The point of departure for this dissertation and blog started at the Velo-City Global conference in Copenhagen in the summer 2010. More than 50 nationalities were gathered to discuss the future of velo-mobility – cycling as a means of transportation. When gathering so many enthusiasts in one place the consensus is very clear from the start: cycling is tomorrow’s means of transport!
During the conference this goal was approached in various ways and the participants repeatedly looked towards either Denmark or The Netherlands for the solutions. These two countries are bicycle pioneers with a significantly high percentage of cyclists, along with a high degree of prosperity. Denmark and The Netherlands are examples of best-practice cases for the goal for Velo-City Global 2010.
At the end of the conference both Jens Loft, director of the Danish Cycling Federation and Roloef Wittink from I-CE, The Netherlands, expressed an obligation to operationalize their experiences to benefit their colleagues in other countries. This expressed obligation started my initial interest in bicycling due to a paradox within this conference. There are no constraints for enhancing urban velo-mobility and the incentives are staggering, yet only few cities have a developed a velo-mobility infrastructure competitive to auto-mobility.
|Allocation of fossil fuel consumption (2009)|
Within the last years the incentives for urban velo-mobility has increased. In urban areas smog problems are increasing. In the developed countries we are facing major health issues and obesity is increasing globally due to lack of exercise and unhealthy living. In developing countries the lack of mobility is a barrier for alleviating poverty and improving quality of life. Increasing the level of bicycles in the city can ease both smog issues and health issues and increased range of mobility. On a global scale the climate change discussion is becoming more and more evident. Globally, initiatives are taken to overcome the climate challenge with the COP meetings as the global political stage. The climate challenge is considered a problem on the global agenda unlike any other before, whereas motorized transportation uses 17pct. of the total use of fossil fuel (Giddens 2009: 2, UNEP). Yet very little has been carried out to promote bicycling, and the usage and production of cars still increase globally, due to an increase in prosperity.
In 2008 more than half of the world’s population lived in urban areas and the number is predicted to rise to 5 billion in 2030 (UNFPA). Combined with the climate change challenges, this put an even greater emphasis on the potential of velo-mobility. According to Helle Søholt, founding partner in Gehl Architects, the rapid expansion of major cities in the world does not fit into an infrastructure based on the car (Søholt 22:20). The simple fact that a car takes up 8 times as much space as a bicycle emphasises the possibilities for an increase in urban velo-mobility. In Mexico City, the third largest city in the world, the average speed when driving a car is down to 12.5kmt/hr. This not only makes the bicycle cheaper, healthier and eco-friendly, but also a faster means of transport. However, as Helle Søholt also states, it is now we have the window of opportunity, we need to act on fact, before the opportunity disappears (Søholt 23:20).
The above articulates the reasons for Jens Loft’s and Roloef Wittink’s obligation. This is the point of departure for my thesis. If the good bicycle examples are to be exported it is necessary to decipher the characteristics of the space of velo-mobility. What does the Copenhagen bicycle-package consist of, and how did Copenhagen develop a velo-mobility infrastructure competitive to auto-mobility?
As a point of reference a brief introduction to the cycle status of Copenhagen follows, to introduce the pioneer case.
1.2 A brief description of Copenhagen’s bicycle system
The current bicycle infrastructure was partially completed in the 70´s, which provides excellent physical conditions for bicycling in Copenhagen. During the last century cycling has always been a natural mode of transportation and used by both the homeless and the mayors (Jensen 2002: 5).
Copenhagen has a modal split with 36pct bicycling in total (2009), which is the highest percentage among European capitals. In comparison, the number of people who commute to work on their bikes in New York City is 0.4 pct. - or the same number that commutes by ferry.
- The total distance Copenhageners ride adds up to 1.2m kilometres every day of the year.
- To facilitate the journeys Copenhagen has approximately 350km of cycle lanes, which are mostly separated from the roads and pedestrians by curbstones.
- The cyclists in Copenhagen are between 10 and 84 years of age and ride on average 3km pr. day.
- The average speed for a cycling Copenhagener is 16 km/h, whereas a motorist can make it through the city with an average of 27km/h.
- One of the most used streets in Copenhagen is Nørrebrogade. Everyday more than 30.000 bicyclists are passing by. In other words, every three seconds a bike is passing by the counter on Queen Louise’s Bridge.
- The primary reason for Copenhageners to choose cycling is the convenience and because it is the fastest way to go from A to B in Copenhagen. (Cykelregnskab 2008)
As a consequence of the peer pressure on the street, Nørrebrogade is used as a test for reorganising the road priority, so that space is taken from the motorists and given to bicyclists. It has shown to increase cyclism further and has recently become permanent. Nørrebrogade is a good example on the priority cyclism is given in Copenhagen. At the same time it shows the physical outcome of the competition between the different means of transportation. On average it is shown that a new paved cycle-lane increases the number of cyclists with 20pct. and a decrease of 20pct. of motorists. (Cykelregnskab 2008)
The following video produced for the foreign ministry of Denmark clearly represents the outcomes of the above figures.
The following video produced for the foreign ministry of Denmark clearly represents the outcomes of the above figures.
The above statistics of Copenhagen along with the participants’ experience of velo-mobility in Copenhagen had an impressive effect on the participants at the Velo-City conference. (See picture) The modal split in Copenhagen with 36 pct. done by bicycles is extraordinary. It leaves me, other planners and bicycle lobbyists and enthusiasts with the question of how this happened. How did Copenhagen create a modal split that serves the goal of sustainable cities?
1.3. How did this happen?
- Kingsley and Urry
To organise this complex question I make use of Kingsley Dennis and John Urry's studies of auto-mobility through time in ‘After the car’ (2009). There are two major reasons for this: the first reason is the above-mentioned competition between the different means of transport - what caused an increase in auto-mobility is likely to affect velo-mobility. The second reason is Kingsley and Urry's systemtheoretical approach, which focuses on the development of systems. They have developed a socio-technical system, which includes physical inventions as well as cultural and social reasons. Their approach will be utilized in the following analysis of the velo-mobility development in Copenhagen
1.4 What does the space of cyclists consists of?
- Henri Lefebvre
As a Copenhagener myself cyclism has until recently not been given any special attention. Copenhageners do not in general pay attention to the unique bicycle environment they live in. However, this environment is also the object of study in the present report. With the use of Henri Lefebvre´s meta-theoretical framework as a foundation, the focus is not only on the historical development but also on the present production of the space of velo-mobility. In The production of space (1991) Lefebvre uses three elements to capture how space is produced. The elements include social, mental, physical and cultural aspects, which matches my own perception of space. Lefebvre also encompasses the historical elements, which Kingsley and Urry elaborate further. Together the two theoretical contributions give the perspective from where the rest of the literature is seen through. In the following I will present a brief review of the vast variety of literature that can be found in relation to this topic.
1.5 Writings on bicycling – A short literature review
Copenhagen as case-study is of course convenient due to its proximity, hence the fact that I have lived there for several years. It might seem as superfluous information, however it turns out to be of great importance if one reviews the literature done on velo-mobility.
In this short literature review there will be an emphasis on the different incentives bicycle literature presents, the origin of the written material and the producers of the knowledge available. The different perspectives taken in the majority of the articles are encompassed by the incentives explained in the UNEP-report ’Planning and implementation of campaigns to promote bicycle use in Latin American countries’. UNEP’s line of incentives to promote cycling are as follow: health issues, environmental sustainability, leisure, sport, commuting, social aspects, democratic aspects and the bicycles effect on urban space and auto-mobility. (UNEP 2010: 13). In the review, the literature is divided into: a selection of academics with special emphasis on velo-mobility, some of our classic urban thinkers and examples of normative guidelines.
1.5.1 Bicycle literature
In general most of the literature found on velo-mobility or cyclism is made by academics from cities with hardly any bicycle traditions, which seem to give cyclism a sort of exotic angle in their writings. Zack Furness, presents a good example of how bicycling is perceived in America. He is very aware of the different incentives to ride bikes as mentioned above, but he is focusing on the democratic element of biking, which was the main task in his Ph.D. from the university of Pittsburgh. (Furness 2005). His work focuses on the bicycle as a means of stating rights, reclaiming the urban space. He merges the bicycle with politics focusing on the historic development in America. According to Furness, the bike became a symbol for the Social Democrats’ movements, which contradicted the American dream (Furness 2005: 404). Furness sums up the American history of the bicycle as being stigmatized without experiencing the renaissance we have seen, for instance in Copenhagen.
Dave Horton, the editor of the book ‘Cycling and society’ (2009), also emphasizes the fact that Brits do not perceive the bicycle as the norm compared to the present case in Copenhagen. However, the book contributes with a very diverse introduction to the bicycle and the various indicators mentioned above (Horton et al. 2007: 2). The objective of the book is to cover the variety of perceptions of the bike and how it is used. This is done in articles describing the different usage and identities of the bike. The book states the fact that cities are bound to reconsider their perceptions of the bike in the near future, due to changes in our mobility. In the near future we will almost certainly see many mobility battles as massive pressures towards auto-mobility continue to conflict with entrenched patterns of land use, behaviour and affordability. (Horton et al: 2007: 3)
Kingsley and Urry also emphasize similar prospects in ‘After the car’, but with a broader perspective than Horton et al. Kingsley and Urry use the car-perspective and address the issue more analytically and abstractly by creating their socio-technic system. They focus on the competitiveness of auto-mobility and predict a harder competition within modal splits and a break with the car-monopoly. (Kingsley & Urry 2009: 65)
Michael W. Pesses uses Kingsley and Urry´s analytical framework in a bicycle perspective. However, and maybe due to Pesses nationality, his case is mainly about long distance touring in America. This differs from what Pesses states as, utilitarian bicyclism - “that is the one who rides bicycle for reasons other than recreation” (Pesses 2009: 7). His studies are therefore not exactly the objective of the thesis, but useful regardless due to his reflections on auto-mobility:
“The bicycle (long distance red.) tour is a temporary repositioning of one´s role in auto-mobility” (Pesses 2009: 7).
The repositioning is key for understanding the vast majorities of velo-mobility literature due to auto-mobility´s monopolistic appropriation of urban space for years. His main sources are interviews with practitioners of long distance touring and their re-appropriation of a space heavily controlled by cars. Pesses includes Harvey´s relative notion of space (Pesses 2009: 12) to show how the interviewees’ mental maps and perception of relative locations differ by their means of transport, and present new perspectives of roads, surroundings cars etc. Pesses uses, as most of the articles I have come across, current auto-mobility research into velo-mobility. For example, one of his key findings is the fact that riding a bicycle is:
“(…) more than a way to get around town, high-end bicycles are marketed as symbols of speed, grace, dignity and class. The choice to purchase a 'road bike', along with the special shoes, helmet, and a colourful Lycra-spandex can almost be equated with purchasing a Porsche. It is more than a mode of transportation; it is an identity”(Pesses 2009: 20).
In the latter, Pesses uses Mimi Sheller’s notion from her article: “Automotive emotions: feeling the car”(2004) to express that:
“Car cultures (in Pesses´ article the bike) have social, material and above all affective dimensions that are overlooked in current strategies to influence car-driving decisions”(Sheller 2004: 22).
The designated bicycle-literature selected as representational all have a clear common denominator: the bicycle is mirrored in the car.
In their article, Cupples and Ridley describe this binary notion between bicycles and cars as a potential challenge to the enhancements of global velo-mobility. (Cupples & Ridley 2008: 263) The car is perceived as the black sheep, which according to Cupples and Ridley can cause a counter effect. To focus on what the bicycle can cure also includes the fact that people who do not bicycle pollute, suffer from obesity, jam the traffic etc. According to Cupples and Ridley cycling is both presented as the revelation and also as a major provocation. (Cupples & Ridley 2008:260)
The above examples show a brief but representational view of how present research on velo-mobility is carried out in the light of auto-mobility. This signals two important issues in the velo-mobility literature. Firstly, there is a lack of grounded velo-mobility research detached from the auto-mobility and secondly, the researcher mainly sees velo-mobility through auto-mobility eyes. With this in mind I will rely on their findings and focus on a micro-scale research with an awareness of my bias towards cyclism. In Copenhagen the mobility battle is more equally divided between auto- and velo-mobility and the thesis revolves around the utilitarian bicycle optic.
1.5.2 Classical space analytics
The classic social scientists and geographers dealing with the construction and production of space have also a natural part in the literature I have come across in my research. Most of them are widely referenced in the literature above, such as David Harvey (‘Spaces of global capitalism’) Michel De Certeau (‘The practice of everyday life’), Marc Augé (‘Non-spaces’), Jane Jacobs (‘Death and life of great American cities’) and Henri Lefebvre (‘The productions of space’) etc. Their ideas are presented as classics due to their quality, level of abstraction, hence level of generalization. However, it is necessary also to consider the notion of aging when it comes to ideas.
The theorists above would all agree on the city as vibrant and in flux – a process, which has to be taken into account when applying it to present urban mobility. This notion is discussed in Ole B. Jensen´s article: '”Facework”, Flow and the City: Simmel, and Goffman, and Mobility in the Contemporary City.’(Jensen 2006). George Simmel and Erwing Goffman are also often drawn into the discussion of urban mobility. Their broadly based analysis of interaction in public space also allows further use in mobility studies and therefore in velo-mobility studies too.
Their micro-scale sociology focuses on creation of identity, which inevitably has an impact on the way people move around the city: which discourses are controlling our attention when it comes to the choice of transportation? They have, however, not had mobility in mind as such, but more broadly, life in the city. So there has to be taken precautions and considerations when applying their thoughts to velo-mobility. (Jensen 2006: 154) Simmel and Goffman´s analytical frames are magnificent tools to decipher the complexity of modern urban life and its mobilities (Horton et al. 2007: 28), but the authors have to be re-read when taking into account our era of rapid increase in mobility or hypermobility. This must have been impossible to foresee when for instance Marc Augé presented his ideas of Non-Places, Simmel his ideas of blasé attitudes and Goffmann’s notion of front-stage and back-stage. (Jensen 2006: 162)
1.5.3 Normative guidelines
Along with the analytical publications above, a vast majority of material is published with a more technical approach to velo-mobility funded by IGO’s, GO’s and NGO’s. Due to the technical and normative nature of these reports found, I will only briefly describe the most elaborated projects I have come across, along with an evaluation of different initiatives for increasing the use of bicycles.
One of the best-known projects is: Analysis and Development Of New Insight into Substitution of short car trips by cycling and walking - ADONIS. Initially, it was produced in 1998 by the Danish Ministry of Roads and later developed through the EU’s fourth Framework up to the sixth. The objective is to map possibilities for increasing non-motorized transportation – now hosted by the Transport Research Knowledge Centre, TRKC. The project has done a comprehensive research on different possibilities for physical improvements to persuade more people to use bikes.
A far smaller evaluation-report, by David Ogilvi et al. at the university of Glasgow, has compared 22 initiatives for the promotion of non-motorized transportation. The initiatives are divided into 6 categories: Targeted behaviour change programmes, Publicity campaigns and agents of change, Engineering measures, Financial incentives and Providing alternative services. (Ogilvi et al. 2004: 2) They find that only Targeted behaviour change programmes
“can be effective in changing the transport choices of motivated subgroups, but the social distribution of their effects and their effects on the health of local populations are unclear” (Ogilvi et al 2004: 5)
Along with the above findings there has been too much of an inconsistency in the other initiatives to be able to state them as efficient. This can be seen as an interesting reply to TRKC studies in physical best-practice research, which primarily focuses on physical aspects or: Engineering measures. (Ogilvi et al 2004: 5) This is of course relative and TRKC are naturally using more integrated approaches and analysis when advocating non-motorized transportation. However, it is striking how TRKC – an EU funded research centre – prioritize physical planning as the key to changing mobility behaviour.
In the thesis the approach is slightly different. It is an analysis of the spatial product of the best -practice bicycle example. Instead of analysing the how to make more people cycle I focus on the people who are already cycling a lot and their characteristics.
1.6 Summing up and reflecting
In general the bicycle as a means of transportation has a large potential to meet future challenges for urban living. In the review I have presented an overview of the literature, which, in my opinion, appears insufficient to describe velo-mobility in Copenhagen. As the short case-description shows: cycling is a means of transportation on the same level as auto-mobility and public transport and should be analysed so. Jane Jacobs has shown what the car has made possible for modernist planning for the American cities in ‘The Life and death of great American cities’ (Jacobs 1992:349) and how it gradually shapes the city. In the same way it is interesting to examine how the bicycle has shaped the city of Copenhagen as well as to understand the characteristics of the produced space of velo-mobility. The thesis therefore includes an analysis of how the velo-mobility system gradually has been strengthened and weakened by technology and social events, and the present status of the socially produced space of velo-mobility in Copenhagen.
This leads to the following research question.
1.7 Research Question
How did Copenhagen develop into an urban velo-mobility pioneer, and what are the characteristics of the socially produced space of velo-mobility of Copenhagen?
1.7.1 Explaining and limiting the research question
The research question refers to the specific context of the produced space of velo-mobility guided by Lefebvre’s’ analytical triad of the social production of space. The first part of the analysis will be guided primarily be Kingsley and Urry’s socio-technical system approach to analyse specific events effect the velo-mobility system. This thesis does not focus on the complete system of mobility, but will, however, refer to this for reference when analysing the system of velo-mobility. Even though the main interest sprang from the obligation to export the velo-mobility system the thesis will not focus on the exportability as such but instead specifically focus on the product to be exported.
The research question is approached be analysing cyclists, experts and video-recordings of the cycle practice. Along with the analysis, the above-mentioned theorists from the brief literature review will be drawn in when relevant.
 www.velo-city2010.com visited 3.1.2011
 Interface for Cycling Expertise, The Netherlands
 Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_metropolitan_areas_by_population (Visited 22.2.2011)
 The modal split is the varying proportions of each means of transportation in at a certain location e.g. Copenhagen.
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transportation_in_New_York_City#Commuting.2Fmodal_split (Visited 22.2.2011)
 www.velo-city2010.com/ (visited 3.1.2011)
 See: www.transport-research.info
 “changing travel behaviour by offering travel interventions or advice tailored solutions to peoples’ particular requirements”(Ogilvi 2004: 2)