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Wednesday, 03 September 2008

Bikes, trikes and automobiles. Well, just bikes.

Hi all,

My first ever post. So be gentle.

I've just got back from the land of design, vikings and a brand of beer that maintains it's probably the best in the world; Denmark. The carefully designed chairs, the delicious hotdogs, the scale model of a Fafnar (Viking ship), the famous pastries; all of these were lovely but I'd like to talk about something else.

I was impressed by the cycling. Perhaps not as exciting as Tivoli, the world famous pleasure gardens but bear with me. Everyone rides a bike. Everybody. Old, young, business people, families, pets. Well, perhaps not pets but I saw at least two dogs in the baskets on the front of their owner's bikes.

In the centre of Copenhagen the streets are ideal for cycling as many are wide and straight and have been modified so that there are wide traffic lanes given over entirely to cyclists. There is strength in numbers and motorists seem used to the idea that they share the streets with cyclists.

The city even has a free bike scheme that means any tourist can pick up one of the clearly marked city bikes and use it to get around. I was told by a Danish friend though that it is apparently very uncool to be seen on one of these although quite why I never worked out. It might be because the Danish are stereotyped as design conscious and the city bikes really don't compare design wise with the enormous range of stylish bikes on offer. I don't know, this is me speculating wildly. Perhaps one of you has a better idea why it might be "uncool"?

All this cycling gives the city a human scale. By "human scale" I mean that one isn't reliant on cars to get around, that it is possible to travel under one's own power, that your surroundings are easy to navigate because they are literally at a scale you can understand . This really appealed to me. Although cycling may not work everywhere when it's supported it can change the character of a place, making it more accessible. What, where you live, is "human scale"?

In my home town, Brighton, cycling is increasingly popular and the city itself has been named a Cycling Demonstration Town which means much public money has been set aside to improve the access for cyclists within the city. People even use cycling as the basis for demonstrations. Not a demonstration I took part in but perhaps next time!

Compared to Copenhagen though it feels as though we are still lagging behind when it comes to supporting cyclists. On my cycle to the station in Brighton there are some cycle lanes but they are thin on the ground. At one point on the journey there is even a section of cycle lane that starts and ends apparently at random and is only about ten metres long. But things are changing and perhaps one day we will catch up. What provisions for cyclists are there in your country?

I'd like to end with a mini task for you. One early slang term for bicycle was "dandy horse", can you think what a "dandy" might be? Email and let us know.

Thanks for reading. I've put a few definitions for the words in bold below.

All the best, Matt

bear with To have patience with.
design conscious An awareness that products can be beautiful and functional.
speculating wildly I am infering on the basis of not much real evidence. I'm guessing.
public money Money from the government, money from tax.
lagging behind falling behind, not keeping up with.
thin on the ground This is a cliche meaning scarce, difficult to find.
provisions Supplies for use. In this case providing cycle lanes, education etc.

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Hi Matt! You´ve found some time to write us. Thank you :-). Well, it seems that Denmark is a paradise to cyclists. Here in São Paulo we have few cicle lanes. In my city for instance, there isn´t any one. However, the number of cyclists is becoming quite significant. Nevertheless, they have to struggle for a space in the middle of the traffic which is quite harmful for their lives. Anyway, I think I´ve read in some place that a dandy is a man who just cares to his appearence. Is that right Matt? All the best for you too, Ana Paula.

Hi Matt! Professional and neatly written page! One is not suprised somebody like that admire such a stylish land. Four years back I worked in Piešťany. It is another well-known spa in this country. It has ever been known as the town of cycling too. It lies on the flat area by the river Váh. The public transportation is weakish there which supported people, especially original settlers of any age to use bicycles all the day. The town is 100 kms on the west from where I live. I drived by car there and made 200kms circle around always beautiful land daily. I used to be sooner there as home workers. It could not be possible today. The amount of cars tripleted at least and driving speed has been regulating strictly. In another city, Košice, our eastern metropole, local cyclists demonstrated against the decidion to cut off the roads in the city they used for cycling to work. It went about two years back in our news and I am infering they were successful in some way. The real evidence is that last weak was anounced the city has won the competition for becoming the European city of culture in 2013 (as Liverpool is this year). Thanks, Matt, I could work a little on this interesting topic. Dandy look is known in a fashion, might not it to be more noble than a horse, I don´t know?

Hi Matt, I liked your blog. What you told us about Denmark was very interesting. Here there aren´t many facilities for cyclists. Though there is a special lane for them in some avenues, the drivers don't respect them very much and sometimes use this lane for cars. Definitely it's very dangerous to ride a bike in the City I live in. See you. Cris

I like cycling very much. When I ride a bike I feel free and happy. There are many fine cycle lanes here. A dandy means a rich young man who does not like working and want to make friend with girls.

Hello Matt! Thank you for running with the ball! I used to live near Germany, they ha've got more or less the same behaviour and yet the climate is somewhat rough! In France, useless railroads are changed into cycling tracks.That, in the countryside, everybody using their own vehicle. It's a really nice idea. They are reserved for cyclists,walkers, runners and so on. So we can cycle quietly and safely. We ride through beautiful landscapes such as woods, fields...They are pretty much frequented but during week-ends and holidays.Indeed people don't take them to go to work, they are too far from tows. In these ones, some efforts are made to entice people to cycle but streets aren't often wide enough to contain cycling lanes and it remains dangerous.But according to the link you suggest, it's only a question of number isn't it? Paris, Lyon and maybe other cities propose "city bikes" and it works. A lot of bicycles are sold as well... But the French are also lagging behind when it comes to adopt new habits. Concerning your questions..Why is it uncool? Danes(possible or it's Danish?)are likely to think people are more committed when they buy their own bike. They always use it. If they have to rent one, they cycle but from time to time. It's not enough to contribute efficiently... A dandy is a neat man who concerns himself with his appearance, his looks. This kind of people also care what others think abt them. The first bicycles embodied the modernism so they used them rather than the too common horse. And it was good for his figure! It was a bit physical, wasn't it? Bye for now.

"brand of beer that maintains it's probably the best in the world" - how can you say that? try Czech one! :-)

hi Matt, thanks for you blog.Denmark has been included into my lists--the places I want to trave in the future,for your describtion. And in Beijing, lots of people go to work by bicycles. I also have a bicycle.Unfortunately ,my office it too far, I have to go there by subway. But I always ride my bicycle when I go to the supermarket,the bookshops,the hospital,etc. And dandy my opinion, the bicycle it the advanced 'horse',faster and more conveniently.

Hello Matt, Thanks for your informative blog. I've never been to Denmark but I know that there are cyclists. In Germany we have got a lot of cycling tracks in the cities but the cyclists prefer to use the pavement, that's really terrible. A dandy is a man who makes a lot of time for his clothes and appearance. In German we would say: he is "affig". All the best, Felicitas

Hi Matt, do you accept a belated comment? I love cycling but here sometimes it might be dangerous. We have some cycle lanes and they are providing more provisions for cyclists but we have to choose a bike not so attractive. I'm thinking to buy not a dandy horse but a real horse. :-)

Thanks for all your contributions. This blog has now closed and can no longer accept new comments.

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