It’s taken a while – over three years in fact – but finally a Bremenize blog has gone live.
The idea was hatched in early 2013, as we discussed how we should follow our work on Beauty and the Bike. In late 2009, that project introduced Bremen as a cycling city to a largely English-speaking world of cycling advocacy, with public screenings of the film in, amongst others, New Zealand, Canada, United States, Australia and of course the United Kingdom. The online short film was watched in Spain, the Czech Republic, Poland, Uruguay, Brazil, Netherlands, Mexico, Japan, and over 150 other countries.
Over the same period, as the internet made possible a global cycling advocacy movement, an increasing focus on “best practice” examples, particularly in the Netherlands and Denmark, has developed. Mikael Colville-Andersen’s blog Copenhagenize, the first of the -IZE’s, kicked off in 2006. Then in 2007 Mikael set up the first of the many Cycle Chic websites, Copenhagen Cycle Chic.
2008 was clearly a good year. An early iteration of Amsterdamize appeared in May. David Hembrow’s excellent Assen blog A View From The Cycle Path launched in August. We started filming Beauty and the Bike in September, and in December Portlandize appeared online.
Then the first German -IZE’s appeared in 2010, with Muenchenierung and Hamburgize, as German cycling advocates joined the global debate. Interestingly, Hamburgize introduced a new perspective on the -IZE’s. An early post explained:
The significance of the word hamburgize is complex. Nobody really wants to make other cities’ cycle system like the Hamburg one..To establish a serious cycle culture in Hamburg, it needs some more time.
When Hamburgize launched, cycling’s modal share in the city was 12%. The blog was to be both a platform for highlighting good practice, whether in Hamburg or elsewhere, as well as a critical monitor of the city’s transport policies. Not unlike the other -IZE sites, but perhaps with somewhat more work in the “critical” category. But what surprised us, as we monitored this growing global cycling advocacy network, was that cities were featuring regularly whilst Bremen did not. Copenhagenize’s Bicycle Friendly Cities Index, for example.
Not once has Bremen, with its cycling modal share of 25%, featured in any of the three indexes so far published. Even Hamburgize lists up recommendable cities for cycling, towns like the small German Soest (47,000 inhabitants, 22% modal share) beside Amsterdam and Copenhagen, but its neighbour Bremen with the highest share of cyclists in cities of more than 500.000 inhabitants in Germany does not appear.
For whatever reasons, it seems that Bremen is a bit of a forgotten cycling city. And that’s when we began, in early 2013 to ask ourselves why. Since then we have spent long days in the Bremen Staatsarchiv, interviewed a series of key figures who might enlighten us, and read countless books and periodicals, to try to explain how Bremen became a cycling city.
We are still working on the answers. But with a backlog of material it’s now time to start blogging and discussing.