Saturday, January 30, 2010

Let's have a big round of applaus for media's attentiveness

Did you ever wonder about how much power media has on our lives/mobility? I will examine this power now for print media in Austria, but it also applies to TV stations, radio etc. Please note that I will just try to give some good and bad examples of newspaper articles related to cycling and maybe one should not extrapolate from that to general statements, although it might be tempting.

Negative publicity:

Last year, around the same time, there was an article in the Kurier (an Austrian-wide newspaper) that upset many people who use their bikes on a regular basis. They claimed that cyclists in the winter are simply irresponsible and stupid. I translated and summarized the content of the article earlier, see "Is cycling in the winter dangerous?" if you're interested in the details.

An even worse article is "Radlerdemo endet in Randale" ("Bike demonstration ends in riots") in the Österreich newspaper in 2007. It accussed the participants of the Halloween critical mass of damaging cars despite lack of any police evidence. I personally was there, and did not observe any misbehavior.

I also consider an article about traffic controls in Vienna in the Krone newspaper as rather negative. It mentions the fact that more and more cyclists and pedestrians get injured and killed these days and that the authorities try to countersteer this. However, their main message was that cyclists often do not obey the traffic rules and implicitly it's their own fault when they are run over by car drivers.

Click on the pictures for enlargement

Useless advertising:

Ever seen a bicycle promoted in a newspaper ad? No? Well, sometimes there are ads by sport outfitters (only chains though) that want to sell cheap and crappy mountain bikes. This phenomena is closely related to the spring sell of shitty bikes by food chains, and only addressed to people who -- once a year -- have a wasteful desire to work on their body (I wrote about it last March). These bikes are mostly used once and then rot in a corner. That's why I consider these type of ads rather useless or even counterproductive for a bicycle culture as such.

The above is, on the other hand, accompanied by all these commercials that want to sell us cars. They are everywhere -- in newspapers, on the radio, the TV, on billboards, on flyers, in lotteries, in subway stations and trams. Lately I even came across a car advertised in a showcase at the Danube canal bike path. It's hard to ignore them. Very often they also sneak into usual newspaper articles. I'm sure you are aware of certain "car sections", but have you ever seen a "bicycle section" or a "train section"? I believe there is also some money involved. Or our society has been completely brainwashed already.

Positive publicity:

Yes, there are positive examples. The fact that the Standard became my favorite newspaper probably was not out of the blue. Alright, as every other newspaper they also promote cars and have a car section every Saturday. But they also print bike-related positive articles, and recently even established regular columns on bicycles, cyclists and cycling. For German speaking people I highly recommend the so-called Radkasten by Thomas Rottenberg and various bike stories by Guido Gluschitsch in the Automobil section. By now their articles get more comments than all these car-related ads which, in my humble opinion, clearly shows the need for more positive bike stories in Austria's media landscape. The started to fill a gap that was unknown to be a gap to most people.

Besides, it's not only their stories that attract me. It's the general design of their newspaper. They often just sneak in pictures of cyclists in everyday life. Let it be bike racks when they talk about the cold and snowy weather, a chic cyclist on the ring bike path (opposite of the parliament) when they remark that there is still no photovoltaic plant on the parliament's roof, a cyclist walking his bike along a road that has been closed down due to a water mains burst or a heavily loaded Chinese bicycle when they investigate Asia's economy.

No photo cells on the parliament's roof
China's economy booms
Water pipe burst on Währinger Straße

Of course, the Standard is not the only example of positive bike publicity. I should certainly mention, e.g., the Falter and Presse as newspapers that have an objective or positive view on cycling in general. I particularly like an article by Sibylle Hamann (editor for Profil) in the Presse about cycling, traffic and the interaction of people. Very clear and neutral. Read her article here: "Radfahrkunde für Anfänger".

Well, I simply love positive medial coverage of cycling! Or neutral articles in the first place. I started my own collection of some interesting (so far only German) newspaper articles in a flickr album.

Of course I'm eager to find more articles and am grateful for comments in case you spot some interesting ones :). Someone might even want to examine the media landspace with regard to mobility (as it has already been done for articles on foreigners and other minorities). Could be a very interesting topic for some socio-scientific research.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Bitandem riders

When Anna (from Vienna) visited me last April in Barcelona and Vilafant, we spent a whole Saturday riding a tandem and shooting the camera (you can read about it here). One of the photo creations is this one, and here comes another one that I did not remember about but that I found today. I have called it "The Bitandem Riders":

My boyfriend Xavi (left) and my brother Jordi (right), riding a "bitandem" .
Courtesy of Photoshop and my sister Núria.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Parking offenders and a trip to the industrial area of Vienna

Today I just cycled to work and back. The round-trip is about 12km. Last Wednesday morning, however, I cycled about 20km extra. No, not for work. I went to the MA67 and back. The MA67 is the magistrate in Vienna responsible for parking violations. Why I went there?

About half a year ago I reported 13 cars that were parked on a bike lane, the sidewalk and in a "no parking and no stopping at anytime" zone. Right beside a school. They were parents picking up their children. One of these people filed a protest and I had to go to the MA67 for a witness report and to hand in a photographic proof.

Illegal parking on bike lanes is often just considered a trivial offense

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pedaling around Europe (in Japanese)

In the recent winter issue of the "europe" magazine, there was a short summary about bicycle culture and lifestyle in Europe, along with some links to interesting blogs dealing with the subject. Among others, we were mentioned too!

Cycling in Japan's "europe" magazine

The "europe" magazine is the official publication of the Delegation of the European Union to Japan and is published by its Press, Public and Cultural Affairs Section. The principal purpose of "europe" is to give information on all aspects of the European Union, in Japanese, to those interested in the European Union and EU-Japan relations. The magazine is published quarterly and is circulated widely among political, academic, media and business circles. If you're interested, you can read more on their website: Delegation of the European Union to Japan (home, in English) and EUROPE magazine.

Well, all the text is obviously in Japanese. The description of our blog should say something like:

The blog "Cycling is Good for You" is focused on expressing different views on cycling in everyday life across Europe. Young contributers from nordic Finland, continental Austria and sunny Spain post stories according to their cultural background and give diverse insights into biking related issues. Some of them have a professional background in traffic planning and provide technical insight while others relay careful observations from their streets. Thus a variety of personal stories and scientific issues are covered in an easily accessible manner. This provides a somewhat comprehensive insight in cycling culture and lifestyle in Europe. In keeping with the theme of the blog they make a point why and indeed how a bicycle is an ideal mode of transport, despite of or especially in today's bustling world.
We hope you agree :). Besides, "Cycling is Good for You" is more than one year old now. Thanks to my co-bloggers and to all of you for contributing and sharing your opinions. It's good to know different aspects to understand how bicycle culture is seen worldwide.

We also want to know what you like, don't like and if you have any special interests or wishes for the future. We don't make any promises, but we will certainly try to make you happy :).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Holiday on wheels

Today I'm bugging you with my holiday plans. I am a utility cyclist, but that does not mean that I wouldn't enjoy cycling. I love cycling in rural and half-rural landscapes where you don't have to breath the dust and exhaust gases of motorists. I love to hear the birds sing and feel the fresh breeze on my skin. I also find the sight, sound and smell of open water very enjoyable. I am also lucky enough to live really close to perhaps the most beautiful archipelago in the world, and I actually live right next to the ring road that leads there. So, my holiday dream is to take a 5-day ride in the Turku Archipelago next summer.

Turku Archipelago is a rare thing world wide. It is located in the biggest brackish water inland sea in the world. Baltic Sea is a shallow sea, and it has several thresholds. One of them is between Stockolm and Turku, and it is indicated by the archipelago' of Turku, Åland, and Stocholm. Turku Archipelago is the largest one of them and has 20'000 to 40'000 islands depending on the definition. Baltic Sea drainage is an area of post-glacial land uplift, which can be as fast as one meter in hundred years. Also Turku Archipelago is experiencing constant uplift and so small islands are slowly growing together and gaining size and islands gain contact with the main land. From the shores one can find neatly zoned succession forests with lotsa species. There are not many erosional coastal forms such as cliffs, because the uplift takes the coastline away from the wave action before they can be formed. Most of the coasts are rocky and have bare glacially eroded rocks, but there are also small beaches. Baltic Sea is getting increasingly eutrophicated due to the drainage land use and cities' waste waters, but you still come accross relatively pure areas that, if you did not know better, you would mistake for a natural state sea areas.

To get an impression of how it looks like over there, check out this link. It features an interactive map of the Turku Archipelago and when you click the items that turn yellow under the cursor, you get a 360 view of the location. I recommend that you do that, the views are amazing! The dark blue lines in the map symbolize ring roads in the archipelago and the long tour is about 250 km in length.

There are several ways of how one can explore the area by bike. You can choose a destination and stay there and do expeditions on your own. Sometimes that sort of cottage/hotel holiday trips also have guides. You can also just pack your bags and hit the road, there will be plenty of lodging opportunities on the route, for this area of Finland gets most of its income from tourism. Or, we have quite extensive civil rights here: you can pack a tent and put it anywhere you like without the land owners permission as long as you are out of their yards and crops and leave nothing behind, and don't hunt or make fire. In the Swedish-speaking area you need to be a bit more careful, for they don't care much of the "all men's rights" even though they are concerned by the same laws as everyone else. My plan is to take a semi-independent 5-day tour in the archipelago. It costs 205 euros, and for that you get a rental bike, directions, and lodging. I don't know if breakfasts and ferry tickets are included, but probably majority of them is.

Ms Aurora from Iniö to Kustavi

So, what would one encounter in the archipelago? Many islands are more or less "barren", so many of them are forested. Natural scientist will find plenty of intersting natural features, species, formations, etc. Of course, you would have to take several different ferries between the islands too, and that is lotsa fun! That's actually when you get to see many exciting things. If you have a long distance objective in you camera, I would suggest that you to take it with you, because you can sight e.g. eagles and storks. There are also mammals like white-tailed deer, moose and foxes. Those are species that I or friends of mine have sighted. Also, the archipelago is an area of early settlement. There are many cool lighthouses, churches, mansions and other historical buildings to see. There are also tiny idyllic villages scattered here and there.

The old castle of Kuusisto

You can only take semi-independent tours from June to August. Unfortunately I don't know yet where I'll be on the summer or what will I do for living, so there's no knowing if I can do it on 2010 or will it have to be postponed until the next summer. If someone has done the tour, I'd like to know your impressions of it. Also, if you are not Finnish and wish to take the tour, I could help you find out about your options. Many of the web sites are in Finnish or Swedish. If you wish to come but are lacking company, you could come with me ;) So far I've planned to go on my own, but company wouldn't hurt me either.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Snow clearance in Vienna

Currently we have some snow in Vienna. Finally :). I'm very happy about that. I love the white beauty, and also the challenge to cycle in this weather. Snow clearance in Vienna works almost alright. Let me show you some examples.

Most bike paths I used so far have been plowed. Well, if the last clearance was a while ago then they were again covered with snow. That can be very dangerous if the snow freezes. I am always very careful to not ride in some existent tracks. Cyling like that gets quite exhausting after a while. And it makes me slightly angry when I see that both the street and the sidewalk are completely free of snow, but nobody bothered to plow the bike paths for the whole day.

Cycling along one of the major bike paths in Vienna -- the Gürtel: morning (left, center) vs. evening (right)

On the other hand, I certainly have to complain about the bike lanes. Although they make up most of Vienna's bicycle network, they are almost ignored in the winter. In fact they are often used as spare space and filled up with the snow of the car lanes and hence (at least partially) covered in snow, mud or grit. There are very few examples of cleared bike lanes. Still, these conditions are acceptable if I can safely cycle on the road, but it's very annoying e.g. in a one-way street when I have to move into the oncoming lane. It's also dangerous because some car drivers don't respect the circumstances and still overtake in the same way as they usually would (cycling in the middle of the lane is often not an option, because it might also be covered in mud).

It's not only the fault of the snow plows though. This muddy dirty snow is often created by cars pulling in and out of parking lanes beside the bike lanes. These problems, in fact, are closely related to the fact that bike lanes in Vienna are generally designed too narrow.

Rather poor (or simply no) bike lane clearance

Overall I dislike is the priority of the snow plowing in Vienna: all car lanes first, then sidewalks (if not to be done by house owners) and at the very bottom bicycle infrastructure. When I have to see that, e.g. at the Gürtel, car drivers have about 4 (almost dry) lanes in each direction and I have to struggle on a snow- or mud-covered bike paths then I get sad and angry. It's obvious that cyclists are not treated equally by the authorities. I don't even want to imagine the untroubled winter biking conditions in Copenhagen and other, similarly civilized, parts of Europe.

And I can understand people that don't want to use their bikes in the winter. No, cycling in the winter is not dangerous, but more efforts are needed to make it really safe and enjoyable. For those who still cycle in such conditions: don't forget good lighting etc., ride carefully and have fun. I will :).

Side roads often look like that (quite ok since one can choose where to cycle :))

If necessary, how does snow clearance look like in your country? Is your bicycle infrastructure cleared of snow regularly? Do you ride your bike when the roads/bike lanes are not plowed or do you switch to public transport or car? Why (not)?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

In for some tropical weather?

Actually I wanted to write about the snow biking conditions in Vienna these days, but my camera just gave up now. You'll have to wait at least till tomorrow for some pictures, sorry :(.

On the other hand, I picked up my visa for India today. Seems like some contrast at first. But it reminded my of a bike story I had read a while back in an Austrian newspaper:

Uwe Walter and Christian Sattelkow planned to spend 10 months on their bikes, starting from Graz in Austria and with destination India. The cycled in boiling heat and rain, conquered deserts and mountains, dealt with breakdowns, communication difficulties, diseases and accidents. Along the way they explored countries they didn't know yet. Altogether they wanted to cycle about 15.000 km. And all they took with them were two bikes and 30 kg of luggage each. They set of in Graz on the 17th of May 2009.

Some of their impressions in Turkey:

Unfortunately, Christian got sick in Turkey and Uwe did not want to ride through Iran all by himself. Still, Uwe decided to fly to Delhi instead and explored some places in Nepal and India by bike. Sounds like some adventure, doesn't it? If you're interested to read more about their journey, then visit their blog on (sorry, only in German): "Mit dem Rad nach Indien".

Another cyclist on the Mahendranagar HighwayStreet in Bihar

Still, I won't go to India by bike. Nor anywhere else in the near future. My bike is mostly my local transport, but not my roving vehicle :). Got any (bicycle) traveling plans yourself?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bicycle calenders for a good start in the new year

Last year I ordered a calender from Copenhagen Cycle Chic. This year there are even more options available. Let's start with the classical one -- the Cycle Chic 2010 Calender:

This time Mikael Colville-Andersen also started another project and produced the Copenhagenize Bicycle Infrastructure Fetish Calender which probably suits someone like me better:

My favorite bike-related calender, however, is homemade :). It's this year's Bike Messenger Calender produced by Andreas Stückl (photographer and messenger from Graz):

On his website he also has other nice things, e.g. a bike messenger memory game (simply click on the picture, print, cut out, laminate and play :)):

For ordering any of these calenders, simply click on the respective pictures. If you know and/or prefer any other calenders then let us know too!

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Swiss approach to cycling

Before Christmas I spend a day in Zürich, Switzerland. To be fair -- I did not go there by bike (but by night train from Vienna) and I did not even cycle there. But I have lived in Zürich for a while in 2008 and commuted by bike every day back then. Thus I'm not a complete greenhorn when I talk about cycling there :).

I could write a lot about Zürich's bike infrastructure because there are many things I like about it. However, I already mentioned a few things I like earlier (see "Commuting in Zürich"), so I'm going to tackle different topics today.

Early morning view from the ETH terrace in Zürich