Danish Modern: Copenhagen Cycle Chic’s Mikael Colville-Andersen


Mikael Colville-Andersen with his kids Felix and Lulu-Sophia.

[This article originally ran in Urban Velo magazine.]

As “The Pope of Urban Cycling,” Mikael Colville-Andersen is one of today’s leading bicycle advocates, but also one of the most controversial. He’s known as the kingpin of the stylish cycling movement via his award-winning photo blog Copenhagen Cycle Chic. The site mostly features candid photographs of attractive, well-dressed women on wheels, for a largely female readership. For his day job as CEO of Copenhagenize, a nine-person transportation consulting firm, he travels to cities around the world, advising politicians, planners and advocates on ways to emulate the success of the bike-friendly Danish capital.

Mikael’s blogs have a global following—Cycle Chic has inspired some 150 spin-offs in other cities. He’s also a sought-after public speaker who gave the keynote address at this year’s Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference in Long Beach, California. But he’s not without his critics. His outspoken opposition to helmet promotion troubles many North American advocates. And at least two female bike bloggers have critiqued his Cycle Chic aesthetic and rhetoric as being sexist, elitist and counterproductive for encouraging regular folks to ride.

In July I visited Copenhagen for the first time and, as advertised, it’s a biker’s paradise with mellow traffic, grade-separated bike lanes on all major streets and good-looking, stylish people on classy Dutch cycles everywhere you turn. I met up with Mikael, a bright-eyed, energetic man, at his flat in Frederiksberg, a town completely surrounded by Copenhagen. We sipped cans of Carlsberg as his young kids Felix and Lulu-Sophia practiced soccer and picked flowers in their lush back yard. Mikael and I discussed his views on helmets, the differences between Copenhagen and Amsterdam, why he’s underwhelmed by Portland, and why bikes should be marketed more like vacuum cleaners.

Continue reading Danish Modern: Copenhagen Cycle Chic’s Mikael Colville-Andersen

Safety of biking hasn’t changed, only our realization on what it takes to improve safety


This photo exhibits many risks we take because of our current and unchanging designs, a potential dooring scene similar to that which led to the death of Neill Townsend on Friday. Photo by Mike Travis. 

I hate car-centric design. I equate it with theft. It takes away space for efficient and free modes of travel and reduces the quality of air and aural serenity, not to mention the danger to those within and without a car. Improving bike infrastructure is secondary in making a bike culture: the most important task is to highlight the irresponsibility, risk, damage, inefficiency, and death that Chicago’s car culture brings to the city.

Mary Schmich, a Chicago Tribune columnist, asks in the headline of her column today, “Is biking less safe, or does it just seem so?” Data is missing so we cannot answer this question empirically; there’s data for reported crashes, but no information on how many people are cycling and for how many miles. Continue reading Safety of biking hasn’t changed, only our realization on what it takes to improve safety

Grid Shots: Copenhagen cargo bikes


A woman pedals her “short john” cargo bike across the world’s busiest bike intersection

According to Mikael Colville-Anderson, there are about 40,000 cargo bikes in the municipalities of Frederiksburg, where he and his company, Copenhagenize Consulting, live, and Copenhagen, the city where I’ve been for 5 days now.

And Saturday we held the 4th annual Danish cargo bike championships, or “Svajerløb” (pronounced zvy-uhh-loob). I participated in the Team Relay race with my friend Brandon Gobel and two Danish locals, Micha and Lasse (he cofounded the Bicycle Innovation Lab here).


A woman pushes her trike across the sidewalk in a shopping neighborhood. 


One trike among many bikes parked near a Metro station and indoor public market. 


Two Bullitt bikes outside the Larry vs. Harry workshop. 


The City of Copenhagen found four families in the Vesterbro neighborhood who wanted to securely store their cargo bikes on the street in this pink container shaped like a car. Each family has a key to their separated compartments, and the door lifts up. The City plans to build more. Each takes up 1 American car parking space, or 1.5 European car parking spaces. Gobel and Colville-Anderson are on the left side of the photo. 

See more photos from my Cargo bikes in Copenhagen set. This was an unplanned edition of Grid Shots.

Building a bicycle culture in Chicago: does it get worse before it gets better?


Cycling in Copenhagen next to articulated buses. All high-volume intersections are bathed in blue to show where each vehicle operator, people cycling and driving alike, where to maneuver. Photo by Mikael Colville-Anderson, the Copenhagenize author. 

I saw an old post on Copenhagenize, a popular blog about bicycle cultures (which Chicago is not). It’s called, 18 ways to know that you have a bicycle culture. Jokingly, I thought to reply blindly, “Nope, don’t have that”, to all items in the list. Some of the signs seem listed to poke fun at cities with bicycle subcultures, even though they would more likely happen in a bicycle than outside of one. For example, #12 says:

When you see somebody with rolled up trouser legs you think, ‘what a shame that fellow can’t afford a chain guard’. You consider rolling up next to him at the next light to give him some money.

Continue reading Building a bicycle culture in Chicago: does it get worse before it gets better?

When you build for youngest, you build for everyone


A young boy on his bike waits for the red light to change on Logan Boulevard in Logan Square.

I’ve been participating in a design collaboration this summer called Moving Design: Call To Action. This year’s “Call To Action” is about bicycle safety in Chicago, focusing on Logan Square. The group comprises over 40 designers, and two urban planners, including myself.

My role has been to provide “policy insights” – read and see them on the Moving Design blog. Since I’ve been in Utah for last Wednesday’s and tonight’s meetings, I created videos. Think of them as a satellite feed of an actor giving their Oscar acceptance speech from the set of the movie they’re filming.

This video policy insight is about 8 to 80. I connect the concept of “designing biking facilities for all” to ways cyclists have been divided and then bring it around to a discussion last week between Adolfo Hernandez of Active Transportation Alliance and Rob Forbes, CEO of Public Bikes.

Watch the video after the jump. 

Continue reading When you build for youngest, you build for everyone