10 mistakes of the Dutch and the Danes

Together with Niels Tørsløv (head of the planning department of the City of Copenhagen) I gave a workshop “Trouble in paradise”, 10 mistakes of the Dutch and the Danes at the Velo-City conference in Vienna. The workshop was highly appreciated, more than 120 people turned up. The official Velo-City photographer made some nice pictures.

picture of me and Niels

Niels and me during the workshop (picture by Laura Kok).

It was a great challenge to present the mistakes that we usually not talk openly about. Some mistakes are made just from narrow minded traffic perspectives – without having the full picture of the situation. Other very usual mistakes are made from lack of coherence in the new solutions. But from a learning perspective it is probably more effective than just repeating all the good solutions we make. We learn a lot from mistakes – and we learn very quickly from the mistakes that the users are responding on. Being Copenhagen one of the frontrunner cities, Tørsløv really feels obliged to expose the most remarkable mistakes they have made. And there is a lot to talk about. “It takes at least 1000 mistakes to develop a cycling culture like we have in Copenhagen. And it was great fun to battle our colleagues on the best mistakes! I´ll love to do this again!” An abstract of the text can be found in the After Conference Magazine and Yamato Milner was so kind to share her video of the presentation with us on YouTube.

How to learn from mistakes?

In preparation of the workshop I googled a bit on the internet how people are coping with mistakes in bicycle infrastructure. Apart from the holistic approach of the way how mistakes occur, there is of course the well known website of the bicycle facility of the month of the Warrington Cycle campaign, including a hilarious Dutch topic. However very funny, it might be necessary in the UK to address mistakes in this way to local officials. In the Netherlands this kind of blaming and shaming is taken to the next level. The Dutch cyclist union made a online reporting tool, on which you can vote for the “badness” of the mistakes. In the first months it had an overload of all collected little blunders, but later on they collaborated with Verbeterdebuurt.nl. “Verbeter de buurt” could be translated as “Improve your neighborhood” a private initiative of students for active citizenship. Verbeterdebuurt.nl is an online reporting tool for all kind of incidents in public space.  It doesn’t stop at reporting only, the platform can also handle the feedback from road authorities. This format is interesting for all road authorities and still expanding in the Netherlands. The platform was recently launched in Sweden.

As a spin-off  of the Velo-city workshop, the local group of cycling advocats in Helsinki made a Facebook group to gather all kind of cycling mistakes. Within a week the group counted 180 members, there seems a need for this kind of reporting. And as cycling in Finland is also growing, it will be a matter of time before Verbeterdebuurt is also available in Helsinki.

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