerable road users — bicyclists and pedestrians. Planners should make access to urban streets safer through better design and adequate space for pedestrians and other non-motorized transport users. It also means encouraging alternate, preferably non-motorized, forms of transport, such as cycle rickshaws, for shorter or local commutes. The use of mass-transit systems such as buses and trains to assist long-distance commutes is strongly recommended.

Planners should rationalize new road infrastructure investments by asking if it is a priority if only a small percentage of commuters own or drive cars. In Mumbai, for instance, just 14 percent use private cars or two-wheelers, whereas the majority spend a large part of their commute as pedestrians or users of public transport. As is often repeated within the transport sector, a rich nation is not one in which the poor have cars but one in which the rich use public transport.

Categories: Europe

Just in the Nick of Time!

Henry WorkCycles - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 3:00am

Whether I’ve the time or not, or a burning topic to write about is utterly irrelevant. I just noticed that in four days it’ll be a YEAR since I last added a post to Bakfiets en Meer. Jeetje, I’m sucking at this blog thing. Fortunately the blogging conditions are ideal today; The weather is too miserable for cycling and I’ve got a cold anyway. Here we go, and we’re going to begin with some photos I took at Bike Motion the local “sporty” bike expo in October. I like bike expos. You’re always guaranteed a mix of cool new gear, tons of boring generic stuff and mind blowingly stupid shit. Bike Motion 2014 was no exception.

Even though it’s in utility cycling paradise the Netherlands Bike Motion is a show for the sporty bikes. You see we ride those here too, all kinds of them actually. After riding two kids to school on my WorkCycles Fr8 transportfiets I sometimes go the the local Velodrome to train for my hobby: track racing. I was a decent endurance trackie (the kind of racers that sprinters think are roadies and roadies think are sprinters) when I was younger. I got back into the sport a couple years ago but am just now finally getting my act together to bring in some results.

I’m the old dude in black and yellow kit racing against the young studs. I do OK too.

If the weather’s OK I often spend my Fridays riding through the countryside for five or six hours. One of my favorite routes is through the dunes, sometimes from Bloemendaal aan Zee down to Scheveningen and back through the bulb fields. Other Dutchies go touring, do ride cyclosportives or race BMX, or even ride mountain bikes here. Never mind that there are no mountains. The Dutch are creative and flexible in their thinking.

This is my son P1, then five, tearing it up on his little 20″ wheeled mountain bike in Noordwijkerhout. Coach Randy is following his motivated student. We learn ‘em young here!

Modern mountain bikes, though, leave me cold. I’m sure there were hundreds of them at Bike Motion but I didn’t notice or take pictures of them. I’m still happy with the old skool bike I built back around 1990. Mostly I really dig riding with my son, just getting a kick out the fact that it can actually enjoy trail riding with such a little kid. When the trail is tight he just flies, sliding that teeny bike around like he was born with it on his feet. At 19kg he climbs hills like a scalded cat too. In a few years he’ll kick my ass and badly.

Yeah, Old Skool, that’s my mountain bike!

In no particular order here’s some stuff I found worthy of taking pictures of a few months ago:

In the fairly useless but still cool department was this UNDER 2500g fixed gear bike by I hefted it with my very own fingers and felt no reason to doubt the claim. It was bizarrely lacking in mass. Exactly what one does with such a bike isn’t clear but it’s nonetheless neat that somebody built it. It’s in the same category as fully functional model-sized V12 engines and musical performances made with offshore fog horns. Guy stuff.

Moving on toward more useful developments the availability of steadily fatter, high quality road tires is a trend we’re happy to see. The 1990’s was a low point in tiredom with horrible, harsh riding, super skinny 19 and 20mm jobs. Those fortunately disappeared in favor of 23mm as a standard. Like many others in the last couple years I’ve gone from 23mm to 25mm on most of my wheels and would try 27-28mm for rougher conditions. I managed to flat in two of two cyclo sportives last year and believe that at least one of those (a pinch flat while descending at eyeball rattling speed) could have been avoided with a bigger volume tire. I’m riding 25mm Veloflex tires on the road but these 27mm Challenges look a lot more than 2mm bigger. In fact the 25mm Veloflex measures the same as a 23mm Continental and for that matter only 1mm bigger than the 22mm Veloflex Records on my track training wheels (with narrower rims no less). In other words take manufacturer’s size designations with a grain of salt and measure stuff yourself.

Another development WorkCycles has been following are toothed belt drives, with an eye toward them being practical for utility bikes. They offer some advantages over chains but for various reasons just haven’t yet been practical for WorkCycles utility bikes: mainly that they’ve been too expensive, require too much precision and that the belt preload stresses internal gear hubs. Chatting for some time with the fellow at Gates we came to the realization that we were acquaintances from way back when. It was Frank Scurlock who I knew from various bike industry firms in California. It seems Gates is aware of these issues and is busy with a new belt system for 2016 or so that should make the belt practical for bikes like ours. It’ll be more fault tolerant and a wider pitch will enable cheaper cogs and rings (i.e. molded plastic, cast metal etc). The currently available city bike cranks, chains and cogs wear disappointingly quickly, sometimes under hard use within a year for a set. We’re thus curious to see what Gates comes up with.

Gates belt drive: Promising. Mando Footloose “hybrid drive”: Stupid. I’d seen this thing getting blogged up and touted in social media but hadn’t yet seen it in the flesh. Seriously, if this is the future of cycling I’ll just walk. The Mando Footloose is dubbed the first “hybrid” electric bike, meaning that there’s no direct, mechanical connection between the cranks and the rear wheel. Like a diesel locomotive the cranks power a generator which charges a battery. The motor in the rear hub is then powered by the battery. Even using aerospace quality components (which they’re most certainly NOT using) you’d be lucky to achieve much better than 50% efficiency. Compare that to well over 90% for even a dirty chain drive. Even appalling efficiency numbers aside the system removes the feeling of a direct connection between pedaling force and forward motion. Nooooooooooo!

Sure, I understand the potential advantages of a chainless drive system. It’s clean. You could potentially use a folding geometry that wouldn’t be practical with a chain in the way. Well actually I running out of advantages right there. So basically it’s an interesting idea for a folding bike. Why then does is this beast remain enormous when folded and why is it sooooo friggin’ heavy?! I don’t mean “heavy” as in heavier than my 9kg Brompton. I mean “heavy” as in almost impossible to lift at all, and it’s not even cleverly designed to roll along on it’s own wheels when folded.

Why else is the Footloose totally stupid? It’s touted as a practical development yet there’s no provision for carrying anything, no lights and it sports only vestigial fenders. The saddle height is only minimally adjustable. And it’s fuckin’ UGLY!

The Mando’s little pedal mounted kickstand is kinda cute though even that isn’t nearly as convenient as the foot operated one it replaces. Can’t the thing just balance like a Segway?

While we’re enjoying being snarky critical let’s talk about De Rosa for a minute. Back in the day when men were men and sheep ran scared De Rosa was one of the most highly regarded Italian race bike builders. Eddy Merckx always rode De Rosas, even when he wasn’t supposed to be riding De Rosas. I rode a De Rosa too for what that’s worth, though mine seemed to be something of a Friday afternoon Chianti job. The geometry is rather strange, the cast seatstay caps have their De Rosa logos upside down and I broke one of the diamond shaped chainstays after only ten years of racing and training. It was and still is pretty though, and it’s for sale in case you’re interested.

They now build boxy carbon frames with the most hideous graphics in the business. I was planning to snark about how De Rosa just sells frames made in the far east but I just did a little last minute research and discovered that they still build all of their frames (even the boxy carbon ones) in their own workshop in Cusano Milanino, Italy. Well takes the wind out of my snarky sails. OK, never mind… good on you De Rosa for maintaining your own Italian production while your competitors sell generics sourced in China. Do please hire a better graphic designer though.

Speaking of local production the craft of custom framebuilding had almost disappeared in the Netherlands. Back in the day (see above) there were hundreds of Dutch frame builders. Hand built steel frames have had something of a revival in the US and to a lesser extent in the UK, Italy and elsewhere. In the NL though there seemed to be no emotion for the craft element of cycling. RIH, the last of the famous builders retired and closed his doors a couple years ago. RIH was legendary for building dozens of world championship winning bikes in their long history and an Amsterdam Jordaan icon. Wim van der Kaaij’s shop was around the corner from WorkCycles. Around the same time that Wim was retiring local interest in hand-built bikes was finally emerging and a number of young Dutch framebuilders were getting started. The bike above is from St. Joris Cycles in Eindhoven who builds really clean looking full custom bikes.

Many cyclists in Amsterdam lamented the loss of RIH though and just couldn’t let this iconic make disappear. There was continuous rumor and speculation of a restart, despite Wim van der Kaaij being in his late 70’s. It really happened though; A number of young Amsterdammers opened a fresh new RIH atelier in Amsterdam Noord, complete with Mr. van der Kaaij building frames and teaching them his admittedly rather archaic framebuilding methods. Their stand at Bike Motion was amongst the most popular, constantly busy. I visited them last summer and I finally learned the origins of the frame of my old winter training bike that I’d bought for 100 guilders in a Groningen 2nd hand shop. It’s a 1960’s era RIH.

Sadly Wim van der Kaaij suddenly passed away in December. R.I.P. Wim; a big chunk of cycling history passes on with you. As for the future of RIH we’re curious to see their next moves. Good luck however you guys choose to go forward!

Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: Open Data Day puts the city back in citizens’ hands

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 02/20/2015 - 2:42pm

Open Data Day 2015 encourages people everywhere to use the power of open data to make their cities better places to live. Photo by FaceMePLS/Flickr.

Here at TheCityFix, we’ve watched the open data movement virtually explode in recent years.

Having comprehensive, transparent data allows both civil society and government to utilize critical information to make cities better places to live. On one hand, local governments and transport authorities are in a position to collect data about travel behavior, assess the efficiency of their services, and improve transport systems based on insightful analysis of that data. On the other hand, social entrepreneurs, non-profits, and civic activists—really, anyone who loves their city—can tap into the potential of open data to develop innovative technologies, enhance existing social programs, and change how we interact with each other and our cities.

That’s why we’re excited about tomorrow’s Open Data Day, a hackathon hosted and supported by the Open Knowledge Foundation. On February 21, 2015, people from around the world will come together for a day-long “hackathon” to develop new apps, create engaging visualizations, and publish thought-provoking analyses using governmental data that’s been made available to the public. Organizers hope that the event’s end products will encourage local, regional, and national governments to invest in accurate data collection and support open data policies.

Organizing from the ground up

Open Data Day participants are encouraged to meet up with others in their cities and collaborate as a group. So far, 105 cities have formed groups. While prominent tech hubs like London and Washington DC are well represented, hackers globally have teamed up in places like Kolkata, India and Nairobi, Kenya to work together in cities that don’t usually make headlines for civic innovation.

Successful hackathons draw on the insights and expertise of people from a variety of disciplines, and Open Data Day’s organizers call on developers, designers, librarians, statisticians, and interested citizens to get involved. The idea is to include a diversity of voices, opening up the range of possibilities that can result from collaboration. As long as groups engage open data in some way, they can pursue any kind of project they want.

At the end of the day, organizers are urging groups to put together at least one demo, proposal, or prototype that they can share with the global community. One of the main purposes of the event is to spur communication and interaction across geographic lines. While it’s true that cities often face their own unique challenges, they also can learn a lot from each another’s experiences. Open Data Day’s impact is both local and global.

Open data is starting to make a concrete difference

In recent years, open data has progressed from a concept advocated by a few fringe developers to a mainstream movement with an increasingly tangible impact. A handful of Brazilian cities, for example, are embracing open data to encourage public participation in civic life. Crowdsourcing platforms, like São Paulo’s VGI (Volunteered Graphic Information) system, are providing cities with valuable information about citizens’ needs and concerns. And in London, transport authorities are using big data to make public transport more efficient, resulting in travel time savings of $23 – 90 million annually.

But data needs to be comprehensive and transparent to the public if city leaders want to unlock its full potential. Equipping individuals and the private sector with accurate information about their city is indispensable to creating an inclusive civic society in which both the government and the public actively contribute together to bettering their communities. After all, regardless of the end results of Open Data Day, the event’s organizers hope that the hackathon will serve as a meaningful gesture to local and national governments that open data matters to their citizens. Anyone can make a difference in in their city as long as they have access to the right information.

Categories: Europe

Learning From Historical Bicycle Posters

Copenhagenize - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 9:50am
Hey. You know what? We're on to a good thing. We have an amazing product. We have the most effective tool in our urban toolbox for rebuilding our liveable cities. It's right there in front of us. The humble bicycle is back.After transforming society more quickly and more effectively than any other invention in human history for decades in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the bicycle is ready to do it all over again.Nevertheless, many cities are struggling to get people to consider the bicycle as transport. As we have known for over a century, infrastructure is the key. Most certainly, too many cities are hopelessly behind in modernising themselves by creating safe cycling infrastructure. This article is about the other issue at hand, namely how to communicate cycling. Not sporty, sweaty, gear-based cycling for sport or recreation but just good old-fashioned urban cycling for the 99%.This product we work with is produced by hundreds of manufacturers - most of them hopelessly unable to see the bigger picture of promoting cycling, instead focusing on their individual products. Then we have public bodies - be it transport or health, for example - who want to see a massive rise in the number of bicycles used for transport in cities for all the obvious, beneficial reasons to society. Likewise, they have proven ineffective at broadcasting the message in any effective way.I have called environmentalism the greatest marketing flop in the history of homo sapiens. Just look at the past 40 odd years of focus on awareness and yet there are few people on the planet who are living the environmentalist dream. I lament that fact. It's not hard, however, to see why it happened and continues to happen. There are few humans who react positively to sanctimonious finger wagging from sub-cultural groups that look down their nose at anyone who doesn't adhere to their holy quest. Canadian writer Chris Turner describes it brilliantly in his book The Geography of Hope.Unfortunately, so much bicycle advocacy seems to be inspired by the same messaging techniques. That whole goofy focus on "green", saving the planet, reducing emissions, blah blah blah. If this line of guilt tripping hasn't worked for the past 40+ years, it's hardly going to kick in now, is it? Look at the marketing that people are subjected to 24/7 on all media platforms. Shiny, positive, professional. The bike geeks should stay the hell away from any form of advertising. Their sub-cultural approach is a failed one.The bicycle was one of the most successful products on the planet for DECADES - in every culture. It sold itself by just being an amazing product but you can not underestimate the massive value of the advertising that was used to sell bicycles and related products to the 99%.Many of you will have seen examples of beautiful bicycle posters from back in the day. I've spent over four years studying them, analysing them and just enjoying them. I give keynotes about the subject. For some reason, I've never written it down in an article. So here we go.Let's look at a long line of bicycle - and accessory - posters from the annals of history to see what worked so brilliantly back then and what we can learn about broadcasting the same message today. Time is of the essence. Urbanisation is rising rapidly. We need solutions. Wonderfully... ironically... this 19th century invention can solve 21st urban problems. If we sell it correctly and effectively.First, let's look at sewing machines and vacuum cleaners.The late 1800s were a pivotal age for so many reasons. Certain technology advances were seeds for so many inventions, not least the bicycle and... the sewing machine. The development of finer machinery opened the doors to so many important aspects of product design.The first sewing machines were large and cumbersome and, generally, operated by strong men in factories. As technology progressed and made it possible to start making machinery that was finer and more delicate, the sewing machine was one of the first designs to become smaller.Companies like Singer realised the potential early on. Family homes had a housewife who could do darning and repairs. Look at the three examples of early sewing machine adverts above. As well as the design of the early machines. All focused on mainstreaming the product by targeting the most obvious user group in that age. It was a success. Maybe not a sewing machine in every home, but certainly a monumental boom.In the post-war era the sale of vacuum cleaners exploded, due to the development of compact, inexpensive models that were within reach of a wide swath of the population. Above, at bottom right, is an early vacuum cleaner. Not exactly something that would fit in your hall closet. Companies selling the new fangled machines targeted the obvious market at the time - the housewife.Looking at the posters, above, we see clear similarities in tone, style and approach. It is safe to say that the vacuum cleaner is one of the most successful products in history. There is virtually one in every home.If you compare the posters for sewing machines and vacuum cleaners and boil down the messaging used to sell the products to keywords, it looks like this:- Liberating - it will change your life. Liberate you from whatever constrains you.- Modern  - it's new and exciting and all the kids are doing it. Keep up with the Joneses.- Elegant - You don't require anything else but the product. It's elegant and so are you.- Effortless - it's so easy. Seriously.- Social - It is sociable. Using the product will improve your sociability. More time with friends and loved ones.- Convenient - It will improve your life with its ease-of-use by freeing up time for other activities.All incredibly effective keywords for marketing any product.1. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1878 / 2. No info / 3. No info1869This was an interesting year in history in many ways. Two inventions appeared that would end up in one of the most productive advertising collaborations in history, featuring a veritable army of artists and clients.The first was colour lithography. A massive bucket of rainbow-coloured paint was splashed all over the world of both art and advertising. Before lithography, printing was primarily done by the relief process. Laboriously etching lines onto plates and inking them after which you slapped paper onto them in the hope that the carved motif would be transferred to the paper. Lithography was a chemical process that did away with... well... just about everything difficult about printing.Lithography had been around since 1798 in a similar, but more complicated form developed by Aloys Senefelder. Colour lithography saw the light of day when Thomas Schotter Boys produced some architectural printwork in 1839, but nothing much happened after that until Jules Chéret started a printing company in Paris, in 1866. He wowed everyone with his colourful productions, using new techniques that allowed for an amazing array of shades. Some point to his poster for Bal Valentino from 1869 as the birth of the modern poster.Chéret focused on the illustration. The artwork. He relegated text to mere supplementary information. He launched upon the world a brave new medium.Artists scrambled to be a part of it. Everyone wanted a piece of the creative action. In 1869, something came along that would set the world alight. Two Englishmen, Reynolds & Mays, patented the Phantom prototype that replaced wooden spokes with thin, metal ones. Three years later, Smith & Starley produced the Ariel bicycle. It was not yet the classic diamond frame that Starley developed in 1885, with the production of the Safety Bicycle, but this "Ordinary" or "Penny Farthing" model sent shockwaves reverberating around the world. Welcome to the birth of a revolution.What an extraordinary machine the bicycle was to the general population of the planet. In a flash, one's mobility radius was greatly expanded. Speeds previously unattainable by humans under their own steam were achieved.Selling CyclingBicycles started out in a similar way to sewing machines and vacuum cleaners. The early versions were large, cumbersome and only appealed to a narrow demographic. Early sewing machines and vaccums were complicated machinery operated by men.Early bicycles like the Ariel and all those variations that followed became popular very quickly, absolutely. A kind of pre-boom boom. They were, however, the exclusive domain of rich boys. Bicycles were very expensive to manufacture in, for example, 1880.  They cost between $300-$500. In 2014 dollars, that translates to $7,700 - $11,600 (according to the inflation calculator... I love the internet)The market was small and, as a result, few posters for bicycles were produced between 1872-1890. Also due in no small part to French bicycle production stalling during the collapse of the Second Empire and the defeat in the Franco-Prussian war between 1871-1880.Most marketing was done through elaborately designed catalogues that appealed to the wealthly, well-read customers, as well as advertisments in selected publications read by said customers. It was pointless to advertise to the masses since they didn't have a chance in hell of acquiring the products.The artwork at the top of this section show that lithography was eagerly used but it was restricted to a tiny portion of the population.1. Artist: Henri Thiriet. Year: c. 1895 / 2. Artist: PAL (Pseudonym for Jean de Paléologue. 1855-?) Year: c. 1900 / 3. Artist: Jules Chéret (1836-1933) Year: 1891 / 4. Magazine cover. Artist: Unknown. Year: 1896 /  I can't possibly hope to show every amazing, historical bicycle poster. There are thousands and thousands of them. Many have also been lost forever (who saves billboards when they're taken down nowadays?). I've done my best to present some of the best of them in various, relevant themes, in order to hammer out a game plan that will apply to today.Artists flocked to colour lithography. With the invention of the Safety Bicycle - the frame we still know today - the bicycle exploded onto society at large around the world. It was the hottest mainstream product on any market. The hottest media was colour lithography. It would prove to be a fruitful affair if those two hooked up, which they luckily did. The bicycle captured the imagination of anyone exposed to it. It was the future, progress, modernity. It was everything. The artists who started cranking out posters for the growing army of bicycle brands merely reflected their amazement at the product. The freedom provided by the bicycle was a major factor in advertising for decades to come. This is where it started.Let's remember the keywords at the beginning of the article and have a look at liberation. The posters at the top of this section do not mess around. Look at the imagery and the message they are sending. Powerful images of liberation featuring strong characters. The third poster from the left is also the work of Jules Chéret. Like many of the leading artists of the age, he got into the bicycle game and with flair. It's a poster for a French bicycle brand whose name translates as French Banner. Patriotism was also a heady theme at the time. Chéret was also called the "father of the women's liberation" during his lifetime because of his works - and not just bicycle posters. (When you live in Scandinavia - in a region with excellent levels of gender equality - you don't bat an eyelash at the idea of women's lib having a father). Much has been written about the bicycle's role in women's liberation (although never enough has been written) and there are many inspiring quotes about it. What Chéret did was portray women in a new, refreshing and - for some (men) - radical way. What contemporary society in Paris saw upon viewing the posters was women who were happy, care-free, stylish and lively. It heralded an age in Paris where women could openly participate in activities like wearing low-cut dresses and smoking. The female caricatures even became known as Cherettes. It all went hand in hand with the liberating effect that bicycles were having on all aspects of society.1. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1900 / 2. Cover of New York magazine "Truth". Artist: Unknown. Year: 22 August 1896 / 3. No info / 4. No infoAll the metaphors and symbolism of the age were put to full use in the arsenal of the artists. Training as an artist required learning the classics, including historical and cultural symbolism. This transferred subliminally and naturally over to the genre of bicycle posters. Not least because this was a visual language familiar to potential customers.The bicycle was often lifted aloft in reverence to and respect for it's power and transformational effect on society. The second artwork from the left, above, is not actually a poster but the cover of a magazine out of New York called Truth from 22 August 1896. The bicycle triumphant, lighting the way to a bright, new future. No text about content in this issue. Just the woman on her bicycle.There was no limit to the possibilities of the bicycle and everyone knew it. Citizens in cities could travel quicker than ever across the urban landscape. In the countryside, people could extend their transport reach into a previously unheard of radius. We know now that the bicycle improved the gene pool. Nothing less. In the public records in towns, for example, in the UK surnames that had been pegged to towns or districts for centuries were suddenly appearing much farther afield. People started moving around like never before for work and for love.It wouldn't be a stretch to suggest that people were having more sex after the invention of the bicycle. Or at least sex with new people. The inherent thrill about this welcome development may certainly be drawn between the lines in these posters.1. Artist: Frederick Winthorp Ramsdell. Year: 1899 / 2. Artist: Henri Thiriet. Year: 1898 / 3. Artist: J. Cardona. Year: 1901 / 4. Artist: E. Célos. Year: 1901 /Another theme I've noticed is fantastic hair, symbolizing youth and a care-free attitude. There are countless posters featuring flowers or various, symbolic branches.I have always loved the overwhelming metaphorical gameplay in the second poster for Griffiths. So simple and yet so completely in your face. Young woman in white cycling with free-flowing hair from left to right (to the future) and casually tossing flowers as she goes. Roadside sits an old woman in a bed of flowerless thorns, staring right to left (towards the past). She isn't even looking at the cycling girl, as though resigned to the future passing her by.At far right is a Canadian brand looking to make inroads into the French market. National markets were huge and incredibly competitive. The rise of the bicycle poster, however, heralded a truly international age. A poster could easily be created by a Romanian artist trained in England (like Jean de Paleologu who has two posters in this article) for a French printer selling Canadian bicycles for a local agent. As ever, art knew no borders.1. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1900 / 2. Artist: PAL (Pseudonym for Jean de Paléologue. 1855-?) Year: c. 1895 / 3. Artist: Jean Carlu. Year: 1922 / 4. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1892 / 5. No info.The most iconic posters of the day that are remembered most clearly even over a century later feature female protagonists. Many of the posters were famous in their own time, as well. In a modern optic it may appear that women were being gratuitously used in the artwork in order to sell bicycles. Nothing is farther from the truth. What Chéret started snowballed into a movement. A sea change in society. The freedom afforded by the bicycle carried with it women's liberation and liberation of the working classes into a bold, new future.It all started with that powerful symbolism. When women started actually buying and hopping onto bicycles, the market expanded exponentially. The overwhelming dominance of female figures was symbolic of the poetic beauty of the bicycle and it's positivity and helped convince newcomers about the ease-of-use of the product. It all soon transformed into marketing to the female and male demographic all at once.There are posters featuring men, of course, like Hercules Bicycles at far right, above. The posters featuring female figures, when you think about selling bicycles to women, were filled with a constant messaging about simplicity, elegance, freedom - and all while retaining your womanhood. In the heading days of the bicycle this was an effective marketing tactic that worked - it must be said -incredibly well.1. Artist: Unknown. Year: 1905 / 2. Artist: Henri Gray. Year: c. 1890s / 3. Artist: Georges Massias. Year: c. 1895Nudity was not unusual in artwork in France back then but with the advent of the bicycle poster, liberation came in many forms. So many beautiful posters featured nude or scantily clad women as a further extension of the liberation metaphor.France in the late 19th century was certainly not North America in the same era. Most of the nudity in bicycle poster history was French. Most women featured on posters in other countries were clothed.It is worth mentioning that France in the late 19th century wasn't America in 2009, either. An American winemaker uses the Cycles Gladiator artwork, at right, on their bottles and said bottles were banned in Alabama.1. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1900 / 2. Artist: George Moore. Year: c. 1907 / 3. Artist: Unknown - Possibly Frode Hass. Year: c. 1900 / 4. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1895 / The bicycle, for all it's wonder in the minds of the public, was still a daunting machine. Especially women had to be convinced of its ease-of-use and great effort was put into portraying this in the artwork.One very noticeable theme in historical bicycle posters is the position of the woman. There are countless examples of the woman cycling symbolically ahead of the man. "See? It's easy. No effort required." Plus, it's incredibly sociable. It's an activity you can do together.The poster, above, from 1894 advertises a bicycle lesson facility with three tracks where people could learn to ride. Often officers or policemen would act as teachers - that air of authority didn't hurt sales - and it is clear that this poster is broadcasting ease-of-use (and handsome teachers) for the female demographic. Cycling with one hand, looking at us with a casual, confident expression, wearing a splendid outfit. It all screams how damn easy it is.The above poster reminds me of an interesting fact and something that persists to this day. It's incredibly difficult to draw bicycles. Try asking a group of adults to draw a bicycle and be amazed and amused at how wrong most of them get it.In all the artistic enthusiasm of the day for designing bicycle posters, the bicycles are often drawn simplistically. Even when the great Toulouse-Lautrec put his hand to bicycle posters, certain details missed the final cut. Looking through many of these posters you can clearly see that wheels were the trickiest. Rims are often forgotten and spokes are just a smattering of wispy lines - if they are even there at all.1. Artist: Brynolf Wennerberg (1866-1950). Year: c. 1898 / 2. Artist: Poul Fischer. Year: 1896 /  3. Artist: Deville. Year: 1895 / 4. Artist: Fritz Rehm (1871-1928) Year: c. 1910 / 5. Artist: Daan Hoeksema (1879-?) Year: 1907 / 6. No infoIt's easy. It's easy. It's easy. This message was repeated constantly for decades. On occasion, focus was placed on technical features. The first two posters, above, are selling chainless bicycles that instead featured a shaft drive. In the middle and at bottom right you can see early weight weenie culture budding, although it was messaging the female customers and not todays MAMILS.As time progressed there is a clear sign that the focus started to widen. People were all on bicycles by around 1905. A market had been established. In the early days the focus was general. It was just about the big picture. The modern bicycle and all the good things it could do. As people become more familiar with them, the advertising started to talk about performance, weight and speed, like in the fourth poster, above. Upright bicycle, lovely dress but still keep metaphorical pace with a running dog.1. Artist/Year: No info / 2. Artist: No info. Year: 1932 / 3. Artist/Year: No info / 4. Artist/Year: No info / 5. Artist: No info. Year: c. 1930sAs the 20th century started to roll past, more focus was placed on speed - Raleigh was famous for this theme - but also on quality. "The All-Steel Bicycle" was a Raleigh slogan for decades. What may be strange to us today was normal rhetoric in, at least, the UK in the 1930s, with Royal Enfield Bicycles proudly declaring on all their materials that their bicycles are "made like a gun". The Swedish poster at far right also declares that its bicycles - and parts - are made with rust-free steel.1. Artist: Carsten Ravn. Year: 1897 / 2. Artist: Edward Penfield (1866–1925). Year: 1896 / 3. Publisher: Chambrelent, Paris. Year: c. 1890s The "effortless" angle has many visual themes to keep hammering home ease-of-use and no risk of losing elegance. There are many, many posters featuring cyclists with their legs up. It's one of the first things you do as a kid when you learn to ride a bike and it's daunting - especially when most bicycles had coaster brakes. So let's just keep showing how easy it is.1. Artist: Georges Gaudy (1872-?) Year: 1898 / 2. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1900 / 3. No info / 4. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1900You don't have to actually ride the bicycle to look good and be relaxed. At left, you can also just hang out looking all badass and send evil stares to those morons coming down the road in one of those new-fangled automobile contraptions.Poise, grace, elegance and effortlessness. It's so easy that even a monkey can do it while looking badass in his cool threads. The poster at far right is interesting for the simple detail that she is looking back over her shoulder. Looking for her friends/husband (she's so speedy that she's ahead) and maybe simultaneously signalling that it's easy to take your eyes off the road.If you learned to ride a bicycle you know that along with riding with no hands and riding with your feet up one of the first tricky things to learn is looking backwards without veering sharply on your bicycle.My theory is that so many tiny details that people were wary of are featured in the details in many of these posters.1. Artist: N. Vivien. Year: c. 1900 / 2. Artist: Paolo Henri. Year: c. 1900 / 3. Artist: Georges-Alfred Bottini (1873-1906) Year: 1897 / Hey, who needs bikes to sell bikes when you have birds and well-dressed people hanging on a street corner? A lot of early posters didn't feature bicycles because they were hard to draw but also because it was such a massive trend that you didn't need to. Just slap your company name (presuming it has Cycles at the beginning of it) and you're off. Notice who in the crowd on the middle poster is looking right at you. A woman. She is telling you something with her eyes. She's on board the bicycle wave.Crap at drawing bicycles? Not to worry. Just draw a vague shape and squeeze it inbetween some well-dressed women - conveniently hiding the hard-to-draw bits like ... well... everything except the wheel and handlebars - behind a bright yellow dress.1. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1913 / 2. Artist: No info. Year: 1952  / 3. Artist: F. Hart-Nibbrig. Year: c. 1912 / 4. No info. Product: Carlsberg BreweriesThis sociable factor was all important in the early days. Many cyclists joined clubs with whom they headed out into the countryside on the weekends. These clubs were massive. Just look at this list of clubs in Copenhagen alone in the 1890s. It was a sociable thing to do and broadcasting that message was important, especially in the late 1800s. At right is a Carlsberg beer ad. Hurrah... that inn sells it!The Simplex ad from the Netherlands doesn't look like much fun - the Calvinist influence at work - but they are, by god, heading out of the city for a bike ride. The first poster shows that everyone is doing it - and everyone CAN do it. Into the 1950s, the theme continues in the second poster from the UK. It's sociable and enjoyable.1. Artist: Eugéne Ogé. Year: c. 1897 / 2. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1923 / 3. Artists: Behrmann & Bosshard. Year: 1938 / 4. Artist: Will H. Bradley (1868-1962). Year: 1899. It's quite remarkable the constant and consistent focus on how cycling is just a normal activity/transport form that would not require any effort or extra equipment. It lasted for decades. There are also examples of marketing focused specifically on sport but the examples, above, are focused on the mainstream. Although it is not really that remarkable as a marketing strategy. It was just standard advertising. Techniques that differed little from advertising every other product on the market at the time.It was clear that cycling was cool if you look at the first poster, above. Dapper gent in spiffy threads riding a bicycle and sending a mocking look at the loser, lame-o wannabe on the sidewalk - overweight and with the red nose of a drunk. Design changes over time and we can see in the Schwalbe Bicycles ad from 1938 that a simpler style was all that was needed. A swallow. A bicycle. A text reading "It's a chic bicycle". Boom, baby.Comparing the 1938 Schwalbe poster with the one to the right from 1899 is an interesting exercise if only to see how design had changed.1. No info / 2. Artist: Decam. Year: 1897 / 3. Artist: C. M. Coolidge. Year: c. 1895 / 4. Producer: Dingley Brothers. Year:1918In the ocean of bicycle posters throughout decades there is inevitably some flotsam. From the Twilight Zoney feel of the Victor Cycles poster on the left to the Pyscho Cycles poster on the far right - a poster that looks like it could advertise a bike polo event in Brooklyn last year.The second poster is one that amuses me to no end. We know little about the artist Decam and little is known about the brand La Vélo Catémol. What we do know is that making a rock and roll sign with your fingers whilst casually sitting naked, chained to a well with a bicycle chain, was apparently a perfectly acceptable image for selling a product in 1897.The Columbia Bicycle poster is another bizarre addition to the library of bicycle posters. Many of the same themes were in play on both sides of the Atlantic but one C. M. Coolidge was inspired - I shudder to think by what - to draw a monkey and a parrot whizzing down a hill. I don't know what that monkey is doing behind the parrot, but I'm guessing it's the monkey saying, "We are having a heavenly time" because the parrot doesn't look amused. The monkey's parrotofilia aside, his feet aren't on the pedals and they narrowly missed a rock. All very confusing and probably illegal in Alabama.The bicycle as a powerful symbol of just about everything continued for a very long time. In the cartoon at left it was used to show how it could be a vehicle to lead America out of the Great Depression. Get out shopping on your bicycle and help kickstart the economy.In the middle is a photo of gold-plated Cycling Girl, who has been standing astride her bicycle and surveying Copenhagen's City Hall square since 1936. She is one of two figures - the other is a gold-plated woman with an umbrella who is walking a dog. "Vejrpigerne" - The Weather Girls - rotated out onto a perch depending on the weather on the Richshuset building so passersby could see this weather prognosis, supplemented with a neon thermometer.Designed by Einar Utzon-Frank (1888-1955), it is no surprise that the fairweather symbol was a "cykelpige" - Danish for "cycling girl". She is a veritable cultural icon and has been since the late 1800s.  Indeed, in a thesis entitled "The Modest Democracy of Daily Life - An analysis of the bicycle as a symbol of Danishness" by Marie Kåstrup (who now works for the City of Copenhagen's Bicycle Office), the cycling girl is described as "A unique front figure for the democratic bike culture. She is, all at once, a modest, charming and everyday representation of Danishness." Creating gold-plated statues in 1936 atop a new building on the primest of real estate was in no uncertain terms a symbol of prosperity. The Canadian CCM Bicycles poster at right is a lesser example of using bicycles as a symbol of prosperity and borders on mocking. The cycling boy is bragging to poor Bill. He got good grades and his (presumably solvent) parents bought him a bicycle.1. Artist: Hans Bendix (1898-1984) Year: 1938 - used on this poster in 1947. 2. Artist: No info. Year: 1947 / 3. Artist: Hans Bendix. Year: 1947 / 4. Book cover. "Boy of Denmark". Artist: No info. Year: 1947The bicycle as a symbol of Danishness and national identity was always there, under the surface. Not as demonstrative as many early French posters but more just an accepted truth that didn't need a lot of fanfare.In the late 1940s, a series of tourism posters were produced with a specific target group in mind. The British. They were one of two great cycling touring nations - the other being Germany, but they were busy rebuilding their bombed cities. The Brits liberated Denmark and it was hoped that this connection would encourage Brits to consider Denmark as The Country for Their Holiday. It was, after all, a Country of Smiles and Peace. Like cities? Try The Gay Spot of Europe and have a blast on a bicycle in Copenhagen. Poster 1 and 3 are by a legend in Danish poster art, Hans Bendix.For the local market, books like The Boy of Denmark featured bicycle imagery and content for young readers.As an aside, it would appear that there is a new Hans Bendix in town. Mads Berg is a respected graphic designer who is commissioned to do high profile posters for many clients. Not all of them feature bicycles, but here are some that do. A Copenhagen poster, a poster for the island of Bornholm and a poster for the yoghurt of a major dairy producer.There was a noticeable post-war boom in bicycle-related imagery in many countries, not least Denmark. Once again, the bicycle was a symbol of freedom - personal and national - after the trials of a long, destructive war. It was still a metaphor for a bright promising future.1. Danish magazine Familiejournal. Year: 1947 / 2. Advert for US Magazine Woman's Day. Year: c. 1950sThe cover of a Danish magazine Familiejournal from 1947 is quite simple in both its design and its messaging. Freedom. Joy. Future. At right, an American magazine, Woman's Day, advertised themselves with this kind of image in the 1950s. She's got to go out to get a copy and she does so - obviously - on a bicycle with her kid.The 1950s saw urban planning changing rapidly to accommodate the automobile, which would soon replace the bicycle as the ultimate symbol of prosperity and freedom. The bicycle, after over 60 years of dominance of those keywords, was being pushed out. Not only out of our cities but also out of our advertising.Bicycle posters in America started to disappear before they did in Europe. Here they lived on well into the 1960s, before the bicycle boom in the 1970s. Nevertheless, the bicycle was still a cool, glamourous thing and all manner of film stars were seen on them. The New Yorker has featured bicycles on many of their covers. The bicycle never really went away through the 1950s.Even into the 1970s, bicycles were still used to symbolise freedom. When the last part of Orange County, California was developed - Mission Viejo - developers sold their 'hood with bicycles. Move to Mission Viejo and "ride your bike to Saturday night". Park the car and use bicycles in your city. How's that working out for you these days, Mission Viejo?1. Artist: Raoul Vion. Year: c. 1925 / 2. Modern Sparta Advert. / 3. Artist: Mich. Year: c. 1920 / People understood what the bicycle meant to daily life and how to use it accordingly. Sanpene Bicycles, in 1925, showed how useful their product was by portraying a man shaving while cycling. It was not a crazy idea, it was just a normal portrayal of bicycles.Interestingly, I found the ad in the middle a few years back. Sparta Bicycles, from the Netherlands, use very similar metaphors to sell their bikes. For the Dutch, it's a no brainer. They, like the Danes, get it. Associations are made and understood.The poster at right for Hutchinson tires is one of many that show the utilitarian role of the bicycle in everyday life. It is from 1920, so the focus had shifted towards practical uses.In this Dutch ad from a few years ago, there is another association that is natural for the Dutch. Buy a bicycle and get a free suit. It requires no stretch of the imagination for a mainstream bicycle culture to see themselves on a bicycle in a suit. Duh.Interestingly, many tailors and shops offered "two-trouser suits" all over the world. Suits were made to last so you didn't buy one every year. But for cyclists, you could buy two pairs of trousers so the suit would last even longer.Cyclists have managed fine in their regular clothes for well over a century, no matter what the people at Levis tell you with their "urban cycling trousers".All of the poster and advertising examples I've been covering so far are focused on mainstream marketing techniques aimed at the 99%. The genre of posters and ads focused on sports and recreation is not as comprehensive and have little to do with this article.Indeed, sports and recreation cycling still have nothing to do with urban cycling. They are two different worlds and, over the years, I have found few effective examples of sporty cycling used to inspire cycling for transport. It doesn't work. We've known this since the 1880s and it still applies today.The keywords I presented at the beginning are key factors in any marketing approach, let alone getting people onto bicycles. They are, unfortunately, rarely present in much bicycle advocacy or in municipal campaigns. The fact is that the "avid cyclists" are doing all the talking and their inspiration is from environmentalism, whether they are aware of it or not.Above, at left, is one of the few examples I've seen of sporty cycling used to promote normal, everyday cycling. It is from the City of Copenhagen in 1996. It features Jesper Skibby, a pro cyclist, who was a popular sports idol. He had just won some stages in the Vuelta Espana (it's a bike race) and his smiling mug was used in the context shown.It's hard to cycle all around Spain. It's healthy to cycle all year round. Works better in Danish, but you get it. It's an interesting connection this one. Cyclesport is more culture than sport in Denmark. If the weather is good, 500,000 - 1,000,000 people will line the streets during the Tour of Denmark in August to watch the race. The Tour de France is a popular conversation topic even among people who have never sat on a racing bike. So this poster worked and served its purpose.The fact remains that it is one of very few effective examples of combining two vastly different genres of cycling.Still there are people who think that sport is the key to mainstream. A couple of years ago I was invited to speak to the president and top people at Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), who organise the Tour de France, about advocacy. I told them that the more people that rode bicycles in French cities, the greater the chance France would get a new Tour winner. The president smiled and said that most of the riders were from the countryside. I told him that 80% of the Danish riders who have ever participated in the Tour were from cities. You should have seen his face.Look at the photo on the right. Imagine if those people were advocates for walkable cities. That would be odd and yet we accept that the cycling version of these people are often the primary voice for promoting urban cycling. The keywords are often save the planet, green, no pollution, healthy, etc. All sanctimonious, fingerwagging crap.We know why people cycle in Copenhagen and cities like Amsterdam. In Copenhagen, the city has asked its cycling citizens every two years since 1996 what their main reason for choosing the bicycle is. The results never vary. The vast majority ride because it's quick and convenient. It's simply the quickest way to get around, also when combining with public transport. A lesser amount say they ride for the health benefits. This isn't fitness. They just know that 30 minutes a day is said to be a good thing. There are single digit results for "it's inexpensive" and only 1% ride for environmental reasons.Any advocacy that is focused on keywords borrowed from environmentalism is doomed to failure. In addition, advocacy is often based on the presumption that everyone is a cyclist... they just don't know it yet. How very sub-cultural. Avid cyclists drank the kool-aid and are trying to get everyone else to do it. The Danes, Dutch and Japanese - the Galapagos Islands of mainstream bicycle culture - have it figured it.If you want to get people on to bikes, you just make the bicycle the fastest way from A to B, using Best Practice bicycle infrastructure which has been around for a century. It's really that simple. If we have to communicate, we should do it professionally and intelligently for a mainstream audience.The automobile industry has excelled in marketing their products for a century, despite the overwhelming negative impact that cars have on cities. They learned the ropes from the early days of bicycle advertising and have spent decades perfecting the art. There are some connections with car racing, of course, but think about every car ad you have ever seen in your entire life and remember the keywords. They're all there.People have expectations in marketing and advertising. They are bombarded with professional campaigns, just like people in 1895. Selling cycling based on these expectations is a sure-fire way to speed up the bicycle revolution.Another parallel between the first bicycle boom over a century ago and today is the appearance of products aimed at capitalising on a trend. Back in the day there were countless examples of products aimed at these new cycling citizens. A shirt labelled suddenly as a "cyclist shirt". A basic corset branded as "bicycle wear".Hey, it's a market economy. People can make and sell whatever they like. The products, above, disappeared quicker than they appeared. The bicycle planted itself firmly and quickly on society and people realised that all they needed was a damn bicycle. Looking at the current bicycle boom it is clear that the massive influx of "new" accessories and especially "cyclist clothes" is mirroring the failed profiteering phase of a century ago. A whole bunch of people are going to lose money.Only a tiny handful of all the new products cluttering our internet and inboxes will survive. Those that do will serve a practical, functional purpose. Design that makes sense.The defined challenge of messaging for a mainstream audience is still a massive one. For many years I've been highlighting an interesting difference of approach. Above is a screengrab from Raleigh's US website. Like the UK site, it is overwhelmingly testosterone-oriented. Cycling as an extreme sport. The Danish website for Raleigh bikes (it's a separate company) is rather different. The text reads, "Practical and convenient shopping experience in full comfort". Same internet. Same brand name. Different worlds.With that said, I checked a week ago and, for the first time since I noticed this difference, both the UK and US website have now inserted a photo in their slider that is using imagery aimed at the 99%. A positive development. I just want more people to cycle. If that makes money for bike brands, great. Many big bike brands are corporate monsters and are slow to change. They're missing out on selling bikes to a huge, emerging market. Just look at the popularity of vintage bikes. It's amazing. Why is it happening? Because the bicycle industry in many countries has failed to adapt to a new market after only selling their stuff to a narrow demographic for several decades.I have seriously heard a number of people tell me things like, "Oh, but Americans are different... they need a different approach to selling cycling and focusing on gear and sport is the best way to do it..." This would presuppose that Americans have evolved into some mutated sub-species of homo sapiens that are immune to the marketing techniques applied in the rest of the world.I don't buy this brand of bullshit. Americans, of all people, are subject to the same positive tone in all the ads they see as the rest of us are. That should be exploited.We know that using positive imagery is beneficial to any product. We even did a study to prove it. We know that successful marketing is based on presenting to the public an image of the product in a positive light. We've known it for a very long time. It's about time we started using it.All of our primary keywords - liberation, effortlessness, modernity, elegance, sociable, convenience. They are all open-source. Freely available for use.Not using them is stunting the growth of cycling as transport. Something that is detrimental to the work of all of those who are trying to make cities better and to the common good.I'll leave you with the greatest commercial for cycling in America for forty years.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Europe

Why India needs open data for better urban mobility

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 9:36am

By tapping into the potential of open data, India can make transport more responsive to city dwellers’ mobility needs. Photo by Jonathan E. Shaw/Flickr.

India’s new initiative to create smart cities across the country has brought back to light the need for open and accessible data. Although the government legitimized the Right to Information Act in 2005, the  data or information requested is usually provided only to the applicant. The establishment of an open government data platform under 2012’s National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) is a step towards making some public data open to all, but does little to address data collected at the sub-national level.

Transport, for example, is governed at the state level in India. This means that there are no regulations in place encouraging the various agencies collecting data on traffic and public transport services to open data that could completely change urban mobility in India. Despite this, global examples show that these same agencies stand to benefit immensely by opening their data to the public.

Open data has the potential to spark innovation, encourage private and public collaboration, and make moving in cities more comfortable, cost effective, and convenient for all. It’s time for Indian cities to begin realizing this potential.

Open data in London, São Paulo, and beyond

While open data is yet to truly take off in Indian cities, it’s already enabling new approaches to mobility in cities across the world.

App developers are using open data to help commuters make more informed decisions about their commute. Boston set 15 monthly ridership records in a row from 2011 to 2012 after providing real time data to commuters. Transport for London’s open data feeds encompass the city’s metro, bus, road traffic, bike sharing system, Oyster card journey information, and public restroom data. Opening London’s transport data has resulted in travel time savings valued at $23 – 90 million annually.

Furthermore, visualizing data helps reveals macro patterns and information gaps that can inform decision-making for planners, government officials, and citizens alike. The Chicago Department of Transportation and Divvy, the city’s bike sharing system, recently released data from over 3.2 million trips as part of the Divvy Data Challenge, encouraging data scientists, designers, programmers, and civil society to analyze and present the data in visually compelling ways.

Additionally, multiple initiatives aimed at using open data to improve mobility in São Paulo are building a broader culture of open information through public participation and crowdsourcing. In cities like Beijing, Chennai, and Porto Alegre, online public participation platforms are changing the way citizens interact with city leaders and expanding the set of tools local governments have to collect data. Many of these platforms are products of collaboration between government and civil society.

Bringing open data innovation to Indian cities

In order to encourage more cities to open their data, Institute of Urban Transport along with EMBARQ India launched a Data Visualization Challenge last year that offered a slice of raw transport data to citizens, providing them with an opportunity to decipher and visualize the data. The datasets covered mode share, trip length, emission levels, population density, road length, and other indicators for 15 Indian cities. The shortlisted entries were displayed and five winners were announced at the Urban Mobility India Conference 2014 (UMI) in New Delhi in November 2014. The resulting visualizations addressed themes like vehicle density and air quality, road safety, mobility for working women, and the relationship between mode shares and traffic crashes.

One of five winners of the 2014 Data Visualization Challenge, this data visualization shows the relationship between population density, vehicles, and air quality in Indian cities. Graphic by Sudipto Ghosh/City Wise.

As the first of its kind in India, the Challenge revealed significant gaps in government data collection and maintenance. Because data collection techniques differ between cities, comparing data across cities was not always reliable, and some city data was even found to be inaccurate or incomplete. These shortcomings limit what data visualization can reveal and the insight it can hold for planners and city leaders.

Unlocking the potential of open data for India

McKinsey estimates that the potential economic value of open data in transport is between $720 – 920 billion globally, with innovation in commuter decision-making and the growth of new mobility businesses accounting for $300 billion of that.

Considering the market size and geography of India, opening government data can radically improve how people move in cities. Crowdsourcing and public participation can help in correcting or reducing the inconsistencies in current data sets. Appropriate standards and formats for managing databases can help transit agencies, and will also be useful for entrepreneurs to bring innovation to the urban mobility sector. Although some transit agencies in India such as DIMTS and BMTC have created passenger information systems to offer real-time information, their platforms are not interactive and their data is still not open.

The emergence of companies like OlaCabs and Traffline is paving the road for innovative enterprises. Open data can further this by creating a more supportive environment for mobility startups. It can also make urban mobility a more attractive sector for investor and corporations. These two factors combine to create an ecosystem that catalyzes entrepreneurship in urban mobility, ultimately making it safer and easier to move around our cities.

Categories: Europe

Overcoming China’s institutional barriers to sustainable urban transport

Embarq The City Fix - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 3:11pm

As it stands, bureaucracy and lack of government accountability are some of China’s greatest barriers to achieving sustainable urban mobility. Photo by Jonathan/Flickr.

China’s top-down system of decision-making has been the root of many transformative changes in the past. So why has it recently been so hard to rally city leaders behind low-carbon transport?

The answer has two sides: institutional complexity and lack of political will. While local development and reform commissions have the authority to set low-carbon goals for a city, the responsibility for actually formulating and implementing policy changes is in the hands of planning bureaus, land development bureaus, construction bureaus, transport commissions, and police departments. This means that proposals for low-carbon transport development often get stuck in gridlock. Departments remain isolated from one another, tasks are ambiguously divided among different government agencies, and no one is ultimately held accountable for making sure that ideas become reality. The result is that city governments end up continuing business as usual without making progress towards low-carbon urban mobility.

The need for institutional reform is urgent, given the rapidly evolving landscape of China’s urban transport sector. Today’s institutional structure was formed at a time when the country’s mobility needs and transport infrastructure looked very different. However, this bureaucratic structure is now undermining local governments’ ability to deliver effective, sustainable transport solutions to the pressing issues of traffic congestion, air pollution, and road safety.

Institutional fragmentation is not the whole picture  

Although reform is important for making progress, integrating various institutions under one department—often proposed as a solution—may not prove as effective as imagined. It could even cause city leaders to overlook other factors that are equally vital for building an effective, low-carbon transport system.

Institutional challenges are typically more complicated than fragmentation alone. Indeed, urban transport administrations in China are fragmented along spatial, functional, and sectoral lines. Enforcing parking laws, for example, involves traffic police, construction bureaus, transport commissions, and city management bureaus. However, the system of Metropolitan Planning Organizations seen in the United States demonstrates that a fragmented institutional model can function well with proper coordination. Furthermore, integration can bring its own host of unique problems: potential abuses of power, internal inefficiencies, and increased operational overhead costs.

Overemphasizing the role of an integrated urban transport institution leaves city leaders vulnerable to overlooking other factors necessary for effective policy-making, like the need for robust data. Moreover, integrated institutions can still be constrained by limited funding, impacting their ability to collaborate across agencies and hold different government actors accountable.

Designing a new institutional paradigm

Although some of China’s largest cities—like Shenzhen, Beijing, and Chengdu—have already begun exploring various ways to approach institutional reform, the results have been mixed. Even where there is strong political will, reform efforts have faced resistance from vested interests and have taken years to achieve the goals they set out to accomplish.

Addressing the growing demand for a shift in institutional structure, WRI China recently published Shaping up Sustainable Transport Authorities in Chinese Cities, a working paper that provides a deepened understanding of why the existing structure fails to deliver sustainable transport policies. Additionally, the working paper draws on in depth case studies of Chinese cities to generate a set of practical recommendations for reform:

  • Strategic alignment: The responsibilities of new urban transport institutions should align with the city’s visions for low-carbon urban transport development.
  • Informed decision-making: Conventional urban transport decision-making in Chinese cities is usually governed by a small group of decision-makers who have limited information. Establishing advisory committees, setting up research centers in collaboration with local universities, encouraging healthy competition among different research centers, promoting information sharing, and setting up policy monitoring and evaluation mechanisms are important measures for improving the decision-making process.
  • Coordination: No matter how integrated an urban transport authority is, nothing will change if traffic police and planning bureaus are reluctant to work with authorities. Advisory committees and regular meetings can help top decision-makers engage in productive dialogue and be unified in their approach to policy design and implementation.
  • Accountability: The working paper suggests greater transparency in the decision-making process and a long-term transition to bottom-up public participation in order to avoid potential abuses of power and ensure accountability.
  • Financial empowerment: Financial independence is essential for empowering transport authorities to carry out its new responsibilities effectively. Possible new funding sources such as municipal bonds, authorized fees or taxes, land value capture, and private investments through public-private partnerships can help cities in financial distress.
  • Talent management: By proactively seeking out new talented employees, building capacity, and creating an attractive working environment, city governments can ensure smooth transitions and capture the full benefits of institutional reform.

City governments are struggling to keep up with China’s rapid urbanization and have faced structural challenges to meeting the growing urban population’s mobility needs. Institutional reform can address these bureaucratic obstacles to help make sustainable transport a reality.

Learn more in the Shaping up Sustainable Transport Authorities in Chinese Cities working paper from WRI China.

Categories: Europe

Car sharing the next wave of innovation for Brazilian cities

Embarq The City Fix - Tue, 02/17/2015 - 4:42pm

Last year, Recife (pictured) became the first city in Brazil to introduce car sharing in an effort to curb congestion and expand mobility options in the city. Photo by Marcio Cabral de Moura/Flickr.

Driving a car is often the easiest, most straightforward mobility option for many urban residents. There are a laundry list of reasons people just can’t seem to live without cars in cities: because they don’t feel that public transport or bicycling are safe, comfortable, or convenient; because infrastructure for biking or walking isn’t adequate; because the quality of public transport service is low; because they have to be able to move young children; or even the simple reason that the car is easier and always available. At an individual level, these reasons are understandable. But as a collective decision made by billions of urbanites every day, reliance on cars has become an immense environmental, economic, and social burden on society.

Mobility is a necessary part of urban life; the challenge is to make it more efficient. Collective transport solutions like dedicated bus lanes, bus rapid transit (BRT) networks, bike share systems, and others already exist in many Brazilian cities and are gaining in popularity. But so far, Brazilian cities are only just beginning to explore car share programs as viable alternatives to private car ownership. Car sharing has the potential to transform the relationship between people and cars because it substantially reduces the space dedicated to parking and eliminates the need to be responsible for a vehicle when you’re not even using it.

Car2Go, for example, is a simple system operating currently in the United States, Canada, and Europe. After registering online and receiving an access card in the mail, members can search online or via a mobile app for cars that are nearby and available. The more people using the system, the more it reduces the amount of space needed for parking and the number of cars on the roads. One study analyzing data from ten metropolitan areas in the United States with car share programs like Car2Go even found that for each car available in the program, 32 private car sales were avoided.

Car sharing pioneers in Brazil

The northeastern city of Recife recently inaugurated the first system of its kind in Brazil. Last December, PortoLeve began offering a small fleet of cars for a monthly rate of US$30—extremely affordable when compared to the total cost of car ownership. An additional feature of this program is that it encourages people to share trips together to reduce costs and optimize collective traveling. Later this year, the company plans to open more electric car stations to meet increasing demand.

At the opposite end of the country in Porto Alegre, a similar initiative is in progress. Students of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) came up with the idea for an Intelligent Vehicle System (Sivi), an application that will unlock select vehicles on one campus and allow students to return them on another. The project is experimental and will only serve two campuses in the testing phase, but has the chance to expand to cover the entire city if trials prove successful.

The potential of sustainable urban mobility is seemingly limitless given the innovative and creative solutions that are currently sprouting up around the world, but it still requires strong leadership to take the next steps. Technology is helping Brazilian cities develop car share programs, but city leaders need to be ready to support the sharing culture so that this alternative to car ownership is successful. Integrating public transport, cycling, walking, and car sharing into one cohesive system can expand the range of mobility options at play and give people greater freedom to choose how they move in their cities.

This article was originally published in Portuguese by TheCityFix Brasil.

Categories: Europe

Friday Fun: Addis Ababa on the frontier of sustainable transport for African cities

Embarq The City Fix - Fri, 02/13/2015 - 5:52pm

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s crowded downtown streets are soon to get some relief as the city prepares to open its first major public transport system, a light rail. Photo by Sam Effron/Flickr.

East Africa doesn’t make a lot of headlines for its sustainable transport achievements. That’s changing, as its cities are starting to pioneer innovative new projects to bring urban Africa into the spotlight for sustainable development.

The challenges in the region are many. According to the African Development Bank, rapid urbanization in sub-Saharan Africa has led to a rise in informal housing, poverty, and social inequality. This has resulted in not only insecurity and crime, but also intense traffic congestion, as demand for modern transport has increased faster than cities can provide it. In turn, mounting gridlock is creating health and safety risks, impeding economic development, and producing more greenhouse gas emissions despite Africa’s historically small carbon footprint. Because of these cities’ aging transport systems and struggles with road safety, it is time for city leaders to focus their attention on creating urban transport solutions.

In response to these challenges, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia recently launched pre-testing of its first light rail system (LRT) prior to an official launch scheduled for May 2015. This first phase was well-attended by government officials, foreign dignitaries, and thousands of residents in support of the new development. Addis Ababa’s LRT is expected to help mitigate carbon emissions from transport and reduce travel time for commuters. In an effort to address global and national concerns over climate change, the Ethiopian government has been working to ensure that its citizens will benefit from a modern, low-carbon transport system. Additionally, the system has been designed to be comfortable, efficient, reliable, and affordable.

Transport boosts economic development

According to the Guardian, the $475 million light rail project is just one part of an ambitious five-year growth and transformation plan that will end in July 2015. The planning has ensured that “the two lines cross at Meskel Square, an iconic open space at the city’s core, used for political demonstrations and public events such as the 2012 funeral of Meles Zenawi, the leader who had masterminded Ethiopia’s development as president then prime minister since 1991.”

Furthermore, the initiative has support from the top down.

“The successful completion of Addis Ababa’s light railway project is a testimony of the fruitful journey towards Ethiopian renaissance and [that] the government would continue to invest in infrastructure expansion to fuel [the] socio-economic development of Ethiopia,” said Mayor Dirba Kuma.

Addis Ababa also has plans in progress for a future bus rapid transit (BRT) system, and this week welcomed a new City Advisor for low-carbon development through its role in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

Not to be outdone, regional peer Dar es Salaam, Tanzania is also developing a 20.9 kilometer second phase of its BRT system, which will provide the necessary transport backbone for ensuring economic growth. The two cities hope to collaborate and learn from each other’s experiences advancing sustainable urban transport in the region.

Making equity a priority

In some transit-oriented development (TOD) projects, the property values surrounding light rail stations rise to the point where poorer families are no longer able to afford housing or maintain their businesses. To prevent this, the government of Ethiopia is working closely with Arup South Africa to make transport hubs along the new system walkable and accessible while allowing for flexibility as the areas around stations develop. Arup South Africa will design a transit-oriented development master plan and illustrate potential future development as in the short, medium, and long-term. This kind of planning is aimed at ensuring accessibility, connectivity, and efficiency.

Additionally, Addis Ababa’s LRT system has prioritized accessibility for disabled users. Along with affordability, this has been one of the key elements lacking in public transport systems in African cities.

What’s next for sustainable transport in sub-Saharan Africa?

Ethiopia’s light rail transit-oriented development initiative is a big step towards addressing the challenges rising from urbanization in the region and ensuring prosperous, equitable, and sustainable cities. As African cities continue to grow, more city governments should take the opportunity to learn from Addis Ababa’s experience and apply these lessons to their own efforts to plan integrated, sustainable public transport systems that prioritize moving people, not cars.

Categories: Europe

‘I want to ride the pink bus’: The problem with public transport’s public image

Embarq The City Fix - Thu, 02/12/2015 - 1:24pm

Bangalore’s BIG Bus network is bright, colorful, and saves city residents time and money. Photo by Benoit Colin/EMBARQ.

In many parts of the world, the bus is suffering from a public image crisis. According to a report by the US Federal Transit Administration, many people already look down on public transport in general, and the bus in particular is often seen as slow, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. However, public transport systems that integrate multiple modes are essential for creating sustainable cities. Buses—often the primary public transport mode in emerging economies—play an indispensable role in making that a reality.

How, then, can city leaders rebrand the bus as an attractive mobility option?

Buses are often cheaper, faster, and more efficient

As noted above, buses have developed a reputation for being inefficient, especially when compared to trains, metro systems, and light rail. However, the experiences of many cities globally confirm that buses and bus rapid transit (BRT) systems can be efficient at moving people, given that bus networks can operate within the existing built environment and don’t require massive construction projects or eat up valuable urban land. Bus stops can be implemented quickly, and are cheaper than other modes to install and maintain. This gives buses greater flexibility to respond to riders’ individual mobility needs.

Physically, buses have also come a long way, and can offer high-quality service to riders. They can be comfortable, full of light, and are increasingly equipped with amenities like WiFi. The aesthetic and physical qualities of stations and boarding areas also have a significant influence on riders’ perceptions and transit behavior. Furthermore, some cities—like Bangalore, India—have embraced innovative color schemes to give their buses unique identities. Many metro lines have easy to remember names based on colors. Bus lines should consider adopting a similar naming pattern, and even using paint to make individual lines easily recognizable and easy to use. For example, the BIG Bus network in Bangalore uses green for buses that connect the center to the periphery, and blue for buses that connect you to the green lines, wherever you are.

Changing perspectives with targeted marketing campaigns

The case is strong for embracing buses as an effective, sustainable transport option, but unfortunately the bus’s public image has yet to experience a corresponding revitalization.

That’s why marketing campaigns are invaluable for engaging the public and working to change common perceptions of the bus. A good marketing campaign should have three goals: acquire new users, retain existing users, and secure public support. Many past efforts have focused on attracting new users, and some cities, like Los Angeles, have been successful in marketing high frequency commuter buses to car owners. However, ensuring that existing users are happy with the service is equally important, as riders who are pleased with their quality of service will be more likely to act as natural advocates and recommend bus transport within their communities. The third goal of a marketing campaign—securing support from public leaders—is particularly critical, since elected officials often overlook buses for the shiny glamour of new rail lines. However, as a recent New York Times article argues, because a quality bus system is much cheaper to build than rail, the savings from choosing buses could be allocated to public relations campaigns, strengthening the image and ultimately the popularity of public transport.

With over $9 billion spent annually on car advertisements, don’t energy efficient buses deserve some attention too?

Buses play an essential role in sustainable cities

Transport leaders need to start prioritizing smart marketing tactics that will generate more interest in public transport. Rebranding the image of the bus doesn’t change it functionally, but it’s a crucial component in moving cities away from the traditional car-centric mentality. Research has shown that buses and BRT systems curb greenhouse gas emissions, cut down travel times, and reduce traffic fatalities and congestion. Cities that are sustainable in the long run can’t just offer buses as another transport alternative—they need to make them attractive too.

To learn more about marketing and branding sustainable transport, check out EMBARQ’s From Here to There guide.

Categories: Europe

Street design hostile to cycling. Jan Fabriciusstraat in Assen is an example of a greater Dutch malaise

Hembrow - Thu, 02/12/2015 - 6:36am
The enormous and extremely expensive Florijn As project is changing Assen. While there are many benefits for drivers due to the Florijn As project, there are few changes which are good for cycling. There is plenty of glossy publicity material available on the website of the project but actual detailed plans have not been easy to access. In this case, I had a chance to view the plan on the David Hembrow
Categories: Europe