Europe does this to me each time I come back here, I get inspired and my brain goes off in delicious new directions. Luleå Tekniska Universitet gave me over a month of uninterrupted study in the quietest yet most stimulating environment I have ever had the privilege to work in. That word delicious describes it perfectly in the same way I talked earlier about drinking a city like København.
When I first went to Germany in 2012, I was burnt out and exhausted after nearly twenty seven years of running my own design and development company. Thankfully, everyone on that trip graciously gave me a lot of space. They got used to me not going into shops with them. Instead, they just trusted that if they left me outside in the cold, I would be perfectly happy just watching people pass by.
That is what I have been doing here too. I revel in the sights of people just being themselves on the streets. Do not think of it as some strange sort of voyeurism; I just like the way European people dress in winter. It is great to see an alternative to the sloppy Pacific-area jeans and jandals I see in my home town all year around. People work hard at dressing well here. Spend five minutes in any American city if you want to see the exact opposite. If you are really brave, try to spend ten minutes in any US Walmart store and look at how hard some people work at not trying to dress at all <laugh>.
Which brings us onto our main topic: bicycles and creativity. In Scandinavia, the most widely-owned form of transport is the bicycle. This extract from a local web site helps to explain why:
“In Denmark there is a strong tradition for people from all strata of society to cycle. Most Danes associate the bicycle with positive values such as freedom and and health, and in recent years cycling has actually become a symbol of personal energy. The bicycle has become ultramodern again, aided by societal development, successful political initiatives and conscious marketing. The three largest Danish cities – Copenhagen, Århus and Odense – have all carried out large branding campaigns that put cyclists in a positive light on advertising billboards, on the internet and by actively including cyclists in new bicycle projects. The result is an increasing number of cyclists and cleaner, healthier and more lively cities.”
Couple that with the statistic that in November, 2016, bicycle sensors in København determined that there were now more bikes than cars in the heart of the city. In that year, 35,080 more bikes have joined the daily roll, bringing the total number to 265,700, compared with 252,600 cars. That represents a 68% increase in bicycle traffic in the last twenty years. That was helped by more that one billion Danish Kroner being invested in urban cycleways and infrastructure since 2005. However, they have an additional incentive to keep using bicycles. Danish car and motorcycle owners pay a new vehicle fee called the Registreringsafgift (RA) when registering their vehicle of 105 percent of its value for vehicles bought for under 81,700 kroner, and 180 percent of the value for vehicles bought for over this price.
With that idea in mind, I spent a day just walking around København, looking at bicycles and people. The first thing to notice in these photographs is the width of the cycle lanes. This city is serious about treating bicycles like proper vehicles. Many of the cycle lanes are separated from the walkways and the vehicle lanes by raised berms. They are wide too…
There is also a greater awareness of safety. Surveys in 2017 suggest that cyclists’ feeling of safety has increased by 43% while the relative risk of having a serious bicycle accident has been reduced by 23%. From what I could see standing on street corners and watching, cars give way to bicycles and pedestrians in a far more relaxed way that I have seen in other countries.
To tie that back to that concept of creativity, perhaps there is a causal link between the innovation I see here and the acceptance of bicycles. One of those sites I quoted from above states that in København, cyclists clock up over 1.4 million kilometers by bicycle in the city on an average weekday, an increase of 22% since 2006. That is a lot of people breathing in fresh air and thinking while they pedal.
Creativity? Try these two out in the main square in front of my hotel:
Just to balance things out since nothing is ever perfect, the gorilla below got very angry when I tried to take his picture. I think he had just seen Jane drop some coins in Darth Vader’s case and was wondering why I wanted a photo for free.
One last photo. I think we now know where Santa is resting-up after the Christmas rush: it is a nice apartment in the basement of the Royal Delft Porcelain shop downtown: