Monday, November 2, 2015

Copenhagen Cycle Chic

A couple of weeks ago I finally flew over to Copenhagen and I got to meet Mikael Colville-Andersen, founder of the original Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog and founder of his firm Copenhagenize which specializes in helping cities and municipalities around the world build proper cycling infrastructure, decrease their reliance on the automobile, and re-establish livability and democracy within their streets. Had awesome discussions about urbanism in general and potential projects here in downtown West Palm, hopefully the beginning of greater things. Our mayor and our Executive Director of our Downtown Development Authority, Raphael Clemente, had gone to Copenhagen a month prior on a grant from the Knight Foundation to meet with associates from Gehl Architects (who had a great influence in the design of the streetscape of Copenhagen) and other influential figures like Mikael to bring back ideas home of how to improve our downtown and put us on the global map. West Palm was one of a few cities invited to this because of our drive to really make it a livable city. It was amazing to engage once more in dialogue about it and really try to get something established for future work. I'm very grateful to Mikael for taking the time to meet with me and have a deep intellectual conversation that was thoroughly stimulating. And of course, had to ride around on the legendary city's cycle tracks and beautifully-built bridges, like the Cykelslangen and newly opened Cirkelbroen. Video to come soon!

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What I noticed immediately as a difference between Copenhagen and the city which holds my heart, Amsterdam, is that there seems to be a much less rampant theft problem? Bicycles are left everywhere, locked and unlocked. In Amsterdam this was true as well, however they were always stolen. Not sure how problematic it is for the Danes. They seem to be more respectful towards others' properties. However, someone stole an already-opened-and-drank-from water bottle out of my basket and left me a lovely empty Twix wrapper. Thanks Copenhagen...you're gross.

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Lots of "Special Snowflake" parking. Parking is a good problem to have in a City of Bicycles. There are plenty of signs warning people to not lock their bikes to the railings of a building. It's comical.
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And more special snowflake parking. This bike is a funny hack job though. It's got drop handlebars flipped upside down to use as swept back handlebars and the brakes are all weirdly positioned.

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Copenhagen is the city of the "Viking Biking" where people cycle no matter the weather. We have to not make excuses for not investing in cycling because of stupid reasons like the summer heat and humidity. They cycle in blizzards. If they can cycle in a blizzard, you can surely sweat a tiny, TINY bit. Investing in cycling infrastructure is giving everyone an equal footing and equal opportunity for efficient and cheap mobility. The hardcore cyclists will still cycle regardless but if we want the cycling numbers to increase, we have to invest in our cities. We have to invest in the health of our citizens and in their safety. We have to invest in caring about each other's lives. As Enrique Peñalosa, Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia once said, the life of a person on a $30 bicycle is equal to that of someone in a $30,000 car. And if we design our cities for our children, they will be wonderfully livable for all.

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