July 1st, 2011

Tuning in to the static in Copenhagen

If you tune out the static, you will see beautiful blondes perched upright on bicycles inherited from their grandmothers. They glide through traffic lights timed according to a beautiful girl's average speed. And if planners here in Copenhagen go on planning with these sorts of cliches in mind, this whole lovely place could go to pack, as we say in Australia.

I've been cycling this city all day, each day, since Sunday evening when I rode out of the airport. In that time I have been barked at by a car load of young men, trying to scare myself and other cyclists off of our bikes. I've been crashed into by a hipster, whose hip, being wider than his daft match-stick handlebar, collected my bar end. Rookie mistake there Mr. Moustache! I've noticed more bikes with thin high pressure tires than sit up and beg bikes. In absolute numbers, I've seen more guys in lycra than in any other city I've been to. My ears and lungs have been assaulted by two-stroke moped scooters, tearing up bike paths. I'm staying in Orestad, a huge new part of town with monolithic buildings and no street life between them. So I'm seeing all these things that defy stereotypical preconceptions that many of us have of this city.   
Jacques Derrida had some nice things to say about studying static, instead of constantly tuning it out while we look for general rules. The static, could be the very thing you need to study. My impression here is that the planning establishment in Copenhagen is too focussed on romantic cliches, that some of them make money from exporting to other cities. For a fee, Jahn Gehl will help you "Copenhaganize" your city. Does that mean introducing immigrant boys, with high hair, riding loud mopeds on bike paths?

The general rule in Copenhagen is citizen cycling. There are an astounding number of perimeter blocks. Life between buildings, in many places, is a defining characteristic of Copenhagen, worthy of export. But how will planners here embrace deviation? I don't think they go on blanketing the city with one-size-fits-all formulations. That would be kinda naive, and utopian. 

My apologies once more to those who have not yet gotten their heads around the postmodern condition, oh and for being an intellectual snob.