What We Loved at Berlin Bike Week

10 of our favorite bike design innovations, from a seatless BMX to coconut handle bars.

BMX race image by Katrin Greiling.

Every day in Berlin, an estimated 500,000 bicyclists take to the streets on their preferred mode of transportation. In fact, the German capital is increasingly becoming one of Europe's most bike-friendly cities. It's only fitting then that Berlin is host to one of the most creative and vibrant bike shows on the continent—the Berliner Fahrradschau (Berlin Bike Show)—now in its sixth year.

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via Genius

For many years brands like Lonsdale, Fred Perry, and New Balance were the favored brands of right-wing fascists in Europe. The N on sneakers could easily be repurposed to reference Nazism, and the unofficial uniform of a shaved head, bomber jacket, and military boots acted as visual signifiers of group affiliation. But due to brand backlash, and in some cases, the outright banning of certain garments, far right-wingers have been forced to get a little more creative in their sartorial choices. One brand that saw room in the market for a new, Nazi-friendly line was Thor Steinar, a multimillion dollar label run from a small town on the fringes of Berlin, that uses the Nordic imagery and gothic lettering that has become a trademark of the subculture. Though on the surface they may look like Abercrombie & Fitch or Diesel, the company has subtly woven into its designs Nazi references such as a Messerschmitt aircraft and Germanic runes (among others).

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Meet the French Socialist Who Could Save Europe

A socialist president in France is inspiring jitters, but the Francois Hollande could be just what the doctor ordered for Europe—and the world.

Over the weekend, the citizens of France elected a Francois Hollande, a socialist, to be their president. Here in the United States, attempts to comprehend this may be futile, given national confusion over whether or not our own president is a socialist,* but there’s no need to panic over this particular European specter. In fact, Hollande’s election may be exactly what Europe needs.

The key issue in Europe right now is hashing out the financial crisis that has already brought low governments in Greece, Spain, and Italy. A simplified version of the story is that most European countries got together under one currency, like the U.S. dollar, but didn’t put the bulk of their government spending under one organ, like the U.S. Congress. Without those two tools unified, some European countries ran up more debt than they could manage and now find themselves in danger of losing access to funding for public spending while their banks teeter, drying up credit that entrepreneurs need.

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People Are Awesome: European Mayor Uses Tank to Crush Car Blocking Bike Lane

A publicity stunt on behalf of bicyclists involves a Lithuanian mayor destroying a luxury sedan with a tank. Sweet revenge.

Any urban bicyclist can share with you the frustration of having to avoid people and cars blocking what should be clear bicycle lanes. Sometimes it can make you want to destroy all the impediments with a tank. Today, in Vilnius, Lithuania, mayor Arturas Zuokas lived out the fantasy of every bike messenger forced to dodge a Dodge (or BMW or Toyota) on their daily route.

"I’ve had enough of these drivers parking their luxury cars on bike lanes and pedestrian crossings," said Zuokas, a former war reporter. "This tank is a good tool to solve the problem of parking in the wrong place." With that, the 43-year-old mayor rolled over a blue Mercedes that was parked in a bike lane.

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Would You Pay $57 More to Fly to London?

Ticket prices to Europe could rise if the European Union gets its way and starts charging American airlines for their flights' carbon emissions.

Let’s fly to London next month. Or maybe in October, when the weather is cooler. According to Kayak, it’ll probably cost us each somewhere between $600 and $750, once we’ve added in those taxes and fees. Sure, it’s not cheap, but we’re flying over the Atlantic ocean! We’ll be in Europe!

Want to come? And would it make a difference if I told you that instead of $600 dollars, we’d each have to pay closer to $715? Or to be more precise, $57 more, each way, than we’d otherwise pay?

That’s how much the airline industry estimates ticket prices from New York to London could rise if the European Union gets its way and starts charging American airlines for carbon emissions on flights to Europe. The EU’s plan, which is set to take effect in 2012, is to require airlines flying to, within, or from Europe to decrease their carbon emissions by 3 percent from 2004-2006 levels next year, and another 2 percent the year after that. If airlines can’t make the cuts, they can buy carbon permits in the EU’s carbon trading system to make up the difference.

The American airline industry balked at this plan, and the Obama administration has joined in the protest. The EU, their argument goes, has no right under international law to bully U.S. airlines, which are doing just fine at cutting carbon costs on their own. As Susan Kurland, an assistant secretary in the Department of Transportation, put it to a House committee yesterday, the administration would much prefer to work on this issue through “constructive international negotiation and mutual agreement.”

Indeed, the airline industry has been investing in next-generation fuels and airplane efficiency, but the reality is that flying is a dirty, carbon-intensive activity. A study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found, for instance, that under the cap-and-trade program that died in the U.S. Senate in 2009, the airline industry would have simply paid more for fuel rather than change the way it does business. And under the cap-and-trade system proposed here, the Air Transport Association estimated its members would pay an additional $5 billion in 2012. The projected cost of carbon permits for American carriers under the European system is $3.1 billion by 2020.

That’s where that $57 comes from. It’s the amount airlines say they will have to charge each customer to make up for those fees. But flying is so cheap now that it’s not necessarily a bad thing that passengers will have to pay more for a jaunt across the Atlantic. Plus, more energy-efficient airlines will be able to offer cheaper flights. That’s why putting a price on carbon makes sense: It pushes people to buy tickets that are less costly, resulting in more business for environmentally friendlier airlines..

The Obama administration says that it’s on board with the idea of reducing carbon emissions, but that the EU’s trading program is not the right way to go about it. But if this isn’t the path forward, what is? Anyone who’s been following the international climate negotiations has good reason to be skeptical of the idea the Obama administration threw out—“constructive international negotiation and mutual agreement.”

At this point, I’d rather have the option of buying an airline ticket with a price that reflects the cost of carbon than waiting for international negotiators to do their thing. This isn’t a theoretical issue for me: I’m tentatively planning a trip to England next year. If paying for the huge amount of carbon that’s necessary to get me there means budgeting an extra $100 or so for a ticket, I’m okay with that. I just hope I’ll have the option of flying on an American airline: Right now, the House Transportation Committee is pushing a bill that would outlaw U.S. airlines’ participation in the EU’s carbon trading program. I imagine I’ll have to pay much more than $715, or even $865, to get to England if U.S. airlines stop flying there altogether.

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Image of the Day: 12 Years Graffiti Writing

Ozkar Gorgias's new artwork shows you what it's like to walk in a street artist's shoes.

What does more than a decade of graffiti work look like? A lot of splattered sneakers. The European street artist and photographer Ozkar Gorgias's new artwork, "12 Years Graffiti Writing," looks at the residual effects of countless illicit painting adventures.

Most street art is ephemeral in nature, but the paint on those shoes—and the memories it holds—is there to stay. See more images at Designboom.

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