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Seeing eye to eye with cyclists
Posted on 4/24/2010 11:00:00 PM

Day five: Copenhagen-Copenhagen - 33km

Another perfect day here in Copenhagen. Decided to go to Christiania today, an alternative living community just outside the city. It is a 15-minute bike ride away (or about 12 if you wouldn't have to deal with the light phases as described yesterday or the left-turn prohibition mentioned below...)

It was so quiet in Christiania (apart from the soccer game and the swans fighting - found out from a local that a female has recently died and the male is now fighting newcomers). Still, amazing to be next to a lake, feeling like being in complete nature, yet so close to the city center. I just hung out there in the morning, then checked out the other touristy part (no, the little mermaid has still not returned from the World Expo in China).

In the afternoon I decided to go to a soccer game from the highest league. The FC København was playing Aalborg - first against third, with only three or four games left. Copenhagen is leading the ranking and needed to win to keep second-placed Odense at bay.

One thing I have noticed is that the Danes are very friendly and that even reflected in the game. I think there were no more than 10 free kicks in the whole match and anytime a player hurt another, concern was displayed, with shake-hands. This is so different than the German league. It is more athletic, but also more unfair - maybe the fact that there is more money at stake makes a difference?

Although interestingly enough players were reminded right before kick-off where the money is to be made. The betting company Oddset was prominently displayed and players looking for some quick money know how to get the ball past their own goalie, if needed. Soccer certainly has had some betting scandals lately - the new doping, I guess.

"We are red, we are white, we are Danish dynamite" - this propelled the national team to the 1992 Euro Champions - I am curious to see how they will do in the World Cup in South Africa.

Enough of soccer, although I can't talk much about cycling either. I barely found out that Evans won Flèche Wallonne but I have no idea who took Liège-Bastogne-Liège - the joys of traveling!

So I'll just talk what I *did* see in the paper - Copenhagen is trying to become the city of "walkists". I certainly have noticed that sometimes sidewalks are missing - they are for bikes only on one side. It'll be interesting to see how cyclists react as part of their space is cut - as I think it is unlikely they will remove motorists' lanes for that.

Speaking of Aalborg above - there was a case of road rage that also made the paper. A cyclist was enraged at a tour bus driver for parking on the bike path, so he started swearing at passengers, then went inside the bus and took the keys.

Now, in my opinion buses and other vehicles should park to the right and passing traffic should be moving left of the stationary traffic. It is a tried concept that works well in countries where traffic is on the right.

This would also allow cyclists to make left turns, which is prohibited in Copenhagen. I do it anyway sometimes - I am starting to get tired of box turns that always take longer. I have done a little test one one intersection. Forty seconds with direct left turns, 51 without. 11 seconds may not sound much of a difference, but there are a lot of signalized intersections and it adds up.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the scenario I chose was the most favorable for the box-turn. I approached the light from mid-block, towards the end of the green phase. Had I started at the red light I would have been long gone o the direct turn, while having to sit out almost the full cycle on the box turn.

I haven't seen anybody else do direct turns, but I have seen an interesting variation tonight: A guy rode across, then sort of lined up like he would do a box turn, but then ran the red light. Weird.

Oh, almost forgot the scare I had this morning. I was riding behind one of the tricycles (three wheels and popular here to carry other passengers - mostly kids), when the tricyclist swerved to the left and I found myself eye to eye with a wrong-way cyclist. She had a puzzled look on her face - did she not expect a cyclist to pop up behind the tricycle? Wish I could have understand what her companion (who was riding the wrong way on the sidewalk) said to her....

This was of course nowhere as bad as the scare from yesterday, which I also forgot to talk about. I witnessed a car-car accident. A car with a trailer had done a U-turn, everyone behind needed to slow down and I could see it ripple through. Each driver left less space until the fifth car slammed into the fourth with quite some speed.

The driver of the hit car was quite shaken, and the ambulance was quickly there. There are signs about 50kmh speed limits, but as long as you build the perfect four- or six-lane roads and get all the cyclists out of the way, you will get faster speeds and motorists not paying attention to the essentials anymore.



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