Friday, July 18, 2008

Copenhagenized Cycleliciousness

Mikael Colville-Andersen is known by his pen name, Zakkaliciousness. His fans around the world flock to his blog, Copenhagen Cycle Chic, to see photos of beautiful, fashionable women on glorious bicycles. However, these women are not lycra-clad models posing to help sell the latest carbon fiber wonderbike. They are typical commuters transporting themselves through their daily lives (and he does include plenty of shots of men and children as well). Colville-Andersen has a remarkable talent for framing candid shots which not only make the subjects look good, but also demonstrate just how easy and accepted it is to travel by bicycle in Copenhagen. Colville-Andersen’s other blog, Copenhagenize, features more bicycle-related political and social commentary with less emphasis on “fashion photos.” In both blogs, he is a tireless evangelist, preaching the gospel of practical cycling to all who will listen. His photos and his words should be an inspiration to real-world cyclists across the globe.

Zakkaliciousness, a.k.a Mikael Colville-Andersen

Photo Courtesy of Mikael Colville-Anderson of Copenhagen Cycle Chic (all rights reserved)

Q: You take so many wonderful photos of stunning, stylish women on wonderful bicycles. Can you tell me which is lovelier, a beautiful woman or a beautiful bike?

A: Definitely a beautiful woman, or just a beautiful person, really. I don't have a bike fetish at all, so the bikes are secondary to the cyclists. With that said, a bicycle makes anyone look good. It's an odd but pleasurable contradiction.

Q: How does your wife, a.k.a. Wifealiciousness, feel about your passion for photographing beautiful women?

A: Many of my best shots were pointed out to me by my wife while we were out riding somewhere. A nudge on the elbow or a muttered, "get your camera out...". So she is a big part of it, as she is a big part of everything I do.

Q: How do you set up your shots of the Copenhagen cycling scene? Does it take lots of work and patience? Or is it mostly a matter of luck and making sure you always have a camera ready?

A: The main point with my blog is that I only take photos while going about my daily life. Usually from my bike. Me going to work, to the supermarket, to meetings, to the cinema, etc. It has taken some time to perfect the technique of pulling out my camera and shooting on the fly, but that is just a classic "practice makes perfect" fable. Luck is often a part of it, but I always have two cameras at the ready. A Canon IXUS 75 for the quick shots and a Canon G9 for the ones where I have more time.

Photo by Mikael Colville-Anderson of Copenhagen Cycle Chic (all rights reserved)

Q: How have Copenhagen and other European cities made travel by bicycle so easy, accepted, and fashionable? What can cities in the USA and other parts of the world do to emulate the best elements of Copenhagen's cycling culture?

A: Copenhagen has been dedicated to creating 'liveable spaces for living people' for the better part of four decades. Bicycle infrastructure is a big part of it, but not the only part. It is a classic tale of 'if you build it, they will come.' If you give your citizens the opportunity to ride, by providing separated bike lanes and facilities, they will ride. If you help present cycling as easy and fast and accessible, branding it as an acceptable form of transport, they will ride. Less focus on safety - people aren't stupid - more focus on the benefits of cycling - personal and societal - and you are planting the seeds of bicycle culture. In North America, the sports industry have worked hard for decades to sell cycling as a sport or a hobby. Now we need to get people to realise it doesn't have to be only a sport. It is transport for people in normal clothes. 54% of Copenhageners ride their bikes because it's easy and fast. Using your bike is a given here. It's second nature. It's not something you think about. You just do it.

Q: Do you have a favorite bicycle? If so, please describe it.

A: I like my Velorbis Scrap Deluxe. It's smooth, cool and made for urban cycling. None of that bending over the handlebars - I'm not in Stage 12 of the Tour de France, I'm going to a café - I like sitting up and enjoying my beautiful city.

Colville-Andersen's Velorbis Scrap Deluxe. Now THAT'S a pretty bike!

Photo by Mikael Colville-Anderson of Copenhagen Cycle Chic (all rights reserved)

Q: Is it fair to say that you are an enthusiastic opponent of bicycle helmets? If so, please explain your position. If not, please describe your stance on helmets.

A: I'm opposed to helmet promotion and legislation and a proponent of personal choice. After having actually read the reams and reams of scientific research from the past decades, I've learned that they do two dangerous things; they give the impression that cycling is a dangerous activity and they effectively kill off bike culture by scaring people. In North America the big bike helmet manufacturers remain silent about the science and instead finance lobby groups who do the finger-wagging and who distribute questionable statistics. European legislators, in countries with a strong bike culture, actually do their homework. As a result, you won't find legislators who will pass laws forcing people to wear helmets. Then you have the simple scientific fact that helmets are designed to protect your head from cuts and concussions in solo accidents under 20 kph. It's amazing to me that people have been convinced by lobby groups that helmets will prevent brain injury and death. Sad and amazing. Basically, in my eyes, helmet advocates wish to sell fear and, by extension, helmets for profit. Bicycle advocates wish to sell cycling and, by extension, all the health and societal benefits that entails. And it's all not for profit.

Photo by Mikael Colville-Anderson of Copenhagen Cycle Chic (all rights reserved)

Q: What do you say to Americans who tell me that they absolutely cannot commute by bicycle unless there is a shower available to them at work?

A: I think I just roll my eyes. There are 100 million Europeans who ride their bike daily and they get on fine without this strange 'shower at work' angle. It's just another ridiculous way to keep branding cycling as sporty, sweaty and difficult, when the opposite is true.

Q: Do you own a car? If so, what percentage of your trips are taken in the car versus on bicycles versus using public transportation? If not, how do you get around when you need to go further or haul more than is practical with a bicycle?

A: I don't own a car, no. We are in a car share programme if we need one a couple of times a year. In Copenhagen, only 30% of the population owns a car. This is in one of the richest countries in the world, so it's not a question of cost. The minimum wage is $20 dollars an hour, for heavens sake. It's merely because it's easier to ride or take public transport.

Photo by Mikael Colville-Anderson of Copenhagen Cycle Chic (all rights reserved)

Q: What do you like for breakfast?

A: We eat müsli with fresh fruit and maybe a toasted roll. And coffee. The kids, like most Danish kids, eat their hot porridge. :-)


Robert said...

"Who needs showers at work?!" asks the guy who lives in Copenhagen. Sheesh.

Nice interview series, though...

John said...

Keep up the good work. I love these interviews. Just as good as the Rivendell Reader.

Kenneth Buttercup said...

I don't have showers at work.
And lo and behold!
I bike to work.
Temps now in the 80s with high humidity.

Start out clean and fresh!
(Either shower before you leave or shower before bed)

Now... I do get sweaty mind you, so I keep (or bring) a change of clothing (usually just a shirt and in cool seasons), I cool down for 5-10 minutes, and wipe down (with an alcohol cloth if needed - rarely) when I change clothes.

Frankly I think Americans are a bit phobic/neurotic about hygiene.

It all started with the LifeBuoy soap advertising campaign.
Promoting feelings of inadequacy is a great technique to sell stuff.
Before then, it wasn't a big deal and germ-dirt phobia/anxiety was rare.

I sweat even when it's 20F out.
And sweat a lot more when it's summer and humid.
I don't smell bad, either.
(yes - I have asked when in doubt)

And I do shower, mind you... just not at work upon arrival.

Hang up the commute clothes, and put them on again at the end of the day after they've aired out.

If I had to wear a suit, I'd have that cleaned and pressed near work and have it waiting for me with a few pressed shirts on hangers.

And yes, THANK YOU for the interviews.

cycler said...

I'm a commuting veteran in both Copenhagen and southern New Hampshire, USA. When I left home for work yesterday afternoon (2nd shift), the thermometer read 90F(32C.) The dew point was up there, too.

My commute of about 16 miles varies from suburban back roads to the urban, multi-laned main street. No bike lanes (and frequently no shoulders) at all.

I do not race on my commute but I must sprint to make numerous traffic lights and climb several hills. These hills dwarf the "hill" at the intersection of Roskildevej and Vesterbrogade -- Copenhagen's largest. (I know, I know, technically, that's not Copenhagen, but...)

I'm very lucky to have shower facilities where I work!