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.

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Portland’s Mia Birk gives Chicago a pep talk on handling the bike lane backlash


Mia Birk – photo by Serge Lubomudrov

Last week Steven and I attended Active Transportation Alliance’s 25th anniversary celebration, where we heard legendary transportation guru Mia Birk deliver an inspiring speech to the crowd of city officials, transportation planners and advocates. Birk helped turn Portland, Oregon, into a cycling Mecca when she served as bike coordinator there in the 1990s and now heads Alta Planning + Design, specializing in biking, walking and trails projects.

Birk gave a warning about the media backlash that is likely to result as Chicago implements Mayor Emanuel’s plan to construct 100 miles of protected bike lanes (and launch a large-scale bike share system and build the Bloomingdale Trail and Navy Pier Flyover). She also offered some words of encouragement about how to deal with this criticism.

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