The trip to Copenhagen was a success despite the fact that, due to technicalities, I was not able to get the student discount on my train tickets, and ended up paying about double what I expected. When I found out at the ticket booth, I almost changed my mind about the whole thing, but rationalized it as "worth it to see my sister". It was pretty annoying then to find out that they had been planning to come by here next weekend anyway.
Now I have a few other rationalizations:
What's that you say? you want me to elaborate more on each of these points? Well.... if you say so.
The train ride finally gave me enough time to finish a book I had been pecking away at for too long.
I have been reading Critical Mass, a book about applying what we know about physics to what we want to know about the workings of society. It has taken me a while partly because I have been too busy to finish it recently, but also because his writing style is a little less "catchy" than some of the other recent easy-to-read books about similar topics, such as The Tipping Point, and Wisdom of Crowds. It is however, much more informative.
He touches on a number of subjects: Self-organization, phase transitions (tipping points), emergence, chaos theory, the power-law, game theory, and more. These are all things I have just been hearing and reading about bit by bit in the past few years, but this book was really great in helping me to connect the dots.
My main takeaway though was that yes, there are certain characteristics that we can see in nature and society, such as self organizing and theoretical "best strategies" in game theory, but ultimately, it is up to us to create the context of the game. These theories are perhaps natural tendencies, and it is imperative that we understand them, but it does not mean that it is the "way it should be".
I got to see Copenhagen before leaving Scandinavia.
Until Tuesday, I had only ventured about a half hour from the station.
In Copenhagen, I had a chance to hear about their pretty amazing bicycle commuter infrastructure.
Copenhagen was nicer than I expected, thought that may simply be due to the fact that it was the first day this year nice enough to ride bikes in a t-shirt. What was really great though was hearing the bike commuter story from a local planner involved in it (many thanks to Jess for organizing it!)
It was truly amazing to see so many people biking, and the way the bike lanes were so integrated with the road system. And, like last time I met with city planners, I tingled with excitement when I heard how they made small changes the built environment to encourage favorable behavior. I repeat, they must feel like gods.
Just some key figures out of their biannual Bicycle Account progress report.
So what's wrong with the US and Japan? Why can't this be done there as well? Unfortunately, the planner admitted that most of the success of the Copenhagen bicycle system has to do with the fact that Copenhagen's have been exceptionally fond of their bicycles for over one-hundred years. This is not just a "movement" they started recently, rather, it is built on a solid foundation of bicycle riding-ness.
I got to see a very interesting portion of Copenhagen called Freetown, Christiana, which I had certainly never heard of, and is actually related somewhat to the book I finished on the train, in that it is a self-organizing community.
Really interesting. A little scary, and rude (they wouldn't let me take photos, but the photos on this post are all from Christiana) but really interesting.
History of Christiana
In 1971, when a swarm of hippies, squatters and political activists invaded an abandoned military base in the heart of Copenhagen, and dubbed it the Free Town of Christiania, few Danes believed the community would still exist today. Read more...
i remember going to Christiana back in 1987, sounds like almost 20 years later the place is more or less the same. I remember it being scary, lots of urine everywhere, and shady looking folks doing drugs openly (though I may have imagined that). Certainly was not what I was expecting from reading the Let's Go blurb about it, and I remember not feeling comfortable enough to take any pictures....
I'm very interested in the cycle commuting numbers you cite, because I've heard similar anecdotes about Denmark. Kyoto is such a perfect place for mass-scale cycle commuting. Someone needs to start a crusade. *looks around, sees only Gandhi pointing a bony finger*
Wow, something strange is happening here. It's like the good old days, getting two comments from the old school folk in one day. Did somebody link to me for something? or have you guys been lurking all along?
Anyway, of course I have no idea what Christiana was like back in 87, but I didn't notice any particular urine smells this time, so at least that has improved. I say it was scary, but I didn't feel "in danger" or anything. Probably because it was on the tourist map (the one afixed to all the free city bikes scattered throughout town) I was not so comfortable about the photos eaither, but not because i was afraid of getting hurt, rather because they asked me not to (and there were signs as well) and they seemed nice, so I felt uncomfortable about that.
Nils, the anecdotes are probably all true. I had heard about their bikes too, but thought it would be similar to Tokyo. NOTHING LIKE IT. At stop lights the bikes pile up, waiting behind each other in line just like normal traffic would. Everyone uses hand signals, and at one point (durring rush hour) we counted over thirty bikes passing in less than thirty seconds.
I think Kyoto would be ideal, considering that you can cycle across town in not-so-long time. Of course, Copenhagen has the luxioury of space to build very wide bike lanes. I don't see that happening in Kyoto, and as the man said, they have been doing this for over one hundred years. We asked what it would take to start something like that in some other city and he admited that he has absolutly no idea... this was not a movement, it was momentum.
That being said, it's certainly worth a shot to get it started in Kyoto. It would add to the challenge that you are not in the urbann planning office (if they even have one) considering that they do make a lot of seemingly minor, hard to notice changes to the way the paths are built in relation to the roads, etc, which really make big differences in safety. Feeling safe, of course, allows people who want to bike to do so... that is the first task, then you can start trying to convince others to ride.
I could probably go on and on (not that I really know all that much) but I should let you go read some other blog now.