Copenhagen sets ambitious cycling targets

The City of Copenhagen wants half of all trips to be done by bike: an ambitious target even for Copenhagen which currently has a bike modal share of 37%.  It is truly incredible to think that the number of people getting to work by bike could equal that of all other modes (walking, driving and public transport).  How is Copenhagen getting such incredible cycling participation? And what strategies has it planned in order to experience a further increase in participation?

Cyclists in Copenhagen
Cyclists in Copenhagen

What Copenhagen has done so far

Copenhagen has already achieved the unofficial status of “Cyclist Mecca”.  It has done so, in part, with the help of Jan Gehl: the famous Danish architect. his success in making Copenhagen such a livable city has prompted other cities (including most recently NYC) to hire him as a consultant. In his most recent book: Cities for people, he outlines some of the measures that were taken to encourage cycling in Copenhagen:

  • A comprehensive door-to-door bike network:

All streets are designed to be safe for cyclist.  On side streets, speed zones are 15 to 30 km/hr, allowing cyclists to comfortably share the road with drivers.  On major arterials, on the other hand, bike paths are placed alongside the sidewalk.

  • A comfortable network:

Bike paths are designed to be pleasant for everyone – accomplished by making paths wide.  One-way bike paths range from 5.5 to 13 feet wide with a recommended minimum of 8 feet.

  • An integrated network:

Cycling infrastructure is integrated into other transportation modes.  Ample and secure bike parking is available at all transit stops. Subways, buses and taxis are all equipped with bike racks, allowing cyclists to bike part of the way to their destination.

Building on past successes

An interview with Andreas Røhl, Head of the Cycling Programme for Copenhagen, reveals some of the cycling-friendly philosophy that will help the City achieve this ambitious 50% cyclist goal.  Most people ages 20 to 50 already travel by bike if their commute is less than 7km.  So, according to Røhl, the City must meet two goals if it wants to further broaden the cycling base.

  • Make cycling travel times more competitive:

This can be accomplished by improving conditions for bikes and/or making it more difficult for cars to get around quickly.  If cycling travel times are reduced then commuters will be more likely to bike distances greater than 7km.

  •  Create a more pleasant cycling environment during the rush hour:

This means widening bike paths further to allow for “conversational cycling” – cyclists biking side by side.  According to Røhl, one of the main drawbacks to cycling is that one can’t converse while getting to work or school.  This discourages potential cyclists like parents and their young children.

It is pretty incredible to read about the cycling culture in Copenhagen.  Cycling is not on the fringe but rather completely mainstream!  This is evident not only from the number of cyclists but also from the political will to build and maintain safe, convenient and comfortable cycling infrastructure.

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6 thoughts on “Copenhagen sets ambitious cycling targets

  1. I would love to be able to navigate the streets of Montreal safely. What a great model Copenhagen is. Just imagine how much healthier the population would be if so many people biked to work and school. With the obesity epidemic in North America, this model is something to ponder over quite seriously.
    Thanks for sharing, David.

    1. In the fall (when the O-D survey is done) the Plateau’s mode share gets up to 8% officially, though with missed trips (students, trips with the same origin and destination which are not counted), probably more like 10%. It drops off pretty quickly in other boroughs, but I imagine Ville-Marie and Rosemont-Petit Patrie are probably around 5% at their peak.

      1. Do you happen to have links for these numbers? I googled around for a bit but couldn’t find much, especially nothing from recent years (possibly because my French skills are limited…). Thanks!

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