Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Copenhagen has a population of about 500,000.

Today's visit was with officials from the City of Copenhagen which has a goal of being the best bicycling city in the world and they are well on their way there. All of the City's efforts are under two overall guiding visions. One is that it become an Eco-Metropolis with many green initiatives that address climate change and other issues. The second is to be a metropolis for people. By this, they mean that people living and working here should have an exceptional quality of life and that there be a robust public life. 59% of the trips in the city are by bicycling and walking and only 21% by single occupant vehicle. This is evident when you observe the morning rush hour and there easily as many bikes as cars. Long queues of bikes line up at traffic signals next to cars. There are traffic signals specifically for bikes and at some intersections, cyclists are given a few seconds head start over the cars. One reason that non-motorized trips are so prevalent is that they have made parking in the city very expensive. The closer you are to the city center, the more you have to pay.

They survey cyclists every 2 years to find out if they feel safe or not and base some planning/design on the responses. In addition to normal evaluations of cycling, they have calculated the savings in health care costs, reduced number of sick days and how many extra years you will live if you ride a bike.

One innovative thing they have done is called the "green wave" where the traffic signals are time for a bicyclist going about 12 mph. If you stay at that speed, you will catch all green lights going into the city in the morning rush hour. These signals also work well for busses which travel the same speed given stops and starts.

Although helmet use among all bicyclists is much lower here than in the U.S., they are recognizing that many injuries would be less severe with helmets and have initiated campaigns to increase helmet use. It is on the rise and is at about 20%.

They are just starting a more formalized safe routes to school program, but there has been a national program that families can sign up for called the Children's Traffic Club where families receive age-appropriate information every 6 months. They also have a program where police officers go to 5th grades and do some education around bicycling, give students a test and then check over their bikes. Any mechanical problems are noted and a message given to parents. The city just committed $15Million over 3 years for education and infrastructure efforts at schools.

They have many innovative facilities for bikes and try to accomodate them along major routes with cycle tracks, which are like a wide bike lane, but raised up about 3 or 4 inches from the adjacent road with a curb. Then there is another 3 inch rise to the sidewalk. Where there are crossings with significant conflicts, they will mark the road with blue and a bicycle symbol to reinforce the fact that bikes will be traveliing in that area. We visited one road that had been narrowed down to include on-street parkin and a narrow painted median to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians.

Although pedestrians fare pretty well, they are starting a new effort to increase pedestrian traffic and to focus on their needs. Tomorrow, we visit a smaller municipality in Denmark and then travel to Berlin, Germany for another country's perspective.

I still have not figured out my photo problem, but hope to soon.

1 comment:

  1. I am sorry that Denmark is trying to increase the use of bike helmets. Head injuries are only a small portion of cyclist injuries and they are quite unlikely to happen, especially in an area like Denmark where so many already cycle ("Safety in Numbers"). Helmet law requirements and even voluntary helmet promotion schemes deter people from cycling by making the very statistically unlikely event of head injury seem like a constant threat. (cyclehelmets.org) After 20 years of helmeted cycling I'm glad now not to bother with a helmet any more, and I hope AASHTO does not encourage the Europeans to put them on, rather, we should make the roadways in the US safer and take our helmets off. We also need to reduce crime in our cities, which is a major deterrent to cycling and walking in the USA (I am happy to live in relatively safe, rural northeastern Lancaster County, PA, (Floyd Landis country) surrounded by Old Order Mennonites who cycle daily with no protective headgear, and certainly no special nylon or spandex outfits. How popular would driving a car be, one cyclehelmet blogger mused, if we required the car driver to suit up for every single trip like a race car pro with helmets and pads and special clothing? We should bike in street clothes with no protective headgear if we want biking to be a "normal way of getting around". Daily cycling should not require the strap-on fear symbol of a helmet.)--Richard Moyer