Book Review: Copenhagenize

Copenhagenize: The Definitive Guide to Global Bicycle Urbanism, by Mikael Colville-Andersen

Book Review by Louise Williams

“I actually don’t know much about bikes, but I know a great deal about people riding bikes,” Mikael Colville-Andersen tells us in this book which offers a wealth of ideas about cycling and urbanism. From analysis of “asphalt democracy,” to myth busting of the criticisms of people who cycle (many will be familiar to members of Dublin Cycling Campaign), the book brings us on an intriguing jaunt around the world to look at how various cities have succeeded — or failed — to develop urban design which supports and protects people who cycle.

Colville-Andersen mixes quotes from the talks he gives around the world, with reflections of his kids on urban development, alongside historical insights into the development of Amsterdam and Copenhagen into cycling-friendly cities. He seems to relish demolishing sacred cows such as the 85th percentile (the measure by which speed limits are determined) which he considers hopelessly out of date. “By using basic design principles for the human users of the bicycle and the urban space instead of flawed mathematical models employed by traffic engineering, we will accelerate the journey towards a bicycle-friendly urban future,” writes Colville-Andersen.

The author outlines how his business — Copenhagenize Design Company —has analysed 106,000 cyclists’ behaviour in order to understand why they deviate from the rules. They identified categories of people who cycle: ‘First Movers’ (people who influence the behaviour of the people behind them), ‘Momentumists’ (those who break the law but do it in what he describes as a considerate way for other traffic users) and Recklists (speaks for itself) and have advised various cities around the world to re-design intersections to make them safer. Colville-Andersen refers to the Desire Line Analysis Tool and outlines how people who cycle choose paths of greatest convenience and speed to get around (the book includes, by way of example, a photo of a grass track by Portobello harbour in Dublin).

Although one section of the book is titled ‘The Toolbox’, there are not many tools for action to be found in its text. At one point Colville-Andersen describes his book as a “ragged little bag of ideas”; it can be an exhilarating read, but it does feel a little ragged, with some repetitive sections and a lack of focus at times.

As campaigners, we would benefit from a manual for change in order to improve conditions for people who cycle. This book will inspire you with stories from cities which have transformed into havens for people who cycle, and entertain you with its quirky approach, such as the identification of yawning as an indicator of safety for people who cycle. It has a playful, irreverent tone which creates an enjoyable spin for readers. Ultimately, though, it falls a little short of the ‘Definitive Guide’ of its title.

Louise Williams is a member of Dublin Cycling Campaign, working on her first non-fiction book, about borders.

About the book:

Copenhagenize: The Definitive Guide to Global Bicycle Urbanism, by Mikael Colville-Andersen

| Paperback ISBN: 9781610919388 | E-Book ISBN: 9781610919395 |

Copenhagenize will serve as inspiration for everyone working to get the bicycle back into our cities. It will give planners and designers the ammunition to push back against the Automobile Age and convince the skeptics of the value of the life-sized city. This is not a guide on how to become Copenhagen, but how to learn from the successes and failures (yes, failures) of Copenhagen and other cities around the world that are striving to become more livable.

About the author:

Mikael Colville-Andersen has worked for dozens of global cities on bicycle planning, strategy, infrastructure design, and communication. He is known around the world for his colourful personality and enthusiasm for the role of bike in urban design.

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Friday, 15 June 2018 (All day)

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