I have the personal feeling that Bicycles are one of the most civilized ways in which humans have invented to transport ourselves. It uses much less energy than running to go faster, you can carry cargo, it is human, and you are revealed to those around you which allows personal expression as well as valuable interaction with other citizens. It stinks less than a horse and is easier to store. It pollutes less than a motor vehicle, takes up less room in our streets, allows for more personal expression than a car, is much much safer than a car,  easier to maintain than a car, and caters to a larger income portion of the market than a car. A person can purchase a second hand bike for a couple hours wage, but also has the option of costing ten’s of thousands of dollars for those who flourish on flaunting their wealth. Unlike a car, you can drive your flashy bike around and actually have a chance of meeting those cute girls walking down the street, or at least be recoknized as a person by them. Bike are also significantly less obnoxious, are better for our air quality and our personal fitness. There is more.

 

That is why I could not stop laughing the whole way through this article from the New York Times and re-published in the Globe and Mail:

COPENHAGEN — Mikael le Dous has it in for bikers.

Mr. le Dous, 56, a power plant engineer, rides a bike himself, as do his children, though he also has a car. He just wishes bikers would behave.

“We call cyclists the plague of the pavement,” he said.

Mr. le Dous, a bearded, animated man, doesn’t just grump about delinquent bikers. As the head of the Danish Pedestrian Association, which he founded six years ago, he has dedicated his spare time to doing something about them.

Armed with a digital camera and a video recording device mounted on the dashboard of his car, he photographs bikers who ignore traffic lights, go up one-way streets the wrong way or plow through pedestrian areas without dismounting, gathering material to present to the authorities to argue for stricter surveillance of cyclists.

Sometimes, he says, the results of biker misbehavior can be fatal.

“It happens occasionally that you’ll have an older woman, not hit but surprised and frightened by a bike so that she falls and maybe even dies,” he said. “Then they say, ‘Is the cyclist to blame because she’s an old hag?’ ”

In a nation dedicated to bicycling, however, Mr. le Dous has been fighting an uphill battle. The association now has only about 160 members, with a meager annual budget of a little over $2,000. But the focus of their annoyance is clear.

“I cycle a lot. We don’t mind cyclists,” Mr. le Dous said over coffee on a recent afternoon. “We mind people who don’t respect the law.”

Andreas Rohl thinks he has seen the future and is convinced that it moves on two wheels. Over at the city’s immense neo-medieval town hall, he heads a strikingly successful program to make bicycles the dominant means of transportation. Every day, fully 55 percent of Copenhageners travel to work or school on a bike, though last year, he admits, the number sagged a bit because of a severe winter. Why so many bikes? Simple, he says: “Because it’s easy; it’s an easy way to get around.”

Broad bike lanes abound in the Danish capital, population 1.2 million, and bikers fill them. Some thoroughfares, including bridges over the harbor, are exclusively for bikes. On some days, Mr. Rohl boasts, as many as 36,000 bikers swarm through the Norrebrogade, one of the streets leading to the city center that now consists of wide bike paths in both directions, squeezing narrow lanes for cars and buses.

Ullaliv Friis, 66, a retired city official who is the pedestrian association’s managing director, says she appreciates all this, but that there is a flip side. Many retirees and older people live in the row houses in a suburb north of the city center where she makes her home. The sidewalks have become risky for them, she says, because of stray cyclists. “The cyclist has taken over everything,” she said.

Mr. le Dous looks enviously at a group he sometimes considers his nemesis, the Danish Cyclist Federation. Founded in 1905 and boasting 17,000 members around the country, the federation wields the enormous clout in Denmark on matters of traffic that automobile associations have elsewhere.

With 25 employees in its main office, the federation has grown in recent years to make the bike an exportable item, not just physical bicycles and biking equipment but also consulting and advice for cities elsewhere seeking to become more biker friendly. In 2009, the federation cited Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg for his effort to promote biking in New York (even as angry groups of New Yorkers protested the removal of bike lanes along Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn).

Frits Bredal, 46, a former television journalist who is the federation’s spokesman, said it was aware of anger over bikers.

“There is resistance from people who are frustrated by the fact that cities are flooded with bicycles,” he said. “I am a car driver, I am also a cyclist,” he said. “If I bring my car into the city, I’m invariably frustrated.”

Yet he adds: “Bicycles are not just nice and cute; they will be, and should be, a central part of Danish transport policy, local and national.”

Bike safety has improved recently, he said, thanks to a range of measures, including wider bike paths and programs to alert bikers to the need for discipline. “Last year, we had the lowest number of traffic accidents ever, including the lowest number of fatalities involving bicycles ever,” he said. In 2010, the number of seriously injured cyclists dropped to 92, including 3 fatalities, compared with 252 seriously injured only five years earlier.

Like many in Copenhagen, Natalia Privalova, 37, an office manager, has two bikes, including a cargo bike with a wooden platform in front to transport her children. Cyclists respect pedestrians, she said, then tempered the assertion by adding, “when they follow the rules.”

“Of course,” she said, “rush hour is another story.”

In a market stall where he sells beer and wine downtown, Simon Barfoed, 32, was tougher on cyclists. Pedestrian anger was “justified,” he said. “I think many bikers drive like they own the place.” He owned no car and used a bike to ride work, yet he said the bike brought disadvantages for businesses like his. “If you want to buy a case of beer, it’s hard to carry on a bike,” he said.

Over at City Hall, Mr. Rohl hears the pedestrians’ plaints, and says the city has taken measures to improve biker behavior. It occasionally sends out field workers, for example, stopping cyclists they see displaying exemplary behavior, like making proper hand signals or respecting pedestrians, and rewarding them with small boxes of chocolate.

Ayfer Baykal, 35, the deputy mayor for technology and the environment, plays down the war of bikers and foot people. “We want people to walk also,” she said. “There are no boxes, one for walking and one for biking.”

Ms. Baykal, who born in Copenhagen of Turkish immigrant parents, is proud of what the city has accomplished. When relatives visit from Turkey, where the automobile remains a symbol of success, they are stunned at her use of a bike. “They say, ‘Can’t you afford a car?’ ” she said with a laugh.

Biker abuse of pedestrians, she added, “happens, but then pedestrians walk in bike lanes, too. They have to respect each other. It’s not that bad.”

Mr. le Dous, while not discouraged, is realistic about his chances of bending the discussion toward pedestrian rights. Their plight, he said, “is not looked upon as something serious, it’s simply not their field of interest.”

Then, referring to cyclists, he added, “The new kid has all the attention.”

 

Some of my favorite moments include the passing out of chocolates for good behaviour rather than fines for bad behaivour. Clearly an alien soceity from the one in which we participate in Canada. For more on cycling in denmark, this TEDx Talk is rather enlightening as well:

 

http://video.tedxcopenhagen.dk/video/911034/mikael-colville-andersen

 

 

This sets up my next rant for next week rather well. Red light cameras on Tranquille and Fortune.

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