Denmark

Theodore Dalrymple on the recent killings in Copenhagen

Denial and Grandiosity
Some observations after the Copenhagen killings

Twisting language is generally the easiest way to evade unpleasant truths. The Guardian, the British liberal-left newspaper, offered a good example, in the wake of the Islamist killings in Copenhagen. Under the heading SCANDINAVIANS VALUE FREE SPEECH, BUT NOW THEY NEED TO BE PRACTICAL, Andrew Brown wrote: “When the Swedish Democrats [a political party that wants to limit severely immigration into Sweden] caused an election film to be banned from national television in 2010 because it showed hordes of immigrants taking benefits from native old people . . . Danish politicians queued up to accuse the Swedish authorities of a betrayal of free speech.”

How did the Swedish Democrats cause their own election ‎film to be banned? How, indeed, could they have done so? They might have suspected that the film would be banned, but that is not the same thing as causing it to be banned. Only authorities with powers of censorship could do that—and whether they should have exercised those powers is another question. The proper way of putting the matter would have been: “When the authorities banned the Swedish Democrats’ election film.”

Read the whole thing here at City Journal

Are Danes Really That Happy? The Myth Of The Scandinavian Utopia

Hahahaha – told you so. Check out courtesy of NPR this interview with Michael Booth, the author of The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia.

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On Denmark’s high taxes and what Danes get for it

Let’s take Denmark for example. We do have literally the highest taxes in the world. The income tax is about — top measures are just over 50 percent. But there’s all sorts of other very heavy taxes. … Most people reckon about three quarters of your income ends up in the state’s coffers if you include all the various taxes. You know, if you want to buy a car, there’s a 180 percent tax on the car. [Value-added tax] is 25 percent. They have the highest energy taxes. … So basically I’m working until Thursday lunch time for the government, and the rest of the week for myself. …

What you get is free education, very cheap pre-school care, functioning public transports, a free health service — all the things that many Americans dream of. Now the big question is: You’re paying the highest taxes in the world, is the education system the best in the world? Are the hospitals the best in the world? No, they’re not.

Here’s the link to the article and the interview.

Two Videos courtesy of Urban Velo

Bike Friendly Cities – Video Series

Earlier in the week we posted an uncut interview with Mikale Colville-Anderson on the ideas of Copenhagenize. This video contains excerpts from the interview as a new series by the people at WeLoveCycling who are showcasing bike friendly cities around the world. Then content for Copenhagen is up now and more cities are soon to follow.

“…It was a pleasure to talk with famous urban mobility expert Mikael Colville-Andersen. Or with Morten Kabell, head of Copenhagen’s Technical and Environmental Administration. And we’re sure you will love the wizards from bike repair shops or the beautiful lady who ferries sperm samples to fertility clinics around Copenhagen on a sperm-shaped cargo-bike.

For a number of days we researched whether Copenhagen really is paradise on Earth for cyclists. You can find the answer in our report.

The Biker

Don’t you hate it when motorized vehicles use the bike lane? I mean, hate hate hate it?! Don’t you wanna ride up next to them and kick em over. Don’t you get so enraged you wanna..wait….oh, never mind.

The Biker

Check out Urban Velo for more on riding in the city, gear and bikes reviews, and good advice. Not sure I agree with Copenhagen being a cycling paradise, and frankly I don’t care if motorized vehicles use a bike lane — I’ll just go around them. I use the entire roadway when I ride and I don’t want to be relegated to a stupid bike lane.

Rush hour in Denmark

Two Danish tourists visiting Canada recently criticized Canadians for not having enough parks in our cities and for not encouraging cycling. Well, I’ll have none of it. Here’s what rush hour looks like in Denmark.

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“Cyclist at red 2” by heb@Wikimedia Commons

What cyclist in their right mind wants to navigate through that!!! It looks like a bike accident waiting to happen.

Anyway, so what, Danes like to cycle. It’s not that big a deal.

Let’s consider:

– the size of Denmark is 43000 square kilometres, smaller than Nova Scotia [we have more park land than they have land!]

– Copenhagen (the capital and largest city) has a population of 550,000, fairly small by North American standards, and it’s as flat as a pancake

– the climate is very mild all year with the average high of 11C and low of 5C [not 33C in July or -25C in February]

– and gas cost $8US a gallon or $2.20 a litre and there is a car ownership surtax of 180% of the value [that’s right 180% – think about that for a moment and ask yourself (1) if you could afford that and (2) if you would not start riding a bike tomorrow if that were imposed on your car.

It’s no wonder then that:

– 52% of all Copenhageners cycle to their place of work or education every day, even when this is located outside the municipal boundary

– 4 out of 5 of all Copenhageners have access a bike.

– There are 650,000 bicycles in Copenhagen and app. 550,000 inhabitants. Compared to 125,000 cars, corresponding to 5.2 bicycles for each car.

So, before we start congratulating the Danes, it looks to me like they are being forced onto their bikes by the cost, and they don’t mind riding because it’s not a hardship given the mild temps and flat terrain – whip-di-do. Try riding in Toronto. I bet most of them would drive a car if they lived here.

 

Is there really a war between cyclists and drivers in Toronto?

Elizabeth Renzetti makes some good points in her article in today’s Globe and Mail (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/are-drivers-justified-in-their-irritation-maybe-they-should-just-think-like-cyclists/article19578005/). Although I disagree with her assertion that there is some kind of war between cyclists and drivers in Toronto, she offers good advice to both:

I have no idea how to calm the discord between cyclists and drivers. You can’t throw buckets of water on them, like you would with snarling cats. I can only say what works for me: When I ride, I think like a driver. I watch parked cars, thinking “Do I sometimes open my door distractedly because my mind is in four thousand unrelated places?” When I’m driving, I think like a cyclist: “Have I ever snuck up along the curb in order to grab a few seconds’ lead when the light changes, hoping I can outrace this car turning right?”

I think it’s good practice to think like each other but that only works if you actually do both. The vast majority of people in Canada and the US don’t ride a bike (one or two per cent according to Renzetti).

Her solution, of course, if for North America to emulate Northern Europe and to increase bicycle use to 30 per cent. All North American lefties love Northern Europe – it’s their utopia. The Swedes, The Danes and The Dutch can do no wrong. My wife and in-laws are Danish so I’m not prejudiced but haven’t we learned yet that North America is vastly different than Northern Europe and we can’t expect to do things the same way. European cities are more compact; the weather generally is much milder making it easier to ride longer throughout the year; there is a tradition if cycling in Europe that we don’t have in NA. We should stop comparing ourselves to them and do things our way.

As an aside, my father-in-law told me the story of his nephew, an avid cyclist, who came to the US from Denmark to complete a five-week ride from Montana to Texas. He had done some similar rides in Europe – Denmark to Italy for instance – but he was not prepared for the variations and extremes in weather and the distances between civilized outposts. He lasted five days.

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Anyway, in my opinion, there is no war on cyclists in Toronto that I am aware of. I generally have no trouble riding in this city.

But Renzetti continues:

The war has heated up as summer arrives, and cyclists shake off their winter wariness. Just this week, a Washington Post columnist, Courtland Milloy, wrote an anti-bike rant suggesting it might be okay to run down pesky riders: “It’s a $500 fine for a motorist to hit a bicyclist in the District, but some behaviors are so egregious that some drivers might think it’s worth paying the fine.” (Cyclists descended in indignant protest outside the newspaper’s office.)

I’ve heard similar grumblings from drivers: Cyclists are sanctimonious risk-takers who don’t obey the rules of the road, who run stop signs and don’t put lights on their bikes. (These same drivers have never rolled through a stop sign or checked a text message while driving, of course.)

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My advice to cyclists in Toronto: be mindful of the fact that you represent only two per cent of commuters. Stop acting entitled. Obey the rules. Don’t get into arguments with drivers – it’s never worth it. The onus is on you to be alert and to be skilled. And for pity’s sake, drive a car once in awhile.

I admit I am an aggressive rider – I take my lane, I pass cars on the left frequently, I run stop signs when no one is around, I jump lights to get ahead of vehicles and to own my lane. But I’m also courteous to drivers – I ride straight, no bobbing and lolly gagging. I ride fast to keep up with traffic. I move to the right to let vehicles pass when I’m slower then they are. I use lights and wear reflective clothing at night. I signal my intentions. I very rarely get into arguments with drivers and tend to wave off minor indiscretions (but I won’t hesitate to enlighten an ignorant driver about my rights – I just keep it civil).

What do you think? Is there a war with cyclists? Certainly not with the conservative cyclist.